Lemnitzer, Lyman, GEN

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Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
00G3-Army General Officer (G3)
Last MOS Group
General Officer
Primary Unit
1963-1969, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Service Years
1920 - 1969



Nine Overseas Service Bars

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Lemnitzer, Lyman (21st Army C/S 4th JC), GEN USA(Ret).
Contact Info
Home Town
Washington, DC
Last Address
Honesdale, PA

Date of Passing
Nov 12, 1988
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 30.

 Official Badges 

Joint Chiefs of Staff US European Command US Army Retired Army Staff Identification

United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (US) U.S. Forces korea US Army Retired (Pre-2007) French Fourragere

 Unofficial Badges 

Artillery Shoulder Cord

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
Historical Soldiers
  1969, Historical Soldiers

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

Lyman Louis Lemnitzer (August 29, 1899 – November 12, 1988) was an American Army General, who served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1960 to 1962. He then served Supreme Allied Commander, NATO from 1963 to 1969.


Lemnitzer was born on August 29, 1899 in Honesdale, Pennsylvania. He graduated from West Point in 1920 and was assigned at his request to a Coast Artillery unit. Lemnitzer served in the Philippines but soon began receiving the staff assignments that marked his military career.

Lemnitzer was promoted to Brigadier General in June 1942 and assigned to General Eisenhower's staff shortly thereafter. He helped form the plans for the invasions of North Africa and Sicily and was promoted to Major General in November 1944. Lemnitzer was one of the senior officers sent to negotiate the Italian surrender during the secret Operation Sunrise and the German surrender in 1945. He would later be accused of making it possible for some Nazis to elude investigations for war crimes.

Following the end of World War II, Lemnitzer was assigned to the Strategic Survey Committee of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was later named Deputy Commandant of the National War College. In 1950, at the age of 51, he took parachute training and was subsequently placed in command of the 11th Airborne Division. He was assigned to Korea in command of the 7th Infantry Division in November 1951 and was promoted to Lieutenant General in August 1952.

Lemnitzer was promoted to the rank of General and named Commander of U.S. Army Forces in the Far East and of the 8th Army in March 1955. He was named Chief of Staff of the Army in July 1957 and appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September 1960. As Chairman, Lemnitzer weathered the Bay of Pigs crisis and the early years of American involvement in Vietnam. He was also required to testify before the United States Senate Foreign Affairs Committee about his knowledge of the activities of Major General Edwin Walker, an extreme racist who had been dismissed from the Army over alleged attempts to promote his beliefs in the military.

Lemnitzer approved the plans known as Operation Northwoods in 1962, a proposed plan to discredit the Castro regime and create support for military action against Cuba by staging false flag and "develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington". Lemnitzer presented the plans to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962. It is unclear how McNamara reacted, but three days later President Kennedy told the general that there was no chance that America would take military action against Cuba. Within a few months, after the denial of Operation Northwoods, Lemnitzer was denied another term as JCS chairman.

In November 1962, Lemnitzer was appointed as Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe, and as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO (the US European Command is the crown jewel of regional commands) in January 1963. This period encompassed the Cyprus crisis of 1963-1964 and the withdrawal of NATO forces from France in 1966.

Other Comments:

Lemnitzer had a passionate hatred for Communists and the "liberal" politicians that he felt were in office during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. He was a strong proponent of staging a full-scale military invasion of Cuba, and then keeping all of its inhabitants under a state of martial law until they began to accept U.S. doctrine. When his suggestions were repeatedly denied in favor of more covert CIA programs based around espionage and propaganda, he began making proposals to attack U.S. citizens and servicemen, and blame it on Cuba, in order to garner public support for a military invasion. One such proposal, known as Operation Northwoods, involved such ideas as firing mortar rounds into U.S. military bases, switching a real plane for a remote controlled plane and blowing it up remotely - blaming it on Cuba, or sinking a U.S. naval vessel stationed near Cuba. The sinking of a vessel has been interpreted as involving real casualties but another interpretation is that the vessel should be unmanned. This latter interpretation is supported by a closer reading of the declassified Northwood Joint Chiefs of Staff report which mentions mock victims and the use of drones. Ultimately most of his plans were rejected by the Kennedy Administration.

Lemnitzer retired from the military in July 1969. In 1975, President Ford appointed Lemnitzer to the Commission on CIA Activities within the United States (aka the Rockefeller Commission) to investigate whether the Central Intelligence Agency had committed acts that violated American laws and allegations that E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis (of Watergate fame) were involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Lemnitzer died on November 12, 1988 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, Katherine Tryon Lemnitzer (1901-1994), is buried with him.

Lemnitzer was played by John Seitz in the 1991 Oliver Stone film, 'JFK.

Foreign decorations

  • Honorary Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (Great Britian)
  • Honorary Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Great Britian)
  • Knight of the Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic (Italy)
  • Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (Italy)
  • Military Order of Merit (Italy)
  • Officer of the Légion d'honneur (France)
  • Médaille militaire (France)
  • Croix de guerre with Palm (France)
  • Bundeswehr Cross of Honour in Gold (Germany)
  • Grand Officer of the Order of Boyaca (Columbia)
  • Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun (Japan)
  • Medalha de Guerra (Brazil)
  • Grand Official of the Order of Military Merit (Brazil)
  • Order of Military Merit Teaguk (Korea)
  • Order of Military Merit Teaguk with Gold Star (Korea)
  • Gold Cross of Merit with Swords (Poland)
  • Most Exalted Order of the White Elephant (Thailand)
  • Medal for Military Merit, First Class (Czechoslovakia)
  • Royal Order of the White Eagle, Class II (Yugoslavia)
  • Grand Star of Military Merit (Chile)
  • Order of Melnik (Ethiopia)
  • United Nations Korea Medal
  • Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation
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Parachutist (Basic)

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1916, US Military Academy (West Point, NY)
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
Philippine DepartmentUnited States Military Academy West Point (Staff-USMA)Philippine Ground ForcesCommand and General Staff College (CGSC) Course
Army War College (Staff)10th Coast Artillery Regiment (District)U.S. Army34th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Brigade
US Army Europe (USAREUR)National War College11th Airborne Division7th Infantry Division
Department of the Army (DA)US Far East Command8th ArmyUnited Nations Command (UNC)
HQ, Ryukyus Command (RYCOM) Office of the Chief of Staff of the ArmyJoint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF)North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
  1922-1925, Philippine Department
  1926-1930, United States Military Academy West Point (Staff-USMA)
  1934-1935, Philippine Ground Forces
  1936-1936, Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Course
  1936-1939, Coastal Artillery School
  1940-1940, Army War College (Staff)
  1940-1941, 10th Coast Artillery Regiment (District)
  1941-1942, Department of the Army (DA)
  1942-1942, 34th Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA) Brigade
  1942-1945, US Army Europe (USAREUR)
  1947-1950, National War College
  1950-1951, 11th Airborne Division
  1951-1952, 7th Infantry Division
  1952-1955, DA/Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans (DCSOPS)
  1955-1957, US Far East Command
  1955-1957, 8th Army
  1955-1957, United Nations Command (UNC)
  1955-1957, HQ, Ryukyus Command (RYCOM)
  1957-1960, Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army
  1960-1962, Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF)
  1963-1969, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 WWII - American Theater
  1942-1945 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater
  1942-1943 WWII - Africa Theater of Operations/Tunisia Campaign (1942-43)
  1943-1943 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Sicily Campaign (1943)
  1945-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Central Europe Campaign (1945)
  1945-1945 WWII - European Theater of Operations/Central Europe Campaign (1945)/Victory in Europe Day (VE Day - 8May45)
  1945-1950 US Occupation of Germany (WWII)
  1951-1951 Korean War/UN Summer-Fall Offensive (1951)
  1951-1952 Second Korean Winter (1951-52)
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military Academy
  1916-1920, United States Military Academy
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