Leonard Townsend Gerow
Engagements: • World War I (1914 - 1918)• Mexican Expedition (1916 - 1917)• World War II (1941 - 1945)
Leonard Townsend Gerow
Leonard Townsend Gerow was born on 13 July 1888 in Petersburg, VA. The name Gerow is derived from the French name "Giraud." Gerow graduated from high school in Petersburg. He then attended the Virginia Military Institute (VMI), where he was elected class president three times. He graduated as recipient of the "Honor Appointment" which, at the time, permitted one man in each VMI graduating class to become a Regular Army Second Lieutenant without further examination. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in the U.S. Army on 29 September 1911.
Prior to World War I, Gerow served in a series of assignments as a company grade officer in the Infantry. In 1915, he won commendation for his work in the hurricane that struck Galveston, TX, that year. He served in Veracruz in the Mexican Campaign. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on 1 July 1916 and to Captain on 15 May 1917.
From 16 January 1918 to 30 June 1920 (including during World War I) he served on the Signal Corps staff in France. He was Colonel (temporary) in charge of purchasing all the radio equipment for the AEF. For his service he earned the Distinguished Service Medal and French Legion of Honor.
After returning to the U.S. he was promoted to the permanent rank of Major on 1 July 1920. In the fall of 1924, he was ordered to attend the Advanced Course at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA; he graduated first in that class in 1925. (Interestingly, future General of the Army Omar N. Bradley graduated second in the class.) Gerow attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff school, where Dwight D. Eisenhower was his study partner, and graduated in 1926, ranking 11th in the class of 245. In 1931 he completed the Field Officer's Course in Chemical Warfare and Tanks and took a course at the Army War College.
In 1932 Gerow served in the Shanghai sector of China. On 1 August 1935, he was promoted to the permanent rank of Lieutenant Colonel; on 1 September 1940 he received the permanent rank of Colonel; and, on 1 October 1940 became a temporary Brigadier General.
World War II
Gerow was promoted to Major General on 14 February 1942 and became Commanding General of the 29th Infantry Division two days later. He received the Legion of Merit on 27 September 1943 for his work as a Division Commander and as Assistant Chief of Staff of the War Plans Division. He continued as commander of the division until 17 July 1943.
He took Command of V Corps, the largest unit of troops in the European Theater of Operations, on 17 July 1943. He played a major role in the planning of the invasion of continental Europe. He was the first corps commander ashore on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The V Corps was composed of two infantry divisions: the U.S. 29th Infantry Division and the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. His tenure as Commander of V Corps was from 17 July 1943 to 17 September 1944 and again from 5 October 1944 to 14 January 1945. General Gerow kept close to his advancing troops in V Corps. He was the first American officer of the rank of Major General to enter Paris after its liberation by the 2nd French Armored and U.S. 4th Infantry. For his part in this campaign, he was awarded the Silver Star.
Both Eisenhower and Bradley held Gerow in high regard and ranked him as one of the top U.S. field commanders of World War II. In a February 1945 memo, Dwight D. Eisenhower listed the principal American commanders in order of merit based on the value of their service during the war. Gerow was listed 8th of 32. In a letter to George Marshall on 26 April 1945 regarding commanders who might go on to serve in the Pacific, General Eisenhower commended General Omar Bradley most highly and then said: "In Europe there are other men who have been thoroughly tested as high combat commanders, including Simpson, Patch, Patton, Gerow, Collins, Truscott and others. Any one of these can successfully lead an Army in combat in the toughest kind of conditions."
Gerow was given command of U.S. Fifteenth Army on 15 January 1945. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 6 February 1945 with an effective date of 1 January 1945.
After the war, Gerow was appointed Commandant of the Army's Command and General Staff School. Gerow was placed in charge of a board which studied and proposed how Army colleges ought to be organized, post war. In February 1946, the Gerow Board recommended five separate colleges.
In January 1948 he was appointed Commanding General, U.S. Second Army. This was his last post and he retired from active duty in July 1950.
Gerow was appointed general on July 19, 1954 by special Act of Congress (Public Law 83-508). [Eleven lieutenant generals (including Gerow) were promoted to 4-star rank on 19 July 1954. Seven promotions were granted to living retirees; four were awarded posthumously.]
General Gerow's brother, Lee S. Gerow, also graduated from VMI, in 1913, and rose to the rank of Brigadier General in the U.S. Army.
Medals and Awards
Distinguished Service Medal with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
British Companion Order of the Bath
Death and Burial
General Leonard Townsend Gerow died on 12 October 1972. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 4, Lot 5634.
|Honoree ID: 232||Created by: MHOH|