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Admiral Joseph James "Jocko" Clark, USN (November 12, 1893 – July 13, 1971) was an admiral in the United States Navy, who commanded aircraft carriers during World War II. Born and raised in Oklahoma and a native of the Cherokee Nation, In 1917, he was the first Native American to graduate from the United States Naval Academy.[1] Clark preferred to be called "J. J." instead of his full name or the nickname "Jocko."[2]

Joseph J. Clark
Admiral Joseph J. Clark.jpg
Born(1893-11-12)November 12, 1893
Pryor, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (now Pryor Creek, Oklahoma), U.S.
DiedJuly 13, 1971(1971-07-13) (aged 77)
St. Albans, New York, U.S.
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1917–1953
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg Admiral
Commands heldSuwannee (ACV-27)
Yorktown (CV-10)
Task Group 58.1/38.1
Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 77)
7th Fleet
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
Korean War
AwardsNavy Cross
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit

Early yearsEdit

Joseph J. Clark was born to William A. and Lillie Berry Clark in Pryor in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Nation, before it became part of the state of Oklahoma.[a] His father was a member of the Cherokee Nation. Joseph attended Willie Halsell College in Vinita, Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College (now named Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater, Oklahoma, prior to being appointed to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he played on the lacrosse and soccer teams.[2] He was commissioned as Ensign upon graduating in 1917. Clark's nickname, "Jocko", originated at the Naval Academy: on one of his first days there, he was standing in ranks when a classmate called out "The Right Reverend J. Jonathan Jockey Clark!"[3] His wife, Olga Clark, néé Chubarova, was the widow of chess world champion José Raúl Capablanca.[4]

Naval careerEdit

World War I and Inter-war serviceEdit

Although Clark was officially a member of the Class of 1918 at the USNA, he actually graduated with the class of 1917. He was first posted to the cruiser USS North Carolina, which was convoying troops across the Atlantic Ocean. After WWI ended, he remained in the permanent navy, serving at sea aboard the destroyers USS Aaron Ward (DD-132), USS Aulick (DD-258), and USS Brooks (DD-232) in the Middle East. He was commanding Brooks on his return to the U.S., then was put in command of the USS Bulmer (DD-222). Bulmer was assigned to American Relief Administration and Near East Relief. Clark returned to the US in 1923, and was posted as an instructor at the USNA during 1923–1924. He then went to NAS Pensacola in Florida for flight training, and graduated as a naval aviator on March 16, 1925.[2]

Clark served a wide variety of posts throughout the rest of the 1920s and the 1930s. In 1925, he assisted Commander John Rodgers prepare for the first West Coast-Hawaii flight in 1925, receiving a letter of commendation for this service. In 1926, he served as senior aviation officer aboard the USS Mississippi. The next year, he was an aide to the Commander, Battleship Division Three, and served as division aviation officer. From 1928 to 1931, Clark was executive officer, Naval Air Station, Anacostia, D.C., and during the next two years was commanding officer of Fighter Squadron Two, attached to U.S.S. Lexington.

He was the aeronautical member of the Board of Inspection and Survey, Navy Department, from 1933 to July 1936, and during his next tour of sea duty July, 1936 to June, 1937, served as the Lexington's air officer and representative at Fleet Air Detachment, NAS San Diego, California. From July, 1937, to May, 1939, he was executive officer of the Fleet Air Base, Pearl Harbor. He then served as inspector of naval aircraft at the Curtis Aircraft Corporation, Buffalo, New York.

Clark was then sent to NAS Jacksonville, Florida, as executive officer from December, 1940 until May, 1941. He was then posted to the "old" USS Yorktown. He was in that position when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor and returned to his former post with Yorktown in time to participate in raids on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.

World War IIEdit

At the start of U.S. involvement in World War II, Clark was known as an aggressive commander, ready to take his group into battle.[5] He commanded the carrier Suwannee in the Atlantic Ocean and off the coast of North Africa, until he was ordered to take command of the newly-commissioned Yorktown.[2][b]

In January, 1944, Admiral Marc Mitscher, made Yorktown his flagship. Mitcher was soon very impressed with Clark's seamanship and fighting spirit. In February, 1944, he was promoted to rear admiral and was sent temporarily to TF58, still reporting to Mitscher, then commanding the Fast Carrier Task Force, and Admiral Raymond Spruance, commander, Fifth Fleet. Since all of the task group command slots were occupied, Clark was assigned to command the new carrier, USS Hornet (CV-12). Soon, Mitscher was disappointed by the performance of the Vice Admiral commanding TG-3, and replaced him with Clark.[2] He commanded the group in the Marianas campaign, and on multiple occasions his group was sent north to interdict Japanese aircraft being shuttled down from Japan. His air groups conducted attacks on shuttle points Chichi Jima and Iwo Jima so often that sailors of the Fast Carrier Task Force nicknamed them the "Jocko Jimas."[6] [c]

He operated his task group in conjunction with the rest of Task Force 58 in the Battle of the Philippine Sea. His flagship was the carrier Hornet. On the second day of the battle, with his planes returning after sundown, Clark ordered his ships to light up, allowing most planes to land safely.[7]

Korean WarEdit

Clark commanded the Fast Carrier Task Force (TF 77) during the Korean War. He was later promoted to vice admiral and rose to command the 7th Fleet before retiring from the Navy.

Clark retired on December 1, 1953 with the rank of admiral.

Final yearsEdit

After retiring from the navy, he lived in New York City, where he was chairman of Hegeman Harris, Inc., an investment company.[1]

He was made an honorary chief by both the Sioux and Cherokee Nations.[1]

Admiral Clark died on July 13, 1971 at the naval hospital in St. Albans, New York.[1] He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 3, Site 2525-B.[2] He is said to be haunting the USS Hornet along with a ghostly crew.

Honors and awardsEdit

His many awards and medals include the Navy Cross, Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat "V", Navy Commendation Medal and the Korean Order of Military Merit. In addition to these most commonly mentioned, he also received the following: Army Distinguished Service Medal for service in Korea, Silver Star Medal, Commendation Ribbon with Combat "V", Army Commendation Ribbon, Ribbon with stars for the Presidential Unit Citation (United States) to the USS Suwanee, USS Yorktown, and USS Hornet; Victory Medals for World War I and II; American Defense Service Medal; European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with one star), Asiatic-Pacific (twelve engagements) Campaign Medal, the Philippine Liberation Ribbon (one star), Service Medal, Korean Service Medal (one star), United Nations Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal.[2]

Clark's flag lieutenant was historian Clark G. Reynolds' uncle. Reynolds was chosen to co-author Clark's autobiography.[8]

Admiral Joseph Clark

Clark was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1952.[9]

The National Aeronautic Association honored him in 1969 with the Elder Statesman of Aviation Award.[1]

In 1979, the guided-missile frigate USS Clark (FFG-11) was named in his honor.[1]


  1. ^ Oklahoma became a state on November 16, 1907.
  2. ^ This ship replaced its namesake, an older Yorktown aircraft carrier, which had been sunk in the Pacific theater in 1942.
  3. ^ The admiral that Clark replaced was later diagnosed as having experienced a "nervous breakdown", triggered by the fact his Chief of Staff had just been killed in the battle, which explained his erratic behavior. He was allowed to keep his rank, but reassigned to non-combat duty post and never again considered for combat command.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Childers, James D. "Clark, Joseph James (1893-1971)." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed December 1, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Joseph James Clark - Admiral, United States Navy." Posted April 15, 2000. Last updated February 16, 2010.
  3. ^ Clark G. Reynolds The Fighting Lady: The New Yorktown in the Pacific War. Missoula, Montana: Pictorial Histories Publishing Co., 1986. ISBN 0-933126-78-6.
  4. ^ "The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on July 14, 1971 · 9". Retrieved 2018-04-26.
  5. ^ Potter p. 144
  6. ^ Potter p. 179
  7. ^ Potter p. 168
  8. ^ "December 2006: Review of his biography of Adm Clark Archived 2008-05-13 at the Wayback Machine", International Journal of Naval History. Retrieved January 29, 2008.
  9. ^ "Oklahoma Hall of Fame". Retrieved November 16, 2012.


Further readingEdit

  • Carrier admiral by J. J. Clark (1893–1971) with Clark G. Reynolds. (1967)
  • On the warpath in the Pacific: Admiral Jocko Clark and the fast carriers, by Clark G. Reynolds (2005)

External linksEdit