Probably one of the most poignant groups I have ever had the privilege to be the caretaker of, the grouping of General Lesley McNair. General McNair never received the accolades of other war time commanders who fought and lead during W.W.II. However, the important role he played in the Allied victory must always be remembered and cannot be overstated.
Serving as commander Army Ground Forces McNair is often referred to as the unsung architect of the U.S. Army playing a leading role in the organizational design, equipping, and training of Army units in the United States before they departed for overseas combat. He was known for his employment of realistic combat training and development of combined arms tactics that enabled the Army to modernize and perform successfully on the World War II battlefield.
In 1944 General McNair was ordered to the European theater to replace General Patton as commander of the First United States Army Group, which was purely a “paper only” army meant to divert the attention of the German high command from the D-Day landings. Once the deception had run its course many believe McNair would have gone on to command the 15th Army. However, tragedy struck while on the front lines during the carpet bombing leading up to operation Cobra, General McNair was killed by a direct bomb hit from friendly forces. Along with Frank Maxwell Andrews, Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr., and Millard Harmon, he was one of four American lieutenant generals who died in World War II
Tragedy again struck with the loss of the McNair’s only child Douglas. Douglas McNair was serving as chief of staff 77th Infantry Division with the rank of colonel. He was killed in action on the island of Guam on August 6, 1944. He died when two other 77th Division soldiers and he became involved in a skirmish with Japanese soldiers while scouting locations for a new division command post. Mrs. McNair learned of her son’s death just 12 days after the death of her husband.
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