We are now 71 years on from the end of WWII-and the veterans are dying off quickly. Are there any general officers left? I think that once everyone who had personal experience with WWII is gone, we will see a big change in the historical view of the conflict.
I think Arleigh Burke was the last U.S. general officer from WWII. He died New Year’s Day, 1996.
Michael of Romania held the rank of Field Marshal of the Romanian Army, and he’s still alive. He’s also the only surviving holder of the Soviet Order of Victory medal.
Yes but he held it by virtue of beng the King, rather than as an earned post (he was in his early 20s during the war), I would not count him with the actual flag-grade commanders in the field.
Every WWI veteran is now dead, so you’d be looking for someone who made a general officer grade without having been military age in 1918. That means an, at minimum, brigadier general who would have been, at maximum, 44 years old. (That is, seventeen years old in 1918 (which is kind of pushing it for not being military age) and being made a general in the last days of the war, 1945.)
Of course, someone who turned 17 in 1918 would turn 115 this year, and the oldest man for who we have good records died at 116, so you’re talking about the thinnest tippy-tip of the right end of the age bell curve. Push the birth date forwards, however, and you’re positing a younger general during what was a very serious conflict, in military cultures which were and are rather big on seniority and experience.
So logically, arithmetically, and statistically, it just doesn’t seem plausible.
Doing some online searching, I found mention of Heinrich Trettner. He was promoted to the rank of General (in the Wehrmacht) in 1944 and he lived until 2006.
The OP asks about the Second World War.
Which I addressed in the entire rest of my post.
I had a former girlfriend who would angrily respond to the first part of a sentence while ignoring the second part. You reminded me why the ‘former’ is there.
Right, but you’re not going to get any flag-grade commanders in the field in WWII who are still alive. It’s, like the OP said, 71 years since the end of the war. Somebody who’s 91 now would have been 20-21 when the war ended, and no country is making 20 year olds generals on merit. The youngest general in the Germany army during WWII was Walter Wenck, who was 45 when the war ended, the youngest general in the Luftwaffe was Adolf Galland, who was 33, and the youngest SS general was Kurt Meyer, who was 34. The youngest Brigadier General in the US was Edward J. Timberlake Jr, who was born in 1909, making him 36 when the war ended.
Youngest general in the British army was Enoch Powell, born in 1912, the youngest Soviet general, as far as I can tell, was Ivan Chernyakhovsky, born in 1906. Japanese generals, I have no idea about, as the youngest two I can find were born in 1905, but they were both made generals posthumously.
Someone who was 18 in 1945, therefore might have seen combat (more likely it was the 1944 18-year-olds who would have trained and deployed in time to see some fighting) will be 89 now. So you can see the problem.
Look at the Air Forces, they had some very young senior officers in high posts; Don Bennet became an Air Commodore at the age of 32. But he has been dead 20 years.
Try searching for Japanese General officers Its still unlikely but I think there is a slim chance because they have a lot of people in the 105+ category and also some members of noble families might have been made generals at very young ages.
My point is that the reference to the first world war is irrelevant. You assume that anyone who served as a general is in the second world war must either have served in some capacity in the first world war or have been too young to do so, but this is not the case. Not all the belligerents in the second world war were belligerents in the first world war. Or, somebody from a country which was a belligerent in WWI might not have served in WWI for reasons other than age.
Plus, I think the logic is flawed. Give your assumptions (too young to serve in WWI) you calculate the maximum age for a general in 1945 as 44, and than reason that such a person, if surviving, must now be 115. But of course 44 is a maximum age. If someone were appointed a general in 1945 at the age of 30 and lived to 100, he would survive today.
Ignore the First World War. If there is a surviving WWII-era general alive today, it’s impossible that he served in WWI, since all WWI veterans are dead, but that tells us nothing at all about whether there is such a person who didn’t serve in WWI. We simply have to ask ourselves, what is the youngest age at which anyone might plausibly have served as a general in the Second World War? If we accept an upper age limit of 115, and allowing for the 70 years that have elapsed since the end of WWII, then anyone serving in 1945 as a general at the age of 45 or less could survive today.
In the British Army, William Holmes was appointed a Major-General at the age of 45 in 1937, so appointment at such an age in the mid-twentieth century, while unusual, was possible. And in wartime conditions, promotions can come even faster - Roland Boys Bradford was appointed a Brigadier General in 1917 at the age of 25. And that’s just looking at the British army. I’m not suggesting that WWII saw similar levels of attrition in the officer ranks and created quite so many opportunities for early promotion, but promotion at a younger age than in peacetime certainly seems possible. And there were an awful lot of belligerent nations in WWII. Total numbers of serving general officers must be in five figures - Germany alone had more than a thousand.
So it’s not fundamentally implausible that someone could have been appointed to a general officer rank in WWII at or below the age of 45, and such a person could survive today. But I think he would be sufficiently notable that we could find him easily through googling.
The OP asks about the Second World War.
And we’re back to only reading half a sentence again. :smack:
I would also nominate Trettner.
Alexander the Great might disagree with you. Birth got Alexander the post; ability kept him there. Michael of Romania did not see action, but might not someone similar?
I am curious about your last statement. What do you think will change?
I remember that during some major celebration of the D Day (in 2004, I think), I noticed they mentioned a Polish WWII general still alive then. He might have outlived Trettner. Some of you seem to have been able to find lists for several countries, maybe you could search for Poland?
ETA : found on another forum the mention of Chinese general Gao Kuiyuan, born in 1907 and still alive according to them in 2009. I found a biography also stating he was alive, but I don’t know when it has been written. He would be 108, which is theoritically possible.
Sure but by WW2 time already the practice if you were not the actual monarch or heir apparent was that you’d have a commission and post closer to your training and experience. We should be looking for a Custer type, that got breveted up young in the fast expansion of the US or Red armies, or in the face of depletion in the German forces.
Curious, too: revisionism has never waited for the eyewitnesses to all pass away.