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First Name: William

Last Name: Knowlton

Birthplace: Weston, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Allen

Date of Birth: 19 June 1920

Date of Death: 10 August 2008

Rank: General

Years Served: 1943-1980
William Allen Knowlton

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


William Allen Knowlton
General, U.S. Army

William Allen Knowlton was born on 19 June 1920 in Weston, MA.

Knowlton was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry in January 1943 after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy. He reported for duty with the 7th Armored Division during World War II and led an assault gun platoon in France. He later led a reconnaissance troop in Germany that linked up with the Russians who were advancing from the east, northeast of Berlin. For his actions he was awarded the Silver Star.

Following the war, he held various staff postings and, In 1955, graduated from the Command and General Staff College. After graduating, he was assigned to his alma mater's Department of Social Sciences, becoming an Associate Professor. He next took command of a battalion of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and then attended the U.S. Army War College. Before taking command of a brigade at Fort Knox, he served as Military Attaché in Tunis.

Returning from Tunis, he was assigned to the Pentagon in the Office of the U.S. Army Chief of Staff and later, the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He served two tours in Vietnam where he oversaw Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support (CORDS) for General William Westmoreland; he also served as Assistant Division Commander of the 9th Infantry Division.

After returning from Vietnam, he became Secretary of the Army General Staff. On 23 March 1970, he became the 49th Superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy, an assignment he held for four years. During his tenure (in 1974), the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed West Point's right to enforce the Honor Code in response to two challenges from cadets.

While Knowlton was Superintendent at USMA, his daughter, Hollister (Holly) Knowlton, a graduate of Dickinson College, married future four-star general David H. Petraeus, two months after he graduated from West Point.

After his tenure as Superintendent, Knowlton was assigned as Chief of Staff of the U.S. European Command. Promoted to four-star rank in 1976, he took command of Allied Land Forces South East Europe. Knowlton finished his active duty career as U.S. Military Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Medals and Awards

Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters (3 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross
Bronze Star Medal
Air Medal with 1 Silver Oak Leaf Cluster and 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters (9 Awards)
Legion d'Honneur (France)
Großes Verdienstkreuz mit Stern (Germany)


2004 Distinguished Graduate Award recipient from the Association of Graduates, the alumni organization of the U.S. Military Academy.

A collection of Gen. Knowlton's military uniforms and awards is on display at the American Military Museum in Charleston, South Carolina.

In Retirement

In retirement, Knowlton served as a Senior Fellow at the National Defense University, lectured at the Armed Forces Staff College, served as an Advisor for the Defense Nuclear Agency, and was a member of the Defense Intelligence Agency Science and Technology Advisory Board. Knowlton was also on the board of Chubb Corporation.

Death and Burial

General William Allen Knowlton died on 10 August 2008. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

He was survived by his wife, Marjorie Downey Knowlton and by a daughter, Hollister Knowlton Petraeus.

Honoree ID: 266   Created by: MHOH




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