(from the May 27, 1997, Lowell Tribune, page 16)
The son of one Lake County pioneer family became "an outstanding soldier," making a place in local history for himself.
William George Haan, son of Nicholas and Mary Viant Haan, was born Oct. 4, 1863, on the family farm east of Cedar Lake, and about one mile northeast of the village of Creston, where the Haan family was well known.
William Haan attended Crown Point High School, where he received his first military experience by organizing and commanding a group called the "Crown Point Cadets." Composed of high school friends, the group soon grew to have a great respect for the personality that later made him one of the greatest generals of the United States Army.
He was aided in getting an appointment to West Point Military Academy by Congressman Thomas J. Wood and Judge Johannes Kopelke, both of Crown Point. After graduating from West Point in 1889, he received Second Lt. bars and was promoted to First Lt. in 1896.
During the Spanish-American War (1898), Haan was appointed Captain of Volunteers and served in the Philippine Islands, where he was awarded the Silver Star Medal for bravery.
After the Spanish-American War he was commissioned a major in 1907, and just before the United States entry into World War I, he was made a Colonel on July 1, 1916. Due to his fine record in that war, he attained the rank of Brigadier General of the National Army and became a Major General on Apr. 27, 1921.
During World War I he commanded the 32nd Div. (the "Red Arrow Div.") in the battlefields of France, his division being the seventh to land there in February 1918. His division spent almost one hundred days on the dangerous front lines, with 35 days of active battle engagements. They advanced 36 kilometers during a major offensive, captured 2,163 prisoners, lost 2,898 killed in battle, and almost eleven thousand were wounded.
His division was one of six in the First Army Corps under Lt. Gen. Hunter Liggett (1857-1935) and had its training in the 10th Training Corps.
The Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, Gen. John J. Pershing (1860-1948), wrote the following in his diary on June 22, 1918, after an inspection: "The 32nd Div. is promising. He [Haan] captured Cierges on Oct. 1, 1918, and advanced to south of Gesnes on Oct. 4, 1918, despite very hostile fire, and captured that town the next day, just to the right of the heights of Romagne."
Gen. Haan was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1919, the citation reading as follows: "This officer in command of the 32nd Div. took a prominent part in the Meuse-Argonne offensive and, in a brilliant and successful attack against the Cote Dame Marie, covering several days, deprived the enemy of the key point of the position. His clear conception of the tactical situations involved showed him to be a military leader of superior order."
Among Haan's many decorations were two from the government of France, Commander of the Legion of Honor presented Mar. 16, 1919, and the Croix de Guerre with palms on Apr. 29, 1919. Part of his citation read: "Thanks to his tactical sense, his strategical skill, and his indomitable tenacity, and the magnificent spirit of his troops, he advanced several kilometers and captured the important position of Juvigny."
After his long stint of army service for his country and his World War I days of intense activity, Gen. Haan found time to make short visits to his hometown of Crown Point, including a July 4, 1919, stop when he was invited to attend the community celebration as its honored guest. He also attended a reunion of his high school "Cadet" cronies, the friends from his boyhood days.
Gen. Haan died Oct. 26, 1924, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. His wife was Margaret Hoppin Hawes, and his two brothers were Nicholas Haan of Hammond and Dr. George Haan of Aurora, Ill.
The general was affectionately nicknamed by his comrades at West Point and by the men of the Red Arrow Div. (the 32nd) as "Bunker."
Foster Bruce, who wrote many stories about Lake County's part in U.S. wars, wrote the following in 1934: "The life of Gen. Haan should be an inspiration to any young man who faces the problems of the world and feels that he must solve his problems by his own unaided efforts. The people of Lake County are honored in having their home in the community that bore so distinguished and faithful a servant.
"As individuals, we can be encouraged and stimulated when we think of his accomplishments. Gen. Haan was an accomplished linguist, and was regarded as one of the best administrative officers in the Army, in addition to his high standing as a distinguished leader of fighting men."
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