William M. Wright
William Mason Wright was a Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General (United States)
In the United States Army, the United States Air Force and the United States Marine Corps, lieutenant general is a three-star general officer rank, with the pay grade of O-9. Lieutenant general ranks above major general and below general...

 in the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...


Born in Newark, New Jersey
Newark, New Jersey
Newark is the largest city in the American state of New Jersey, and the seat of Essex County. As of the 2010 United States Census, Newark had a population of 277,140, maintaining its status as the largest municipality in New Jersey. It is the 68th largest city in the U.S...

 on September 24, 1863, he was the son of Army Colonel Edward H. Wright (1824–1913), a career officer whose service included assignments as Aide-de-Camp to Generals Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

 and George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

. William M. Wright was the grandson of Michigan Governor Stevens Thomson Mason
Stevens T. Mason
Stevens Thomson Mason , also known as Stevens T. Mason, Tom Mason, The Boy Governor, and lesser known nicknames Young Hotspur and The Stripling, was the territorial governor of the Michigan Territory, and later the first Governor of the state of Michigan. Mason guided the Michigan Territory into...

 and the great-grandson of U.S. Senator William Wright
William Wright (politician)
William Wright was an American politician who served as Mayor of Newark, New Jersey, represented as a Whig in the United States House of Representatives from 1843 to 1847, and represented New Jersey in the United States Senate as a Democrat from 1853 to 1859, and again from 1863 until his...

 of New Jersey.

He attended Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 and was a member of the Delta Psi fraternity before entering the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 at West Point in 1882, where his roommate was John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

. Wright failed his end of year exams and left West Point before graduating in 1883. He then joined the New Jersey National Guard
New Jersey National Guard
The New Jersey Army National Guard consists of over 9000 Guardsmen. The Guard is currently engaged in several worldwide and homeland missions. Units have deployed to Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, Germany and Egypt...

, receiving a Captain's commission, and serving as Aide-de-Camp to the commander of the 1st Brigade.

In January, 1885 he was nominated for appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Infantry Regiment. One of the final acts of outgoing President Chester A. Arthur
Chester A. Arthur
Chester Alan Arthur was the 21st President of the United States . Becoming President after the assassination of President James A. Garfield, Arthur struggled to overcome suspicions of his beginnings as a politician from the New York City Republican machine, succeeding at that task by embracing...

, Wright's controversial commission received nationwide publicity and was opposed by U.S. Secretary of War Robert T. Lincoln on the grounds that someone who had not passed the program of instruction at West Point should not receive the same reward as those who had. His commission was narrowly confirmed by the U.S. Senate, 29 votes to 22.

Wright served in Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 during the Spanish-American War
Spanish-American War
The Spanish–American War was a conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States, effectively the result of American intervention in the ongoing Cuban War of Independence...

 as Assistant Adjutant General of U.S. Volunteers, taking part in the Battle of El Caney and the other actions leading to the surrender of Santiago.

Between the Spanish-American War and World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 Wright served in infantry assignments throughout the United States, including Fort Omaha, Nebraska, on the General Staff in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, and as the Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, advancing through the ranks to Major General
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...


He served in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 throughout World War I, successively commanding the 35th Division, the III, V and VII Corps (under the Eighth French Army in the Vosges Mountains
Vosges mountains
For the department of France of the same name, see Vosges.The Vosges are a range of low mountains in eastern France, near its border with Germany. They extend along the west side of the Rhine valley in a northnortheast direction, mainly from Belfort to Saverne...

), the 89th Division (in the St. Mihiel offensive), and I Corps, for which he received the Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
The Distinguished Service Medal is a military award of the United States Army that is presented to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the United States military, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great...

. He also commanded forces in the final operations on the Meuse River (Meuse-Argonne Offensive
Meuse-Argonne Offensive
The Meuse-Argonne Offensive, or Maas-Argonne Offensive, also called the Battle of the Argonne Forest, was a part of the final Allied offensive of World War I that stretched along the entire western front.-Overview:...

). On November 11, 1918, Armistice Day, he led a controversial attack against Stenay
Stenay is a commune in the Meuse department in Lorraine in north-eastern France.It was one of the last villages to experience fighting during World War I. Stenay was captured on 11 November 1918 by the American 89th Division under General William M. Wright only hours before the Armistice went into...

, which would be handed over to him within hours. There were 365 casualties. His rationale for the attack was that he wished to take the bathing facilities within the town, so his dirty troops could refresh themselves. When it became clear that Wright ordered the assault with full knowledge that the Armistice would go into action within hours, Allied soldiers and civilians became outraged. He was never punished or reprimanded. During World War I Wright kept a diary, which was published as Meuse-Argonne Diary: A Division Commander in World War I.

Following the war, General Wright served as Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army
Chief of Staff of the United States Army
The Chief of Staff of the Army is a statutory office held by a four-star general in the United States Army, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Army, and as such is the principal military advisor and a deputy to the Secretary of the Army; and is in...

 and acting Army Chief of Staff, and then commanded IX Corps. From 1922 until his 1923 retirement he commanded the Department of the Philippines. In retirement he resided in Washington, D.C.

In 1942, the U.S. Congress passed legislation allowing retired Army generals to be advanced one rank on the retired list or posthumously if they had been recommended in writing during World War I for promotion to a higher rank which they did not receive, or if they had received the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor
The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is bestowed by the President, in the name of Congress, upon members of the United States Armed Forces who distinguish themselves through "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her...

, the Distinguished Service Cross
Distinguished Service Cross (United States)
The Distinguished Service Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Army, for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force. Actions that merit the Distinguished Service Cross must be of such a high degree...

 or the Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
The Distinguished Service Medal is a military award of the United States Army that is presented to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the United States military, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great...

, and Wright was promoted to Lieutenant General.

General Wright died at Washington, D.C.'s Walter Reed Army Hospital on August 16, 1943, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, is a military cemetery in the United States of America, established during the American Civil War on the grounds of Arlington House, formerly the estate of the family of Confederate general Robert E. Lee's wife Mary Anna Lee, a great...


He was the father of Admiral and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of China (Taiwan) Jerauld Wright
Jerauld Wright
Admiral Jerauld Wright, USN, served as the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command and the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S...

 (1898–1995) and Colonel William Mason Wright, Jr. (1893–1977), who served in France during World War I, in the China-Burma-India Theater during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, and commanded the Armed Forces Education and Information Service and the Armed Forces Radio Service during and after World War II.

Citation for Distinguished Service Medal:

"For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. He commanded in turn the Thirty-fifth Division; the Third, Fifth, and
Seventh Army Corps, under the Eighth French Army in the Vosges Mountains, and later commanded the Eighty-ninth Division in the St.
Mihiel offensive and in the final operations on the Meuse River, where he proved himself to be an energetic and aggressive leader."

General Order 12 (January 17, 1919)


  • Register of the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, published by the Empire State Society, 1899, page 352
  • Historical collections, Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society, Michigan State Historical Society, 1907, Volume 35, pages 38 to 40
  • Fitzgerald's legislative Manual, State of New Jersey, by Thomas F. Fitzgerald and Louis C. Gosson, 1885, page 253
  • Catalogue of the Members of the Fraternity of Delta Psi, published by Delta Psi fraternity, 1889, page 192
  • Newspaper article, Appointments to the Army, New York Times, January 22, 1885
  • Newspaper article, A Nomination Denounced, New York Times, January 29, 1885
  • Newspaper column, The National Capital: Bountiful Provisions Made for Captain Eads in the River and Harbor Hill—Findings of the Swaim Court Not Completed—The Nomination of William M. Wright—Cabinet Gossip, Hartford Daily Courant, February 2, 1885
  • Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States, published by U.S. Government Printing Office, 1901, volume XXIV, page 469
  • The World's Work: A History of Our Time, 1919, volume, XXXVII, November to April, 1919, page 89
  • Meuse-Argonne Diary: A Division Commander in World War I, by William Mason Wright, edited by Robert H. Ferrell, 2004
  • The War to End All Wars: The American Military Experience in World War I, Edward M. Coffman, 1968, page 276
  • Army List and Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office, 1919, page 173
  • Army List and Directory, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office, 1920, page 184
  • Newspaper article, Wright In New Post: General Assigned to Command the Philippines Department, New York Times, January 13, 1922
  • Soldiers All: Portraits and Sketches of the Men of the A.E.F., Joseph Cummings Chase, 1920, pages 197 to 198
  • Acts of June 13, 1940, and July 9, 1942, U.S. Army Register, published by U.S. Army Adjutant General's Office
  • Newspaper article, Obituary of William Mason Wright, Chicago Daily Tribune, August 18, 1943
  • Newspaper article, Obituary of William Mason Wright, Los Angeles Times, August 18, 1943
  • Newspaper article, Col. William Mason Wright Jr., Active in Peninsula Theater, Dies, Monterey (California) Peninsula Herald, September 27, 1977, page 4
  • Newspaper article, Jerauld Wright, 96, Admiral and Envoy, New York Times, Saturday, April 29, 1995
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