Brooks Edward Hale

Publié le par Roger Cousin

Brooks Edward HaleEdward Hale Brooks (April 25, 1893  – October 10, 1978) was an officer in the United States Army and a veteran of World War I, World War II and the Korean War. He received the Distinguished Service Cross for heroism as a young officer in World War I and commanded the 2nd Armored Division "Hell on Wheels" during the Normandy Invasion as well as the VI Corps during the subsequent defeat of German forces in World War II. Edward H. Brooks was born on 25 April 1893 in Concord, New Hampshire. His father, Edward Waite Brooks, was a Concord grocer. His mother was the former Mary Frances Hale, a native of Dover, England. Brooks had three sisters, Harriott, Gertrude and Alice Brooks. Both Gertrude and Alice died in their infancy.

He graduated from Concord High School in June 1911 (where he lettered in football), after which he attended Norwich University (The Military College of Vermont) in Northfield, Vermont, graduating in 1916 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Civil Engineering. He later also received a master of science degree from Norwich University and an honorary doctoral degree in military science from Pennsylvania Military College. General Brooks began his military career in June 1915 as a captain with the 1st Cavalry of the Vermont National Guard, a position he held until July 1916. For the following year, he worked as a civil engineer before his National Guard unit was called up for federal service. On Thanksgiving Day, 1917, Brooks married the former Beatrice Aurora Leavitt. They had two children: Elizabeth Allen Brooks (b. December 27, 1918) and Edward Hale Brooks, Jr. (b. June 6, 1920).

General Brooks was commissioned a second lieutenant of Cavalry in the Regular Army in August 1917, was promoted to first lieutenant the same date and was assigned to the Army Service Schools at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. In November 1917, he was transferred to the 76th Field Artillery at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, moving with his regiment to Camp Merritt, New Jersey in March 1918. At that post he was assigned to the 3rd Field Artillery Brigade in command of a detachment (later G-3) that sailed for France in April 1918. Brooks served in the Champagne-Marne Defense, the Aisne-Marne Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. On October 5, 1918, during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, he earned a Distinguished Service Cross "for extraordinary heroism in action" at Montfauçon, France when he "... exposed himself to heavy and accurate artillery fire directed on an ammunition train while driving a loaded ammunition truck to safety, the driver of which had been killed by enemy fire."

Following the Armistice, he served with the Army of the Occupation in Germany until returning to the United States in August 1919 with station at Camp Pike, Arkansas. In July 1920 he was transferred from the Cavalry to the Field Artillery. Upon his return to the United States, Brooks was a member of the Camp Pike football team. After being named All-Army Halfback in 1920 on the first All-Army team, he captained the Army team that defeated Great Lakes Naval Training Station 20-6 at the American Legion Convention in Kansas City in 1921. Brooks entered the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma in September 1921. Upon graduation in June 1922 he remained as an instructor in gunnery until November 1926, when he was assigned to the command of Battery D of the 24th Field Artillery Regiment, a pack mule outfit at Fort Stotsenburg, in the Philippines.

In October 1928, he was assigned to the 18th Field Artillery at Fort Riley, Kansas. At Fort Riley his artillery battery, a horse drawn outfit, was the first to complete a 100 mile forced march in less than 24 hours. From 1932 to 1934 Brooks attended Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then went to Harvard University as an ROTC instructor in 1934. He attended War College from 1936 to 1937 and was then detailed as an instructor in the attack section of the Command and General Staff College.

Brooks was chief of the statistics branch of the War Department General Staff from 1939 to 1941, where he was closely associated with General George C. Marshall and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. By this time he had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel. In September 1941, General Jacob L. Devers requested that Brooks be named to the staff of the new armored force being formed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. With this came promotion to brigadier general. Consequently, he never held the rank of colonel (O-6). In 1942 he was promoted once again to major general. In this capacity he played a major role in the development of the M-7 self-propelled artillery piece and the Howitzer Motor Carriage M8, both potent forces in armored tactics.

From 1942 until 1944 Brooks served as the first commander of the 11th Armored Division at Ft. Knox, Kentucky, preparing them for the impending invasion of continental Europe. His results with the 11th Armored Division caught the eye of senior commanders, resulting in his selection for overseas assignment to command the 2nd Armored Division ("Hell on Wheels") for the Normandy Invasion. Maj. Gen. Brooks assumed command of the 2nd Armored Division ("Hell on Wheels") on March 17, 1944, at Tidworth Barracks, near Salisbury, England. The division had been transferred to England from the Mediterranean late in 1943. After a training and preparation period the division embarked from England in LCI's and LST's on June 8, 1944, and stood toward the shores of France. Preceded by an advance command post detachment which established contact with the V Corps commanding general, the division landed on Omaha Beach June 9, 1944. The 2nd Armored was committed immediately. In its first engagement the division secured the Vire River bridgehead.

Normandy and the bocage country, where hedgerows furnished natural cover for every field came next. The problem was solved by mounting huge bulldozer blades on the tanks so that a path could be cut through the natural earthen breastworks for the infantry to follow. Then came Saint-Lô, the breakthrough at Avranches, where the 2nd Armored held the eastern flank, and a series of engagements throughout Northern France and Belgium. Brooks was cited for gallantry in action during the period August 2 to 6 for making repeated visits to forward elements of his command. Exposing himself to hostile observation and fire, he expedited the commitment of the division and personally assisted in the organization of continuing attacks by subordinate units in assault on enemy strong points. That display of gallantry and leadership, without regard to his personal safety, earned for him the Silver Star Medal.

General Brooks personally pushed the 2nd Armored Division into being among the first allied divisions on Belgian soil, and was the first Allied division commander to enter that country by assault. An amusing incident during the drive into Belgium occurred when a corps staff officer came to General Brooks' 2nd Armored command post and told the general that he had a mission for the division that he feared was impossible—to be in Ghent in two days. The staff officer's eyes bugged out when the general said, "Tell the corps commander it's in the bag. We'll be there." After the officer departed, General Brooks turned to his chief of staff and said, "Where the hell is Ghent?"

From training in England, through the Normandy landings, the hedgerow fighting, the breakthrough and the race northeastward across France, through Belgium to the Albert Canal, General Brooks had guided the division through two campaigns and scores of operations. During this period, seven units of his command were awarded the Presidential Distinguished Unit Citation. And at Marchiennes, France near the Belgian border on September 2, 1944, he himself had personally participated in and directed an operation which annihilated a German convoy of 165 vehicles and earned him an oak leaf cluster on his Silver Star Medal. The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to General Brooks for his leadership of the 2nd Armored Division.

On September 12, 1944 while the Second Armored was poised at the Albert Canal, General Brooks relinquished command of the division to take temporary command of the V Corps. On October 25 General Brooks assumed command of the VI Corps, replacing General Lucian K. Truscott who was ordered to Twelfth Army Group. In early November, VI Corps was confronted with three problems: to bring the corps' right and left flanks up to the salient held by the 3rd Division along the Meurthe, thus straightening a "jump" line for another offensive; to introduce the newly arrived 100th and 103rd Infantry Divisions into combat, and to make final plans and regroup the entire corps for an attack to cross the Meurthe, to crack the German Winter Line, to penetrate the Vosges passes, and to reach the Rhine. The Seventh Army's assault was marked by success. VI Corps drove through to its objectives. German defenses of the Vosges passes were taken, Strasbourg was captured and the River Rhine reached.

The army changed its direction of attack on November 24. This resulted in major disengagements, reliefs and redeployments. All were accomplished by December 5. VI Corps, teamed with XV Corps, was ready to attack to the north—objective the Lauter River and invasion of Germany. Hurdles ahead were the Maginot Line, the Haguenau Forest and the Siegfried Line. By mid-December the VI Corps was crossing the Lauter River into Germany and assaulting the Siegfried Line. On the night of December 20 the Seventh Army's offensive was called off and all troops ordered to prepare defensive lines. This resulted from the apparent success of the German counter-offensive in Belgium and Luxembourg, known as the "Battle of the Bulge." Forced on the defensive by this turn of events and in the face of determined and repeated enemy counterattacks General Brooks organized a flexible defense which stopped the enemy attacks. During VI Corps' resistance to a January 1, 1945 enemy counterattack through the Low Vosges Mountains VI Corps executed a difficult withdrawal from close contact with the enemy to a predetermined line along the Moder River. All hostile attacks against that position were repulsed. All was quiet on the corps' front until March. For his performance in command of the VI Corps, from December 5, 1944 to March 1945, General Brooks was awarded an oak-leaf cluster to the Distinguished Service Medal. While VI Corps was criticized for exposing its armored forces in towns, Devers noted that "Ted Brooks has fought one of the great defensive battles of all time with very little."

The great spring offensive began in March. VI Corps crossed the Rhine and captured Heidelberg. then came Heilbronn. Turning south and crossing the Danube, the corps drove on to the Italian border to meet the Fifth Army via Brenner Pass. Luger pistol surrendered by GdP Erich Brandenberger to MG Edward H. Brooks, along with the German 19th and 24th Armies, on May 5th, 1945 in Innsbruck, Austria. Currently in the collection of the Sullivan Museum and History Center, Norwich University. On May 5, 1945 (two days before V-E day) General Brooks accepted the surrender of the German 19th Army and 24th Army from General der Panzertruppe Erich Brandenberger in Innsbruck, Austria, thus terminating hostilities in his sector more than 24 hours before the general surrender in Germany. On September 22, 1945, General Brooks' son, Maj. Edward Hale Brooks, Jr. (USMA Jan 1943), died in an airplane accident in Belgium while returning from a night training flight. He was an instructor pilot on the flight in question and was standing at the flight deck at the time of impact.

Upon return to the United States at the close of the European war, General Brooks assumed command of the Fourth Service Command at Atlanta, Georgia. He was appointed deputy commander of the Seventh Army at Atlanta in June 1946, and the following March became deputy commander of the Third Army there. He assumed command of the Antilles Department at Fort Brooke, San Juan, Puerto Rico, in September 1947 and, two months later, was designated Commanding General U.S. Army in the Caribbean, with station at Quarry Heights, Panama Canal Zone. In 1949 Brooks was promoted to lieutenant general and named Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel (G-1) of the Army. He then served as commanding general of the U.S. Second Army at Fort Meade, Maryland from 1951 until he retired from active service on April 30, 1953.

The following was written of General Brooks at the time of his retirement by General Jacob L. Devers: "Ted Brooks is a man of action. He accepts responsibility and then does something constructive about it—and he does it now, not tomorrow. He is a great fighter to have on your side, for he thinks only of the big objective and never of himself. He is quick and sound in his thinking—has tremendous courage—and will tackle any problem with new approaches until he gets the solution. His integrity is of the highest order, and he has great loyalty up and down. He knows when and where to disperse the work load, and when and where to concentrate it. His judgment is unquestionably sound. In addition, Ted has a wonderfully pleasing and dynamic personality. God has truly endowed him with wisdom and with an unfailing ability to understand his fellow man. A great soldier, a keen strategist, and a thoroughly capable administrator, Ted Brooks has all the qualities that would make him an excellent Chief of Staff of the Army."

Publié dans Militaires

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