Lyman Lemnitzer

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Lyman Lemnitzer
Lyman L. Lemnitzer.jpg
General Lyman Louis Lemnitzer, United States Army
Born(1899-08-29)August 29, 1899
Honesdale, Pennsylvania
DiedNovember 12, 1988(1988-11-12) (aged 89)
Washington, D.C.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1916–1969
Commands heldSupreme Allied Commander Europe
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Eighth Army
7th Infantry Division
11th Airborne Division
34th Coast Artillery Brigade
Battles/warsWorld War II
Korean War
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal (4)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit (2)
Other workRockefeller Commission

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 Europe of NATO from 1963 to 1969.

Early life and education[edit]

Lemnitzer was born on August 29, 1899 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. He was raised Lutheran,[1] and graduated from Honesdale High School in 1917. He then entered the United States Military Academy at West Point, from which he graduated in 1920 with a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Army Coast Artillery Corps.

Early career[edit]

Lemnitzer graduated from the Coast Artillery School in 1921, and then served at Fort Adams in Rhode Island and in the Philippines. He was an instructor at West Point from 1926 to 1930.

Lemnitzer served again in the Philippines from 1934 to 1935, and graduated from the United States Army Command and General Staff College in 1936. He was an instructor at the Coast Artillery School, and graduated from the United States Army War College in 1940.

At the start of World War II Lemnitzer served with the 70th Coast Artillery Regiment and then the 38th Coast Artillery Brigade. In May 1941, Lemnitzer, then a colonel, was assigned to the War Plans Division of the Army staff, and then to the staff of the Army Ground Forces.

World War II[edit]

Lemnitzer was promoted to brigadier general in June 1942 and commanded the 34th Coast Artillery Brigade. He was subsequently assigned to General Dwight D. Eisenhower's staff, where he helped plan 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.

Post-World War II[edit]

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.

Korean War[edit]

In 1950, at the age of 51, Lemnitzer took parachute training and was 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.

Post-Korean War[edit]

Lemnitzer was promoted to the rank of general and named commander of US Army forces in the Far East and of the Eighth Army in March 1955. He was named Chief of Staff of the United States Army in July 1957 and appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September 1960. As Chairman, Lemnitzer was involved in the Bay of Pigs crisis and the early years of United States involvement in the Vietnam War. 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 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 John F. Kennedy told the general that there was no chance that the US would take military action against Cuba. Within a few months, after the refusal to endorse Operation Northwoods, Lemnitzer was denied another term as JCS chairman.[2]

In November 1962, Lemnitzer was appointed as commander of U.S. European Command, and as Supreme Allied Commander Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO). His time in command saw the Cyprus crisis of 1963–1964 and the withdrawal of NATO forces from France in 1966. As of 2015, Lemnitzer is the only Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to hold another U.S military command after his term as Chairman ended, rather than retiring.[citation needed]

Later life and death[edit]

Lemnitzer retired from the military in July 1969. His 14-year tenure as a four star general on active duty is the longest in the history of the U.S. Army. He was also the only person in history to serve as Army Chief of Staff, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Supreme Allied Commander for NATO.

In 1975, President Gerald 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 US laws, and allegations that E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis (of Watergate fame) were involved in the assassination of 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.[3]

In popular culture[edit]

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

Awards and decorations[edit]

Lemnitzer was awarded numerous military awards and decorations[4] including but not limited to:

United States Air Force Parachutist Badge.svg Basic Parachutist Badge
Coat of arms of Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe.svg SACEUR badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters
Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit degree of Officer – awarded by mistake but not rescinded by FDR during World War II
Legion of Merit degree of Legionnaire
Presidential Medal of Freedom (Awarded by President Reagan, June 23, 1987)
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with two campaign stars)
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Bronze oak leaf cluster
National Defense Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Bronze star
Bronze star
Korean Service Medal (with two service stars)
Foreign decorations
Honorary Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (Great Britain)
Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Great Britain)
Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (Italy)
Grand Cross of the Military Order of Italy (Italy)
Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy (Italy)
Grand Cross of the Légion d'Honneur (France)
Dutch Knight Grand Cross in the Order of Orange-Nassau, with Swords (Netherlands)
Croix de Guerre with bronze Palm (France)
Bundeswehr Cross of Honour in Gold (Germany)
Grand Officer of the Order of Boyaca (Colombia)
Grand Cordon First Class of the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)
Grand Officer of the Order of Military Merit (Brazil)
Medalha de Guerra (Brazil)
Order of Military Merit Teaguk (Korea)
Gold star
Order of Military Merit Teaguk with Gold Star (Korea)
Silver star
Order of National Security Merit Gugseon with Silver Star (Korea)
Gold Cross of Merit with Swords (Poland)
PHL Legion of Honor - Chief Commander BAR.png Philippine Legion of Honor, Chief Commander
Knight Grand Cross of the Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant (Thailand)
Medal for Military Merit, First Class (Czechoslovakia)
Royal Order of the White Eagle, Class II (Yugoslavia)
Grand Star of Military Merit (Chile)
Order of Menelik II (Ethiopia)
Grand-Cross of the Portuguese Order of Aviz[5]
Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
United Nations Korea Medal

Lemnitzer also held the distinction of being a Freemason.[citation needed]

Dates of rank[edit]

Insignia Rank Component Date
No insignia Cadet United States Military Academy June 14, 1918
US-O1 insignia.svg Second Lieutenant Regular Army July 2, 1920
US-O2 insignia.svg First Lieutenant Regular Army June 9, 1925
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain Regular Army August 1, 1935
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Regular Army July 1, 1940
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel Army of the United States December 11, 1941
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel Army of the United States June 11, 1942
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General Army of the United States June 25, 1942
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel Regular Army July 2, 1943
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General Army of the United States May 7, 1944
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General Regular Army January 24, 1948
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General Regular Army August 6, 1951
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General Army of the United States August 1, 1952
US-O10 insignia.svg General Army of the United States March 25, 1955
US-O10 insignia.svg General Retired List June 30, 1969



  1. ^
  2. ^ ABC News: U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba
  3. ^ "Lyman Louis Lemnitzer". Find a Grave. Retrieved July 1, 2019.
  4. ^ Richard Nixon: Remarks on Presenting the Distinguished Service Medals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to General Lyman L. Lemnitzer. – July 11th, 1969
  5. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  6. ^ Official Register of Commissioned Officers the United States Army, 1948. pg. 1068.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Williston B. Palmer
Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
George Decker
Preceded by
Maxwell D. Taylor
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Preceded by
Nathan F. Twining
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by
Maxwell D. Taylor
Preceded by
Lauris Norstad
Supreme Allied Commander Europe (NATO)
Succeeded by
Andrew Goodpaster