Mary E. Clarke

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Mary E. Clarke
Mary E. Clarke
Clarke during the late-1970s
Birth name Mary Elizabeth Clarke
Nickname(s) "Betty"
Born (1924-12-03)December 3, 1924
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Died June 10, 2011(2011-06-10) (aged 86)
San Antonio, Texas, U.S.
Buried at Section 50A, Site 127, Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Bexar County, Texas, U.S.[1]
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1945-1981
Rank US Army O8 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major general
Unit Women's Army Corps
Awards Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Meritorious Service ribbon.svg Meritorious Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal ribbon.svg Army Commendation Medal
Army Good Conduct ribbon.svg Good Conduct Medal
Women's Army Corps Service ribbon.svg WAC Service Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal
Medal for Humane Action ribbon.svg Medal for Humane Action
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
Other work Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services

Mary Elizabeth "Betty" Clarke (December 3, 1924 – June 10, 2011) was a United States Army officer who served as the director of the Women's Army Corps. She was the first woman to attain the rank of major general in the U.S. Army. Clarke served in the U.S. Army for 36 years, the longest service of any woman for a U.S. Army career.[2] Norwich University awarded her with a doctorate in military science in 1978.[2] Clarke retired in 1981 and was appointed to the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Clarke was born in Rochester, New York on December 3, 1924.[3] She attended the Rochester Immaculate Conception Grammar School and Rochester West High School.[3]


Clarke's first jobs were as a secretary and defense worker before she turned twenty-one.[1] On August 10, 1945, at the age of 21, she enlisted in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) just before World War II ended.[3] Clarke was expecting to serve until the war ended, plus a few additional months.[4] A male commander stated that it was unlikely she would even make it through the officers training program.[4] Clarke then decided to stay and made it through the initial training, served in the enlisted ranks for four years and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1949. She went on to serve for 36 years making a career of the U.S. Army and the woman that has served the longest in the military.[4][5] Most of this time she spent in the Women's Army Corps.[3]

Clarke did her basic training at Fort Des Moines Provisional Army Officer Training School in Iowa. Upon completion of basic training she was then immediately assigned to being a supply sergeant at Camp Stoneman, California. Her next assignment was in 1948 at Berlin, Germany. While in Berlin she was in the middle of the Berlin Airlift crisis.[3] She then served at the U.S. Army Chemical Center and Valley Forge General Hospital. Clarke then recruited for a year. Clarke attended the WAC Officer Candidate School and after the schooling she became a WAC commissioned officer as a second lieutenant on September 29, 1949.[1] Then she served two years at a WAC unit as a commanding officer in Tokyo before going back to the United States.[3]

Clarke then held several officer's positions from 1958 through 1971 in Texas, Alabama, Maryland, California and Washington, D.C. In Washington, D.C., she worked at the Office of Equal Opportunity and Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. She also did WAC training and advisement. Clarke was promoted to colonel in 1972 to become the commander of the U.S. WAC Center and School in Fort McClellan.[1] In 1974 she was the chief of the WAC Advisory Office. In 1975 Clarke became brigadier general and served as the final director of the WAC. In 1976 she had special courses at the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School to prepare women to attend military academies, since women were then allowed to attend by an executive order of President Gerald Ford.[3]

Clarke was the last director of the WAC (1975–1978) until it was dissolved at the end of her tenure in 1978.[6] After this assignment she was given the rank of a two-star general and promoted to major general in June 1978. She then immediately became commander of the U.S. Army Military Police School and Training Center upon leaving the WAC and during her tenure, oversaw the return of the U.S. Army Chemical School in 1979 to its former home. Now with three major missions, a basic Training Brigade, the Army Military Police School and the Army Chemical School, she became commander of The U.S. Army Military Police and Chemical Schools, Training Center, Fort McClellan, Alabama. [6][6][2][5] Clarke was the first woman to achieve the rank of major general in the U.S. Army.[7][8][9][5][10]

Later life and death[edit]

Clarke was director of human resources development for the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff in Washington, D.C. in 1980. She was there until she retired in 1981.

Clarke died June 10, 2011, in San Antonio, Texas. She is buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in Bexar County, Texas.[1]

Award and decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
1st Row
Legion of Merit
2nd Row
Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Army Commendation Medal with oak leaf cluster
Good Conduct Medal
3rd Row
Women's Army Corps Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
4th Row
Army of Occupation Medal with Berlin Airlift device and "GERMANY" clasp
Medal for Humane Action
National Defense Service Medal with oak leaf cluster


  • Enlisted - August 10, 1945
  • US Army O1 shoulderboard rotated.svg Second lieutenant - September 29, 1949
  • US Army O2 shoulderboard rotated.svg First lieutenant - September 7, 1953
  • US Army O3 shoulderboard rotated.svg Captain - April 30, 1954
  • US Army O4 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major - October 5, 1961
  • US Army O5 shoulderboard rotated.svg Lieutenant colonel - November 24, 1965
  • US Army O6 shoulderboard rotated.svg Colonel - 1972
  • US Army O7 shoulderboard rotated.svg Brigadier general - 1975
  • US Army O8 shoulderboard rotated.svg Major general - June 1978


  1. ^ a b c d e "Maj. Gen. Mary E. Clarke – Extraordinary Soldier --Dies at 87". AUSA. United States Army. 2011-06-14. Retrieved 11 January 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Read & Witlieb 1992, p. 92.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Frank 2013, p. 149.
  4. ^ a b c Read & Witlieb 1992, p. 93.
  5. ^ a b c Baron 1998, p. 67.
  6. ^ a b c Frank 2013, p. 150.
  7. ^ American Forces Press Service 1978, p. 20.
  8. ^ Air Force 1978, p. 37, vol 61.
  9. ^ US Army 1995, p. 9.
  10. ^ Franck & Brownstone 1995, p. 540.


External links[edit]