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Fort Benning and the local community will pause for a moment to remember retired Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell III, who will be laid to rest today. Funeral services are 1 p.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church with military honors and burial to follow at Main Post Cemetery.
Caldwell passed away Sunday and was remembered by his family and friends as a great American and an esteemed Soldier and warrior, a devoted father, husband and adored grandfather.
He was a natural leader, leaving behind a legacy of loyalty and professionalism to the Soldiers he inspired; and dedication and honor to his friends and family.
My dad was the best Dad ever, said Dana Caldwell Thor. My dad loved all of us unconditionally. He encouraged, supported and cheered us on in life. He was our rock. His integrity and honor, his loyalty, his faithfulness he was our shining example. Dad was the most positive person I ever knew his smile, his hugs and his love are the things I will remember and treasure.
Caldwells call to service and dedication to the nation ran deep his familys military lineage includes the Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War and Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom.
He served 32 years of service prior to retiring in 1980 as the commanding general of Fifth Army at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas, which his son, Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV now commands.
Born in Fort Moultrie, S.C., on July 20, 1925, Caldwell was raised in an environment emulating the Army Values Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. His father served as an Army officer for 37 years and created a Family atmosphere of dedication to military service a value that Caldwell internalized at a young age and acted upon before his military service began, according to Caldwells Wikipedia page.
Military orders moved the Caldwells to Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, in December 1941. On Dec. 7, 1941, as Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, the Caldwell family witnessed the destruction of the bombing.
Caldwell, then just 16 years old, volunteered at the base hospital, and for weeks following the attack, drove an ammunition truck to support the efforts, according to Wikipedia.
Caldwell applied to the U.S. Army Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., but almost enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps because he doubted he would be accepted into the academy.
He later said, When the telegram came telling my Family and me that I was accepted into West Point and I was to report there in two days or three days, I immediately caught a train out of El Paso (Texas) and went to West Point.
In 1948, he was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Infantry and attended ground general school at Fort Riley, Kan., then Infantry School at Fort Benning.
While attending the Infantry Basic Officers Course, he met his late wife, the former Trudy Dismuke, and they married in 1949.
Soon after, Caldwell was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 34th Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division, which served as a Japanese occupation force on Kyushu, Japan.
The 34th Infantry Regiment was among the first U.S. forces committed to combat in Korea in July 1950, and according to Caldwells Wikipedia entry, like many units at the time, Caldwells regiment was understrengthed and ill-equipped for combat with North Korean forces. The regiment had no tank company and virtually no anti-tank capability. Much of their ammunition was old and the unit had limited medical support. The forces arrived in the port of Pusan in an old Japanese hospital ship and then pushed north via train to Taejon. At Pyongtek south of Suwon Air Base, Caldwells regiment set up defensive positions with Task Force Smith.
On July 19, 1950, a North Korean company ambushed Caldwells platoon. Awarded his first Silver Star that day, the citation read without regard for his own safety, he personally led an assault on the enemys lines, and the men, inspired by his gallant example, overran the position ... He fearlessly advanced into the face of withering fire, killed four of the enemy, reached his fallen men, and directed their evacuation to friendly positions.
The following day, American forces led by Gen. William Dean were decimated. Within two months of arriving on the Korean Peninsula, only 168 of the original 1,968 men remained. Caldwells battalion was combined with others to become the 3rd Battalion, 19th Infantry, 24th Infantry Division.
Caldwell came to Korea as a platoon leader, but assumed company command and received a battlefield promotion to captain on Aug. 30, 1950.
With reinforcements, Caldwells unit broke out of the Pusan Perimeter in early September and steadily proceeded northward to North Koreas capital by Thanksgiving. With the help of Chinese reinforcements, American forces were pushed back. On Feb. 3, 1951, Caldwell led L Company, 19th Inf. Regt., to secure approaches to the Han River. He received a second Silver Star for his actions that day. Part of the citation read, With the enemy about to overrun his positions and the entire perimeter in danger, Capt. Caldwell, completely disregarding personal safety, once again rallied his men and personally led a daring counterattack, employing rifles and grenades, which broke the back of the enemys attack and forced him to withdraw leaving an estimated 100 dead. Caldwells leadership and professionalism as a Soldier enabled him to reach the rank of colonel, where he returned to the U.S. Army Military Academy, West Point, N.Y., first, as a tactical officer in 1960, and secondly, as commander of the Second Regiment of the U.S. Cadet Corps. Caldwells natural ability to lead inspired and shaped many young, future leaders in the Army as he imparted his tactical knowledge, dedication to the Army, and his leadership philosophy to the Corps of Cadets.
After mentoring countless Soldiers at West Point, Caldwell returned to combat in Vietnam.
In 1967, Caldwell was selected to command the 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan.
As his unit deployed to Vietnam, Caldwell oversaw training and equipping of paramilitary forces.
On Feb. 24, 1967, Caldwell learned that his brigade was under heavy assault near Ap Gu, Vietnam, and flew to the combat zone.
He initially directed fire from the air; after his helicopter landed in a non-secure area, Caldwell directed the counter-assault from the ground with his troops. Because of his actions that day, he received his third Silver Star for gallantry in action against a hostile force.
The citation partly read, Although continuously exposed to intensive hostile fire ... Through superb planning and tireless supervision ... with complete disregard for his personal safety ... His presence in the areas of heaviest conflict greatly inspired his men and they soon routed the large insurgent force. For his heroism that day, Caldwell also received the Distinguished Flying Cross.
In 1973, Caldwell rose to the rank of major general and returned with his family to Washington, D.C., where he oversaw the dissemination of all foreign military aid from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Afterward, he commanded the Army Training Center at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He instituted the posts iconic motto, Victory Starts Here.
In July 1978, he was promoted to lieutenant general and assumed command of Fifth Army at Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas.
At Fifth Army, he oversaw the training of about 270,000 National Guardsmen and Army Reservists.
According to his obituary in the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, Bill Caldwell defied the adage that nice guys finish last. His life is testimony to that. ... He was highly respected and admired by all who knew him. Bill never met a person who didnt have some quality that could be favorably commented upon.
With Trudy, Caldwell had five children. They are Thor of Tiburon, Calif.; Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV of Fort Sam Houston, Texas; Frederick D. Caldwell of Columbus; Theresa Burton of Lynchburg, Va.; and, Fontaine Jenkins of Columbus. His family includes 14 grandchildren. After 32 years together, Trudy passed away in 1981.
Several years later Caldwell married the former Elaine Flowers, and became the stepfather to three sons, George, Tom and Dr. David Flowers all of Columbus, and the grandfather of nine children.
He and Elaine spent 26 years together prior to Elaines passing.
Three years ago, Caldwell married the former Diane Frick Kinnaird, and the family grew again with the addition of her six children and 12 grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the National Infantry Foundation, P.O. Box 2823, Columbus, Ga., 31902-2823.