Nathan Bedford Forrest III

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Nathan Bedford Forrest III
Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest III
Birth name Nathan Bedford Forrest III
Born (1905-04-07)April 7, 1905
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Died June 13, 1943(1943-06-13) (aged 38)
Kiel, Germany
Buried Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service 1928–1943
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general
Unit Second Air Force
Eighth Air Force
Battles/wars World War II 
Awards Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Relations Nathan Bedford Forrest (great-grandfather)

Nathan Bedford Forrest III (April 7, 1905 – June 13, 1943) was a brigadier general of the United States Army Air Forces, and a great-grandson of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was killed in action in Germany during World War II. Forrest was the first American general to be killed in action during the war in Europe.

Early life and education[edit]

Forrest was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 7, 1905, the son of Nathan Bedford Forrest II and Mattie Patterson (Patton). On November 22, 1930, he married Frances Brassler; and, according to the Arlington National Cemetery website, he had no children, making him the final male Forrest in his great-grandfather's direct line.

He graduated from West Point in 1928 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry. In 1929, he transferred to the Air Corps and subsequently gained rank rapidly.


Promoted to brigadier general in 1942, Forrest was serving as chief of staff of the Second Air Force when he flew missions as an observer with the Eighth Air Force in England. He was reported missing in action when the B-17 Flying Fortress he was in, leading a bombing raid on the German submarine yards at Kiel, went down on June 13, 1943. The other members of the squadron reported seeing parachutes, and hoped that the general had survived. However, Forrest was found dead on September 23, 1943, when his body washed up near a seaplane base at Ruegen Island in Germany. He was buried on September 28, 1943 in a small cemetery near Wiek, Rügen.

His family was presented his Distinguished Flying Cross, which he was awarded posthumously for staying at the controls of his B-17 bomber while his crew bailed out. The plane exploded before Forrest could bail out. By the time the Seenotdienst (the German air-sea rescue) arrived, only one of the crew was still alive in the water.


In 1947, two years after the war ended, his widow requested that he be returned to the United States and buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was exhumed and reburied in Section 11 at Arlington on November 15, 1949.

Dates of rank[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Alternate history novelist Harry Turtledove makes Forrest III a significant character in the Southern Victory Series, and a minor character in the standalone novel Joe Steele. However, the Southern Victory version (who, as an officer of a still-extant Confederacy which has become analogous to Nazi Germany, leads a July 20th-style coup attempt against Hitleresque Confederate President Jake Featherston) may be a same-named analog rather than the historical figure.

External links[edit]