Prichard, Vernon Edwin, born 25-01-1892 Onawa, Iowa, was the son of attorney J.A. Prichard. The younger Prichard began his education at Morningside College in Sioux City, Iowa, where he also played football and established a reputation as a passer. In November 1910, while he was a student at Morningside, Prichard received word that he had been appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York . He enrolled at West Point on 11-06-1911. While serving as a cadet at West Point, Prichard played for the Academy’s football and baseball teams. He gained his greatest fame in football as the quarterback for the Army Black Knights football team from 1912 to 1914. Prichard’s teammates on the Army football teams included two of the leading generals of World War II, Omar “Bradley” Bradley, who played at the end position, and Dwight Eisenhower, who played halfback until a knee injury sidelined him. James Van Fleet, commander of U.S. forces in the Korean War, also played on the 1914 West Point football team with Prichard. Although he weighed only 158 pounds, Prichard played every minute of every major game during his three years of varsity football at West Point.
At West Point, Prichard was known to his fellow cadets by the nicknames “Prich” and “Nigger” and received the rank of second lieutenant and was assigned to the 1st Infantry. He served at Eagle Pass, Texas, from September 1915 to April 1916 and participated in the Pancho Villa Expedition into Mexico from April to August 1916. While serving in Mexico, Prichard was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant. Prichard returned to West Point for temporary duty during the fall of 1916 but returned to Mexico from December through February 1917. In May 1917, following the United States entry into World War I , Prichard was promoted to the rank of captain of the infantry. He sailed for France via England on January 08-01-1918. He entered Germany with the Army of Occupation via Belgium and Luxembourg and served in Germany and France through June 1919.
World War II.
Prichard remained lifelong friends with his backfield partner, Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower later recalled that he looked for “natural leaders” from the ranks of football. Eisenhower believed that football, more than any other sport, instilled the belief that victory comes from teamwork and dedication. He identified Prichard as one of the officers with football background who had “measured up” during the war. Prichard served as the Commanding Officer of the 27th Field Artillery Regiment from 1940 to 1941. He served as Chief of Staff 4th Armoured Division from 1941–1942 and Commanding General 14th Armoured Division, nickname “Liberators” from November 1942 to July 1944, succeeded by Major General Albert Cowper Smith. Casualty figures for the 14th Armored Division, European theater of operations, total battle casualties: 2,690 and total deaths in battle: 566. From July 1944 through September 1945, he was the Commanding General of the 1st Armoured Division , nicknamed “Old Ironsides” during the Italian Campaign, including the Battle of Po Valley and the Spring 1945 offensive in Italy. The division’s casualties included: KIA (killed in action): 1,194, WIA (wounded in action): 5,168 and DOW (died of wounds): 234. During the war, the Old Ironsides division captured 41 towns and cities and 108,740 prisoners.
Prichard and Eisenhower exchanged correspondence during the war. Shortly after the United States entered the war, Eisenhower wrote a letter to Prichard in which he confided “this is a long tough road we have to travel.” In an oft-quoted passage, Eisenhower continued his comments to Prichard, noting that “men that can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning,” and “fake reputations, habits of glib and clever speech, and glittering surface performances are going to be discovered.”
During the Battle of the Bulge, Prichard wrote to Eisenhower, reminding him of what their football coach had taught them: “If things break badly or go against you — stay with it all the harder.” Eisenhower biographer Matthew Holland later wrote that Eisenhower had learned important lessons on the football playing field at West Point, and concluded: “World War II was won on the playing fields of West Point, and Ike would prove to be the quarterback of the winning team.”
After World War II, Prichard became the Chief of the Army Public Information Division. In February 1949, President Harry Smith Truman promoted Prichard from the rank of Brigadier General to Major General.
Death and burial ground of Prichard, Vernon Edwin “Prich”.
Vernon Prichard was killed in a yacht explosion on 10-07-1949, age 57. He was part of a group that had boarded the yacht Halcyon for a picnic cruise on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The craft was within yards of the dock at the Corinthian Yacht Club when an explosion destroyed the vessel. Prichard was thrown into the Potomac and killed instantly. Navy Commodore Wilfred Painter was also killed in the blast. Philadelphia soldier, diplomat and socialite Colonel Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr
. dove into the Potomac in an effort to save Prichard and recovered his body.
Prichard’s funeral was held at the chapel of Fort Myer, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery. The Army’s chief of chaplains officiated at the funeral, and the honorary pallbearers were the classmates from the West Point Class of 1915, including Dwight Eisenhower.Prich is buried on the United states Academy Post Cemetery of West Point, Orange County, New York, USA, Section Section XIV, Row A, Grave 21.