The "Father of the Airborne"
STORY OF THE QUILT SQUARE: TRIBUTE TO MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM
C. LEE BY ANDERSON CREEK EXTENSION HOMEMAKERS CLUB FOR
-HARNETT-COUNTY HISTORICAL QUILT, 1989
“Father of the Airborne" Major General William Carey
March 12, 1895 -June 25, 1949
near the Fort Bragg Army Post has not only provided job opportunities
and cultural advantages for members of the Anderson Creek Extension
Homemakers Club, it has brought about a sense of appreciation, an
understanding, and knowledge of the numerous divisions at the base.
the club was selecting or choosing historical subject matters, such as
places, ideas and people, for their three quilt squares: Tr. Paul
Soublet, a retired paratrooper, suggested one square be a tribute to the
Father of the Airborne, General William (. Carey Lee, and to a-I.!
paratroopers, as Anderson Creek's first ) selection. Mr. Soublet, also
an artist, had been appointed by the Friends of Harnett County Library
to draw, refine, and paint all club selections of the designs for the
club accepted his idea. The painted square showed airplanes dropping
paratroopers with their strapped equipment, a landing field, insignia of
the Airborne, and a statement at lower edge of the square honoring
Miller, President of the club, transferred the design to the cloth
square, and had started applique and embroidery when she became ill. She
requested that the quilt coordinator find anyone in the Extension
Membership to complete the square. Vernie Womack, member of the
Summerville Club, accepted the responsibility.
on General Lee for this write-up was provided by the General Lee Museum
in Dunn, North Carolina.
Harnett County native, General Lee was born William Carey Lee in Dunn on
March 12, 1895. He was the son of a hardware store operator, a typical
hometown boy interested in athletics, baseball in high school, and
varsity sports at Wake Forest College where he attended from 1913 -1915
and was president of his class in his sophomore year before transferring
to North Carolina State College to enroll in R.O.T.C.
the spring of 1917, Bill Lee left No C. State and joined the U. So Army
as a second lieutenant. He married the former Dava Johnson of Dunn on
June 5, 1918. He soon left to serve 18 months in Europe as an infantry
platoon commander and company commander and to earn the rank of captain.
He graduated from N. C. State in 1920 and from the U. S. Army's officer
school at Ft. Benning in 1922.
World War I, Bill Lee had various assignments. He taught military
science at N. C. State, served in Panama, and was an observer of
military forces in Germany. He returned from Germany fully informed on,
and keenly enthusiastic about Hitler's parachute and glider troops.
Major Lee brought his enthusiasm to a subsequent assignment on the Chief
of Infantry's staff in Washington, D.C. There he soon became well and
widely known as the U. S. Army's foremost and staunchest advocate for
formation of American airborne forces.
C. McAuliffe, General, U. S. Army, Retired:
Lee has been truly called the "Father of the Airborne." At an
age considered too advanced for parachute jumping he organized" and
commanded the parachute school and trained our first parachutists. He
jumped frequently himself, and by his great character and superior
military knowledge set an example for airborne troopers which was
reflected in their brilliant combat record during World War II.
T. Ryder, Brigadier General, U. S. Army, Retired:
early 1940, when President Roosevelt personally directed the priority
development of airborne forces, then Major Lee was assigned to organize
July 1940, under Major Lee's guidance, a Parachute Test Platoon
commanded by then Lieutenant Ryder was formed at Ft. Benning, Georgia to
test equipment, training methods and tactics developed for parachute
troops by the Army Infantry Board. Three months later the Army activated
its first parachute battalion, the 501st, commanded by then Major Bud
March 1941, now Lieutenant Colonel Lee was assigned to form and command
a Provisional Parachute Group at Ft. Benning. Here under Lee's dynamic
leadership and direction, three additional parachute battalions were
activated and in place by October of that same year.
March 1942, the Provisional Parachute Group was reconstituted as the
Airborne Command under now Lieutenant Colonel Lee. Within the year,
three parachute regiments were added to the Army's airborne forces and
the Airborne Command headquarters relocated to Camp MacKall, North
Carolina, with now Brigadier General Lee in command.
1942 saw activation of the Army's first airborne divisions; viz, the 82d
and the 101st. The recently promoted Major General Lee was put in
command of the new 101st Airborne Division.
General Lee took his division to Camp Claiborne, Louisiana, for
training. It was there during an inspiring address to his paratroops
that General Lee coined the phrase that was to become the epitome of the
airborne spirit, "This division has no history, but it has a
rendezvous with destiny." After a year of training, General Lee and
his paratroopers departed for England where they would keep their
"rendezvous with destiny."
advancement from battalions to divisions and Lee's ) advancement from
major general in a brief two year span attest to General Lee's
successful and vital role in airborne development and truly earned him
the sobriquet "Father of the Airborne."
Lee was denied the chance to lead his men into battle when he suffered a
heart attack on February 5, 1944. On October 2nd of the same year, he
medically retired from the Army. During his retirement he served as the
first airborne advisor to the United Nations. On June 25, 1948, General
Lee died at the age of 53 after continued heart problems. Among the
numerous dignitaries and scores of general officers who attended his
funeral were General Anthony C. McAuliffe who commanded the 101st
Airborne Division during the Battle of the Bulge, Lieutenant General
James M. Gavin who commanded the 82d Airborne Division during much of
the European Campaign, and General Maxwell D. Taylor who commanded the
101st Airborne Division during the Normandy Invasion.
is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, a mile west of his home.
Lee was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1944.
addition to the museum in Dunn, a few blocks from the museum an 8 foot
tall marble statue of General Lee stands in front of the city hall.
Also, a street in Dunn is named in his honor. Lee Village at Ft.
Campbell bears his name as does the field house at Ft. Bragg. In Tokyo
the 11th Airborne Army named a street "General Lee Avenue".
The General's alma mater, North Carolina State University, honors him
with Lee Dormitory and by presenting the General Lee Military
Scholarship to the outstanding ROTC cadet each year.
General William C. Lee Commission was established to present the
accomplishments and perpetuate the memory of Major General William C.
Lee, a native of Dunn, North Carolina, and foremost contributor to the
development of U. S. Army Airborne concepts and organization. Primary
functions of the commission are the creation and maintenance of a
commemorative museum and the presentation of ongoing ceremonial
observances and festivals.
General William C. Lee Airborne Museum is housed in General and Mrs.
Lee's former home in Dunn at 209 West Divine Street. The beautiful three
story brownstone house was built in 1903 and is listed in the National
Register of Historic Places. The building was restored at a cost of over
$500,000 by the commission and through continuing contributions from
local, state and national groups and individuals. The museum was
dedicated on June 6, 1986, with an address by Secretary of the Army,
John O. Marsh. "
Source: Folder from the General William C. Lee Museum, Dunn, North
Written by: Evelyn
Byrd, Quilt Coordinator
Creek Extension Homemakers Club
Quilt Square: Row
6 Number 2.
applique: Vernie Lett Womack, member
Summerville Extension Homemakers Club