• Wainwright survived Japanese captivity

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  • Quentin Schillare | Special to the Fort Leavenworth Lamp
    Nothing succeeds like success. That extends to serving as a namesake for the streets, buildings and terrain features on Fort Leavenworth. Those locations identified for soldiers are for the most part named for those who planned for or participated in military victory. Yet, there is one Army officer whose name is attached to three things on post and is viewed as a failure by some. He was a commander who had to make one of the most difficult American decisions of World War II — Jonathan M. Wainwright IV.
    In terms of positions held when the United States entered the war, Wainwright was certainly a success. From November 1940 to May 1942 he was, in succession, the commanding general of the Philippine Division, North Luzon Force, Philippine I Corps, and finally U.S. Forces in the Philippines. However, Wainwright became the personification of a flawed war plan, an unworkable reinforcement policy for America’s Pacific outposts, inadequate pre-war preparation in the Philippines, and tactical and logistic decisions that led him to surrender all American and Philippine forces on May 8, 1942. His superior, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, was in Australia and would amass honors and glory throughout the war; Wainwright was a prisoner of the Japanese thinking himself a failure.
    He was not alone as a captive general officer. Accompanying Lt. Gen. Wainwright into prisoner-of-war camps were four major generals and 15 brigadier generals, the largest group of flag officers to surrender to the enemy in American history. Of local interest, all but two of this group graduated from the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, the earliest in 1923 and the latest in 1939. The two non-CGSS graduates graduated from the Cavalry School at Fort Riley.
    Also surrendering in the Philippines was Vicente Lim, the first Filipino graduate of West Point in 1914 and a 1928 graduate of CGSS. Commissioned in the Philippine Scouts, a component of the U.S. Army, he retired as a lieutenant colonel in 1936 before joining the Philippine Army as a brigadier general in 1939.
    All but two of the generals survived captivity and served briefly after the war. Brig. Gen. Allan C. McBride died in captivity in May 1944 and Brig. Gen. Lim was released by the Japanese in 1942 but fought as a guerilla and was recaptured and executed in late 1944.
    Jonathan Wainwright had a distinguished 41-year career. He graduated from USMA in 1906 and was commissioned in the 1st Cavalry. His early service was in Texas with this regiment. Lt. Wainwright saw action against the Moros in the Philippines, 1908-10. He served on regimental duty in Idaho, Vermont, California, Kansas and the Mexican Border from 1910-17.
    Maj. Wainwright was a student at the American Expeditionary Forces General Staff College in 1918. As a temporary lieutenant colonel, he then served as a staff officer with the British 51st Division and the U.S. 82nd Division in 1918. Wainwright was a staff officer in the Army of Occupation in Germany, at Coblenz, Germany, 1918-20.
    Page 2 of 2 - Maj. Wainwright commanded the 2nd Squadron, 3rd Cavalry, from 1925-28. He was stationed at Fort Leavenworth from 1928-31, graduating from the two-year CGSSl course in 1931. Following command of the 1st Cavalry Brigade at Fort Clark, Texas, Brig. Gen. Wainwright deployed to the Philippines.
    Soon after his release from captivity, Wainwright was awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Philippines at the beginning of World War II. In September 1945, he was promoted to four-star general. Gen. Wainwright was commanding Fourth Army at the time of his retirement for disability in 1947. He died of a stroke in San Antonio in 1953 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
    On Fort Leavenworth, he is remembered as the namesake for Wainwright Road which connects the Hunt Lodge to Sheridan Drive, as well as the Wainwright Riding Complex on McPherson Avenue, the home of the Fort Leavenworth Hunt. He is the namesake for Wainwright Bowl, a now seldom used riding area near the intersection of Sylvan Trail and Bluntville Avenue. He is also the namesake of Fort Wainwright, Fairbanks, Alaska.
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