The "Class the Stars Fell On" in the Great War
By James Patton
On 12 June 1915, 164 cadets graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and were commissioned in the Army. Fifty-nine of these men would attain the rank of general, an unprecedented number to this day. Two 1915 graduates, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar N. Bradley, were two of the five Generals of the Army (five-star) ever. Another two, James Van Fleet and Joseph McNarney, were generals (four-star). There were also seven lieutenant generals, 24 major generals, and 24 brigadier generals from this class.
Bradley was 44th in the class and Eisenhower 61st. The top man in the class, William E. R. Covell, was a two-star general, while Brig. Gen. John Keliher graduated 159th.
It is well known that neither Eisenhower nor Bradley served in France during the war, but 90 other classmates did. Amongst these were 29 of the future generals. Here are brief descriptions of the war records of some of these:
Gen. James Van Fleet: Commissioned in the Infantry. Arrived in France in July 1918. Commanded the 17th Machine Gun Battalion. Wounded in the Meuse-Argonne November 1918. Ended the war as a major.
|Major Van Fleet After the War and Later as a General|
Lt. Gen. Thomas Larkin: Commissioned in the Engineers. Arrived in France in December 1917. Served with the British Royal Engineers until June 1918, then served as a battalion commander with the 2nd Engineers, 2nd Division at 2nd Marne, Oise-Vesle, and the Meuse Argonne. Ended the war as a lieutenant colonel.
Lt. Gen. John Leonard: Commissioned in the Infantry. Arrived in France in June 1918. Served as a battalion commander in the 6th infantry, 5th Division. Awarded the DSC for heroism on 14 October 1918 in the Meuse-Argonne. Wounded on 16 Oct. Ended the war as a lieutenant colonel.
Maj. Gen. Paul J. Mueller: Commissioned in the Infantry. Arrived in France in June 1918. Commanded a battalion in the 64th infantry, 7th division. Received a divisional citation for bravery in action near the Bois de Puvenelle, 10 October 1918. Ended the war as a major.
Maj. Gen. Charles Ryder: Commissioned in the Infantry. Arrived in France in December 1917. Served as a company and battalion commander in the 16th infantry, 1st Division, at Toul, Montdidier, Soissons, and Meuse-Argonne. Awarded the DSC for heroism at Soissons, 21 July 1918, and a second DSC for heroism near Fleville on 9 October 1918. Wounded on 21 July. Ended the war as a lieutenant colonel.
|West Point's Class of 1915|
Maj. Gen. John Wogan: Commissioned in the Coast Artillery. Arrived in France in September 1917. Commanded a battery in the 52nd Artillery in the Champagne and Alsace (first U.S. heavy artillery at the front), then commanded a battalion in the 43rd Artillery in St. Mihiel and Meuse Argonne. Ended the war as a major.
Brig. Gen. Michael Davis: Commissioned in the Infantry. Qualified as an aviator May 1917. Trained in the UK from February to May 1918, then flew an SE5a with the celebrated (24 aces) No. 40 Squadron RAF until July 1918. Ended the war as a major.
Three 1915 graduates were killed in action, three died of disease, two were killed in aircraft crashes, and two in vehicle mishaps.