Thursday, April 11, 2019

Lt. General William K. Harrison Jr.

I first heard of William K. Harrison Jr. on the radio some time ago.  He was being used as an example of someone who made sure he read the word of God every day, even when things got really busy; and things were really busy in his life, as it was noted that this man was a general in World War II.

 Not a lot of information was given, but that piqued my interest. But I was sort of afraid he'd be some sort of nominal Christian guy who just read his Bible for just for the sake of 'morality', rather than being the real deal.

I tried to find more information about him, and discovered some articles that he had written

And the other one is "May A Christian Serve in the Military".  I'll give an excerpt from that one here: 

From the section in that article,  "The Real Cause of War".
"From a Biblical standpoint the answer is simple. The world is dead in sin. Lust, plunder, and war are the natural characteristics of the human race, dead and lost in sin (Romans 1:18-32). Many good Christians seek to eliminate war by dressing up the outside of the cup, seeking to cure the apparent causes of war. The real cause of war is in the sinful heart of man. The Lord said that except a man be born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God. Being born again is a miracle. It comes only when one believes in the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and as the Son of God. People believe when they hear the gospel. Never has the preaching of the gospel succeeded in converting more than a portion of hearers at any one time.

Even at Pentecost in the great city of Jerusalem only 3,000 believed at the most wonderful exhibition of gospel power in church history. The rapid growth of Christianity in the Roman Empire resulted first in the persecution of Christians, and then ultimately in the decay of spiritual Christian life into the dark ages of medieval centuries. The Protestant Reformation did not produce more than a partial awakening. Today there is an apostasy from the simple, pure Word of God and faith in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God and the only Savior.

We are not called to preach the gospel to save the world from war and crime. We can preach the gospel all we want to, but only a few believe. Christ said that broad is the way that leads to destruction and many are they that find it, and narrow is the way that leads to life and few are they that find it. The preaching of the gospel is to them who are saved a savor unto life, unto them who are lost a savor unto death. The Scriptures say that God is now taking out a people for His name. I can find no place in the Scripture where it intimates that the preaching of the gospel of grace will succeed in converting the world.

On the other hand, it does say that the gospel should be preached to all the world as a witness…."

Those articles made me curious to know more about this guy.  I did some research on the internet, and there was only a bit of information.  The end of the above articles give a short summary of who Harrison was:  "Lieutenant General William K. Harrison, Jr., retired in 1956 after forty four years in the Army. He was assistant division commander of the 30th Infantry Division, rated by General S.L.A. Marshall as the best division in the European Theater during World War II. He was chief U.N. negotiator at Panmunjom, Korea, and subsequently served as commander in chief of the Caribbean Command. General Harrison served as president of OCF from 1954-1972 and as president emeritus from 1972 until his death in 1987."

Wikipedia didn't have much more information.  But I found that there was a biography of Harrison called, "A Man Under Orders"by D. Bruce Lockerbie.  It was published in 1979,is out of print, and the copies I was finding were rather expensive (I think one of the ones I found was $60), even its "list price" is absurd, $1000 something dollars. 

Instead, I found book about the 30th division that he was assistant commander of in World War II.  The book is, "OldHickory: The 30th Division: The Top-Rated American Infantry Division in Europein World War II" by Robert Baumer.  The book was quite interesting in and of itself (you can buy it on Amazon), and Harrison is mentioned quite a bit, though it doesn't really go into his beliefs. But it was interesting to see how much of a leader he was and how courageous. Baumer says, "He would become one of the most frequently seen general officers of WWII in the front lines with his men, and widely admired for his courage."

The author, Robert Baumer, apparently read my review of his book, and he noticed that I had mentioned that I was having difficulties finding a copy of Harrison's biography.  The author messaged me and said that he had a copy of the book that he didn't need anymore, and that he'd send it to me.  It was very, very kind of him. 

So I read the book, and loved it.  Or rather, loved to see what God did in the life of this man.

He was a Christian for most of his life, and God's sanctification of him usually involved his not getting what he wanted. Harrison's aspiration was to use his leadership skills as a soldier.  During World War I, when he graduated from West Point, he wanted to go be sent from there to France, but was instead sent to Arizona to guard the border.  Then, he was assigned to teach languages at West Point.  "While Harrison kept himself respectable in the classroom, his heart had never been teaching foreign languages.  He felt as though he were wasting time. To amuse himself, he turned to puzzling out problems in tactics doing his best not to atrophy as a soldier."   He learned how to teach well, and this served him well later, he became "renowned" for his teaching of troops.  And God kept teaching him submission by giving him tasks that he didn't want.

As mentioned above, he liked solving tactics problems, and he liked coming up with solutions to other military problems as well, just for fun and to keep his military mind sharp.  Even that came in handy later on. 

I was very interested to find that God pivotally used him in World War II.  Two events really stand out.  First, a little before America entered the war, he was assigned to General Marshall's Committee on Allocation of Responsibilities which was given the job of figuring out a reorganization of the Army High command (which was in great disarray).  This especially needed to be done in case war broke out. After weeks of the other members wrangling and disagreeing about how to do it, Harrison, who had kept pretty quiet most of the time, said that he had the solution to the problem.  And that afternoon, dug though the papers he had doodled on for fun and found one that he had done several months earlier. ""On a single sheet of paper, he had sketched out a plan to reorganize the United States Army." He edited it a little and presented it the next day. And that was the plan the committee ended up going with.  Asa result of this, he was promoted to Brigadier General.  A few years later, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal for having come up with the plan.

He ended up becoming assistant commander of the 30th infantry division.  His commander, Hobbs, turned over his own responsibility of training the troops over to Harrison.  The top commander was supposed to do that but Hobbs apparently didn't want that responsibility.  Harrison did the job well.  And then when they went overseas, he seemed to be the real leader of the men.  Harrison was one of the "most seen generals on the battlefield".  He did most of the legwork for Hobbs and loved to lead from the front.

The second pivotal thing he did that God used to really help the Allies, came in the midst of disaster. Having arrived in France , The 30th Infantry Division was going to participate in Operation Cobra, which, was to push further into France.  This operation was to begin with a major saturation bombing of the enemy with the troops then moving in afterward. On the day it was to begin, Harrison was with the men up front.  To the men's surprise, the planes (whose pilots didn't have an accurate visual) bombed their own men.  They started firing back at their own planes. The invasion didn't take place that day. They tried again the next day, but the SAME THING happened.  More than 600 of the men had been hit. Harrison, who was with the men again, was almost killed, surviving "an almost direct hit from not one but two bombs". he was thrown down but unharmed. His initial response was out of character, he was very angry, and screamed up at the pilots, calling them an indecent name. I wish that the biographer, who included a lot of dialogue from interviews he'd had with Harrison, would have had Harrison comment on his bad response, which I'm sure he wouldn't have condoned.  Anyway, he calmed down pretty quick though.

 The attack still had to happen, and so, despite many of  their own men being dead or wounded from the friendly fire, Harrison successfully pushed the men forward.  I'll let the Distinguished Service Cross he received later on for this action sum it up. His citation read, "On 25 July 1944, General Harrison quickly reorganized the leading elements of his division which had previously become disorganized by the bombing of friendly aircraft. Realizing that the success of the entire operation depended on the 30th infantry Division carrying out its mission, General Harrison, with complete disregard for his personal safety and unselfish devotion to duty, accompanied the demoralized troops as they began their advance. Through his valor, courage, and presence in the very front of the attack, General Harrison inspired the men to a successful completion of their mission."

A Brigadier General, Stewart L. Hall, who was the 30th Divisions Intelligence chief said, "I believe it was General Harrison's example at that instant that turned the tide3 of the war in the early days of the fighting in Normandy."

Anyway, despite all his hard work, he still didn't get the recognition/promotion that he wanted.  It was when he was wounded some time later(from being up at the front again) that he realized that he had become proud, "Being wounded and out of action became a pivotal incident in Harrison's life, as he himself concedes. 'You see,' he admits, 'I'd been kidding myself all along that I was working to serve God.  But I'm very human, and without my realizing it, I was really striving for myself.  I was particularly upset because, I guess, my abilities as the next Napoleon weren't being recognized.  I knew, and I think my men knew, who was responsible for making the 30th Infantry Division everything it was cracked up to be.  But I was still only the Assistant Division Commander.  My pride made me forget God altogether.'"  He refocused and got back to work with a better perspective.

After the war, he was still  assigned to jobs he didn't really want.  He was summoned to  Japan, "…Harrison was surprised and dismayed to learn that he had not been assigned to a division; rather, he had been personally selected by Macarthur to be executive for economic affairs, then later chief of the Reparations section, Allied Powers' General Headquarters."

And then, when trouble broke out in North and South Korea, Harrison wanted to be assigned to duty in the battle zone, but instead, upon being called to Washington, "he was informed that he had been appointed chief of the Army-Air Force Troop Information and Education Division, another desk job." He was responsible for "propaganda and university extension courses." Still, he did his best in the job, recognizing Who had given it to him:  "What did I know about education or propaganda! Nothing, and I cared even less!  But I figured God wanted me doing that job, or else He wouldn't have placed me there."

A bit later he was assigned to be in command of a training center. He liked training soldiers better than the propaganda job he had had, though it still wasn't the battlefield.  Near the end of 1951, he finally was about to get, what he thought was, his chance to be in the action.  He was appointed Deputy Commander of the 8th Army.    He was finally going to the front.  After a few weeks of inspection tours to acquaint himself with the situation, he was interrupted by another job assignment.  That of being on the Truce team.

This was yet another job he didn't want, and a job that he didn't really agree should be done at this point.  He thought that it would be futile and that they should conquer the North Koreans before negotiating a deal.  But again, God had given him this job, so he needed to do it to the best of his ability.

"Ever since he had been a little boy, Harrison had been preparing himself for a major command in the army.  As Mark Clark says of him, 'Bill was always a cavalry man looking for that chance to shock the enemy with a charge.' But his ambition had never been fulfilled; his skill as a field commander never recognized and so, never tested.  Instead, at the climax of his service, his country called upon him to exercise every other quality for which he had been schooled.  Where a cavalry charge would have failed, lessons learned in the drudgery of bureaus, sections, committees, boards, and other General Staff desk jobs succeeded.  In the always astonishing providence of God, those very traits that Harrison's long years of varied duties had taught him - patience tact, analytical incisiveness, and a resilient spirit buoyed by faith - were what he most needed at Pammujom."

It was a very tough job, but Harrison was able to show the North Koreans that he meant business.  As everyone knows, a sort of deal was reached and has been in place ever since.  Harrison has been in the news, in a way lately, with the heightened conflict with South Korea this past year or two, news articles have revisited the original Armistice along with pictures of Harrison signing it  (sitting at the table on the left in this picture).

I do want to warn about some things though.  Harrison seemed quite staunch in his Christianity, but then there is this excerpt from the book:  "But while he did not use his rank to promote religious activities within the Division, he did what he could to encourage the work of chaplains.  When he found a chaplain doing his best to help the men by raising their morale - whether Harrison agreed with him theologically or not - he encouraged him to carry on."  I didn't quite know what to make of that. I suppose if they were just raising morale fine…but I'm hoping that he didn't encourage any chaplains who have major theological/soteriological differences, like Roman Catholicism (which teaches that Jesus Christ is not the only Mediator between God and man, along with other unbiblical  things).   

I also want to note that there is some swearing and vulgar language in this book.
But overall I really liked the account. It's so nice to read of brave soldiers who fought well.  But I truly admire Christian soldiers, as they are the ones with true bravery.  True bravery isn't merely conquering fear, it's trust in God, that all things really do work out for good for His people, conforming them to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28-29).  It's really sad reading about brave men who risk their lives for their country when you realize that they are not Christian, and that they would go straight to Hell if they died.  When you think about it, from a biblical perspective, the bravery of non Christian soldiers is insanity because they ultimately either don't think about God, or trust in their own good works or something other than Christ, and have no overriding fear of meeting their Maker. Even if the military person makes it through war, if he still doesn't become a Christian, it's horribly sad when he dies even just of old age. But that's not the case when you read that a Christian died. It makes me think of the verse, "The Lord takes no delight in the death of the wicked" (Ezek 33:11) in contrast to "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints"( Psalm 116:15)

The biography was written while Harrison was still alive (I think he was in his 80s at the time). But he was still living a life of faith at the time, and it sounds as though he did until the end when he went to be with the Lord in 1987. Harrison was a Christian, he trusted in God and knew that God had taken care of his sin, and so was brave in the midst of danger, knowing that God was in control of whatever happened.  That is true bravery.  God-given bravery. And even the monotonous parts of his life were inspiring because he trusted God even in those, doing his best with whatever God gave him to do.  It truly was encouraging to read about God's work in this man's life.

I hope that the book is republished again sometime (maybe without the bad language). Right now there are some more copies available for sale (lowest is $100 right now)on Amazon. But I have found that it is also available to read/digitally borrow for free online at OpenLibrary.  


  1. I am saving up to buy this book. Thank you for the brief and letting us know it is worth the ~$100.

    1. Just know that it is not a very large book, about one hundred and ninety something pages. I just looked up the book on Amazon again (it's been a bit since I've checked), Wow! So now the lowest is 137$!? I've just found one for cheaper on a U.K. website (it looks as though the actual seller is in Ohio) and they're selling it for around 40$ (assuming they actually still have it):