ROTARY CLUB OF GALVESTON
MEMORIAL DAY PROGRAM
MAY 23, 2012
FISHERMAN'S WHARF RESTAURANT
GALVESTON, TEXAS

Presented by Mike Guarino

Honoring the Life of
LT. COL. MAX CLARK, U.S.M.C.R.

BORN: JULY 9, 1897
KILLED IN ACTION: OCTOBER 24, 1944


MILITARY AWARDS FOR VALOR:

WW I: SILVER STAR, PURPLE HEART,
CROIX DE GUERRE WITH PALM FROM FRANCE
WW II: NAVY CROSS, 3 PURPLE HEARTS

 

THE EXTRAORDINARY STORY OF MAX CLARK

-Let's talk about Max Clark, whose life we celebrate today.
-He was a product of Ball High.
-Enlisted in U.S. Army in 1916 at the age of 18.
-He first served under General John Pershing and saw action against Poncho Villa in Mexico.
-Shipped out to France during WW I as a young infantryman with the Army's 2nd Division and advanced to the rank of First Sergeant.
-Saw combat in 4 different campaigns. Was awarded the Silver Star for heroism during the Meuse-Argonne campaign.
-Awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in France on July 1, 1918.
-Awarded the coveted Croix de Guerre (Cross of War) with Palm by France for valor.
-Served with the Occupation Forces in Germany
-He did not return to Galveston until 1921.

-Married the love of his life, Tina Sakowitz in 1924. Had 2 great sons, Irving and Sam.
-Went into business with his dad operating Clark Shoe Store in Galveston.
-I do not believe that Max Clark was a Rotarian, but he would have been a great one. If anyone ever lived their life in accordance with our Rotary motto of "Service Above Self" it was him. Max was commander of the American Legion post here and was active in local and state veteran affairs. He was a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Fraternal Order of the Eagle, The Knights of Pythias and of Temple B'nai Israel.

- Max Clark loved his military roots and soon after returning to Galveston after WW I, joined the Army reserve and was commissioned a second lieutenant. In 1935 Max was instrumental in starting the Junior ROTC program at Ball High. He is known as its Founder. Many in the school system as well as in the community initially opposed its formation. They thought government was trying to militarize youth. Max successfully championed the need for the unit and eventually convinced opponents that military training was certainly a part of this type program, but not the main part. He eloquently argued that the Program was designed to teach students leadership, history, good citizenship and instilling in them the principals of democracy. The Galveston community came together and supported it. That ROTC Program has produced countless community leaders over the years as well as men and women who later would fight in WW II, Korea, Vietnam and even in Iraq and Afghanistan as we meet here today. The Program remains an important part of what is offered at Ball H.S. We are proud to have some representatives of the ROTC unit with us today. Welcome Major Andre Morrison, 1st Sgt. Willie Whittie and Sgt. First Class Eduardo Gonzalez as well as Ball High cadet commanders 2nd Lieutenants Gustavo Guiterrez, Rebekka Urbina and Michael Mendez.

- Max remained in the Army reserve until 1937 when he transferred to the brand new Marine Reserve unit in Galveston (15th Fleet Battalion), that Colonel Clark Thompson had established.

-To join the Marine unit Max had to take a doctors physical. Max's family has the letter the doctor composed after the physical. It's not a good letter. The doctor recommended against the Marines taking him, referring to a few teeth Max had lost during his life. Colonel Thompson and his other Marine buddies thought the world of him and disregarded the doctor's recommendation in a "New York Minute." But, I'm told, that was not the first time the Marines weren't sure they wanted him. As a youngster in 1916, Max had tried to join the Marines. The Marine recruiter looked him over and said: "You are mighty short and scrawny; we're looking for men, son. You see that door down the hall, that's the army recruiting office and they may take you."

Between 1937 and 1940, Max trained with his new Unit as he continued working and raising his young family here in Galveston.

-With Nazi Germany's and Imperial Japan's aggression in Europe and Asia, Max's Marine unit of about 400 men was mobilized in the fall of 1940. The men were primarily from Galveston, Texas City and Houston. Max was a Captain at the time of the mobilization.

-The unit was sent to San Diego, California.

-We are honored to have 3 men who were members of that unit with us today. They served under Max Clark here in Galveston, were mobilized with him, were sent to California with him but then were split off from him when they drew new unit assignments. (All except Bill Snipes who was 15 in 1940). These 3 men would go on to distinguish themselves as great Marines who fought in WW II. They are truly great Americans.

-Would our own Colonel Lee Weber, Arthur Trimarchi and Bill Snipes please stand and be recognized.

-We have with us today current Marines who lead our Marine unit here in Galveston. Would Sergeant Major Eduardo Guzman, First Sgt. Alfredo Franco, Gunnery Sergeants Christopher Evans and David Maynor please stand and be recognized.

-From California, Max Clark was assigned in April 1941 to the 4th Marine Regiment in Shanghai, China. That was 8 months before Pearl Harbor. The 4th Marines were known as the "China Marines". Since 1927, they had protected American interests throughout China.
-In November 1941, with war looming on the horizon, they were re-deployed to the Philippines.
-Max Clark was assigned to the 3rd Battalion as Company Commander of Company I.
-Promoted to Major
-The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 destroying much of our Pacific Fleet. Days later the Japanese began their brutal assault on 2 other critical American garrisons in the Pacific: Wake Island and the Philippines. Both were terribly undermanned and vulnerable to Japanese attach.

-The attack on the Philippines began on December 10th.

-Max Clark was awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism in the defense of the Philippines from December 10 to the 19th, 1941. This made him one of the first Marines in WW II to be awarded the Navy Cross, the second highest decoration for bravery in combat-second only to the Medal of Honor.

- We have secured a copy of his Navy Cross citation and our own, Colonel Mike Cowan, a highly decorated fighter pilot; will present it at this time. Mike will also share some reflections from Max Clark's commanding officer. It certainly describes the kind of man Max Clark was.

-Max Clark fought on Bataan and then defended Corregidor, known as the "rock," during horrendous fighting. He was wounded in action twice. On April 2 and again on April 24, 1942. The 4th Marine Regiment in the Philippines was perhaps the most unusual Marine unit in history. Its numbers swelled to 4,000 officers and men drawn from all the services. When their planes, ships and commands were lost, soldiers, airman and sailors joined and fought with the 4th Marines.
-The United States was unable to re-enforce or re-supply our troops in the Philippines. The defenders of the Philippines referred to themselves as the "Battling bastards of Bataan. No papa, no mama, no uncle Sam."
-The Japanese siege of the Philippines lasted 5 long months.
-General Douglas MacArthur, who commanded all troops in the Philippines, would later write: "Our troops were now approaching exhaustion. The clouds were growing darker. My heart ached as I saw my men slowly wasting away. Their clothes hung on them like tattered rags. Their bare feet stuck out in silent protest. Their long bedraggled hair framed gaunt bloodless faces. They asked no quarter and they gave none. They died hard-not gently like a stricken dove folding its wings in peaceful passing, but like a wounded wolf at bay, with lips curled back in sneering menace, and always reaching for the machete knife which long ago they had substituted for the bayonet."

-In May 1942, after being decimated by disease, starvation, and running out of ammunition, the 4th Marine Regiment and all other American and Philippine defense forces surrendered their positions and were captured.

-Max Clark endured the 90 mile Bataan Death March where hundreds of American and Filipino prisoners died.
-Fellow soldiers and Marines would later report that during the march, Max Clark intervened when a young American soldier was caught with a small piece of fruit that was left along the road by Filipino villagers. The standing order was that prisoners caught with food would be immediately executed. The guards were about to execute the soldier, but Max Clark stepped forward and told the Japanese guards that the soldier was under his command and that they must execute him rather than the young soldier. The guards inexplicably turned away and both the soldier and Major Clark survived that encounter.

-He was a POW in the Philippines for 29 months.

-As allied troops under General MacArthur began closing in on the Philippines in 1944, to re-take and liberate the Islands, the Japanese began to move POW's out of the Philippines to Japan.

-In October 1944, Max was placed on a Japanese prison ship, known as a "Hellship," with 1800 other POWs. The ship was not marked as a Red Cross prisoner of war ship when it left Manila and headed for Japan. He lost his life when it was torpedoed by an American submarine, on October 24, 1944, thinking it was a regular Japanese freighter. Only 5 POWs survived the sinking. Max was 47 years old when he was killed. After his death, he was promoted to the rank of Lt. Colonel.

-Max Clark's body was never recovered but he is memorialized here in Galveston at the Temple B'nai Israel and its Cemetery, as well as the American Cemetery and Memorial outside of Manila in the Philippines. At the cemetery in Manila, Max Clark's name is inscribed on the Tablets of the Missing. His name joins those of 36,000 other American servicemen. Also at that Cemetery are the graves of 17,000 other Americans lost in the battle for the Philippines, New Guinea, China, Burma and India during WW II.

-Max Clark is, of course, still loved and remembered by his family. We are so proud to have his son Sam Clark here (Sam was 12 years old when his Dad was captured), also present are Sam's wife Turtle, Sam's son, Max Clark (his grandfather's namesake), Max's daughter Samantha, Sam's daughter Lesley Hill and her two daughters Emily and Heather, Irving Clark's daughter Frannie Rochkind and her husband, Barry Rochkind and their son Joshua. Would they all please stand.

- Max Clark's brother in law Max Glazer established the Max Clark Endowment as a perpetual tribute to Colonel Clark in 1945. The Endowment, through the years, has awarded scholarship money to worthy students in Galveston through Southern Methodist University. A recent Ball High School graduate who was awarded the scholarship was the smart and beautiful Miss Molly Murphy. She is with us today along with her mom and dad. Would they please stand and be recognized.

-When one looks at Max Clark's life, one can't help but come away with the overwhelming feeling that he was truly an extraordinary man and what a wonderful force for good he would have been had he returned to his beloved Galveston after WW II. His life was tragically cut short like countless others, on the Altar of History, for the cause of freedom. His sacrifice has insured freedom to generations of Americans who have been born since his death, 62 years ago.

-I will close my remarks today with the beautiful words that have been inscribed on the magnificent 10' tall granite memorial to Max Clark located at the Temple B'nai Israel cemetery on 61st St. You have a copy of the inscription at your tables:


THAT PREJUDICE MIGHT DIE, THAT TYRANNY MIGHT LAY FOREVER SLAIN. THAT MEN MIGHT LIVE IN PEACE.

LT. COL. MAX CLARK
BORN: NEW BRITAIN, CONN
JULY 9, 1897
DIED OCT 24, 1944

HIS WOUNDS IN 1918 CRIMSONED THE SOIL OF FRANCE.

AT MANILLA HE STOOD IN 1942 AND BLED. CORREGIDOR'S ROCK IS REDDENED, TOO, WITH THE BLOOD OF HIS DEFENDING, AND HIS SPIRIT'S MORTAL TEMPLE RESTS IN SEAS THAT SEEM UNENDING.
HIS PATRIOT'S SOUL MARCHES ON IN THE PLUMED LEGIONS OF THE HEROIC DEAD.

It is fitting that Rabbi Jimmy Kessler, of Max Clark's beloved Temple; give the closing prayer for this program.


MAJOR MAX CLARK'S
NAVY CROSS CITATION

CLARK, MAX
Major, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve)
Navy Yard, Cavite, Philippine Islands
Date of Action: December 10 - 19, 1941

Citation:
The Navy Cross is presented to Max Clark, Major, U.S. Marine Corps (Reserve), for distinguished service in the line of his profession during the enemy attacks on the Navy Yard, Cavite, and the Naval Air Station at Sangley Point, Philippine Islands, between December 10th and 19th, 1941. With singular calmness and efficiency in the face of great personal danger, Major Clark organized and directed rescue and salvage groups, and by his prompt and energetic actions, and by working day and night, to the limit of human endurance, he rendered services of inestimable value during the hazardous task of salvaging vital war materials and explosives from that stricken and burning area. On Corregidor he did outstanding work in the defense of that sector. By his coolness and courage under fire, and his complete disregard for his own personal safety, he demonstrated superior qualities of leadership and a devotion to duty that was far above expectations. As a soldier and a leader, he was an inspiration to both officers and men alike. His courage, leadership and devotion to duty reflect the highest credit upon Major Clark and the United States Naval Service.

SPOT AWARD, (August 12, 1942)
Born: at New Britain, Connecticut
Home Town: Galveston, Texas


COMMANDING OFFICER'S REMARKS ABOUT MAX CLARK

Colonel William Clement was the U.S. Marine commander during much of the Japanese siege of the Philippines. He described Max Clark in this way:
"Max Clark had been in 3 wars. During air raids Max would never seek shelter for himself but invariably looked around to see where his men were and then casually strolled over to sit with a buck private in his foxhole or with a machinegun crew in a pillbox. Often Max would look up as bombs were being released and say 'By George, they're dumping confetti on us.' Major Clark was a human dynamo and absolutely fearless."

 

 



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