Harry Hodges Semmes – Brigadier General, United States Army

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Harry Semmes, a prominent patent attorney. also fought in both World Wars. His fearlessness in combat won him two Distinguished Service Crosses in the first, and a third in the second war. In the early 1950s, he headed a commission on peacetime military training, creating and defending reserve training.

Meanwhile, President Harry Truman had ordered the army to integrate white and black soldiers. But the army was dragging its feet. Semmes was tapped to be an informal advocate for speeding up the process.

Although he was a Southerner by birth, Semmes's experience with the segregated 92nd Division in Italy had convinced him that an integrated army was the only policy for America. “I met many brave black soldiers in that division. But overall their performance on the battlefield was below par. They didn't trust their officers. They suspected they were going to be used as cannon fodder. I saw firsthand the terrible spiritual wounds segregation inflicts.”

For over a year, Semmes worked with the Pentagon to develop procedures that led to the gradual integration of the U.S. Army. He never received a line of credit for this quiet, largely unofficial job.

—Thomas Fleming in Lights Along the Way


Harry Semmes [patent lawyer of Washington, D.C. who was a young officer in Patton's World War I tank brigade and remained close to him through the years]


Harry H. Semmes, Portrait of Patton (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, Inc., 1955).


SEMMES, HARRY HODGES
(First Award)
Captain, U.S. Army
Tank Corps, A.E.F.
Date of Action: September 12, 1918
General Orders No. 35, W.D., 1919

Citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Harry Hodges Semmes, Captain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Xivray, France, September 12, 1918.

During the operations along the Rupt de Mad, Captain Semmes's tank fell into the water and was completely submerged. Upon escaping through the turret door and finding that his driver was still in the tank, Captain Semmes returned and rescued the driver under machine-gun fire.

SEMMES, HARRY HODGES
(Second Award)
Captain, U.S. Army
Tank Corps, A.E.F.
Date of Action: September 26, 1918
General Orders No. 35, W.D., 1919

Citation

The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Harry Hodges Semmes, Captain, U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Vauquois, France, September 26, 1918.

Captain Semmes left his tank under severe rifle fire and personally reconnoitered a passage for his tank across the German trenches, remaining dismounted until the last tank had passed. While so engaged he was severely wounded.
General Orders No. 35, W.D., 1919


SEMMES, HARRY HODGES

  • B/GEN U.S.A.R.
  • VETERAN SERVICE DATES: Unknown
  • DATE OF BIRTH: 01/18/1892
  • DATE OF DEATH: 05/30/1962
  • DATE OF INTERMENT: 06/01/1962
  • BURIED AT: SECTION 1  SITE 947-B
    ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY

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