Charles Draper William Canham – Major General, United States Army

Contemporary press report

 Major General C. D. W. Canham entered the service May 23, 1919.

In 1921 as a sergeant he took a competitive course in the Army's first preparatory school school for soldiers to go to West Point from the ranks. He was chosen and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1926.

During the years prior to WWII he served in the Phillipines and Shanghai and was one of the purchasers of the Shanghai Bowl. During these years he acquired the reputation as a strict disciplinarian and a troop leader.

In 1942, he took command of the 116th Infantry Regiment, 29th Infantry Division before it sailed for England. This regiment and the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division were  chosen as the first to land at Omaha beach. Shortly after hitting the beach, Canham was shot thru the  wrist, refusing evacuation, he moved his men off Omaha and moved inland. For his actions on Omaha Beach and the fighting to take St. Lo he received the Distinguished Service Cross and was promoted to Brigadier General and took over command as the Assistant Division Commander of the 8th Infantry Division. It was in this capacity that he took in the name of his 8th Division troopers, the surrender of Brest.

Upon entrance to the German command headquarters of General Ramcke,  commander of the German 2nd. Parachute Division, Canham was asked for his credentials, without hesitation he turned to the GI's accompaning him and said, These are my credentials.” The account of this event which was reported in the New York Times saw in this spontaneous statement of a combat leader the  greatest tribute ever paid to the real power of the American Army.

By the end of WWII, Canham had earned every award for valor less the Congressional Medal of Honorfrom the United States. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order by General Bernard L. Montgomery of the British Army and several awards for valor from France.

After the war, Canham was Assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne and later became Commanding General of the 82nd. He was also the Commanding General of the 3rd Infantry Division, Director of Posts, Europe, and Commanding General of XI Corps.

Canham retired from the Army in 1960 with 41 years of service. He died on 21 August 1963 at Walter Reed General Hospital aged 62 years and is intered at Arlington National Cemetary.

“Soldiers are our credentials” is the creed of Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis J. Reimer today. Taken from the motto of the Army's 8th Infantry Division, it came from the reply of assistant division commander Brigadier General Charles Canham, during World War II, to a German general who refused to surrender until he saw the American general's credentials. Turning to the two GIs who had accompanied him, Gen. Canham said, “These are my credentials.”

“‘[Colonel Charles Canham] was yelling and screaming for the officers to get the men off the beach. ‘Get the hell off this damn beach and go kill some Germans!' There was an officer taking refuge from an enemy mortar barrage in a pillbox. Right in front of me Colonel Canham screamed” Get your ass out of there and show some leadership!'” To another lieutenant he roared, “‘Get these men off their dead asses and over that wall!'” –Sergeant John R. Slaughter

Beginning at 0730, regimental command parties began to arrive. The main command group of the 116th RCT included Colonel Charles D. W. Canham and General Cota. LCVP 71 came in on Dog White, bumping an obstacle and nudging the Teller mine until it dropped off, without exploding. Landing in three feet of water, the party lost one officer in getting across the exposed area. From the standpoint of influencing further operations, they could not have hit a better point in the 116th one. To their right and left, Company C and some 2d Battalion elements were crowded against the embankment on a front of a few hundred yards, the main Ranger force was about to come into the same area, and enemy fire from the bluffs just ahead was masked by smoke and ineffective. The command group was well located to play a major role in the next phase of action.

The most important penetration on the western beaches (Map No. VII) was made by Company C, 116th Infantry, and by the 5th Ranger Battalion, which had landed partly on top of Company C. Both units were in relatively good condition after the landings and had suffered only minor losses, but the men were crowded shoulder to shoulder, sometimes several rows deep, along the shingle at the base of the timber sea wall.

Intermingled with these troops were one or two boat sections from other units of the 116th, and some engineer elements. Reorganization for assault was spurred by the presence of General Cota and the command group of the 116th Infantry, who had landed in this area about 0730. Exposed to enemy fire, which wounded Colonel Canham in the wrist, they walked up and down behind the crowded sea wall, urging officers and noncoms to “jar men loose” and get moving.

cdwcanhan-01 cdwcanham-gravesite-photo-01

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment