Maj. General Orlando Ward

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Orlando Ward

Birthplace: Macon, Missouri
Death: Died in Denver, Colorado
Place of Burial: Denver County , Colorado
Immediate Family:

Son of Ethelbert Ward and Ada Ward

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Maj. General Orlando Ward

Orlando Ward (November 4, 1891 - February 4, 1972) was a career United States Army Officer. During World War II, as a Major General, he commanded the U.S. 1st Armored Division during Operation Torch (North Africa). He also served as Secretary to Army Chief of Staff George Marshall in the critical years prior to the war and made major contributions to field artillery procedures in the 1930s that, a decade later, made the American field artillery especially effective in World War II.

Early life and career

Orlando Ward graduated from West Point in 1914. His first assignment was as a lieutenant of black cavalry troops (E Troop of the 9th Cavalry Regiment) on border patrol in the wilds of Arizona and New Mexico. He later was part of Pershing's forces chasing Pancho Villa into Mexico. He was awarded the Mexican Service Medal for serving on this campaign.

Recognizing that the horse had a limited future, he became interested in artillery and changed to that branch of the Army. At the Second Battle of the Marne, under conditions that rendered other officers in charge useless, he took charge of the 2nd battalion of the U.S. 10th Field Artillery Regiment and kept the battalion effective until the tide of Germans was turned back. He was later awarded the Silver Star for his actions.

During the quiet period between the wars, he continued in field artillery, but was assigned posts like ROTC instructor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison (where Charles Lindbergh was one of his students). Eventually, he became an instructor at the United States Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, where he and others developed key Forward Observer procedures that made the United States artillery effective in the Second World War.

World War II

When the Army was in the critical time of building up for World War II, Ward was Secretary to Chief of Staff George Marshall, assisting in finding the resources to build the military while political forces were fighting to keep the United States out of the war and to help the United Kingdom. He worked closely there with Walter Bedell Smith and Omar Bradley.

He left that post (and was promoted major general) to become the second commander of the U.S. Army's 1st Armored Division. He supervised the deployment of his division across the Atlantic to North Africa, which was brought piecemeal (with a layover in Northern Ireland) as part of Operation Torch and subsequent operations. The failure of 1st Armored to arrive intact and deploy as a single entity would have important consequences in later action against German forces in Tunisia.

The 1st Armored's first action against the Germans was not promising, when Combat Command 'B' and other Allied forces were thrown back after an advance by German forces. On the night of 10–11 December 1942, during withdrawal from Medjez el Bab, the focal point of the enemy attack, scores of combat vehicles of the 1st Armored's Combat Command 'B' — tanks, half-tracks, and tank destroyers — had bogged down in thick mud and had to be abandoned. The tanks were so badly mired that the advancing Germans themselves could not extricate them. It was a crippling loss. In its brief experience in action, Combat Command 'B' had lost 32 medium and 46 light tanks. The combat vehicles that remained were in poor condition after their long overland journey to the front lines.

Kasserine Pass

At the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the first major battle between Americans and Germans during World War II, elements of the 1st Armored Division were sent reeling back by a series of sudden enemy offensive thrusts. The dispersal of the 1st Armored into separate combat commands across the front by British General Kenneth Anderson, with the connivance of his immediate superior, American General Lloyd Fredendall, had angered Ward from the start, as it greatly weakened the division's ability to repulse concentrations of German armor and to shift his forces in response to enemy thrusts (Fredendall was later relieved of command and replaced by George S. Patton). However, Ward also bore responsibility for his failure to consult British tank commanders on German panzer tactics and to disseminate that information to his subordinate commanders. As a consequence, elements of the 1st Armored Division at Faïd fell victim to one of Rommel's familiar tactics when they pursued German tanks feigning retirement into a screen of 88 mm high-velocity German anti-tank guns, resulting in large American armor losses.

End of the Tunisian campaign

After the rout at Kasserine, Patton at first counseled, then admonished Ward of the need for personal leadership of his division in order to keep German forces under pressure. Impatient with the progress of the 1st Armored, Patton took the unusual step of ordering General Ward to personally lead a night assault on the Meknessy Heights, a series of stubbornly defended knolls in front of the 1st Armored's lines. Ward obeyed the order, and the attack was initially successful. Wounded in the eye, he was awarded a Purple Heart, Silver Star, and later the Distinguished Service Cross. However, the stalemate east of Meknassy continued, and it appeared to Patton that Ward was still overcautious and too reluctant to incur casualties when conducting offensive operations. By 1 April 1943 the American offensive that had begun at El Guettar had bogged down against stiffened Axis defenses. With the concurrence of 18th Army Group commander General Harold Alexander, Patton finally relieved Ward of duty. Patton's actions were in keeping with Eisenhower's personal written instructions to him after General Fredendall was sacked: "You must not retain for one instant any man in a responsible position where you have become doubtful of his ability to do his job."

Ward was replaced with General Ernest Harmon, who had successfully intervened to remedy General Fredendall's inaction during the battles of Kasserine Pass. Ward was the only general relieved of his command by Patton during World War II. Returning to the United States, Ward was briefly Chief of Field Artillery before returning to a combat command late in the war with the U.S. 20th Armored Division operating in Bavaria.

Postwar career

After the war, Ward had two major assignments, first as head of the 6th Infantry Division in Korea (prior to the war there), and later as Chief of Military History, where he oversaw the production of the famous "Green Books," the official U.S. Army military history of World War II.

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Maj. General Orlando Ward's Timeline

November 4, 1891
Macon, Missouri
February 4, 1972
Age 80
Denver, Colorado
Denver County , Colorado