Robert T. Frederick was born on March 14, 1907, in San Francisco, California. He attended Staunton Military Academy from 1923 to 1924 and the United States Military Academy from 1924 to 1928.
After the United States entered World War II, Lieutenant Colonel Frederick was tasked with raising a new U.S.-Canadian 1st Special Service Force. On February 2, 1944, Frederick, now a full colonel, and his men landed at Anzio. They were the first Allied troops to enter the Italian capital of Rome on June 4, 1944. Frederick was decorated twice with the Distinguished Service Cross, the U.S. Army’s second-highest award for valor in combat.
At the age of just 37, he was promoted to the rank of Major General and given command of the 45th Infantry Division on December 3, 1944. He led the 45th Division until September 10, 1945. The 45th saw heavy combat in French Alsace from December 1944 to February 1945. In mid-March, the Thunderbirds were assigned to XV Corps for the final drive into Germany. The division crossed the Rhine and moved into Bavaria, participating in heavy fighting in Aschaffenburg from March 28 to April 3 and then drove to Nuremberg, taken in heavy fighting from April 16–20.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill said General Frederick was “the greatest fighting general of all time” and “if we had had a dozen more like him, we would have smashed Hitler in 1942.”