Garrison H. Davidson

Garrison H. Davidson

Garrison Holt Davidson
Major General Garrison H. Davidson
Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, 1956
Nickname(s) "Gar"
Born (1904-04-24)April 24, 1904
Bronx, New York
Died December 25, 1992(1992-12-25) (aged 88)
Oakland, California
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch  United States Army United States Army seal
Years of service 1927–1964
Rank Lieutenant General
Commands held 24th Infantry Division
Command & General Staff College
United States Military Academy
Seventh Army
First Army
U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations
Battles/wars World War II
Korean War

Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit

Bronze Star Medal

Garrison Holt Davidson (April 24, 1904 – December 25, 1992) was a United States Army officer, combat engineer, commander, and military educator from the 1920s through World War II and into the Cold War-era. Commissioned as one of the youngest generals during World War II, he achieved the rank of lieutenant general before his mandatory retirement from the Army in 1964, Davidson served as the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy from 1956 to 1960. He also played and coached football at West Point, helming the Cadet squad as head coach from 1933 to 1937, compiling a record of 35–11–1.

Education and early military career

A career U.S. Army officer and World War II combat commander, Davidson was born in the Bronx, New York City on April 24, 1904, the son of a New York National Guard officer. In 1923, he graduated from the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in New York City, where he was a star on the school's championship football team and a member of the Omega Gamma Delta Fraternity. Davidson realized his boyhood dream of becoming a soldier when he was appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. There he distinguished himself in football and graduated with the Class of 1927. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers with the 1st Engineer Regiment at Fort DuPont, Delaware, and maintained a West Point connection as an assistant Army football coach.

In 1930, he returned to West Point as an philosophy instructor and assistant football coach. In 1933, at age 29, he became youngest head football coach at the Academy, finishing five seasons later in the 1937 with a record of 35 wins, 11 losses and 1 tie. From 1938 to 1940 he was posted to Hawaii as a company commander with the 3rd Engineer Regiment. In 1940, he returned to California as the post engineer for Hamilton Army Airfield (now known as Hamilton Air Force Base) on the north shore of the San Francisco Bay. At the time of Davidson's arrival, Hamilton's mission was being expanded from that of a bomber base with the addition of six squadrons of Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Curtiss P-36 Hawk fighter planes.

World War II

In February 1942, Davidson transferred to Washington, D.C. as Assistant Chief, Construction Division, Office of Chief Engineer working for Corps of Engineers Colonel Leslie Groves on the construction of The Pentagon.

By October 1942, Davidson was a colonel and assistant chief engineer for the Western Task Force of Operation Sicily in June 1943, it was activated into Seventh Army, and Davidson became its chief engineering officer. As a combat engineer, he facilitated Seventh Army's landing in Sicily and enabled Patton’s armor to move rapidly across enemy territory. An appreciative Patton used one of his own general stars to honor Davidson in a September 1943 battlefield promotion to brigadier general, one of the youngest of the war at age 39. Davidson remained with Seventh Army under its interim command by General Mark W. Clark then General Alexander Patch and was key in planning for Operation Anvil / Operation Dragoon, the Allied landing in southern France following the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944. He continued with the Seventh Army in its move through Germany. At the conclusion of the war he was an engineer with the post-war occupation Fifteenth Army and served as president of the first Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal for military defendants.

Korean War

After World War II, in 1946, he was assigned to Sixth United States Army as its chief engineer and in 1948 became chief of staff for General Mark W. Clark and General Albert C. Wedemeyer at the Presidio of San Francisco. In July 1950, he was called to Korea by Eighth Army Commanding General Walton H. Walker, who also served under Patton in World War II, directed Davidson to construct a defensive line protecting the Pusan Perimeter. Known as "Line Davidson", Davidson had to subvert his professional better judgment to construct the line to the preferences of General Douglas MacArthur and Walker, trading away defensibility and good internal communications.

As the North Korean invasion was repelled, Davidson was assigned to the 24th Infantry Division as its assistant commander. Davidson reprised his effort at fortifying a more defensible perimeter around Pusan with the second North Korean invasion. He then headed "Task Force Davidson" as it broke out of the perimeter to hook up with the forces invading south from Inchon. Afterwards, he constructed fortifications north of Seoul. He concluded his tour of duty as acting commander of the Korean Military Assistance Group.

Military educator and Cold War warrior

Returning from Korea, from 1951 to 1954 he was the senior ground forces advisor in the Weapons System Evaluation Group at the Pentagon and while there, promoted to major general in 1952. During the next six years, Davidson played a significant role in training officers serving in the post-war and atomic eras. Starting in 1954 he was commander of the U.S. Army's Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then in 1956 he returned to the United States Military Academy as its superintendent. There he began a process of slowly prevailing over strong traditionalist viewpoints, breaking barriers and initiating a process of revision and modernization of the academy’s instructional program little changed since the academy’s legendary superintendent Sylvanus Thayer from 1817 to 1833. The momentum and progress of his reforms continued more easily through the superintendency of his successor, William Westmoreland and into the 1970s. In 1957, while at West Point, he was promoted and confirmed to the rank of lieutenant general.

After West Point, Davidson returned to Seventh United States Army as its commanding general, posted in West Germany as a forward deployed force during the Cold War. During the Berlin Wall crisis in the summer of 1961, Davidson would have commanded any American military response or intervention.

In 1962, his final command was of First United States Army headquartered at Fort Jay, Governors Island, New York. While there he also served as U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations. After a 37 year military career, Davidson reached the mandatory retirement age and retired from active duty on April 30, 1964.


Davidson moved to California and served as a vice president at University of California - Berkeley. He resumed his connection with West Point from 1983-1985 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan for a two year term to the United States Military Academy Board of Visitors.

Davidson died in Oakland, California on December 25, 1992 and was buried at the West Point Cemetery. The inscription on his gravestone reads: “Soldier, Coach, Educator and His Best Teammate", the latter reference to his wife of 58 years, Verone Gruenther Davidson who died in 1996 and was the sister of a former NATO commander, General Alfred M. Gruenther.

At the time of his death, Garrison was survived by three sons, Garrison Holt Jr., of Los Angeles, Thomas M., of Darien, Conn., and Alan R., of Sarasota, Fla.; three daughters, Linda L. Hurst, of San Luis Obispo, California, Bonnie Elaine Bardellini and Gail Marie Davidson, both of Martinez, California; 14 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.

Head coaching record

Garrison H. Davidson
Sport(s) Football
Playing career
1924–1926 Army
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Army (assistant)
Head coaching record
Overall 35–11–1
College Football Data Warehouse
Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Army Cadets (Independent) (1933–1937)
1933 Army 9–1
1934 Army 7–3
1935 Army 6–2–1
1936 Army 6–3
1937 Army 7–2
Army: 35–11–1
Total: 35–11–1


  • Ray, Max (1980), The History of the First United States Army From 1918 to 1980, Fort Meade MD: First United States Army, pp. 120, 124 
  • Appleman, Roy (1992), "Chapter XXI August Build-up and September Portents", United States Army In The Korean War: South To The Naktong,North To The Yalu, June–November 1950., Washington, D.C.:  
  • "Meeting The Challenges of The Cold War: 1950-1970" in West Point Bicentennial: A Pictorial History of the First Two Hundred Years of the United States Military Academy. Available from World Wide Web at
  • John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters, The American Presidency Project [online]. Santa Barbara, CA: University of California (hosted), Gerhard Peters (database). Available from World Wide Web: at
  • McFadden, Robert D. (December 27, 1992), "Lieut. Gen. G. H. Davidson, 88, Strategist in Wars.", New York Times 
  • Fowle, Barry W.; Lonngquest, John C. (2004), Remembering the Forgotten War: U.S. Army Engineer Officers in Korea, Alexandria, Virginia: U.S. Army, Headquarters, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Office of History, retrieved 2011-04-02 
  • "Football", Time, October 24, 1932 . Retrieved on December 13, 2007.

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Charles E. Beauchamp
Commandant of the Command and General Staff College
July 1954 - July 1956
Succeeded by
Lionel C. McGarr
Preceded by
Blackshear M. Bryan
Superintendents of the United States Military Academy
Succeeded by
William Westmoreland
Preceded by
John C. Oats
Commanding General - Seventh United States Army
July 1, 1960 – March 30, 1962
Succeeded by
Francis William Farrell
Preceded by
Edward J. O’Neill
Commanding General - First United States Army
April 1, 1962 – April 30, 1964
Succeeded by
Robert W. Porter, Jr.