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First Name: James

Last Name: Polk

Birthplace: Batangas, PH

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Home of Record: El Paso, TX
Middle Name: Hilliard

Date of Birth: 13 December 1911

Date of Death: 18 February 1992

Rank: General

Years Served: 1933-1971
James Hilliard Polk

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1933

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


James Hilliard Polk
General, U.S. Army

James Hilliard Polk was born on 13 December 1911 at Camp McGraw in Batangas in the Philippines, to Colonel Harding and Esther Fleming Polk. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1933 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Cavalry. Prior to World War II, he served in two cavalry regiments, and attended the basic and advanced courses at the Cavalry School. In 1939 at the National Horse Show at Madison Square Garden, he won first place in the Individual Military and Police Jumping event.

At the outbreak of World War II, he was assigned to West Point as a tactical officer. In 1943 he attended a shortened General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth, KS and, after graduation, joined the 106th Cavalry Group at Camp Hood, TX, as a Squadron Commander, and later as Regimental Executive Officer. In Europe, the group fought in the hedgerows of Normandy and the breakout from Saint-Lô.

In early September 1944, Polk assumed command of the 3rd Cavalry Group, then in combat near Metz, France, and commanded it until the end of the war. During this time the unit was known as "Task Force Polk" and spearheaded many advances by General Walton Walker's XX Corps; part of General George S. Patton's Third Army.

After brief occupation duty in Germany at the end of World War II, Polk returned to the U.S. and became Chief of Tactics at the Ground General School at Fort Riley, KS. He later attended the Armed Forces Staff College. In 1948 he went to Tokyo in the G-2 (Intelligence) section of the U.S. Far East Command for the next three years.

During the Korean War, Polk was assigned as G-2 to General Ned Almond's X Corps and later as G-2 to General James Van Fleet's 8th Army. He participated in three campaigns. In August 1951 he returned stateside to attend the National War College, and was later assigned as an instructor at the Army War College. He was then made Chief of Staff of the 3rd Armored Division at Fort Knox, KY, participating in their move to Germany. In July 1956 he was promoted to Brigadier General and became Assistant Division Commander of the 3rd Armored Division.

Polk was next assigned as Assistant Chief of Staff for Plans and Operations, Land Forces Central Europe at NATO Headquarters at Fontainebleau, under General Dr. Hans Speidel. Polk then returned to the U.S. and became Director of the Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.

Upon his promotion to Major General, Polk took command of the 4th Armored Division, followed by being the U.S. Commandant in Berlin from 2 January 1963 to 31 August 1964, during a time of increased Cold War tensions and President John F. Kennedy's visit to Berlin in June 1963.

Polk became Commanding General of V Corps on 1 September 1964. In 1966 he returned to CONUS to become Assistant Chief of Staff for Force Development. He returned to Europe at the end of that year, first as Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Europe, and six months later became Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Army Europe (USAREUR).

He retired from active duty on 1 April 1971.

Medals and Awards

• Distinguished Service Medal
• Silver Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
• Legion of Merit
• Bronze Star Medal
• Air Medal
• American Campaign Medal
• European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
• World War II Victory Medal
• National Defense Service Medal
• Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation

Foreign Medals

• Croix de guerre 1939-1945 (France)
• French Legion of Honor


• Polk's World War II letters were published in 2005 under the title World War II Letters and Notes of Colonel James H. Polk, 1944-1945 (ISBN 1932762191).

• The 3d Cavalry Association has named its scholarship fund for the children of fallen 3ACR soldiers after him.

In Retirement

Polk retired to El Paso, TX, and served as Chairman of the Board of the U.S. Cavalry Association from 1978 to 1992. He served as President of Army Emergency Relief from 1975 to 1984.

Death and Burial

General James Hilliard Polk died on 18 February 1992 at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, TX, after battling cancer and pneumonia. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA, in Section 7A.

He is survived by his wife, the former Josephine Leavell Polk, who he married in 1936; a son and daughter; two brothers, Colonel John F. Polk, U.S. Army, Retired; and Captain Thomas H. Polk U.S. Navy, Retired.

His wife, Josephine Leavell Polk (1913-1999) was buried with him after her death in 1999.

Honoree ID: 305   Created by: MHOH




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