Mark Clark-Almost the First American Ambassador to the Vatican-On What’s My Line

Thursday, April 26, AD 2012

“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. 

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14 Responses to Mark Clark-Almost the First American Ambassador to the Vatican-On What’s My Line

  • I Knew that Truman sent the first US representative to the Holy See but not that he wanted to give him ambassadorial rank. Not bad for a 32nd degree [?] Mason who once flirted with the Klan.

  • One of Truman’s best friends was Monsignor L. Curtis Tiernan who served as chaplain in the 129th Field Artillery during World War I along with Captain Harry Truman. During World War II, Tiernan became chief of chaplains in the European Theater of Operations. Many of the men under Truman’s direct command in World War I were Irish Catholic and he got along famously with them. When it came to Catholics Truman had absolutely no prejudice.

  • General Clark, RIP, was not (I think) a Roman Catholic. it shows how rabidly anti-Catholic some were.

    One of my mother’s uncles was in the same division as Audie Murphy – they had the “record” of being (I think) 56 days in the line.

    Italy was so not well known: maybe because it was a bloody, slow meat grinder. German propaganda leaflets calculated Allied “progress” and estimated they’d reach the Po Valley by 1972.

    One assault across the Rapido River killed a regiment in 20 minutes. Darby’s Ranger battalion was destroyed in one day at Anzio. See Rick Atkinson, The Day of Battle.

  • Was not Fr. John Bannon first American to the Vatican…at the personal request of President Davis in 1863?:

    http://www.usgennet.org/usa/mo/county/stlouis/johnbannon.htm
    http://www.pricecamp.org/kelly.htm

    I suppose there could be others I am unaware of.

  • The US had consular relations with the Holy See from the time of George Washington.

    More on Father John Bannon and his diplomatic mission linked below:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2011/01/16/father-john-b-bannon-confederate-chaplain-and-diplomat/

    Archbishop John Hughes, better known as Dagger John, served as Abraham Lincoln’s personal envoy to the Holy See in 1862.

    http://almostchosenpeople.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/dagger-john-and-honest-abe/

  • It should be remembered that the ‘liberation’ of Rome was not a strategic priority and Clark deliberately disobeyed clear orders in order to indulge his vanity and egotism. The whole thing was a publicity stunt and one can take some satisfaction from the fact that his ‘triumph’ of 5 June 1944 was eclipsed by events in another theatre the following day. This, however, was of no comfort to the Allied troops who lost their lives as a result of his selfish and vainglorious behaviour.

    He should have been relieved of his command, but his superior, Harold Alexander, was weak-willed and overly diplomatic, and Clark was a favourite of Churchill’s. Winston’s main fault was always his poor character judgement. Among his favoured generals was another whose talent for self-publicity was greater than his military abilities. I refer of course to Bernard Law Montgomery.

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  • No dissing of the” American Eagle” John! 🙂 Basically your criticism is just, although I think it was less than clear at the time that Clark’s decision to take Rome was the mistake it turned out to be in hindsight. Here is a good overview:

    http://www.history.army.mil/books/70-7_14.htm

    As for Montgomery, I rate him fairly highly. I think his Market-Garden plan was brilliant although the execution was wanting. I also agree with this Churchill quote about Montgomery: “Indomitable in retreat, invincible in advance, insufferable in victory.”

  • General Clark had some pretty rough going in Italy what with Salerno, Anzio, Monte Cassino.

  • True Richard. In retrospect I think the whole Italian campaign was a mistake. That deducts not an iota from the courage of the men who struggled there, but the campaign simply allowed the Axis, at minimal cost, to tie down immense Allied resources and men.

  • Don, I have to agree. I don’t think either the Americans or the British in the Second World War ever established a qualitative superiority over their German adversaries in the way the BEF did in 1917 and 1918. It was arguably different in the Far East, and I would rate Bill Slim as the most capable British general of the war.

    The British in particular seem to have lacked the offensive spirit which carried their fathers to victory in August – November 1918. And political and personal rivalries bedevilled the Allies in WW II. Eisenhower emerges with credit; I don’t think you can say the same for Monty. According to him he won the Battle of the Bulge, getting the Americans off the hook, and nearly a decade and a half after the end of the war he was unbelievably rude about Ike’s generalship on American TV when he was actually a guest of the then President.

    However, the Americans and British did agree one one point – the man you least wanted as an ally was Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle.

  • “However, the Americans and British did agree one one point – the man you least wanted as an ally was Charles Andre Joseph Marie de Gaulle.”

    You can say that again John! Speaking of wasted resources, I think the entire Free French effort was in that category.

    “rude about Ike’s generalship on American TV when he was actually a guest of the then President.”

    Monty took arrogance and bloody mindedness and made them almost an art form.

  • I think it’s ridiculous to say that the French didn’t do anything in WW2 because the French had to deal with the Nazis from the start .

  • “because the French had to deal with the Nazis from the start .”

    And they did so well.

    Snark aside my point was that the resources poured into the Free French movement under De Gaulle was a waste. The Free French were unable to prevent an initial conflict between the Vichy French and the Allied Forces during Operation Torch in 1942; likewise in Syria in 1941. All the Allies got from the money and other resources they spent on the Free French was De Gaulle’s disdain, some translators and several divisions of mixed quality. The Resistance movement in France largely existed in Free French imagination until 1944 with the looming Allied invasion. Most French did what they were told under German occupation and evinced little desire to resist. Some heroes and heroines there certainly were in the Maquis, but I think they would have been active, most of them, even without the Free French movement.

5 Responses to Audie Murphy on What’s My Line

Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Sheen

Thursday, March 31, AD 2011

Oh the gems that can be found on Youtube!  From 1957, two legends discussing a third.  Frank Lloyd Wright, one of the greatest American architects of the 19th and 20th centuries, and Carl Sandburg, poet and Lincoln biographer, talking about Thomas Jefferson!

Carl Sandburg, in his multivolume biography of Lincoln, got closer to the heart of the man than many professionally trained historians, telling the tale of a man’s life requiring the touch of a poet as well as a chronicling of facts.  Frank Lloyd Wright developed a style of architecture that causes his buildings to be treasured.  In my town of Dwight, the building of the First National Bank of Dwight was designed by Wright, and is a little gem of his style.  Go here to read all about it. 

It is interesting to hear two men who are now legendary themselves, discussing a third legendary American.  In the world beyond one can hope that Jefferson has since taken part in the conversation!

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7 Responses to Carl Sandburg, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson and Bishop Sheen

  • I met Bishop Sheen in St. Patrick’s Cathedral one evening in the mid-1950’s.

    My widowed Grandmother (RIP) worked in midtown Manahattan and bought tix for “Snow White” at Radio City. After the early evening movie, Mother (RIP) and Grandmother made the visit to the Cathedral with four young boys in tow. The youngest John, of course, was scooting around and not in sight. So, when trying to quietly call for him, Bishop Sheen heard “John” being called out. He graciously approached and introduced himself, saying his Mother had called him “John.” Grandmother and Mom were in Heaven.

    I remember his TV shows and have CD’s of a few. They broke the mold . . .

  • Don, good find! “My dear, Alistair…” Made me pine for more intelligent discourse on TV instead of cacophony of mumbo-jumbo on talk shows today. Say, Don, could you unearth some colloquies between Bill Buckley and Malcolm Muggeridge and post? They were real gems.

    Alistair Cooke had almost an obsession with Mencken, whom he mentions at the end of the vid. HLM, the “amiable skeptic,” is sorely missed today. Though an agnostic, he left a sliver of hope near the end of his life. He could be nasty, indeed, but beneath the curmudgeon was the soul of someone who thought man could be better somehow.

  • Don, I’m thrilled you share my interest in Frank Lloyd Wright.

    Wright designed his fair share of houses of worship. A Unitarian himself (grandson of a minister), he build Unitarian churches in Madison WI and Oak Park Il, a Greek Orthodox church near Milwaukee, a Jewish temple near Philadelphia and Protestant churches in Florida and Arizona.

  • They don’t make ’em like this anymore.

    I am from Galesburg, IL, the birthplace of Carl Sandburg.

    I had seen the Fulton Sheen clip before, but I can never help noticing how, as he is shaking hands with the panelists, one of them kisses his ring.

  • Now anytime a bishop is on TV the journalist is obliged – as a precept of their faith – to inquire about teaching on abortion, priestly celibacy, homosexuality, etc. And aren’t the journalists, to quote St Augustine, “ever more ready to ask questions than capable of understanding the answer.”

  • There’s a Frank Lloyd Wright exhibit showing right now at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I haven’t been to it yet, but intend to visit it before it closes in May. I too am a Wright fan.

  • And don’t forget the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, which was one of Wright’s earliest Prairie Style projects. It’s closed for renovation right now but when open it’s probably the biggest (perhaps the only) non-Lincoln tourist draw in the city.