By Dr. Troy Sacquety, USASOC History OfficeJanuary 11, 2019
FORT BRAGG, N.C., - In the aftermath of World War II, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote, "Gen. [Lucius D.] Clay is one of the ablest officers the Army has produced, particularly in the keenness of his intellect, his profound understanding of organization and the zeal with which he applies himself to every task. While his work has not brought him actual battle command experience I believe that his work as the American administrator in Germany will come to be recognized, when that work is fully understood, as one of the outstanding contributions to our country." Gen. Omar N. Bradley in turn described him as a "brilliant administrator."
On January 11, 2019, Gen. Clay received another honor: the Special Warfare Education Group, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, dedicated its headquarters building in his memory. What follows is a brief biography of this Army icon.
Born April 23, 1897, Marietta, Georgia, Clay graduated from the United States Military Academy (West Point), June 1918 and received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant of engineers. Promotions were slow between the wars; he did not become a major until April 15, 1940. However, the onset of World War II brought Clay escalating positions of responsibility. In 1941, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel and colonel, and in 1942 to brigadier general and major general.
During the war, he primarily served stateside in a number of administrative positions centered on engineering and logistics, and as the director of Material, Army Service Forces. Maj. Gen. Clay deployed overseas in October 1944 to the European Theater of Operations to command the Normandy Base Section. He used his organizational skills to speed up the unloading of supplies though the newly-captured French port of Cherbourg. He then returned stateside to help shift combat units from Europe to the Pacific.
Clay returned to Europe, April 18, 1945, to begin his civil affairs/military government service. Promoted to lieutenant general, he was appointed as deputy Military Governor, Germany, to transition U.S. combat forces to occupation duties. Five months later, Lt. Gen. Clay became the commanding general of the Office of Military Government for Germany. In this position, he oversaw denazification, reconstruction, and governance.
Clay was promoted to four-star general, March 17, 1947, to serve as commanding general, U.S. Army Forces (European Theater) and Military Governor of Germany. During his tenure, Gen. Clay solved his greatest challenge: the Soviet Blockade of Berlin, which was imposed in June 1948. Gen. Clay triggered the Berlin Airlift, which served the city residents during the harsh winter of 1948-1949.
Clay retired May 31, 1949, with more than 30 years of service. Having been awarded three Distinguished Service Medals and the Legion of Merit, he received a ticker tape parade in New York City. After military retirement, he served as ambassador in West Germany from 1961-1962. He passed away April 16, 1978, at the age of 80. He is buried at the West Point cemetery. Clay left a lasting legacy of administrative competence and true professionalism.
• Gen. Lucius DuBignon Clay was an outstanding administrator throughout World War II and became a Civil Affairs icon governing postwar Germany. On January, 11 2019 the Special Warfare Education Group, U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School, dedicated its headquarters to Gen. Clay.
• Gen. Clay was the post-World War II Military Governor of Germany who organized the Berlin airlift to supply West Berlin during the winter of 1948-1949.
• Retired Gen. Clay served as a U.S. ambassador in the Federal Republic of Germany from 1961-1962.