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Bill Thayer

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[image ALT: A head‑and-shoulders photograph, three-quarters left, of a middle-aged man with a brush moustache. He wears an early‑20c military tunic, crossed by a leather strap from his right shoulder; on his left breast pocket, four military medals: three of them with coin-shaped medallions hanging from their ribbons, the fourth a five-branched Maltese cross. He is David Matson King, a West Point graduate and United States Army officer, the subject of this webpage.]

David Matson King

The preceding image, and the text that follows, are reproduced from (the report of the) Sixty-third Annual Reunion of the Association of the Graduates of the United States Military Academy, June 9, 1932.

 p185  David Matson King
No. 3523 Class of 1893
Died January 27, 1932, at Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois,
aged 62 years

David Matson King was born in Smyrna, Ohio, November 5, 1869, the son of J. P. and Nancy McClellan King. His mother was the niece of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.McClellan of Civil War fame. David King attended the public schools in Freeport, Ohio, and graduated from Mt. Union College, Alliance, Ohio, in 1888. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy from Ohio in June, 1889, and upon graduation from West Point in June, 1893, was commissioned second lieutenant, 4th Artillery and ordered to Washington Barracks, D. C., for duty. In August, 1896, he returned to West Point as an instructor in mathematics, remaining on that duty until January, 1899, having been promoted to first lieutenant, Ordnance, November 21, 1898. On January 23, 1899, he was ordered to Allegheny Arsenal, Pennsylvania, as inspector of steel. From Allegheny Arsenal he transferred to Watervliet Arsenal, New York, and remained at that station until February, 1902.

Colonel King served successively at Sandy Hook Proving Ground, New Jersey, and at Benicia, California, until May, 1905. He was promoted to captain, Ordnance Department, August 1, 1905, and transferred to Manila, Philippine Islands, where he was first Acting Ordnance Officer of the Philippine Division and later Chief Ordnance Officer of that Division, and Commanding Officer, Manila Ordnance Depot. Returning to the United States in 1906 he was ordered to Rock Island Arsenal, Illinois, for duty. He was promoted to Major, Ordnance Department, February 29, 1908, and remained on duty at Rock Island Arsenal. On July 1, 1916, he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, Ordnance Department, and in July the following year was transferred to Washington, D. C., for duty in the Office Chief of Ordnance in charge of design of building, purchase of machinery, and the procurement of officers and personnel for the operation of plants in France for the repair and maintenance of all Ordnance material of the American Expeditionary Forces. On January 8, 1918, he was promoted  p186 to Colonel, Ordnance Department, National Army, and on February 18 of the same year sailed for France. While with the American Expeditionary Forces he continued in charge of plants for Ordnance repair work until July 14, 1919, when he returned to the United States for duty in the office Chief of Ordnance as inspector of Ordnance establishments. On March 2, 1920, he was given the permanent rank of colonel, Ordnance Department, and on June 3, 1921, he returned to Rock Island Arsenal for duty as Commanding Officer and has remained at that post and on that duty since that time.

Colonel King was an Officer of the Legion of Honor (France), and has been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal (United States), the citation for the latter reading as follows:

"For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. Displaying exceptional technical knowledge and comprehension of existing conditions he ably organized, installed, and operated in the services of Supply, and in the Army Area, an extensive chain of repair facilities for the maintenance of Ordnance material. With tireless energy and unfailing devotion to his important duties he perfected a loyal and efficient organization capable of meeting all demands made upon it."

Only recently Colonel King was the recipient of congratulations upon his citation by the Inspector General of the Army for the high state of efficiency of the Rock Island Arsenal. The Inspector General's report said of the Arsenal Commandant: "His administration of its affairs has been characterized by zealous and unremitting personal supervision over all details of management involving the expenditure of government funds and supplies with a view to effecting all practical economies and securing maximum return from all expenditures." In transmitting this report to Colonel King, the Assistant Secretary of War, Colonel F. H. Payne, added his own commendation saying that the report "only confirms the impression that I received when I last visited you. This office has known that the procurement mission with which you have been entrusted has at all times been ably performed. The position that you have assumed in the community surrounding Rock Island is not the least important of the achievements of your long and successful administration of Rock Island Arsenal. The War Department has greatly benefited by having you hold so high a place in the esteem of your community."

Colonel King had been ill since June, 1931 but had continued at his work to November 12th. It was characteristic that he did not want  p187 to leave his duties. Even as his illness progressed, and he was confined to his home, he desired to keep in touch with many of the arsenal affairs. His mind remained alert and keen as he gradually failed in physical strength.

The end came quietly with his wife, Mrs. Marguerite F. King, at his bedside. Colonel King suffered a sinking spell at 9 o'clock the night of January 26th and passed into a state of coma from which he failed to arouse. His death was directly due to plastic or secondary anaemia, a breaking down of the blood cells.

The rugged constitution, iron nerve and buoyant outlook on life which bore Colonel King through a most noteworthy army career and enabled him to so successfully supervise the responsible affairs of the nation's greatest arsenal more than a decade, were never more apparent than in his last illness. To the end of his consciousness, he had faith that he would recover.

Rock Island Arsenal, where Colonel King had spent twenty‑two of his near forty-three years of Army service, was the scene of a great tribute at his funeral on January 30th. Solemn funeral services of the Catholic Church were conducted in the auditorium at the Arsenal and were attended by high dignitaries of the Church, officers and organizations of the Army and civic and patriotic groups of the Tri‑Cities. Burial took place in the national cemetery on the island he loved so well. His grave over­looks the site of the new Moline Bridge, a project in which he was greatly interested.

In the death of Colonel David M. King, Ordnance Department, U. S. Army, January 27, 1932, the Ordnance Department and the nation lost an outstanding soldier and citizen. Long acknowledged a leader in his profession, Colonel King was an officer of the highest ability whose kindly bearing and tireless administrative powers won for him the admiration of his fellow-citizens, the respect of his associates and the commendation of his country.

Secretary, Association of Graduates.

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Page updated: 25 Jan 15