Clark was EISENHOWER’s Deputy during Operation Torch and hit the headlines in October 1942 when he made a secret trip to North Africa. He negotiated with Admiral DARLAN who agreed to repudiate the Vichy regime and ordered all French forces in Northwest Africa to cease their resistance. Clark, in return, placed Darlan under protective custody and recognized Darlan as the French ‘Head of State’ which caused an out-cry from the British. However this potentially embarrassing commital was ended when Darlan was assassinated shortly afterwards.
In January 1943 Clark was appointed Commanding General of the 5th Army and prepared for the invasion of Italy. On 9 September 1943 the invasion of western Italy began at Salerno. The troops established a bridgehead and managed to take Naples. The terrain in Italy considerably hampered Allied mobility and the 5th Army was held up at Monte Cassino. His troops took part in the Anzio Landings (January 1944) but this did not succeed in cutting off communications from Cassino to Rome. The British 8th Army reached the American positions and joined in the attempts to break through the Gustav Line. The stalemate continued for three months and Clark asked for permission to bomb the monastery at Cassino; however this did not help the Allies as the rubble was easier to defend. Finally British, American, Polish and French troops defeated the Germans at Cassino in very bitter fighting in May and on 4 June Clark’s 5th Army entered Rome.
Clark’s decision to go straight for Rome gave the Germans a chance to escape north and regroup. The main Allied advance on Germany was through France and resources for the Italian Front were now diverted to the Anvil/Dragoon Landings in the south of France. The 5th Army continued its advance but was stopped short of Bologna in October. In December Clark was elevated to command the 15th Army Group in the Mediterranean under ALEXANDER who then became Supreme Allied Commander in the Mediterranean Theater. In the last months of the war Clark achieved a decisive victory and in April 1945 he received the surrender of 230,000 German and enemy troops in Italy, the Tyrol and Salzburg. After the war Clark became Commander of the US Occupation Force in Austria.
Clark had a tremendous flair for public relations and was a well-known figure but he was also a skilled and popular Commander. His nickname was Eagle in Allied High Command parlance.