Retired major general Charles Trueman (Buck) Lanham, 75 a fighting hero of World War II who also was an information and education specialist during a long, distinguished Army career, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Chevy Chase.
He led an infantry regiment that spear-headed the breakout from Normandy after the landing there in 1944 and then went on to become the first American unit to enter Paris.
Gen. Lanham returned to that capital city later to serve as director of public relations at SHAPE during Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower's two years as commander of NATO forces there.
While on the battlefield, Gen. Lanham, by then a published author and poet as well as a scholar, met another writer, Ernest Hemingway, who was reporting on the war and had attached himself to Lanham's regiment. A lasting friendship developed and they corresponded frequently until Hemingway's death in 1961.
Gen. Lanham was born in Washington. He graduated from the U.S. Millitary Academy at West Point in 1924. As an infantry officer, he commanded various units and graduated from a number of Army schools.
He also began to teach and to write. He was an instructor in millitary history at Ford Benning, Ga., and later an associate editor of the Infantry Journal while on assignment with the National Guard Bureau in Washington.
As a writer, Gen Lanham was better known within the Army than without. In the years immediately prior to World War II, he wrote the tactical doctrine for the infantry used during the war and "ghosted" a military textbooks, "Infantry in Battle" for Gen. George C. Marshall, U.S. Army chief of staff.
As chief of the visual aids branch of Army Ground Forces in 1942, Gen. Lanham developed new visual educational techniques for the Armed Forces. He wrote and directed training films, including the famous "Fighting Men" series.
Most of all, he was a fighting man. His battles included those he fought to get assigned to combat areas. He finally made it to the European Theater of Operations where he took command of the 22nd Regiment of the 4th Infantry Division in Normandy in June 1944.
That regiment helped lead the move out of Normandy and was the first American unit to go into Paris in August 1944. It also put the first patrols on German soil and was the first to penetrate the Siegfried line in the battle of Huertgen Forest.
During 18 days and nights of steady combat, the regiment suffered more than 80 per cent casualties but it was the first American unit to reach the Cologne Plain. The 22nd Regiment then was assigned to quiet sector in Luxembourg to rest but almost immediately found itself involved in the Battle of the Bulge, Gen Lanham recorded later.
This was in December 1944 when he held the rank of colonel. Several months later, he was promoted to general officer rank on the battlefield and assigned as assistant division commander of the 104th (Timberwolf) Infantry Division, which attacking the city of Cologne.
In September 1945 Gen. Lanham was recalled to Washington by Gen. Marshall to serve as chief of the troop information and education department of the War Department. It was his job to make GIs, particularly those overseas, the "best informed soldiers in the world".
Three years later he became head of the Army's Personnel Policy Board. A special project of Chief of Staff Gen. Omar N. Bradley, it became better known as the "human relations" board. Its purpose was to present a better image of the Army to the public in an effort to get better public support.
Its work was so successful that it was raised to the Defense Department level to establish fundamental policy for all millitary and civilian personnel of the Army, Novy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
Gen. Lanham returned to Europe in 1949, serving first in Heidelberg, Germany, and then in Brussels, where he was chief of the Millitary Advisory Group for Belgium and Luxembourg.
He was picked by Gen. Eisenhower to be the first public relations director for Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe, known as SHAPE. One of his duties was to arrange for press conferences for Gen. Eisenhower, who was besieged by newspaper, magazine and wire service correspondents from around the world.
Gen. Lanham, who was at ease in French as well as English, reportedly handled the press representatives with tact and aplomb. He also reportedly often filled them with martinis.
In January 1953 Gen. Lanham was reassigned to Germany to take command of the famous 1st Infantry Division. He remained there for a year and a half. His last assignment before retiring at the end of 1954 was deputy commandant, Army, of the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va.
The numerous decorations he had received during his military service included the Distinguished Service Award, the Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, the French Legion of Honor. The French Croix de Guerre and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.
While he often talked descriptively of hism any millitary esperiences, Gen. Lanham loved to tell stories about his relationship with Hemingway.
He recalled that Hemingway was a war correspondent for the old Collier's magazine and joined the 4th Infantry Division on the third day of the Normandy breakthough. Hemingway attached himself to Lanham's 22nd regiment and stuck with it through the Battle of the Bugle. The two kept in touch over the years and miles by letters.
"We wrote freely because we could trust each other. Old Hemingstein (Gen. Lanham's name for Hemingway) couldn't say 'hello' to anyone without someone going out and writing an article about him. He knew I wouldn't," Gen. Lanham once explained.
The correspondence between the two was called the 'longest', fullest and most informative sequence of Hemingway's letters to come to light," by Carlos Baker, a Princeton University professor, who is Hemingway's authorized biographer.
Gen. Lanham had collaborated with Baker, author of "Ernest Hemingway - A Life Story," and also had presented nearly 150 letters he had received from Hemingway to the Princeton University Library.
Although Hemingway had insisted that he did not want to be the subject of a biography, Gen. Lanham said once that he wasn't worried about aiding Baker.
"I know goddam well what he (Hemingway) wanted," he said. "He wouldn't have liked the Baker book, though, because it's got all the warts in it."
Gen. Lanham also said he was told by Mary Hemingway, the author's widow, that on the afternoon before her husband shot himself to death in July,1961 he read the last letter he had received from his friend, Gen. Lanham.
The general frequently had been approached by publishes to write a book about some of the famous persons he had known - Eisenhower, Bradley, Marshall, Truman, Hemingway. He turned them down.
"I made it perfectly clear," he once said, "that I would never betray a confidential relationship."
In his poetry, Gen. Lanham death with many subjects, including the military. He wrote a five-stanza "Pocket Poems for A Soldier" and another he called "West Point." His poetry included Epitaph," in which he wrote: "Say only this of me when I am dead:
'He saw proud eagles storming down the sky;
'He heard the bracken break where beauty fled;
'and, wingless, strove to fly.'"
After he retired from military service, Gen. Lanham became vice president for government relations of the Xerox Corp. He retired for a second time in 1970 but remained with the firm as consultant until 1972.
He is survived by his wife, Jane Gay Lanham, of the home, and a daughter, Shirley L. McCrary, of Birmingham, Ala.
The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the formof contributions to the Fellowship Assistance Fund of Army Distaff Hall or the American Cancer Society.