Bernard William Rogers
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1943
Engagements: • World War II (1941 - 1945)• Korean War (1950 - 1953)• Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)
Bernard William Rogers
Bernard William Rogers was born in Fairview, KS, on 16 July 1921. He spent a year at Kansas State University before receiving an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy in 1940, where he was First Captain of the Corps of Cadets. He graduated in June 1943 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant of Infantry.
He was assigned to the 275th Infantry, 70th Infantry Division, and attended the Officer Basic Course at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, GA. Rogers was promoted to temporary First Lieutenant in December 1943, and returned to West Point as an instructor of Economics, Government, and History, from 1944-46. He received a promotion to temporary Captain in February 1945. Rogers married Ann Ellen Jones in 1944.
Post-World War II and Korea
During 1946-47 he served as aide to the High Commissioner to Austria and to the Commander of the Sixth U.S. Army, General Mark Clark. In 1947 he attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1950 (he was later awarded an MA in the same subjects). During his time at Oxford he was promoted to permanent Captain.
Following graduation from Oxford, he was Aide to the Chief of Army Field Forces from 1950 to 1951, and was promoted to temporary Major in July 1951. He graduated from the Advanced Course at the Infantry School in 1952. Rogers was then deployed to the Korean War where he Commanded the 3d Battalion, 9th Infantry from 1952-53. He was promoted to temporary Lieutenant Colonel in August 1953. During 1953-54, he was Aide to the Commander-in-Chief and Staff Intelligence Officer of the United Nations and Far East Commands.
Rogers returned to the U.S. and graduated from the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS, in 1955. He next commanded the 1st Battalion, 23d Infantry from 1955-56, and served in the Coordination Division, Office of the Chief of Staff from 1956-58. This was followed by duty as Executive and Senior Aide to the Chief of Staff in 1958-59. In 1959 he was promoted to permanent Major in January and to temporary Colonel in September. He was then selected to attend the Army War College and graduated in 1960.
He next Commanded the 1st Battle Group, 19th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division in Europe from 1960 to 1961. His next assignment in the Division was as Chief of Staff and he also served as Chief of the Troop Operation Branch, Operations Division, U.S. Army, Europe during 1961-62. From 1962-66, Rogers was Military Assistant and Executive Officer to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Maxwell D. Taylor.
Vietnam War Era
Rogers was promoted to permanent Lieutenant Colonel in January 1964 and to temporary Brigadier General in October 1966. He became the Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam operations from 1966-67. While serving in that position, Rogers was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross-the Army's second highest award for valor after the Medal of Honor-for leading a successful counterattack against a Vietcong raid on a South Vietnamese special forces camp. He rallied troops on the ground and personally scouted enemy positions from a low-flying helicopter under heavy fire.
He returned to West Point as the Commandant of Cadets from 1967 to 1969; he was promoted to permanent Colonel in June 1968. He was chosen for Division Command, commanding the 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized); he also Commanded Fort Carson, CO, from 1969 to 1970. At a time of falling morale, he made sweeping changes in the daily routine of soldiers by abolishing kitchen duty (KP), reveille, roll call and Friday night "GI parties," in which soldiers scrubbed the barracks for Saturday inspections. He established councils for junior officers, enlisted men and racial minorities to express their concerns and set up a Greenwich Village-style coffeehouse, complete with folk singers. Old-line officers were aghast, but enlistments soared, and General Rogers became known as one of the brightest thinkers in the Army. He was promoted to temporary Major General in February 1970 and to permanent Brigadier General in August 1971.
While serving as Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel of the Army from 1972-74, he was promoted to temporary Lieutenant General in November 1972 and to permanent Major General in June 1973.
He was promoted to temporary four-star General in November 1974, and was chosen to Command the U.S. Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, GA, from 1974 to 1976. Following this assignment, he was selected to be Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, a post he held from 1 October 1976, until 21 June 1979. Some highlights of his tenure include supervising the Army's move to a 24-division, all-component force; establishing priorities for near-term readiness, midterm modernization, and long-term sustainability; and suggesting a limited draft to fill the Individual Ready Reserve. He also took steps to make the Army more friendly toward women and minorities, calling on commanders to "eliminate any discriminatory handling of soldiers."
He was appointed Supreme Allied Commander, North Atlantic Treaty Organization in July 1979. When the Reagan administration signed a treaty with the Soviet Union requiring each side to withdraw intermediate-range missiles from Europe, General Rogers called the agreement "foolish." He said the Warsaw Pact's superiority in foot soldiers and conventional weapons left NATO forces at risk of being quickly overrun. His stance drew a pointed rebuke in 1987 from Secretary of State George P. Shultz, who called the general's comments "way out of line." General Rogers retired from active service shortly thereafter, in June 1987.
Medals, Awards and Badges
Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross Citation
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, July 9, 1918 (amended by act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Brigadier General Bernard William Rogers (ASN: 0-25867), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam, while serving with Headquarters, 1st Infantry Division. Brigadier General Rogers distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 10 March 1967 while serving as Assistant Division Commander, 1st Infantry Division during a Viet Cong attack on a Vietnamese Special Forces camp at Cau Song Be. Upon being notified that the Vietnamese camp was under attack, he immediately flew to the area. General Rogers made several low helicopter passes over the besieged camp, despite intense hostile fire, to investigate the strength and disposition of the Viet Cong forces. He alerted nearby artillery and aircraft bases and then landed in the beleaguered camp amidst an enemy mortar barrage. He conferred with the ground commander, assessed the battle situation, and mapped a plan of defense. Exposing himself constantly to the insurgents' fire, he supervised the positioning of the defenders on the perimeter and adjusted artillery and air strikes. General Rogers' willingness to risk his life for the Vietnamese soldiers and their camp inspired the men to fight with renewed vigor. Returning to his helicopter, he made additional passes over the area to further assess the situation and to ensure that the Viet Cong positions had not changed. Flying at extremely low levels, he accurately marked the enemy concentrations with smoke grenades to aid incoming support aircraft in locating their targets. However, the fighter pilots were unable to see the smoke well enough because of the darkness and dense jungle foliage. General Rogers directed his pilot to maneuver over the insurgents at minimum altitude while the door gunner marked the targets with tracer rounds from his machine gun, enabling the supporting aircraft to inflict heavy casualties on the enemy. When the Viet Cong broke contact and began to retreat, General Rogers directed additional air strikes on them, inflicting further casualties. His dynamic leadership, outstanding tactical ability and unparalleled courage were responsible for the overwhelming defeat of the insurgent forces. Brigadier General Rogers' extraordinary heroism and devotion to duty were in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, U.S. Army, Vietnam, General Orders No. 4124 (August 14, 1967)
After his retirement in 1987, he was a director of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Atlantic Council of the United States. He served on the boards of the USO and the Association of the U.S. Army and was a consultant and director to several companies, including Coca-Cola and General Dynamics.
• Honorary Director of The Atlantic Council of the United States
• Sat on the Association of the United States Army's Council of Trustees
• Honorary Fellow of University College, Oxford University
• Member of the Council on Foreign Relations of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity
• Patron Councilor of the Atlantic Council of the U.S.
• Distinguished Service Citation, Honorary Alumni Citees, University of Kansas Alumni Association 1984
• H.H. Arnold Award, Air Force Association, 1985
• Distinguished Graduate Award, USMA Association of Graduates, 1995
• George C. Marshall Medal, United States Army Association, 1999
Personal Notes About the General
General Rogers, who spent 44 years in uniform, had an unusual combination of talents as a combat commander, intellectual and statesman. While addressing a NATO conference in 1979 the former Rhodes scholar said, "One cannot help but to be impressed -- perhaps depressed is the better word -- by the folly, futility and waste of war as a means of resolving man's problems."
Despite his charmed career, General Rogers was eager to leave the bureaucratic labyrinth of the Pentagon behind when he assumed his NATO post in Belgium. "You've heard that phrase from a country song that goes: 'Happiness is Lubbock, Texas, in the rearview mirror'?" he said. "Well, for me, happiness is the Pentagon in the rearview mirror."
General Rogers could be "suave and poised and intimidating," Major General Dewitt C. Smith once said, but he was also known to break into song on occasion, with Frank Sinatra's "My Way" a particular favorite.
Death and Burial
General Bernard William Rogers died on 27 October 2008 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Fairfax, Virginia, after suffering a heart attack. He is buried at the United States Military Academy Post Cemetery in West Point, Orange County, New York.
Survivors include his wife of 63 years, Ann E. Rogers of McLean; three children, retired Army Colonel Michael W. Rogers of Manassas, Diane Opperman of Arlington and Susan Kroetch of Alexandria; a sister; a brother; six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
|Honoree ID: 314||Created by: MHOH|