Edwin L. Kennedy
Brig Gen
U. S. Army
Korean War
WWII US Military
Commander, 196th Light Infantry Brigade
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Edwin, who would serve the nation in three wars, was born in Waynesboro, Mississippi as the eldest of three sons of Enoch Lyle Kennedy and Eddye Huggins Kennedy. He was destined to be a soldier; he traces his ancestry to an immigrant, John Jackson, who established Fort Jackson near Buckhannon, West Virginia and fought in the American Revolution. So did his wife, Kennedy remarks. Elizabeth Cummings Jackson helped defend Fort Jackson against Indian attack. The Civil War general, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson was John's great-grandson. By the early 1800s Kennedy's maternal family had traveled down the Natchez Trace to Amite County, Mississippi, while his paternal ancestors migrated to that area from South Carolina. Members on both sides of the family fought in the Civil War. As a schoolboy, Edwin worked on survey crews for his father, a civil engineer in the state's highway department. From June to December of 1944 he attended Marion Military Institute in Marion, Alabama, where he earned his high school diploma. Meanwhile his father joined the U.S. Army and was made a captain in combat engineers. Edwin attended Mississippi State University, but in the spring of 1945 enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He went through boot camp at Great Lakes Training Center, then was assigned to the Naval Air Station in New Orleans. He remained in the navy until 26 June when he received a discharge to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. "My daddy thought I should be a soldier," he recalls. Meanwhile, at his father's behest, Edwin's brothers became an architect and a doctor. Edwin graduated on 6 June 1950 and chose the infantry branch, just before the Korean War began. Second lieutenant Kennedy was assigned as platoon leader of 2nd Platoon, C Company, 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment. He landed in early November at Wonsan on North Korea's east coast. The next morning the regiment convoyed to Majong-ni, between Wonsan and Pyongyang. Its task was to block North Korean units that had disintegrated from the 8th Army on the east coast from infiltrating back north. Twice the regiment went north "to find somebody to fight," Edwin recalls. The regiment found fighting at Ambush Alley, a road between two ridges, where a company of African-American soldiers from 3rd Battalion had been hit and "literally destroyed". 1st Battalion was sent north to dislodge the North Koreans, but had limited success. His platoon was tasked to return to Ambush Alley at night to meet a ROK (Republic of Korea) marine regiment and guide it to American lines. He accomplished the mission and earned a Silver Star. "You do your job and try not to get anybody hurt," he remarks modestly of his actions. In December the regiment moved up the east coast to Hungnam for evacuation. His company was put on Outpost Line of Resistance. At one point, Kennedy had to fight his way out when he found himself in the midst of a North Korean company. His division held the perimeter while the 7th Division and 1st Marine Division were evacuated. Then his battalion held the perimeter until it was the last to leave, boarding the USS Missouri for the ride to Pusan. Edwin enjoyed five days of R&R (rest and recuperation) in Japan. Immediately he re-joined the fighting, taking a hill at a crossroads town, Kumyangiangni in January of 1951. In the fighting, Edwin led a bayonet charge up a hill to take a North Korean position of about 100 men. Meanwhile, he took care to inspect his men's feet, keeping out a sharp eye for trench foot. "I had my people take their boots off and let me see their feet," he recalls. "That meant they got air." In his first experience in commanding an integrated unit, Edwin found the replacement black troops as "good soldiers", and that there were "absolutely no problems." His experience with integrated units helped him when he was promoted to 1st lieutenant and transferred to 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry, traditionally an African-American battalion. There he served as an executive officer in I Company until he rotated home in late June of 1951 and a position on a division tactics committee at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina. There he met Dolly Dean Beard, a clerk in officer records. They married three months later on 17 August 1952. (They would have three children and two grandchildren.) The couple soon journeyed to Turkey where he was assigned to a Joint Military Mission for Aid to Turkey. Two of their children were born at the army dispensary. In 1955 he was sent to Fort Benning, Georgia to complete an advanced course, then to Fort Devens, Massachusetts to command a company in the Tennessee National Guard's 74th Infantry. In 1958 he returned to his alma mater, West Point, as a tactics instructor as part of 1st Battle Group, 1st Infantry. Part of his duties was in commanding the headquarters company that included a WAC detachment, the Army Band, and the service company, which ran all the installations on the post. At that time General William Westmoreland was superintendent of West Point. Edwin went on to Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, then served again in Korea in 8th Army operations and training. Back in the States he was assigned to Infantry Branch Career Management in Washington, D.C., where he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He was sent to Joint Services Staff College in Latimer, England, with his family in tow in 1966. Soon he was selected as a battalion commander of 2nd Battalion, 6th Infantry. Two years later he was at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. South Vietnam was his next stop, where he first served with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV), and then as executive officer for 196th Light Infantry Brigade, 23rd Infantry Division, (Americal). He later became battalion commander as a colonel in 1970. By then the Nixon Administration had started "Vietnamization", or the process of returning much of the fighting back to the South Vietnamese forces. American and allied forces, however, were still locked in combat with NVA regulars and Viet Cong, so much so, remarks Kennedy, that the 196th was referred to as "The Gun Smoke Brigade". It operated from the South China Sea to the Laotian border, an area about 20 miles north to south and 40 miles east to west. Kennedy used all that was at his disposal--artillery, aircraft and infantry--to kill the enemy. "We played `pile on' big time," he remarks. During his command of the 196th, he led forces in re-capturing Kham Duc, a Special Forces camp that the NVA had overrun. After completing his time as battalion commander in October of 1970, he reported to Fort Benning to help organize VOLAR, the volunteer army concept. There he took command of the 197th Infantry Brigade. Moving on to Washington, D.C., he served as a legislative liaison in the old Senate office building "around the corner from Senator (John) Tower who was a really neat guy," he remarks of the Texas senator. Soon he was promoted to brigadier general and sent to the 25th Division in Hawaii as assistant division commander for two years. After a stint as Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Japan in Okinawa, he retired and moved to Sarasota, Florida in 1979. There he managed Ramar Construction that built mainly condominiums. During his military career he earned two Silver Stars in Korea and two Distinguished Flying Crosses in Vietnam. "I enjoyed being a sailor and I enjoyed being a soldier. And if I could be a soldier now I would happily be one." Of surviving three wars he states, "That hand has been on my shoulder every day and I know it. I don't talk about that a lot. But if anybody were to ask me I would tell them the Lord's hand is on my shoulder."