Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Remembering a Veteran: From Doughboy to Army Commander, William Hood Simpson

West Point Cadet, Class of 1909
While often overlooked in the history of the European Theater of Operations during the Second World War, William H. Simpson, commander of the U.S. Ninth Army, proved to be one of the most effective American generals of World War II. Calm, modest, and utterly dependable, Simpson led the Ninth Army through some of the war’s bloodiest fighting. In a testament to Simpson’s abilities, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his book, Crusade in Europe, stated, “If Simpson ever made a mistake as an army commander, it never came to my attention.”

William Hood Simpson was born on 19 May 1888 near Weatherford, Texas. In 1905 he earned an appointment to the United States Military Academy. Upon graduating in 1909, he was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry and was assigned to the 6th Infantry. From 1910 to 1912, Simpson served with his regiment in the Philippines, fighting against rebellious Moros. He later took part in the Punitive Expedition of 1916.

One month after the U.S. declared war against Germany in April 1917, Simpson was promoted to captain and became the aide-de-camp to MG George Bell, Jr. In July 1917, Bell assumed command of the 33d Division, an Illinois National Guard unit. Simpson was later named the 33rd's operations officer, which provided him invaluable experience in upper-level staff procedures. The division saw action alongside the Australian corps in the Somme sector, most notably in the Meuse-Argonne, and at war's end in the St. Mihiel sector.   

Lt. Col. Simpson with 33rd Division Patch

In America's greatest battle of the First World War the 33rd Division was one of the most successful American formations.  In the opening of the attack it neatly captured the village of Forges on the opening  of the battle, thus securing the right flank of Pershing's First Army.  Later, in  October 1918, it became the first American unit to force a crossing of the Meuse, beginning the push to the strategic Meuse Heights.  

Simpson earned a Silver Star and a Distinguished Service Medal. He later served as the division’s chief of staff from November 1918 until he returned to the U.S. in June 1919 to become chief of staff of the 6th Division. Simpson reverted to his permanent rank of captain on 20 June 1920 but was promoted to major the following day.

General Simpson in 1959

Continue reading about his distinguished service in WWII at:

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