Edward Allen (Ed) Partain (1929–1996)

Edward Allen (Ed) Partain was a U.S. Army officer who fought in the wars in Korea and Vietnam, eventually leading the Fifth Army as a lieutenant general.

Ed Partain was born in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 26, 1929, to Eugene and Zoe Partain. He had one brother. His family moved to Paragould (Greene County) when he was a child, and he grew up there prior to attending the Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois. After graduating, he was appointed to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he was a cadet company commander and taught Sunday school.

Immediately after graduating from West Point, he married Mary Frances Johnson of Paragould on June 5, 1951; they had known each other since the first grade. They would have a son and a daughter.

After attending the infantry school at Fort Benning, Georgia, Partain served with the Twenty-Seventh Infantry Regiment, Twenty-Fifth Division in Korea in 1952–1953, earning a Bronze Star, a Purple Heart, and the Combat Infantryman Badge. While Partain would mainly operate in company-level roles after his return from Korea until 1960, in 1957, Arkansas Gazette columnist Ernie Deane wrote that he met Partain in Germany, where the captain was training as one of the first officers of the newly formed U.S. Army Special Forces. He also would gain Army Aviator wings and a Master Parachutist Badge.

Partain was a tactical officer at West Point from 1960 to 1963 and then attended the General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before going to Vietnam as a company commander, where he received another Bronze Star and Purple Heart. Returning to the United States, he attended the Armed Forces Staff College in 1965.

By then a lieutenant colonel, Partain returned to Vietnam to fight with the 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade. He commanded a battalion in the Battle of the Slopes in Kontum Province on June 20–22, 1967, in which one of his companies was wiped out by North Vietnamese troops. While serving with the 503rd, Partain received a Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity against the enemy” and a Distinguished Flying Cross for “extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight,” as well as a third Purple Heart and a second Combat Infantryman Badge.

After duty in Hawaii in early 1968, he spent a year at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, and then worked in the War Plans Division in Washington DC. In 1970, he attended the helicopter school at Fort Rucker, Alabama. He served a stint in the Eighty-Second Airborne Division’s support command before becoming the Eighty-Second’s chief of staff in March 1971, receiving command of the division’s First Brigade in early 1972. He received a Legion of Merit for “outstanding service” with the Eighty-Second Airborne.

Partain became the deputy director of operations for the army’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations in Washington DC in August 1973 before serving as a high-ranking liaison with the Iranian army from May 1974 to June 1976. A month later, he was made assistant division commander of the First Armored Division in Europe. From July 1977 until November 1979, Partain was director of logistics and security assistance for the United States European command, earning a Defense Superior Service Medal.

He next served as deputy commanding general of the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, Georgia, then as commanding general of the First Infantry Division (Mechanized) at Fort Riley, Kansas. In January 1983, Partain reached the pinnacle of his career as a lieutenant general, commanding the Fifth United States Army at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Partain retired on January 31, 1985. He and his wife retired to Whispering Pines, North Carolina, where he worked as a consultant. He died of a heart attack on March 24, 1996. His ashes rest at the Columbarium at the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point.

For additional information:
Deane, Ernie. “Arkansans Are Trained to Do Guerrilla Work.” Arkansas Gazette, May 31, 1957, p. 4.

“Edward Allen Partain.” The Hall of Valor Project. https://valor.militarytimes.com/hero/143537 (accessed September 30, 2022).

“Edward Allen Partain, West Point 1951.” http://defender.west-point.org/service/display.mhtml?u=18213&i=3777&msclkid=7a2d98abaa1511ecab99b317d11a17ee (accessed September 30, 2022).

“LTG Edward Allen Partain.” Find-a-Grave. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/126738892/edward-allen-partain?msclkid=5fa0a729aa1111ec94daaadcf563ffd7 (accessed September 30, 2022).

“Mary Frances Johnson, And Lt. Edward Partain Wed at West Point, N.Y.” Sequoyah County (Oklahoma) Times, June 8, 1951, p. 5.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

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