EUGENE FORRESTER

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    - Stephanie Perkins Giegerich
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  • "I was very proud to have served under the Gen. the entire..."
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    - Glynis Gore


FORRESTER Lieutenant General EUGENE FORRESTER "Gene" Died at his home in Washington, DC July 25. He was 86. He was the father of Washington DC resident Elizabeth Haselkorn. General Forrester was an Infantryman, serving through two wars. He proudly wore his Combat Infantry Badge with one star and Master Parachutist Badge. Gen. Forrester was the highest ranking three-star General from his home state of Tennessee. Gene Forrester was a true Tennessee gentleman with a grace of manner and quick humor that belied his proven courage on the battlefield and the strength of his principles and character. He was a man of deep moral convictions whose sense of duty was rooted in his upbringing. Gen. Forrester had no plans for an Army career. Like his father, he intended to become a lawyer, but motivated by a desire to "follow in the footsteps" of his older brother who died in the crash of an Army plane in 1942 during World War II, Forrester entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1944. He participated in the track and ski teams as well as choir, earned respectable grades, and was appointed a cadet officer. Gen. Forrester graduated with the Class of "48, proudly wearing the gold bars of a lieutenant in the U.S. Infantry. Gen. Forrester's first assignment foreshadowed an unusual career ahead. He joined the 350th Infantry in occupied Austria, where he quickly learned the realities of soldiering in the reduced post-war Army and was introduced to the international military world. He served as a platoon leader and company commander with innate skill, bringing him to the attention of senior officers and earning him selection as an aide to the U.S. Forces - Austria commander. Gen. Forrester went to Korea in 1952 as aide to the I Corps Commander. While he found observing senior personalities educational, staff duty was not Gen. Forrester's favorite type of soldiering. He soon had a company command in the 2d Division's 9th Infantry where he entered fighting at Old Baldy and Pork Chop Hill. In March of 1953, Forrester's battalion on Little Gibraltar was hit by a Chinese attack in the middle of a night rotation. Gen. Forrester led a night counterattack that restored the position. Again an aide, Gen. Forrester left Korea in 1953 for Japan where two major changes occurred in his life. First, he found he loved being a soldier and put aside his former ambitions to become a lawyer. Second, he met Mary Louise Wagner, an adventurous, fun-loving lady who he "didn't want to live without." They married, and Gen. Forrester introduced his bride to Fort Benning, Ga. in January 1954. After the Advance Course, Forrester went to West Point as a tactical officer. He made the Army's first early promotion list to major in 1956; other early promotions would follow. In 1957, Gen. Forrester left West Point for the Army Command and General Staff College. After graduation, he and Mrs. Forrester moved to England to spend a year at the British Staff College. He then spent two years on HQ, SHAPE staff in Paris. January 1963 found Gen. Forrester a student at the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, VA. In July, he reported to the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg as Deputy Commander, 2nd Airborne Battle Group, 504th Infantry. A year later, Gen. Forrester was division G3. He had key roles in the field exercises testing the airmobile division, and in the 1965 invasion of the Dominican Republic. Forrester's exceptional talents were noticed early. In 1965, he served as Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Army before going to the National War College. A personal call from General Bruce Palmer set up Forrester's next job as plans officer in HQ, U.S. Army Vietnam starting August 1967. After early selection to colonel, Forrester left HQ in February 1968 to command the 3rd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Happy to be a field-soldier again, Forrester led his brigade on the coast and in the mountains around Kontum where he received a Silver Star for gallantry in action. Forrester's future changed when Gen. Palmer, new Army Vice Chief of Staff, asked Gen. Forrester to be his executive officer. By September, Forrester was in Washington dealing with a myriad of sensitive issues, including the My Lai tragedy. Selection for brigadier general meant flight school for Gen. Forrester in February 1970 as preparation to be Assistant Division Commander, 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile). Leaving his family in the Philippines, he arrived in Vietnam in May during the advance into Cambodia. Gen. Forrester loved being with troops, but in November he was sent to Saigon to be Ambassador William Colby's deputy for pacification. Promoted to major general in 1973, Gen. Forrester took command of Fort Benjamin Harrison to administer President Gerald Ford's military amnesty program. Two years later he was given command of the Recruiting Command at Fort Sheridan, with the difficult mission of building the All Volunteer Army. In 1978, Forrester was promoted to Lieutenant General to command the Sixth Army in San Francisco. His return to Korea and command of I Corps/Combined Field Army followed in December 1979, as Korea began a turbulent political period. Gen. Forrester's last assignment in October 1981 was Commander, Western Command in Hawaii. After 35 Army years, Forrester retired as a lieutenant general on July 1, 1983 with numerous awards for service and personal bravery. He became a business consultant, sat on corporate boards, enjoyed his family and worked hard at reducing his golf handicap. Gen. Forrester is survived by a son, Eugene "Chip" Forrester of Tennessee, and two daughters, Pamela Forrester (Joseph Landers Jr.) of Tallahassee; and Elizabeth Haselkorn (David Haselkorn) of Washington, D.C.; and five grandchildren, including Katherine and Sarah Haselkorn of Washington DC. He is preceded by his wife, Mary Louise Wagner, and grandson, Wilson Waters Forrester. Lt. General Forrester will be buried with full military honors at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. on August 14 at 1:30 p.m. followed by a reception at Herbert Hall at West Point. A Memorial Service will be held on August 15 at the Ft. Myer Memorial Chapel, 101 McNair Rd, at 3 p.m. in Arlington, VA followed by a reception at the Army Navy Country Club from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that any donations be made in the name of Lt. General Eugene Forrester to any of these charities that he cared deeply about: West Point Association of Graduates (845-446-1500); National Defense Univ. Foundation (202-685-3726); Army Distaff Foundation, Inc. (202- 541-0492), George Washington University-Office of Planned Giving (202- 994-1000); National War College Alumni Association; (202- 863-2306).

Published in The Washington Post on Aug. 2, 2012
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