William G. Haan

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William George Haan
William George Haan in 1919.jpg
Haan in 1919
Born(1863-10-04)October 4, 1863
Crown Point, Indiana, United States
DiedOctober 26, 1924(1924-10-26) (aged 61)
Washington, D.C., United States
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1889–1922
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
UnitUSA - Army Field Artillery Insignia.png Field Artillery Branch
Commands held32nd Infantry Division
VII Corps
Battles/warsSpanish–American War
Philippine–American War
World War I
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
Croix de guerre (France)

Major General William George Haan (October 4, 1863 – October 26, 1924) was a senior United States Army officer who commanded the 32nd Division in World War I. He graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1889, from the U.S. Army War College in 1905, and was commissioned into the Field Artillery Branch. He served in Cuba and the Philippines, and in 1903 went to Panama at the request of Theodore Roosevelt. He was Acting Chief of Staff of the Pacific Division during the Army's relief work following the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Early military service[edit]

He was born in Crown Point, Indiana, and after graduating from West Point, was promoted to first lieutenant in August 1896. In 1898–1901 he served as captain of Volunteers, in both Cuba and the Philippines. He was made a Captain of the Regular Army in February 1901, and was mustered out of the Volunteer service the next month.[1]

From 1903–06 he served as a member of the General Staff and went to Panama for Theodore Roosevelt. As Acting Chief of Staff of the Pacific Division, he assisted with relief work after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. For the next several years, he was responsible for several coastal defense positions. In April 1907, he became a Major and in December 1911 he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He again served on the General Staff from 1912–14, and in July 1916 was promoted to a colonel in the Coast Artillery.[1]

William G. Haan, 1918

32nd Division Commander during World War I[edit]

In April 1917, he was given the temporary rank of brigadier general and assigned to command the 57th Field Artillery Brigade of the 32nd Infantry Division at Camp MacArthur, Texas. Troop E commanded by Captain John S. Coney was formed in Kenosha on May 10, 1917, and the division was officially formed on May 29, 1917.[2] On August 26, 1917, Major General James Parker assumed command. General Parker had previously been awarded the Medal of Honor during the Philippine-American War. Only two months later, the 32nd Division was activated in July 1917 at Camp MacArthur, Waco, Texas of National Guard units from Wisconsin and Michigan. In December 1917, Haan was promoted again to the temporary rank of major general and commander of the division.

Division leadership was switched several times between Parker and Haan before the unit arrived in France in February 1918 under Haan's leadership, becoming the sixth U.S. division to join the American Expeditionary Force. In July, it entered the line with the French 6th Army.

Operations of the 32nd Infantry Division in World War I in crossing the Hindenburg Line.

32nd Division combat in France and Germany[edit]

The Division's men were the first American soldiers to enter cross the German border, piercing the famed and until this time invincible German Hindenburg Line of defense. Major General James Parker reassumed command on December 7, 1917, leading the unit into Alsace in May 1918, attacking 19 kilometres (12 mi) in seven days.

Origin of the 32nd Division nickname[edit]

During the Battle of Marne, the 32nd Division captured Fismes, and during August their successful capture of Juvigny earned it the nickname "Le Terribles". A French general, impressed by their accomplishment, commented that they ""shot through every line the Germans put before it." The division was nicknamed Les Terribles, honoring them for their unrelenting and successful attacks against the Germans. The division's shoulder patch, a line shot through with a red arrow, signifies its tenacity during World War I.[3] It was the only American unit in General Charles Mangins famous 10th French Army, it fought in the Oise-Aisne offensive.[4]

The Division fought continuously for 20 days during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive and penetrated the last German defensive stronghold, the Kriemhilde Stellung, crossing the Meuse River. Up to this point much of the war had been a stalemate, fought from static trench lines over the same few kilometers of terrain.[4]

Their next objective was to flank the Germans at Metz. The division was the front line element of the Third U.S. Army. Members of the Division marched 300 kilometres (190 mi) to the Rhine River. They were the first Allied Army Unit to pierce the famed German Hindenburg Line of defense. There they occupied the center sector in the Colbenz bridgehead for four months, during which they held 400 square kilometers and 63 towns. From May through November 1918, they were given only 10 days of rest. The Division fought in three major offensives, engaging and defeating 23 German divisions. They took 2,153 prisoners and gained 32 kilometres (20 mi), pushing back every German counterattack. Their success was remarkable.[4]

In November, following the armistice, Hann became commander of VII Corps for occupation duty. A few days later he was promoted to permanent brigadier general. In April 1919 he returned to the US with 32nd Division, and after its inactivation again, assigned to the general staff.

Casualties and decorations[edit]

The 32nd Division was still engaging German troops east of the Meuse River when the Armistice was finally signed. The division suffered a total of 13,261 casualties, including 2,250 men killed in action and 11,011 wounded, placing it third in the number of battle deaths among U.S. Army divisions. The American, French, and Belgian governments decorated more than 800 officers and enlisted men for their gallantry in combat.[4]

All four division infantry regiments, the three artillery regiments, and the division's three machine gun battalions were awarded the Croix de guerre by the Republic of France. The flag and standard of every unit in the division was authorized four American battle streamers.[4]

Division deactivation and reorganization[edit]

Following the war's end, the division served in the Army of Occupation in Germany, commanded by Maj. Gen. William Lassiter. The division was inactivated on April 5, 1919. On July 24, 1924, the 32nd Division was reorganized again, composed of National Guard units from Wisconsin and Michigan. Its headquarters was home stationed at Lansing, Michigan.[4]

Final years and retirement[edit]

In July 1920, Haan was promoted to major general and named director of the War Plans Division. He retired in May 1922 and was for a time associated with the Milwaukee Journal. He died at Washington, D.C., on October 26, 1924. He was buried in Section 4 of Arlington National Cemetery.[5]

The USS General W. G. Haan (AP-158), launched March 1945, was named in his honor.

Camp Haan, near Riverside California, was named for him. The camp was a World War II training base for coast artillery and anti-aircraft and later housed a prisoner-of-war camp.[6]


  1. ^ a b "William George Haan". Retrieved February 5, 2009.
  2. ^ "1st Battalion, 126th Field Artillery". May 23, 2005. Retrieved November 18, 2008.
  3. ^ "32nd Infantry Division". The National Guard Education Foundation. Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Department of Military and Veteran's Affairs. "World War I". Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  5. ^ Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. p. 155. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 40298151.
  6. ^ See: Riverside Public Library: Sharon Anthony Camp Haan Papers. See: U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Camp Haan (historical). It is now the site of Riverside National Cemetery.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
James Parker
Commanding General 32nd Infantry Division
Succeeded by
William Lassiter
Preceded by
Omar Bundy
Commanding General VII Corps
Succeeded by
Charles Martin