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1994 Distinguished Graduate Award


     As a distinguished soldier whose extraordinary achievements and personal leadership greatly contributed to the success of Operation Overlord, the 1944 assault on Normandy and Fortress
Europe; as a recognized leader in the field of publishing; as an author of numerous books and articles on military subjects; and as a strong leader in support of educational and historical
institutions, Paul Williams Thompson has served his country withdistinction in a wide variety of endeavors over an active career spanning seven decades.

     General Thompson graduated from West Point in 1929 and began his career as a second lieutenant of Engineers at Kansas City, Missouri being schooled in the control of the Mississippi River. A year later he joined the 2nd Engineers at Fort Logan, Colorado. This assignment was followed by a year at the University of lowa here he was awarded a degree in Civil Engineering. For the next three years General Thompson was engrossed in river improvement work at the U.S. Waterways Experimentation Station at Vicksburg, Mississippi, and at Omaha, Nebraska. Tulane University awarded him a second degree in Civil Engineering for his academic
accomplishments in 1934.

     After an unusually promising early career in the Corps of Engineers, which included award of the prestigious Freeman Scholarship by the American Society of Engineers, General Thompson was sent to Berlin, Germany as the American Observer of the Corps of Engineers to the German Army. During this critical period in Europe that heralded the beginning of World War ll, General Thompson's insightful analysis of German capabilities was invaluable.

     Returning to the United States in February 1937, General Thompson, then a First Lieutenant, was appointed to the position of Director, U.S. Waterways Experimentation Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

     After serving with the 5th Engineers at Fort Belvoir in early 1940, General Thompson was assigned to the Office, Chief of Engineers in Washington, DC until January 1943, when he was
selected to command the U.S. Assault Training Center for the European Theater. Located on the West Coast of England, the Center was responsible for training the American and Allied
Engineer forces which were to lead the Operation Overlord assault on Fortress Europe. While commanding the Center, then Colonel Thompson developed the tactics and techniques to be used in the D-Day attack.

     In this key assignment, General Thompson's inspired leadership, organizational skills, and indomitable determination provided the assault landing training that contributed so remarkably to the success of the Normandy invasion.

     As D-Day approached, General Thompson sought and was appointed to command the 6th Engineer Special Brigade which spearheaded the assault on the beaches. For his courageous
leadership in the initial wave of those forces on June 6, 1944, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Later on D-Day, he was severely wounded.

     While recuperating from his wounds, General Thompson was assigned to General Staff duty in Washington, DC. In 1945 he returned to the European Theater of Operations, and served for a
year 2S General Eisenhower's Chief of Information and Education. In this capacity he was responsible for publication of the daily newspaper Stars and stripes and the Army weekly, Yank, as well as supervision of the Armed Forces Radio Network in Europe. At war's end, General Thompson set up and administered educational projects participated in by hundreds of thousands of American soldiers awaiting orders shipping them home.

     General Thompson retired from the Army in 1946. His decorations, in addition to the DSC, include the Bronze Star Medal, the Purple Heart, the Commendation Ribbon, and two awards of the Legion of Merit. He has been honored by the award of the Order of the British Empire; by the award of Commander, Order of Leopold ll from Belgium; and he has been named Chevalier of the Legion of Honor from France.

     Upon his retirement, General Thompson was sought by Reader's Digest magazine to expand publication of this domestic magazine into Europe. Thus, he began the second stage of a lifetime of distinguished accomplishment. Not only was he directly and personally responsible for the initiation of the publication and distribution of Reader's Digest in Europe but also, after returning to Reader's Digest headquarters in New York, he directed the expansion of the Digest's overall operations into the Far East, notably Japan. Later, as Vice Chairman, General Thompson laid the groundwork for the Digest's publication in eastern Europe and Russia. In the discharge of these extraordinary publishing responsibilities following World War ll, General Thompson made an enormous contribution to the projection of American culture and values to the rest of the world

     In 1962, General Thompson began the third phase of his long and distinguished career of service by increasingly turning his attention and talent to the support of historical and educational institutions. He became a Trustee of the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy in 1962, and in 1970 he was elected President of the Association, a position he held for four years. Calling upon his experience in directing Reader's Digest, General Thompson planned and implemented a comprehensive reorganization and redirection of alumni support of the Military Academy which recast the Association into a modern, broadly based alumni organization with a potential for diverse, direct and indirect support. The most significant element or this reorganization was the inclusion of a capability for a flexible, expanding private fund raising program for the benefit of the Academy. Later, after his tour as President, he accepted responsibility as the volunteer leader of the fund raising program which he had envisioned and which he had set in motion.

     General Thompson also gave generously of his energy and resources in support of the MacArthur Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia and the Boscobel Restoration, a major historical museum for early nineteenth century decorative arts in the Hudson Valley. As a Trustee of the MacArthur Foundation and as President and Chairman of the Board of Boscobel Restoration, General Thompson played a major role in placing both organizations on a sound financial footing. His wise counsel and leadership gave strong impetus to much needed fund-raising programs.

     Throughout a lifetime of service to his country, General Thompson made permanent and invaluable contributions to the security and freedom of the United States, to the spread of
American culture and values worldwide, and to the support and strengthening of historical institutions of national importance. General Thompson's personal and professional life have epitomized the words of the West Point motto: "Duty, Honor, Country."

     Accordingly, the Association of Graduates takes pride in presenting the 1994 Distinguished Graduate Award to Paul Williams Thompson, USMA Class of 1929.