As the country celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month this November, the Navy finds itself at a cultural intersection between its own proud history and the equally proud lineage of the Cherokee Nation.
WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ellen Sharkey, Naval History and Heritage Command
WASHINGTON NAVY YARD – As the country celebrates National American Indian Heritage Month this November, the Navy finds itself at a cultural intersection between its own proud history and the equally proud lineage of the Cherokee Nation.
Members of the Navy and the Cherokee Nation came together Nov. 12 at the Army Navy Club in Washington D.C. to remember and honor a proud Sailor and Native American, Adm. Joseph James “Jocko” Clark.
Born in Pryor, Oklahoma, Nov. 12, 1893 Adm. Joseph James Clark, or “Jocko” as he preferred to be called, was the son of Cherokee Indian William A. Clark and Lillie Berry Clark. He first attended the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical College before going on to attend and graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, class of 1918. He was the first Native American graduate of the Naval Academy. During World War I, he served at sea and was engaged in convoying troops across the Atlantic. After the war he remained at sea, serving on two different destroyers and later taking command of the destroyer Brooks (DD-232). In 1925, he became a designated Naval Aviator and served with aircraft squadrons, later commanding Fighting Squadron 2-B of USS Lexington (CV 2), eventually going on to become the Air Officer of that carrier. After various rotations through other commands, he returned to the United States in 1945, and in 1952 was designated Commander, 1st Fleet in the rank of vice admiral. In 1953, he was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy and was advanced to admiral on the basis of combat citations.
During the ceremony, Vice Adm. Jeff Trussler, a Cherokee Nation citizen who currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (N2N6) and as the Director of Naval Intelligence, presented a naval cruise book that once belonged to Adm. Clark to Kimberly Teehee, the Cherokee Nation Delegate-designate to Congress, who accepted the cruise book on behalf of the Cherokee Nation.
Upon presenting Clark’s cruise book to the Cherokee Nation, Adm. Trussler reflected on the significance of the event and the day.
“I am honored to represent the U.S. Navy at this event to honor the memory and career of a true Navy Warfighting hero of World War II… Admiral Joseph James “Jocko” Clark, said Trussler. “The timing of this ceremony couldn’t be any better as it coincides with our annual commemoration of National American Indian Heritage Month. Coincidentally, today also happens to be the anniversary of the Admiral’s birth: November 12, 1893. His life and career of service to our Navy and our nation are worth remembering - he set the standards for those of us who share that heritage and who have followed in his footsteps.”
In 2015, Lt. Cmdr. Michael Zampella took an interest in Clark when he first discovered a portrait of the Admiral on eBay, and along with a group of naval officers, purchased it with the intention of donating it to the Army Navy Club in Washington D.C., where Clark was a member.
“From my days as an undergraduate at St. John's College in Annapolis, I am familiar with the long history of the U.S. Naval Academy and its distinguished graduates like Adm. Clark,” said Zampella.
The sale also included a chest of Clark’s papers, photos and memorabilia with the agreement that the naval officers would find a suitable place to donate them to. Zampella later acquired Clark’s cruise book from his flag command aboard USS Yorktown (CV-10) and retained it for an eventual donation to the Cherokee Nation.
“I am glad this cruise book will reside in an honored place to inspire future generations and serve as a reminder of the Native American's warrior spirit which is woven into the American soul,” said Zampella.
Adm. Clark’s cruise book will reside at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center so that future generations may look back on this fearless leader from naval history and remember the years of service he proudly gave to his country.
NHHC, located at the Washington Navy Yard, is responsible for the preservation, analysis, and dissemination of U.S. naval history and heritage. It provides the knowledge foundation for the Navy by maintaining historically relevant resources and products that reflect the Navy's unique and enduring contributions through our nation's history, and supports the fleet by assisting with and delivering professional research, analysis, and interpretive services. NHHC is composed of many activities including the Navy Department Library, the Navy Operational Archives, the Navy art and artifact collections, underwater archeology, Navy histories, ten museums, USS Constitution repair facility and the historic ship Nautilus.
For more news from NHHC, visit www.history.navy.mil.
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