Retired Army Brig. Gen. William Henry Holcombe, 89, an officer in the Corps of Engineers and a survivor of the march out of Burma in World War II, died of cardiac arrest Thursday at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Since 1948, he had lived at "Rover's Delight," a home he and his wife, the late Dorothy Brooks Holcombe, had built by hand on the Potomac River near Mount Vernon.
General Holcombe was born in Washington. He graduated from Western High School. He also attended George Washington University and Culver Military Academy in Indiana before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he graduated in 1914.
After his marriage in 1916, he was assigned quarters at Washington Barracks, now known at Fort Lesley J. McNair. From here he was ordered to Texas to serve with the Mexican border expedition. In World War I, he was with American Expeditionary Forces in Europe.
He graduated from the Engineer School at Fort Humphreys, Va., now Fort Belvoir, in 1920. From 1922 to 1926, he was assistant to the engineer commissioner of the District of Columbia, overseeing the construction of such projects as McKinley High School. There followed assignments in New Orleans, La., the Philippines, Fort Leavensworth, Kan., and Milwaukee, Wis., before he returned here to serve for two years as assistant commandant of the Engineer School at Fort Belvoir prior to the outbreak of World War II.
During the early part of the war, he joined Gen. Joseph W. (Vinegar Joe) Stilwell in Burma as chief engineer. He was one of 400 members of Stilwell's command who marched through the jungles from Burma to India to escape Japanese capture.
Gen. Holcombe returned to this country in 1944 and was commanding general of Camp Gordon Johnston near Tallahassee, Fla. He retired in 1946.
His decorations included the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star Medal.
He was a member of the Chevy Chase Club, the Army and Navy Club, the Mount Vernon Yacht Club, the Association of Graduates of the United States Military Academy, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the Alexandria Kiwanis Club.
His wife died in 1976, three months after they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary.
Survivors include two sons, retired Army Co. William Henry, Jr. of El Paso, Tex., and retired Army Lt. Col. Thomas Wesley of Alexandria; a daughter, Dorothy Holcombe Kabler of Mount Vernon; a sister, Eugenia Holcombe Tisserand-DeLange of Thones, France; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.