Briant H. Wells

Briant Harris Wells (December 5, 1871 – June 10, 1949) was a highly decorated officer in the United States Army with the rank of Major General. A veteran of Spanish–American and Philippine–American Wars, he later distinguished himself as Chief of Staff of the IV Corps during World War I and received Army Distinguished Service Medal.[1]

Briant Harris Wells
23-wells l.jpg
Major general Briant H. Wells, U.S.A.
Born(1871-12-05)December 5, 1871
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory
DiedJune 10, 1949(1949-06-10) (aged 77)
Long Beach, California
Allegiance United States
Service/branchEmblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service1894–1935
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
UnitUSA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands heldHawaiian Department
Hawaiian Division
1st Infantry Division
Army Infantry School
Battles/warsSpanish–American War

Philippine–American War
Pancho Villa Expedition
World War I

AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Purple Heart
Legion of Honour
RelationsDaniel H. Wells (father)
Heber M. Wells (brother)

He later served in various important assignments, including Deputy Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Commanding general, 1st Infantry Division or Hawaiian Department.[2]

Early careerEdit

Wells was born on December 5, 1871 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory as the son of Daniel H. Wells and Martha Givens Harris. His father was a mayor of Salt Lake City and an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Briant had a total of thirty-seven siblings due to his father's LDS religion, which allowed Polygamy. Some of his siblings had also distinguished careers later: Heber M. Wells, first Governor of the State of Utah; Elizabeth Wells Cannon, a prominent women's suffragist or Rulon S. Wells, a Utah politician. His father was also head of the Nauvoo Legion (the name given to the predecessor of the Utah National Guard during the early period of Utah Territory).[3][1][2]

In May 1890, Wells received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he graduated four years later with Bachelor of Science degree. Many of his classmates became general officers later including: Butler Ames, George H. Estes, Hamilton S. Hawkins III, Samuel Hof, Ora E. Hunt, John W. Joyes, Francis L. Parker, Frank Parker, Paul B. Malone, George Vidmer, Pegram Whitworth or Clarence C. Williams.

Following his graduation, Wells was commissioned second lieutenant in the Infantry Branch on June 12, 1894 and ordered to Fort Omaha, Nebraska, where he joined 2nd Infantry Regiment. He served with the regiment in Department of the Platte until June 1896, before his unit was transferred to the Department of Dakota.[1][2]

He then served as an Instructor with the Utah Army National Guard from August 1897 until the beginning of Spanish–American War, when he was promoted to First lieutenant and appointed a Quartermaster, Commissary, and Mustering Officer of the Utah Volunteers. Wells was then transferred to the 18th Infantry Regiment and embarked for Cuba in June that year. He participated in the Battle of San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898 and was wounded while leading a charge. Wells spent a month in the hospital and received Silver Star for gallantry and efficiency under fire.[4][1][2]

Upon his full recovery, Wells served light duty with Utah Army National Guard and rejoined the 18th Infantry Regiment at Cavite, Philippines as Company Commander in November 1898. He subsequently participated in the combats against Filipino insurgents on the Island of Panay during Philippine–American War. Wells took part in the captures of Jaro and Iloilo and served in the field until December 1899. He was meanwhile appointed Regimental Commissary in May that year.[1][2]

While in the Philippines, Wells participated in the Moro Rebellion and was promoted to Captain in February 1901. He left for the United States in June that year and following a leave at home, he was assigned to the 29th Infantry Regiment at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. His regiment served within the Department of the Lakes until February 1902, when it was ordered for occupation duty to the Philippines.[1][2]

During his second tour in that country, Wells was stationed in the Southern Philippines and in the Islands of Visayas until May 1904, when he was ordered back to the United States. He then served a tour of duty with the Department of the Colorado, before he rejoined his regiment in Luzon, Philippines in August 1907.[1][2]

In August 1909, Wells returned stateside and joined the headquarters of the Department of the East at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York City. He consecutively served as Quartermaster under Generals Leonard Wood, Frederick D. Grant and Tasker H. Bliss until December 1912, when he rejoined his old outfit, 29th Infantry Regiment as Constructing and Regimental Quartermaster. Wells sailed with the regiment to the Panama Canal Zone in March 1915 and served as company and battalion commander and as Adjutant and again as Quartermaster of the regiment.[1][2]

World War IEdit

Following his return stateside in May 1916, Wells was requested by his former superior officer, General Wood, for duty as an Instructor at the Citizens' Military Training Camp, the first businessmen's training camp at Plattsburgh, New York. While in this capacity, he was promoted to Major in July 1916 and left for Washington, D.C. one month later. Wells then served briefly with the Office of the Chief of the General Staff of the United States Army, before he was ordered to the Mexican border, where he assumed duty as Chief of Staff, 16th Provisional Division and Nogales District during the Pancho Villa Expedition.[1][2]

He was ordered to Douglas, Arizona in April, 1917 and served as Chief of Staff, 3rd Provisional Division, before returned to Washington, D.C. one month later. Wells then served as a member of the War Department General Staff under his another former superior, Tasker H. Bliss until August that year, when he was promoted to the temporary rank of Colonel.[1][2]

Wells was subsequently ordered to Camp Lee, Virginia, where he was tasked with the formation and training of 318th Infantry Regiment, the part of 80th Division. He then commanded the regiment until December 1917, when he was attached to the Office of the Chief of the General Staff of the United States Army under General Tasker H. Bliss.[1][2]

General Bliss also served as an American Permanent Military Representative at the Supreme War Council in Versailles, France and Wells followed him there in January 1918. Wells served as Representative of General Bliss at Headquarters, General-in-Chief, Allied Armies until the end of July 1918, when he was appointed Chief of Staff of newly activated VI Corps under Major general Omar Bundy.[1][2]

Wells was promoted to the temporary rank of Brigadier general on August 8, 1918 and participated in the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in mid-September. He was transferred to the same capacity with IV Corps under Major general Charles H. Muir in October 1918 and participated in the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. For his service during World War I, Wells was decorated with Army Distinguished Service Medal and also received Legion of Honour, rank Officer by the Government of France.[4][1][2]

Postwar serviceEdit

Officers of the United States Army arriving at the White House for the annual New Year's Reception. Wells is on the right in the lead with General Charles P. Summerall, Chief of Staff on the left.

Following the Armistice, Wells remained with IV Corps, now under Major general Charles P. Summerall and took part in the Occupation of the Rhineland. He was stationed in the area west of Coblenz until mid-May 1919, when the Corps was demobilized and its unit ordered back to the United States.[1]

Wells reverted to the peacetime rank of lieutenant colonel in July 1919 and assumed duty with the War Plans and Defense Projects Section, War Plans Division, War Department General Staff. While in this capacity, he was promoted to Colonel on July 1, 1920 and was appointed Chief of War Plans and Defense Projects Section. Upon an appointment of General John J. Pershing as Chief of Staff of the Army in July 1921, Wells was promoted to the capacity of Assistant Chief of Staff, War Plans Division within the War Department General Staff and reached again the rank of Brigadier general on December 4, 1922.[1][2]

In November 1923, Wells was ordered to Fort Benning, Georgia for duty as Commandant of the Army Infantry School. He served in this capacity until March 1926, when he was recalled to the War Department General Staff and assumed duty as Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics (G-4). Wells served in this capacity under Major General John L. Hines and upon the arrival of new Chief of Staff, General Charles P. Summerall, who served as Wells superior officer during the occupation duty in Germany, he was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff in May 1927. He was promoted to Major general on April 19, 1928.[1]

Wells served De facto as the second man of the War Department General Staff until March 1930, when he was ordered to Fort Hamilton, New York City and assumed duty as Commanding general, 1st Infantry Division. This assignment was brief and Wells sailed for Hawaii in September that year, where he assumed duty as Commanding general, Hawaiian Division.[1][2]

In September 1931, Wells assumed command of the Hawaiian Department and was responsible for the complete defense of Hawaii. His command consisted of Hawaiian Division, which he recently commanded; Separate Coast Artillery Brigade and 18th Composite Wing. Wells also completely revised the war plans for the defense of the Islands, opened up many miles of military trails and roads in the mountains, greatly improved housing and tightened up in many ways on officer requirements, both professionally and physically. He held that command until the end of September 1934, when he was ordered stateside for pending retirement.[1][2][5][6]

Retirement and deathEdit

Wells retired from active service on January 31, 1935 and returned to Hawaii, where he found a new home. He settled in Honolulu and became the first President of the Honolulu Community Theatre. He then served as Executive Vice President and Secretary, Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association until June 1944. In addition to his job, he was a member of Honolulu Chapter of the Red Cross; of the Hawaiian Historical Society, of the Social Science Club, the Oahu Country Club and the Pacific Club.[1]

As the official of the Hawaiian Islands Protective association, General Wells was also a proponent that Hawaii’s 148,000 residents of Japanese origin will remain loyal to the United States in case of a war in the Pacific area.[7]

In June 1949, while enroute to his USMA class reunion, Wells died on June 10, 1949 in Long Beach, California. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia and honorary pallbearers were West Point classmates and men with whom Wells served for more than forty years in the Army. They included General George C. Marshall, former Secretary of State and World War II Chief of Staff; General Omar N. Bradley, then-Army Chief of Staff; General Charles P. Summerall, former Chief of Staff, under whom General Wells served as his Deputy in 1927-1930, and R. G. Bell of Honolulu, president of the Hawaiian Sugar Planters Association.[1][8]

His wife, Mary Jane Jennings (1877-1959) is buried beside him. They had together three children: sons Briant Jr. and Thomas J., both decorated Army Colonels and USMA graduates and daughter Mary Jane.


Here is Major general Wells ribbon bar:[4]

1st Row Army Distinguished Service Medal Silver Star Purple Heart
2nd Row Spanish Campaign Medal Philippine Campaign Medal Mexican Border Service Medal
3rd Row World War I Victory Medal with two Battle Clasps Army of Occupation of Germany Medal Legion of Honour, rank Officer

See alsoEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
William Lassiter
Commanding General, Hawaiian Department
September 14, 1931 – September 30, 1934
Succeeded by
Halstead Dorey
Preceded by
Edwin B. Winans
Commanding General, Hawaiian Division
October 25, 1930 – September 1, 1931
Succeeded by
Otho B. Rosenbaum
Preceded by
William P. Jackson
Commanding General, 1st Infantry Division
March 21, 1930 – September 19, 1930
Succeeded by
William P. Jackson
Preceded by
Walter H. Gordon
Commanding General, United States Army Infantry School
November 9, 1923 – March 8, 1926
Succeeded by
Edgar T. Collins


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Briant H. Wells 1894 - West Point Association of Graduates".
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Briant Harris Wells, Major general, United States Army". Arlington National Cemetery. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
  3. ^ Robert C. Freeman, "Latter-day Saints in the World Wars", Out of Obscurity: The LDS Church in the Twentieth Century (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2000), p. 111
  4. ^ a b c "Valor awards for Briant H. Wells". Militarytimes Websites. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  5. ^ "History Commanding generals - United States Army, Pacific".
  6. ^ "MANY CHANGES IN ARMY STAFF: Major-General Wells is Assigned to Hawaiian Department - San Pedro News Pilot, Volume 4, Number 115, 17 July 1931". Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  7. ^ "ISLAND JAPS WILL SUPPORT U, S., CLAIM - Healdsburg Tribune, Number 177, 31 May 1935". Retrieved 2016-08-27.
  8. ^ "MG Briant H. Wells (1871 – 1949) – Find A Grave Memorial".