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McNair, Lesley James (25 May 1883–25 July 1944), commanding general and educator of U.S. Army Ground Forces in World War II, was born in Verndale, Minnesota, the son of James McNair, a lumber merchant and general store owner, and Clara Manz. Lesley “Whitey” McNair graduated from West Point in 1904, eleventh in a class of 124, and received a commission as an artillery officer. The following year he married Clare Huster; they had one child. Until 1909 he served in a series of artillery and ordnance assignments, including tours at Fort Douglas, Utah, the Office of the Chief of Ordnance in Washington, D.C., and the Watertown arsenal in Massachusetts. McNair then served with the Fourth Field Artillery Regiment at Fort Russell, Wyoming, from 1909 to 1914. In 1912, however, he attended the School of Fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. His student thesis, “Probabilities and the Theory of Dispersion,” helped to significantly improve gun firing methods throughout the U.S. Army. Because of his rising reputation as an artilleryman, McNair spent most of 1913 in France as a foreign military observer. The experience ensured his return to Europe with the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in June 1917. Within two months General ...

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Charles Pelot Summerall Center, with Mexican military attaches, 1928. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-98453).

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Summerall, Charles Pelot (04 March 1867–14 May 1955), soldier and educator, was born in Blount’s Ferry, Florida, the son of Elhanan Bryant Summerall, a wheelwright and painter, and Margaret Cornelia Pelot, a schoolteacher. His parents were of modest means but were still able to send him to Porter Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. After graduation he taught school for three years in Astatula and Leesburg, Florida; in the meantime he took the entrance examination for West Point. In 1888 he was accepted; he graduated four years later as first captain of the Corps of Cadets. He wanted a commission in artillery but had to accept infantry due to a scarcity of assignments. Within a year, through “pulling strings” and persistence, he had managed to secure a transfer to his preferred branch....