William B. Kean

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William B. Kean
William B Kean.JPG
William B. Kean
Born(1897-07-09)July 9, 1897
Buffalo, New York
DiedMarch 10, 1981(1981-03-10) (aged 83)
Winter Park, Florida
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1918–1954
RankUS-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands held5th Infantry Division
25th Infantry Division
III Corps
Fifth United States Army
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
Korean War
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star
Other workExecutive 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.

Early life[edit]

He was born William Benjamin Kean, Jr., in Buffalo, New York, on July 9, 1897. Kean graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1918 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of infantry.

World War I[edit]

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.

Inter-war period[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

From October 1947 to June 1948 Kean commanded the 5th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.

Korean War[edit]

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.[1]

Post-Korean War[edit]

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.

In July 1952 Kean was named commander of Fifth United States Army in Chicago, Illinois, and promoted to lieutenant general. He remained in this assignment until retiring from the Army in 1954.

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.

Subsequent career[edit]

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.

After resigning from the housing authority, he moved to Florida, where he was employed as Public Relations Director for the Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

Retirement and death[edit]

After retiring Kean lived in Belleair and Winter Park, Florida. He died in Winter Park on March 10, 1981.



  1. ^ Sandler, Stanley. "The Korean War: An Encyclopedia". Taylor & Francis, 1995, p. 160-161.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
John H. Church
Commanding General 5th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
George Decker
Preceded by
Newly activated organization
Commanding General 25th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Post deactivated