The seemingly trivial demands of demobilization enabled this divorced veteran to court and marry his second wife, prominent Texas entrepreneur-banker Shannon Jensen, in May 1946. By that time, however, the euphoria of global peace had begun to unravel as the Cold War developed between the United States and Soviet Russia. At the same time, the AAF was agitating for independent status as a third service, thereby threatening the future of the Navy, now centered on its own air arm.
Interservice passions flared so dramatically that Clark's fellow wartime fast carrier group commander, Vice Admiral Arthur W. Radford, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Air), had ordered him to Washington to be his assistant that September. "Jock," as his friends called him, accepted the idea of unification but not with a separate Air Force. The two men and other naval aviators were opposed by key peers who accepted a U.S. Air Force, notably Vice Chief of Naval Operations Vice Admiral D. C. Ramsey and Clark's Naval Academy classmate (1918) Vice Admiral Forrest Sherman, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Operations).
Sherman, however, had the ear of the CNO, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, who agreed to accept the new Air Force as part of unification when it occurred in July 1947. Then Nimitz decided to retire, causing the two factions to endorse separate candidates to succeed him. Secretary of Defense James Forrestal preferred an aviator, namely Ramsey, whom Clark opposed for having championed the new Air Force.
President Harry Truman wanted a compromise figure, namely a non-aviator, Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Louis E. Denfeld. Clark reasoned that the next best thing to a non-flying CNO was to ensure that the new VCNO be a pilot, namely Radford. So he sent an officer to Pearl Harbor to ensure that Denfeld as CNO would insist on Radford to become VCNO. Denfeld, who admired Radford, agreed and made it so as his first act on becoming CNO in December.
Feisty Jocko, opposed to Navy economizing, shortly thereafter succeeded in preventing NAS Corpus Christi from being turned over to the new Air Force. Then, early in 1948, he thwarted the planned closing of NAS Jacksonville by converting it from a training facility into the major fleet base for Atlantic Fleet carriers protecting the western Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea from the new Soviet menace. The only cost to the taxpayer was dredging the Mayport basin to accommodate flattops.
Admirals Denfeld and Radford decided to reward Clark by recommending him for promotion to vice admiral as Commander Air Force Atlantic (ComAirLant). But the new Secretary of the Navy, John L. Sullivan, refused, citing Clark's "disloyalty" for having successfully opposed Sullivan's attempts to eliminate Corpus and Jax as economy measures. So Jocko was passed over for promotion and given a negative fitness report (24 November 1948) by the new DCNO (Air), Vice Admiral John Dale Price, who concluded it with a backhanded compliment: "R. Adm. Clark . . . has great tenacity and is unyielding in anything he thinks is right. He is a great fighting man."
Jock decided to get out of Washington to politically safer duty at sea, a view shared by Radford and Sherman, the former to command the Pacific Fleet, the latter U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean—the "Sixth Task Fleet." He was given command of Carrier Division Four in November, operating between the Eastern seaboard and the Med. Hoisting his flag in the Philippine Sea (CV-47), he led the Midway (CVB-41) and escorts across a stormy Atlantic to Gibraltar in January 1949.
Based at Malta, Clark's task force helped enforce the Truman Doctrine of deterring the spread of communism into France, Italy, and especially Greece. Admiral Sherman directed Clark to make port calls to shore up local confidence and to cooperate closely with the smaller British naval force in the middle sea. Jock took an immediate liking to the British cruiser admiral, the renowned Lord Louis Mountbatten.
Clark's easy handling of his two-carrier task force appeared almost casual, but he was in his element, having led a task group twice that size in Pacific combat. Indeed, as then, he left routine ship movements to his staff operations officer, Commander Thomas H. Moorer, the future CNO who regarded Clark's policy of "just standing back and watching" the staff as:
my good fortune, because he allowed me to do everything. . . . That gave
me an opportunity to gain a new kind of experience. I had been operations
officer on the Midway , and every time you changed course you had to ask the captain's permission. . . . [Now,] I could change the course of 15 to 20 ships any time I pleased and ask no one's permission! 1
Indeed, Clark had so much faith in Moorer that he would even fall asleep and snore in his chair on the flag bridge, unfazed by messages constantly coming in through four separate speakers. Most of the traffic was routine, but the instant something important or a question came through, he was awake and replied when necessary.
Or he just moved to the operations room, sat in the leather lounge, and listened to a baseball game on the Armed Forces Radio. This left Tom Moorer to "run the outfit, which he was perfectly capable of doing at any time." 2 Or he just remained in his chair on the bridge and read a comic book from a stack of them kept fresh with new ones by his Marine orderly. 3
Clark's confidence, including an uncanny ability to predict the correct weather, rankled his immediate superior, Admiral Sherman, who repeatedly annoyed Clark throughout this deployment. Jock's flag secretary, then-Lieutenant Charles Melhorn, recalled "no love between them at all," as Sherman "never, never lost an opportunity" to badger him. "Forrest Sherman was harassing Jocko all the time," Moorer remembered, "They just didn't like each other at all." 4
Clark told Melhorn that their differences had begun at the U.S. Naval Academy, when intellectual classmate Sherman had taken umbrage at "cowboy" Clark's hazing activities, leading to his having been turned back a year. Other bones of contention had culminated in Jock's opposition to Sherman's plan for unification. Sherman plagued Clark during flight operations by signaling the carriers to join with the escorts soon after having sent the carriers off to conduct flight operations. Or he would change the base course "and head right for us" just as the carriers were in position to rejoin, causing Clark's ships to scatter. Then: "Expedite join-up." 5
Jock got so angry at Sherman's tormenting him that he refused even to stand on the lee side of the ship in order to avoid seeing Sherman's flagship. "He couldn't stand to look at him." So from the starboard wing of the bridge, Clark instructed Moorer: "Go over there and see what the old son of a bitch is signaling now." 6 (Ironically, Clark was three years older than Sherman.)
Clark's wife Shannon flew in to rub elbows with Europe's social elite on the Riviera, notably movie actress Rita Hayworth, being courted by Prince Aly Khan of Pakistan, as both vacationed at Cannes. One thing on which Admiral Sherman insisted was the good behavior of all personnel ashore, essential to enhancing the image of the United States in the Cold War. Clark took advantage of the visiting celebrities to entertain them with a buffet supper on board the Philippine Sea the evening of 29 April 1949. Sherman and other admirals attended, forcing Jock to stay on his best behavior.
The combination of such disparate personalities as admirals, royalty, millionaires, and the Hollywood set was accentuated by the presence of social butterfly Shannon Clark as official hostess and a former wartime shipmate on the "new" Yorktown (CV-10) when Jocko had been her captain. This was the humorous yet superb Commander Cooper B. Bright, executive officer of the transport Winston, also at anchor.
Bright regarded the party as "stupid," everyone just standing around chatting after dinner. "It doesn't have to be that way," thought this bald-headed master of "grabass." He took aside the glamorous Rita, whom Life magazine had recently dubbed "the Love Goddess" for her steamy films Gilda and Down to Earth .
"When the admirals stop talking," Bright quietly briefed the gorgeous long-haired Hayworth, "I'll ask you, 'If you had met me before you met Aly Khan, and if I'd preferred marriage to you [instead of my wife], what would your answer be?' And you say, 'I would select you over Aly Khan in a day.' And I'll say, 'Why would you do that?' And you say, 'Because you have more face to kiss.'" She agreed at once and 'skinhead' Coop remarked, "I think we can break the ice."
At the next lull in the conversation, Bright, standing on the opposite side of the room from Hayworth, said loudly, "Rita!" All chatter stopped, especially since only the admirals were supposed to address the actress by her first name. The two went into their routine. Rita, consummate actress that she was, not only remembered her lines perfectly but gave them "the real play."
The place "went up in smoke," recalled Coop, with everyone laughing uproariously. When it died down, Jocko bellowed, "Goddam you, I'll bet he paid her to say that!" Then came more laughter, whereupon Bright seized the moment. He said to Rita that during the war he had been "the Pacific Ocean Area Sex Typhoon," a boast that he, happily married, had used to rib the Yorktown's lonesome pilots. "And you are the 'goddess of love.'" 7
The entire party doubtless cemented Forrest Sherman's enmity toward Clark. On 15 May, as Clark's task force left the Med to return home, Sherman wrote an unsatisfactory fitness report. He did praise Clark's handling of his carrier force, "well trained and brought to a high state of efficiency," and recommended that he retain that command. But on the checklist of command "factors," Sherman gave him a damning average mark in both "exercising judgment" and maintaining discipline within his command. In several other categories, he rated Jock only satisfactory.
Clark established his flag ashore at Quonset Point, then reported to Atlantic Fleet headquarters at Norfolk. With Tom Moorer in tow, he visited Rear Admiral John J. Ballentine, who showed him the fitness report by Sherman.
"It was real funny," Moorer recalled. "Here was a fellow who had been through the whole war and had made quite a splash, and then he gets an unsatisfactory fitness report, just like some ensign." Jock said, simply, "Ha, ha, ha" and refused to sign it as required for any "unsat" report. "He couldn't have cared less," noted Moorer, who regarded the incident as "good training for a young commander—to watch some of these back and forths. It helps to understand the problem better." 8
Then Clark was quickly caught up in a renewed imbroglio over unification, the "revolt of the admirals" against the cancellation of a new class of carrier in favor of the Air Force's B-36 bomber. It was led partly by outspoken Captain John G. Crommelin Jr. CNO Denfeld and Vice Chief Price asked Clark to persuade Crommelin "to keep quiet." After many hours of conversation, Jock got him to stop making public statements.
The Navy launched a public relations campaign to promote carriers and involved its colorful Cherokee. It included an "orientation" cruise commanded by Clark from his flagship Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVB-42) to show off the Navy's newest weapons. On 26 September 1949 Task Force 87 stood out 60 miles from Hampton Roads, with Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff embarked on the FDR. Sister ship Midway , escort carrier Mindoro (CVE-120), two cruisers, and a dozen destroyers rounded out the task force.
Fast McDonnell F2H Banshee jet fighters and rugged Douglas AD Skyraider bombers executed impressive mock attacks on the Midway , while the FDR's antiaircraft gunners shot down a radio-controlled F6F Hellcat at 4,500 yards. The Mindoro 's planes tracked a submarine equipped with a German-derived snorkel underwater air-intake device, and several "tin cans" dropped depth charges at a safe distance.
To demonstrate an atomic bomb delivery capability for large carrier-borne strike aircraft, each of the two large carriers launched a Lockheed P2V Neptune land patrol plane using JATO (jet assisted takeoff). One of them flew nonstop to San Diego via the Panama Canal and Corpus Christi, distance of 4,800 miles! Unfortunately, in spite of Clark's having pleased his superiors with his handling of the demonstration, it failed to convince Secretary Johnson to revive the carrier program. 9
Suddenly, a week later on 3 October, Crommelin broke his promise to Jock by going public in his attack on defense policy. But Clark wisely elected to stay out of the ensuing fracas, which involved highly publicized congressional hearings, because President Truman accepted Admiral Nimitz's recommendation to replace the ineffective CNO Denfeld with Forrest Sherman, Clark's arch enemy. Instead, Jocko spent November testing the Midway and Philippine Sea in successful cold-weather operations near the Arctic Sea, anticipating a possible shooting war with the new Russian enemy.
Superlative fitness reports by several senior admirals began to improve Clark's image even in the eyes of new CNO Sherman. One of these was John Ballentine, who was given command of the Sixth Fleet as vice admiral. In mid-January 1950 TF 87 returned to the middle sea, Clark's flag in the Midway, his Cold War duties the same as the previous year. He renewed his friendship with Lord Mountbatten and with newlyweds Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth at Cannes. Wife Shannon flew over again to act as official hostess, although the marriage was becoming a rocky one.
On one occasion, Aly and Rita attended a shipboard dance. Aly could not participate because his hip and leg were in a cast from a skiing accident in Switzerland. But every sailor wanted to dance with Rita, so many in fact that the dance committee decided that only one of its members would have that privilege. Alas, Clark recalled, as soon as "she took the first step with him, the crew mobbed her. It is safe to say that in a space of about two minutes she danced with a hundred sailors."
The year before, Clark had met Aly Khan's father Aga Khan III, spiritual leader of the Ismailite Muslims centered in India, Pakistan, and Africa. On the 1950 deployment, however, Jocko insisted on including him in a dinner visit on board the flagship. Although the Aga Khan was a large man, his staff assured Clark's that "he was in excellent shape" to climb the ship's accommodation ladder, even "that he played golf every day. What we didn't know," recalled flag secretary Charles Melhorn, was that "he did play golf every day—but only one hole!" He weighed some 300 pounds and was 72 years old.
Nevertheless, Jock had the Midway 's crew hoist Aga Khan and his party in their barge to the flight deck by the ship's aircraft crane, then transfer him alone to a bosun's chair suspended from a forklift, which trundled down the deck to the number one plane elevator—"the funniest picture I ever saw in my life," remembered ops officer Moorer, "with the Aga Kahn sitting up like he was on a throne." Then the elevator descended to the hangar deck, putting him right at the tomato juice being served before dinner. 10
The meal was followed by a dance, during which Rita Hayworth had great fun with the sailors. The mayor of Cannes came on board briefly in order to escort Clark and his guests ashore for a late dinner. With the clock ticking, Jock remarked to wife Shannon, "It's time for us to go. We can't be late for the mayor's dinner."
"We can't go now," said Shannon. "Rita's with her public. She's having such a good time. We'll have to wait until she finishes."
Replied Jocko, "I want to tell you one thing. When we're ashore, you're the boss. When I'm aboard ship, I'm the boss. Goddammit, get your hat!" 11 The marriage was crumbling.
As Clark brought his task force home from the Med in May 1950 Ballentine gave him unanimous superior marks on his fitness report that month because of his having handled his command "in an exemplary manner. He has been cheerful, efficient and cooperative at all times. Under his leadership, the Midway and attached Air Group developed into a fine fighting team. It was a pleasure to have Rear Admiral Clark in the Sixth Fleet."
One month later, on 25 June, communist North Korea, an ally of the Soviet Union, invaded pro-U.S. South Korea to begin the Korean War. Jocko hastened to Washington to offer his services to CNO Sherman, whatever their differences.
"My specialty is combat," Clark recalled telling Sherman, "I want to get in the war." The CNO, anxious to use his best fighting admirals, told Clark he would be shore based first, in charge of the Navy's air bases on the California coast, a rear admiral's billet. If he measured up there, "I'll send you to war." The two men discussed this limited war—confined to the Korean Peninsula—with Jock asking Sherman if he thought the conflict would expand into a global war.
"By fighting in Korea," Sherman replied, "we may be fighting a little war to stop a big war."
Longtime comrade-in-arms ComAirLant Vice Admiral Felix B. Stump reinforced Jocko's case by writing a fitness report of all perfect marks on 1 August, the date of Clark's detachment as ComCarDiv Four, adding:
Clark's performance of duty has been of the highest order. His detachment
from Air Force, Atlantic Fleet is a great loss to the Fleet. He is strongly
recommended for higher rank in an important command at sea. . . .
Especially qualified and recommended for sea duty in command of a position
of great responsibility.
Any promotion would have to be to the next grade, vice admiral. Any seagoing vice admiral's billet "of great responsibility" would be a fleet command. If in a combat role, that could only mean Seventh Fleet—the naval force fighting the Korean War.
And so it came to be. The energetic part-Cherokee performed so well supporting the Pacific Fleet from its West Coast air stations that in June 1951 Sherman informed Clark he was next in line to command the Seventh Fleet, the main force defending not only South Korea but all U.S. interests and bases from Japan to Singapore.
Although Sherman died suddenly in July, three months later, CinCPac Radford got Clark transferred to brief combat command of Task Force 77, the fast carrier force around which the Seventh Fleet's combat operations were organized. Proving himself as dynamic as ever in that role, on 20 May 1952 Jocko Clark raised his vice admiral's flag over the battleship Iowa (BB-61) as Commander Seventh Fleet.
The enemy soon felt his wrath in "Cherokee Strikes" and other tactical innovations all the way to the last day of the conflict in mid 1953. Off Korea, Jocko Clark helped to make the half-century-long Cold War as "hot" as it ever became.
Dr. Reynolds, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, College of Charleston, South Carolina, and former history professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, is the author of several Naval Institute Press books, including Famous American Admirals  (2001) and Admiral John H. Towers  (1991).
1. U. S. Naval Institute interview #30 of Thomas H. Moorer, pp. 1587, 1589. back to article
2. USNI interview #4 of Robert W. McNitt, p. 214. back to article
3. USNI interview #1 of John W. Lee, Jr., p. 116. back to article
4. USNI interviews of Charles W. Melhorn, p. 145 and #30 of Moorer, p. 1587. back to article
5. Moorer interview #30, p. 1588. back to article
6. Moorer interview #30, p. 1588. back to article
7. Author's interview of Cooper B. Bright; also Clark G. Reynolds, The Fighting Lady (Missoula, MT: Pictorial Histories, 1986), pp. 24, 243-244. back to article
8. Moorer interview #6, p. 203. back to article
9. Hanson W. Baldwin in The New York Times , 27 September 1949. back to article
10. Melhorn interview, pp. 138-142; Moorer interview #30, p. 1590. back to article
11. Moorer interview #30, p. 1591. back to article
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Unless otherwise noted, Admiral Clark's activities are based largely on taped interviews of him during the 1960s by the Columbia University Oral History Program, the Naval Photographic Center, and the author and which culminated in his autobiography (with Reynolds), Carrier Admiral (New York: David McKay, 1967). Copies of Clark's fitness reports are deposited in the J. J. Clark collection at the Naval Historical Center, Washington, D.C.