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Who was the highest ranking officer killed in action during World War I?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: April 04, 2012 
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Dear Mr. History,

Who was the highest ranking officer killed in action during WW 1?  When? Where?
We think it was Col. Hamilton Smith.
Thanks,

Jesse Smallwood

? ? ?

Dear Jesse,

It may be that Colonel Hamilton Allen Smith of the 26th Infantry, 1st Division, killed while directing an attack on machine gun positions at Noyant on July 22, 1918, was the highest-ranking American killed in action during World War I—but highest ranking officer?  Not even close!

The British lost 78 general officers in combat during the Great War and the Germans 70.

The highest ranking officer I know to have been killed in action during the war would be British Secretary of State for War Field Marshal Herbert Horatio Kitchener, who was aboard the cruiser Hampshire on a diplomatic mission to Arkhangelsk, Russia, when it struck a mine laid by German submarine U-75 (Curt Beitzen, captain) and sunk west of the Orkney Islands on June 5, 1916.  Kitchener was among 643 men of the 655 aboard HMS Hampshire who died or succumbed to exposure.

Sincerely,

 

Jon Guttman
Research Director
Weider History Group
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4 Responses to “Who was the highest ranking officer killed in action during World War I?”


  1. 1
    byron says:

    Was that a relative of the Gen. Kitchener of the Nile rebellion?

  2. 2
    Joseph Urbano says:

    I believe it was Lord Kitchner of Kartoom. Kitchener of the WWI recruitment posters put up around England.

  3. 3
    Burns says:

    Correct, he was another of Britains famous Irish and Anglo-Irish Field Marshals, the others including Wellington, Gough, Roberts and Montgomery to name a few.

  4. 4

    [...] Horatio Kitchener 1850-1916, was possibly the highest-ranking soldier to die in action in WW1- Who was the highest ranking officer killed in action during World War I? Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Regards, Gordon [...]



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