PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — “An officer and a gentleman who had no superior, he ate the food his men ate, he slept in the fields when they did,” reads Sue Ellen White, a fourth-generation Portlander, from a letter written by the Oregon Military Department upon the death of her great uncle, Major General George Ared White.
“He was called Oregon’s Number One Soldier for a reason,” said Sue Ellen. “Not just because of his military accomplishments, but because of the way that he exhibited leadership.”
George started his 46-year military career at age 14, in his home state of Utah. He volunteered for the Spanish-American War as a teen and joined the Oregon National Guard in 1907. He became Adjutant General in 1915 at the age of 35, and eventually became the longest-serving Adjutant General in US History.
He temporarily gave up his Oregon rank to command the 41st Infantry Division in France in World War I under the legendary General John J. Pershing, where he earned numerous military honors.
While in Paris, General White joined other veterans, including Teddy Roosevelt Jr., to form the American Legion—one of America’s premiere veterans organizations. Because of George, Oregon is a founding chapter.
“How are we going to take care of veterans who have been deployed? How are we going to take care of the widows and orphans? How are we going to maintain the concept of Americanism? And how are we going to maintain the security of our nation?” asked Don Weber of American Legion, Oregon.
Major General White died of pneumonia in 1941 at his residence at Camp Withycombe in Clackamas at the age of 60. He had just completed training maneuvers for his troops to deploy to World War II. He died two weeks before Pearl Harbor, having made Oregon among the best-prepared National Guard units in America.
“And it’s always been kind of our family thought that if he had not died, he would have been someone like Eisenhower in the war,” said Sue Ellen.
The National Guard Headquarters in Salem is named after Major General George White, cementing his legacy as Oregon’s Number One Soldier.