William B. Kean
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|William B. Kean|
William B. Kean
July 9, 1897|
Buffalo, New York
|Died||March 10, 1981
Winter Park, Florida
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1918–1954|
|Commands held||5th Infantry Division
25th Infantry Division
Fifth United States Army
|Battles/wars||World War I
World War II
|Awards||Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit
|Other work||Executive Director, Chicago Housing Authority
Public Relations Director, Morton Plant Hospital
William Benjamin Kean (July 9, 1897 – March 10, 1981) was a general in the United States Army.
World War I
After receiving his commission, Kean was assigned to the U.S.M.A. as a student officer. He then carried out an observation tour of battlefronts in Italy, Belgium and France, and was an observer of the Allied occupation in Germany. In late 1919 he returned to the United States and completed the Infantry Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
Kean carried out numerous assignments of increasing rank and responsibility, including a posting to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. In 1925 he graduated from the Signal Officer Course, and in 1939 he was a graduate of the Command and General Staff College.
World War II
In March, 1943 Kean was assigned as chief of staff of the 28th Infantry Division. Just a month later he was promoted to brigadier general and assigned as chief of staff for the U.S. II Corps, then fighting in North Africa under the command of Omar Bradley. In late 1943 he was assigned as chief of staff for First U.S. Army, commanded by Courtney Hodges, receiving promotion to major general. Kean served in this position until the end of the war, and remained in Europe during the post-war occupation of Germany.
While with II Corps Kean played a role in the incident in which General George S. Patton was accused of slapping a soldier. After Bradley had investigated, he entrusted the only copy of the written report to Kean, who was directed not to show it to anyone without Bradley's permission.
During his assignment with First Army, Kean was one of the key planners of the D-Day invasion of Normandy.
Post-World War II
In August 1948 Kean became commander of the 25th Infantry Division. Under his command the division successfully blocked the approaches to the port city Pusan in the summer of 1950, for which it received the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.
In October 1950 the 25th Division participated in the breakout from the Pusan perimeter and drive into North Korea. In November, Chinese Communist troops crossed the Yalu River and pushed back the United Nations troops. Kean's division carried out a systematic withdrawal and took up defensive positions, first on the south bank of the Chongchon River, and then south of Osan.
After planning and reorganization a new offensive was launched in January 1951. By February Inchon and Kimpo Air Base had been recaptured, the first of several successful assaults on the Chinese/North Korean force that helped turn the tide in the United Nation's favor.
Later in 1951 the 25th Division participated in Operation Ripper, driving the enemy across the Han River. Although the 25th Division, for the most part, performed well under Kean’s leadership, Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway, who had recently assumed command of the Eighth Army, relieved him as part of an overall ‘shakeup’ of the Army’s frontline generals.
In Korea, Kean assessed the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment, one of his subordinate commands, as being ineffective during its early combat operations, primarily due to the tendency of many soldiers to ‘cut and run’ during battle. Although he readily admitted that many individual soldiers had demonstrated competency and courage, he felt the regiment was so ineffective that it threatened the entire United Nations effort in Korea. Kean recommended that the 24th Regiment be disbanded and its soldiers assigned as ‘fillers’ in white units at a ratio of one to ten.
Gen. Ridgway had embraced Kean’s assessment of the 24th Infantry Regiment. After relieving Kean, he asked him, before leaving Korea, to officially propose the elimination of the black units and propose the complete integration of white and black troops. Kean complied with his request and Ridgway used that proposal to help win Washington’s approval for the complete desegregation of the entire Far Eastern Command.
In 1951 Kean was assigned to command the III Corps, first at Camp Roberts, California and later at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. In October of that year he led a 5,000 man task force as it took part in an exercise at the Nevada Test Site. During this event, atomic weapons tests were conducted to measure the effects on military members in close proximity.
Kean's decorations included multiple awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, including two during World War II. He also received the Silver Star for heroism in the Korean War. In addition, Kean received multiple awards of the Legion of Merit, and was a recipient of the Bronze Star.
In October, 1954 Kean was appointed Executive Director of the Chicago Housing Authority. He remained in this position until 1957.
At the C.H.A., Kean was the subject of controversy for his emphasis on reducing vacancy rates over racial integration of the authority's housing projects.
Retirement and death
- Biographical Register of the Officers and Graduates of the U.S. Military Academy, by George Washington Cullum, 1920, Volume 6, page 2128
- Normandy to Victory: the War Diary of General Courtney H. Hodges and the First U.S. Army, by William C. Sylvan and Francis C. Smith, edited by John T. Greenwood, 2008, page 400
- Omaha Beach: D-Day, June 6, 1944, by Joseph Balkoski, 2006, page 142
- Newspaper article, 63 Officers Move Up In Rank, New York Times, May 5, 1943
- Newspaper article, Narrow Escape On the Bulge, by Harold Denny, New York Times, published in Milwaukee Journal, June 11, 1945
- Official U.S. Army Register, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office, 1946, Volume 1, page
- War in Peacetime: the History and Lessons of Korea, Joseph Lawton Collins, 1969, page 90
- Letters from a Soldier: 1941-1945, by Jim Larson, 2002, page 286
- The Korean War: an Encyclopedia, by Stanley Sandler, 1995, page 160
- The Korean War, by Matthew B. Ridgway, 1967, page 192
- Lightning Forward: a History of the 25th Infantry Division, Melvin C. Walthall, 1978
- Newspaper article, Gen. Kean Wins Gallantry Award, Los Angeles Times, October 9, 1950
- Newspaper article, Gen. Kean Takes Over Post at Ft. MacArthur, Los Angeles Times, November 17, 1951
- Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, October 1951
- Newspaper article, Troops Move Under Jarring Atom Test Blast, Los Angeles Times, November 2, 1951
- Military Times, Hall of Valor, Index of Recipients of U.S. Major Military Awards
- Newspaper article, Maj. Gen. Kean Today Becomes 5th Army Chief, Chicago Tribune, July 17, 1952
- Newspaper article, Name Gen. Kean Boss of CHA, by Thomas Buck, Chicago Tribune, August 24, 1954
- Newspaper article, Gen. Kean Retires, New York Times, October 1, 1954
- Newspaper article, New Policies of Gen. Kean Revitalize CHA, by Thomas Buck, Chicago Tribune, October 9, 1955
- Making the Second Ghetto: Race and Housing in Chicago, 1940–1960, by Arnold Richard Hirsch, 1983, page 235
- Newspaper article, Gen. Kean Submits Second Resignation as CHA Chief, Chicago Tribune, July 2, 1957
- Newspaper article, Gen. Kean Ends Job With CHA; Heading South, August 1, 1957
- Newspaper article, Other Deaths, Obituary of William B. Kean, The St. Petersburg Evening Independent, March 16, 1981
- Sandler, Stanley. “The Korean War: An Encyclopedia”. Taylor & Francis, 1995, p. 160-161.
John H. Church
|Commanding General 5th Infantry Division
Newly activated organization
|Commanding General 25th Infantry Division