John E. Dahlquist

Last updated
John E. Dahlquist
John E Dahlquist.jpg
BornMarch 12, 1896
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedJuly 30, 1975 (aged 79)
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S.
AllegianceFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Service/branchFlag of the United States Army.svg  United States Army
Years of service1917–1956
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Unit USA - Army Infantry Insignia.png Infantry Branch
Commands held 70th Infantry Division
36th Infantry Division
1st Infantry Division
V Corps
Fourth Army
Continental Army Command
Army Field Forces
Battles/wars World War II
Cold War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star (2)

General John Ernest Dahlquist (March 12, 1896 – July 30, 1975) was a senior United States Army officer. In the course of his military career, Dahlquist commanded three different army divisions, commanded at the corps and field army level and rose to the rank of four-star general. He is well-known for commanding the series of poor tactical decisions which led to the 442nd RCT becoming the most highly decorated unit in the history of the United States Armed Forces.



Born on March 12, 1896 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the youngest of four children, Dahlquist's parents were immigrants from Dalsland, Sweden. He graduated from the University of Minnesota and received a direct commission as a second lieutenant into the Infantry Branch of the United States Army in August 1917, shortly after the American entry into World War I on April 6, 1917. Unable to serve overseas, he served in the Allied occupation of the Rhineland after the war.

Remaining in the army during the interwar period he returned to the United States and served as an instructor at the U.S. Army Infantry School from 1924 to 1928. After graduating from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School in 1931, he was assigned to the Philippines. From 1935 to 1936 he was a student at the U.S. Army War College, serving on the U.S. Army General Staff, Personnel Division after graduation.

World War II

With the American entry into World War II in December 1941, Dahlquist was sent to England and assigned as deputy chief of staff to Major General Dwight David Eisenhower in early 1942, and, later that year, with the one-star rank of brigadier general, became the assistant division commander (ADC) of the 76th Infantry Division. In June 1943, promoted to the two-star rank of major general, Dahlquist became the first commanding general (CG) of the 70th Infantry Division, becoming one of the youngest division commanders in the U.S. Army. In July 1944, he took command of the 36th Infantry Division, a National Guard formation from Texas that had fought in many difficult battles in the Italian Campaign under Major General Frederick Walker and had recently taken part in Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France.

Dahlquist was criticized for his overuse of the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team (442nd RCT), which had been attached to his 36th Division. Many believed his poor decisions led to the 442nd RCT becoming the most highly decorated unit in the history of the United States Armed Forces. Over a third of the men in the 442nd were either killed or wounded when Dahlquist ordered the unit to rescue another unit that had been surrounded by the enemy. It is not the surviving Nisei soldiers of the 442nd but their officers (none of them Japanese-American) who are most often quoted in criticism of Dahlquist. [1] [2]

On October 24, 1944, the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the 141st Infantry Regiment, part of Dahlquist's 36th Division, moved to secure the right flank of the 3rd Division near the French town of St-Die. When the German forces counterattacked, the 1st Battalion was separated and cut off. After two days of attempted rescue by the other two battalions of the 141st Infantry, Dahlquist sent in the 442nd RCT, which had borne the brunt of the 36th Division's fighting for the previous eight days. [3] The 442nd would suffer 800 casualties, including 121 dead, during the five days it took to rescue 211 men of the 1st Battalion, 141st Infantry. [4] Major General Lucian Truscott, commanding the VI Corps (under which unit the 36th Division was serving), considered relieving him of his command. [5]

On November 12, General Dahlquist announced he wanted to review the 442nd, to thank them for what they had done. When the battered unit appeared, Dahlquist grew irritated at their sparse numbers, ignorant at how much they had sacrificed.

Christopher C. Meyers, The War: Vosges Mountains (The Lost Battalion),

Dahlquist continued to lead the 36th Division throughout the campaign in Western Europe. On May 8, 1945, Victory in Europe Day, Hermann Göring surrendered to Brigadier General Robert I. Stack, the 36th Infantry Division's aide-de-camp, after a ceasefire was declared between the German Army Group G and the U.S. Seventh Army. [6] Stack transported Göring to the division command post. Because he spoke German, Dahlquist dismissed his translator, and so it was Dahlquist who became the first person to question Göring. [7] Press photos of Dahlquist and Stack, in seemingly casual conversation with Göring, were released for publication in the United States and resulted in criticism of Dahlquist from the American public and from General Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander in the European Theater of Operations (ETO). [8]


Following the war, Dahlquist returned to the United States, serving in various administrative and personnel jobs. He took command of his third division, the 1st Infantry, in 1949. This was followed by command of V Corps from 1952 to 1953 and the Fourth Army in 1953. He then served as Chief of Army Field Forces from 1953 to 1955, during which he was promoted to the four-star rank of general on August 18, 1954. He finished his career as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army Command, retiring in 1956. Dahlquist died on June 30, 1975, aged 79, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.


Dahlquist was married to Ruth D. Dahlquist, who was born 17 days after him and died 17 days after him. She was buried on top of him in Arlington National Cemetery. They had a son, Donald John Dahlquist, born on March 9, 1932, who died on November 22, 1993 and was buried in Arlington next to his parents. Dahlquist had two grandchildren, John William and Donette Ruth.

Awards and decorations

Dahlquist's awards and decorations include the Distinguished Service Cross, the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star. In 1954, he received an honorary Master of Arts from the University of Minnesota. [9]

See also

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  1. Sterner 2007, p. 91.
  2. Sterner 2007, p. 95.
  3. Sterner 2007, pp. 70-75.
  4. Meyers, Christopher C. "Vosges Mountains (The Lost Battalion)." The War. September 2007. Retrieved on 1 October 2009.
  5. p. 294, The Last Cavalryman: The Life of General Lucian K. Truscott, Jr.
  6. Alford 2003, pp. 43-46
  7. Time magazine article
  8. Alford 2003, p. 46
  9. University of Minnesota Alumni Association
Military offices
Preceded by
New post
Commanding General 70th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Allison J. Barnett
Preceded by
Fred L. Walker
Commanding General 36th Infantry Division
Succeeded by
Post deactivated
Preceded by
Ralph Canine
Commanding General Fifteenth Army
Succeeded by
Thomas S. Timberman
Preceded by
Boniface Campbell
Commanding General V Corps
Succeeded by
Ira Swift
Preceded by
Commanding General Fourth Army
Succeeded by