Highest Ranked U.S. officers killed in action.

Most combat deaths are front line enlisted men. Occasionally a highly ranked officer is killed. Col. William Wood, commanding officer of the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry Regiment is the highest ranked officer killed in action during the Iraq War.

There have been a few notable deaths throughout history. Roman emperor Valens was killed at the battle of Adrianople (August 8, 378) in modern day Turkey by the Goths. British Admiral Horatio Nelson was the head of the British Navy and probably the most influential Naval leader of all time. He was killed in the battle of Trafalger in 1805. Admiral Yamamoto, the head of the Japanese Navy, was killed when his plane was shot down in the south pacific during WWII.

Notable U.S. Combat Fatalities:

Col. Davy Crockett was killed at the Alamo. He was a former congressman and famous frontier hunter and Indian fighter.

General George Custer was killed along with all of his men at the battle of the Little Big Horn in Dakota Territory in 1876.

Three Union Generals, Major-General John F. Reynolds, Brig.-General Stephen W. Weed, and Brevet Major-General S. K. Zook were all killed at the battle of Gettysburg.

General Lesley James McNair was killed July 25, 1944 near St Lo, France by friendly fire during a pre-attack bombardment.

Admiral Isaac Kidd was killed aboard the U.S.S. Arizona during the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr was killed during the closing days of the Battle of Okinowa by enemy artillery fire.

Major General Maurice Rose was killed in Germany during WWII. He was the highest ranked Jewish officer in U.S. history, and his 3rd armored Division was the first U.S. division to cross the Siegfried line into Germany.

General Keith Lincoln Ware was the Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division. He was killed in a helicopter crash near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War.

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19 Responses to “Highest Ranked U.S. officers killed in action.”

  1. Jamie Lant Says:

    George Custer was only a temporary general during the civil war. Afterward his rank went back down to Lieutenant Colonel and remained that way till his death at Lil big horn.

    The only General killed during the indian wars was General Edward Canby. He was shot in the head multiple times at point blank range, unarmed and in full dress. He was scalped and stripped, his uniform paraded around by Captain Jack, the man that got what he deserved at Fort Klamath.

    • Marcus Says:

      Captain Jack shot General Canby in response to his blatant threat of extermination against the Modoc people. Captain Jack was pressured by his people to stand up for them and fight against this threat, and it was Canby who got what he deserved when Jack blew his head off. Captain Jack was a hero to the Modocs, who defended themselves with great skill in the lavabeds of northern California. Though Canby was just doing his job as required by the army at the time, he is the man who got what he deserved. They should have left the Modocs the hell alone

  2. Dan Says:

    British Major General James Wolfe was killed on September 13, 1759 at the Plains of Abraham leading to the capture of Quebec City.

  3. Dean Kelsey Says:

    As a point of clarity Nelson was not a full admiral, nor was he the head of the British navy. At the time of his death his rank and military office was, Vice Admiral of the White Squadron of the Fleet, Commander in Chief of his Majesty’s Ships and Vessels in the Mediterranean. (This is a portion of what is inscribed on his coffin and what was read out at the funeral by the Garter King at Arms, Sir Isaac Heard) The head of the British navy at the time was Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham (First Lord of the Admiralty 2 May 1805 – 10 February 1806)

  4. MIke K Says:

    Dan Callaghan was the admiral commanding at the first (sea) battle of Guadalcanal. He was killed in that fierce battle. General Leslie McNair was killed in Normandy by US bombs when the air corps overshot the target zone because the smoke markers drifted.

  5. Kilon Says:

    2012 a 49 year old (dont know how he made it so young) Brigadier General died in Afghanistan.

  6. Kilon Says:

    Oh Sorry, he wasn’t killed in action, but we have for example about 20 Colonels that died. Very bad was an suicide car attack on May 18, 2010 in which died:

    Army Col. John M. McHugh Also killed were Lt. Col. Paul R. Bartz, Lt. Col. Thomas P. Belkofer, Staff Sgt. Richard J. Tieman and Spc. Joshua A. Tomlinson.

    1 Colonel, 2 Lt. Colonels, 1 Staff Sgt and a Specialist died because of the suicide car attack of a single men. This is “active” or?!

  7. Lars Ewell Says:

    General Stonewall Jackson was mortally wounded by friendly fire at the Battle of Chancellorsville on 5/2/1863.

  8. Lars Ewell Says:

    I looked but was not able to find an answer to this question: Is it true that there were no officers of the level of general killed in World War One?

  9. Marcus Says:

    Captain Jack shot General Canby in response to his blatant threat of extermination against the Modoc people. Captain Jack was pressured by his people to stand up for them and fight against this threat, and it was Canby who got what he deserved when Jack blew his head off. Captain Jack was a hero to the Modocs, who defended themselves with great skill in the lavabeds of northern California. Though Canby was just doing his job as required by the army at the time, he is the man who got what he deserved. They should have left the Modocs the hell alone

  10. Rick McNamara Says:

    Custer had been a General in the Civil War, but when killed his rank was Lt. Col.

  11. daniel sachs Says:

    Stonewall Jackson was not an officer in the U.S. Army when he was killed in action at Chancellorsville.

  12. Raymond Says:

    General Nathan Beford Forrest was killed in action flying a B-17 on a bombing raid in WWII against the Nazi’s.

  13. Steven H Says:

    We can now add Major General Harold Green, killed in Afghanistan by a Taliban infiltrator. August 8, 2014

  14. wrongeyedjake Says:

    Major General James B. McPherson was the only commander of an entire Army (the Union Army of the Tennessee) killed in the Civil War, at the Battle of Atllanta. When the Confederates staged a flank attack, McPherson, attempting to sort out the confusion, rode into an enemy skirmish line. When ordered to halt, he allegedly tipped his cap to his foes, but then quickly wheeled his horse to escape. They shot him from the saddle.

  15. Kent Gittings Says:

    BG Henry Root Hill was killed in action in WWI. But the story is slightly convoluted. He was relieved as a brigade commander because of a training incident he was not actually part of (West Point good ol’ boys network). He was given a choice of returning to the US or serving as a Major in a front line unit. He accepted the demotion to major and was killed in action in 1918. He was buried at his Bridgadier General’s rank.

  16. Brandon Says:

    General Simon Bolivar Buckner Jr who was killed during the closing days of the Battle of Okinawa by enemy artillery fire. Was a grandson of the Confederate Civil war General Simon Bolivar Buckner.

  17. Melvin Purvis Says:

    Union major general John Sedgwick was killed in the Wilderness Campaign in 1864. reportedly his last words were,”Don’t worry, boys. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this dist…..

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