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First Name: Elbridge

Last Name: Colby


Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 04 October 1891

Date of Death: 27 December 1982

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Elbridge Colby

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)


Elbridge Colby
Colonel, U.S. Army

Elbridge Colby was born on 4 October 1891. Colby, a man of liberal views, joined the U.S. Army and served in World War I.

In 1925, Captain Colby was incensed by the murder of a black soldier from Fort Benning, GA, who was shot dead when he refused to step off a sidewalk to let a white man pass. In the Nation magazine, he denounced the murderer's acquittal by an all-white jury and badly damaged his Army career.

Captain Colby, also in 1925, helped formulate the U.S. attitude towards air power as an instrument of total war. He wrote that a "belligerent will not wish to risk his planes and pilots, expend his gasoline, or waste his munitions, on any objectives except those of military importance." This was already problematic, given the U.S. tradition of defining "military targets" rather broadly.

He went on to say that everyone knows that bombing is highly inaccurate. "Innocent people are bound to be struck," he says, even if the bomber's intention is to strike a genuinely military target. He surveyed standing legal doctrine and concluded, rather predictably, that since adherence to the rules would virtually outlaw bombing, it was the rules, not the bombing, which must yield. No one, he said, could possibly be expected to forego wielding such a convenient and useful weapon. Interestingly, he cites the British bombing of Afghanistan in May 1919 as a telling precedent.

Colby wrote many books on military history and served as the head of the George Washington University Journalism Department from 1948-1958.


Colby married Margaret Mary Eagan during World War I.

On 4 January 1920, they had a son, William. On 4 September 1973, William Colby was appointed Director of the Central Intelligence Agency by President Richard Nixon and served until 30 January 1976, when President Gerald Ford replaced him with George H. W. Bush.

Death and Burial

Colonel Elbridge Colby died on 27 December 1982. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2354   Created by: MHOH




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