William M. Wright

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William M. Wright
Hw wright 01.jpg
William M. Wright
Born September 24, 1863 (1863-09-24)
Newark, New Jersey
Died August 16, 1943 (1943-08-17) (aged 79)
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1885–1923
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General (Retired list. Held Major General on active duty.)
Commands held Department of the Philippines
Battles/wars Spanish-American War
World War I
Awards Distinguished Service Medal

William Mason Wright was a Lieutenant General in the United States Army.

Early life[edit]

Born in Newark, New Jersey on September 24, 1863, he was the son of Army Colonel Edward H. Wright (1824–1913), a career officer whose service included assignments as Aide-de-Camp to Generals Winfield Scott and George B. McClellan. William M. Wright was the grandson of Michigan Governor Stevens Thomson Mason and the great-grandson of U.S. Senator William Wright of New Jersey.

Start of career[edit]

He attended Yale University and was a member of the Delta Psi fraternity before entering the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1882, where his roommate was John J. Pershing. Wright failed his end of year exams and left West Point before graduating in 1883. He then joined the New Jersey National Guard, receiving a Captain's commission, and serving as Aide-de-Camp to the commander of the 1st Brigade.

In January, 1885 he was nominated for appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry Regiment. One of the final acts of outgoing President Chester A. Arthur, Wright's controversial commission received nationwide publicity and was opposed by U.S. Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln on the grounds that someone who had not passed the program of instruction at West Point should not receive the same reward as those who had. His commission was narrowly confirmed by the U.S. Senate, 29 votes to 22.

Spanish-American War[edit]

Wright served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War as Assistant Adjutant General of U.S. Volunteers, taking part in the Battle of El Caney and the other actions leading to the surrender of Santiago.

Post-Spanish-American War[edit]

Between the Spanish-American War and World War I Wright served in infantry assignments throughout the United States, including Fort Omaha, Nebraska, on the General Staff in Washington, D.C., and as the Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, advancing through the ranks to Major General.

World War I[edit]

He served in France throughout World War I, successively commanding the 35th Division, the III, V and VII Corps (under the French Eighth Army in the Vosges Mountains), the 89th Division (in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel), and I Corps, for which he received the Distinguished Service Medal. He also commanded forces in the final operations on the Meuse River (Meuse-Argonne Offensive). On November 11, 1918, Armistice Day, he led a controversial attack against Stenay, which would be handed over to him within hours. There were 365 casualties. His rationale for the attack was that he wished to take the bathing facilities within the town, so his dirty troops could refresh themselves. When it became clear that Wright ordered the assault with full knowledge that the Armistice would go into action within hours, Allied soldiers and civilians became outraged. He was never punished or reprimanded. During World War I Wright kept a diary, which was published as Meuse-Argonne Diary: A Division Commander in World War I.

Post-World War I[edit]

Following the war, General Wright served as Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army and acting Army Chief of Staff, and then commanded IX Corps. From 1922 until his 1923 retirement he commanded the Department of the Philippines.

Retirement, death and burial[edit]

In retirement he resided in Washington, D.C.

In 1942, the U.S. Congress passed legislation allowing retired Army generals to be advanced one rank on the retired list or posthumously if they had been recommended in writing during World War I for promotion to a higher rank which they did not receive, or if they had received the Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross or the Distinguished Service Medal. As a Distinguished Service Medal recipient, Wright was promoted to Lieutenant General.

General Wright died at Washington, D.C.'s Walter Reed Army Hospital on August 16, 1943, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Family[edit]

He was the father of Admiral and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of China (Taiwan) Jerauld Wright (1898–1995) and Colonel William Mason Wright, Jr. (1893–1977), who served in France during World War I, in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II, and commanded the Armed Forces Education and Information Service and the Armed Forces Radio Service during and after World War II.

Distinguished Service Medal[edit]

"For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. He commanded in turn the Thirty-fifth Division; the Third, Fifth, and Seventh Army Corps, under the Eighth French Army in the Vosges Mountains, and later commanded the Eighty-ninth Division in the St. Mihiel offensive and in the final operations on the Meuse River, where he proved himself to be an energetic and aggressive leader."

General Order 12 (January 17, 1919)

Sources[edit]

  • Register of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, published by the Empire State Society, 1899, page 352
  • Historical collections, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Michigan State Historical Society, 1907, Volume 35, pages 38 to 40
  • Fitzgerald's legislative Manual, State of New Jersey, by Thomas F. Fitzgerald and Louis C. Gosson, 1885, page 253
  • Catalogue of the Members of the Fraternity of Delta Psi, published by Delta Psi fraternity, 1889, page 192
  • Newspaper article, Appointments to the Army, New York Times, January 22, 1885
  • Newspaper article, A Nomination Denounced, New York Times, January 29, 1885
  • Newspaper column, The National Capital: Bountiful Provisions Made for Captain Eads in the River and Harbor Hill—Findings of the Swaim Court Not Completed—The Nomination of William M. Wright—Cabinet Gossip, Hartford Daily Courant, February 2, 1885
  • Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States, published by U.S. Government Printing Office, 1901, volume XXIV, page 469
  • The World's Work: A History of Our Time, 1919, volume, XXXVII, November to April, 1919, page 89
  • Meuse-Argonne Diary: A Division Commander in World War I, by William Mason Wright, edited by Robert H. Ferrell, 2004
  • The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I, Edward M. Coffman, 1968, page 276
  • Army List and Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office, 1919, page 173
  • Army List and Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office, 1920, page 184
  • Newspaper article, Wright In New Post: General Assigned to Command the Philippines Department, New York Times, January 13, 1922
  • Soldiers All: Portraits and Sketches of the Men of the A.E.F., Joseph Cummings Chase, 1920, pages 197 to 198
  • Acts of June 13, 1940, and July 9, 1942, U.S. Army Register, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office
  • Newspaper article, Obituary of William Mason Wright, Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1943
  • Newspaper article, Obituary of William Mason Wright, Los Angeles Times, August 18, 1943
  • Newspaper article, Col. William Mason Wright Jr., Active in Peninsula Theater, Dies, Monterey (California) Peninsula Herald, September 27, 1977, page 4
  • Newspaper article, Jerauld Wright, 96, Admiral and Envoy, New York Times, Saturday, April 29, 1995