Technical Sergeant Francis J. Clark, USA (September 12 & 17, 1944)

Francis J. Clark was born in Whitehall, New York on April 22, 1912. He was drafted for war service in the United States Army on March 13, 1942 and his records indicate that he had completed just two years of high school, was employed as a skilled woodworker, and had once been married. He was assigned to the 109th Infantry Regiment, traditionally a unit of the Pennsylvania National Guard and part of the 28th Infantry Division.

By September 12, 1944, Clark was a Technical Sergeant and a squad leader in the 3rd Platoon of Company K, 3rd Battalion, 109th Infantry. On that day he rescued and then led the soldiers of the 2nd Platoon after both their Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant were killed in action. Five days later, after destroying a Nazi machine gun position, he assumed command again of soldiers from other platoons left leaderless due to casualties.

His Medal of Honor was presented to him about one year later.

From Medal of Honor Citations for World War II (A-F):

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Photo: Military Times’ Hall of Valor

CLARK, FRANCIS J.

Rank and organization: Technical Sergeant, U.S. Army, Company K, 109th Infantry, 28th Infantry Division. Place and date: Near Kalborn, Luxembourg, 12 September 1944; near Sevenig, Germany, 17 September 1944. Entered service at: Salem, N.Y. G.O. No.: 77, 10 September 1945

Citation: He fought gallantly in Luxembourg and Germany. On 12 September 1944, Company K began fording the Our River near Kalborn, Luxembourg, to take high ground on the opposite bank. Covered by early morning fog, the 3d Platoon, in which T/Sgt. Clark was squad leader, successfully negotiated the crossing; but when the 2d Platoon reached the shore, withering automatic and small-arms fire ripped into it, eliminating the platoon leader and platoon sergeant and pinning down the troops in the open. From his comparatively safe position, T/Sgt. Clark crawled alone across a field through a hail of bullets to the stricken troops. He led the platoon to safety and then unhesitatingly returned into the fire-swept area to rescue a wounded soldier, carrying him to the American line while hostile gunners tried to cut him down. Later, he led his squad and men of the 2d Platoon in dangerous sorties against strong enemy positions to weaken them by lightning-like jabs. He assaulted an enemy machinegun with hand grenades, killing 2 Germans. He roamed the front and flanks, dashing toward hostile weapons, killing and wounding an undetermined number of the enemy, scattering German patrols and, eventually, forcing the withdrawal of a full company of Germans heavily armed with automatic weapons. On 17 September, near Sevenig, Germany, he advanced alone against an enemy machinegun, killed the gunner and forced the assistant to flee. The Germans counterattacked, and heavy casualties were suffered by Company K. Seeing that 2 platoons lacked leadership, T/Sgt. Clark took over their command and moved among the men to give encouragement. Although wounded on the morning of 18 September, he refused to be evacuated and took up a position in a pillbox when night came. Emerging at daybreak, he killed a German soldier setting up a machinegun not more than 5 yards away. When he located another enemy gun, he moved up unobserved and killed 2 Germans with rifle fire. Later that day he voluntarily braved small-arms fire to take food and water to members of an isolated platoon. T/Sgt. Clark’s actions in assuming command when leadership was desperately needed, in launching attacks and beating off counterattacks, in aiding his stranded comrades, and in fearlessly facing powerful enemy fire, were strikingly heroic examples and put fighting heart into the hard-pressed men of Company K.

Francis Clark left the Army with the end of the war still as a Technical Sergeant. He passed away at age 69 on October 20, 1981 and was laid to rest in the Evergreen Cemetery of Salem, New York.

The 28th Infantry Division persists today as the primary formation of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard when not activated for federal service with the United States Army.

Note: this post is appearing in advance of the actual anniversaries to prevent a posting bottleneck with multiple recipients on same days.

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