Stilwell, Joseph (Warren)(1883–1946) soldier; born in Palatka, Fla. A 1904 West Point graduate, he served as an intelligence officer in France from 1917 to 1918, and during three tours in China in the 1920s and 1930s, he became an expert on the Chinese and proficient in the language. During his term at the Infantry School, Fort Benning, Ga. (1929–33), he also acquired his nickname, "Vinegar Joe," because of his often caustic manner, the same that poisoned so many of his dealings with others throughout his controversial career. Named commander of American forces in the China-Burma-India Theater in February 1942, he succeeded in overseeing the construction of a road (later named after him) to link China with India. His other mission—to improve the fighting efficiency of the Chinese Army—led him to clash repeatedly with Chiang Kai-shek, whom he considered more interested in amassing power and fighting Communists than in defeating the Japanese. Stilwell also fell out with the British military but it was Chiang's displeasure that finally led to his recall in October 1944. He was assigned to serve the Army's ground forces under Gen. MacArthur and he succeeded Gen. Buckner to command the Tenth Army's final victory on Okinawa. He finished out his career in command of the Sixth Army in California but his proudest moment was to be awarded the Combat Infantrymen Badge.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.