James Hilliard Polk – General,United States Army

From a contemporary news report

“Army General James H. Polk, commander of the U.S. Army in Europe during the Cold War, died Tuesday, February 18, 1992, a William Beaumont Army Medical Center, El Paso, Texas. He was 80 and had lived in El Paso.  He had ben suffering from cancer and pneumonia.

“He served simultaneously as Commander of the 7th Army in Germany, the mainstay of the U.S. fighting force in Europe, when he retired in 1971. Earlier, at a time of severe tension over the divided city of Berlin, he was the U.S. Commandant in that city. As the Berlin Commandant from January 1963 to September 1964, the General, an expert in armored warfare, personified American determination to stand up to Soviet Bloc harassment and pressure in the city and its surroundings.

In November 1963, after Soviet troops detained a U.S. Army convoy for 41 hours on a highway corridor between West Berling and East Germany, he declared that the blockade was a deliberate attempt “to call the shots on Allied access to Berlin.” He added, “We are determined that they shall not.”

“In July 1964, while East Germany built concrete and steel barriers along the border to stop East German refugees from using trucks to ram their way to freedom in West Berlin, the lanky 6-foot-2-inch General gave a speech pledging that the U.S. and its allies would continue to defend West Berlin “just as long as necessary.”

“After his tour in Berlin, he was commander of a U.S. Corps at Frankfurt. Then in 1967-721, he commanded the 185,000 member 7th Army in Germany and U.S. Forces in Europe from his headquarters in Heidelberg, West Germany. In those posts, he emphasized training in small-unit combat tactics. He also worked to halt racial friction and deteoration in troop morale. In a statement soon after he retired, he challenged what h called “influential voices” that wished to reduce U.S. forces in Central Europe. He contended that the U.S. Army must stay in Europe in considerable strength to deter the Communists from starting a war.

“He was born December 13, 1911 at Camp McGraw in the Philippines, the son of an Army officer, Colonel Harding Polk, and the former Ester Fleming. He graduated from West Point in 1933 and was an armored commander in Europe in World War II. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1956 and rose to be a 4-star general. He was decorated several times, receiving the Silver Star and other U.S. and French medals. He is survived by his wife, the former Josephine Leavell, who he married in 1936; a son, a daughter, two brothers, Colonel John F. Polk, who is retired from the Army, and Captain Thomas H. Polk who is retired from the Navy.”

He is buried in Section 7-A of Arlington National Cemetery.


Wife of Four Star General, James H. Polk, died Tuesday, February 9, 1999, in El Paso, TX. As a proud Army wife, she exhibited a strong sense of family and patriotism, helping the Army succeed in its mission. She served with her husband during the Cold War in Germany and France from 1956 to 1971, including NATO Headquarters, the 4th Armored Division, the Berlin Command and as ‘First Lady” of the U.S. Army, Europe and 7th Army and Central Army Group (NATO). During World War II, she served as a Volunteer Nurse's Aid and was a Red Cross volunteer for 25 years. She was 85 and was a longtime Washington, DC resident. Survivors include her son, James H. Polk, III; daughter, Josephine ”Jody” Polk Schwartz; brother, Charles Leavell; and five grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her husband, James. Burial will be at 10 a.m., Tuesday, February 16, 1999, at the Old Post Chapel, Ft. Myer, VA. Memorial contributions may be made to the U.S. Calvary Memorial Foundation, P.O. Box 2325, Fort Riley, KS 66442, or Army Emergency Relief, HQ AER, 200 Stovall St., Room 5N13, Alexandria,
VA 22332-0600.



Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment