SAN FRANCISCO — Carl Clark, a California man who was recognized six decades after his bravery during World War II with a Medal of Honor that had been denied because he was black, died last week. He was 100.
Clark, who received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal in 2012, died March 16 at a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Menlo Park, his daughter, Karen Clark Collins, said Tuesday.
“He didn’t consider himself a hero, he never talked about it,” Clark Collins said. “But after he left the Navy, he helped start the Boys and Girls Club in Menlo Park and did a lot for his community. He was a compassionate and sharing man.”
Clark was serving as a Steward First Class aboard the USS Aaron Ward when Japanese kamikazes attacked the destroyer near Okinawa in May 1945.
“They would guide those planes directly into the ships,” Clark said of the planes he described as “flying bombs” during a 2011 interview with The Associated Press.
Six kamikazes hit the destroyer, with the blast from one plane so powerful that it blew him all the way across the ship.
Though he suffered a broken collarbone in the attack, Clark was credited with saving the lives of several men by dragging them to safety. He also put out a fire in an ammunition locker that would have cracked the vessel in half.
Even though the destroyer’s captain acknowledged that Clark had saved the ship, it took more than six decades to be recognized for his actions, according to Clark, because of “bigotry.”
“It wouldn’t look good to say one black man saved the ship,” he said in 2011.
The captain of the destroyer tried to make up for the slight by giving him extra leave and making sure that he was not sent back to sea, Clark said.
Clark received the medal on January 17, 2012 during a ceremony at Moffett Field in Mountain View, Calif.