William L. Sibert

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William Luther Sibert
William L. Sibert.jpg
MG William L. Sibert with his Army DSM.
Born (1860-10-12)October 12, 1860
Gadsden, Alabama
Died October 16, 1935(1935-10-16) (aged 75)
Bowling Green, Kentucky
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1884 - 1920
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands held US 1st Infantry Division 1st Infantry Division
Chemical Warfare Service
Battles/wars Philippine Insurrection
World War I
Awards Distinguished Service Medal
Relations MG Edwin L. Sibert, son
MG Franklin C. Sibert, son

William Luther Sibert (October 12, 1860 – October 16, 1935) was a United States Army officer with the rank of Major General, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division during World War I. He was also commander of the Chemical Warfare Service after the War and today, Sibert is considered as a “father of the US Army Chemical Corps”.


William Luther Sibert was born in Gadsden, Alabama on October 12, 1860. After attending the University of Alabama from 1879 to 1880, he entered the U.S. Military Academy and was appointed a Second Lieutenant of Engineers on June 15, 1884. His appointment was a distinction as only the top 10 percent of each West Point class was then commissioned in the Engineers.

He graduated from the Engineer School of Applications in 1887 and went on to hold several Engineer positions in the United States and overseas.

In 1899, he was assigned as the Chief Engineer of the 8th Army Corps and the Chief Engineer and General Manager of the Manila and Dagupan Railroad during the Philippine Insurrection. Later, he returned to the United States where he was in charge of river and harbor districts and headquarters in Louisville and Pittsburgh.

From 1907 through 1914, Sibert was a member of the Panama Canal Commission and was responsible for the building of a number of critical parts of the Panama Canal, including the Gatun Locks and Dam, the West Breakwater in Colon, and the channel from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean.

On March 15, 1915, General Sibert was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. Following the United States entry into the First World War in 1917, BG Sibert deployed with the initial elements of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) and was placed in charge of the 1st Infantry Division "the Big Red One" once in France. The division having been newly organized under AEF commander, General John J. Pershing.

Sibert led the division during its initial training by French and British forces. Sibert was relieved by General John J. Pershing before the Division's deployment to the front. Pershing was dissatisfied with the Division's progress and elevated Brigadier General Robert Lee Bullard to replace Sibert. Sibert was returned to the United States and in January 1918, where he become the commanding General of the US Army Corps of Engineers Southeastern Department located at Charleston, South Carolina.

When the War Department created the Chemical Warfare Service (CWS) later that spring, Pershing was asked to name a general officer to head it. Pershing recommended Sibert to the War Department. Following his assignment to the CWS on June 28, 1918, he was advanced to the rank of Major General. Siebert led the CWS from May 1918 to February 1920. As commander of the CWS he oversaw the production of America's first chemical warfare agent, Lewisite, and the development of the US Army's chemical defense equipment, including the first US protective (or "gas") masks, the M-1 and M-2. Today the US Army considers him the “father of the US Army Chemical Corps” because he was the first commander of the CWS.

Sibert retired from active duty in February 1920 and settled in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Following his retirement from the Army, Sibert led the modernization of the docks and waterways in Mobile, Alabama and served on the Presidential Commission that led to the building of Hoover Dam. He was elected to the University of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame in 1961.

Sibert married Mary Margaret Cummings in September 1887, with whom he had five sons and one daughter. After Mary's death in 1915, General Sibert married Juliette Roberts in June 1917. She died 15 months later and in 1922 Sibert married Evelyn Clyne Bairnsfather of Edinburg, Scotland who remained his wife until his death on October 16, 1935 in Bowling Green. General Sibert is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Two of his five sons, Edwin L. Sibert and Franklin C. Sibert, each retired as Major Generals in the Army.


Army Distinguished Service Medal
Spanish Campaign Medal
Philippine Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with four Battle Clasps
Commandeur of the Legion of Honor

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