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Ray Edison Porter (1891–1963)

Ray E. Porter was a career U.S. Army officer who served in World War I as well as World War II, in which he rose to the rank of major general and led the Seventy-Fifth Infantry Division during the latter part of the war.

Ray Edison Porter was born on July 29, 1891, in Fordyce (Dallas County), the eldest of three sons and a daughter of Hattie E. Porter and blacksmith and farmer William L. Porter. He attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County), and, on May 15, 1917, enlisted in the U.S. Army at Fort Logan H. Roots; his draft card showed that he shared responsibility for his family with his mother and three siblings, his father having died in 1914.

Porter served with Company E, Thirty-Fourth Infantry Regiment, Seventh Division, in World War I and was promoted to second lieutenant on October 26, 1917. He received the U.S. Distinguished Service Cross and the French Croix de Guerre for valor in an action in which he was wounded on November 1–2, 1918, just days before the war ended; at the time, the Thirty-Fourth was stationed in the Puvenelle sector of the Argonne region.

He married Maude Garner on May 21, 1921; they had a son and two daughters.

He attended the Command and General Staff School and the Army War College between the wars and taught military science and tactics at what is now Ouachita Baptist University (OBU) in Arkadelphia (Clark County) from 1922 to 1927. The career soldier advanced in rank with promotions to captain in 1920, major in 1935, and lieutenant colonel in 1938. After the United States entered World War II, Porter received temporary promotions to colonel in 1941, brigadier general in 1942, and major general in 1942.

Porter landed with the Allied invasion of North Africa at Algiers in November 1942 and served as deputy chief of staff for General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s advance headquarters during the Tunisian Campaign. Following the Tunisian operation, Porter served as assistant chief of staff for organization and planning for the War Department’s General Staff until the Battle of Bulge broke out in December 1944. Porter was flown to Europe to take command of the Seventy-Fifth Division. He would lead the division’s combat operations for the duration of the war.

After the Allied victory in Europe, Porter was recalled to the United States to lead the Special Planning Division of the War Department’s Special Staff, a group of around fifty people tasked with shaping the massive postwar demobilization of the U.S. military and developing the organization of the War Department in a peacetime setting. He was promoted to major general in the regular army in 1948, to date from October 8, 1944, in recognition of his efforts during and immediately after the war. He also received the Distinguished Service Medal, Bronze Star with Arrowhead, Purple Heart, and Army Commendation Medal in addition to eight campaign medals and twelve foreign decorations for his service during World War II.

Porter commanded the U.S. Army in the Caribbean from 1948 to 1951 from a base in the Canal Zone from which he led troops in Panama and Puerto Rico in addition to missions in South and Central America. He retired on June 30, 1953, from his post at Camp Breckinridge, Kentucky, where he commanded the 101st Airborne Division and the Replacement Training Center, ending a thirty-six-year career in the army.

Porter died on August 10, 1963, and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Fordyce.

For additional information:
“Death Claims Major General Ray E. Porter.” Arkansas Gazette, August 11, 1963, p. 3C.

Hewes, James E., Jr. From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, 1900–1963. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1975.

Mark K. Christ
Little Rock, Arkansas

Last Updated 1/2/2018

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