BLACK VOICES
01/18/2012 08:15 am ET Updated Jan 18, 2012

Carl Clark, Black Navy Veteran, Awarded Combat Medal After 66 Years (VIDEO)

At 95 years old, navy veteran Carl Clark received what may be the last combat medal awarded to a living veteran of World War II, according to ABC News.

Clark, who's been credited with saving the lives of some of his shipmates during a World War II battle, received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with the Combat Distinguished Device yesterday, an honor he was denied because of his race.

According to the Associated Press, Clark was serving as an E-6 Steward First Class aboard the USS Aaron Ward when Japanese kamikazes attacked the destroyer near Okinawa in May 1945. Clark was 29 years old.

Though he suffered a broken collarbone in the attack, Clark saved the lives of several men by dragging them to safety. He also put out a fire in an ammunition locker that is said to have potentially cracked the destroyer in half. He was the only survivor on the eight-man damage control team he served on.

Clark remained in the Navy for 22 years rising to the rank of chief petty officer. In December, he told the AP that even though the destroyer's captain acknowledged that he had saved the ship, it took 66 years to be recognized for his actions.

"It wouldn't look good to say one black man saved the ship," he said.

The captain of the destroyer tried to make up for the slight by giving him extra leave and making sure that he was not sent back to sea, Clark said.

The honor was further stalled due to a lack of documentation and living witnesses, U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo told the AP. "Carl Clark served our nation during a time when the Navy was deeply segregated and a culture of racism was prevalent. His courage stands as a symbol of the greatness of our nation, and this award, also given to Senator John McCain, calls out Mr. Clark as a true American hero," she added.

Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus, pinned the medal on Clark himself, in a ceremony held in Moffett Field, California.

UPDATE: This version of the story addresses questions regarding Clark's ranking/insignia at yesterday's ceremony.

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