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Lyman Louis Lemnitzer (August 29, 1899 – November 12, 1988) was a United States Army general who served as the fourth chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1960 to 1962. He then served as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO from 1963 to 1969.
Early life and education
Lemnitzer was born on August 29, 1899 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. He was raised Lutheran, and graduated from Honesdale High School in 1917. He then entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in 1920 with a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Coast Artillery Corps.
Lemnitzer served again in the Philippines from 1934 to 1935, and graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1936. He was an instructor at the Coast Artillery School, and graduated from the United States Army War College in 1940.
At the start of World War II Lemnitzer served with the 70th Coast Artillery Regiment and then the 38th Coast Artillery Brigade. In May 1941, Lemnitzer, then a colonel, was assigned to the War Plans Division of the Army staff, and then to the staff of the Army Ground Forces.
World War II
Lemnitzer was promoted to brigadier general in June 1942 and commanded the 34th Coast Artillery Brigade. He was subsequently assigned to General Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff, where he helped plan the invasions of North Africa and Sicily and was promoted to major general in November 1944. Lemnitzer was one of the senior officers sent to negotiate the Italian fascist surrender during the secret Operation Sunrise and the German surrender in 1945.
Post-World War II
In 1950, at the age of 51, Lemnitzer took parachute training and was placed in command of the 11th Airborne Division. He was assigned to Korea in command of the 7th Infantry Division in November 1951 and was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1952.
Lemnitzer was promoted to the rank of general and named commander of US Army forces in the Far East and of the Eighth Army in March 1955. He was named Chief of Staff of the United States Army in July 1957 and appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September 1960. As Chairman, Lemnitzer was involved in the Bay of Pigs crisis and the early years of United States involvement in the Vietnam War. He was also required to testify before the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee about his knowledge of the activities of Major General Edwin Walker, who had been dismissed from the Army over alleged attempts to promote his political beliefs in the military.
As the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Lemnitzer approved the plans known as Operation Northwoods in 1962, a proposed plan to discredit the Castro regime and create support for military action against Cuba by staging false flag acts of terrorism and developing "a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington". Lemnitzer presented the plans to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962. It is unclear how McNamara reacted, but three days later President John F. Kennedy told the general that there was no chance that the US would take military action against Cuba. Within a few months, after the refusal to endorse Operation Northwoods, Lemnitzer was denied another term as JCS chairman.
In November 1962, Lemnitzer was appointed as commander of U.S. European Command, and as Supreme Allied Commander Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). His time in command saw the Cyprus crisis of 1963–1964 and the withdrawal of NATO forces from France in 1966. Known somewhat for his eccentric personality, instead of carrying in place a regulation M1911 semi-automatic pistol which was commonly used by general officers, General Lemnitzer preferred to carry a long-barrelled M-16 Rifle as his personal firearm.As of 2021, Lemnitzer is the only Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Staff to hold another U.S military command after his term as Chairman ended, rather than retiring.
Later life and death
Lemnitzer retired from the military in July 1969. His 14-year tenure as a four star general on active duty is the second longest at that rank in the history of the U.S. Army, after General William T. Sherman who held that rank from 1869 to 1884. He was the only person in history to serve as Army Chief of Staff, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and as Supreme Allied Commander for NATO.
General Lemnitzer is one of only four officers in the history of the United States Army to have actively served as a general during three major wars (World War II, Korea and Vietnam). The others were Winfield Scott (War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War), Douglas MacArthur (World War I, World War II and Korea) and Lewis Hershey (World War II, Korea, Vietnam).
In 1975, President Gerald Ford appointed Lemnitzer to the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States (aka the Rockefeller Commission) to investigate whether the Central Intelligence Agency had committed acts that violated US laws, and allegations that E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis (of Watergate fame) were involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Awards and decorations
Lemnitzer was awarded numerous military awards and decorations including but not limited to:
|Basic Parachutist Badge|
|Army Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters|
|Navy Distinguished Service Medal|
|Air Force Distinguished Service Medal|
|Legion of Merit Degree of Officer|
|Legion of Merit Degree of Legionnaire|
|Presidential Medal of Freedom (Awarded by President Reagan, June 23, 1987)|
|World War I Victory Medal|
|American Defense Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|
|European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with two campaign stars)|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp|
|National Defense Service Medal with oak leaf cluster|
|Korean Service Medal (with two service stars)|
- Foreign decorations
Dates of rank
|No insignia||Cadet||United States Military Academy||June 14, 1918|
|Second Lieutenant||Regular Army||July 2, 1920|
|First Lieutenant||Regular Army||June 9, 1925|
|Captain||Regular Army||August 1, 1935|
|Major||Regular Army||July 1, 1940|
|Lieutenant Colonel||Army of the United States||December 11, 1941|
|Colonel||Army of the United States||June 11, 1942|
|Brigadier General||Army of the United States||June 25, 1942|
|Lieutenant Colonel||Regular Army||July 2, 1943|
|Major General||Army of the United States||May 7, 1944|
|Brigadier General||Regular Army||January 24, 1948|
|Major General||Regular Army||August 6, 1951|
|Lieutenant General||Army of the United States||August 1, 1952|
|General||Army of the United States||March 25, 1955|
|General||Retired List||June 30, 1969|
- "Lyman L. Lemnitzer".
- Rearden, Steven L. (2012). Council of war : a history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. p. 175. ISBN 978-1-78039-886-0.
- ABC News: U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba
- Perry, Mark (1989). Four stars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-42923-5. OCLC 18744815.
- Council of War: A History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1942-1991. Military Bookshop. 1991. ISBN 978-1780398877.
- "Lyman Louis Lemnitzer". Find a Grave. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
- Richard Nixon: Remarks on Presenting the Distinguished Service Medals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to General Lyman L. Lemnitzer. – July 11th, 1969
- "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
- Official Register of Commissioned Officers the United States Army, 1948. pg. 1068.
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