Garrison H. Davidson

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Garrison Holt Davidson
Gen Garrison Davidson West Point Superintendent 1956 1960.jpg
Major General Garrison H. Davidson
Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, 1956
Nickname(s) "Gar"
Born (1904-04-24)April 24, 1904
Bronx, New York
Died December 25, 1992(1992-12-25) (aged 88)
Oakland, California
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army United States Army seal
Years of service 1927–1964
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands held 24 Infantry Division SSI.svg 24th Infantry Division
Fort Leavenworth Crest.gif Command & General Staff College
U.S. Military Academy COA.png United States Military Academy
US Seventh Army SSI.svg Seventh Army
1st Army.svg First Army
U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War
Awards Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg Distinguished Service Medal

Garrison Holt Davidson (April 24, 1904 – December 25, 1992) was a United States Army officer, combat engineer, commander, and military educator from the 1920s through World War II and into the Cold War-era. Rising to the rank of lieutenant general before his retirement from the Army in 1964, Davidson served as the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy from 1956 to 1960. He also played and coached football at West Point, helming the Cadet squad as head coach from 1933 to 1937, compiling a record of 35–11–1.

Education and early military career[edit]

A career U.S. Army officer and World War II combat commander, Davidson was born in the Bronx, New York City on April 24, 1904, the son of a New York National Guard officer. In 1923, he graduated from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York City, where he was a star on the school's championship football team and a member of the Omega Gamma Delta Fraternity. Davidson realized his boyhood dream of becoming a soldier when he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. There he distinguished himself in football and graduated with the Class of 1927. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers with the 1st Engineer Regiment at Fort DuPont, Delaware, and maintained a West Point connection as an assistant Army football coach.

In 1930, he returned to West Point as an instructor in the physics department and assistant football coach. In 1933, he became head football coach (at a record young age), finishing five seasons later in the 1937 with a record of 35 wins, 11 losses and 1 tie. From 1938 to 1940 he was posted to Hawaii as a company commander with the 3rd Engineer Regiment. In 1940, he returned to California as the post engineer for Hamilton Army Airfield (now known as Hamilton Air Force Base) on the north shore of the San Francisco Bay. At the time of Davidson's arrival, Hamilton's mission was being expanded from that of a bomber base with the addition of six squadrons of Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter planes.

World War II[edit]

In February 1942, Davidson transferred to Washington, D.C. as Assistant Chief, Construction Division, Office of Chief Engineer working for Corps of Engineers Colonel Leslie Groves on the construction of The Pentagon.

By October 1942, Davidson was a colonel and chief engineer for Seventh Army, serving under General George S. Patton in North Africa and Sicily. As a combat engineer, he facilitated Seventh Army's landing in Sicily and enabled Patton’s armor to move rapidly across enemy territory. An appreciative Patton used one of his own general stars to honor Davidson in a September 1943 battlefield promotion to brigadier general. Davidson remained with Seventh Army when General Alexander Patch succeeded Patton, planning for Operation Anvil / Operation Dragoon, the Allied landing in southern France following the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944, and continued with the Seventh Army in its move through Germany. At the conclusion of the war he was an engineer with Fifteenth Army and served as president of the first Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal for military defendants.

Korean War[edit]

After World War II, in 1946, he was assigned to Sixth United States Army as its chief engineer and in 1948 became chief of staff for General Mark W. Clark and General Albert C. Wedemeyer at the Presidio of San Francisco. In July 1950, he was called to Korea by Eighth Army Commanding General Walton H. Walker, who also served under Patton in World War II, directed Davidson to construct a defensive line protecting the Pusan Perimeter. Known as "Line Davidson", Davidson had to subvert his professional better judgment to construct the line to the preferences of General Douglas MacArthur and Walker, trading away defensibility and good internal communications.

As the North Korean invasion was repelled, Davidson was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division as its assistant commander. Davidson reprised his effort at fortifying a more defensible perimeter around Pusan with the second North Korean invasion. He then headed "Task Force Davidson" as it broke out of the perimeter to hook up with the forces invading south from Inchon. Afterwards, he constructed fortifications north of Seoul. He concluded his tour of duty as acting commander of the Korean Military Assistance Group. From 1951 to 1954 he was a weapons system analyst at the Pentagon.

Military educator and Cold War warrior[edit]

During the next six years, Davidson played a significant role in training officers serving in the post-war and atomic eras. Starting in 1954 he was commander of the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then in 1956 he returned to the United States Military Academy as its superintendent. There he began a process of slowly prevailing over strong traditionalist viewpoints, breaking barriers and initiating a process of revision and modernization of the academy’s instructional program little changed since the academy’s legendary superintendent from 1817 to 1833, Sylvanus Thayer. The momentum and progress of his reforms continued more easily through the superintendency of his successor, William Westmoreland and into the 1970s. In 1957, while at West Point, he was promoted and confirmed to the rank of lieutenant general.

After West Point, Davidson returned to Seventh United States Army as its commanding general, posted in West Germany as a forward deployed force during the Cold War. During the Berlin Wall crisis in the summer of 1961, Davidson would have commanded any American military response or intervention.

In 1962, his final command was of First United States Army headquartered at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York. While there he also served as U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations. After a 37 year military career, Davidson retired from active duty on April 30, 1964.

Retirement[edit]

Davidson resumed his connection with West Point from 1983-1985 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan for a two year term to the United States Military Academy Board of Visitors.

Davidson died in Oakland, California on December 25, 1992 and was buried at the West Point Cemetery. The inscription on his gravestone reads: “Soldier, Coach, Educator and His Best Teammate", the latter reference to his wife of 58 years, Verone Gruenther Davidson who died in 1996 and was the sister of a former NATO commander, General Alfred M. Gruenther.

At the time of his death, Garrison was survived by three sons, Garrison Holt Jr., of Los Angeles, Thomas M., of Darien, Conn., and Alan R., of Sarasota, Fla.; three daughters, Linda L. Hurst, of San Luis Obispo, California, Bonnie Elaine Bardellini and Gail Marie Davidson, both of Martinez, California; 14 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.

Head coaching record[edit]

Garrison H. Davidson
Garrison Davidson West Point football coach 1933.jpg
Sport(s) Football
Playing career
1924–1926 Army
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1927–1932
1933–1937
Army (assistant)
Army
Head coaching record
Overall 35–11–1
Statistics
College Football Data Warehouse
Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Army Cadets (Independent) (1933–1937)
1933 Army 9–1
1934 Army 7–3
1935 Army 6–2–1
1936 Army 6–3
1937 Army 7–2
Army: 35–11–1
Total: 35–11–1

References[edit]

  • Ray, Max (1980), The History of the First United States Army From 1918 to 1980, Fort Meade MD: First United States Army, pp. 120, 124 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Blackshear M. Bryan
Superintendents of the United States Military Academy
1956–1960
Succeeded by
William Westmoreland
Preceded by
Charles E. Beauchamp
Commandant of the Command and General Staff College
July 1954 - July 1956
Succeeded by
Lionel C. McGarr