Douglas West Poage, Jr.

NO. 17602  •  18 July 1927 – 7 September 1955

Died 8 May 1985 in El Paso, Texas, aged 59 years
Interment: Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia

DOUG POAGE WAS born in Alcoa, Tennessee on 10 February 1926. His parents were Douglas W. Poage, Sr., and Agnes Rosensteel Poage. Doug's father, who was personnel manager for the Aluminum Company of America in Alcoa, had the active avocation of helping General Bob Neyland run the University of Tennessee football team. With his two sisters, Doug grew up in the shadows of the Great Smokies with a warm, closeknit family coupled with a lot of athletic and outdoor interests. This combination of traditional southern upbringing and environment left an everlasting mark. Doug was a gentle individual with a great sense of purpose, integrity and honor from the outset.

Doug completed grammar and high schools in Maryville and then attended Columbia Military Academy in Columbia, Tennessee, before entering the Navy where he served as a chaplain's assistant. After discharge, he completed a freshman year at the University of Tennessee before entering the Military Academy in July of 1946. West Point was the place where he said he "just always wanted to be."

Doug was a friendly and easygoing cadet. Academic subjects posed no problem for him, but he never let them dominate his life. He found a major escape from Academy routine by acting as manager of the basketball team. Upon graduation, Doug chose to be commissioned in the Infantry.

He selected his first assignment without hesitation ‑ Infantry duty in the Free Territory of Trieste. At the time this was one of the hot spots in the world, for the Korean war had not yet broken out. He began as platoon leader with the 351st Infantry. He asked to be transferred to Korea, but his request was denied. Fortunately, the experience he gained with this elite regiment under the guidance of commanders such as Paul Caraway and Earle Wheeler gave him a solid foundation for his future success.

The next event that had a major impact on Doug was his marriage to Mary D. Allen, the daughter of General Frank A. Allen, Jr. Mary and Doug met in Trieste and married there in November 1951. This provided an instant West Point family connection as one new brother‑in‑law was an Academy graduate (1945) and another soon would be (1952). Mary and Doug had three children: Douglas III, born in Trieste in 1952; Ellen, born in Washington, DC in 1953; and Peter, born in Rome, Italy, in 1955. The children now live in Alaska, Burma, and Virginia, respectively. During the remaining years of their marriage Doug and Mary shared their love for life, intellectual curiosity, and instant readiness to start a new adventure wherever in the world it was to be offered.

Upon his return from Trieste, Doug attended the Infantry School at Fort Benning and then completed the Airborne and Ranger schools. A classmate related an episode during the Ranger course that typified Doug's spirit and determination. One of the critical tests for completion of the course was to swim a river, fully clothed, with him and his buddy pushing a raft in front of them. His buddy, a poor swimmer, was having great difficulty. So Doug told him just to hang on and managed to successfully pull both his buddy and the raft across the remaining portion of the river. Doug, who risked his own graduation to help a friend, was like that. Easygoing and low key most of the time, he was always able to do what was needed in a pinch.

Fort Campbell and the 11th Airborne Division came next. Then fortune shined with a tour from 1954 to 1956 in his beloved Italy. He served as aide‑de-camp to the chief of the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Rome. During that tour, Doug gave another glimpse of his strength and will. Not previously a skier at all, he successfully completed an arduous month‑long ski course designed to qualify Italian officers to join elite Alpini units.

After a year as a student in the Infantry Officer's Advanced Course back at Fort Benning, and another year on the staff and faculty at the Infantry School (for which he was awarded the Army Commendation Medal), Doug was chosen to attend graduate school at Georgia Tech. There he earned a master's degree in electrical engineering and electronics in 1961. From there, Doug went to the Air Defense School at Fort Bliss for three years where he headed the Missile Science Course for which he was awarded a second Commendation Medal. This tour established a continuing relationship with El Paso, for it was there that the Poages later retired.

 In 1963, Doug went to the Republic of Vietnam where he served for a year as province advisor in Tuy Hoa. There he earned the Combat Infantryman Badge. On return to the States, Doug completed the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth and was then assigned as commander of a basic training battalion at Fort Polk, Louisiana. For those who know Fort Polk, and to quote Doug, that was "a place where you had to make your own fun."

Doug volunteered to return to Vietnam in 1967 where, after six months in Saigon, he got a prized battalion command with the 199th Infantry Brigade. In this position, he earned the Bronze Star Medal and six Air Medals. To Doug, this combat assignment culminated a lot of years of training and hard work.

On Doug's return to the United States, the Poages began what was to be nearly five years in the Washington, DC area. Doug was first assigned to the Combat Developments Command where he was promoted to colonel in 1970 and earned the Legion of Merit, and then to the office of the Chief of Research and Development. After Washington, there was a four ­year tour in the Canal Zone where Doug was first the commander of the Atlantic Area Command and later the inspector general of the US Army Southern Command.

Starting in 1976, Doug's final military assignment was as senior advisor to the 76th Infantry Division, US Army Reserve, with headquarters in Hartford, Connecticut. Upon retirement in 1978, Doug was awarded a second Legion of Merit and returned with Mary to El Paso.

There were some peaceful and happy years there. Unfortunately, medical factors thwarted his intent to take up a teaching career. Later, after a long final illness which failed to stem his courage and optimism, Doug died on 8 May 1985. Mary later moved to Virginia.

Doug gave a lot of himself to the Army and to those who knew him well. As he reflected on his life near the end, he certainly had every reason to be content with the full, varied and rewarding life he had lived. After all, he achieved what he set out to do when he was a boy back in Tennessee. He is greatly missed by his family and by his classmates and friends.

-WFB, LER, Class of 1950