William Carey “Bill” Lee was born March 12, 1895 in Dunn, North Carolina.
Bill Lee attended Wake Forest College and North Carolina State College.
He participated in the ROTC program, graduated from NC State, and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1917.
Bill Lee served in World War I with the American Expeditionary Force in France.
By the time the United States entered World War II, Bill Lee had reached the rank of major general and was a proponent of paratrooper warfare.
Although airborne units were not popular with U.S. Army commanders, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sponsored the concept, and General Lee was authorized to form the first paratroop platoon.
This was followed by the Provisional Parachute Group, and finally the United States Army Airborne Command.
General Lee was the first commander of the Army’s jump school at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He also received the Distinguished Service Medal for his early leadership in the creation of the airborne forces.
In August 1942, General Lee was the commander of the newly formed 101st Airborne Division, based at Camp Claiborne, in Louisiana.
He told his men, “The 101st has no history, but it has a rendezvous with destiny.”
General Lee helped plan the D-Day drops into Normandy, and trained to jump with his men.
However, he was ordered back to the United States several months before the invasion, suffering from either a heart attack or a stroke.
He was replaced by General Maxwell D. Taylor.
To honor their founder, paratroopers yelled “Bill Lee” as they jumped into France on D-Day.
William Lee retired from the Army for reasons of health in late 1944.
General Bill Lee died at his home in Dunn, North Carolina on June 25, 1948.
The General William C. Lee Airborne Museum is located in Dunn, North Carolina, at his former home.
On October 11, 2004 the U.S. Senate passed a bill to rename the Dunn Post Office, the “General William Carey Lee Post Office.”
Lee Residence Hall, one of the largest dormitories at North Carolina State University, is named after William C. Lee.
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