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First Name: William

Last Name: Kean

Birthplace: Buffalo, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Benjamin

Date of Birth: 09 July 1987

Date of Death: 10 March 1981

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served: 1918 - 1954
William Benjamin Kean, Jr.

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1919

•  World War I (1914 - 1918)
•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)


William Benjamin Kean, Jr.
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army

William Benjamin Kean, Jr. was born on 9 July 1897 in Buffalo, NY.

Kean entered the U.S. Military Academy (USMA) in June 1917. After completing a crash course brought about by America's entrance into World War I, he graduated in November 1918 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant of Infantry. Recalled a month later and assigned to the USMA as 'student officers,' Kean and his classmates were 're-graduated' in June 1919. He was then sent on an observation tour of battlefronts in Italy, Belgium and France. Kean was also an observer of the Allied occupation in Germany. In late 1919, he returned to the U.S. and completed the Infantry Officer Course at Fort Benning, GA.

For those who began their military career at the end of World War I, it is common that the records of their rank and assignments during the period leading up to World War II aren't easily available to historians. Kean's records aren't an exception. However, between 1919 and 1941, we know that he rose in rank to Lieutenant Colonel and carried out assignments of expanding responsibility, including a posting to Schofield Barracks, HI. In addition, he graduated from the Signal Officer Course in 1925 and from the Command and General Staff College in 1939.

In March 1943, Kean was assigned as Chief of Staff of the 28th Infantry Division. A month later he was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned as Chief of Staff for the II Corps, which was then fighting in North Africa under the command of Gen. Omar Bradley. * In late 1943, he was assigned as Chief of Staff for First U.S. Army, commanded by Gen. Courtney Hodges, and was promoted to Major General in June 1944. During his assignment with First Army, Kean was one of the key planners of the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He served in this position through the end of the war and then remained in Europe during the post-war occupation of Germany, leaving in 1947.

From October 1947 to June 1948, Kean commanded the 5th Infantry Division at Fort Jackson, SC. In August 1948, Kean became Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division. Under his command, the Division successfully blocked the approaches to the port city of Pusan in the summer of 1950, for which it received the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation.

In October 1950, the 25th Division participated in the breakout from the Pusan perimeter and the drive into North Korea. In November, Chinese Communist troops crossed the Yalu River and pushed back the United Nation troops. Kean's division carried out a systematic withdrawal and took up defensive positions; first on the south bank of the Chongchon River, and then south of Osan.

After planning and reorganization, a new offensive was launched in January 1951. By February, Inchon and Kimpo Air Base had been recaptured. That was the first of several successful assaults on the Chinese/North Korean force that helped turn the tide in the United Nation's favor. Later in 1951, the 25th Division participated in Operation Ripper, driving the enemy across the Han River. Although the 25th Division, for the most part, performed well under Kean's leadership, Lt. Gen. Matthew Ridgway, who had recently assumed command of Eighth Army, relieved him as part of an overall 'shakeup' of the Army's frontline generals. **

In 1951, Kean was assigned to command III Corps, first at Camp Roberts, CA, and later at Fort MacArthur in San Pedro. In October 1951, he led a 5,000 man task force as it took part in an exercise at the Nevada Test Site. During this event, atomic weapons tests were conducted to measure the effects on military members in close proximity.

In July 1952, Kean was promoted to Lieutenant General and made Commanding General of the Fifth U.S. Army in Chicago, IL. He remained in this assignment until retiring from the Army in 1954.

* Side Story 1

While he was Chief of Staff for II Corps, Kean played a behind-the-scenes role in the famous incident in which Gen. George S. Patton was accused of slapping a soldier. After Gen. Bradley had investigated, he entrusted the only copy of the written report to Kean, who was directed not to show it to anyone without Bradley's permission.

** Side Story 2

In Korea, Kean assessed the all-black 24th Infantry Regiment, one of his subordinate commands, as being ineffective during its early combat operations, primarily due to the tendency of many soldiers to 'cut and run' during battle. Although he readily admitted that many individual soldiers had demonstrated competency and courage, he felt the regiment was so ineffective that it threatened the entire United Nations effort in Korea. Kean recommended that the 24th Regiment be disbanded and its soldiers assigned as 'fillers' in white units at a ratio of one to ten.

Gen. Ridgway had embraced Kean's assessment of the 24th Infantry Regiment. After relieving Kean, he asked him, before leaving Korea, to officially propose the elimination of the black units and propose the complete integration of white and black troops. Kean complied with his request and Ridgway used that proposal to help win Washington's approval for the complete desegregation of the entire Far Eastern Command.

Medals and Awards

Kean's decorations included multiple awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, including two during World War II. He also received the Silver Star Medal in the Korean War. In addition, Kean received multiple awards of the Legion of Merit, and was a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal.

In Retirement

In October 1954, Kean was appointed Executive Director of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA). While at the CHA, Kean's emphasis on reducing vacancy rates through racial integration of the authority's housing projects was very controversial. He remained at CHA until 1957.

After resigning from CHA, he moved to Florida where he was employed as Public Relations Director for the Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

After retiring, Kean lived in Belleair and Winter Park, FL.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant General William Benjamin Kean, Jr. died on 10 March 1981 in Winter Park. His wife, Alta Katharine Kean, died in 1993 and is buried with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.


Honoree ID: 3285   Created by: MHOH




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