Willis D. Crittenberger
Lieutenant General Willis Dale Crittenberger (December 2, 1890 – August 4, 1980) was a senior officer of the United States Army. He was a career soldier who served with distinction during the Italian Campaign of World War II.
Early life and military career
Crittenberger was born in Baltimore, Maryland on December 2, 1890. After growing up in Anderson, Indiana, he was appointed to the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York in 1909, graduating four years later on June 12, 1913 with the West Point class of 1913, two years ahead of fellow cadet, friend and infantry officer, Dwight D. Eisenhower. Crittenberger was then commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Cavalry Branch of the United States Army and his first posting was with the 3rd Cavalry Regiment, then stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Among his many classmates were Geoffrey Keyes, Henry Balding Lewis, Paul Newgarden, Richard U. Nicholas, Charles H. Corlett, William A. McCullogh, Douglass T. Greene, Robert M. Perkins, Louis A. Craig, Carlos Brewer, William R. Schmidt, Alexander Patch, Robert L. Spragins, Francis K. Newcomer, Henry B. Cheadle, Lunsford E. Oliver and William L. Roberts. Like Crittenberger, they were all destined to become general officers.
Between the wars
Unable to see service overseas in World War I, where he remained in the United States training recruits, his advanced military education included the U.S. Army Cavalry School at Fort Riley, Kansas in 1924, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 1925 and the U.S. Army War College at Washington Barracks in Washington, D.C. in 1930. After assignments to Fort Knox, Kentucky, the 1st Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized)'s new home in 1934, he served on staff positions to the Chief of Cavalry in Washington and, towards the end of the interwar period, realizing that the cavalry's role in any future conflict would be limited (as World War I and trench warfare had proved), becoming increasingly interested in armored warfare, and became chief of staff for the 1st Armored Division.
World War II
With the onset of the American entry into World War II, Crittenberger, with the one-star general officer rank of brigadier general, was commanding the 2nd Armored Brigade of the 2nd Armored Division, under Major General George S. Patton. In February 1942, two months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and the German declaration of war on the United States four days later, Crittenberger assumed command of the division while Patton was sent to command the I Armored Corps. In August 1942, relinquishing command of the 2nd Armored Division to Major General Ernest N. Harmon, Crittenberger, now a two-star major general, organized, trained and commanded the III Armored Corps, composed of the 7th and 11th Armored Divisions at Camp Polk, Louisiana. Redesignated as XIX Corps in October 1943, Crittenberger brought XIX Corps to England in January 1944.
In early 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander for the impending Normandy invasion, initially selected Crittenberger as one of three corps commanders, along with Major General Leonard T. Gerow, commanding V Corps, and Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff, commanding VII Corps, for the invasion. All three were well known and trusted by General Eisenhower. However, Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, who Eisenhower selected as the U.S. First Army commander for the D-Day invasion, replaced Eisenhower's picks, seeking differing temperaments and commanders that had more combat experience. At the same time, Lieutenant General Jacob L. Devers, Commanding General (CG) of the North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NATOUSA), was seeking a corps commander for the U.S. Fifth Army's IV Corps for the Italian Campaign and Crittenberger was chosen.
Crittenberger relinquished command of XIX Corps, briefly, to Major General Woodruff, who soon handed over to Major General Charles H. Corlett, a classmate from the West Point class of 1913, and departed England for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), assuming command of IV Corps from Major General Alexander Patch, another West Point classmate, in Italy on March 20, 1944. Held in reserve during the early stages of the Italian Campaign, IV Corps replaced the VI Corps, under Major General Lucian Truscott, in the front line after the liberation of the Italian capital of Rome in early June. Crittenberger's corps, coming under command of Lieutenant General Mark W. Clark's U.S. Fifth Army (itself part of the Allied Armies in Italy, later designated 15th Army Group, commanded by British General Sir Harold R. L. G. Alexander) later fought on through the Gothic Line, in some of the toughest and most difficult fighting of the Italian Campaign.
Having the 1st Brazilian Infantry and the 6th South African Armoured Divisions in its ranks, in addition to the U.S. 1st Armored, the 92nd Infantry and the 10th Mountain Divisions, Crittenberger's IV Corps were in combat for over 390 days, 326 of them engaged in continuous combat. Crittenberger commanded IV Corps, still part of the Fifth Army, now commanded by Lieutenant General Lucian Truscott (like Crittenberger, a cavalryman who Crittenberger had taught while he was an instructor at the U.S. Army Cavalry School), after Lieutenant General Clark was promoted to the command of 15th Army Group, as the western arm of the Allied thrust through northern Italy (codenamed Operation Grapeshot) to the Po River, capturing large numbers of German troops, which ended with the surrender of the remaining German forces in Italy on May 2, 1945. The end of World War II in Europe came soon after, followed by the surrender of Japan on September 2, 1945, almost exactly six years since the war had begun. During the campaign in Italy Crittenberger operated alongside Major General Geoffrey Keyes, another of Crittenberger's West Point classmates, who was commanding II Corps.
In the postwar years Crittenberger commanded the Caribbean Defense Command, including the Panama Canal Zone, then in 1947, became first commander-in-chief of U.S. Caribbean Command, a regional unified theater command and predecessor to today's United States Southern Command. After a two-year stint as Commanding General of the First Army, at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York, Crittenberger concluded his active duty military career in December 1952, leaving New York City with a ticker tape parade up Broadway.
In retirement, he advised President Dwight D. Eisenhower on national security matters. Crittenberger served as president of the U.S. Military Academy Association of Graduates from 1955 to 1958 and president of the Greater New York Fund.
Crittenberger married Josephine Frost Woodhull (1894–1978) on June 23, 1918, during World War I. Two of his three sons served in the United States Armed Forces and died in combat. Corporal Townsend Woodhull Crittenberger (born May 13, 1925) was killed in action during the Rhine River crossing on March 25, 1945 during the final days of World War II, aged just 19. Colonel Dale Jackson Crittenberger (USMA 1950) (born May 27, 1927) commanding the 3rd Brigade of the 9th Infantry Division during the Vietnam War was killed in a mid-air collision on September 17, 1969 while directing combat operations, aged 42. Dale served as a White House military aide to President Eisenhower in 1959 and as a newly commissioned major received his new badge of rank from his father's old friend, the President.
A third son, Willis D. Crittenberger, Jr. (USMA 1942) also served in the U.S. Army in World War II with the 10th Armored Division, rising from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel during the war, retiring as a major general. He later was a spokesman for the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Lieutenant General Willis Dale Crittenberger died in Chevy Chase, Maryland on August 4, 1980 at the age of 89. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia with his wife and sons, Townsend and Dale.
|Army Distinguished Service Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster|
|Bronze Star Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters|
|Mexican Border Service Medal|
|World War I Victory Medal|
|American Defense Service Medal|
|American Campaign Medal|
|European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four Service Stars|
|World War II Victory Medal|
|National Defense Service Medal|
|Officer of the Legion of Honor (France)|
|Croix de Guerre (France)|
|Order of Abdon Calderón (Ecuador)|
|Orden de Merito Militar (Peru)|
- The final campaign across Italy; 1952 - His memoirs as commander of US Army IV Corps ISBN 85-7011-219-X
- Some thoughts on civil defense; 1954 4pgs Essay
- Debrief report; 1967 Dept. of the Army - Headquarters, II Field Force Vietnam Artillery 21pgs report
- "Obituary: General Willis D. Crittenberger; A Leader of Allied Forces in Italy", New York Times, New York, pp. B11, August 7, 1980, retrieved 2008-03-09
- "People (Crittenberger retirement)", Time, New York, December 29, 1952, retrieved 2008-03-09
- D'Este, Carlo= (2002), Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life, New York: Henry Holt, ISBN 978-0-8050-5686-0, retrieved 2007-10-03
- New York Times, August 7, 1980 Missing or empty
- "People (Crittenberger retirement)", Time, December 29, 1952
- Johanna Granville, "Caught With Jam on Our Fingers”: Radio Free Europe and the Hungarian Revolution in 1956,” Diplomatic History, vol. 29, no. 5 (2005): pp. 811-839.
- Granville, Johanna (2004), The First Domino: International Decision Making During the Hungarian Crisis of 1956, Texas A & M University Press, College Station, Texas, ISBN 1-58544-298-4
"Milestones (obituary)", Time, New York, August 18, 1980, retrieved 2008-03-09.
"Bigger: Indications of the U.S. Army's growing size and strength [Establishment of 3rd Armored Corps]", Time, New York: Time, September 14, 1942, retrieved 2008-03-09.
- Works by or about Willis D. Crittenberger at Internet Archive
- Arlington National Cemetery page for Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger
- Arlington National Cemetery page for Col. Dale J. Crittenberger
- XIX Corps Website
George S. Patton
| Commanding General 2nd Armored Division
February 1942 – July 1942
Ernest N. Harmon
| Commanding General III Armored Corps
Post redesignated XIX Corps
| Commanding General XIX Corps
Roscoe B. Woodruff
| Commanding General IV Corps
Roscoe B. Woodruff
| Commanding General First Army
Withers A. Burress