Carlton Howard Clark was born in Corbin, Kentucky, on June 17, 1914, son of Thomas V. and May Flowers Clark. He attended Western Kentucky State Teachers College, Bowling Green, Kentucky, from 1934 until 1938, majoring in Mathematics and Physical Education. He enlisted in the US Naval Reserve at St. Louis, Missouri, on August 15, 1938 and, appointed Aviation Cadet, was sent to the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, on September 15, that year. Completing flight training, he was designated Naval Aviator on October 19, 1939. Through subsequent advancement and his transfer to the US Navy, he attained the rank of Captain, USN, to date from January 1, 1959.
Detached from the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, in November 1939, he reported in December to Patrol Observation Squadron Twenty-Three, based at Pearl Harbor, T.H., and served as a Pilot and Assistant Gunnery, Navigation and Operations Officer of that Squadron. In June 1941 he was transferred to the Naval Air Station, Kaneohe Bay, where he had similar duty prior to and after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. In September 1942 he was imprisoned by the Japanese, after he had participated in action at Pearl Harbor, Midway and in the Solomons, and remained a Prisoner of War in Tokyo, Japan, throughout the remaining war period. He was repatriated in September 1945.
He was awarded the Navy Cross “For extraordinary heroism as Commander of a Patrol Plane during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands Area from August 5 to September 11, 1942…” The citation further states: “In addition to participating in the seizure of Ndeni on August 5, Lieutenant Clark, during the initial battle of the Solomons, flew a total of fifty-six hours, conducting patrol, reconnaissance and emergency flights. On September 6, with the aid of another patrol plane, he severely damaged and probably destroyed a Japanese four-engined bomber, then contributed effective assistance toward rescue of the crew of a patrol plane which had been forced down at sea. While preparing to attack a hostile seaplane tender on September 11, he was fired upon by numerous Japanese fighters and was himself forced to effect an emergency landing on the water. His cool courage, proficient skill and relentless fighting spirit throughout these actions were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
From January to June 1946 he was a Refresher Student at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida, and the next year completed instruction at the General Line School, Newport, Rhode Island. During the period July to November 1947 he had advanced training at the Naval Air Station, Whiting Field, after which he served as Executive Officer of Training Squadron IV at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, for seven months. During that period he also had Operational Training at the Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida.
December 1948 found him duty as Executive Officer of Fighter Squadron Seventy-Two, which he commanded from June 1949 until June 1950. During the year to follow he was Fighter Training Officer on the Staff of Commander Air Force, Atlantic and in July 1951 reported for instruction at the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia. Completing the course there in January 1952, he next served as Training Officer on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Air Reserve Training, with headquarters at the Naval Air Station, Glenview, Illinois, he reported in October 1953 as Commander Carrier Air Group Six.
Between November 1954 and November 1956 he was VP Training Officer on the Staff of the Chief of Naval Air Training, with headquarters at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida. He was next attached to the Staff of Commander Air, Pacific and in January 1957 reported as Executive Officer of USS Yorktown. In March 1958 he joined the Staff of Commander Fleet Air, Whidbey, headquartered at the Naval Air station, Whidbey Island, Washington, where he remained until June 1959. Following an assignment as Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics on the Staff of Commander Naval Forces, Marianas, he assumed command in October 1959 of that Naval Air Station Agana, Guam.
In September 1961 he joined the staff of the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia, and in July 1963, was assigned to the San Francisco (California) Naval Shipyard. He was ordered detached in August 1964 for duty as Commanding Officer of the Naval Air Technical Training Unit, Naval Air Station, Pensacola, Florida.
In addition to the Navy Cross, Captain Clark has the American Defense Service Medal; Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; and the National Defense Service Medal.