Miley, William M., MG

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Last Rank
Major General
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
1542-Infantry Unit Commander
Last MOS Group
Infantry (Officer)
Primary Unit
1953-1955, 1542, US Continental Army Command (CONARC)
Service Years
1918 - 1955


Major General

Four Overseas Service Bars

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by MAJ Mark E Cooper to remember Miley, William M. (Bud), MG.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Not Specified
Last Address
Starkville, Mississippi

Date of Passing
Sep 28, 1997
Location of Interment
Not Specified
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 

Meritorious Unit Commendation 1944-1961

 Unofficial Badges 

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
William M. Miley

Major General William Miles (Bud) Miley (26 December 1897 - 28 September 1997) was a United States Army major general and a professor of military science.

William M. Miley was born at Fort Mason, in California, to Lt. Col. John D. Miley (for whom Fort Miley Military Reservation was named) and Sara Miley. His family had a long history of military service, with three generations before him serving in the United States Army. Two great-grandfathers, his grandfather, his father, his great-uncle, his uncle and his son all graduated from West Point.

Miley himself attended West Point, where he earned a national intercollegiate championship in gymnastics (in the tumbling, rings, and parallel bars events), and graduated in 1918. Immediately after graduation he served in the First Division in France (during World War I).

Following World War I, Miley held a series of assignments, including as a professor of military science at what was then Mississippi State College, in Starkville, Mississippi. It was during this time that he met and married his wife, Julie Sudduth. Other assignments included serving as Athletic Director at West Point, and infantry assignments in Panama, the Philippines, and at Fort Sam Houston.

In 1940, Miley (then holding the rank of Major) was ordered to organize and command the United States Army's first parachute unit, the 501st Parachute Battalion.

After his promotion to Lieutenant Colonel, he was ordered to organize and command the 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. Shortly afterward he was appointed Assistant Division Commander of the 82nd Airborne Division at Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, serving under General Matthew Ridgway.

In 1943, Miley organized the activation of the 17th Airborne Division at Camp Mackall in North Carolina. He was the sole commander of the 17th during the war, leading the Division through such actions as the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Varsity. The Division was deactivated in 1945, but reactivated briefly in 1948 as a training unit.

After the war, Miley was appointed to command the 11th Airborne Division while it occupied Japan, and after its return to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. He had several later assignments, including serving as Director of the Joint Airborne Troop Board, Commander of United States Army Alaska, under the Alaskan Command. He also served as Chief of Staff of the former Continental Army Command (which became The United States Army Forces Command in 1973). He retired from the military in 1955, with a rank of major general.

Following his retirement from the military, Miley worked for Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Beane, until his retirement in 1976, at which time he returned to Starkville, Mississippi. He had the distinction of being the last living division commander of World War II. He died in Starkville in 1997.

He received the Silver Star, 2 Bronze Stars and 2 Distinguished Service Medals for his service in World Wars I and II. He has had a section of Mississippi Highway 389 (where it runs through Starkville) named the "Major General William 'Bud' Miley Highway".

Other Comments:
September 28, 1997

William Miley, 99, a Paratroop Pioneer, Dies


William M. Miley, the acrobatic officer who transformed ground troops into the Army's first parachute combat unit in 1940, then led the famous jump across the Rhine that helped sound the Geronimo death knell for Nazi Germany in 1945, died on Wednesday at his home in Starkville, Miss. He was 99.

The last surviving division commander from World War II, he was known as the father of Army paratroopers.

A lot of American Army troops have jumped from a lot of planes since Major Miley organized the 501st Parachute Battalion at Fort Benning, Ga., in October 1940, and from the design of their jumpsuits (many pockets) to the way they carry their rifles (in a side bag), they all owe something to those trailblazing days.

Various armies had experimented with the use of paratroopers as early as the 1920's, but it was not until German troops parachuted into the Netherlands and Crete in May and June of 1940 that the American Army realized that Gen. Billy Mitchell and Winston Churchill had been onto something when they campaigned unsuccessfully for parachute forces in World War I.

Within a month the Army created the provisional Parachute Test Platoon, a high-spirited band of 48 men, who three months later became the nucleus of the 501st.

Major Miley, a 1918 West Point graduate who had spent 14 years as a lieutenant in the 1920's and 1930's, was not a member of the 1940 test platoon and had never jumped from a plane. But he was the obvious choice to organize and command the airborne battalion.

A champion college gymnast who had been a high rings star of the First Division Circus that toured the country after World War I, he was the Fort Benning athletic officer.

Making his first jump, he became a pioneering commander of a unit of pioneers. Among those under his command were Capt. William T. Ryder, who had led the test platoon as a first lieutenant; Sgt. Aubrey Eberhardt, the first to shout ''Geronimo!'' as he bailed out (he'd seen the movie ''Geronimo,'' the night before), and Sgt. John Swetish, inventor of the 34-foot training tower that became a staple of World War II newsreels.

In addition to working out the myriad details of training, equipment and tactics that became standard paratroop procedure, Major Miley made personal contributions.

Refusing, for example, to let an enlisted man risk making a test jump with an especially heavy pack, he insisted on making the jump himself. He broke his shoulder.

Major Miley also initiated one of the most stirring of airborne traditions. Although most combat commanders stayed at the rear of a battle with their maps and radios, he realized that a paratroop commander had to get to the ground before he could dig out his maps and start giving orders.

Thus he was the first man out of the first plane when the 17th Airborne Division dropped into Germany on March 24, 1945.

By then he had become the first major, the first lieutenant colonel, the first colonel and the first general officer to jump from a plane, always ahead of his troops.

After Pearl Harbor, he took the 501st to Panama to guard the canal, the first overseas duty for a paratroop unit. Later, he organized the first paratroop regiment, the 503d.

Too junior to command a division, as a brigadier general he became assistant commander of the 82d Airborne Division under Gen. Matthew Ridgeway when it and and the 101st Airborne Division were carved out of the old 82d Infantry Division in June 1942.

A year later, as a major general, he organized the new 17th Airborne Division, which provided ground support for the embattled 101st at the Battle of the Bulge in late 1944 before making its famous jump across the Rhine the next March.

Although heartbroken that the 17th was deactivated immediately after the war, General Miley, whose brother, father, grandfather and two great-grandfathers were West Point graduates, soldiered on. Among other things, he ran the Airborne School he had virtually created at Fort Benning; commanded the 11th Airborne Division in occupied Japan; served as first chairman of the Joint Airborne Troop Board at Fort Bragg, N.C., and commanded Army forces in Alaska.

After his retirement in 1955, General Miley, a native of Fort Mason, Calif., who grew up in Washington after his father died while on duty in the Philippines in 1899, spent 11 years as a Merrill Lynch broker in Washington before retiring to Starkville, where he had met his wife, Julia Sudduth, while teaching military science at what is now Mississippi State University in the 1920's.

General Miley, whose wife died in 1995, is survived by two sons, John of Mooresville, N.C., William Jr. of Starkville; 6 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren.

 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Combat Infantryman 1st Award
Master Parachutist (2 Combat Jumps)

 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
1st Infantry DivisionHQ, US Army Cadet Command501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment
82nd Airborne Division17th Airborne DivisionBasic Airborne Course (BAC) Airborne School11th Airborne Division
US Army Alaska (USARAK), US Army Pacific (USARPAC)US Continental Army Command (CONARC)
  1918-1918, 1542, 1st Infantry Division
  1920-1925, 2517, 2nd ROTC Region, HQ, US Army Cadet Command
  1940-1941, 1542, HHC, 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR)
  1942-1942, 1542, HHC, 1st Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment
  1942-1942, 1542, HHC, 82nd Airborne Division
  1943-1945, 1542, 17th Airborne Division
  1946-1947, 1542, Basic Airborne Course (BAC) Airborne School
  1948-1950, 11A, 11th Airborne Division
  1951-1953, 1542, US Army Alaska (USARAK), US Army Pacific (USARPAC)
  1953-1955, 1542, US Continental Army Command (CONARC)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1918-1918 Meuse-Argonne Campaign/Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Phase 1
  1944-1944 Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)/Operation Market Garden
  1944-1945 Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)/Battle of the Bulge
  1945-1945 Rhineland Campaign (1944-45)/Advance to the Rhine
  1945-1945 Central Europe Campaign (1945)/Battle of the Ruhr Pocket
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1914-1918, United States Military Academy
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