William A. Knowlton

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William A. Knowlton
Birth nameWilliam Allen Knowlton
BornJune 19, 1920
Weston, Massachusetts
DiedAugust 10, 2008(2008-08-10) (aged 88)
Arlington, Virginia
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1943–1980
Rank General
Commands heldSuperintendent, United States Military Academy
Allied Land Forces South East Europe
Battles/warsWorld War II
Cold War
Vietnam War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (3)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star
Air Medals (10)
ChildrenHolly Petraeus
RelationsDavid Petraeus

General William Allen Knowlton (June 19, 1920 – August 10, 2008) was a United States Army four-star general, and a former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. As a full general, he served as Commander, Allied Land Forces South East Europe, and as the United States Military Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Military career[edit]

In January 1943, after graduating from the United States Military Academy, Knowlton was commissioned in the cavalry. He reported for duty with the 7th Armored Division, and during World War II led an assault gun platoon in France, and later a reconnaissance troop in Germany, which linked up with the Russians, advancing from the east, in Ganzlin, northwest of Berlin. For this he was awarded the Silver Star.

Following the war, he held various staff postings, and graduated from the Command and General Staff College in 1955. Following graduation, he was assigned to his alma mater's Department of Social Sciences, becoming an associate professor. He next took command of a battalion of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and then attended the U.S. Army War College. Before taking command of a brigade at Fort Knox, he served as military attaché in Tunis.

Returning from Tunis, he was assigned to the Pentagon in the Office of the United States Army Chief of Staff and later the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He deployed to Vietnam for two tours of duty where he oversaw Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) for General William Westmoreland, and served as assistant division commander for the 9th Infantry Division.

After his time in Vietnam, he became Secretary of the Army General Staff, and on March 23, 1970 he became the 49th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, an assignment he held for four years. In 1974, during his tenure, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed West Point's right to enforce the Honor Code in response to two challenges from cadets.

After his time as Superintendent, he was assigned as Chief of Staff of the United States European Command. Promoted to full General in 1976, he took command of Allied Land Forces South East Europe, and finished his career as the United States Representative on NATO's Military Committee.


Knowlton's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, Air Medal with 9 oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His foreign awards include the French Legion d'Honneur and the Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern from Germany.

Post military[edit]

In retirement, Knowlton served as a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University, lectured at the Armed Forces Staff College, served as an advisor for the Defense Nuclear Agency, and was a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Board.

Knowlton was also on the board of Chubb Corporation, and was the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award recipient from the Association of Graduates, the United States Military Academy alumni organization.

A collection of Gen. Knowlton's military uniforms and awards is on display at the American Military Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.

He died in 2008 as a result of intracranial bleeding after a fall, along with Parkinson's disease. He was 88.

Personal life[edit]

Knowlton's daughter, Hollister "Holly" Knowlton, married future four-star general David Petraeus two months after Petraeus graduated from West Point. Knowlton was Superintendent at the time. Holly is a graduate of Dickinson College.[1]


  1. ^ "Hollister Knowlton Betrothed To David H. Petraeus, a Cadet". The New York Times. 1974-05-12. p. GN57. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  • [1] 2004 DGA Award Recipient, General William A. Knowlton, West Point Association of Graduates Website
Military offices
Preceded by Superintendents of the United States Military Academy
Succeeded by