John C. H. Lee
|John C. H. Lee|
John Clifford Hodges Lee as a Brigadier General
|Birth name||John Clifford Hodges Lee|
|Nickname(s)||Jesus Christ Himself (see initials)
John "Court House" Lee
August 1, 1887|
Junction City, Kansas
|Died||August 30, 1958
|Place of burial||Arlington National Cemetery|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1909-1947 (36 years)|
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
|Other work||Episcopalian Layman|
John Clifford Hodges Lee (August 1, 1887 – August 30, 1958) was a US Army general. He graduated 12th out of 103 graduates from the United States Military Academy in 1909. He served in World War I, World War II and rose to the rank of lieutenant general.
World War I
In World War I, Lee was a colonel and chief of staff, 89th Infantry Division, earning a Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Star. He was the youngest man to hold that rank and job for any combat division in France. He also was aide de camp to General Leonard Wood, before he shipped overseas.
Between the wars
In 1927 the previous winter's rains were so great, the Mississippi River's tributaries forced great quantities of water into the river system causing great flooding in Mississippi and New Orleans. Lee was the army district engineer at Vicksburg. He wired a message to the Chief of Engineers "Levee broke... crevasse will overflow entire Mississippi Delta."
Between 1934 and 1938, as a lieutenant colonel, he was commander of the Philadelphia District, US Army Corps of Engineers. In 1938, he was made District Engineer of the Columbia River District at Portland, Oregon.
Promoted to Brigadier, from 1940 to 1941 he was commanding general of all Pacific Ports of Embarkation, working out of Fort Mason California. He was responsible for updating that entire port for wartime, and contributed to the reworking of other Pacific ports. He was promoted to major general in February 1942, having already been given command of the 2nd Infantry Division at Ft. Sam Houston, Texas. Third Army Commander LTG Walter Krueger said to him to "Get this deficient unit up to par, or I will fire you." After some months, and maneuvers attended by Krueger and Gen. McNair, Krueger told him "you have earned that second star."
World War II, Services of Supply (SOS)
General Lee was commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Division from November 1941 until the reorganization of the US Army in May 1942.
He was promoted to major general in February 1942, and lieutenant general in February 1944.
In May 1942, Lee was put in charge of SHAEF's Services of Supply (SOS). This became the Communications Zone, or COMZ, after the invasion. This operation ran from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, England. SOS became TSFET after the invasion: Theater Service Forces, European Theater.
He was considered a martinet by General Omar Bradley and due to the impression that he had a high opinion of himself and strong religious fervor, General Dwight D. Eisenhower compared him to Oliver Cromwell he was often called "Jesus Christ Himself" based on his initials, J.C.H. The historian Max Hastings notes that "Lee was regarded even by his colleagues as vain, self-indulgent and undisciplined. General George Patton dismissed him as a 'glib liar'. [He, Lee], was the only American General to wear stars both on the front and back of his helmet." He also became known as General John "Court House" Lee. This was because all Service Forces in theater, including the judicial services, fell under the umbrella of Lee's command.
The Services of Supply headquarters was consolidated with headquarters, European Theater of Operations, United States Army (ETOUSA), of which General Eisenhower was Supreme Commander.
Besides his role as commanding general of Services of Supply, Lee was also the deputy theater commander for supply and administration, which was co-located with the ETOUSA.
For the North African campaign, 50,000 tons of cargo was needed in November 1942. The Service of Supply organization was responsible to ship between 700,000 and 1,000,000 separate categories of supplies for the advancing armies into France. For example, one regiment of troops could need up to 50 different types of ammunition. According to the Center of Military History, the stockpile for invasion—over and above basic loads and equipment—was 2,500,000 tons. All told, 37,000,000 tons of materiel was transferred from the US and Canada to the UK prior to the Normandy invasion, all of which was organized and staged by Lee's SOS. Once beach-harbors, and then hard ports, were established in France, a total of 41,000,000 tons were delivered from the UK or directly from North America to feed, clothe, house, and arm the Allied armies as they advanced on and destroyed the Third Reich.
In January 1944 Lee was made deputy commander of US Forces in the ETO, second in command to Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. He was promoted to lieutenant general in February 1944.
Lee's challenge to army policy
Although he may have suffered a mixed reputation as a strict disciplinarian, he was the first to challenge the army segregation policy. Lee offered all physically fit African-American soldiers within the Services of Supply Corps, providing their jobs could be filled by limited-duty personnel, could be allowed to volunteer for infantry duty and be placed in otherwise white units, without regard to a quota but on an as-needed basis. Many African-Americans in the US military were in service organizations and not allowed to fight. Lee wrote: "... It is planned to assign you without regard to color or race to the units where assistance is most needed, and give you the opportunity of fighting shoulder to shoulder to bring about victory.... Your relatives and friends everywhere have been urging that you be granted this privilege...."
Eisenhower's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, disagreed with Lee's plan and his opinion was that a one-for-one replacement should not be done, only replacements as full platoons of Black soldiers. As a result of the directive 2,253 volunteers were organized into thirty-seven rifle platoons and sent to the front, to be distributed as needed to companies.
Immediately after the end of hostilities in Europe in World War II, Lee and Gen. Omar Bradley tried to release significant numbers of German prisoners of war but a SHAEF order signed by Eisenhower countermanded them on 15 May 1945.
Post war career
Lee continued in the military and served as commander of the Mediterranean Theater of Operations in post-War Europe. There was some controversy to his command, when in August 1947 newspaper columnist Robert C. Ruark claimed that General Lee misused enlisted men under his command in occupied Italy. Said Ruark "I am going to blow a loud whistle on Lieutenant General John C. H. Lee," and published a series of articles critical of Lee's command, quoting several disgruntled soldiers. Some evidence suggests Ruark was unhappy because a journalist's train had left him behind and Lee would not provide secondary transportation for him. Subsequently, Lee requested that his command be thoroughly investigated by Army Inspector General's Office. He and his command were completely exonerated.
Lee asked to retire from the army in February 1947 and he retired 31 December 1947 at the Presidio, with 37½ years in active service.
Lee was an Episcopalian and kept a Bible with him at all times. In retirement he planned to continue his life of service. He spent the last 11 years as the executive secretary of the Brotherhood of Saint Andrew, which is the lay-organization of the Episcopal Church. He declined all post-war invitations to serve as a corporate board executive, preferring to devote his life to service.
Lee died on 30 August 1958. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery beside his first wife, Sarah Row Lee, who was killed in an automobile accident in 1939. They had one child, John C. H. Lee Jr., born in her hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia, 12 July 1918. Lee married a second time in 1945 to Eve Brookie Ellis, who died in 1953.
John C.H. Lee Jr. (son of the subject of this article) also attended the US Military Academy, and was graduated with the Class of 1941. He landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day with V Corps engineers, earning the Silver Star that day, and finished the war with the 82nd Airborne, earning another Silver Star, the Bronze Star, and a peacetime Distinguished Service Medal. He saw action in Korea, and had an active army-engineer career in Germany and all over the US through the 1950s and 1960s. He retired from the army at the rank of colonel in 1970 at Cincinnati, Ohio, where he closed his career as director of the Office of Appalachian Studies. This section of the Ohio River Division of the Corps was tasked with completing a water-resources survey, as part of the Johnson Administration's War on Poverty. He died in 1975, and is buried with his wife, Patricia S. Lee, in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His surviving family resides in Cincinnati and Denver.
- Hastings, Max; Armageddon, The Battle for Germany, 1944-45; Macmillan 2004; ISBN 978-0-330-52917-4 EPUB
- Letter, Lt Gen John C. H. Lee to Commanders of Colored Troops, come, 26 December 44, sub: Volunteers for Training and Assignment as Reinforcements, AG 322X353XSGS
- Truman Library Memo from John C.H. Lee (26 December 1944)
- "African American Volunteers as Infantry Replacements". United States Army Center of Military History.