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First Name: William

Last Name: Lee

Birthplace: Dunn, NC, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Carey

Date of Birth: 12 March 1895

Date of Death: 25 June 1948

Rank: Major General

Years Served:
William Carey Lee
'Father of U.S. Army Airborne'

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


William Carey Lee
Major General, U.S. Army

William Carey Lee was born on 12 March 1895 in Dunn, NC, one of the seven children of Eldridge Lee and his wife Emma. His father was a merchant. He attended Wake Forest College and North Carolina State College. He participated in the ROTC program, graduated from North Carolina State, and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1917.

Lee entered World War I as a Second Lieutenant and served for 18 months in Europe, where he was promoted to the rank of Captain. During his service in that war, he developed an interest in the Glider and Parachute Troops he had seen in Germany. This interest led to his developing the modern day airborne divisions.

Lee had reached the rank of Major General by the time the U.S. entered World War II, and was a major proponent of paratrooper warfare. Although airborne units were not popular with U.S. Army commanders, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sponsored the concept, and Lee was authorized to form the first paratroop platoon. This was followed by the Provisional Parachute Group, and finally the U.S. Army Airborne Command. Lee was the first commander of the Army's Jump School at Fort Benning, GA. He received the Distinguished Service Medal for his early leadership in the creation of the airborne forces.

Lee wrote the Airborne Doctrine and under his direction the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions were formed and located at Fort Bragg, NC. In August 1942 he had been promoted to Major General and was placed in command of the 101st Airborne Division. He told his men, "The 101st has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny."

He served as an advisor to General Dwight Eisenhower and wrote the tactical plan for the D-Day drops into Normandy. He trained to jump with his men but was ordered to the U.S. several months before the invasion after suffering a heart attack. He was replaced by Major General Maxwell D. Taylor. To honor their founder, the paratroopers yelled "Bill Lee" as they jumped into France on D-Day.

William Lee retired from the Army for reasons of health in late 1944 and lived his remaining years at his home in Dunn, NC. Lee is often referred to as the "Father of U.S. Army Airborne."


The General William C. Lee Airborne Museum is located in Dunn, NC, in his former home.

On 11 October 2004 the U.S. Senate passed a bill to rename the Dunn Post Office, the "General William Carey Lee Post Office."

Lee Residence Hall, one of the largest dormitories at North Carolina State University, is named after William C. Lee.

[NOTE: The "Bill Lee Freeway" in Charlotte, NC, is named for William States Lee III; no known relation to the general.]

Death and Burial

Major General William Carey Lee died on 25 June 1948 in Dunn, NC. He is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Dunn.

Honoree ID: 2751   Created by: MHOH




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