Father of the American Paratrooper
General William C. Lee
General William C. Lee’s contributions to the Normandy invasion that we call D Day in WW II were enormous. However, due to a massive heart attack, he could not lead his beloved 101st Airborne into battle. Even today, he is relatively unknown and no one would like that fact more than General Lee. At a time when TV generals are everywhere, how refreshing to witness the humility of a true hero.
General Lee's story is a novel—a country boy from North Carolina who entered the military to go to World War I. Like the rest of the country, young Bill Lee was somewhat ambivalent about what was going on in that far-off land. Having gone to college, at both Wake Forest and North Carolina State and taken a bride, he went off to war. Serving in the trenches and facing death as a common way of life, he performed admirably remaining in Germany after the war in an official capacity as the de facto mayor of a small town. Returning to the States and to his young bride, he wrestled where to cast his lot—to choose the military as a career or pursue his love of the land. His love of country prevailed. He went on to a stint at North Carolina State teaching what we now call ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corp), then to Panama, where he discovered he was good at the profession of arms.
A succession of assignments and schools followed. He came home at every opportunity. He went to France. Bill saw the failure of the Treaty of Versailles and the aggressive military bearing of the Germans. Their parachute training captured his imagination. Bill and Dava, his wife, took advantage of their circumstances to travel. Returning to the States, Bill attempted to convince others of the new concept of the airborne infantry as he called it.