Sereno E. Brett

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Sereno Elmer Brett
Sereno E. Brett.jpg
Brett, pictured here during World War I after he received his Distinguished Service Cross.
Born October 31, 1891
Portland, Oregon, United States
Died September 9, 1952(1952-09-09) (aged 60)
Santa Barbara, California, United States
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army
Years of service 1916–1943
Rank US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General
Unit USA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held 5th Armored Division
Battles/wars Pancho Villa Expedition
World War I
World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (2)

Brigadier General Sereno Elmer Brett (October 31, 1891 – September 9, 1952) was a decorated United States Army officer who fought in both World War I and World War II and played a key, if little recognized, role in the development of armored warfare.

Early life and military career[edit]

Brett was born on October 31, 1891 in Portland, Oregon as a son of James Brett, and Clara Marie de Lille Harvey. Brett enrolled at Oregon State University and earned his Bachelor of Science at the Agricultural faculty in 1916. After his graduation, Brett entered the United States Army and, after attending a training course for officers, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Infantry Branch of the Oregon National Guard, on November 28, 1916.

Two American soldiers run toward a bunker past the bodies of two German soldiers.

He first saw active service with the 3rd Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) during the Pancho Villa Expedition. During World War I, Brett was ordered to join the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), under the command of General John Pershing, on the Western Front in Belgium and France, to serve with the Tank Corps. He was promoted to the rank of captain on July 25, 1917.

Commanding the 326th Tank Battalion, Brett, now a major, led the first major American tank attack of World War I at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in September 1918 and, following Colonel George Patton's wounding, took command of the 1st Tank Brigade in his absence. Brett received the Distinguished Service Cross for his role in the battle. The Great War came to an end soon after, on November 11, 1918. In addition to the DSC, his other decorations from the war were: two Silver Stars, three Purple Hearts, French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with palm and Officer of the Legion of Honour.

Distinguished Service Cross citation[edit]

His official Distinguished Service Cross citation reads:

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 15 (1919)
Action Date: September 12, 1918
Name: Sereno Elmer Brett
Service: Army
Rank: Major
Battalion: 326th Battalion (Light) Tanks
Division: Tank Corps, American Expeditionary Forces
Citation: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major (Armor) Sereno Elmer Brett, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in action while serving with 326th Tank Battalion, Tank Corps, A.E.F., near Richecourt, France, 12 September 1918. On the opening day of the St. Mihiel offensive Major Brett led his battalion on foot from Richecourt to the Bois Quart De Reserve in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, and by his coolness and courage setting an example to the entire battalion.[1]

Brett was also decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal for his service as chief instructor of Tank Center of the American Expeditionary Force.

Distinguished Service Medal citation[edit]

His official Distinguished Service Medal citation reads:

General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 49 (1922)
Action Date: World War I
Name: Sereno Elmer Brett
Service: Army
Rank: Major
Company: Commanding Officer
Regiment: 1st Brigade
Division: Tank Corps, American Expeditionary Forces
Citation: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Army Distinguished Service Medal to Major (Armor) Sereno Elmer Brett, United States Army, for exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services to the Government of the United States, in a duty of great responsibility during World War I. As Chief Instructor at Tank Center, American Expeditionary Forces, Major Brett organized and trained the 327th Battalion (Light) Tanks. Later, as Commander of the 326th Battalion (Light) Tanks, he vigorously and skillfully led it in the St. Mihiel offensive over a terrain rendered most difficult through four years of enemy entrenching. Succeeding to the command of the 1st Brigade, Tank Corps, in the Meuse-Argonne offensive, he ably devotedly, and courageously commanded his brigade from 26 September to 10 November 1918; during this period of 46 days his brigade supported eight of the divisions of the First Army in 18 separate attacks. By his brilliant professional attainments, technical ability, and unusual leadership he contributed in a marked manner to the success of the First Army and rendered most conspicuous services to the American Expeditionary Forces in a position of great responsibility.[2]

Life after the war[edit]

Following the war, he played a role alongside Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower in evaluating the lessons learned from the war in the use of tanks in modern warfare. Brett participated alongside Eisenhower in the Army 1919 transcontinental motor convoy. He commanded the Expeditionary Tank Force in 1923-1924 in Panama. Brett remained in the U.S. Army through the lean interwar years, and was promoted to brigadier general in February 1942.[3] On June 3, 1941 he was designated the chief of staff of the Armored Force at Fort Knox, having previously served as chief of staff of the 1st Armored Division.[4]

During World War II he served on the staff of the 5th Armored Division in 1942–1943 as it prepared for service in the European theatre, and was promoted to brigadier general in 1942, but retired from the army in October 1943 for medical reasons. Brett died on September 9, 1952, in Santa Barbara, California.[5]

Decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
1st Row Distinguished Service Cross Army Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star w/ Oak leaf cluster
2nd Row Purple Heart w/ 2 Oak leaf clusters Mexican Border Service Medal World War I Victory Medal w/ four battle clasps American Defense Service Medal
3rd Row American Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal Officer of the Legion of Honour French Croix de guerre 1914–1918 w/ palm

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=15652
  2. ^ http://www.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=15652
  3. ^ "Sereno Brett," in Anne Cipriano Venzon and Paul L. Miles, eds., The United States in the First World War: An Encyclopedia (Taylor and Francis, 1999).
  4. ^ "Portland Colonel Headed Armored Force", Eugene Register-Guard, 3 June 1941.
  5. ^ "Gen. Sereno E. Brett, 61, Dies at Santa Barbara," Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1952; www.arlingtoncemetery.net/sebrett.htm
Military offices
Preceded by
Jack W. Heard
Commanding General of the 5th Armored Division
1942–1943
Succeeded by
Lunsford E. Oliver