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#105 Edward Hale Brooks, Class of 1916, Led the “Hell On Wheels” Division on Omaha Beach

Jeff Dobbin 200 Things about Norwich, Leaders & Legacy

Edward Hale Brooks was one of three Norwich men to command the 2nd Armored Division during World War II. He led the so-called “Hell On Wheels” division into action at Omaha Beach and received numerous military decorations including the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Distinguished Service Medal.

Brooks was a native of Concord, New Hampshire. He graduated from Norwich in 1916 with a degree in civil engineering. He commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Army in 1917. During his service in World War I, he served in a field artillery unit that saw several major actions, including the Second Battle of the Marne and the St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensives.

Immediately after World War I, Brooks served with the American Occupation Forces in Germany and then as a field artillery instructor. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, his varied Army career took him to posts in Europe, the United States, and the Philippines. For a time, he taught military science and tactics at Harvard.

When the United States entered World War II in 1941, he was serving as chief of the War Department’s Statistics Branch, and was reassigned as the designated artillery officer for the new Armored Force at Fort Knox. In 1944, he took command of the “Hell On Wheels” 2nd Armored Division. He was at the helm of the unit during some of its major actions, including the invasion of Normandy and the subsequent Battle of Saint-Lo. The 2nd Armored were also the first Allied forces to enter Belgium. Brooks was succeeded in his command of the division by two Norwich men: Ernest Harmon in September 1944 and Isaac White in January 1945.

Toward the end of the war, Brooks became the commanding general of the VI Corps and saw it through campaigns in France, Germany, Austria, and Italy. In that capacity, he accepted the surrender of the 19th German Army at Innsbruck on May 5, 1945.

After his return from the European Theater, Brooks served at command posts in Atlanta, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. He was named assistant chief of staff for personnel in 1949. Upon his retirement in 1953, he was the commander of the 2nd U.S. Army and held the rank of lieutenant general.

Following his retirement from the Army, Brooks returned to his hometown of Concord, New Hampshire, and was active in civic affairs. He was on the executive board of his local Boy Scouts of America Council as well as the Concord Planning Board for many years. He was also a founder of the Association of the U.S. Army and executive director of the Association of Military Colleges & Schools of the United States (AMCSUS), of which Norwich University is a member.

Brooks passed away in 1978 at the age of 85.

The Norwich University Archives is home to a large collection of Edward Hale Brooks’ personal papers. Contact the Archives to learn more.

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