Brigadier General Arthur Seymour Champeny is the only American to earn the Distinguished Service Cross in three different wars. In addition to his three Distinguished Service Crosses, he was awarded the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, five Purple Hearts, two French Croix de Guerre, the French Legion of Honor, and the Italian Bronze Medal of Military Valor.
Champeny earned his first Distinguished Service Cross in September 1918 for bravery near St.-Mihiel in the northeast of France, while serving as 1st Lieutenant, 356th Infantry Regiment, 89th Infantry Division.
Champeny was awarded his second Distinguished Service Cross (or more accurately a first Oak Leaf Cluster to the award) in connection with military operations near Infante Santa Maria in Italy, May 1944.
Following the end of World War II, Lieutenant General John Hodge appointed Champeny the first Director of National Defense in Korea. Though he was still a colonel, he wore the rank of a brigadier general while serving in this position. Champeny was the author of the Bamboo Plan to create a police reserve or constabulary of 25,000 men. Champeny was responsible for organizing Korean Army and Navy and signed the commission documents for its first officers. He was also later the Seoul area commander. Later, Champeny was Deputy Military Governor and then Civil Administrator of Korea.
Following the outbreak of combat, Champeny was named commander of the segregated 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Division replacing Colonel Horton V. White. At the time of his appointment, Champeny was 57 years old making him more than two years older than the division commander.
Champeny’s command of the Regiment was brief and controversial. The day after taking command, Champeny reportedly told members of the Regiment’s 3rd battalion that his experience during World War II showed that “coloreds did not make good combat soldiers” and had a “reputation for running”. Champeny later defended his comments as an attempt to stir the unit’s pride and the historical evidence is mixed as to its impact. Champeny’s defense of his actions did not convince many of the Regiment’s black troops. “I found Colonel Champeny biased, gutless and totally inefficient.”
He was awarded his third Distinguished Service Cross and a fifth Purple Heart for military operations near Haman in Korea, serving as Commander of 24th Infantry Regiment, 25th Infantry Division.