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Clark expected defeat but led to victory

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in Leaders & Managers

When the Allies decided on a North African campaign in 1942, U.S. Maj. Gen. Mark Clark denounced it as a terrible strategy.

Like his boss, Dwight Eisenhower, and Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, Clark vehemently opposed Operation Torch. The Americans were still mobilizing for war and considered any action away from Europe a waste of time. Now, they were being asked to take on Erwin Rommel, “the Desert Fox,” and Clark was put in charge.

In true leader fashion, he became one of the chief reasons behind the operation’s success.

One example:

Early in the mission, Clark was ordered to meet the French in occupied Algiers with a team of four American officers and three British commandos. They took a submarine and came ashore on a beach.

Before landing, some in Clark’s party wanted to disguise themselves in civilian clothes. It was a lousy idea, not only because they’d be executed as spies if caught, but also because it would lead the French to think they were cowards.

“We’ll go ashore as American officers and nothing else,” Clark said. “It will help the people we are dealing with to remember who we are and whom we represent. We mustn’t allow them to forget for a moment that we are American and that there are millions more Americans behind us.”

—Adapted from “To Deal With Darlan,” Jon Mikolashek, WWII History.

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