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About Walter Krueger
Walter Krueger (26 January 1881 – 20 August 1967) was an American soldier of German descent and General in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his command of the Sixth United States Army in the South West Pacific Area during World War II. He was the first soldier to rise from the rank of Private to General in the United States Army.
Education and early life
Walter Krueger was born in Flatow, West Prussia (German Empire) (since 1945 Złotów, Poland), the son of Julius Krüger, a Prussian landowner who had served as an officer in the Franco-Prussian War, and his wife, Anna, formerly Hasse. Following Julius's death, Anna and her three children emigrated to the United States to be near her uncle in St. Louis, Missouri. Walter was then eight years old. After Anna remarried, the family settled in Madison, Indiana.
Early military service
On 17 June 1898, Krueger, along with many of his fellow high-school students, enlisted for service in the Spanish-American War with the 2nd Volunteer Infantry. He reached Santiago de Cuba a few weeks after the Battle of San Juan Hill. Mustered out of the volunteers in February 1899, he returned home to Ohio planning to be a civil engineer.
However, many of his comrades were re-enlisting for service in the Philippine-American War and in June 1899 Krueger re-enlisted as a private in M Company of the 12th Infantry. Soon he was on his way to fight Emilio Aguinaldo's Insurrectos as part of Major General Arthur MacArthur, Jr.'s 2nd Infantry Division. He took part in the advance from Angeles City to Tarlac City, Aguinaldo's capital. But Aguinaldo had fled, and the 12th Infantry pursued him vainly all the way through Luzon's central plain to Dagupan City.
While serving in an infantry unit in the Philippines, he was promoted to sergeant. On July 1, 1901, he was commissioned a second lieutenant and posted to the 30th Infantry on Marinduque.
Krueger returned to the United States with the 30th Infantry in December 1903. In September 1904, he married Grace Aileen Norvell, whom he had met in the Philippines. They had three children: James Norvell (July 29, 1905-December, 1964), Walter Jr (April 25, 1910-February 15, 1997) and Dorothy Jane, born on January 24, 1913. Both James and Walter Jr attended the United States Military Academy, James graduating with the class of 1926 and Walter Jr. with the class of 1931. Dorothy married an Army officer, Aubrey D. Smith.
In 1904, Krueger attended and graduated from the Infantry-Cavalry School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, followed by the General Staff College in 1907. After a second tour in the Philippines, he was assigned to Department of Languages at Fort Leavenworth as an instructor in Spanish and German, which he could speak fluently, along with French and English. Not only was Krueger an expert on discipline and training, he was also a noted military historian and scholar of military affairs. He published translations of several German military texts, most notably William Balck's Tactics.
With the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Krueger was offered a post as an observer with the German Army but was forced to turn it down due to familial commitments. Instead, he was posted to the 10th Infantry Regiment of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. The regiment was mobilized on 23 June 1916 and served along the Mexican border for five months as part of the Mexican Punitive Expedition under General John J. Pershing, although no Guard units fought Mexican troops. The unit was mustered out in October 1916.
After the United States commenced hostilities in World War I, Krueger became Assistant Chief of Staff G-3 (Operations) of the U.S. 84th Infantry Division at Camp Zachary Taylor. He became its chief of staff, with the rank of Major as of 5 August 1917. In February 1918, he was sent to Langres to attend the American Expeditionary Force General Staff School. In May 1918, all officers whose division was not under orders for France were ordered to return home but Krueger stayed on as G-3 of the 26th Infantry Division. Apparently the French Army requested that Krueger be sent home due to his German origin and Krueger was re-posted to the 84th Division, but he soon returned, as it embarked for France in August 1918. In October 1918, he became Chief of Staff of the Tank Corps. Following the end of the war, Krueger was assistant chief of staff of VI and IV Corps on occupation duty, advancing to the rank of temporary colonel. For his service in France, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919.
With the end of the war, Krueger reverted to his permanent rank of captain on 30 June 1920 but was promoted to the permanent rank of major the next day. After periods at the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia, and in command of the 55th Infantry Regiment at Camp Funston, Kansas, Krueger attended the Army War College, graduating in 1921, and remaining for a year as an instructor. From 1922 to 1925, he served in the War Plans Division of the U.S. Army General Staff. In 1927 he tried to transfer to the United States Army Air Corps but his flight instructor, Lieutenant Claire Lee Chennault flunked him. Krueger graduated from the Naval War College in 1926, and from 1928 to 1932 he was an instructor there.
Krueger commanded the 6th Infantry at Jefferson Barracks from 1932 to 1934, then returned to the War Plans Division, becoming chief of the division in May 1936. He was promoted to temporary Brigadier General in October 1936. In June 1938, Krueger went to Fort George G. Meade as commander of the 16th Infantry Brigade. He was promoted to temporary Major General in February 1939, commanded the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Sam Houston rising in October 1939 to the command of VIII Corps.
World War II
In May 1941, Krueger was promoted to temporary Lieutenant General, in command of the U.S. Third Army and the Southern Defense Command, a post he held for more than a year after the U.S entered World War II.
A month after the activation of the Sixth Army, in January 1943, Krueger took command of the army, based in Australia. He remained in command of the Sixth Army — which included in various combinations at different times I, X, XIV and XXIV Corps — throughout its combat duties. These included the assaults on Japanese positions on Kiriwina and Woodlark Islands (July 1943) as part of Operation Coronet; New Britain (December 1943-February 1944); Admiralty Islands (February–May 1944); mainland New Guinea (July–August 1944); Morotai (Netherlands East Indies, September–October 1944); Leyte and Mindoro (the Philippines, October–December 1944); and Luzon (January–February 1945).
In November 1943, Krueger formed a top secret ad hoc unit called the Alamo Scouts. Named for his beloved association with San Antonio, Texas, and the Alamo, Krueger envisioned that the Alamo Scouts, consisting of small teams of highly trained volunteers, would operate deep behind enemy lines to provide intelligence-gathering and tactical reconnaissance in advance of Sixth U.S. Army landing operations.
Krueger was promoted to temporary General (four-star) in March 1945. In September 1945, the Sixth Army took up occupation duty in Japan. In January 1946 it was deactivated and Krueger reverted to lieutenant general. However, he retired as a full general in July 1946.
Krueger retired to San Antonio, Texas, where he bought a house for the first time. In retirement, he wrote From Down Under to Nippon: the Story of the 6th Army In World War II, which was published in 1953.
His retirement was marred by family tragedies. His son James was dismissed from the Army in 1947 for conduct unbecoming an officer. Grace's health deteriorated and she died on 13 May 1956. In 1952, Dorothy fatally stabbed her husband, Colonel Aubrey Dewitt Smith, with a hunting knife while he slept in their Army quarters in occupied Japan. By six votes to three, a U.S. Army court-martial found her guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced her "to be confined at hard labor for the rest of her natural life" (a unanimous verdict of guilty would have made the death sentence mandatory). In 1955, the US Supreme Court ruled that military trials of civilians were unconstitutional, and Dorothy was released. The Supreme Court considered the issue of the jurisdiction of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to civilian dependents of service personnel stationed overseas and initially affirmed the conviction of Dorothy Krueger Smith in 1956, but reversed itself in 1957, overturning her conviction.
In 1962, Krueger Middle School was established in San Antonio, Texas.
Krueger died at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in 1967 and was buried in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery, among a number of family members.
Krueger was portrayed by actor Dale Dye in the 2005 war film The Great Raid, a little-known true story of the rescue of American POWs from the notorious Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp on Luzon.