Courtesy of his classmates, United States Military Academy Class of 1946
William Warner Lewis, Jr.
No. 15841 Class of 1946
Died 20 December 1994 at Jamestown, North Carolina, aged 69 years.
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
Warner, as he was known to friends and family, was born 16 August 1925 in High Point, North Carolina. He spent his formative years there and graduated from High Point Central High School. A close boyhood friend, Joseph Hayworth, wrote of their high school days. “He always sought for the answer to questions of interest to him. He enjoyed Scouting and he and I spent many happy times hiking and camping. He also was active in sports, playing football, basketball and golf in high school.” Warner attended High Point College for one year before gaining his appointment to West Point where he joined the Class of 1946 on 1 July 1943.
Cadet life was relatively uneventful for Warner. He had no trouble with the Tactical Department and managed to comfortably get through academics. When graduation rolled around, he pinned on his bars as a second lieutenant of Infantry. Following graduation, Warner received basic Infantry schooling at Fort Benning, Georgia. While there, he took time off at Christmas to marry Elizabeth Binney at the Cadet Chapel at West Point on 28 December 1946. From Benning, Warner was assigned to Japan with the 511 Airborne Infantry. Beth joined him there in the Spring of 1948. When the 11th Airborne Division rotated back to Camp Campbell, Kentucky, Warner was in he advance party. In 1952, he was assigned to the 38th Infantry fighting in Korea.
Lawrence M. Tyndall, who served with Warner, told of his initial assignment to the 38th. “I was attached to E Company as a Forward Observer. The company had a command problem and low morale. A few days later, Warner was assigned as E Company Commander. He recognized he problems and immediately set about correcting them. In a few weeks, when E Company went on line, it had become an efficient unit under good leadership with vastly improved morale and effectiveness. Once we had settled in, Warner began looking for ways to improve our effectiveness. He came up with the idea of a long range, all day recon patrol. It would get as close as possible to the Chinese lines in darkness, stay all day, then return after dark the next night. Warner led five volunteers on the first patrol and it was a success. This points out one of his greatest assets, his ability to inspire confidence in those under him. He had the rare talent of bringing out the best of each of his men.
“I remember clearly the first time Warner was wounded. E Company was the fire brigade that tried to take ‘Old Baldy' back after K Company was overrun. Warner was hit in the leg and brought back by two of his men. He insisted that his men be cared for first, then began to plan another attack. Knowing Warner as I did, I realized he had no intention of being evacuated as long as any part of E Company was involved. I just picked him up, put him in a jeep and told the driver to take him to the Regimental Aid Station. From the aid station, he went to a MASH. About two days later, a lieutenant with a cane arrived back at battalion headquarters. It seems Warner had found a ride back from the MASH. There was a slight problem, no release from the hospital, but he couldn't wait or he would have missed his ride. It seems he had heard something about being sent back to Japan. He just went the wrong way. Battalion and Regiment didn't ask questions; he was too valuable to them. William Warner Lewis, Jr. was one of the finest and best officers I ever had the privilege of serving with.”
Arthur H. Ringler, USMA '45, wrote about Warner's service during the Korean War: “During the 1952-53 period, Warner commanded a rifle company in the 2nd Bn, 38th Inf, 2nd Division. I was the Bn S-3. In my view, Warner was outstanding, a truly courageous commander who never hesitated to lead by being out in front of his men. He understood his men and they reacted positively to his leadership in what were not very favorable conditions.”
For his service with the 38th Infantry in Korea, Warner earned the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals for Valor, the Commendation Medal, five Purple Heart Medal for wounds received and the Combat Infantry Badge.
Returning to the States, Warner went to Fort Bragg, North Carolina with the 82nd Airborne. This was followed by assignment as Assistant PMS at Allen Academy at Bryan, Texas. After a tour with the 9th Infantry, Warner and Beth spent one year at the Defense Language School in Monterey, California before traveling to Saudi Arabia. In 1966, Warner was assigned to the Defense Atomic Support Agency prior to going to Vietnam. He went from there back to Fort Bragg before being assigned as the Deputy Commander, Fort Wainwright, Alaska. When FORSCOM Headquarters was established at Fort McPherson, Georgia, Warner was selected as Post Commander, a post he held until his retirement as a Colonel in 1976.
Classmate Harry Smythe wrote about Warner at Fort McPherson: “I got to know Warner well beginning in 1973 while assigned to Fort McPherson. He always focused on the needs of others, never on trying to impress others. A Korean War wound left him with a permanent vision handicap which became more serious during his final years. He accepted it as a matter of fact and never complained. By the same token, I never remember hearing him criticize anyone.”
After retirement, Warner became a Small Business Consultant, helping small business owners with business and financial problems. Warner died from heart failure after an illness on 20 December 1994. He is survived by his wife, Beth; a son, William Warner III; and two daughters, Elizabeth and Nancy.
The comments about Warner Lewis from his family and friends say a great deal about a truly great combat leader, a warm and generous friend, a loving and caring husband and father, in short, a good man.
Beth wrote of her husband: “Warner was PATRIOTIC, honest, loyal, loving, modest and kind.
Art Ringler summed up Warner as a soldier and man: “Warner was a completely dedicated officer with the highest sense of honesty and duty. He was equally dedicated to his family. I can best sum him up by saying he loved West Point, the Army and his family-we miss!”
Joe Hayworth wrote: “Warner was a fine person. In his life, we see an example to emulate. In his death, we all lost a good friend who will long be remembered for the many happy hours together.”
West Point roommate, Bill Cound, wrote of Warner: “I consider his as close to me as anyone outside my family and did not realize the depth of this affection until he died in December of 1994. I have tried unsuccessfully to write about him a number of times but he was too close. I say this because it's difficult to explain how I knew him so well and can't seem to get it down in writing. How did I know him so well when we spent so little time together except for those three years, fifty years ago? I suspect it's not unusual that friendships begun when we were young can be so strong.”
To this, the remembrances of his family and friends, the Class of 1946 can only proudly add, “Well Done, Warner; Be Thou At Peace!”
'46 Memorial Article Project and his wife, Beth
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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