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James Guthrie Harbord Edit Profile

chairman , military , army officer

Lieutenant General James Guthrie Harbord was a senior officer of the United States Army and President and Chairman of the Board of RCA.


James Guthrie was born on March 21, 1866 in Bloomington, Illinois, United States. Son of George W. and Effie Critton (Gault) Harbord.


Harbord received a Bachelor of Science degree from Kansas State Agricultural College in 1886; three years later he was unsuccessful in his application to West Point and instead entered the army as a private. In 1895 Harbord graduated from the Infantry and Cavalry School and was awarded a Master of Science degree. While with the Tenth Cavalry in the fall of 1899 he met John J. Pershing. Harbord served from 1902 to January 1914 in the Philippines, initially in the grade of captain; from January 1914 to April 1917 he was a student at the Army War College.


On May 15, 1917, Harbord was appointed chief of staff to his old friend General Pershing, and for the next twelve months he helped the American field commander to pick and to organize a staff for the projected American Expeditionary Forces. Harbord was decisive, frank, and completely loyal to Pershing, who appointed Harbord in May 1918 as commanding brigadier general of the marine brigade in the Second Division. Sixty days later Harbord was given command of the Second Division and promoted to the grade of major general, and in this capacity he led the Second Division at Soissons in the wake of General Ludendorff's Michael offensive in the west. Harbord's success was often due more to the raw courage of his men than to his tactical brilliance; in fact, it has been charged that the general often failed to have complete control over his troops during combat. Harbord also overestimated the role of the rifle and the machine gun in modern warfare at the expense of artillery in short, he did not fully grasp the concept of superior concentrated fire power. Some critics have claimed that Harbord at times expected his men to fight beyond a reasonable threshold of endurance.

Above all, Harbord's unbending loyalty to his chief was to place him in the center of the celebrated "Pershing-March Feud." During the summer of 1918 Pershing got wind of a plan in the War Department by General March, army chief of staff, to send General Goethals to France as senior supply officer. Pershing fended this scheme off by appointing Harbord head of the Services of Supply on July 28, 1918. Harbord's adept handling of the logistical forces helped expedite the transport of 3 million soldiers to Europe, and by the war's end Harbord had under him a force of 386,000 soldiers as well as a host of civilian aides and German prisoners. Unfortunately, Harbord had not been as adept in his dealings with March. He fueled the "Pershing-March Feud" by completely rejecting any good intentions on the part of the chief of staff, whom he accused of a "distinctly unfriendly act" when March sought to establish an exchange of staff officers between his office and Pershing's headquarters in France. Harbord informed Pershing that this proposal "shows no consideration for your needs, and undermines your well-laid foundation, with what wild ambition in mind we can only guess."

Harbord continued to serve Pershing in various capacities after the Great War, and he retired in December 1922. Owen D. Young and David Sarnoff brought the retired general to the Radio Corporation of America as president, a post that Harbord held for the next twenty-five years. He died on August 20, 1947, at Rye, New York. Not surprisingly, Pershing spoke of him in an efficiency report in 1922 as "the ablest officer I know."


Served as assistant chief Philippine Constabulary with rank of colonel, August 18, 1903-January 1, 1914. Member Executive Committee New York Life Insurance Company, Employers Liability Assurance Corporation, Ltd. (London); Mason (32°, Knights Templar).

Clubs: Army and Navy (Washington, District of Columbia).


Married Emma Yeatman Ovenshine, January 21, 1899 (died May 29, 1937). Married second, Mistress.

George W. Harbord

Effie Critton (Gault) Harbord

Emma Yeatman Ovenshine