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Leonard Townsend Gerow (July 13, 1888 - October 12, 1972) was born in Petersburg, Virginia. The name Gerow is derived from the French name "Giraud". Gerow attended high school in Petersburg and then attended the Virginia Military Institute. He was three times elected class president. He graduated as recipient of the "Honor Appointment" which, at the time, permitted one man in each VMI graduating class to become a Regular Army second lieutenant without further examination. He was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army 29 September 1911.
Early Military Career
Prior to World War I, General Gerow served in a series of assignments as a company grade officer in the Infantry. In 1915 he won commendation for his work in the 1915 hurricane that struck Galveston, Texas. He served in Vera Cruz in the Mexican Campaign. He was promoted to First Lieutenant on 1 July 1916 and later to Captain on 15 May 1917.
From 16 January 1918 to 30 June 1920 and during World War 1 he served on the Signal Corps staff in France. He was colonel (temporary) in charge of purchasing all the radio equipment for the AEF. For his service he earned the Distinguished Service Medal and French Legion of Honor.
After returning to America, he was promoted to permanent rank of Major on 1 July 1920. He was ordered to attend the advanced course at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the fall of 1924. He graduated first in the class in 1925 from the Advanced Course at Infantry school. Of note was Omar Bradley who graduated second. Gerow attended the U.S. Army Command and General Staff school, where Eisenhower was his study partner, and graduated in 1926, ranking 11th in the class of 245. In 1931 he completed the Field Officer's Course in Chemical Warfare and Tanks and took a course at Army War College.
General Gerow served in China in 1932 in the Shanghai sector. On 1 August 1935 he was promoted to the permanent rank of Lieutenant Colonel. On 1 September 1940 he became a Colonel in permanent grade and a month later, on 1 October 1940 became a temporary Brigadier General.
World War II
Some historians report that Gerow was one of several high ranking military officers and members of the President's staff, including the President, who received several messages warning them of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Gerow has been accused of failing to warn the Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department and in failing to implement joint Army and Navy agreements to insure proper function.
He was promoted to Major General on 14 February 1942 and became Commanding General of 29th Infantry Division 16 February 1942. He received the Legion of Merit on 27 September 1943 for his work as a Division Commander and as Assistant Chief of Staff of the War Plans Division. He continued as commander of the division until 17 July 1943.
Gerow (seated, rightmost) with other American military officials, 1945.
He became commander of V Corps on 17 July 1943. This was the largest unit of troops in the European Theater of Operations. He played a major part in the planning of the invasion of continental Europe. He was the first corps commander ashore on D-Day assault on Normandy on June 6, 1944. The V Corps comprises two infantry divisions: the U.S. 29th Infantry Division and the U.S. 1st Infantry Division. His tenure as commander of V Corps was from 17 July 1943 to 17 September 1944 and again 5 October 1944 to 14 January 1945. General Gerow kept close to his advancing troops in V Corps. He was the first American officer of the rank of Major General to enter Paris after its liberation by the 2nd French Armored and U.S. 4th Infantry. For his part in this campaign he was awarded the Silver Star.
Both Eisenhower and Bradley held Gerow in high regard and ranked him as one of the top U.S. field commanders of World War II. In a February 1945 memo Dwight D. Eisenhower listed the principal American commanders in order of merit based on the value of their service during the war. Gerow was listed 8th of 32. In a letter to George Marshall on April 26, 1945, regarding commanders who might go on to serve in the Pacific, General Eisenhower commended General Omar Bradley most highly and then said: "In Europe there are other men who have been thoroughly tested as high combat commanders, including Simpson, Patch, Patton, Gerow, Collins, Truscott and others. Any one of these can successfully lead an Army in combat in the toughest kind of conditions."
Gerow was given command of U.S. Fifteenth Army 15 January 1945. He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 6 February 1945, with the promotion being effective 1 January 1945.
Post WWII Career
After the war Lt. Gen. Gerow was appointed commandant of the Army’s Command and General Staff School. Gerow was placed in charge of a board which studied and proposed how Army colleges ought to be organized, post war. In February 1946 the Gerow Board recommended five separate colleges.
In January 1948 he was appointed Commanding General, U.S. Second Army. This was his last post; he retired July, 1950.
Gerow was appointed general on July 19, 1954 by special Act of Congress (Public Law 83-508).
General Gerow's brother, Lee S. Gerow graduated from VMI in 1913 and rose to the rank of Brigadier General.