General Lyman Lemnitzer

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General Lyman Lemnitzer's Geni Profile

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Lyman Louis Lemnitzer

Birthdate: (89)
Birthplace: Honesdale, Pennsylvania
Death: November 12, 1988 (89)
Washington (kidney problems)
Place of Burial: Section 30-430 Map Grid Z/AA 39, Arlington Cemetery
Immediate Family:

Husband of Katherine Mead Tryon

Occupation: Army General
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About General Lyman Lemnitzer

Lyman Louis Lemnitzer (August 29, 1899 – November 12, 1988) was a United States Army general, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1960 to 1962. He then served as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO from 1963 to 1969.

Early life and education

Lemnitzer was born on August 29, 1899 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. He was raised Lutheran. He graduated from West Point in 1920 and was assigned at his request to a Coast Artillery unit. Lemnitzer served in the Philippines but soon began receiving the staff assignments that marked his military career.


Lemnitzer was promoted to brigadier general in June 1942 and assigned to General Eisenhower's staff shortly thereafter. He helped form the plans for the invasions of North Africa and Sicily and was promoted to major general in November 1944. Lemnitzer was one of the senior officers sent to negotiate the Italian fascist surrender during the secret Operation Sunrise and the German surrender in 1945.

Following the end of World War II, Lemnitzer was assigned to the Strategic Survey Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was later named Deputy Commandant of the National War College. In 1950, at the age of 51, he took parachute training and was subsequently placed in command of the 11th Airborne Division. He was assigned to Korea in command of the 7th Infantry Division in November 1951 and was promoted to lieutenant general in August 1952.

Lemnitzer was promoted to the rank of general and named commander of U.S. Army forces in the Far East and of the Eighth Army in March 1955. He was named Chief of Staff of the Army in July 1957 and appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September 1960. As Chairman, Lemnitzer weathered the Bay of Pigs crisis and the early years of American involvement in Vietnam. He was also required to testify before the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee about his knowledge of the activities of Major General Edwin Walker, who had been dismissed from the Army over alleged attempts to promote his political beliefs in the military.

Lemnitzer approved the plans known as Operation Northwoods in 1962, a proposed plan to discredit the Castro regime and create support for military action against Cuba by staging false flag genuine acts of terrorism and developing "a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington". Lemnitzer presented the plans to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962. It is unclear how McNamara reacted, but three days later President Kennedy told the general that there was no chance that America would take military action against Cuba. Within a few months, after the denial of Operation Northwoods, Lemnitzer was denied another term as JCS chairman. Author Richard Cottrell suspects Lemnitzer of the key role in the Kennedy assassination, out of revenge for the demotion and for being soft on communism.

In November 1962, Lemnitzer was appointed as commander of U.S. forces in Europe, and as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in January 1963 until July 1969. This period encompassed the Cyprus crisis of 1963–1964 and the withdrawal of NATO forces from France in 1966.

Later life and death

Lemnitzer retired from the military in July 1969. In 1975, President Ford appointed Lemnitzer to the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States (aka the Rockefeller Commission) to investigate whether the Central Intelligence Agency had committed acts that violated American laws and allegations that E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis (of Watergate fame) were involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.


Lemnitzer died on November 12, 1988 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Katherine Tryon Lemnitzer (1901–1994), is buried with him.

In popular culture

Lemnitzer was played by John Seitz in the 1991 Oliver Stone film, JFK.

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General Lyman Lemnitzer's Timeline

August 29, 1899
Honesdale, Pennsylvania
November 12, 1988
Age 89
Section 30-430 Map Grid Z/AA 39, Arlington Cemetery