Frank S. Besson, Jr.

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Frank S. Besson, Jr.
Frank besson.jpg
General Frank S. Besson, Jr.
Born (1910-05-30)May 30, 1910
Detroit, Michigan
Died July 15, 1985(1985-07-15) (aged 75)
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1932–1970
Rank US-O10 insignia.svg General
Commands held Military Railway Service
Transportation Corps
U.S. Army Materiel Command
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Distinguished Service Medal (3)
Legion of Merit (2)
Other work Director, National Rail Passenger Corporation

Frank Schaffer Besson, Jr., CBE (May 30, 1910–July 15, 1985) was born on May 30, 1910 in Detroit, Michigan. His father was a West Point graduate and a Colonel in the Corps of Engineers . Frank S. Besson, Jr. graduated seventh in his class from the United States Military Academy in 1932. In 1935, he received a master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His early career was noted for the role he played in the development of portable military pipelines, steel landing mats for airplanes, and steel treadway bridges. He is credited with the studies leading to the Army 's adoption of the Bailey Bridge, used extensively in all theaters in World War II.

He became Assistant Director of the Third Military Railway Service (with rank of Lieutenant Colonel) in 1943, and was promoted to Director (with rank of Colonel) the following year. As Director of the Third Military Railway Service in Iran from 1944 to 1945, Besson ensured the flow of war materials to the Russian forces through the Persian Corridor. He was promoted to brigadier general, becoming, at 34, the youngest general officer in the Army Ground Forces and Chief of the Railway Division. Toward the end of World War II, he was Deputy Chief Transportation Officer of the Army Forces in the Western Pacific and, when Japan's collapse was imminent, assumed full control of railroads in Japan. During the first year of occupation, General Besson directed the rehabilitation of the Japanese rail system, moving more than 200,000 troops and 150,000 tons of supplies in the first two months.

Subsequent assignments included a tour as Assistant Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), where General Besson formulated logistics plans and overall programs to meet the complex requirements of the fifteen nations of the NATO alliance. His efforts in instituting a system for "costing out" five-year programs, thereby bringing force goals into consonance with available resources, earned him the first Distinguished Service Medal to be awarded at SHAPE headquarters.

General Besson stimulated both military and commercial adoption of containerization and improved water terminal practices. He introduced the roll-on/roll-off technique for the rapid loading and discharge of wheeled and tracked vehicles. He further refined these concepts upon assuming command of the Transportation Center and School at Fort Eustis, Virginia in 1953. General Besson was the Chief of Transportation, U.S. Army from March 1958 until April 2, 1962, when he took charge of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

General Besson was the first Commander of the Army Materiel Command, formed in 1962 during a major Army reorganization. During his command, the mammoth logistical organization, with an annual budget exceeding $14 billion and an inventory of $21 billion, employed more than 160,000 civilian personnel, in addition to its military complement of 14,000. As the first AMC Commander, General Besson was charged with consolidating six Army technical service organizations into a single command without disrupting effective materiel support for the Army. His success resulted in his receiving the Merit Award of the Armed Forces Management Association in 1963. On May 27, 1964, 53-year-old Frank Besson became the 75th officer in the U.S. Army's 189-year history to wear the four stars of a full general. He was the first Army officer to achieve that rank as head of a logistical organization in peacetime.

In March 1969, General Besson left AMC to become chairman of the Joint Logistics Review Board, formed to review logistic activities in support of the Vietnam War. He retired in July 1970 and was promptly recalled to active duty to establish procedures to implement the board's recommendation. He permanently retired in October 1970. While in retirement, General Besson was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon as one of the founding directors of the National Rail Passenger Corporation, which ran Amtrak. He was also director of the Services National Bank in Alexandria and of ECR International. On July 15, 1985, General Besson died of cancer at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

His awards and decorations include the Army Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Legion of Merit with one Oak Leaf Cluster, the Iranian Order of Homayoun, Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and the Republic of Korea's Order of Military Merit, Second Class (Ulchi).[1]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "[1]".