Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.

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Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr.
LIEUTENANT GENERAL SIMON B. BUCKNER in Okinawa.jpg
Buckner in Okinawa.
Born (1886-07-18)July 18, 1886
Died June 18, 1945(1945-06-18) (aged 58)
Okinawa, Empire of Japan
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch WarOfficeSeal1.gif United States Army
Years of service 1908–1945
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General (posthumous)
Commands held 22nd Infantry Regiment
Alaska Defense Command
Tenth United States Army
Battles/wars

World War II

Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal; Purple Heart

Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. (July 18, 1886 – June 18, 1945) was an American lieutenant general during World War II. He served in the Pacific Theater of Operations and commanded the defences of Alaska early in the war. Following that assignment, he was promoted to command the 10th Army, which conducted the amphibious assault (Operation Iceberg) on the Japanese island of Okinawa. He was killed during the closing days of the Battle of Okinawa by enemy artillery fire, making him the highest-ranking U.S. military officer to have been lost to enemy fire during World War II, and one of two U.S. Army Lieutenant Generals who died in a combat zone, the other being Lieutenant General Leslie J. McNair.[1] Buckner was posthumously promoted to the rank of full four-star general on July 19, 1954 by a Special Act of Congress (Public Law 83-508)

Early life and education[edit]

Buckner was the son of Confederate General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Sr. and his wife Delia Claiborne. His father was Governor of Kentucky from 1887 to 1891, and was a minor party's candidate for U.S. Vice President in 1896.[clarification needed]

Buckner was raised near Munfordville, Kentucky, and attended the Virginia Military Institute. He was appointed to West Point (class of 1908) by President Theodore Roosevelt. He served two military tours in the Philippines. During World War I, he served as a temporary major, drilling discipline into aviator cadets.[2]

Career[edit]

Inter-war period[edit]

Between the wars, Buckner returned to West Point as an instructor (1919–1923). He was appointed Commandant of the Virginia Military Institute in 1929 under retired Major General John A. Lejeune, who was the superintendent.[3][clarification needed]

He was promoted to Lieutenant colonel in 1932 and returned to West Point to serve as Commandant of Cadets (1933–1936). Though recognized as tough and fair, his insistence on developing cadets past conventional limits caused one parent to remark, "Buckner forgets that cadets are born, not quarried."[2] He was also an instructor at the General Service Schools at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and was executive officer at the Army War College in Washington, D.C.. He was promoted to colonel in 1937 and commanded the 66th Infantry for part of that year.[4]

Buckner became commander of the 22nd Infantry Regiment in 1938.[4] When the 6th Infantry Division was reactivated in late 1939, he became its divisional chief of staff.

Alaska[edit]

Buckner was promoted to Brigadier General in 1940 and was assigned to fortify and protect Alaska as commander of the Army's Alaska Defense Command. He was promoted to Major General in August 1941.[4] Though comparatively quiet, there was some combat when World War II commenced. The Japanese attacked Alaska in the attack on Dutch Harbor 3–5 June 1942, and seized the islands Kiska and Attu as a diversion. The Battle of Attu, Operation Landcrab, occurred in May 1943, and Kiska was invaded in August, 1943. This constituted the Aleutian Islands campaign. In 1943, he was promoted to Lieutenant General.[4]

Battle of Okinawa[edit]

Buckner (foreground, holding camera), photographed with Major General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., USMC, on Okinawa.
The last picture of Buckner (right), taken just before he was killed by a Japanese artillery shell.[clarification needed]
Buckner's memorial monument on above hill.

In July 1944, Buckner was sent to Hawaii to organize the 10th Army, which was composed of both Army and Marine units. The original mission of the 10th Army was to prepare for the invasion of Taiwan; however, this operation was canceled, and Buckner's command was instead ordered to prepare for the Battle of Okinawa. This turned out to be the largest, slowest, and bloodiest sea-land-air battle in American military history. According to an eyewitness account,[5] on June 18, 1945, Buckner had arrived in his command jeep which was flying its standard 3 star flag, to inspect a forward observation post. Visits from the general were not always welcome as his presence frequently drew enemy fire, which usually happened as General Buckner was departing. Buckner had arrived with his standard bright three stars showing on his steel helmet and a nearby Marine outpost sent a signal to Buckner's position stating that they could clearly see the general's three stars on his helmet. Told of this, Buckner replaced his own helmet with an unmarked one. However, a small [6] flat trajectory[7] Japanese artillery projectile of unknown caliber (estimated 47mm[7]) struck a coral rock outcropping next to the general and fragments entered his chest. Buckner was carried by stretcher to a nearby aid station, where he died on the operating table. He was succeeded in command by Marine General Roy Geiger. Total American deaths during the battle of Okinawa were 12,513.

Buckner was interred in the family plot at Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

Personal life[edit]

Buckner was married to Adele Blanc Buckner (1893–1988). They had three children: Simon Bolivar Buckner III, Mary Blanc Buckner, and William Claiborne Buckner.

Awards[edit]

Blank.JPG
Distinguished Service Cross
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Philippine Campaign Medal
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal

Legacy[edit]

Named in honor of Buckner:

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sarantakes p. 129
  2. ^ a b Buck's Battle, Time Magazine
  3. ^ Ricks, Thomas E. (2012). The Generals. New York City: The Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1-59420-404-3. 
  4. ^ a b c d Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr
  5. ^ PFC Harry M. Sarkisian, 8th Marine Regiment
  6. ^ Marine Corps Gazette, p.103
  7. ^ a b Military Vol XVII, pp22 & 23
  8. ^ The Patriot Files: "Fort Buckner"
  9. ^ US Navy Typhoon Havens Handbook: "Buckner Bay"
  10. ^ "Tour Fort Shafter, Hawaii". Archived from the original on 26 February 2013. Retrieved 23 August 2013. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Sarantakes, Nicholas (Editor) (2004). Seven Stars, The Okinawa Battle Diaries of Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr. and Joseph Stilwell. Texas A & M University Press, College Station. ISBN 978-1-58544-294-2. 
  • Sledge, Eugene B. (1990). With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-506714-9. 
  • "Buck's Battle". Time Magazine. 1945-04-16. Retrieved 2008-08-31. 
  • Haley, J. Fred (November 1982). "The Death of General Simon Bolivar Buckner". Marine Corps Gazette: 103. 
  • McKenney, Tom C (June 2000). "Lt. Gen. Simon Bolivar Buckner's death". Military. No. 1 XVII: 22,23. 

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Newly activated organization
Commanding General of the Tenth United States Army
1944-1945
Succeeded by
Roy Geiger