Born in 1885, he was a 1911 graduate of West Point.
In 1941, when the War Department sought “an officer of broad engineering experience” to establish a military mission to Iran, the task was given to him. He was a Colonel at the time and an Acting Chief of Staff. He was a veteran construction engineer and specialist in rail and highway matters, he had served as Acting Governor of the Panama Canal Zone. It was the purpose of the new mission to develop supply facilities to support both British and Russian efforts.
After the U.S. entered World War II, he was appointed in February 1942 as Commander of Services and Supply for U.S. forces in China, Burma and India, while retaining for the time his responsibilities in Iran. In Autumn 1943, he was appointed to the Southeast Asia Command on the staff of Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, where he served as principal administrative officer and, from February 1944, as Deputy Supreme Commander. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1941 on attaining the Iran command, and in 1944 was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, his highest. In June 1945, he became Commanding General of the India-Burma Theater of Operations. Know as “Speck” he was a highly competent officer who capabilities were put to the test in extremely demanding circumstances.
After the war, he served as Chief of Army Engineers and directed the clearing of the Suez Canal following the 1956 Siani Campaign.
He died at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington on February 9, 1974 and was buried in Section 30 of Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Olive Keithley Wheeler (1886-1954), is buried with him.
Courtesy of the United States Army
Lieutenant General Raymond A. Wheeler
Chief of Engineers (October 4, 1945-February 28, 1949)
Born July 31, 1885, in Peoria, Illinois, Raymond Wheeler graduated fifth in the Military Academy class of 1911 and was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers.
He served with the Veracruz Expedition in 1914 and went to France with the divisional 4th Engineers in 1918. He was awarded a Silver Star for actions in the Aisne-Marne campaign and by the end of World War I had assumed command of his regiment with the rank of colonel.
Between the two world wars he served as district engineer in Newport, Rhode Island; Wilmington, North Carolina; and Rock Island, Illinois. In September 1941 he was appointed chief of the U.S. Military Iranian Mission and in February 1942 was transferred to the China-Burma-India Theater as Commanding General of the Services of Supply.
In October 1943 he was assigned to Lord Mountbatten's Southeast Asia Command as principal administrative officer and Deputy Supreme Commander. Before the end of World War II, he became Commander of the India-Burma Theater. He represented the United States at the Japanese surrender in Singapore.
As Chief of Engineers, Wheeler initiated construction of the Missouri River dams projected in the Pick-Sloan Plan. After his military retirement, he worked for the United Nations and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development on Asian and African development projects. He oversaw the clearing of the Suez Canal in 1956-57.
He died February 8, 1974, in Washington, D.C.
Wheeler's U.S. Army decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Legion of Merit. He was also made an honorary knight of the British Empire.
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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