Born into a family with deep roots in colonial New England, Howard Louis Peckham’s love of his country started early. He grew up in Norwich, Connecticut, in a house on Corning Road, named after one of his Revolutionary War ancestors. An American flag was always raised in front of their house on patriotic holidays.
A graduate of West Point, the Army Engineer School, and the Command and General Staff School (later called College), he served twenty years in the Corps of Engineers, including four years as an instructor at West Point.
In 1940-1942 he was assigned to the 2nd and 8th Armored Divisions, respectively, where he was an outstanding staff officer. While serving as combat commander with the 12th Armored Division one year later, he was promoted to brigadier general and ordered to Washington to head the Fuels and Lubricants Division of the Quartermaster General’s office. At the same time, he was a member of the Army-Navy Petroleum Board (ANPB) and testified before Congress about army petroleum needs. For the meritorious work of procuring fuels and allocating them to our armed forces worldwide, he was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal.
In postwar Paris, he headed the American Graves Registration Command (AGRC) and returned more than 80,000 American war dead to the United States. Approximately 60,000 others were interred in ten permanent American cemeteries in Europe, graded and constructed under his command. Several months after his return to the United States, he was promoted to major general and served in highly responsible positions until his retirement five years later.
As a civilian, his patriotic service continued when he worked for the Free Europe Committee (FEC), an organization being secretly funded by the CIA. As representative of the Committee’s president, retired Lt. Gen. Willis D. Crittenberger, he traveled abroad to meet with Western European diplomats to get them more involved in securing freedom for captive nations. Nations behind the Iron Curtain that were peacefully freed from Communist domination, Howard Peckham believed, would ensure more security for the United States.
Duty, country, and patriotism continued to dominate his life until his death in 1972. He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery next to his wife, Marion.
You can read more about Howard L. Peckham at this website.
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Categories: Notables | Distinguished Service Medal | United States Army Generals, World War II | 2nd Armored Division, United States Army, World War II | 8th Armored Division, United States Army, World War II | 12th Armored Division, United States Army, World War II | United States Military Academy | Historians | New England History