Charles Pelot Summerall

Charles Pelot Summerall
Charles Pelot Summerall
Charles Pelot Summerall
Portrait of General Charles Pelot Summerall
by Ray Edward Goodbred
Born March 4, 1867(1867-03-04)
Blunts Ferry, Florida
Died May 14, 1955(1955-05-14) (aged 88)
Washington, D.C.
Place of burial Arlington National Cemetery
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1892–1931
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Battles/wars Philippine–American War
China Relief Expedition
World War I
Other work President of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina (1931-1953)

Charles Pelot Summerall (March 4, 1867 – May 14, 1955) was a U.S. general. He fought in World War I, and was Army Chief of Staff between 1926 and 1930. He was also the President of The Citadel between 1931 and 1953.



Early life and career

Summerall was born in Blunts Ferry, Florida, and attended the Porter Military Academy in South Carolina from 1882 to 1885. After graduation, he worked as a school teacher for three years. In 1888 he enrolled in the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, graduating in June 1892.[1]

Commissioned as a second lieutenant he was assigned to the 1st Infantry, transferring to the 5th Artillery on March 1893. He performed garrison duty in California from 1893–1895, then served at Fort Hamilton from 1895-1898. He was assigned to the Department of the Gulf as aide to the commander and as an engineer officer in 1898-1899, receiving promotion to first lieutenant in March 1899.[2]

Summerall participated with his unit in the Philippine Insurrection in 1899-1900, and was a member of the China Relief Expedition in 1900-1901, participating in the attack on Peking. He was promoted to captain and assigned to the 106th Coast Artillery Company in July 1901. He served at Forts Walla Walla and Lawton, in Washington state, commanding the latter post in 1901-1902. He was on duty at Camp Skagway and commanded and was in charge of preliminary work at Fort Seward in Alaska. He commanded Fort Flagler in 1902-1903, and then was transferred to the 3rd Field Artillery Battery with duty at Camp Thomas and Fort Myer in 1903-1905.[2]

Summerall was the senior instructor of artillery tactics at West Point from 1905-1911. He was promoted to major in March 1911, and commanded the field artillery of the Maneuver Division at San Antonio, Texas. He commanded the summer camps of instruction for Army and National Guard artillery in 1912-1914, was assistant chief of the Militia Bureau and in charge of National Guard artillery in 1915-1917. He was engaged in purchasing artillery ranges, and was a member of the Ordnance Board from 1915–1916, the commission to investigate the manufacture of munitions in 1916, the Board of Ordnance and Fortification in 1917, and the military mission to British and French armies in 1917. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1916, colonel in 1917, and brigadier general in the National Army in August 1917.[2]

World War I

Summerall commanded the 67th Field Artillery Brigade and the 1st Field Artillery Brigade in operations in France in 1917, was promoted to major general in the National Army, and successively commanded his brigade, the 1st Division, and V Corps, in the Cantigny, Soissons, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne operations in 1918. He commanded IX and IV Corps and served on the American Peace Commission at the Peace Conference in 1919.[2]

Post-war career

Summerall commanded the 1st Division in 1919-1921, receiving promotion to brigadier general in February 1919 and to major general in April 1920. He commanded the Hawaiian Department in 1921-1924.[2] Colonel William "Billy" Mitchell visited Summerall during his command in Hawaii, and criticized the lack of air defenses for the islands. This angered the general, who later attempted to preside over Mitchell's court-martial in 1925, until the defense won his dismissal by showing his bias. However, he still testified as a witness against Mitchell.[3]

After commanding the Eighth and Second Corps Areas in 1924-1926, Summerall was appointed Chief of Staff of the United States Army, serving from 21 November 1926 until 20 November 1930, with promotion to general in February 1929. During his tenure he directed the formation of a mechanized force and recommended an integrated mobile force of tank, artillery, engineer, and quartermaster elements.[2]

Summerall retired from active service in March 1931, and was president of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina from 1931 until 1953. He died in Washington, D.C., on 14 May 1955.[2] The elite drill team was named for Summerall named The Summerall Guards.


General Summerall's decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star and numerous foreign decorations. He received the Distinguished Service Cross as commanding general of the 1st Division.[4]

...for extraordinary heroism in action before Berzy-le-Sec, near Soissons, France, during the Aisne-Marne offensive, July 19, 1918. General Summerall, commanding the 1st Division, visited, with great gallantry and with utter disregard for his own safety, the extreme front lines of his division and personally made a reconnaissance of the position in the face of heavy hostile machine-gun and artillery fire, exhorting his men to renew the attack on Berzy-le-Sec, promising them a powerful artillery support, and so encouraging them by his presence and example that they declared their readiness to take the town for him. Due to his great courage and utter disregard for his own safety, the men of his division were inspired to enormous and heroic efforts, capturing Berzy-le-Sec the next morning under terrific enemy fire, and later in the day the division reached all its objectives.[5]

In contrast to the official citation, Colonel Conrad S. Babcock, commander of the 28th Infantry Regiment at Berzy-le-Sec, contended that General Summerall was not at the front until after the battle.

The only time I saw General Summerall near the front was on the night of the 19th in the Missy-aux-Bois ravine, Ploisy had just been captured. If he exhorted any of the 1st Battalion that evening, after their strenuous and fierce 3,000 yard advance, I was never told of it.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "General Charles P. Summerall, USA, Ret. (1931-1953)". Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Charles Pelot Summerall". Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  3. ^ "The United States Army Pacific". Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  4. ^ "Military Times Hall of Valor : Awards for Charles Pelot Summerall, Sr.". Retrieved 7 November 2010. 
  5. ^ War Department General Orders No. 9, 1923
  6. ^ Nelson, James Carl. The Remains of Company D. St. Martins Press, 2009, pp. 223–224.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
John L. Hines
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Succeeded by
Douglas MacArthur

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