Edward Almond was one of the more controversial of America’s twentieth-century generals. A Virginian by birth, Almond was to attend that state’s prestigious Virginia Military Institute, before joining the US Army as an infantry officer and serving in the 4th Division on the Western Front in 1918. Despite his brief period on the frontline he saw extensive action, commanding a machine gun battalion.
Almond had reached the rank of brevet Colonel by the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Between the wars, after a spell teaching at a military institute in Alabama and a brief tour of duty in the Philippines, he took up a series of staff roles. He worked in intelligence with the General Staff in Washington and then with the VI Corps in Rhode Island.
World War Two
During the Second World War Almond was promoted to Brigadier General and spent the first half of the war training his command – the all black 92nd Infantry Division. Almond led the division in the Italian campaign from 1944 until the defeat of Germany. The conduct of his unit – the last all black division in a previously segregated army – has been subject to controversy ever since. Some have attributed its poor performance to arrogance and racism on Almond’s part, while others have cited other factors such as neglect from the high command. He is alleged to have advised the Army against using black soldiers in combat roles as a result of this experience.
Almond also suffered personal tragedy during the war: both his son and son-in-law were killed in action.
After the war, Almond spent a year back in the USA, before transferring to General Douglas MacArthur’s Far East Command in Tokyo. There he was promoted to the rank of Major General and entered MacArthur’s inner circle, serving as Chief of Staff.
Intimately involved in the planning for the Inchon invasion during the Korean War of 1950 to 1953, Almond was rewarded with the command of the X Corps, which MacArthur had tasked with the assault. When the X Corps was later switched to the east of the country, Almond’s troops fared markedly better than their colleagues in Walton Walker’s 8th Army during the surprise Chinese attack at the close of 1950. Yet Almond argued repeatedly with his subordinate, General O. P. Smith, whose Marine division did most of the tough fighting. He continued in command until July 1951, by which time the war had stagnated.
Back in the USA again, Almond spent the remainder of his military career leading the Army War College in Pennsylvania. He retired from army service in 1953, but kept up his interest in military affairs by serving on the board of his old college, the Virginia Military Institute.
Edward Almond died on 11 June 1979, aged 86, and is buried at Arlington cemetery, Virginia.
The Korean War: History In An Hour published by William Collins, part of HarperCollins, is available in various digital formats, only 99p / $1.99, and downloadable audio.