Military Wiki
Samuel Tankersley Williams
Williams as commander of the Fourth United States Army
Born August 25, 1897 (1897-08-25)
Died April 26, 1984 (1984-04-27) (aged 87)
Place of birth Denton, Texas
Place of death San Antonio, Texas
Buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1916–1960
Rank US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant General
Commands held 378th Infantry Regiment
26th Infantry Regiment
25th Infantry Division
IX Corps
Fourth United States Army
Military Assistance and Advisory Group, Vietnam
Battles/wars Villa Expedition
World War I
World War II
Korean War
Vietnam War
Awards Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Soldiers Medal
Bronze Star

Samuel Tankersley Williams (August 25, 1897 – April 26, 1984) was a United States Army Lieutenant General. Williams became prominent in Army history for being reduced in rank from brigadier general to colonel, and then resuscitating his career to again advance to general officer rank. He also commanded the 25th Infantry Division during the Korean War and served as commander of Military Assistance and Advisory Group – Vietnam, the predecessor to Military Assistance Command – Vietnam.

Early life

Williams was born on August 25, 1897 in Denton, Texas. In May, 1916 he enlisted as a private in the Texas National Guard and took part in the expedition against Pancho Villa. In August, 1917 Williams completed the officers training course at Camp Bullis, Leon Springs, Texas and received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Officer Reserve Corps.[1][2]

World War I

From 1917 to 1919 Williams served with the 359th Infantry Regiment in France. He took part in offensives including St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne, and Toul Sector, receiving a serious wound while commanding a company.[3][4]

Post World War I

Williams was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the regular Army in 1920.[5]

He continued to serve in positions of increasing rank and responsibility during the 1920s and 1930s, including assignments with the 21st Infantry Regiment in Hawaii and the 29th Infantry Regiment at Fort Benning, Georgia. Williams was also an avid polo player, and was a member of the Army team that won international championships in the 1920s.[6]

Williams completed the Infantry Company Officers Course at Fort Benning in 1926, and the Infantry Officer Advanced Course in 1931.[7]

He graduated from the Army Command and General Staff College in 1936 and the Army War College in 1938.[8][9][10]

World War II

In 1943 Williams commanded the 378th Infantry Regiment and was promoted to brigadier general.[11]

Williams was then named assistant division commander of the 90th Infantry Division and took part in the Invasion of Normandy, landing at Utah Beach on D-Day plus 1 (June 7, 1944).[12]

Williams and other 90th Division soldiers were on board the transport ship Susan B. Anthony when it struck a mine. Though he did not know how to swim, Williams supervised the evacuation of the wounded and transfer of soldiers to rescue craft, and then on to Utah Beach. He risked his life to venture below deck, overcoming smoke and darkness to ensure that everyone had been evacuated. He was the last one to leave the ship, which was evacuated without loss of life. Williams received the Soldier's Medal for this event.[13]


Shortly after the D-day invasion, VII Corps commander Major General Lawton Collins decided that the 90th Infantry Division was not performing satisfactorily in combat. As a result, he relieved division commander Brigadier General Jay W. MacKelvie and two regimental commanders. MacKelvie’s successor, Eugene M. Landrum, was shortly afterwards involved in a verbal altercation with Williams and requested Williams' reduction in rank from brigadier general to colonel and reassignment to a staff position. Corps Commander Troy Middleton concurred, and the action was carried out.[14]

After his reduction in rank, Henry Terrell, Jr., who was acquainted with Williams from Terrell's time as commander of the 90th Division, requested Williams to be Terrell's Training and Operations officer, G-3 for XXII Corps, planning and overseeing execution of missions in the European Theater of Operations.[15]

In the fall of 1944, after Williams had been reduced in rank, the recommendation to award him the Silver Star was approved. Williams received the award for heroism performed on June 15, 1944 as he assisted in maneuvering and positioning lead units of the 90th Division during an assault on Gourbesville.[16]

Near the end of the war Williams served as the XXII Corps Chief of Staff.[17]

Post World War II

In 1946 Williams was appointed commander of the 26th Infantry Regiment in West Germany, also serving as acting commander of the of the 1st Infantry Division.[18]

From 1950 to 1952 Williams served in the Operations and Training Office of the Army Field Forces, at Fort Monroe, Virginia. In 1951 he was promoted again to Brigadier General.[19][20]

Korean War

From 1952 to 1953 Williams commanded the 25th Infantry Division in Korea, earning the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star and receiving promotion to Major General.[21][22]

Post Korean War

Williams commanded the XVI Corps in Japan from 1953 to 1954.[23][24]

From 1954 to 1955 Williams was commander of the IX Corps and deputy commander of the Eighth United States Army in South Korea.[25][26]

From January to September, 1955 Williams was commander of the Fourth United States Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, receiving promotion to Lieutenant General.[27][28]

Service in Vietnam

From 1955 until his 1960 retirement Williams commanded Military Assistance and Advisory Group – Vietnam, the first officer assigned to this position.[29][30][31]

Awards and decorations

General Williams received the Distinguished Service Cross, multiple awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Silver Star, the Soldier's Medal, the Bronze Star, and two awards of the Purple Heart.[32][33]

Citation for Distinguished Service Cross

The President of the United States of America, under the provisions of the Act of Congress approved July 9, 1918, takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Major General Samuel T. Williams, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy of the United Nations while serving as Commanding General of the 25th Infantry Division. Major General Williams distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action against enemy aggressor forces in the vicinity of Chu-Dong, Korea, on the morning of 15 July 1953. On that date, General Williams was advised of a large-scale enemy attack consisting of six hostile divisions and extending the width of the corps front. He immediately contacted all available sources of information in an effort to coordinate the defense. The reports he received were confused because of the scope of the battle, and General Williams realized that only through personal observation would he be able to secure the data he needed. Consequently, he flew in a helicopter to the scene of the battle. Dipping repeatedly to within a few feet of the hostile positions, General Williams noted the disposition of the foe without regard for the heavy fire directed against his craft. At one point, a bullet ripped through the plastic canopy of the helicopter, narrowly missing him. However, even this did not cause him to turn back. Instead, he passed again and again over the battle area until satisfied that he had gathered sufficient information upon which to base an effective defense. Only then did he return to his command post to plan and coordinate a counter operation which substantially reduced the fighting potential of the hostile force through the tremendous casualties they suffered.

General Orders: Headquarters, Eighth U.S. Army, Korea Order: General Orders No. 710, (July 30, 1953) Action Date: July 15, 1953 Service: Army Rank: Major General Division: Commanding General, 25th Infantry Division[34]

Retirement and death

General Williams lived in San Antonio, Texas during his retirement. He died there on April 26, 1984 and was buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Section Ai, site 646.[35][36][37][38]


Williams’ papers are stored at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.[39]

Samuel T. Williams was the subject of a biography, 1990’s Hanging Sam: a Military Biography of General Samuel T. Williams from Pancho Villa to Vietnam, by Harold J. Meyer.[40]


  1. Official U.S. Army Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General, page 810, 1954
  2. Hanging Sam: a Military Biography of General Samuel T. Williams from Pancho Villa to Vietnam, 1990, by Harold J. Meyer
  3. The National Guardsman, 1955, Volume 9, page 27
  4. Searching For Competence: The Initial Combat Experience Of Untested U.S. Army Divisions In World War II – A Case Study Of The 90th Infantry Division, June-July 1944, Benjamin L. Bradley, 2005, page 9
  5. Infantry Journal, published by U.S. Infantry Association, 1955, Volume 27, page 77
  6. Newspaper article, Sam Williams Won Stars the Hard Way, Denton Record, August 2, 1953
  7. Official U.S. Army Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General, page 810, 1954
  8. Annual Report, Command and General Staff College, 1935, page 6
  9. Official U.S. Army Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General, page 930
  10. Newspaper article, Texans Complete Army War Course, San Antonio Express, June 23, 1938
  11. Newspaper article, Infantry Leader New 4th Army Head, San Antonio Express, June 18, 1955
  12. The D-Day Encyclopedia, by David G. Chandler and James Lawton Collins,1994, page 389
  13. Military Times, Hall of Valor, Soldier's Medal citation, Samuel Tankersley Williams, accessed March 26, 2013
  14. Searching For Competence: The Initial Combat Experience Of Untested U.S. Army Divisions In World War II – A Case Study Of The 90th Infantry Division, June-July 1944, Benjamin L. Bradley, 2005, page 9
  15. Biographical sketch, Samuel T. Williams Papers inventory
  16. Military Times, Silver Star Citation, Samuel tankersley Williams, accessed October 4, 2012
  17. Parameters magazine, Book Review: Hanging Sam, 1992, page 107
  18. Newspaper article, Division Told Expect Worst In New War, by Associated Press, Hartford Courant, Sep 12, 1948
  19. Newspaper article, Preparedness Speeded by Streamlined Training, Los Angeles Times, Jun 25, 1951
  20. Newspaper article, With Denton County Men in the Service, Denton Record, February 25, 1951
  21. Newspaper article, Korean Armistice Reported At Least One Week Away, by United Press International, Schenectady Gazette, Jun 16, 1953
  22. Stanford University, Finding Aid, Samuel T. Williams Papers, accessed October 4, 2012
  23. Parameters: Journal of the US Army War College, 1992, Volume 17, page 107
  24. Newspaper article, Denton General Given Command of Army Corps, Denton Record-Chronicle, August 28, 1953
  25. Thunderbolt: General Creighton Abrams and the Army of His Time, by Lewis Sorley, 1998, page 131
  26. U.S. Army Japan web site, IX Corps Commanders page
  27. Newspaper article, Army General Gets New Post New York Times, Sep 27, 1955
  28. Newspaper article, Infantry Leader New 4th Army Head, San Antonio Express, June 18, 1955
  29. Newspaper article, Gen. Williams in Saigon Post, New York Times, October 29, 1955
  30. South Vietnam Gets Stronger Army Is The Reason, The Milwaukee Journal, Dec 2, 1955
  31. Magazine article, South Viet Nam: To Eradicate the Cancer, Time Magazine, Feb 23, 1962
  32. Military Times, Hall of valor, Alphabetical Index, Recipients of U.S. Major Military Awards
  33. Official U.S. Army Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General, page 930
  34. Military Times, Hall of Valor, Awards and Citations, Distinguished Service Cross, Samuel T. Williams
  35. Newspaper article, Gen. Williams to Live Here, San Antonio Express, September 1, 1960
  36. Newspaper article, Denton General is Now Retired, Denton Chronicle-Record, September 7, 1961
  37. Social Security death Index
  38. National Cemetery Administration. U.S. Veterans Gravesites, ca.1775-2006, Online Database
  39. Register of the Samuel Tankersley Williams Papers, 1917-1980, Online Archives of California
  40. World Catalog entry, Hanging Sam: a Military Biography of General Samuel T. Williams from Pancho Villa to Vietnam, by Harold J. Meyer

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