Mark Clark-Almost the First American Ambassador to the Vatican-On What’s My Line
“A few days after the liberation of Rome, Lieutenant General Mark Clark, Commander of the Fifth Allied Army, paid his respects to the Pope: “I am afraid you have been disturbed by the noise of my tanks. I am sorry.” Pius XII smiled and replied: “General, any time you come to liberate Rome, you can make just as much noise as you like.””
The show What’s My Line makes a rather good time capsule for informal looks at major figures in mid twentieth century American history. On February 19, 1956 General Mark Clark, commander of the US Fifth Army in the Italian campaign during World War II, and commander of the United Nations forces in Korea from May 12, 1952 to the truce ending the conflict., appeared on the show.
It is an ironic commentary on the relative obscurity of the Italian campaign during World War II that the panelists were unable to guess his identity. Clark was nominated by President Truman to be the first ambassador of the United States to the Vatican due to his excellent personal war time relationship with Pope Pius XII. Opposition by Protestant groups and powerful Senator Thomas Connolly of Texas caused Truman to shelve the plan.
The United States representative to the Vatican did not attain ambassadorial status until President Reagan’s administration. Clark died in 1984, the same year that Reagan had the “presidential personal representative to the Vatican”, as the chief American diplomat to the Vatican was known, upgraded to ambassador after he pushed through the repeal of an 1867 law banning funds for the construction of an embassy with the Holy See.