J. Lawton Collins, 90, an aggressive hard-fighting Army officer who led American troops to key World War II victories as a general in Europe and the Pacific, died yesterday of cardiac arrest at his home in Washington.
Gen. Collins was one of the last survivors among the top-ranked military leaders of the 1941-45 war.
Early in the war, Gen. Collins commanded a division in the bloody fighting on Guadalcanal where he won the nickname "Lightning Joe." The shining record he made there led Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to choose him to lead one of the two Army corps that landed at Normandy on D-Day in 1944.
A month after the June 6 invasion, Gen. Collins' 7th Corps, part of Gen. Omar Bradley's 1st Army, spearheaded the breakout from Normandy at St. Lo, a manuever hailed by Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall as "one of the greatest feats of American arms."
Subsequently Gen. Collins and his troops participated in the 1st Army's battles across France and Belgium and into the heart of Germany. Gen. Bradley called him "one of the most outstanding field commanders in Europe."
After the war, Gen. Collins rose to become chief of staff of the Army from 1949 to 1953, serving during the Korean war and participating in President Truman's historic decision to relieve Gen. Douglas MacArthur of his command in the Far East.
In 1984, Gen. Collins served as the personal representative of President Reagan at the ceremonies in Normandy commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Allied landings.
Gen. Joseph Lawton Collins, who was born in New Orleans on May 1, 1897, was the next-to-youngest of 11 sons and daughters of Jeremiah Bernard and Catherine Lawton Collins. The general's father, an immigrant from Ireland, had enlisted in the Union army at the age of 16.
After spending the 1912-13 academic term at Louisiana State University, Gen. Collins entered West Point, graduating in 1917. He spent his first months as a second lieutenant of infantry at a variety of posts and assignments in the United States, and in 1919, a few months after the end of World War I, was sent to Germany to command a battalion in the forces of occupation.
Service in the 1920s and '30s that helped to mold the general of the '40s included four years as an instructor at West Point, graduation from the advanced course of the field artillery school and two years of study at the Army's Command and General Staff School.
Promoted to captain in 1919 and to major in 1932, Gen. Collins went on to serve as an assistant chief of staff for intelligence in the Philippines and to study at the Army Industrial College and then at the War College.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, brought the United States into World War II, promotions and increasingly responsible assignments came swiftly for Gen. Collins.
Ten days after the attack, he was sent to Hawaii to help reorganize defenses there; in February 1942 he gained the temporary rank of brigadier general and in May he was given command of the 25th Infantry Division.
It was the 25th that he took into Guadalcanal late in 1942 to ease the burden on the 1st Marine Division. From his division's shoulder patch, depicting a lightning bolt, came the nickname of "Lightning Joe."
The Japanese were driven from Guadalcanal in January 1943. Gen. Collins won the Silver Star for his service there, and later in 1943 led his division in fighting that drove the Japanese from the Solomon Islands.
Brought to England in 1943 as plans were being laid for the invasion of Europe the next year, Gen. Collins took over 7th Corps in February 1944, and took it ashore four months later on Utah Beach.
With the Allies seemingly stalled for days in the Normandy peninsula after the invasion, the 7th Corps under Gen. Collins provided the punch that helped Gen. Bradley's 1st Army make the celebrated breakthrough east of St. Lo on July 25 that brought the fighting into a new phase.
Later, Gen. Collins' corps parried German counterthrusts, permitting the 3rd Army to drive toward Paris and Brest. The 7th Corps, with Gen. Collins in command, drove into and through occupied Belgium, capturing Mons, Namur and Liege, as well as Aachen, the first major German city taken by the Allies.
After the Germans broke through in the Ardennes, Gen. Collins' forces helped turn them back, and went on to seize Cologne, help seal the Ruhr pocket and finally to reach the banks of the Elbe, where they met the advance guard of Russian forces sweeping from the east.
The general, who received an Oak Leaf Cluster to his Silver Star for his valor at the time of the fighting near St. Lo, was back in the United States when World War II ended. He and his staff were preparing to be sent back to the Pacific at the time.
Later he served here as deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the Army Ground Forces, and as director of information of the War Department. He became deputy chief of staff on Sept. 1, 1947, and vice chief the next year.
After Gen. Bradley became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1949 President Truman named Gen. Collins to succeed him as chief of staff of the Army.
Gen. Collins' service included the period of the Korean war and it was essentially through him that Gen. MacArthur, the U.S. commander in the Far East, dealt with the administration in Washington.
In one of the high level meetings that preceded Truman's dismissal of MacArthur, Gen. Collins and his fellow service chiefs were brought before Gen. Marshall, then secretary of defense.
Each, according to Robert J. Donovan, in "Tumultuous Years," a history of Truman's presidency, "stated his reasons, from a military viewpoint, for believing that MacArthur should be relieved."
Gen. Collins' tenure as chief of staff ended in August 1953. In 1954 and '55, his posts included service as special envoy to Vietnam. He retired from the Army in 1956.
In 1957 he became vice chairman of the board of Pfizer International subsidiaries. He stipulated in his contract when he joined that he would not be involved in lobbying the federal government.
Known for his speaking ability, Gen. Collins once told an American Legion committee that "although a democracy is the worst form of government with which to prepare for a war, it is the best form with which to win a war."
He was a member of Annunciation Catholic Church here.
Survivors include his wife, the former Gladys Easterbrook, a son, retired Army Col. Joseph E. Collins, of Lewiston, Idaho, two daughters, Gladys Stenger, of Potomac and Nancy Rubino, of Bethesda, 17 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
MARGOT K. de WELDON,
75, who had been active in Washington charitable work for many years, died Sept. 10 in a nursing home in Newport, R.I., where she had lived the past three years. She had Alzheimer's disease.
Mrs. de Weldon, who had lived in this area from 1945 until entering the nursing home, was a native of Minneapolis and a graduate of Kansas City College in Missouri.
She served as Heart Sunday chairman for the 1966 Heart Fund Campaign by the Washington Heart Association. At that time, she had completed seven years on its board of directors and 15 years on its women's board.
She also had done extensive volunteer work for other charities, including the American Cancer Society, and had raised funds for organizations associated with the Navy and Marine Corps.
Mrs. de Weldon also had helped raise funds for the Republican Senate Campaign Committee and had served on presidential inaugural committees in 1953 and 1957. She was a member of the Army & Navy Club.
Survivors include her husband, Felix de Weldon, the noted sculptor who is perhaps best known for his Marine Corps War Memorial at Arlington, and who lives in Newport, and a son, Byron de Weldon of Washington and Newport.