Higgens, Gerald Joseph.

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Higgens, Gerald Joseph, born 29-08-1909, in Chicago, Illinois, the son of William Francis Higgins and Martha, born, Martin. Gerald had on brother Frank Martin Higgins 1907–1988. Following his graduation from high school in summer 1927, Gerald enlisted in the United States Army as a private and was attached to the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Higgins rose to the rank of sergeant and received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York,

i In June 1930.Gerald graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree on 12-06-1934, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry Branch. Higgins served with various infantry units until July 1938, when he entered the Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia in July 1938. He was meanwhile promoted to first lieutenant on 12-06-1937.

Upon the completion of the Infantry Officer Advanced Course in June 1939, Higgins entered Advanced Communications Officers’ Course at Fort Benning and upon completion in June 1940, he was promoted to captain on 07-10- 1940.

Following the United States entry into World War II, Higgins was promoted to major on 01-02-1942, and to lieutenant colonel on October 1 that year. Higgens then joined newly activated 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, which was part of the 101st Airborne Division under Major General William Cary “Bill” Lee. “Father of the Airborne”  Higgins participated in the early regimental training at Camp Toccoa until August 1942 when he joined General Lee’s divisional headquarters as Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G-3).

Higgins was appointed Divisional Chief of Staff in March 1943 and promoted to colonel on 01-06-1943. He deployed with the division to England in January 1944 and spent next five months in intensive ground training. Meanwhile, Major General Lee was relieved of command for reasons of ill health and was succeeded by  General Maxwell Davenport Taylor. Under with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

The 101st Division participated in the Operation Overlord on 06-06-1944, during which the Assistant Division Commander, Brigadier General Don Forrester Pratt,

  was killed in a glider accident while taking part in the landing.

General Taylor chose Higgins as Pratt’s replacement, and promoted him to the temporary rank of Brigadier General on 01-08-1944, making him the youngest General officer in the Army Ground Forces at the age of 34. Higgins took part in the Operation Market Garden   “A bridge too far” during September 1944, the Ardennes operations in winter 1944/1945, and finished his tenure with the 101st Airborne Division in the Bavarian Alps. He, on the left, and General Maxwell Taylor, on the right, accepted the surrender of German field marshal Albert Kesselring and subsequently participated in the occupation duties in Germany.

For his service with the 101st Airborne Division, Higgins was decorated with the Silver Star, Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal. He was also decorated by the Allies, and received numerous decorations including the Legion of Honour, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Belgian Order of the Crown,   Belgian Croix de Guerre with Palm   and the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau.  

Higgins returned to the United States in August 1945 and assumed command of the Army Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. Gerald was responsible for the training of Army paratroopers until the end of January 1946, when he was ordered to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, for duty as Commandant of Cadets.

He remained in that capacity until June 1948, when he embarked for Japan and joined the 24th Infantry Division under Major General Albert Cowper Smith as Assistant Commanding General. The division was stationed on Kyushu and maintained order during occupation duties. Higgins was ordered back to the United States in October 1949 and joined the headquarters, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Ord, California.

Higgins participated with the division in the training of new recruits until late 1950, when he was ordered to Washington, D.C., for duty as chief of the Organization & Training Division, Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G-3). He was promoted to Major General in September 1952, and assumed command of the, WW2 famous, 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The casulties of the 82nd Division during their European campaign,Total casualities 9.073, Killed in action 1.619, Wounded in action 6.560, Missing in action 279 and Prisoner of war 615.

Death and burial ground of Higgens, Gerald Joseph.


Higgins retired from the army in 1955, and settled in California. Gerald then worked as an assistant on military matters for the president of the American Latex Products Corporation of Hawthorne, California, and the Dayton Rubber Co., Dayton, Ohio. He also later worked in the management of Piasecki Aircraft.

Major General Gerald Joseph Higgins died on 20-12-1996, aged 87, in Riverside, California. He was married to Mary Elizabeth Roach of Chicago, and together they had two children: Robert and Patricia


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