Major General Eli Alva Helmick

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Major General Eli Alva Helmick

Birthdate: (81)
Birthplace: Quaker, Vermillion County, Indiana, United States
Death: January 13, 1945 (81)
Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States
Place of Burial: Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Hiram Teter Helmick and Matilda Ann Helmick
Husband of Elizabeth Allen Helmick
Father of Major General Charles Gardiner Helmick

Managed by: Tamás Flinn Caldwell-Gilbert
Last Updated:

About Major General Eli Alva Helmick

Eli Alva Helmick graduated from the United States Military Academy atWest Point in 1888. He also graduated from the Army School of the Linein 1909 and the Army War College in 1910. He also recieved an LLD fromKansas State Agricultural College. Eli was commissioned a second lieutenant on 11 June 1888 and waspromoted to the rank of Brigadier on 5 March 1921. He retired at therank of Major General and as Inspector of the Army on 27 September1927. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Biography from the Fort Sam Houston Museum An 1888 graduate of West Point, Helmick began his career as anInfantry Officer in the 4th Infantry where one of his duties was tocommand an Indian Scout Company. During the War with Spain, he servedin Cuba with the10th Infantry and as Engineer Officer of the 2ndBrigade, 1st Division in Shafter’s V Corps. He continued his servicewith the 10th in the Occupation of Cuba and in the Philippines. Aftera stint of recruiting duties, Helmick was sent to Germany to observethe training of a German garrison. Returning to the 10th Infantryafter graduating from the Army School of the Line and War College,Helmick was assigned as brigade adjutant in the Maneuver Division atFort Sam Houston in 1911. Assigned to the 2nd Division on the TexasCoast, he developed an inspection and training evaluation program forthe Division. He served next as a battalion commander on the MexicanBorder with the 27th and 28th Infantry. In September 1916, he became the Inspector General on the staff ofFrederick Funston, Southern Department commander, then InspectorGeneral of the Southeastern Department then an inspector general inthe Office of the Inspector General itself. He developed an effectivesystem to completely inspect an infantry regiment in three dayswithout wasting any of the soldiers time. This system was published asa guide for other inspectors general. His exceptional performence ledto his promotion to major general in 1918 and appointment to commandthe 8th Division. Overseas in World War I, he was awarded theDistinguished Service Medal for his management of the huge BaseSection Number 5 at Brest. In 1921 he was appointed as InspectorGeneral of the Army. Spanish American War Centennial Website Lt. Eli Al. Helmick of the 10th U. S. Infantry Writes Home Just Before the Battle of San Juan Hill Contributed by Florence West General: The following notes were written by Eli Helmick just before the 10thU.S. Infantry took part in the action at San Juan Hill, on the farwest end of the line. Helmick eventually became a major general in theU. S. Army, and Inspector General of the U. S, Army from 1921 to 1927.The text is interesting in that it shows the feeling and attitude justbefore the battle. The Letter: June 30th: It is the night before the battle, and I am writinghurriedly for it is late, and we are to get out early tomorrowmorning. No one knows what will take place tomorrow, but that we willdo something seems certain. The men are singing and raising a greatracket; you would not think to hear them that we are on the eve of apossible battle. Curiously, I do not feel at all nervous or excited. July 1st: The regiment broke camp at 6:45 o’clock, A.M., and advancedslowly along the road to the front. We could hear firing to ourright. It was Lawton at El Caney. About 11 o’clock A.M. we haltedopposite one of our batteries which was firing on a Spanish positionto our right and front. Shells from the Spanish field guns came closeover our heads, or certainly seemed to do so. I was mounted on Sport,my big bay horse, and for once I would like to have been on a pony. Ihoped the colonel would dismount, but he did not, and I could not.The Spanish shells were falling to the rear of our battery positionwhere an old gray mule was quietly browsing about, not the leastdisturbed by the shells. How I envied his quiet unconcern. It was myfirst experience under hostile fire, and I must confess I was nervous. Lt. Eli Al. Helmick of the 10th U. S. Infantry And Life Aboard the Transport Alamo Contributed by Florence West General: Lt. Eli Helmick served with the 10th U. S. Infantry. The followingaccount, taken from his handwritten autobiography, tells of lifeaboard the transport ALAMO and the landings in Cuba. Lt. Helmick's Account: Naturally the destination of the expedition had not been made known tothe command. So, as we sat in groups under the ship’s awning, orstrolled around deck, gazing at the ships ahead and to the rear of us,we were free to suggest ports we might be headed for and to discussthe advantages and defects of each. There were three of these portsthat had their champions in this irresponsible discussion; namely,Havana, San Juan, or some other port on Porto Rico, and Santiago. Asthe fleet only moved from five to seven knots an hour there was ampletime for these and endless other discussions concerning our greatadventure. For the first day or two there were only four or five gunboats to guard the fleet, and we wondered what would be the resultshould a daring Spanish torpedo boat charge in on us; but in a day ortwo other naval crafts joined the convoy and we concluded that anattempt on the fleet might give us some relief from the monotony thatwas beginning to pall on us. We trusted our convoy. The ALAMO, on which we were billeted, had a number of pontoon boats ondeck; therefore we reasoned that we would be among the first todisembark and have a go at the Spaniards. I little dreamed the thatthese same pontoons were to be used to keep the bare feet of Garcia’sragged soldiers from getting wet embarking for the battlefield, andthat they would be instrumental in my being among the very last to getashore. On the 15th we turned east through the Nicholas Channel and we knew wewere not going to Havana. On the 19th we rounded Cape Maysi, endingall uncertainty as to our destination. On the 20th we arrived infront of Santiago, just two months from the day we left our station(Fort Reno, Oklahoma). From one of my letters, dated June 20, 8 o’clock, P.M. I take thefollowing: “We are lying in front of Santiago. The Headquarters shipSehuranca, with General Shafter aboard, visited the American fleet infront of Santiago Bay about 10 o’clock, A.M. to consult with AdmiralSampson, and has not yet returned. In the meantime, the transportshave been lying off shore all day rolling about in the heavy swell ofthe Caribbean sea.” Again on June 21st, “We have done nothing allday but float about in front of Santiago, just within sight of land.You can imagine the growling and complaining and restlessness onboard.” Then June 23rd, “Still floundering on the Caribbean swells;never the less, it has been a day of exciting incidents. I went ondeck about 5 o’clock A.M. and found we were near land. Between us andthe coast were several gunboats and cruisers. We soon reached thegeneral rendezvous and all ships began to move shore – ward toward asmall mining village with no harbor, but with a steel dock leading outto ore chutes for loading iron ore into steamers. The name of thevillage is Daiquiri (pronounced Di – ki – ree). The disembarkation commenced at once; the men being discharged intoship’s boats, to be towed in strings of half a dozen or so by steamlaunches. We hoped to be among the first to land, but weredisappointed. West Point Association of Graduates The death of General Helmick brought to a close a long anddistinguished career. His first American parental ancestor, Peter Helmick (hisgreat-great-grandfather), of Chesterfield Court House, Virginia,fought in the Revolutionary War. His great-grandfather, Jacob Helmick,of Hampshire County, Virginia, moved to Warren County, Ohio, in 1805,and fought in the War of 1812. His grandfather. Eli Helmick, was aMethodist Episcopal Preacher, Deacon and Elder of the Church from 1843to 1888. General Helmick’s father, Hiram Teter Helmick, by professiona doctor, married Matilda Anne Sargeant and moved shortly after hismarriage from his father's home in Decatur, Ohio, to Cherokee County,Kansas. General Helmick's mother was a descendant of an early Virginiasettler, dating back to the Revolutionary War, and whose descendantsmigrated to North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania. Indiana, and Kansas.All branches of the Helmick family were devout Methodists,teetotalers, industrious, and ambitious. General Helmick was born in Indiana in 1863. At the age of 16 hisfather and mother both died within three months of one another. At theage of 17 he entered the Kansas State Agricultural College atManhattan. Kansas, and while serving as a sergeant in the Cadet Corpsof this College, was appointed to the United States Military Academy,from which he graduated in 1888. General Helmick married Elizabeth Allen Clarke, of South Carolina in1889. Mrs. Helmick was a descendant of a long line of New Englandfounders and settlers. Upon graduation from the United States Military Academy, he wasassigned to the Infantry. He served as a Second Lieutenant In the11th, 4th, 6th, and 2nd Infantry, and as a First Lieutenant in the10th Infantry. He was a Captain in the 15th and 10th Infantry. He waspromoted to the grade of Major in 1911. and was detailed to theInspector General's Department in May of that year. Upon completion ofthe four year tour In the Inspector General's Department he wasassigned to the 27th and later to the 28th Infantry. He was promotedto the grade of Lieutenant Colonel the 1st of July, 1916, and wasagain detailed to the Inspector General’s Department in September. Hewas promoted to the grade of Colonel in May, 1917, while in theInspector General’s Department. He was appointed a Brigadier Generalin December, 1917, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War.He was appointed a Major General the 8th of August, 1918, and wasassigned to Command the 8th Infantry Division. He was appointed apermanent Brigadier General of the Army the 5th of March, 1921, andappointed Inspector General of the Army with the rank of Major Generalthe 17th of November 1921. He was retired 27 September 1927. General Helmick showed outstanding qualities from the beginning of hisMilitary career and was repeatedly commended for his various servicesby his Commanding Officers. As he progressed through the grades, heshowed outstanding qualities of character, energy, good judgment,moral courage, attention to duty, and fairness in handling hissubordinates. He was highly commended by General J. H. Wilson,Commanding the Department of Mamatanzas and Santa Clara, Cuba, for hiswork as Inspector General and Engineer Officer. General Wilson statedthat this officer was "methodical, attentive to his duties, capable,had excellent judgment and was sure to rise to distinction in theservice". Shortly thereafter General Helmick was in Command of aProvisional Battalion of the Regular Army in the Philippine Islandsunder Major General Samuel S. Sumner, during active operations againstMoros near Ianao, Mindanao. General Sumner wrote the War Department ofGeneral Helmick’s service as follows: “In the event of furtherorganization of the Companies of Philippine Scouts into Battalions andthe assignment to command thereof with rank of Major of Captains ofthe Regular Army, I have the honor to recommend for such assignmentCaptain Eli A. Helmick, 10th Infantry. I knew Captain Helmick as alieutenant and he served under me in the field in the PhilippineIslands as commander of a Provisional Battalion. From my personalknowledge, I unhesitatingly recommend him as well qualified for theposition and I am sure that his assignment would be a benefit to theorganization and to the service.” General Helmick was a distinguished graduate of the Army School of theLine in 1909 and a graduate of the Army War College in 1910. Upon the completion of his first tour of duty with the InspectorGeneral’s Department, the then Inspector General, General Garlingtonstated in a letter of commendation: "The varied. Important andcomplicated cases submitted to you for Investigation have always beenexamined Into with zeal, industry and discretion; your judgmentsthereon have disclosed close reasoning with fair, fearlessconclusions. On the military side, your inspection of troops evinced apractical knowledge of the reasonable standard which our troops shouldattain". During General Helmick’s second tour in the InspectorGeneral’s Department, war was declared against Germany in April, 1917.He was selected by the then Inspector General, General Chamberlain, tobe one of three high ranking Inspector Generals to inspect all of theMilitary activities of the Army in preparation for the war effort.During the first year General Helmick personally inspected RegularArmy, National Guard, and National Army Divisions and the variousactivities of the Ordnance, Medical, Engineers, Signal, and theQuartermaster Corps. General Helmick had arrived in France with theadvanced elements of his Division which was enroute overseas when theArmistice was declared in November, 1918. Subsequently, he acceptedthe position of Commanding General, Base Section No. 5, France, whichbecame the largest Port of Embarkation for the returning troops fromFrance. Shortly after his return to the United States, he was madeInspector General of the Army, in which position he served withdistinction until his retirement. As a result of his distinguished service during World War I, he wasawarded the Distinguished Service Medal, and the Silver Star Citation.General Helmick was also awarded the French Legion of Honor and theMedal of Honor from the Italian Government. He was awarded an L.L.D.degree by the Kansas State Agricultural College in 1920. After his retirement. General Helmick identified himself with civicactivities in the District of Columbia,-was prominently mentioned forDistrict Commissioner, was the President of the Cathedral HeightsCitizens Association, and a member of the Citizens Special Committeeon Zoning. He died in Honolulu, Hawaii, January 13, 1945, at the age of 81. Hewas survived by his widow. Mrs. Elizabeth A. Helmick, now living inHonolulu; a daughter, Mrs. Forrest Pinkerton of Honolulu; and twosons, Brigadier General C. G. Helmick, who at the time of his father’sdeath was commanding the 5th Corps Artillery of the 1st Army inFrance; and Lieutenant G. R. Helmick, Retired, manager of the Wahiawa,Oahu, branch of the Bishop National Bank. Few officers have shown greater devotion to duty or a keenerperception of right and wrong than General Helmick. He lived avigorous, determined life. He was thoughtful and considerate of hissubordinates and exacted the best from them; his loyalty to hisfriends was unbounded, to his superiors unflinching. He inspired manya young officer to be a better man. His fearless character, histhorough knowledge of his profession, his keen understanding, hisdevotion to duty, his loyalty to his friends and his family marked himas a great soldier, and an unusually fine gentleman.

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Major General Eli Alva Helmick's Timeline

1863
September 27, 1863
Quaker, Vermillion County, Indiana, United States
1892
July 7, 1892
Age 28
Coeur d'Alene, Kootenai County, Idaho, United States
1945
January 13, 1945
Age 81
Honolulu, Honolulu County, Hawaii, United States
????
Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, United States