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Lt. Gen. William S. Knudsen

For his achievements in war production, the Danish-born Knudsen - who immigrated to the United States at 20 and built a career in industrial America that included the presidency of General Motors - received the 1947 Distinguished Service Medal, though illness kept him from the convention.

"Gen. Knudsen has become one of our great national figures," said Raymond J. Kelly, a past national commander and fellow Detroit resident. "His war service was not the glamorous one of leading armies into battle, but was the far more important one of getting equipment and war materiel produced and delivered to those armies."

When President Roosevelt called on Knudsen to leave GM and come to Washington to help the war effort, he accepted. "I remember so well his statement to the effect that America had given him everything he had and he owed anything he could give to America," Kelly said.

Accepting the award on his father's behalf, Semon Knudsen remarked, "There is no tribute that could please him more, since you represent the same patriotic feeling that has been the driving motive in his life."

An expert in mass production by assembly-line workers, Knudsen spent three decades in the automobile industry - 10 years at Ford, 13 years as president of the Chevrolet division of GM, and three years as GM president.

In Washington, Knudsen served on the Advisory Commission to the Council for National Defense, and then as director general of the Office of Production Management (later the War Production Board).

In January 1942, Knudsen was commissioned Lieutenant General of the Army, the only person to enter service directly from civilian life at such a high rank. In 1944, he became director of the Air Technical Service Command at Wright Field, where he coordinated the B-29 bomber program. He retired from the Army in June 1945. He died in 1948, at 69.

For more on Knudsen, click here (,_William_S.).


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