Wednesday, March 1, 2017

World War Wednesdays: Overshadowed Generals of WWII

General Charles de Gaulle shakes hands with General Patch in Saverne, France on 11 February, 1945. In the center, General Devers talks to General de Lattre de Tassigny.

     Hey there, history buffs! I'd like to start by apologizing for being MIA last week. It was the first time ever for WWW that I found myself unable to get a post up, but I'm hoping to be back on the air! Things have been extremely busy in my world lately, and my traditional bad luck seems to be running rampant, but I've also had the great fortune of being accepted to grad school and participating as the Elgin-Middlesex-London delegate in Equal Voice's Daughters of the Vote initiative. Enough about me, though, and I thank you for your understanding and patience!

     I recently read an article in Heroes of World War II magazine called "Overshadowed Generals" by Jolene Nolte, which is based on an interview with premier WWII historian Gerhard Weinberg where he was asked to name some unsung heroes of the war. I chose three of those generals to share with you this week, and hope you enjoy their stories.

1. Alexander McCarrell "Sandy" Patch

Born: November 23, 1889| Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Died: November 21, 1945| Fort Sam Houston, Texas
Occupation: US Army General
Allegiance: US
Honours: Army Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Distinguished Service Medal
     "This was a man who commanded the American army that landed in Southern France in August 1944," Weinberg says. "He lost a son in the war. H was a very fine army commander, and one practically never hears his name. He has more or less disappeared from view, although he was a very important and very successful and very effective commander."
     Patch was initially in the Pacific Theater, where his successful leadership at Guadalcanal led Chief of Staff George Marshall to reassign him to Europe, where he led the Operation Dragoon invasion of Southern France and went on to lead the US Seventh Army across the Rhine and to an attack on the Siegfried Line.

2. Jacob Loucks Devers

Born: September 8, 1887| York, Pennsylvania
Died: October 15, 1979| Washington, DC
Occupation: US Army General
Allegiance: US
Honours: Include Army Distinguished Service Medal (3), Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star
     Beginning in August 1941, Devers was Chief of Armored Force for the US. He was instrumental in the development of the M4 Sherman tank. In  May 1943, he was named the commander of the US Army's European Theater of Operations, the position Eisenhower would later fill. In this role, he helped build up US troops in Britain in preparation for Operation Overlord. In November 1943, Eisenhower and Devers were ordered to swap roles- Eisenhower to head European Theater of Operations and Devers to take over the North African Theater of Operations. Devers oversaw the Battle for Monte Cassino, the breakthrough of the Gustav line that enabled the Allied capture of Rome and the Allied invasion of Southern France. He also commanded the Seventh Army through Operation Nordwind and eventually the defeat of the Colmar Pocket and crossing the Rhine. When on May 5, 1945, the German General Hermann Foertsch unconditionally surrendered his Army Group G, it was to Devers.

3. Carl Andrew Spaatz

Born: June 28, 1891| Boyertown, Pennsylvania
Died: July 14, 1974| Washington, DC
Occupation: US Army, US Army Air Corps, US Army Air Forces and US Air Force Commander
Allegiance: US
Quote: Eisenhower described Spaatz as "a serious man, serious to the point of grimness, and certainly the hardest working man in the whole US Army Air Force."
     Spaatz was commander of the Strategic Air Forces in the European Theater and advocated to Eisenhower that bombing German oil supply should be the air forces' top priority. Spaatz also commanded the Eighth Air Force, which numbered 200,000 at peak strength and had an impressive tally of 220 Distinguished Flying Crosses and 442,000 Air Medals awarded by the war's end. He was also involved in the Pacific Theater and oversaw the dropping of the atomic bombs. After the war, he was an integral part of creating the US Air Force as a separate branch of the military.

     After reading Weinberg's full list, I was struck by Weinberg's American focus. I'm sure we can come up with an even longer list of the war's unsung heroes from around the world if we expand it to include those who weren't generals, and even those that were nonhuman, in response! Let me know in the comments which ones come to mind for you.
     Thanks for reading,

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