Lt. Gen. Berry’s final active-duty assignment was commanding the Army’s V Corps in Europe. Retiring from active service in 1980, he became Mississippi’s public safety commissioner, a post in which his accomplishments included admitting women into the state Highway Patrol.
Sidney Bryan Berry was born Feb. 10, 1926, in Hattiesburg, Miss. His father, a country lawyer, used to take him hunting and fishing and infused him with a sense of discipline and hard work.
He told Life magazine that one of the greatest conflicts he faced came at 18 when he received a draft notice and a letter about his appointment to West Point. He said that if he went to college, he would likely miss a chance to serve in World War II like many of his peers, who had already been sent off and died in combat.
“The others had gone, and I was feeling like a slacker,” he said, noting it was the era of ticker-tape parades for veterans. His father’s advice was to attend West Point, as no generation of graduates had missed a chance to serve in battle.
He graduated from West Point in 1948. Two years later, he and the platoon he commanded were among the first U.S. troops sent to South Korea in the desperate attempt to stem the tide of communist invasion. He was awarded the Silver Star twice for service in Korea and was twice promoted on the battlefield, rising from first lieutenant to major.
He earned a master’s degree in international relations at Columbia University in 1953 and was military assistant to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara from 1961 to 1964. During the Vietnam War, he was an adviser to the commander of a South Vietnamese division and then commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division.
Later, he qualified as an Army aviator and went back to Vietnam as assistant operations chief of the 101st Airborne Division. Subsequently, he commanded the division at Fort Campbell, Ky., where he organized an Air Assault School.
Around the time he took over West Point, he told People magazine that the United States could never have won in Vietnam. “The political understanding and the staying power of the Communists,” he said, “were greater than those of our forces.”
After moving to Arlington in 1985, he became a defense and management consultant, remaining there until he moved to Pennsylvania in 2004.
Survivors include his wife, Anne Hayes Berry; three children, Bryan H. Berry, Nan Berry Davenport and Lynn Berry Bonner; and 12 grandchildren.
In many ways, Lt. Gen. Berry seemed to fit the image of a by-the-book officer. But he was not jealous of the prerogatives of rank and was known to be fond of spending time with the privates and sergeants who served under him.
Additionally, he was regarded as a reflective man. Although he could have chosen to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery or at West Point, he chose otherwise, his son said.
He was married in 1949, in a Quaker ceremony, to the daughter of a college professor. Not himself a Quaker, he nevertheless decided that he should be laid to rest among the Quaker members of his wife’s family, near Philadelphia, at the Romansville Friends Burial Ground.