Under a ledger stone in the center of Block 2 at Fairmount lies Major General Orlando Ward, reputed to be the most highly decorated veteran in the cemetery. His military career spanned over 40 years and included duty in 3 separate wars or campaigns.
Orlando Ward was born in Macon, Missouri on November 4, 1891, but moved to Denver at an early age. In 1914 he graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, and was commissioned in the cavalry. In 1915 he accompanied General John Pershing on his campaign into Mexico to try to capture the bandit Pancho Villa, who had been raiding towns along the Arizona-Mexico border.
Seeing the end of horses in warfare he switched to the artillery, and during the First World War at the second battle of The Marne in France he took charge of a battalion of Field Artillery, and was instrumental in helping to stem a German attack. For his action he was awarded the Silver Star.
Between the wars he had various postings, including a stint as an instructor at the US Field artillery school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, where he developed many innovations in gunnery, including a technique to concentrate battalion fire very quickly, which made the US artillery much more effective during WWII. Immediately before the war he served as secretary to the Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshal.
After the outbreak of the World War II he skipped a rank to be promoted to Major General, and became commander of the army’s First Armored Division, known as “Old Ironsides”. He led them as part of Operation Torch, the American invasion of North Africa. At the Battle of Kasserine Pass, the first time the US Army had encountered the Germans, the First Armored was sent reeling by sudden attacks from the Germans. Ward felt one reason was that his division had been split up into smaller units which weakened their ability to repulse strong concentrations of German troops. Headquarters believed this was the result of planning by the Corps commander, General Lloyd Fredendall, who was replaced with General George Patton. As the campaign along North Africa slowly progressed, Patton felt that Ward was not aggressive enough, eventually relieving him of his command, although Ward had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his action in Tunisia during an assault at Meknessy Heights in 1943, as well as another Silver Star and the Purple Heart.
Ward returned to the States and became Commandant of the Tank Destroyer Center at Camp Hood, Texas, and later Commander of the Artillery School at Fort Sill. In 1944 he took command of the US 20th Armored Division in central Europe, and it was his troops that seized the German city of Munich in April 1945. In his book, “An Army at Dawn”, author Rick Atkinson stated, “In the American Army few relieved commanders got a second chance to lead men in combat; Ward was an exception because he was exceptional”.
In 1946 following World War II General Ward was given command of the Sixth Infantry Division in South Korea. In 1949 before hostilities in Korea began, he returned to the US and became the Chief of the Office of Military History, Department of the Army, where he supervised the production of the official US Army Military history of World War II.
Orlando Ward retired from the army in 1953 and returned to Denver, where he died on February 4, 1972.
By Tom Morton
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