John Reiley Guthrie – General, United States Army

Tuesday, June 2, 2009:

John R. Guthrie, 87, a four-star Army General who fought in the Korean War and served as the project officer on the first American satellite launch, died May 25, 2009, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center of complications from an appendectomy.

During the Korean War, General Guthrie was a battery commander and participated in military operations including the Hungnam evacuation, a withdrawal of United Nations forces from eastern North Korea, and the reoccupation of Seoul by the U.N. forces in 1951.

General Guthrie was later assigned to the Office of the Chief of Research and Development, where he was the Army staff project officer for the launching of the first successful American satellite, Explorer 1, in 1958.

After a variety of military assignments in the 1960s, General Guthrie was reassigned to Korea and served as assistant division commander, a post that involved counter-infiltration operations along the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

He was Commanding General of IX Corps, based in Japan, before assuming his final active-duty assignment, from 1977 to 1981, as Commanding General of the U.S. Army Materiel Readiness and Development Command. In that role, he oversaw the modernization of military materiel, including the development of the Black Hawk helicopter and the Patriot missile.

His efforts to promote equality were recognized in 1980 with an award from Federally Employed Women, a nonprofit organization that seeks to end sexual harassment and promote career opportunities for women in the federal government.

A native of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, John Reiley Guthrie was a 1942 honor ROTC graduate of Princeton University with a bachelor's degree in history. He served in the Army Reserve before being integrated into the regular Army in 1946.

His military decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.

General Guthrie was a resident of the Washington area for more than 30 years and lived most recently in Springfield. He chaired the board of St. John's Community Services, which supports developmentally disabled people.

His wife of 57 years, Rebecca Jeffers Guthrie, died in 2005.

Survivors include six children, Claire G. Gastañaga of Richmond, Michael R. Guthrie of Charlottesville, John J. “Gus” Guthrie of Arlington, Peter B. Guthrie of Princeton, New Jersey, Margaret G. Ressner of Toledo and Kevin M. Guthrie of New York; and nine grandchildren.

John Reiley Guthrie (December 20, 1921–May 25, 2009) was a United States Army four star General who served as Commanding General, U.S. Army Development and Research Command (CG DARCOM), from 1977 to 1981. In the 1980s, DARCOM was renamed United States Army Materiel Command.


Guthrie was born in Phillipsburg, New Jersey, on December 20, 1921. He graduated from Princeton University with a B.A. degree in 1942. An honor graduate of the Princeton ROTC, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Field Artillery Reserve, and immediately ordered to active duty. He was integrated into the Regular Army in July 1946, while on duty with the War Department General Staff. In October 1946, he was assigned to London, England as Assistant to the Military Attaché, where he served for three years.

In November 1949, he returned to the U.S. and was assigned to the 39th Field Artillery Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Benning, Georgia. He served as Battery Commander and S-3 of the 39th at Fort Benning, Japan and Korea, until June 1951 when he was assigned as S-3, 3rd Infantry Division Artillery. During this period, he participated in operations against guerrillas in the Wonsan area, the evacuation from H?ngnam, the reoccupation of Seoul and the spring Chinese offensive and United Nations counteroffensive.

Upon his return to the United States, he commanded the 602nd Field Artillery Battalion and Fort Sill, Oklahoma, from February 1952 to May 1953. He was then assigned to the Staff and Faculty at the Artillery and Guided Missile School as a member of the Combat Developments Department. In March 1956, he was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Research and Development, HQDA, for duty with the Surface-to-Surface Missiles Division and later with the Missiles and Space Division. He was the Army Staff project officer for the launching of the United States' first artificial earth satellite, Explorer 1. In July 1958, he was assigned as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Army and was appointed Assistant Executive to the Secretary of the Army on August 1, 1959.

After serving in this position for a year, he attended the National War College and graduated in 1961. He was then assigned to the Staff, Commander-in-Chief, Pacific, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii, serving as Deputy Chief, War Games Branch, and Group Operations Officer, from August 1961 to February 1964. In February 1964, he assumed command of the 25th Infantry Division Artillery, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, which he commanded until appointed Chief of Staff, 25th Infantry Division, in July 1964. In July 1965, he returned to the Continental United States and was assigned to the Requirements and Development Division, J-5 Directorate, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C.

In March 1966, he became Director of Developments, Office of the Chief of Research and Development, HQDA. He remained in that position until his reassignment to Korea , where he served as Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver) and Assistant Division Commander (Support), 2nd Infantry Division, which at the time was actively engaged in counter-infiltration operations along the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

General Guthrie was named Deputy Director of Development and Engineering, AMC, in November 1968; became Director of Research, Development and Engineering in August 1969; and was selected as Deputy Commanding General for Materiel Acquisition, AMC, in April 1971. In October 1973, General Guthrie returned overseas to become Deputy Chief of Staff, United States Pacific Command, Hawaii. In March 1975, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assigned as Commanding General, IX Corps and United States Army, Japan.

In May 1977, General Guthrie returned to AMC, which had been redesignated the U.S. Army Materiel Readiness and Development Command, as its Commanding General. He remained in that assignment until his retirement in August 1981.

In retirement, Guthrie was Director of the Association of the United States Army's Landpower Education Program, a position he filled until December 1986. He also served as a Trustee of Princeton University from 1981 to 1985, was on the Board of Directors of the Army and Air Force Mutual Aid Association and the Board of Advisors of the National Contract Management Association, and as a member of the National Research Council's Space Technology Assessment Panel and its Committee on Artificial Intelligence and Army Robotics.

Guthrie was married to Rebecca Jeffers Guthrie, who died on April 11, 2005. They had six children, one of whom was autistic.

General Guthrie died May 25, 2009.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 06/21/1925
  • DATE OF DEATH: 04/11/2005

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