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James G. Harbord

James G. Harboard

Army general.  Born: March 21, 1866, Bloomington, Illinois.  Died: August 20, 1947, Rye, New York.

A distinguished soldier in the First World War was Kansan James Guthrie Harbord. Born in Illinois, he grew up near Bushong in Lyon County, and graduated from Kansas State Agricultural College in 1886. After a short teaching career he enlisted in the army as a private and in 1891 he received a commission.

His first overseas experience came as a member of the occupation army in Cuba after the Spanish American War. That was followed by 12 years service in the Philippines. He was on the Mexican border with General John J. Pershing in 1916 and when the United States entered the European conflict he went to France as Pershing's chief of staff, which won him a promotion to brigadier general.

When the American marine commander in France became ill, Harbord replaced him and directed the marine action at Chateau Thierry and Belleau Wood, operations which smashed the German offensive directed at Paris in June 1918.

In August 1918 the necessity for greater efficiency in troop and supply movement became apparent and Harbord was recalled from the front and put in charge of supply. This was described as the largest business undertaking that was ever conducted by one man in all history. His success won him Allied praise and the Distinguished Service Medal.

At the end of the war he was commissioned a major general in the regular army and commanded at Camp Travis, Texas. When Pershing was appointed chief of staff, Harbord became his deputy.

In 1922 General Harbord retired from the army and assumed the presidency of the Radio Corporation of America. He served as president of RCA for seven years and then as chairman of the board until 1947, the year of his death.

General Harbord always maintained close ties with Kansas and with his alma mater. He returned to speak in Manhattan several times and was awarded an honorary degree by Kansas State. Active in business and political circles until his death, he was best remembered for his notable service with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I.

Entry: Harbord, James G.

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: December 2004

Date Modified: January 2013

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