Robert L. Spragins

Major General Robert L. Spragins (November 12, 1890 — December 26, 1964) was a senior United States Army officer. He was notable for his command of the 71st and 44th Infantry Divisions in World War II.

Robert L. Spragins
Robert L. Spragins (US Army Major General).jpg
From 1946's The History Of The 71st Infantry Division
BornNovember 12, 1890
Huntsville, Alabama, United States
DiedDecember 26, 1964 (aged 74)
Huntsville, Alabama, United States
Buried
Maple Hill Cemetery, Huntsville, Alabama, United States
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service1913–1944
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Major General
UnitUSA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held71st Infantry Division
44th Infantry Division
Battles/warsPancho Villa Expedition
Vera Cruz Expedition
World War I
World War II
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Purple Heart
Treasury Department Medal of Honor (Silver)

BiographyEdit

Early life and military careerEdit

Spragins was born in Huntsville, Alabama on November 12, 1890.[1] His father Robert E. Spragins was a bank president who served in the Alabama State Senate and as chairman of the state Highway Commission. His mother Susan (Echols) Spragins was the daughter of a Confederate States Army officer.[1] He attended the University of Alabama and the University of Virginia before entering the United States Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York in 1909.[1] He graduated on June 12, 1913, and was ranked 77th of 93 students.[1][2] Among his fellow graduates were Geoffrey Keyes, Douglas T. Greene, Francis K. Newcomer, Louis A. Craig, Carlos Brewer, Richard U. Nicholas, Alexander Patch, Robert M. Perkins, Henry Balding Cheadle, Paul Newgarden, William R. Schmidt, Willis D. Crittenberger, Lunsford E. Oliver and Charles H. Corlett. All of these men would, like Spragins, become general officers in the future. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Infantry Branch of the United States Army and was assigned to the 19th Infantry Regiment, then stationed in Texas.[1][2]

While with the 19th Infantry Regiment, Spragins took part in both the Vera Cruz and Pancho Villa expeditions.[1][2]

During 1915 and 1916, Spragins trained recruits at Fort Slocum, New York.[2]

In 1918, the year after the American entry into World War I, Spragins completed the staff training course at the U.S. Army War College, after which he served briefly on the War Department staff.[2] He was then assigned to the 101st Division, which was organized and trained at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.[2] The Armistice with Germany that ended World War I occurred before the division departed for France, and it was demobilized in 1918 and 1919.[2] During the war, Spragins was promoted to temporary major.[2]

Between the warsEdit

In 1919, after the war, Spragins served with the 1st Division as part of the Army of Occupation in post-war Germany.[3]

Spragins served with the 2nd Infantry Brigade and the II Corps Area Headquarters at Camp Dix, New Jersey in 1921 and 1922.[4] He was then posted to Panama for assignment as executive officer (XO) of the 19th Infantry Brigade.[5]

Spragins subsequently completed the advanced course for Infantry officers, as well as the Chemical Warfare course at Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland.[3] In 1927, Spragins completed the course of instruction at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School, where he was a Distinguished Graduate.[6]

Spragins later served as Infantry liaison officer at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, followed by assignment to the staff of the U.S. Army Armor school at Fort Meade, Maryland.[7] In 1935, Spragins was assigned as an advisor and trainer for the Alabama National Guard.[8] Spragins was assistant chief of staff for logistics (G4) for the 24th Infantry Division in 1939.[3]

World War IIEdit

Spragins was serving as chief of staff for the 24th Infantry Division in Hawaii in 1941, and took part in coordinating the initial response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.[1] The German declaration of war on the United States followed four days later.

In 1942 Spragins was promoted to the one-star general officer rank of brigadier general and assigned as the assistant division commander (ADC) of the 95th Infantry Division.[1][3] Shortly afterwards he was assigned as chief of staff for the XIV Corps.[1] In both these assignments he took part in planning and executing operations during the Guadalcanal Campaign.[1]

Spragins was promoted to the two-star rank of major general in 1943 and assigned as commander of the 71st Infantry Division.[1] He oversaw the 71st Division's initial organization and training, and was succeeded by Major General Eugene M. Landrum so he could then assume command of the 44th Infantry Division in August 1944.[1] He led the 44th Division during combat in France and Germany as part of the U.S. Seventh Army, which was commanded by his West Point classmate, Lieutenant General Alexander Patch.[1] In December 1944 he returned to the United States for medical reasons, and was succeeded by William F. Dean.[1]

In August 1945, Spragins retired from the army and returned to Alabama.[1]

PostwarEdit

Spragins resided in Huntsville, and worked as a real estate developer, assistant to the president of a brick making company, and manager of a veteran owned and operated taxi company.[1]

Spragins died in Huntsville on December 26, 1964.[1] He was buried at Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville.[1]

AwardsEdit

Spragins received two awards of the Army Distinguished Service Medal, one for his service with the XIV Corps, and one for his command of the 44th Division.[1] In addition, he received the Silver Star for heroism during the Guadalcanal Campaign, and two awards of the Purple Heart.[1] He also received the Treasury Department Medal of Honor (Silver) in February 1918 to recognize his heroism in saving two men from drowning.[1]

FamilyEdit

In 1915, Spragins married Marguerite S. Van Vliet, the daughter of Brigadier General Robert C. Van Vliet.[1] They were the parents of three sons, Robert Beirne (1916-2003), Charles Echols ("Pete") (1923-2014), and Stewart Van Vliet (born 1926).[1] Robert and Charles attained general officer rank in the Army, while Stewart retired from the U.S. Air Force with the rank of colonel.[1]

ReferencesEdit

SourcesEdit

InternetEdit

  • Spragins, Robert B.; Spragins, Charles E.; Spragins, Stewart V. (1965). "Memorial, Robert L. Spragins". westpointaog.org/. West Point, NY: West Point Association of Graduates.

BooksEdit

NewspapersEdit

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Newly activated unit
Commanding General 71st Infantry Division
July 1943–October 1944
Succeeded by
Eugene M. Landrum
Preceded by
James I. Muir
Commanding General 44th Infantry Division
August 1944 – December 1944
Succeeded by
William F. Dean