CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. --
Dan Daly. Smedley Butler. Chesty Puller.
The names of the Corps’ legends are drilled into the heads of every recruit and candidate during their first few days as Marines. Living up to the legacy of those who have gone before has been a driving principle of Marines since the day after Tun Tavern.
Recently, friends and family held a memorial ceremony for an old Marine who, while less famous, had a life and career just as impactful as the Corps’ greatest legends. After touring the areas of Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, where he lived and worked as a Marine, the family of retired. Lt. Col. Clark Henry spread his ashes in the water off Del Mar Beach, Feb. 21.
“Lt. Col. Clark Henry was living history, and his generation - the ‘Greatest Generation’ - were the giants that I grew up with,” said retired U.S. Marine Col. Willard Buhl, a friend of Henry. “The men that went over the sea wall at Inchon, who endured 25 below, they’re immortal in our legend as legendary Marines, but he was a living example of it.”
Henry enlisted into the Marine Corps as a 16 year old in September 1942. During World War II, he fought in the Solomon Islands with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, as a telephone operator. He rose quickly through the ranks and became a sergeant just three years into his enlistment at the age of 19. When WWII ended, he went into the reserves but then returned to active duty when the Korean War started in 1950.
“He was an inspirational man and a great example for all of us, and it certainly impacted me." Col. Willard Buhl, a friend of Lt. Col. Clark Henry
In Korea he served as a platoon sergeant for a scout sniper platoon with the legendary George Company, now known as Golf Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. The Marines of George Company would earn the nickname “Bloody George” after Chosin Reservoir, and participated in one of the wars bloodiest battles – the fight to defend Boulder City in July 1953. As the war came to a close, Henry was selected to become a commissioned officer.
By the time the Vietnam War started Henry was a major and serving as the executive officer of 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division. During Vietnam, Henry earned the Silver Star Medal for carrying a seriously wounded Marine 300 meters through deadly enemy fire to safety. He remained in place under fire until all wounded Marines were evacuated.
Henry served in three of America’s most bloody wars and excelled as a Marine and as a leader. Even long after he retired in 1973, he continued to use his knowledge and experience to influence Marines still serving.
“He was an inspirational man and a great example for all of us, and it certainly impacted me,” explained Buhl. “We communicated while I was in Iraq as a battalion commander on unclassified email. I would occasionally bounce ideas and thoughts on things that I was seeing and doing with him and I would always get reassuring notes, and some of them very insightful, certainly in the counter insurgency strategies and tactics we were using.”
According to Buhl, Henry’s connection to the Corps was so strong he felt driven to put the uniform back on after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon.
“Well, Lt. Col. Henry had been retired for 10 years at this point, but he put his uniform back on, got in his car and drove down to Camp Pendleton from San Francisco and went to the division headquarters, and apparently reported in and asked if there was anything that he could do,” said Buhl.
Photo by Lance Cpl. Juan Torres
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Joe Williams, right, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge of the color guard with Headquarters and Support Battalion, Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Marine Corps Installations - West, passes off a folded U.S. flag to retired Col. Willard Buhl as part of a memorial service for retired Lt. Col. Clark Henry on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Feb. 21, 2023. Henry enlisted during World War II, received a field commission during the Korean War and received a Silver Star during the Vietnam War. The memorial service included a tour of the 1st MARDIV command post, a tour of Camp Pendleton’s Landing Vehicle Tracked Museum and the release of Henry’s ashes at Del Mar Beach.
Even during the war on terrorism, Henry and George Company veterans would visit Marines who were wounded during the fighting in places like Fallujah, Iraq.
“It’s fair to say his first love in life was the Marine Corps,” said Marisa Borzoni, Henry’s life partner.
But Henry also had a personal life away from the Marine Corps. Even after being involved in some of the bloodiest fighting the Marine Corps has known, he managed to maintain his humanity. While in Korea, a man ran to Henry’s squad with a little girl in his arms begging for help. Her arm was hanging onto her body by a thread. A Navy corpsman had to amputate the little girl's arm and continued to give her the care she needed. In the moment, Henry was struck by the devastation the war had brought to the people of Korea. The moment stuck with him long after he returned home, eventually driving him to adopt a young girl left orphaned by the war.
“He was somebody that you looked up to and can still look up to even now. We all knew Clark as no-nonsense, but he treated you well,” explained Borzoni. “He was loving and kind.”
When Henry passed, it was in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by people who loved him. When he passed, it was as a U.S. Marine.
“When he left, I put a Marine Corps blanket on him because I knew that was important and as he left the house, as crazy as it sounds, we played the Marine Corps hymn,” said Marisa. “The Marine Corps was his first love, that love never went away. It was sad, but we thought we were giving him what he would’ve wanted.”