Beightler, Robert Sprague, born 21-03-1892 Marysville, Ohio, was an American military officer and Ohio political insider, engineer, and business owner. In the military, he reached the rank of Major General, and served as military Governor of Okinawa, War Department General Staff, and as commander of the 37th Infantry Division, the only National Guard General to lead his troops through training and into battle during World War Two. In political activities in Ohio, he served as head of the Ohio State Highway Department, President of the Army Personnel Board, Executive Director and board member of the Ohio Turnpike Commission. Beightler is derived from Bigler. Because some German immigrants were illiterate when they came to Colonial America, the name has been transcribed numerous ways by English clerks not familiar with the ethnic surnames and anglicized, including Beighler, Beigler, and Beegler. He was the son of William P. Beightler, an elected local surveyor, city and state engineer. His father was also the president of the Perfect Cigar Company. His mother was Joana Sprague, daughter of Franklin B. Sprague and a cousin of Oliver Hazard Perry, Governor William Sprague IV , and U.S. Senator William Sprague III. On 07-08-1911, Beightler had enlisted with the Ohio National Guard. He was part of the 4th Ohio Infantry, which had been re-organized from the 14th Ohio National Guard . Beightler served with Company E, based out of an armory in Marysville. By 1913 Beightler had achieved the rank of first sergeant, and second lieutenant by 1914. On 05-08-1917, Beightler was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army, serving as an adjutant for the 3rd Battalion. The 4th Infantry would be designated the 166th U.S Infantry Regiment by the U.S. War Department. Beightler would be moved to Camp Mills on Long Island in preparation for deployment to France in the European theater of World War I. Before departing for Europe in October 1917, Anne would visit to wish Robert well and inform him that they were expecting their first child. Upon arriving in France, Beightler’s Regiment undertook basic training operations, including learning the French language. Following the training of the 37th, Beightler would lead them into battle in the Pacific theater of the war. The “Buckeye Division,” as the 37th was called, entered the theater in 1942. The 37th were victorious in numerous battles, including victories at New Georgia, Bougainville and at the Battle of Manila. They would go on to liberate 1300 internees at the Bilibid Prison in Muntinglupa. The Buckeye Division produced 7 Medal of Honor recipients during this war. Beightler was the only National Guard commanding officer to have led his troops throughout the course of the entire war. They were demobilized in November 1945. On 05-09-1945, Beightler accepted the articles of surrender from Major General Zhunzou Iguchi, Commanding General, 80th Brigade, Imperial Japanese Army, in Luzon, Philippines. General Iguchi died age 56 in 1944. At the end of the war, Beightler was the only World War II National Guard General to have commanded his division for the length of the war. In addition to being the army’s longest serving division commander in 1945, Beightler was appointed to the regular army in 1946 as one of only two National Guard Major Generals to receive such an appointment at that time. Following the war, Beightler was assigned command of the 5th Service Command at Fort Hayes in Columbus. In 1947, he was appointed President of the Personnel Board of the Secretary of War, moving back to Washington. In 1949, he was assigned to the Far East, taking over the Marianas-Bonins Command on Guam. On 09-11-1950, he sent a letter to Robert A. Taft, Senate Majority Leader, congratulating him on his Senate re-election victory while stationed in the Pacific. Taft died age 63, on 31-07-1953. The letter offered a little insight into Beightler’s political world, in which he expressed doubt in Dwight Eisenhower being President of the United States, if elected in 1952. The letter discussed a personal meeting with General Douglas MacArthur on the subject, in which Beightler had encouraged MacArthur to run in ’52, but MacArthur showed no interest. MacArthur shared the same views as Beightler on Dwight Eisenhower, and both would go on to endorse Taft in 1952. In Taft’s reply on 24-11-1950, he implies to Beightler that Eisenhower is incompetent and likely to be influenced by money and political endorsements Beightler retired officially in 1962 to Worthington, Ohio. Over the years he had been a good investor, and had a large retirement savings. He enjoyed gardening and fishing, and spent his winters in Florida. He followed national and international affairs closely, as well as Wall Street out of interest of his own financial holdings. He was also active in veterans and civic groups. Beightler had two children with Anne, Robert Jr., who would go onto attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, and Marjorie. Robert Jr. served in the Philippines during World War II as a platoon leader in the
511th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division, nickname “Angels” . Despite both father and son fighting in their respective divisions in the Battle of Manila, neither would meet in combat until April in northern Luzon. The had the next casualties during the war: total battle casualties: 2.431, killed in action: 494, died of wounds and injuries: 120, wounded in action: 1.926, missing in action: 11.
Death and burial ground of Beightler, Robert Sprague.
Beightler died on 12-02-1978, age 85, in Worthington, Ohio. He is buried with his wife Claire, born Springer, who died age 83 in 1986, at Oakdale Cemetery in Marysville, Union County, Ohio.