William E. DePuy

William Eugene DePuy (/dɛˈpj/ deh-PEW;[1] October 1, 1919 – September 9, 1992) was a U.S. Army general and the first commander of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command. He is widely regarded as one of the principal architects of the restructuring of U.S. Army doctrine after the American withdrawal from Vietnam.[2]

William E. DePuy
William E DuPuy.jpg
General William E. DePuy
Born(1919-10-01)October 1, 1919
Jamestown, North Dakota
DiedSeptember 9, 1992(1992-09-09) (aged 72)
Arlington, Virginia
Place of burial
Brown Family Cemetery
Albemarle County, Virginia
AllegianceUnited States of America
Service/branchUnited States Army seal United States Army
Years of service1941–1977
RankUS-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands heldU.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command
1st Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
Vietnam War
AwardsDistinguished Service Cross (2)
Army Distinguished Service Medal (5)
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star (3)
Purple Heart (2)
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star
Air Medal with "V" device

Early life and careerEdit

DePuy was born in Jamestown, North Dakota.[3] His military career began when he enlisted in the South Dakota National Guard, eventually becoming a squad leader.[4] He graduated from South Dakota State University in 1941 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics[3] and received a Reserve Officers' Training Corps commission as a second lieutenant of Infantry. His first assignment was with the 20th Infantry Regiment at Fort Leonard Wood, and during this time he walked to the Louisiana Maneuvers and back with his platoon.[4]

Shortly after the US entry into World War II, DePuy was assigned in 1942 as a "green" lieutenant, at age 22, to the newly formed 90th Infantry Division. He received a field promotion to major in command of a battalion during the Normandy campaign in August 1944, at age 24. He served with the 90th in the fierce fighting from Utah Beach through the Battle of the Bulge. For his combat heroism he was awarded his first Distinguished Service Cross and three Silver Stars. He then served as an operations officer at division level and was promoted to lieutenant colonel in January 1945.

Post World War IIEdit

Following the war, DePuy attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College. After graduation, he served in myriad command and staff positions, including command of the 2d Battalion, 8th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division, and the 1st Battle Group, 30th Infantry, 3d Infantry Division, both in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1948 he attended the Defense Language Institute for a year to learn Russian, followed in 1949 by assignment as Assistant Military Attaché, and later the acting Army Attaché in Budapest, Hungary.[3] During the Korean War, DePuy spent time convalescing after a broken leg, and then performed clandestine service for the Central Intelligence Agency in China and other Asian countries.[5] In 1953, DePuy began attendance at the Armed Forces Staff College, followed by assignment to the Office of the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, where he worked on modernization of Army force structure, doctrine and training policies. In 1960, DePuy was a student at the Royal College of Defence Studies.

He met Marjory Kennedy Walker of Salem, Virginia, a Far East specialist who served with both the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency,[6] and they were married in June 1951. A son, William E DePuy Jr. was born in July 1952, and daughters Joslin and Daphne in July 1953 and 1954, respectively.[4]


First deployed to Vietnam in 1964, he served as Chief of Staff of Operations for Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, and in March 1966 he assumed command of the 1st Infantry Division ("the Big Red One").[3] During his time as commander, he established a scholarship fund for the children of 1st Infantry Division soldiers killed in Vietnam, which eventually became the 1st Infantry Division Foundation.[7] Also during his time as Commander, he became known as having an "ax-swinging" style of officer management; having fired as many as 56 officers under him including seven battalion commanders and many more majors, captains and sergeants major. This led Army chief of staff General Harold K. Johnson to say, "If every division commander relieved people like DePuy, I'd soon be out of lieutenant colonels and majors. He just eats them up like peanuts." However, DePuy later explained to an interviewer that his experience in World War II had informed him of the importance of good leadership in war as he had "fought in Normandy with three battalion commanders who should have been relieved in peacetime." He firmly believed that command was a privilege to be earned, not a right.[8]


DePuy is perhaps best remembered for his efforts while commander of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, where he helped create a new, innovative fighting doctrine for the Army. His wide-ranging and sometimes controversial changes in combat development and the way the Army trains sparked a debate that resulted in the widely accepted AirLand Battle Doctrine.

General DePuy retired from active duty in July 1977[3] and settled in Highfield, Virginia.[4] He died on September 9, 1992 of Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease,[9] and his wife died on March 15, 2002.[6]


DePuy's awards included two Distinguished Service Crosses, five Distinguished Service Medals, the Air Force Distinguished Service Medal, three Silver Stars, two Purple Hearts, the Legion of Merit, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star, and Air Medal with "V" device.[4] His foreign decorations include the Order of Commander in the French Legion of Honor, the Knight's Cross of the German Order of Merit, the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry, and the Republic of Korea Order of National Security Merit First Class.[3]

  Combat Infantryman Badge
  Basic Army Aviator Badge
Distinguished Service Cross with bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with four bronze oak leaf clusters
  Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star with two bronze oak leaf clusters
  Legion of Merit
  Distinguished Flying Cross
  Bronze Star
Purple Heart with bronze oak leaf cluster
Air Medal with V device
Unit Award
Army Meritorious Unit Commendation with bronze oak leaf cluster
Service Medals
  American Defense Service Medal
  American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead device and three bronze campaign stars
  World War II Victory Medal
  Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with service star
  Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Vietnam Service Medal with silver and bronze campaign stars
Foreign Awards
  Legion of Honour (Commander)
  National Order of Vietnam (Knight)
  Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
  Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Knight Commander's Cross
  Badge of Honour of the Bundeswehr (Gold)
  South Korean Order of National Security Merit (First Class)
  Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
  Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Medal Unit Citation
  Vietnam Campaign Medal


  1. ^ Haig, Jr, Alexander. 1992. Inner Circles. Warner Books.
  2. ^ Selected Papers of General William E. DePuy
  3. ^ a b c d e f "South Dakota State University bio". Retrieved 2007-07-10.
  4. ^ a b c d e General Maxwell R. Thurman, Lieutenant General Orwin C. Talbott, General Paul F. Gorman (2007-03-28). "In Tribute to General William E. DePuy". United States Army Command and General Staff College. Retrieved 2007-07-10.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Brownlee, Romie L.; Mullen, William J. III (1979). Changing An Army: An Oral History of General William E. DePuy, USA, Retired (PDF). Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office. pp. 105–106.
  6. ^ a b "In Memoriam" (PDF). The O.S.S. Society Inc. April 2002. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-08-03. Retrieved 2007-07-10.
  7. ^ "1st Infantry Division: Scholarship Fund". U.S. Army. Archived from the original on 2007-06-13. Retrieved 2007-07-10.
  8. ^ The Generals, by Thomas E. Ricks, pages 242–244
  9. ^ Gole, H. (2008). General William E. DePuy: Preparing the Army for Modern War. University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 9780813173016. Retrieved 2014-11-30.

  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document: "[1]".

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
Commanding General, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command
Succeeded by
Donn A. Starry