MG WILLIAM L. SIBERT

(1860-1935)

     Major General William L. Sibert was born in Gadsden, Alabama on October 12, 1860. After attending the University of Alabama from 1879 to 1880, he entered the U.S. Military Academy and was appointed a Second Lieutenant of Engineers on June 15, 1884.  Only the top 10 percent of each graduating class were commissioned in the Engineers – it was then the premier branch of the U.S. Army.

     After graduating from the Engineer School of Applications now known as Engineer Officer Basic Course in 1887, General Sibert held several responsible positions with the Engineers in the United States and overseas.  Normally, engineer duties covered a wide variety of different tasks ranging from building posts and forts to building coastal fortifications to the development of various types of government building programs such as rivers and harbors.

     In 1899, General Sibert was assigned as the Chief Engineer of the 8th Army Corps and the Chief Engineer and General Manager of the Manila and Dagupan Railroad during the Philippine Insurrection.  He held these positions until 1900 when he returned to the United States to work for seven years with the engineers in charge of river and harbor districts and headquarters in Louisville and Pittsburgh.  From 1907 through 1914, General Sibert was a member of the Isthmian Canal commission and was responsible for the building of a number of critical parts of the Panama Canal.  He built the Gatun Locks and Dam, the West Breakwater in Colon, and the channel from Gatun Lake to the Pacific Ocean.  

     On March 15, 1915, General Sibert was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and on June 28, 1918, he was advanced to the rank of Major General.  As a General Officer, General Sibert was the first Commanding General of the 1st Infantry Division "the Big Red One" – in France in 1917.  After training the division for combat, he returned to the United States in January 1918 to become the commanding General of the Southeastern Department at Charleston, South Carolina.

     General John J. Pershing had persuaded the War Department to create a Chemical Warfare Service (CWS), and he was asked to name a general officer with both ability and seniority to hold the new CWS.  General Pershing immediately sent the name of MG Sibert to the War Department to fill that position.

     After having ran the CWS from may 1918 to February 1920, Major General Sibert retired from active duty.  He is considered  the “father of the Chemical Corps” because he was the first commander of the CWS.  He guided the corps through some of its earliest problems and always managed to find a solution.

     During his retirement, General Sibert served with distinction in the civilian world.  Among his accomplishments were the modernization of the docks and waterways in Mobile, Alabama and service on a presidential commission that led to the building of Hover Dam.

     General Sibert was first married to Mary Margaret Cummings in September 1887.  The couple produced five sons and one daughter.  After his wife's death in 1915, General Sibert married Juliette Roberts in June 1917.  She died 15 months later, and in 1922 he married Evelyn Clyne Bairnsfather of Edinburg Scotland.

     General Sibert retired to Bowling Green, Kentucky.  He died on October 16, 1935 and is buried in Bowling Green.  Thus ended the remarkable career of the father of the Chemical Corps.