About Peyton Conway March
Peyton Conway March (born December 27, 1864 in Easton, Pennsylvania – April 13, 1955) was an American soldier and Army Chief of Staff.
March was the son of Francis Andrew March, considered the principal founder of modern comparative linguistics in Anglo-Saxon and one of the first professors to advocate and teach English in colleges and universities. Peyton March attended Lafayette College, where his father occupied the first chair of English language and comparative philology in the United States. In 1884, he was appointed to West Point and graduated in 1888. He was assigned to the 3rd Artillery. As a student he was a brother of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Rho chapter).
He married Josephine Smith Cunningham (d. 1904) in 1891. They had a son, Peyton, Jr. (b. 1896), who was killed in a plane crash in Texas during World War I. March AFB in Riverside, California was named in young March's honor.
Early army career
In 1894, March was assigned to the 5th Artillery as a 1st lieutenant. He was sent to the Artillery School in 1896. He organized the Astor Battery (which was personally financed by John Jacob Astor IV) and commanded the battery when it was sent to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. After the battery returned from the Philippines in 1899, March was assigned as the aide to Major General Arthur MacArthur, Jr.. Later that year he was promoted to major. He continued to serve in the Philippines, and was a provincial governor and commissary of prisoners.
Historian Bruce Campbell Adamson has written about Henry Bidwell Ely (Adamson's great grandfather) who was placed in charge of The Astor Battery by John Jacob Astor, IV, to give Peyton March whatever he needed. March credit's Ely as having "an open check book" to purchase uniforms, mules and the cannons. (Source: The Life and Times of Captain George W. Ely,'1840-1922)
In 1903 he was sent to Fort Riley and commanded the 19th Battery of the Field Artillery. Later that year he was sent to Washington, D.C. and served on the newly created General Staff.
In 1904–1905, March was one of several American military attachés serving with the Imperial Japanese Army in the Russo-Japanese War. He would become one of eight observers who were later promoted to be generals in the U.S. Army.
In 1907, March commanded the 1st Battalion, 6th Field Artillery. March then served as adjutant of Fort Riley, Kansas and then served as adjutant at several other commands, including at the War Department.
In 1916, he was promoted to colonel and commanded the 8th Field Artillery Regiment on the Mexican border.
World War I and later
In June 1917, March was promoted to brigadier general and commanded the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, American Expeditionary Forces. Later that year, he was promoted to major general and commanded the artillery units of the U.S. First Army and all non-divisional artillery units.
In March 1918, he was recalled to Washington, took over as acting Army Chief of Staff on March 4 and was Army Chief of Staff on May 20, 1918. He was promoted to temporary general.
March was highly critical of President Wilson's decision to send an American Expedition to North Russia and Siberia in 1918 during the Russian Civil War (the so-called Siberian Intervention) ostensibly to prop-up the White movement war effort, secure the railroads, support the Czech Legion trapped there, and stop the Japanese from exploiting the chaos in order to colonize Siberia. March wrote after the pull-out of American forces in 1920:
“ The sending of this expedition was the last occasion in which the president reversed the recommendation of the War Department during my service as Chief of Staff of the Army... almost immediately after the Siberian and North Russian forces had reached their theaters of operations, events moved rapidly and uniformly in the direction of complete failure of these expeditions to accomplish anything that their sponsors had claimed for them.”
In 1919 March was admitted as an honorary member of the Virginia Society of the Cincinnati.
He served as Chief of Staff until June 30, 1921. As Chief of Staff he reorganized the Army structure, and abolished the distinctions between the Regular Army, the Army Reserves, and the Army National Guard during war time. He created new technical branches in the service including the United States Army Air Corps, Chemical Warfare Corps, Transportation Corps, and Tank Corps. He also centralized control over supply. After the war ended, he supervised the demobilization of the Army. As Chief of Staff he often came into disagreement with General John J. Pershing, who wanted to conduct the AEF as an independent command.
March retired as a major general in 1921. In 1923, he married Cora V. McEntee. In June 1930, March was advanced to general on the retired list.
March died on April 13, 1955 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
March was a highly efficient and capable administrator who did much to modernize the American Army and prepare it for combat in the First World War.