COLONEL HAROLD S. HETRICK
HAROLD STORRS HETRICK
No. 4453. Class of 1906
Died January 3, 1920, at New Orleans, Louisiana, of gunshot wounds inflicted by an unknown assassin; aged 39 years.
In the memory of those who knew him well, and they were many, Hetrick will live as one of the finest products of West Point. Able, painstaking, conscientious and considerate, he won the loyalty of his subordinates and the confidence of his superiors.
Hetrick was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 15,1880, and spent the early years of his life in that city. Later the family removed to Norwich, Connecticut, and “Het” went to' Yale from there in 1897.
The qualities which were afterwards admired in Het at West Point also brought him prominence among the undergraduates at New Haven. He was a leader in athletics, though he did not neglect his studies for them, and graduated with honors, winning the Phi Beta Kappa key and the degree of Bachelor of Arts.
Annual Report, June 14th, 1920
Probably only Het's most intimate friends ever recognized his love of travel and desire for adventure: those traits and his admiration for Kipling were hidden by his deep reserve. After his graduation from Yale he, with several of his college chums, worked their way on a cattle boat to. France and, after spending several months in the
romantic Latin quarter of Paris, returned in the same fashion. Het entered West Point in the summer of 1902 and, with all these experiences behind him, it was not long before he was taking a leading part in overcoming the many tribulations of “plebe life.”
After the first general transfer of the plebe year it was also evident that he would be a leader as well in the struggle for academic honors. During his entire course at the Military Academy Het enjoyed the affection and esteem of the class of 1906, and, indeed, of the entire personnel of the Military Academy. He was very fond of athletics, played football, qualified as a long distance runner and successfully captained the
basketball team. The honor of graduating “one” fell to Het's lot. The whole class rejoiced with him and was proud of his record.
I had the good fortune, with several other classmates in the Engineers, to serve with Hetrick from the time of our graduation from West Point until we finished the course at the Engineer School at Washington Barracks. We first joined as Second Lieutenants of Engineers at Fort Riley, Kansas, in September, 1906.
In February, 1907, we accompanied our battalion to Cuba to become a part of the
Army of Cuban Pacification. We were in Cuba less than two years, and went from there to the school at Washington. During all this time our friendship, which had begun at West Point, grew even more intimate and I had the opportunity to understand him more and to appreciate his excellent qualities and the loyalty and value of his
While Het was stationed in Washington he married, on May 20, 1910, Miss Enid Ross Gray of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The memory of the happiness of the home which she made for him will long remain in the recollections of those who were so fortunate as to enjoy their hospitality.
Orders for a tour of duty in the Philippines were most welcome to Hetrick, as he had always been a lover of travel in foreign lands. At his first opportunity he visited Japan, but his plans for a trip to China were spoiled by orders to return to the United States.
He was put in charge of the construction of Lock and Dam Number 43, on the Ohio River, and I had the pleasure of seeing him there for the first time since we were stationed at Washington Barracks.
Het was giving the work the best that was in him and there was no doubt as to the success he was having. He had the admiration, respect and loyalty of the entire force of employees and his many fine qualities were reflected in them and the work they were doing. Always conscientious about his work, his devotion to duty and singleness of purpose were unsurpassed in any other person I have ever known.
When Hetrick was ordered to the Mexican border he had hopes of going into Mexico and joining in the chase of the elusive Villa, but his services in that campaign were confined to San Antonio and the duties of Intelligence Officer, Southern Department.
In the summer of 1917, a training camp for Engineer Officers was established at Leon Springs, Texas, and Hetrick was chosen as one of the instructors. It was my good fortune to meet several of the temporary officers who had been trained by him and their enthusiastic praise of him, not only as an able instructor and a fine type of
Army officer, but as a friend, was most sincere and unusual.
Hetrick went to France as the Lieutenant Colonel of the 117th Engineers, 42nd Division. Soon after his arrival he was assigned to the General Staff and served both at General Pershing's headquarters and on the British front as G-4 of the II Corps. While there he was promoted to the temporary rank of Colonel of Engineers. I did not see him in France, but I heard of his work and know that he was giving a good account of himself and doing justice to his West Point training.
In August, 1918, he was ordered to the United States and hoped to return soon to France in command of an Engineer regiment. Upon his arrival in Washington he was'assigned to Washington Barracks as Commander of the post and Acting Commandant of the Engineer School. For a time he was in command of the 220th Engineers which was being trained there for service abroad. The armistice put an end
to his dreams of a fighting regiment and when I returned from France, in June, 1919, he was still at Washington Barracks. I saw him at his home there and also at one of those little class reunions which it was his pleasant custom to arrange for each classmate visiting Washington. Many of us saw him there for the last time. When Washington Barracks was transferred from the Engineers to the General Staff, Hetrick was ordered first to Mobile and'then to New Orleans as District Engineer of the 4th Mississippi River Commission District.
On the evening of January 1, 1920, an unknown man forced his way into Hetrick's home; though unarmed, he attempted to deal with this invader, and in the encounter was mortally wounded. He died in New Orleans on January 3, 1920, and is
buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Colonel Mason M. Patrick, Corps of Engineers, paid high tribute to Hetrick in a letter to his wife and I partially quote it here to show the high regard in which he was held by his superior officers in the' corps:
“My dear Mrs. Hetrick:
“I can not tell you how shocked we were on our arrival here yesterday to learn of the terrible injury Major Hetrick had received, though it was reported then that there was strong hope he would survive-and no* today has come the distressing news that his wounds proved fatal and that he has gone. I have no words to say how we feel for you and how much we sympathize with you in this great sorrow.
“I do want you to know how very highly I regarded him. You know he served with me in Cuba shortly after his graduation and I learned then to know his worth. I always felt that he would do with all his might any task given him-that he put his very best in his work and that he had the fine sense of loyalty which means so much, which carries a man so far. I knew him, too, in France in the midst of stress and strain, and he bore himself so like a man. He earned praise and the regard of every one who knew of what he did. Yesterday, in the office of the Chief, when we were talking of the news of his injury, it would have done your heart good to hear the words of praise for him and the earnest hopes for his recovery.
“I feel, my dear, that nothing we can say will bring you much comfort now, but I must write you of my interest in him, of my regard for him and of how highly he was esteemed by his fellow officers in the corps.”
Lieutenant Colonel George S. Simonds, Infantry, who was Chief of Staff of the 2nd Corps, A. E. F., writes of his service as follows.
“Colonel Hetrick was G-4 of the' Corps. To anyone familiar with the A. E. F. staff organization, it is readily apparent that his duties required under the particular conditions, more than ordinary capacity. However, during the early days of the organization, his activities extended greatly beyound the functions of that office alone. Colonel Simonds, the Chief of Staff, was necessarily absent at American G. H. Q., British G. H. Q., and various places on the British front, and Colonel Hetrick, having -been on the ground from the beginning and familiar with all the workings of the organization, carried much of the drudgery of the routine administration of the Headquarters. He was an assistant Chief of Staff in the highest sense of the term. He was indefatigable in his labors. The selection and preparation of training areas, the reception of the troops and location in their areas, the change from American to British equipment, the disposition of their property, and the arrangements for their supply under the British system were all worked out and carried out under his supervision. One of the important and laborious projects initiated and executed by his office was the preparation of equipment tables, adapting British equipment to American organizations. In all this work it was necessary for him to deal directly with the Staff of the high command at British G. H. Q. By his keenness of intellect, accurate and comprehensive knowledge of the details of his work, business-like methods, and uniform courtesy he early made a profound impression upon the British officers with whom he had to deal. The cordial and. business-like relations he established had much to do with the success of this project.
“The first Headquarters of the Corps was established at the beautiful chateau of Bryas about five kilometers northeast of St. Pol. Considerable construction for offices
and quarters was required and Colonel Hetrick laid out and started the execution of quite elaborate plans, upon which he had devoted considerable effort and in which he took great pride. The dangerous advance of the enemy in their offensive of March 21, 1918, compelled a change in the location of the Corps Headquarters. Although very loath to make the change, he was directed to select and develop a new Headquarters.
“This he did with his usual energy and good judgment, and, in a short space of time, there was built, of temporary construction at Fruges, Pas de Calais, a Corps Headquarters which might well be taken as a model. Here the Headquarters functioned from April 1st to September 1st, 1918. At this time the training of all the units had been completed, and all except the Corps Headquarters, the Telegraph Battalion' and the 27th and 30th Divisions, had been withdrawn to the American area. Arrangements .were made for the 2nd Corps to take over a sector in the 2nd British Army southeast of Ypres. The Headquarters were moved to Houtkerke, and it was in the midst of this move that Colonel Hetrick received orders recalling him to the United States in connection with the organization of new units for service abroad. .It was a keen ‘disappointment to him to be withdrawn, just as it was to go into action, from the Corps with which he had borne such a prominent part in its organization and training for combat, but he accepted it uncomplainingly, as might be expected of the good soldier he was.
“The most prominent characteristics of Colonel Hetrick as a soldier were keenness of intellect, decisiveness of action, industry, and loyalty in the highest sense of. the term. He was an ideal staff officer-always dependable, always working to achieve the results, always willing to take responsibility, and on the few occasions. where decisions were made contrary to his advice, he threw himself whole heartedly into the carrying out of the established policy.
“And I desire further to add a word with regard to him as a comrade. Always quick to make up his mind and of decided opinions, he was considerate of the opinions and feelings of others. To me as Chief of Staff, and to his comrades on the Staff, he was loyal always to the highest degree. A rare combination of high efficiency and good fellowship, his brother officers in those strenuous days had for him confidence in him as a soldier and love for him as a comrade-the greatest tribute one soldier can pay another.”
“I do not feel that any words of mine can do justice to Hetrick's personality or to the loss to the Army and the Corps of Engineers of a young officer so earnest and so manly. He was only at the beginning of the career which, as all who knew him believe, would have been filled with valuable work for his country.
WILLIAM A. JOHNSON.”
- MAJOR CORPS OF ENGRS USA
- DATE OF DEATH: 01/03/1920
- BURIED AT: SECTION SS SITE LOT 4194
- ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard