Monday, August 3, 2015

Major General Ernest Harmon

Known by his troops as ‘Old Gravel Voice’, Major General Ernest N. Harmon gained a reputation during World War II as a dashing and aggressive leader. Frequently seen leading from the front, Harmon inspired confidence with his presence. During the First World War he led a cavalry troop in the Meuse- Argonne battles. Between the wars he competed as a pentathlete in the Paris Olympics, before rising to command a light tank battalion as a Lieutenant Colonel. Given command of 2nd Armored Division in July 1942 as a temporary Major General, Harmon led them during the Operation Torch landings in November. As part of Patton's Western Taskforce he landed near Casablanca, defeating a column of French reinforcements before racing to secure the city. Ordered to the front by Eisenhower at the height of the Kasserine Pass battle in February 1943, Harmon took command of the battle from II Corps commander General Fredendall whose nerve had broken. Setting off in a jeep, he toured the front visiting key commanders and assessing the situation first hand. Within days he turned the rout into a successful defence. After the danger had passed, Harmon turned down an offer of promotion to command II Corps, instead recommending Patton for that position. He then returned to 2nd Armored, stationed in Morocco as the Allied rearguard, to pass on the lessons he had learnt at the front. Harmon was given command of 1st Armored Division in April 1943, leading them from Tunisia to Italy, taking part in the Salerno and Anzio landings and capturing Rome in June 1944. After the fall of Rome, Harmon was sent Stateside to become a corps commander, but requested a return to combat in Europe. From September 1944, he led 2nd Armored Division in combat, taking them through the Lorraine Campaign and the Battle of the Bulge. By the time the war ended, Harmon was commanding XXII Corps.

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