William Thrower Fitts III – Major, United States Army

Courtesy of the United States Military Academy

William Thrower Fitts III

NO. 17874
Died 30 July 1964 at Walter Reed General Hospital, Washington, D.C., aged 37 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery


Born on an Army Post in Hawaii, Major Fitts was brought up in the Army. He not only lived in it, but after entering West Point in 1946, he lived for it. He believed in the Army and was devoted to its improvement.

He was a big man, mentally and physically. He loved a challenge, the bigger the better. On graduating frorn West Point he asked for assignment to a paratroop unit and served with it until he was sent to Korea in 1951. There he commanded a rifle platoon in combat, much of the time on outpost duty. For leading his platoon on a successful raid behind enemy lines he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action. Later he commanded a rifle company, and received the Bronze Star Medal for making it a well coordinated, highly effective fighting team.”

Years later he said of this difficult and demanding service that he had enjoyed all of it. Truly he was a soldier.

After Korea he was assigned to the Infantry School as an instructor. By hard work he soon acquired the necessary background and speaking ability to do, in the words of his department head, ‘a superior job in his teaching.”

At the end of his tour at Fort Benning he volunteered for Ranger training and graduated near the top of his class from that strenuous course.

After an overseas tour in Panama and Puerto Rico, Major Fitts was sent to Fort Rucker for training as an army aviator. He had always wanted to fly military airplanes, but his eyes had not been up to the high standards required. By dint of hard physical training he was finally able to pass the eye test and soon had won his wings. He also qualified as a helicopter pilot, and during the last months of his service, although suffering from what was later found to be a fatal illness, he insisted
on completing a course which qualified him to fly multiple engine aircraft.

Major Fitts rendered outstanding service as a staff officer at the Army Aviation Center. His last assignment there was as executive officer for the Director of Instructions. This was a Lieutenant Colonel's position and according to his  commanding officer, Bill Fitts was selected over others senior to him because of his proven ability, and he ‘achieved unusual results not normally expected of an officer of his rank.”

He had deep and sincere beliefs in matters of morals and religion. He despised sham and pretense and did not hesitate to point them out when it was appropriate. At all other times he was most considerate of those with whom he came in contact. His Bronze Star citation states in part. “His amiable personality and keen sense of fairness, coupled with his outstanding leadership, heightened the morale of the men and inspired them with confidence and the desire to perform their duties to the utmost of their abilities.”

Even in his short career he showed an outstanding ability as a professional officer. That his personal character and beliefs were also outstanding, let this excerpt from a letter written by an associate who knew him well, testify: “Bill was, as you know, a man of the greatest courage, tremendous determination and righteous convictions. In my book he had no small points. His outlook on life I shall remember always as one of the most wholesome and straightforward I have ever known.”

Major Fitts is survived by his wife Ella, a daughter Sherry, a son William, his parents, Brigadier General (retired) and Mrs. William T. Fitts Jr., a sister Betty Jean, and a brother Robert.

– His Father

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