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Harold Kilburn Roach was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico, the elder son of Paul Adams Roach and Hester Day Roach, both descendants of early settlers of Texas and New Mexico. “Kilburn,” as he was called by his family and Las Cruces friends, began life with an Army connection being named for his father’s best friend, Lieutenant Harold Kilburn, who was killed in France in World War I.
Kilburn was a very friendly and popular boy known as an athlete and a top student. At Las Cruces Union High School he was a member of the football and tennis teams and co-captain of the basketball team. The faculty selected him the “Outstanding Student” of the class of 1938, and his fellow students voted him the “Most Popular Boy.”
Being too young to enter West Point, he spent a year at New Mexico A&M College where he was elected president of the freshman class.
In 1939, New Mexico Senator Dennis Chavez appointed Kilburn to USMA. As a cadet in M Company and later H-2 Company, he played on the basketball team and was a cadet lieutenant.
After graduation, Fort Benning, and Louisiana Maneuvers he went from Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, to Salisbury, England. A First Lieutenant with the 329th Infantry Regiment of the 83rd Division, he landed in France at Utah Beach, Normandy. He fought his way from Carentan, Saintney, and Perier to St. Malo in Brittany, and then Angers, Tours, and Orleans, before Luxembourg at Mondort Frevenmacher and Ecternach, and finally into Germany at Aachen and the Hurtgen Forest.
As a company commander he was wounded in December 1944 in the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. Having spent almost a year in Army hospitals, “Hal,” as he was known in the Army, was stationed in Washington, DC, as Assistant Executive Officer at the Army-Navy Staff College, later the National War College. This was a very happy time for him as this is where he met Laura Virginia Stickle, a third-generation Washingtonian and Vassar graduate. After an especially wonderful courtship, they married in 1946. This was the beginning of a very happy and loving 50-year marriage. In 1969, Virginia was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. With Hal’s devoted help she was able to go on living a normal life.
After a year-and-a-half in Korea with the 7th Infantry Division, Hal was stationed at Camp Crawford, Sapporo, Japan, and Virginia was able to join him there.
Fort Benning, Georgia, was next for Hal and Virginia. There he spent three years, initially as a student and then as an instructor in the Tactical Planning Department. In 1952, son Harold Killburn Roach, Jr., was born.
After CGSC and a short tour at Fort Meade, the Roaches moved to Germany. For three fascinating years Hal was the G-2 Liaison Officer to the British Army of the Rhine at M. Gladbach.
He was stationed at the Pentagon in 1958 with the Infantry Officers Assignment Branch. At that time Hal was promoted from the Outstanding List to lieutenant colonel. In 1961, it was back to Korea again for a year without his family. Upon his return he spent a year as a student at the Army War College.
Hal considered Fort Carson, Colorado, where he was next stationed, to be his favorite and most interesting tour in the Army. His four years with the 5th Mechanized Division began as the commander of the 1st Battalion, 61 Infantry, next G-3 of the Division, then Deputy Post Commander and concluded as Commander of the 2nd Brigade. His division commander, Major General Autrey J. Maroon ’35, said,
“Hal was one of the best senior officers I’ve ever known.”
During 1967–70, Hal was Chief of War Plans Division at the Pentagon. His final tour was as Chief, U.S. Army Strategy and Tactics Analysis Group in Bethesda, Maryland. Hal retired from the Army in 1973. During his career, Colonel Roach received three Legions of Merit, two Bronze Stars for Valor, two Army Commendation Medals, the Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
Colonel Roach’s second career of 14 years was with General Research Corporation of Virginia, from which he retired in 1987 as an Operations Director.
In retirement Hal and Virginia bought a condominium at Bonita Beach, Florida, where they spent ten wonderful winters with Hal playing tennis and enjoying life. Best of all was their time spent during the rest of the year at their home in Darnestown, Maryland. They were near their son Hal, Jr., who is an executive vice president of the Clark Construction Group, Inc.; their daughter-in-law Marylouise; and their three wonderful grandsons, Brian Harold, Kevin Harold, and Andrew Harold Roach — who all carry their grandfather’s name.
Hal died suddenly of an unsuspected heart condition in October 1996. He was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. A very special and moving part of the funeral was the singing of the “Alma Mater” by his USMA classmates.
Kilburn is remembered by his family and friends as a kind, caring, and completely unselfish man who had no enemies and who always thought the best of others. He was warmly admired and respected by all with whom he worked — seniors, peers, and subordinates alike. He was a brave leader of men who was not afraid to say in combat, “Follow Me.” Hal Kilburn Roach is survived by his wife Virginia; son Hal, Jr.; three grandsons; and his brother Colonel (Ret.) Paul A. Roach, Jr. ’50.