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Gen Brehon Burke Somervell

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Gen Brehon Burke Somervell

  • Birth 9 May 1892 Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas, USA
  • Death 13 Feb 1955 Ocala, Marion County, Florida, USA
  • Burial Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA
  • Plot Section 2, Lot 4946
  • Memorial ID 6812883

US Army General. Nicknamed "Bill" he rose in rank to become the Commanding General of the US Army Service Forces, and was responsible for the US Army's logistics during World War II. He is probably best remembered as the planner for the construction of the Pentagon building that began in September 1941 and was completed in January 1943. His father was a physician and his mother served as a schoolteacher and they both founded Belcourt Seminary, a girls' finishing school in Washington DC in 1906. In 1910 he received an appointment to attend the US Military Academy at West Point, New York and graduated in 1910 with a commission as a 2nd lieutenant in the US Army Corps of Engineers. In 1916 he served in the Mexican Punitive Expedition (also known as the Pancho Villa Expedition). When the US entered World War I in April 1917, he was attending Engineer School, and was promoted to the rank of captain the following month and helped to organize the 15th Engineers, a rail transport unit at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was then sent to France to work in various construction projects. HE was soon promoted to the rank of major and lieutenant colonel and assigned as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations of the 89th Division. Following the German surrender in November 1918, he remained in Europe and served as Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics for the US 3rd Army. In 1920 he returned to the US and was assigned to the Chief of Engineers in Washington DC. After attending the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, he returned to Germany to study navigation of the Rhine and Danube Rivers for the League of Nations. In 1925 he returned to the US and attended the US Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and after completing his studies in 1926, he became the District Engineer in Washington DC. In September 1930 he transferred to the Lower Mississippi Valley Division as Assistant Engineer and the following year he became Chief Engineer of the Memphis District in Tennessee. In 1933 he traveled to Turkey to perform an economic survey, then returned to the US the following yeas and became the District Engineer for Ocala, Florida. In August 1935 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and placed in charge of the Works Project Administration in New York City, New York and while in that position, he began the construction for LaGuardia Airport. In December 1940 he was placed in charge of the Construction Division of the US Army Quartermaster Corps and promoted to the rank of temporary brigadier general the following month and during this time he oversaw the construction of numerous projects, including Army camps for new draftees and facilities to hold stores and munitions, in preparation for World War II. In February 1941 he was promoted to the permanent rank of brigadier general and the following July he embarked on his biggest project ever, the construction of the enormous office complex to house the War Department's 40,000-person staff in one facility. After the US entered World War II in December 1941, the construction project became more urgent and by May 1942, 13,000 personnel were working around the clock on the facility and it was finally completed in January 1943. In January 1942 he was promoted to the rank of major general and became the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics in the War Department, Washington DC and three months later to the temporary rank of lieutenant general and became the Commanding General for the newly created US Army Services of Supply, which became the Army Service Forces, and he remained in that position until his retirement in April 1946 with 32 years of continuous military service. Among his military and foreign decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal (with two oak leaf clusters), the Legion of Merit (with one oak leaf cluster), the Mexican Service Medal, the World War I Victory Medal (with two battle Clasps), the post-World War I Army of Occupation of Germany Medal, the American Defense Service Medal, the American Campaign Medal, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with three service stars), the World War II Victory Medal, the post-World War II Army of Occupation Medal, the Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, the French Legion de Honneur (Grand Officer), the French Croix de guerre (with Palm), the Chinese Order of Yun Hui, Grand Cross, and the Panamanian Medal of La Solidaridad. Following his military retirement, he became president of Koppers, a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based corporation that was involved in the coal mining industry, until 1955. He died from a heart attack at this home at the age of 63. The USAV logistics vessel General Brehon B. Somervell was named in his honor.

Bio by: William Bjornstad

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bill Heneage
  • Added: 30 Sep 2002
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6812883
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Gen Brehon Burke Somervell (9 May 1892–13 Feb 1955), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6812883, citing Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .