The papers of Lieutenant General Richard J. Seitz (Ret.) document major portions of his military career, civilian activities, and family life (1918-1975). A native Kansan, General Seitz was born in Leavenworth in 1918; he entered Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science in 1937. He completed the ROTC program before he was able to graduate, was commissioned a second lieutenant in the infantry reserve, and was called to active duty in February of 1940. Researchers are referred to the above biographical sketch and obituary, an oral history conducted by the U.S. Army Military Institute (Box 2/Folder 6), and autobiography (Box 6/Folder 8), to gain a full understanding of the career of General Seitz, a highly decorated, accomplished, and respected soldier in the U.S. Army. His civic and family activities are also worthy of distinction. After 35 years of service, he retired a lieutenant general in 1975 to Junction City, Kansas. He passed away on June 8, 2013.
The military service files and photographs (1939-1975) document General Seitz’s military career primarily with the U. S. Army Airborne. The papers include orders, commendations, service records, promotions, correspondence with commanding officers and officers under his command. Researchers can use these files to study the rise of a newly commissioned second lieutenant in 1940 to his promotion to lieutenant general and designation as commander of the 18th Airborne Corps in 1973. They can also gain an understanding of the involvement of the U.S. military in World War II and other operations around the world including Brazil, Iran (Mahabad), and Vietnam (under General William Westmoreland), in addition to various Airborne commands in the United States.
General Seitz’s record involving military campaigns during World War II is most notable. In March 1942 he was given command of the 2nd Battalion of the 517th Parachute Infantry Regimental Combat Team. Promoted to Lt. Colonel, he was the Army’s youngest battalion commander. The 517th entered combat at Anzio and continued up the Italian Peninsula before joining the southern invasion of France in August 1944. When Hitler launched the Battle of the Bulge, Seitz joined the fighting where his battalion went from 691 men to 380 during some of the worst fightings of the war. During the later stages of the war, Bettie Merrill, who Seitz had dated since they met in Kansas, was able to travel from Holland as a member of the Red Cross to rendezvous with Seitz in Joigny, France where they were married on June 23, 1945! Among the awards that he received for his valor were the Purple Heart (Italy), Silver Star, Croiz de Guerre with Palm, and Bronze Star.
In addition to his service records, other material in the collection documents General Seitz’s military career including his personal files, speeches, printed material, and certificates and awards. Significant information about the Seitz family is found in the personal files and photographs.
Seitz, Richard J.