Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. A.P. Clark, a former prisoner of war and the sixth superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, died today at the age of 96.

Clark, who retired in Colorado Springs, served as the academy’s top general from 1970 to 1974.

Clark became a pilot after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1936. During World War II he flew with the 31st Fighter Group, the first American fighter unit in the European Theater, according to an Air Force Academy biography.

He was shot down over Abbeville, France, in July, 1942, and spent nearly three years as a prisoner of war.

After the war, Clark served key assignments at Tactical Air Command, Continental Air Command and Air Defense Command before completing a tour of duty at the Air Force headquarters, the academy said. He commanded the 48th Fighter Bomber Wing at Chaumont Air Base in France from 1955 to 1956 and then served as chief of staff of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, Air Medal, Air Force Commendation Medal, and the Purple Heart.

After retiring, Clark stayed active with the Air Force Academy.

As the head of the Friends of the Library, he was instrumental in creating an extensive collection of materials and histories from his prisoner-of-war days in Stalag Luft III.  Memoirs and histories from an escape from Stalag Luft III inspired the 1963 film "The Great Escape."

Funeral arrangements are pending.