MAJOR GENERAL WILLIS D. CRITTENBERGER

 

 

 
 

Early life and career

 

A career Army officer and World War II combat commander, Willis Dale Crittenberger was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 2, 1890. After growing up in Anderson, Indiana, he attended the United States Military Academy, graduating with the Class of 1913.

 

Upon graduation from West Point, Crittenberger was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the cavalry in August 1913 and assigned to Fort Hood, Texas.

 

He married Josephine Frost Woodhull (1894-1978) on June 23, 1918. His advanced military education included the United States Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1924, the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1925 and the Army War College at Washington Barracks in Washington, D.C. in 1930. After assignments to Fort Knox, Kentucky, the 1st Cavalry Regiment's (Mechanized) new home in 1934 and serving as staff positions to Chief of Cavalry in Washington and 1st Armored Division.

 

World War II

 

With the onset of World War II, Crittenberger was brigade commander of 2nd Brigade, 2nd Armored Division. In January 1942, then took command of the 2nd Armored Division when General George S. Patton was transferred to North Africa. In August 1942, he organized, trained and commanded 3rd Armored Corps composed of 7th Armored Division and 11th Armored Division at Camp Polk, Louisiana. Redesignated as XIX Corps, Crittenberger brought XIX Corps to England in January 1944.

 

General Dwight Eisenhower initially selected Crittenberger as one of three corps commanders along with Gee Gerow and Roscoe B. Woodruff for the 1944 Allied invasion of France. All three were well known and trusted by Eisenhower. General Omar Bradley who Eisenhower selected as commander the D-Day invasion replaced Eisenhower's picks seeking differing temperaments and for other generals that had more large organization combat experience. At the time, Commander of U.S. Army Forces in Europe, General Jacob L. Devers, was seeking a corps commander of U.S. Fifth Army's IV Corps for the Italian campaign. Held in reserve during the early portion of the campaign, IV Corps replaced VI Corps on the front line after the liberation of Rome. In combat for over 390 days, IV Corps was the western arm of the Allied thrust through northern Italy to the Po River which ended with the surrender of German forces in Italy on May 2, 1945.

 

Post–World War II

 

In the postwar years Crittenberger commanded the Caribbean Defense Command, including the Panama Canal Zone, then in 1947, became first commander-in-chief of U.S. Caribbean Command, a regional unified theater command and predecessor to today's United States Southern Command. After a two year stint as Commanding General, US First Army, at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York, Crittenberger concluded his active duty military career in December 1952, leaving New York City with a ticker tape parade up Broadway. In retirement, he advised President Dwight Eisenhower, a good friend and former cavalry officer on national security matters. Crittenberger served as president of the U.S. Military Academy Association of Graduates from 1955 to 1958 and president of the Greater New York Fund.

 

Two of his three sons died in combat. Corporal Townsend Woodhull Crittenberger (born May 13, 1925) was killed in action during the Rhine River crossing on March 25, 1945. Colonel Dale Jackson Crittenberger (USMA 1950) (born May 27, 1927) commanding 3rd Brigade, 9th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War was killed in a mid-air collision on September 17, 1969 while directing combat operations. Dale served as a White House military aide in 1959 and upon his promotion to major, in a surprise White House ceremony, was presented with his new badge of rank by his father's old friend, President Dwight Eisenhower. Willis D. Crittenberger, Jr. (USMA 1942) also served in the Army in World War II with the 10th Armored Division, rising from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel during the war, later retired as a major general. He later was a spokesman for the Daughters of the American Revolution.

 

Crittenberger died in Chevy Chase, Maryland on August 4, 1980 at age 89. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery along with his wife and sons, Townsend and Dale.

 
 
 

 

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