Colonel Charles Rolland Gildart, Sr. was born on 14 October 1894, in Stockbridge, Michigan, the son of William B. and Henrietta (Sawyer) Gildart. His father was an attorney at law, was the founder, editor, and publisher of the Stockbridge (Michigan) Sun, and later the editor and publisher of the Albion (Michigan) Leader. Charles was the youngest of a family of seven children, one of whom was Lieutenant Colonel Robert C. Gildart, USMA Class of 1911, who died in the 1919 occupation of Germany.
When Charles Gildart was eight years of age, the family moved to Albion where his father purchased a second weekly newspaper, having sold his property in Stockbridge. Charles learned the printer’s trade as he grew up and entered Albion College with the Class of 1916. While nearing the end of his senior year he received a senatorial appointment to the Academy which he entered in 1916, with what was then known as the Class of 1920, but which, because of the coming of WWI, became the Class of November 1918. Though not present, he was graduated from Albion College with the degree of AB with its Class of 1917.
He was graduated from USMA early (on 1 November 1918) because of the war, and he became a second lieutenant in the Field Artillery. Assistant Secretary of War Crowell delivered the graduation address, promising that all of the class would be in France by 1 January 1919. Ten days later the Secretary was released from his promise by the Armistice, which came while Charles was at home on graduation leave.
The School of Fire at Fort Sill, Oklahoma was his first assignment. This was followed by a tour of duty with the 7th Field Artillery of the 1st Division stationed in the Rhineland, Germany. When he sailed from Hoboken in June of 1919, a dense fog settled on the ocean, resulting in a collision some fifty miles out of New York. Passengers were put in life boats and picked up by another outgoing transport, which towed the badly injured ship back to land. He sailed again on the Mount Vernon.
After service in Germany in the Army of Occupation, he returned to the US with the 1st Division and began a series of duty assignments that included the Field Artillery School, Camp Knox, Kentucky; 78th Field Artillery, Camp Grant; 9th Field Artillery, Fort Snelling; University of Chicago; 8th Field Artillery, Schofield Barracks; Reserve instructor, Louisville, Kentucky; senior instructor, 108th Field Artillery, PA NG, Philadephia; commanding officer, 2d Field Artillery Battalion, Fort Clayton, C.Z.
Early in World War II he was assigned to the General Staff Corps by War Department order. He served as assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, Caribbean Defense Command, Quarry Heights, C.Z. until the spring of 1943 when, after four years’ service in Panama, which had included three promotions reaching the grade of colonel, he returned to “stateside” assignments.
As division artillery officer, 12th Armored Division, he sailed for Europe in September 1944, landing at Avonmouth, England. Training continued in the vicinity of Salisbury Plain until mid-November, when he embarked with his unit at Southampton for the cross Channel trip to Le Havre.
With the 12th Armored Division his Division Artillery became a part of the Seventh Army in the Vosges near Luneville, and when his battalions were committed to action he used the head start to get off the first round of ammunition fired by the division in its part of the war, at 1638, 5 December 1944, from a battery position of “A” of the 493d A.F.A., near Weisslinger, Lorraine, France. The 12th spearheaded the progress of the Third Army from Trier to the Rhine, reverted to the Seventh, and crossed the river on a pontoon bridge at Worms on 18 March 1945. The division seized a bridge over the Danube intact at Dilligen, and artillery positions had to be organized for fire against a possible counterattack, which came, however, only by air, and futilely. The war ended for the division, and for him at the foot of the Alps.
Post-war assignments included chief of staff, 9th Infantry Division, Fort Dix; commanding officer, Fort Buchanan General Depot, Puerto Rico; chief of staff, US Army Forces, Antilles, Fort Brooke, Puerto Rico. He was retired 31 March 1951 at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Washington DC and in a short time proceeded to Sierra Madre, California where he and his wife, Isabel, made their home for twelve years. Here he responded to numerous appeals from civic affairs: moderator, Sierra Madre Congressional Church; fund chairman, local American Red Cross; member, board of directors of the City Library and that of the Community Fund; associate director, Civil Defense.
Writing, oil painting, genealogy, and travel were retirement hobbies. For the former, he received two awards from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, one of which was the George Washington Honor Medal. He was careful to take regular exercise, which took many forms: walking, swimming, horseshoe pitching, lawn bowling, golf. By religious preference he was a Congregationalist. He had great interest in genealogy, and wrote, and had published, a history of his family. He was a member of the California Society of Mayflower Descendants, the Sons of the American Revolution and the local Rancho Bernardo Community Church.
His wife, Isabel Seguine Gildart, died 20 March 1980. Living with him at the time of his death were his daughter, Ruth Gildart Lewis and her husband George Draper Lewis, III. Deceased is survived also by his son, Lieutenant Colonel Charles R. Gildart, Jr., USMA 1951; by six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
- Ms. Ruth G. Lewis