Monday, September 20, 2010

Nathan Bedford Forrest in World War II?

As some of you may know, I have long been interested in studying the direct descendants of prominent Civil War commanders. In many cases, I have found that they led lives just as fascinating as their illustrious ancestors. While many are familiar with Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest, few may realize that his great-grandson and namesake served as a brigadier general in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. Here is some information about him below (via Wikipedia). In the future, I will post information about descendants of other Civil War leaders.

"Nathan Bedford Forrest III (April 7, 1905 - June 13, 1943) was a Brigadier General of the United States Army Air Forces, and a great-grandson of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Forrest was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of Nathan Bedford Forrest II and Mattie Patterson (Patton). On November 22, 1930 he married Frances Brassler and according to the Arlington National Cemetery website, he had no children, making him the final male Forrest in his great-grandfather's direct line.

Forrest graduated from West Point in 1928 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the cavalry. In 1929 he transferred to the Air Corps and subsequently gained rank rapidly.

Promoted to Brigadier General in 1942, Forrest was serving as chief of staff of the Second Air Force when he flew missions as an observer with the Eighth Air Force in England. He was reported missing in action when the B-17 Flying Fortress he was in, leading a bombing raid on the German submarine yards at Kiel, went down on June 13, 1943. The other members of the squadron reported seeing parachutes, and hoped that the General had survived. However, Forrest was found dead on September 23, 1943 when his body washed up near a seaplane base at Ruegen Island in Germany. He was buried on September 28, 1943 in a small cemetery near Wiek, Rügen.

His family was awarded his Distinguished Flying Cross for staying with the controls of his B-17 bomber while his crew bailed out. The plane exploded before Forrest could bail out. Tragically, by the time German air-sea rescue could arrive, only one of the crew was still alive in the freezing water.

In 1947, two years after the war ended, his widow requested that he be returned to the United States and buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He was exhumed and reburied in Section 11 at Arlington - coincidentally, on grounds once owned by Robert E. Lee, his great-grandfather's commanding officer - on November 15, 1949.

Forrest was the first American general to be killed in action during the war in Europe."

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