Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Buckner, Simon Bolivar, Jr. (1886–1945)

Title: Distinguished service medal
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U.S. Army general and head of the Alaska Defense Command from 1940 to 1944. Born near Munfordville, Kentucky, on 18 July 1886, Simon Buckner Jr. was the son of a Confederate army general and governor of Kentucky. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1908 and was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. Assignment to the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps kept him in the United States during World War I but made him one of the most air-minded of the army's ground officers. Buckner was an instructor in tactics at West Point between 1919 and 1923. He then completed the Advanced Infantry Course. After graduating from the Command and General Staff School in 1925, he continued there as an instructor from 1925 to 1928. He graduated from the Army War College in 1927, where he would also be an instructor between 1929 and 1932. Buckner returned to West Point as an instructor, and from 1933 to 1936, he was commandant of cadets.

Promoted to colonel in 1937, Buckner commanded the 66th Infantry Regiment in 1937 and 1938. He was then on duty with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Alabama between 1938 and 1939, before serving as chief of staff of the 6th Infantry Division in 1939 and 1940. Buckner was promoted to brigadier general to October 1940 and to major general in August 1941. Between 1940 and 1944, he headed the Alaska Defense Command. His primary responsibility was the construction of defense facilities, but units of his command cooperated with the navy in evicting the Japanese from two of the Aleutian Islands, Attu and Kiska.

A month after being promoted to lieutenant general in May 1943, Buckner went to Hawaii to organize the new Tenth Army. He headed an army review panel that investigated the intraservice dispute over Marine Lieutenant General Holland M. Smith's relief of Army Major General Ralph Smith on Saipan. Buckner commanded the main landings on Okinawa in April 1945. Citing logistical difficulties, he rejected navy pleas that he mount a subsidiary landing on the south end of the island.

On 18 June 1945, just three days before organized Japanese resistance ended, Buckner was killed by a coral fragment sent flying by the explosion of a Japanese shell. He was the highest-ranking American officer killed by enemy fire during the war.

Richard G. Stone


Further Reading
Appleton, Roy E., et al. United States Army in World War II: The Pacific Theater of Operations—Okinawa. Washington, DC: Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1948.; Belote, James H., and William M. Belote. Typhoon of Steel: The Battle for Okinawa. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.; Garfield, Bryan. The Thousand Mile War: World War II in Alaska and the Aleutians. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1969.
 

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