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

Monday, July 8, 2024

Remembering a Veteran: From Major to Major General in 16 Months: John L. Hines

In 2000, Roads Editor/Publisher Michael Hanlon was invited to be a historical consultant for the U.S. Postal Service on a series of commemorative  stamps honoring Distinguished American Soldiers.  Alvin York and John Hines were the World War I  selections for that series. This article is taken from  some of the material developed for that project. The  Hines issue is shown above with the insignia of the  4th (Ivy) Division, which he had commanded before leading the III Corps in the AEF's last offensive.

John Leonard Hines was born in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, on 21 May 1868. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1891, commissioned a second  lieutenant, and assigned to the 2nd Infantry.  At the start of his four decades of military service, Hines performed troop and staff duties on the  frontier in Nebraska and Montana from 1891 to 1898.

After serving as acting quartermaster of the 2nd Infantry in the Cuba expedition and participating in the famous action at San Juan Hill, he filled a number of quartermaster positions in the U.S., Cuba, and the Philippines, and served as a military representative in Nagasaki, Japan, where, in 1908 he crossed paths with his future mentor and champion, John J. Pershing. In 1914 he was assigned under Pershing, then commander of the 8th Infantry Brigade at the Presidio of San Francisco. Pershing's brigade was subsequently deployed to the Mexican border, and the taciturn, but hard-charging Hines served as his adjutant during the Punitive Expedition into Mexico (1916–1917). 

The United States entered World War I while Hines was serving at Governors Island, New York, and Pershing quickly invited him to join his initial entourage to travel to France and plan the expeditionary force. They sailed on SS Baltic in June 1917. His first assignment was as assistant quartermaster of the AEF, but when Pershing asked what he wanted to do, Hines requested a combat command. His rise from that point was nothing less than meteoric. Recently made lieutenant colonel, by October he was colonel commanding the 16th Infantry. The following April he was promoted to brigadier, commanding the 1st Brigade, 1st Division at Cantigny and Soissons. Impressed with his work, Pershing then gave him another star and command of the 4th Division during the St. Mihiel Offensive and the opening stage of the Meuse-Argonne operation. Yet, Hines's greatest moment was yet to come. 

MG John Hines with His 4th Division Staff

With his expeditionary force expanding explosively, Pershing delegated command of  the U.S. First Army to Hunter Liggett and named Hines commander of its III Corps. Assuming command on 15 October 1915,  Liggett needed to reorganize the First Army—which was bogged down in the heights of the Argonne Forest—and develop a new offensive scheme on the fly. Having served  with Hines in the 1st Division, Liggett knew of his quality and was confident enough in  his abilities to entrust Hines with a major  role in the last stage of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. 

In early November 1918, III Corps forced the River Meuse at Dun-sur-Meuse and  flooded across. Called a "secondary attack"  in most sources, III Corps's operation was  strategically important, especially if—as  everyone at the time had anticipated—the  war extended into 1919. The success of  General Hines's force reoriented the main  axis of attack of the entire AEF, and created an immediate threat toward the Rhineland,  thus setting up the further campaign to force  Germany from the war. Had the war  continued, Hines surely would have played a  large role in the anticipated offensives—but the Armistice came.

General Hines Chief-of-Staff Portrait

John Hines is best remembered today as the fastest rising star of the American Expeditionary Forces. He was promoted  from major to lieutenant colonel in May 1917, then to colonel, brigadier general, and,  in August 1918, to major general—four grades in 16 months, assuming successively  larger commands—from regiment to brigade,  division, and, finally, corps. Hines served the  U.S. Army with distinction for more than 40 years in a full range of line, staff, and combat positions, and he ultimately advanced to the  highest position in the Army succeeding  General Pershing as chief of staff in 1924. He died on 13 October 1968, aged 100. 

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