General William C. Lee
Father Of The Airborne
jdaJune 6 2014
father of the airborne
General Lee's story is a novel- a country boy from North Carolina who entered the military to go to World War I. Like the rest of the country, young Bill Lee was somewhat ambivalent about what was going on in that far-off land.
Having gone to college, at both Wake Forest and North Carolina State and taken a bride, he went off to war. Serving in the trenches and facing death as a common way of life, he performed admirably remaining in Germany after the war in an official capacity as the de facto mayor of a small town. Returning to the States and to his young bride, he wrestled where to cast his lot-to choose the military as a career or pursue his love of the land. His love of country prevailed. He went on to a stint at North Carolina State teaching, then to Panama, where he discovered he was good at the succession of arms.
A succession of assignments and schools followed. He came home at every opportunity. He went to France. Bill saw the failure of the Treaty of Versailles and the aggressive military bearing of the Germans. Their parachute training captured his imagination. Bill and Dava,his wife, took advantage of their circumstances to travel. Returning to the States, Bill attempted to convince others of the new concept of the airborne and the infantry.
Bills break came during his next assignment in Washington, DC. In a prophetic quirk of events, President Roosevelt became intrigued with German parachute training. No one at the War Department was more knowledgeable than Bill Lee about the German airborne. The story goes Bill personally shared his expertise with the White House. Major Bill Lee was then given the Airborne Project. Bill took his first parachute jump at age 47. As a General, Bill went on to command the 101st Airborne "Screaming Eagles". He became intimately involved in the planning of the D-Day invasion from the beginning even helping to select the drop-sites for the invasion. He also wrote the Airborne Doctrine.
Tragically, he would never see his hard work and planning come to fruition. On February 4, 1944 he suffered a heart attack and would never see his "Screaming Eagles" jump into Normandy. In his honor, the soldiers of the 101st Airborne shouted "Bill Lee" instead of Geronimo as they dropped from planes onto the beaches of Normandy. There is no doubt that much of the airborne success on D-Day was a direct result of Bill Lee's hard work. It is important that he take his rightful place among his contemporaries-Marshall, Bradley, Ridgway, and Taylor. He deserves it. Hoo-AH!.
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