Biography of Lieutenant General John Royster Thurman III

(The following is primarily abstracted from information supplied by the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army, June 1, 2004.)

John Royster “Roy” Thurman III was born April 11, 1924 in Lexington, Kentucky, elder son of John Royster Thurman, Jr. and Rose Moran Thurman, and died May 29, 2004 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia. He moved to High Point, North Carolina in 1928 where he attended public schools, graduating from High Point Central High School in 1941. He attended North Carolina State College at Raleigh at a time when all male students participated in ROTC for their first two years. After one year, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps from which he was appointed to the United States Military Academy, graduating on June 4, 1946 as a Second Lieutenant in the Field Artillery with a Bachelor of Science degree.

Following training at the Artillery School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma and the Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia, he was posted to Korea and assigned to the 57th Field Artillery Battalion, 7th Division. When the division moved to Japan to replace the 11th Airborne Division, General Thurman transferred to the 11th Airborne Division and returned to Fort Campbell, Kentucky where the division moved in 1949; he was promoted to First Lieutenant December 4, 1947.

In November 1950 he returned to Korea as a battery commander in the 674th Airborne Field Artillery Battalion, 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team. He was promoted to Captain on January 4, 1951. In February 1952 he became aide-de-camp to the X Corps Commander in Korea, returning to Washington, D.C. for duty as a staff officer in the Office, Assistant Chief of Staff G4, Department of the Army.

In 1954, General Thurman took advanced training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, following which he attended the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, graduating in 1956. He returned to Washington that same year as Assistant Executive Officer to the Army Vice Chief of Staff and in 1957 moved to Europe for three years, first as a Field Artillery Battery Commander, 11th Airborne Division Artillery, then an Operations Staff Officer at Seventh Army, and finally as Secretary of the General Staff, V Corps. He was promoted to Major on June 10, 1958.

In 1960, General Thurman attended the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia and then moved to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point where he was a Tactical Officer until October, 1963 when he was assigned to U.S. Strike Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida as an operations staff officer, being earlier promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on January 22, 1963. In 1965 he graduated from the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island and also earned a Master of Science degree in International Affairs from George Washington University.

In August 1965, General Thurman was assigned to Vietnam where he was, successively, Chief, Schools Division, U.S. Military Assistance Command, Province Senior Advisor, Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador, Battalion Commander, 1st Battalion, 8th Artillery, 25th Infantry Division, and Commander, 25th Infantry Division Artillery. He was promoted to Colonel on December 5, 1967 and returned to the United States in March, 1968 to become Military Assistant to the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense. In 1969, he attended the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University.

In January, 1970, General Thurman was assigned to Headquarters III Marine Amphibious Force, Danang, Vietnam as Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans. In April 1970, he became Assistant Division Commander of the 25th Infantry Division in Vietnam and switched to the 8th Infantry Division in Germany in the same capacity in March, 1971, being promoted to flag rank one year earlier on June 1, 1970.

On November 7, 1972, he became Director Planning and Programming Analysis, Office Assistant Vice Chief of Staff, United States Army, Washington, D.C. On March 1, 1973 he was promoted to Major General and then to Lieutenant General September 1, 1977. He retired from active duty on October 1, 1979, after more than 32 years of service, at the rank of Lieutenant General. His decorations included: Legion of Merit (with 5 Oak Leaf Clusters), Distinguished Flying Cross (with Oak leaf Cluster), Bronze Star Medal with V Device (with 4 Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medals, Army Commendation Medal, Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, and Master Parachutist Badge. At retirement, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal.

General Thurman resided in Alexandria, Virginia until his death of natural causes, resulting from pancreatic cancer. His younger brother, General Maxwell Reid Thurman, USA (ret.), predeceased him on December 1, 1995. Like his brother, he had never married. During his retirement, he assisted in the planning and development of the Thurman-Zumwalt Foundation for Infectious and Toxic Agents, a foundation named in honor of his brother and of Admiral Elmo R. “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr. General Thurman hosted the first planning and organizational meeting in Alexandria, Virginia on April 25, 2000 and served on the Advisory Council of the Foundation until he died.

P.B. Carter
June 1, 2004

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