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1944

Gen. Sir John Dill dies

On this day in 1944, British Gen. John Dill dies in Washington, D.C., and is buried in Arlington Cemetery, the only foreigner to be so honored.

Born on Christmas Day, 1881, in County Armagh, Ireland, Dill was a military man from his earliest years, serving in the South African War at age 18, then in World War I. He was promoted to the office of director of military operations and intelligence of the British War Office in 1934 and knighted for service to the empire in 1937.

When the Second World War broke out he was already serving as chief of the imperial general staff and renowned for his gifts as a strategist. It was his decision to reinforce the British position in Egypt with 150 tanks in August 1940, despite a shortage of such armaments back home. And in March 1941, he championed Britain’s defense of Greece against the Axis invasion.

But such early strategic successes were followed up by more cautious decision-making, which disturbed Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who favored more aggressive maneuvers against the enemy. Consequently, Churchill removed Dill from his post and transferred him to the United States, to become chief British military representative to Washington. It was there that Dill developed a close personal friendship with George C. Marshall, the U.S. chief of staff, which resulted in a closer U.S.-British alliance.

Upon Dill’s death, it was Marshall who intervened to have Dill buried at Arlington National Cemetery, normally reserved only for Americans who had served their nation during wartime. Dill’s plot is also marked by only one of two equestrian statues in the cemetery.

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