Ellis W. Williamson
Major General, United States Army
General Ellis W. Williamson, new 25th Infantry Division Commander, assumed
command during ceremonies held at Cu Chi Saturday morning, August 3, 1968.
He replaces Major General F. K. Mearns, who moves to Saigon to become Deputy Commander, II Field Force and Commanding General, Capital Military Assistance Command.
General Williamson was born in Raeford, North Carolina on June 2, 1918. Through high school and college, he was a member of the 120th Infantry Regiment, North Carolina National Guard.
Upon graduation from Atlantic Christian College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1940, he entered the Federal Service with his unit.
General Williamson remained with the 120th Infantry Regiment throughout World War II serving in rank from Private to Colonel. Following commissioning as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry in March, 1941, he served as a commander at platoon, company, battalion and regimental level and as a battalion and regimental staff officer. He was regimental Commander at the time of the unit's return to state control in January, 1946.
The same year, he was integrated into the Regular Army. For three years he was an instructor of tactics at the Infantry School. He graduated from the Command and General Staff College in 1950 and was assigned to Headquarter X Corps in Korea. He participated in the amphibious landing at Inchon as Assistant Operations Officer, X Corps, later becoming Operations Officer.
General Williamson was assigned in 1952, to the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, next attended the Armed Forces Staff College, and then returned to Washington for duty in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
He assumed command of the 13th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, in 1956 and took this unit to Germany on Operation Gyroscope. After 27 months as Regimental Commander, he became Chief of the Training Division, Headquarters, 7th U.S. Army. He returned home to qualify as a parachutist and attend the National War College.
Following three years in the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel at Department of the Army, General Williamson assumed command of the 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate) upon its activation in Okinawa in July 1963. He organized and trained this unit for its mission as Pacific Theatre Reserve Force during the next two years.
After extensive training on the Pacific islands of Okinawa, Taiwan, Irimote, and the Philippines as well as in Korea and Thailand, General Williamson's brigade, in May, 1965, became the first U.S. Army ground combat unit to enter the conflict in Vietnam.
Under his command, the 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate) participated in actions designed to protect friendly installations and to destroy enemy forces in the Bien Hoa-Vung Tau-Ben Cat areas and into the mountain plateau areas of Pleiku and Kontum.
In addition to the 173d Airborne Brigade (Separate), General Williamson's command in Vietnam included all Australian and New Zealand combat elements, plus some Vietnamese units.
He served in five campaigns in Europe during World War II and seven during the Korean conflict.
General Williamson assumed command of the U.S. Army Training Center, Fort Polk, Louisiana, November 1, 1966, and comes to the 25th Infantry Division from that post.
Major General Williamson has received the:
Major General Ellis W. Williamson, who led the first Army combat troops into South Vietnam, died on January 28, 2007, in Arlington, Virginia. He was 88. Jean O’Neil, a friend of the family, announced the death.
General Williamson participated in the D-Day landings in Normandy in World War II and the Inchon landings in the Korean War. He held high-level posts supervising troop training and, from 1971 to 1973, was chief of the United States military mission to Iran.
In 1963, General Williamson reactivated the 173rd Airborne Brigade, which had begun as an infantry brigade in World War I and was absorbed into other units in World War II. For two years, his 3,500 troops trained intensively in Okinawa.
They began arriving in Vietnam on May 5, 1965. Their first mission was to secure, patrol and neutralize any threat to Bien Hoa Air Base. That day, General Williamson said in an interview with The New York Times, “I am sure my men will want, as I do, to get out for action.”
Then 47, General Williamson developed tactics for a war with no defined front. Fighting with South Vietnamese troops, he had his men penetrate the countryside surrounding the base and then worked methodically to expand the perimeter with day and night patrols.
The members of the 173rd were among the first soldiers to use M-16s, the lightweight rifle that became the standard for American forces. Hardly a night went by when they were not attacked.
They were also the first to go into what the military called Zone D, a flat, eerie jungle filled with dragonflies and Vietcong sniper bullets, to destroy enemy base camps. This successful operation in June 1965 was American troops’ first big attack against the Vietcong.
In August 1965, General Williamson commanded the 173rd and other American units when they and South Vietnamese troops broke the Communist siege of a Special Forces camp at Duc Co. By September, he told The Times, “The enemy is running from us like a scared rat.”
The next year, General Williamson led United States troops into the Mekong Delta for the first time. In March 1966, he briefed President Lyndon B. Johnson at Johnson’s ranch in Texas. He told the president that morale was high and that the enemy was groggy; he also advised sending more troops.
Ellis Warner Williamson was born in the summer of 1918 in Raeford, North Carolina. He served in the North Carolina National Guard during high school and college. In 1940, he graduated from Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College, and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
In addition to taking advanced courses at military schools and colleges, he received an M.B.A. from Harvard in 1962 and a master’s in international affairs from George Washington University in 1963.
He became a paratrooper in 1959, and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1963. General Williamson returned from Vietnam in 1966 to be Assistant Commander at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. After being promoted to major general, he commanded the Army Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana.
As chief of the military mission to Iran, General Williamson met regularly with Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi and oversaw a quiet but steady influx of American military personnel into Iran.
On September 27, 1942, General Williamson married
Margaret McNeill, who survives, along with a daughter, Nan V. Williamson
of Clyde, North Carolina; a son, Dan, of Pineville, Missouri; and a grandson.
General Williamson was born in Raeford, North Carolina, and served in the North Carolina National Guard during high school and college. He graduated from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) in 1940 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
He participated in the D-Day landings with the 120th Infantry Regiment and served in the European theater, where he commanded at the platoon, company, battalion and regimental levels.
In 1950, he helped plan and participated in the Inchon landing in Korea. Following instructional and staff assignments, he assumed command of the 13th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, and took the regiment to Germany. In 1959, he became an Army paratrooper.
During his 40-year military career, he received a master's degree in business from Harvard University (1962) and a master's degree in international affairs from George Washington University (1963).
Promoted to Brigadier General in 1963, he organized the 173rd Airborne Brigade on Okinawa and took the brigade into Vietnam in 1965. His unit was the first U.S. Army ground combat unit to enter the war.
In 1966, he became assistant commander at the Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Promoted to Major General, he assumed command of the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, and then returned to Vietnam, where he commanded the 25th Infantry Division, known as Tropic Lightning.
In 1971, he was designated chief of the U.S. military mission in Iran and personal adviser to the shah of Iran. He retired in 1973.
In retirement, he worked as a military affairs consultant and was involved in military and civilian nonprofit community activities. He served on the boards of the Army's Military District of Washington Retiree Council and the Army Distaff Foundation and was active with the Sigholtz-Capital Chapter of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Association. He was a member of the Greater Washington Metropolitan Organ Society.
General Williamson's decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Silver Star with five oak leaf clusters, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart.
Survivors include his wife of 64 years, Margaret
Williamson of Arlington; two children, Nan V. Williamson of Clyde, North
Carolina, and Dan E. Williamson of Pineville, Missouri; and one grandson.
Major General Ellis W. Williamson died Jan. 28, 2007, at the age of 88.
His 40-year Army career included service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
He is survived by Margaret, his wife of 64 years; a son, Dan E. Williamson Sr. of Pineville, Missouri; a daughter, Nan V. Williamson of Clyde, North Carolina; two grandchildren, Dan E. Williamson Jr. of Stephenville, Texas, and Christina L. Franklin of Ft. Worth, Texas; and four great-grandchildren, Holly, Wesley, Christopher and Danielle Franklin of Ft. Worth, Texas.
Born in Raeford, North Carolina, he grew up and went to high school in Raleigh, North Carolina. He served in the North Carolina National Guard during high school and college. He graduated from Atlantic Christian (now Barton) College, Wilson, North Carolina, in 1940 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant.
Highlights of General Williamson’s military career include participation in the D Day landings with the 120th Infantry Regiment, and service in the European theater where he commanded at the platoon, company, battalion and regimental levels, earning temporary promotions through the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In 1950 he was on the planning staff for and participated in the Inchon Landings in Korea, and subsequently served on the X Corps staff. Following instructional and staff assignments in the United States, he assumed command of the 13th Infantry Regiment at Fort Carson, Colorado, and took the Regiment to Germany. In 1959 he became an army paratrooper.
Promoted to Brigadier General in 1963, he organized the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate) on Okinawa and took the Brigade into Vietnam in May of 1965, becoming the first United States Army ground combat unit to enter the conflict. In 1966 he became Assistant Commandant at The Infantry School, Fort Benning, Georgia. Subsequently he was promoted to Major General and assumed command of the U. S. Army Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1968 he returned to Vietnam, commanding the 25th “Tropic Lightning” Infantry Division.
He was designated Chief of the U. S. Military Mission in Iran and Personal Advisor to the Shah of Iran in 1971 and subsequently retired in 1973. Following retirement, he continued his life of service to the community, participating in a variety of military and civilian non-profit community activities.
His military education included basic and advanced courses at the Infantry School (1942-43), the Command and General Staff College (1950), the Armed Forces Staff College (1953), and the National War College (1960). He was granted a Master’s degree from the Graduate School of Business at Harvard University in 1962 and a Master’s degree in International Affairs from George Washington University in 1963.
Major General Williamson’s numerous decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal (2 OLC), the Silver Star (5 OLC), the Legion of Merit (OLC), the Bronze Star Medal (3 OLC), the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal (28 OLC), the Purple Heart (4 OLC), the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Master Parachutist Badge and Army Aviator Wings.
Services will be held at Arlington National Cemetery on March 7, 2007.
The family has requested that memorial contributions
be sent to the 173rd Airborne Brigade Memorial Foundation, 1160 Lake Royale,
Louisburg, North Carolina 27549 or to Barton College, Office of Institutional
Advancement, designated to the Ellis W. Williamson Family Endowed Scholarship,
PO Box 5000, Wilson, North Carolina 27893.
Margaret McNeill Williamson died on February 16, 2007 at age 88 of problems arising from the effects of a fall. Margaret was married for 64 years to Ellis W. Williamson, Major General, U.S. Army, who retired in 1973 after 40 years of service. General Williamson predeceased his wife of 64 years by less than three weeks, on January 28 of this year.
Mrs. Williamson is survived by her daughter Nan V. Williamson, Clyde, North Carolina; son Dan E. Williamson, Pineville, Missouri; grandson Dan E. Williamson, Jr., Stephenville, Texas; step-granddaughter Christina Franklin, Saginaw, Texas; sisters Alice McNeill, Atlanta, Georgia, and Anne McNeill, Charlotte, North Carolina; nieces Shelley Hale Lee, Altadena, California; Meredith Hale, New York, New York; RayAnn McNeill Bradford, Sacramento, California; Charla McNeill, Emmett, Idaho; and nephew John McNeill, Woodland, California.
Margaret was born in Morganton, North Carolina, in 1918, grew up in Charlotte and Greensboro, North Carolina, and attended Averett College in Danville, Virginia. She married “Butch” Williamson, then a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, in 1942 as the World War II mobilization began. From that time on she was devoted to her husband and began her career as a military wife. Like many military wives, she managed her household and cared for her children through numerous separations and many transfers. As the wife of the commander of infantry and airborne troops, she assisted many wives and families on posts in the U.S., including Fort Carson, Colorado, Fort Benning, Georgia and Fort Polk, Louisiana, as well as on assignment in Germany, Okinawa and Iran. They maintained a residence in Arlington, Virginia, which they occupied during assignments at the Pentagon and after General Williamson’s retirement.
Margaret Williamson’s most notable contribution occurred during the Vietnam War. Margaret is known as the first “First Lady” of the 173rd Airborne Brigade (Separate). She accompanied her husband to Okinawa in 1963, when the Brigade was formed. When the Brigade deployed to Vietnam in May 1965, Margaret assumed a critical role, leading and caring for 700 family members who had been stationed with the Brigade on the island of Okinawa. She acted as counselor, mentor, and guide to many a young woman who had never had never faced having to relocate her family while worrying about her husband in a war zone.
She quickly organized the women into what was called “The Dependants Assistance Office.” Under her guidance, and with the help of the few officers left on island, the DAO undertook to “take care of their own.” They helped to guide those with financial and emotional problems, delivered death notifications, helped when children were born, or when family members were sick or injured. Margaret did all of this while her own husband was commanding the Brigade in Vietnam.
Ninety days after deployment, the Dependants Assistance Office, with Margaret’s encouragement, joined Air Force and Army personnel to prepare families to be evacuated off island, getting papers signed, forms completed, and families notified. Soon after the evacuation, the Army created what is now called Army Community Service. Many believe that ACS would not have been established as soon as it was without the example of Margaret Williamson’ active leadership in Okinawa.
As the wife of a commander on overseas assignments, Margaret had many responsibilities. In Iran she entertained many, including heads of state, ambassadors from the U.S. and foreign countries, US Congressional Delegations, and senior military officers, all while training and supervising the army staff assisting her. She visited women’s groups, schools and hospitals while traveling throughout the country. In performing these duties, she was a role model for young officers’ wives and mentored many to learn the requirements that such positions impose.
Even with such distinguished service, Margaret Williamson viewed her achievements modestly. She was a consummate and gracious hostess, an avid bridge player, and an art lover, attending art museums at every opportunity. She was a thoughtful friend, keeping in touch with many through calls, cards and notes and never seemed to forget a face or name.
The family requests that memorial contributions be sent to the Washington National Cathedral, Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues NW, Washington, DC 20016.
The funeral service for General and Mrs. Williamson
will be held March 7, 2007. at the Old Post Chapel, Fort Myer, Arlington,
Virginia, with burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
On Febraury 16, 2007, MARGARET WILLIAMSON of
Falls Church, Virginia. Beloved wife of the late Ellis W. Williamson; mother
of Dan E. Williamson and Nan V. Williamson; sister of Alice McNeill and
Anne McNeill. She is also survived by two grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Services will be held at Fort Myer Chapel on Wednesday, March 7 at 11 a.m.
with interment to follow at Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers,
memorial contributions may be made to the Washington National Cathedral,
3101 Wisconsin Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20016.
Posted: 11 February 2007 Updated: 8 March 2007 Updated: 10 March 2007