William Hood Simpson

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William Hood Simpson
William H. Simpson portrait.jpg
BornMay 18, 1888
Weatherford, Texas, United States
DiedAugust 15, 1980 (aged 92)
San Antonio, Texas, United States
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1909–1946
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg General
UnitUSA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held3rd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment
9th Infantry Regiment
35th Infantry Division
30th Infantry Division
XII Corps
Fourth Army
Ninth Army
Second Army
Battles/warsMoro Rebellion
Pancho Villa Expedition
World War I
World War II
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Legion of Honour (France)
Croix de guerre (France)

General William Hood Simpson (May 18, 1888 – August 15, 1980) was a senior United States Army officer who served with distinction in both World War I and World War II. He is most notable, however, for being the Commanding General of the U.S. Ninth Army in Western Europe on the Western Front during the final stages of World War II.


Early life and military career[edit]

Simpson was born on May 18, 1888, at Weatherford, Texas. In June 1905, a month after turning 17, he entered the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York, and graduated four years later in June 1909, being commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Infantry Branch of the United States Army, his fellow graduates from the USMA included Jacob L. Devers, John C. H. Lee, Edwin F. Harding, George S. Patton, Delos Carleton Emmons, Thomas D. Milling and James Garesche Ord, all later having distinguished careers and becoming general officers.

Simpson's first assignment was with the 6th Infantry Regiment at Fort Lincoln, North Dakota. Soon afterwards the regiment was sent overseas to the island of Mindanao in the Philippines in January 1910 and remained there for another two-and-a-half years, where Simpson participated in the Moro Rebellion, he returned to the United States with his regiment in 1912 and, being stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, remained there as a company commander until, now promoted to first lieutenant, he fought in the Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916. In February 1917 he became aide-de-camp to Major General George Bell, Jr., then commanding the El Paso Military District.

Simpson was promoted to captain in May 1917, a month after the American entry into World War I, and moved with Major General Bell to activate the 33rd Infantry Division; the 33rd Division was sent to the Western Front in April 1918. As a temporary lieutenant colonel he was division chief of staff, and was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal and the Silver Citation Star during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in late 1918.[1]

Between the wars[edit]

In the inter-war years, 1919–1941, Simpson filled staff appointments and attended military schools, both as student and as instructor. On Christmas Eve, 1921, he married Ruth Krakauer, an English-born widow whom he had first met while at West Point. From 1932 to 1936, he served as the Professor of Military Science at Pomona College in Claremont, California. From April to September 1941 he was the first commander of the country's largest Infantry Replacement Training Center, Camp Wolters, located in Mineral Wells, Texas.

World War II[edit]

In mid-1940, he was appointed to command the 9th Infantry Regiment at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Before the U.S. entry into World War II, he had commanded divisions and served as the Assistant Division Commander (ADC) of the 2nd Infantry Division. He received a promotion to temporary major general, taking the 35th Infantry Division, an Army National Guard formation, from Camp Robinson, Arkansas, to a training site in California, he relinquished command in May 1942 and briefly assumed command of the 30th Infantry Division, another Army National Guard formation, until July.

Senior American commanders in Western Europe, 1945. Seated are, from left to right, William Hood Simpson, George S. Patton, Carl A. Spaatz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, Courtney Hodges, Leonard T. Gerow. Standing are, from left to right, Ralph Francis Stearley, Hoyt Vandenberg, Walter Bedell Smith, Otto P. Weyland, and Richard E. Nugent.

Further promotions followed, including command of XII Corps, and later the U.S. Second Army. In May 1944, now with the three-star rank of lieutenant general, Simpson took his staff to England to organize the U.S. Ninth Army. This formation was activated as part of Lieutenant General Omar Bradley's U.S. 12th Army Group, on September 5 at Brest, France. Brest was liberated on September 20, 1944.

The Ninth Army joined the Allied armies on the Western Front in the general advance and, after a month in the Ardennes forest the Ninth was moved further north. In November 1944 it broke through the Siegfried Line and advanced, in some of the heaviest fighting of the war, to the Roer River. At this point the advance stalled, due to the threat posed by dams upstream.

During the crisis of the Battle of the Bulge in December Simpson's Ninth Army came under command of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's Anglo-Canadian 21st Army Group. After the battle was over in early 1945 the Ninth Army remained with Montgomery's 21st Army Group for the final attack into Germany; as part of Operation Plunder, the River Rhine was crossed on March 24, 1945, north of the Ruhr industrial area and on April 19 the Ninth Army made contact with Lieutenant General Courtney Hodges' First United States Army, making a complete encirclement of the Ruhr. On April 4, it had reverted to Bradley's 12th Army Group.

Simpson on the cover of LIFE magazine, March 12, 1945
Allied commanders conference, April 11, 1945. From left to right, Lieutenant General Sir Miles C. Dempsey (GOC British Second Army), General Omar N. Bradley (C-in-C U.S. 12th Army Group); Field Marshal Sir Bernard L. Montgomery (C-in-C 21st Army Group), Lieutenant General William H. Simpson (GOC U.S. Ninth Army).

The Ninth was the first American field army across the Elbe, on April 12, 1945; the Ninth Army continued its advance into Germany until the end of World War II in Europe on May 8, 1945, Victory in Europe Day. Simpson returned to the United States for a rest a month later, in June 1945.

Dwight Eisenhower summarized his experience with Simpson as follows: "If Simpson ever made a mistake as an Army Commander, it never came to my attention... Alert, intelligent, and professionally capable, he was the type of leader that American soldiers deserve. In view of his brilliant service, it was unfortunate that shortly after the war ill-health forced his retirement before he was promoted to four-star grade, which he had so clearly earned."[2]


He next undertook a mission to China in July and subsequently commanded the U.S. Second Army at Memphis, Tennessee.

He retired from the army in November 1946 and on July 19, 1954, he was promoted to full general on the retired list by special Act of Congress (Public Law 83-508). After retirement, Simpson lived and worked in the San Antonio, Texas area. In 1971, his wife Ruth died, and soon thereafter, Simpson moved into the Menger Hotel in downtown San Antonio, where he was very popular with the staff. In 1978, at the age of 90, he met Catherine Louise Berman, a retired civil-service worker from a military family, and the two were married that same year.

General William Hood Simpson died at the Menger Hotel on Friday, August 15, 1980, and was later buried alongside his wife Ruth[3] in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.

Military decorations[edit]

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Distinguished Service Medal with one oak leaf cluster
Silver Star
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Philippine Campaign Medal ribbon.svg Philippine Campaign Medal
Mexican Service Medal ribbon.svg Mexican Service Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with two battle clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany ribbon.svg Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with four bronze service stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon.svg
Légion d'honneur (Knight) (France)
Ruban de la croix de guerre 1939-1945.PNG Croix de guerre 1939–1945 (France)
Order BritEmp rib.png Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (United Kingdom)

Dates of rank[edit]

Insignia Rank Component Date
No insignia in 1909 Second Lieutenant Regular Army June 11, 1909
US-O2 insignia.svg
 First Lieutenant Regular Army July 1, 1916
US-O3 insignia.svg
 Captain Regular Army May 15, 1917
US-O4 insignia.svg
 Major National Army June 7, 1918
US-O5 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant Colonel National Army November 5, 1918
(Reverted to captain on June 30, 1920.)
US-O4 insignia.svg
 Major Regular Army July 1, 1920
US-O5 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant Colonel Regular Army October 1, 1934
US-O6 insignia.svg
 Colonel Regular Army September 1, 1938
US-O7 insignia.svg
 Brigadier General Army of the United States October 1, 1940
US-O8 insignia.svg
 Major General Army of the United States September 29, 1941
US-O9 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant General Army of the United States October 13, 1943
US-O7 insignia.svg
 Brigadier General Regular Army February 1, 1944
US-O8 insignia.svg
 Major General Regular Army April 11, 1946
US-O9 insignia.svg
 Lieutenant General Retired List November 30, 1946
US-O10 insignia.svg
 General Retired List July 19, 1954



  1. ^ http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=18171
  2. ^ [Dwight D. Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe, London: Heinemann, 1948, p. 411].
  3. ^ Arlington National Cemetery, "William Hood Simpson, General, United States Army"; includes photo of their joint headstone. Retrieved May 1, 2018.
  4. ^ Official Register of Commissioned Officers of the United States Army, 1948. Vol. 2. pg. 2433.

External links[edit]

  • European Center of Military History (AAR 171ECB/XIIIC/9A Crossing at Linnich Germany
  • Simpson's biography from the Arlington National Cemetery's website
  • Photos of William Hood Simpson, hosted by the Portal to Texas History
  • Interviews with William Hood Simpson, June 30, 1976, July 7, 1976, University of Texas at San Antonio: Institute of Texan Cultures: Oral History Collection, UA 15.01, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries Special Collections
  • Stone, Thomas R. (Strategic Studies Institute) (1981). "General William H. Simpson-Unsung commander of U.S. 9th Army" (PDF). Parameters. U.S. Army War College. XI (2): 44–52. Retrieved May 2014. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
Military offices
Preceded by
Ralph E. Truman
Commanding General 35th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Maxwell Murray
Preceded by
Henry D. Russell
Commanding General 30th Infantry Division
May 1942 – July 1942
Succeeded by
Leland Hobbs
Preceded by
Newly activated post
Commanding General XII Corps
Succeeded by
Gilbert R. Cook
Preceded by
John L. DeWitt
Commanding General Fourth Army
Succeeded by
John P. Lucas
Preceded by
Newly activated post
Commanding General Ninth Army
Succeeded by
Post deactivated
Preceded by
Lloyd Fredendall
Commanding General Second Army
Succeeded by
Albert Coady Wedemeyer
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Heinrich Himmler
Cover of Time Magazine
February 19, 1945
Succeeded by
Chester Nimitz