Major General Russell Peter Hartle (June 26, 1889 – November 23, 1961) was a U.S. Army officer who commanded the 34th Infantry Division and V Corps in the European Theater of Operations (ETOUSA) during World War II.
Hartle graduated from St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland in 1910, and received a commission as an infantry Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. Soon thereafter, he was sent to the Philippine Islands as the American military government was still attempting to stabilize the country nine years after the end of the Philippine–American War, yet still in turmoil due in large part to the Moro Rebellion.
In 1912, Hartle served with the 10th Infantry at Fort Douglas, Utah. From 1913 to 1916, he served with the 20th Infantry on the US border with Mexico during the Mexican Border War. During WWI, Hartle served as a Captain in the 13th Division as it was preparing to leave for France in 1919. After WWI, he was a professor of Military Science and Tactics at Utah Agricultural College (now Utah State University). Hartle graduated from the Army Infantry School in 1924, the Command and General Staff College in 1925, and the Army War College in 1930. He returned to the Philippines in 1930, was promoted to the rank of Major, and went on to Shanghai in 1932, as senior battalion commander of the 31st Infantry, under orders to protect American lives and property as the Japanese invaded China. In 1934, Hartle graduated from the Naval War College, and from 1934 to 1938, he served as a member of the War Plans Division of the War Department General Staff. Hartle was the first person to graduate from both the Army and Naval War Colleges.
Promoted to the rank of Colonel, Hartle commanded the 65th Infantry Regiment in Puerto Rico from 1939 to August 1941. His mission was to pull together American and Puerto Rican forces and prepare them to defend the Caribbean and eastern coast of the United States from any Axis aggression. In October 1940, while serving as commander of the mobile forces of Puerto Rico, Hartle was promoted to Brigadier General.
In April 1941, war plan RAINBOW 5 was issued to counter further military assault by Germany against England. On August 5, 1941, Hartle was promoted to Major General and placed in command of the 34th Infantry Division while the 34th was on maneuvers in Louisiana. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the declaration of war by Germany against the United States on December 11, 1941, war plan MAGNET Force was activated. Pursuant to that war plan, in January 1942, the 34th Division under Hartle’s command was the first U.S. division shipped overseas – to Northern Ireland to begin the ETOUSA.
In the Spring of 1942, Hartle recommended his aide-de-camp, artillery Captain William Darby, to organize and train the first modern-day American Ranger unit, the 1st Ranger Battalion. The recommendation was authorized by General George Marshall in May 1942. On May 20, 1942, Hartle was designated commanding general of V Corps under Major General James E. Chaney, commanding general, U.S. Army Forces in the British Isles. Hartle continued to serve in that capacity under Lt. General Dwight D. Eisenhower from June 15, 1942, to October 24, 1942.
On November 2, 1942, Hartle became Deputy Commander of American troops in the ETOUSA. Hartle commanded V Corps until his reassignment effective July 7, 1943, to Headquarters, Army Ground Forces, Washington D.C. On July 17, 1943, Hartle was reassigned to Camp Fannin, Texas to train replacement troops. The exact reason for the reassignment is unclear; however, it was most likely due to General Marshall’s dissatisfaction with Hartle as a potential battlefield commander. Marshall was believed to keep a “little black book” containing the names of key officers he deemed worthy of battlefield command. It is possible that Hartle just did not make it into the book. Major General Hartle retired from the Army with a physical disability on June 30, 1946, while living in Tyler, Texas.
Upon his retirement from the military, Hartle returned to Washington County, Maryland. On December 14, 1945 at the Scottish Rite Temple, in Wichita, Kansas, Hartle was awarded his 33rd Degree Rank of Freemasonry. In 1950, Hartle made an unsuccessful run as a Democrat to become Congressman for the 6th Congressional District of Maryland. He died November 23, 1961 in Bethesday, Maryland, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Hagerstown, Maryland.