Ferdinand Joseph Chesarek – General, United States Army

From a contemporary press report:

Ferdinand Joseph Cheseraek, a 1938 United States Military Academy graduated who distinguished himself in combat during World War II and rose to full General as Chief of the Army Materiel Command during a 32-year career, has died. He was 79. His death early Saturday, November 20, 1993, in a Nashville, Tennessee, hospital resulted from complications related to open heart surgery.

The General had been a resident of Los Altos Hills for 20 years in retirement before moving to Green Valley, in Solano County, in 1990. When he left the service in 1970, he was supervising 250,000 Army and civilian personnel and executing a budget of $14 billion. He made good on a promise to his late wife, Jayne, to allow her to choose their retirement home. She picked the mid-Peninsula, where they had lived while he was obtaining his master's degree in business administration at Stanford in the late 1940s.

They spent 20 years developing “Harmony Hill,” a 3.7-acre estate on the La Purisima Concepcion Spanish Land Grant in Los Altos Hills.

After Jayne Chesarek died in 1979 and he remarried, the General and his wife, Joan, remained until 1990, when his heart illness forced them to move closer to an Army hospital, near Travis Air force Base. While in Los Altos Hills, he was chairman and president of one international trading company and established another with five offices in the Far East. In 1985, was a co-founder of Proxim, a wireless communication company in Mountain View.

Ferdinand Joseph Chesarek was born in Michigan and joined a Reserve Officer's Training Corps unit in high school. He received a senatorial appointment to the United StateS Military Academy. As an artillery officer during World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Chesarek fought with General George Patton's 3rd Army and earned the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.

He commanded the 5th Field Artillery Group in Korea, then kept moving up the ranks. Before commanding the Army Materiel Command, was Assistant Deputy Chief of Statff for logistics, then Comptroller of the Army.

On undergoing one of four heart operations, he told his wife that although he was a four-star gen, he wanted no military honors at his Arlington National Cemetery grave site. Instead, he asked that his remains be buried next to the grave of First Lieutenant Jeffrey Meyer, Joan Chesarek's son, whom he considered his own. Meyer had died at age 27 in 1985 after a 3-year battle with bone cancer. His wishes were granted, she said, but flags at all Army installations were ordered flown at half-staff on Wednesday in his honor.

In addition to his battle medals, received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Legion of Merit, the Croix de Guerre from both France and Luxembourg and the Order of Ulchi from Korea.

“He was a dynamic, brilliant man,” said Larry L. Hecht, a San Jose businessman who said he came to know “Ches” Chesarek as a mentor.

Born: Feb 18, 1914, Calumet, MI. Died: Nov 20, 1993, Nashville, TN. Survived by: Wife, Joan Tepe Meyer Chesarek of Suisun; son, John Laymon Chesarek of NJ; brother, Robert of PA; one niece and one nephew. Memorial Donations may be made to the West Point Fund, Assn of Graduates. 10996.

Courtesy of the United States Army Material Command:

Ferdinand J. Chesarek was born in Calumet, Michigan on 18 February 1914.  He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant, field artillery, in 1938.  In November 1943, General Chesarek went to the European Theater of Operations to become Commanding Officer of the 28th Field Artillery Battalion, 8th Infantry Division.  He participated in the Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, and Central Europe campaigns and was awarded the Silver Star Medal, Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, Air Medal, and Purple Heart.  He also received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm and Star for his part in these campaigns.

General Chesarek returned to the United States in July 1945 for detail to the War Department eneral Staff in Washington, D.C., where he served as a legislative officer in the Logistics Division and received the Army Commendation Medal.  From June 1948 to April 1950, General Chesarek attended Stanford University and received his master's degree in Business Administration.  He returned to the Pentagon to serve as Assistant to the Chairman, Munitions Board, until February 1953 when he entered the Armed Forces Staff College at Norfolk, Virginia.

After graduation in July 1953, General Chesarek went to Korea to serve with the Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army.  He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his work.  In May 1954, he took command of the 5th Artillery Group, which consisted of six United States and four Korean artillery battalions.  He later received the Order of Ulchi from the Republic of Korea.

In January 1955, General Chesarek was assigned as Chief of the Military Personnel and Manpower Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, until August 1955 when he entered the National War College.  Following graduation in June 1956, he served as Military Assistant and Executive Officer to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  In addition, he acted as International Conference Coordinator for the Secretary of Defense and participated in twelve major international conferences as a Defense Member of the U.S. delegation.  During this assignment, he also attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

In August 1959, General Chesarek became the Chief of Staff, U.S. Army Communications Zone, Europe.  He went to Italy in July 1960 to be Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army Southern European Task Force and was awarded the Order of Republic Medal by the Chief of Staff of the Italian Army.  He returned to France in March 1961 for duty as Commanding General, 4th  Logistical Command, and received the Legion of Honor from the French Government.

In October 1962, he was assigned to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, first as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (Materiel Readiness) and then, from August 1964, as Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics (Programs).  He was appointed Comptroller of the Army on 1 August 1966 and served in this assignment until 1 August 1967. Upon the reorganization of the Office of the Chief of Staff on 16 February 1967, he was designated the first occupant of the newly created position of Assistant Vice Chief of Staff from February 1967 to May 1968.

One of the highlights of General Chesarek's career was his tour of the United Kingdom in May 1968 as United States 1968 Kermit Roosevelt Lecturer, during which he addressed the students at many British military schools.  On 8 July 1968, General Chesarek was appointed Senior U.S. Army Member of the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations, in addition to his primary duty as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff.  On 10 March 1969, he was promoted to full general as the second Commanding General, U.S. Army Materiel Command, where he served until retiring in October 1970.  General Chesarek died on 20 November 1993.



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