Arthur Harrison Wilson, Jr. – Colonel, United States Army

Arthur Harrison Wilson, 91; Army Officer and Horse Breeder

By Matt Schudel
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Sunday, December 12, 2004Arthur Harrison Wilson Jr., 91, a decorated Army Colonel who was a star polo player and later raised thoroughbred racehorses, died November 17, 2004, of a stroke at his home in Fredericksburg. He collapsed at his barn while caring for his horses.

Colonel Wilson, a native Washingtonian who was known as “Harry,” came from a long line of military officers on both sides of his family. His maternal grandfather was Colonel Jehiel Brooks, for whom the Brookland section of the District is named. His fraternal grandfather and great-uncle were senior officers in the Union Army during the Civil War. His father, Colonel Arthur H. Wilson Sr., received the Medal of Honor for his service in the Philippines in 1909.

The younger Colonel Wilson lived much of his early life in far-flung places and attended a military school in New Mexico. He graduated in 1937 from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he was captain of the polo team. The team won three national intercollegiate championships while he was at West Point.

During World War II, Colonel Wilson was in the 11th Airborne Division and served in New Guinea and in the battles of Leyte Gulf and Manila. He received a Silver Star for heroism in battle in the Philippines.

He remained with the 11th Airborne Division, 187th Regiment, during the Korean War, leading the first nighttime parachute jumps into North Korea. He later served on the front lines as commander of the 5th Infantry Regiment and received a second Silver Star in 1951 for leading his severely outnumbered troops in battle and conducting a safe retreat.

“During the savage conflict,” an eyewitness wrote in an official Army report, “he moved among his men shouting encouragement . . . oft times firing his own weapon killing and wounding the enemy who had managed to infiltrate the friendly lines.”

Colonel Wilson also received the Legion of Merit, five Bronze Stars, a Purple Heart, the Air Medal and two Combat Infantryman Badges.

From 1958 to 1962 and again from 1967 to 1968, he was the Army attache at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires. He directed the Reserve Officer Training Program at the University of Virginia from 1964 to 1967 and was a professor of military science. He was one of the founding coaches of the University of Virginia polo team and received a master’s degree in education from the university.

Until the 1970s, Colonel Wilson continued to play polo and was one of the country’s highest-ranked players, competing against top teams in Argentina and Pakistan. After retiring from the Army in 1968, he moved to a horse farm in Free Union, Virginia, called Twin Orchards, where he raised thoroughbreds. The first time he entered a horse in a race, it won.

In 1994, Colonel Wilson moved to a farm near Fredericksburg. He had six racehorses at the time of his death.

His wife of more than 40 years, Molly Polk Wilson, died in 1980.

A second marriage, to Harriet Patterson, ended in divorce.

Survivors include four daughters from the first marriage, Ann Isacco of Greenville, Pennsylania, Brooks Hernandez of McLean, Sarah Drennen of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, and Esther Hannon of Fredericksburg; two sons from the first marriage, Arthur Harrison Wilson III of Washington and James Mather Wilson of Charlottesville; 15 grandchildren; and 21 great-grandchildren.


  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: 12/29/1936 – 09/01/1967
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 12/15/1912
  • DATE OF DEATH: 11/17/2004


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