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Benjamin Lear
Ben Lear.jpg
General Ben Lear
Nickname(s) "Yoo Hoo"
Born (1879-05-12)May 12, 1879
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Died November 1, 1966(1966-11-01) (aged 87)
Murfreesboro, Tennessee, United States
Place of burial
Allegiance  United States
Service/branch United States Department of the Army Seal.svg United States Army
Years of service 1898–1945
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held 1st Cavalry Division (1936–1938)
Pacific Sector Panama Canal Zone (1938–1940)
U.S. Second Army (1940–1943)
Army Ground Forces (1944–1945)
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Awards Army Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Medal record
Men's Equestrian
Representing the  United States
Olympic Games
Bronze 1912 Stockholm Team eventing

Benjamin Lear (May 12, 1879 – November 1, 1966) was a United States Army general who served in the Spanish–American War, Philippine Insurrection, World War I and World War II. He also competed at the 1912 Summer Olympics.

Early career

Ben Lear was born in Hamilton, Ontario, on May 12, 1879. His military service began in 1898, when he enlisted with the 1st Colorado Infantry, USV, for the Spanish–American War as a first sergeant. He was promoted to second lieutenant during the Philippine–American War in the 1st Colorado and later in the 36th Infantry, USV, then joined the regular army as a sergeant at the end of the war. He subsequently served in World War I.

From left to right: Captain Guy V. Henry Jr., Lieutenant John C. Montgomery, Lieutenant Ben Lear at the 1912 Summer Olympics.

He was a 1912 Olympian, part of the equestrian team which won the bronze medal in the three-day team event.

Lear graduated from the Army School of the Line in 1922, the Army General Staff School in 1923, and the Army War College in 1926.

He was promoted to brigadier general in May 1936 and major general in October 1938. He commanded the 1st Cavalry Division from 1936 to 1938, and the Pacific Sector of the Panama Canal Zone from 1938 to 1940.

World War II

Stateside duty

Eisenhower Krueger
Senior officers during the Louisiana maneuvers, 1941. Left to right: Mark W. Clark, Chief of Staff, Army Ground Forces; Harry J. Malony, Chief of Staff, Second Army; Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chief of Staff, Third Army; Ben Lear, Commander Second Army; Walter Krueger, Commander Third Army; Lesley J. McNair, Commander Army Ground Forces.

Lear was promoted to lieutenant general in October 1940 and was commanding general of U.S. Second Army from October 20, 1940 to April 25, 1943. As such, he was responsible for training a large number of U.S. soldiers during World War II. He became known as a strict disciplinarian.

It was in the lead-up to these maneuvers that Lear acquired the nickname "Yoo-Hoo". Lear was playing golf at the country club in Memphis, Tennessee, in civilian clothes on July 6, 1941, when a convoy of 80 U.S. Army trucks carrying men of the 110th Quartermaster Regiment, 35th Division rolled past. The troops in the passing trucks subjected a group of women in shorts to a series of whistles and "lewd and obscene" catcalls.

Lear had the convoy stopped, and told the officers that this conduct was unacceptable and they had disgraced the Army. Lear's punishment was to make every one of the 350 men in the convoy march 15 miles (24 km) of the 45-mile (72 km) trip back to Camp Joseph T. Robinson, Arkansas in three 5-mile sections. This they did in the 97 °F (36 °C) heat. Many men straggled and a number collapsed. There was storm of public criticism of Lear's action from people who felt that the soldiers had been harshly and collectively punished when many had done nothing wrong. The commander of the 35th Division, Major General Ralph E. Truman, was well-connected politically, his cousin being Senator Harry S. Truman, and some congressmen called for Lear to be retired. ..... The derogatory nickname "Yoo-Hoo" stuck.

During the Louisiana Maneuvers, Lear led his U.S. Second Army against the U.S. Third Army under Lieutenant General Walter Krueger. In these maneuvers, Lear judged the control and discipline of the 35th Division to be unsatisfactory, and relieved Truman of his command.

Lear continued in command of Second Army until he was relieved by Lieutenant General Lloyd Fredendall in April 1943.

Retirement and recall to active duty

Lear on a visit to Davis-Monthan Airfield, Tucson, Arizona, 1944.

Lear was administratively retired in May 1943, having reached the mandatory retirement age of 64, but was immediately recalled to active duty to serve on the Personnel Board of the Secretary of War, and promoted to lieutenant general. He became Commanding General of Army Ground Forces on 14 July 1944 when Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair, his predecessor, was killed in Normandy on 25 July 1944.

After the German counter-attack in the Ardennes caused a manpower crisis, in January 1945 he was appointed deputy commander of European Theater of Operations, US Army, responsible for theater manpower. As such, he overhauled the replacement system, but the war against Germany ended before the full benefits of his reforms could be realized.


Lear fully retired from the army in July 1945 and was promoted to general on 19 July 1954, by special act of Congress (Public Law 83-508). He settled in Memphis, Tennessee after retirement.

He died at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on 1 November 1966, and was buried on 3 November 1966 in Arlington National Cemetery, Section 4, Grave 2690.

Decorations and medals

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster
Silver Star
Spanish War Service Medal
Philippine Campaign Medal
Army of Cuban Occupation Medal
Army of Cuban Pacification Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with three service stars
World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation Medal
Legion of Honour, Commandeur


No pin insignia in 1898 First sergeant, Volunteer Army: May 1, 1898
No pin insignia in 1899 Second lieutenant, Volunteer Army: April 1, 1899
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant, Volunteer Army: July 12, 1899
No pin insignia in 1901 Second lieutenant, United States Army: June 12, 1901
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant, United States Army: December 9, 1901
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, United States Army: August 10, 1912
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, National Army: August 5, 1917
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel, National Army: January 26, 1918
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, temporary: August 31, 1918
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army: September 25, 1919
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel, Regular Army: July 1, 1920
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: September 19, 1929
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general, Regular Army: May 1, 1936
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general, Regular Army: October 1, 1938
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant general, Regular Army: October 1, 1940
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant general, Retired List: July 31, 1945
US-O10 insignia.svg General, Retired List: July 19, 1954

See also

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