Knowlton, William A., GEN

 Photo In Uniform   Service Details
33 kb
View Time Line
Last Rank
Last Service Branch
Last Primary MOS
00GC-Commanding General
Last MOS Group
General Officer
Primary Unit
1981-1989, National Defense University (Staff)
Service Years
1943 - 1980



Six Overseas Service Bars

 Last Photo   Personal Details 

730 kb

Home State
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by the Site Administrator to remember Knowlton, William A., GEN USA(Ret).
Contact Info
Home Town
Weston, MA
Last Address
Weston, MA

Date of Passing
Aug 10, 2008
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Section 15, Site 48 LH

 Official Badges 

Office of Secretary of Defense Joint Chiefs of Staff US European Command National Defense University

Defense Intelligence Agency US Army Retired Army Staff Identification Belgian Fourragere

Netherlands Orange Lanyard US Army Retired (Pre-2007) French Fourragere

 Unofficial Badges 

Armor Shoulder Cord

 Military Association Memberships
West Point Association of Graduates
  2004, West Point Association of Graduates [Verified]

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

General William Allen Knowlton (June 19, 1920 - August 10, 2008) was a United States Army four star general, and a former Superintendent of the United States Military Academy. As a full general, he served as Commander, Allied Land Forces South East Europe, and as the United States Military Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Personal life


Knowlton's daughter, Holly Knowlton, married future four star general David Petraeus two months after Petraeus graduated from West Point. Knowlton was Superintendent at the time. Holly is a graduate of Dickinson College.

Military career


Knowlton was commissioned in the cavalry in January 1943 after graduating from the United States Military Academy. He reported for duty with the 7th Armored Division, and during World War II led an assault gun platoon in France, and later a reconnaissance troop in Germany, which linked up with the Russians, advancing from the east, northeast of Berlin. For this he was awarded the Silver Star.

Following the war, he held a various staff postings, and graduated from the Command and General Staff College in 1955. Following graduation, he was assigned to his alma mater's Department of Social Sciences, becoming an associate professor. He next took command of a battalion of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and then attended the U.S. Army War College. Before taking command of a brigade at Fort Knox, he served as military attaché in Tunis.

Returning from Tunis, he was assigned to the Pentagon in the Office of the United States Army Chief of Staff and later the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He deployed to Vietnam for two tours of duty where he oversaw Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) for General William Westmoreland, and served as assistant division commander for the 9th Infantry Division.

After his time in Vietnam, he became Secretary of the Army General Staff, and on March 23, 1970 he became the 49th Superintendent of the United States Military Academy, an assignment he held for four years. In 1974, during his tenure, the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed West Point's right to enforce the Honor Code in response to two challenges from cadets.

After his time as Superintendent, he was assigned as Chief of Staff of the United States European Command. Promoted to full General in 1976, he took command of Allied Land Forces South East Europe, and finished his career as the United States Representative on NATO's Military Committee.

Knowlton's awards and decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star with 2 oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star, Air Medal with 9 oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. His foreign awards include the French Legion d'Honneur and the Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern from Germany.

Post military


In retirement, Knowlton served as a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University, lectured at the Armed Forces Staff College, served as an advisor for the Defense Nuclear Agency, and was a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Board.

Knowlton was also on the board of Chubb Corporation, and was the 2004 Distinguished Graduate Award recipient from the Association of Graduates, the United States Military Academy alumni organization.

Other Comments:

Gen. William Knowlton; former West Point superintendent; 88

By Patricia Sullivan


William A. Knowlton, a retired four-star general who during four decades of military duty was superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, died Aug. 10 at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. The cause was intracranial bleeding as a result of a fall. He was 88 and had Parkinson's disease.

Gen. Knowlton, a graduate of West Point in January 1943, was the 49th superintendent of the academy, a post he held from 1970 to 1974. At the time, he was the longest-serving superintendent since World War II.

His tenure there reflected the uproar of the culture as the Vietnam War was coming to a close. A cadet was discharged for lying about his marital status, and Gen. Knowlton's attempts to tighten discipline and enforce rules were met with the filing of several lawsuits.

He described his job there as “the commander of a stockade surrounded by attacking Indians,” in Rick Atkinson's 1989 “The Long Gray Line,” a history of West Point. In 1974, the U.S Supreme Court supported the school's ability to set and enforce high standards.

Gen. Knowlton admitted the first South Vietnamese person to the cadet ranks at West Point. Although the academy had graduated more than 100 foreign cadets since 1889, most were Latin American or Filipino. After Congress created four all-expenses-paid slots for Asians, South Koreans and a Thai took the first three.

“Everybody kind of forgot about the Vietnamese,” Gen. Knowlton told journalist Christopher Scanlan in 1992. Tam Minh Pham won the slot; he later spent six years as a prisoner of war in his native country. By the time he retired in 1980, Gen. Knowlton was the Army's second-highest-ranking four-star general, The New York Times noted then.

Gen. Knowlton, a native of Weston, Mass., began his career as a second lieutenant in the Armored Cavalry and fought in four campaigns during World War II, beginning in Normandy. In the last weeks of the war, he was awarded a Silver Star for leading a reconnaissance mission deep behind German lines to make one of the first contacts with the Soviet forces north of Berlin.

His later commands included battalion and brigade armored cavalry and armor units, the 9th Infantry Division's multi-brigade force in South Vietnam and the Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe in Izmir, Turkey.

He also served on the staffs of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the early 1950s.

Gen. Knowlton was on the staff of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, from 1966 to 1968, where he oversaw civil operations on William Westmoreland's staff and served as assistant division commander in the 9th Infantry Division. His work in Southeast Asia resulted in the award of a Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and 10 Air Medals. He also received two more Silver Stars, one for gallantry at a fire support base that came under sudden attack and the other in a battle on the Plain of Reeds.

He was on the general staff of the secretary of Army for the next two years until he went to West Point, where his daughter Hollister met and married Lt. David Petraeus, now a four-star general and commander of the multinational forces in Iraq.

Gen. Knowlton, a soldier-scholar, also taught social sciences at West Point while working on a master's degree in political science at Columbia University, which he received in 1957. He also graduated from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the National War College.

After West Point, Gen. Knowlton became chief of staff of the European Command and for his last three years of active duty was the U.S. representative to NATO's military committee in Brussels, the highest military authority in the NATO alliance.

After his retirement, he was a senior fellow at a defense studies institute at the National Defense University at Fort McNair for 15 years. He also served as an adviser for the Defense Nuclear Agency and was a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Board.

In the private sector, he became a director of the Chubb Corp. and served as a trustee for Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia.

In 2004, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy gave him its Distinguished Graduate Award, calling him “a living embodiment of the values enshrined in the Academy's motto: Duty, Honor, Country.”

Gen. Knowlton's military honors also included a Defense Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Legion of Merit and two awards of the Army Commendation Medal.

Gen. Knowlton is survived by his wife of 64 years, Marjorie D. “Peggy” Knowlton of Alexandria, Va.; daughter Hollister Petraeus of Fort Myer, Va.; three sons, retired Army Lt. Col. William A. Knowlton Jr. of Burke, Va., Davis D. Knowlton of Manila, Philippines, and Timothy R. Knowlton of Mill Valley; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.


 Photo Album   (More...

 Ribbon Bar

Parachutist (Basic)
Vietnam - Jump Wings

 Enlisted/Officer Basic Training
  1939, US Military Academy (West Point, NY), F
 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
7th Armored Division87th Armored Reconnaissance BattalionCommand and General Staff College (CGSC) CourseUnited States Military Academy West Point (Staff)
3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR)Army War College (Staff)Army GarrisonsDefense Attache Office (USDAO), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
Office of the Chief of Staff of the ArmyDepartment of Defense (DOD)Military Assistance Command Vietnam MACV9th Infantry Division
Department of the Army (DA)United States European Command (USEUCOM)Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (LANDSOUTH)North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA)Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)National Defense University (Staff)
  1943-1945, 7th Armored Division
  1943-1945, 87th Armored Reconnaissance Battalion
  1955-1955, Command and General Staff College (CGSC) Course
  1955-1957, United States Military Academy West Point (Staff)
  1957-1959, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment (3rd ACR)
  1959-1961, Army War College (Staff)
  1961-1963, Army Garrison, Fort Knox, KY
  1963-1964, Defense Attache Office (USDAO), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  1964-1965, Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army
  1965-1967, Office of Secretary of Defense (SECDEF)
  1968-1969, HHC, Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV), Military Assistance Command Vietnam MACV
  1969-1970, 9th Infantry Division
  1970-1970, Department of the Army (DA)
  1970-1974, Office of the Commanding General, United States Military Academy
  1974-1976, United States European Command (USEUCOM)
  1976-1977, Allied Land Forces Southern Europe (LANDSOUTH)
  1977-1980, NATO Headquarters Brussels
  1981-1989, Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA)
  1981-1989, Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
  1981-1989, National Defense University (Staff)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1944-1944 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Northern France Campaign (1944)
  1944-1945 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Ardennes Alsace Campaign (1944-45)
  1945-1945 WWII - European-African-Middle Eastern Theater/Central Europe Campaign (1945)
  1945-1945 Central Europe Campaign (1945)/Victory in Europe Day (VE Day - 8May45)
  1968-1968 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase IV Campaign (1968)
  1968-1968 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase V Campaign (1968)
  1968-1969 Vietnam War/Counteroffensive Phase VI Campaign (1968-69)
  1969-1969 Vietnam War/Tet 69 Counteroffensive Campaign
  1969-1969 Vietnam War/Summer-Fall 1969 Campaign
  1969-1970 Vietnam War/Winter-Spring 1970 Campaign
 Colleges Attended 
United States Military AcademyColumbia University
  1939-1943, United States Military Academy
  1955-1957, Columbia University
Copyright Inc 2003-2011