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First Name: Melvin

Last Name: Zais

Birthplace: Fall River, MA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Date of Birth: 08 May 1916

Date of Death: 05 May 1981

Rank: General

Years Served: 1937-1973
Melvin Zais

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


Melvin Zais
General, U.S. Army

Melvin Zais was born on 8 May 1916 in Fall River, MA. He attended the University of New Hampshire and graduated in 1937 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. In 1937 he was also commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve.

He was recalled to active duty in 1940 after a year in civilian life and served at Fort Benning, GA, where he volunteered for the original paratroop battalion in the Army, the 501st Parachute Infantry Battalion.

After graduating from the Command and General Staff College in 1943, Zais organized and trained the 3rd Battalion, 517th Parachute Infantry Regiment and led them into combat in Italy and France. His service as Regimental Executive Officer during combat in Belgium (Battle of the Bulge) and Germany was followed by command of the Regiment upon its return to Fort Bragg, NC. Zais later graduated from the Armed Forces Staff College, and the National War College.

Zais was promoted to Brigadier General on 1 June 1964. Between 1964 and 1966, he became Deputy Commanding General, Field Force and Assistant Division Commander of the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam; he was then commander of the 1st Division. His next assignment was Director of Individual Training, Office of Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, U.S. Army, Washington, DC, 1966-68.

He was promoted to Major General on 1 May 1967 and served as Commanding General, 101st Airborne Division (Airmobile), U.S. Army, Vietnam, during 1968-69 (the Division fought the infamous Battle of Hamburger Hill under his command). He was promoted to Lieutenant General on 1 August 1969. Other assignments included Commanding General, XXIV Corps, U.S. Army, Vietnam, 1969-70; Director for Operations, J-3, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, DC, 1970-72; and Commanding General, Third U.S. Army, June 1972-June 1973.

He was promoted to General on 13 July 1973 and in August was given his final tour when he was named as Commanding General, Allied Land Forces, Southeast Europe, Turkey.

Medals, Awards and Badges

Distinguished Service Medal with 3 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Silver Star Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Legion of Merit with 2 Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters
Distinguished Flying Cross with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
Bronze Star Medal
Purple Heart
Air Medal
Joint Service Commendation Medal
Army Commendation Medal with Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star
Vietnam Service Medal
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
Combat Infantryman Badge
Master Parachutist Badge
Joint Chiefs of Staff Identification Badge
Army Staff Identification Badge

Death and Burial

General Melvin Zais died of cancer on 5 May 1981 at his home in Beaufort, SC. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

General Zais had two sons with Marjorie Aileen Emert Zais; Barrie E. and Mitchell M. Zais, both of whom are officers in the U.S. Army. Marjorie Zais passed away on 27 March 1967 and General Zais later married Patricia V. Light at Fort Myer, VA, becoming the stepfather of David R. and John P. Light.

Honoree ID: 367   Created by: MHOH




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