Biography

Crombez, Marcel Gustave
[Col CO 5thCR]

biography

5th CR

Palmer (left) and Crombez
biography

The 1st Cav was still a skittish division with poor and aged leadership at the regimental level. Hap Gay took one step to remedy that weakness: He sacked the 5th Cav's Carl Rohsenberger. Gay's ADC, Charlie Palmer, remembered: "Carl was willing and brave, but just too old and too deaf."[8-3]

To replace Rohsenberger, Gay and Palmer selected West Pointer (1925) Marcel Gustave Crombez, forty-nine. Born in Belgium, Crombez had enlisted in the Army as a private in 1919. Two years later he gained an appointment to West Point, where he had overlapped three years with Charlie Palmer. During World War II Crombez had missed out on the choice combat assignments, serving Stateside as a troop trainer and inspector for the Army Ground Forces. At the tail end of the war (1945) he finally got assigned to a combat command (108th Regiment, 40th Division) in the Pacific, but he saw no noteworthy action and received no awards. Temporarily promoted to colonel, he reverted to lieutenant colonel after the war. He commanded the 17th and 32nd Infantry Regiments of the 7th Division in Korea during the Occupation, following which, in 1949, he got his eagles back.

Although at forty-nine Crombez was also "old" for regimental command, his benefactor, Charlie Palmer, believed him to be a "hell of a good field soldier" who could put backbone in the lackluster 5th Cav. Another senior 1st Cav commander shared that view. He remembered that Crombez was "an aggressive commander and he was respected." But not everyone in the 1st Cav Division agreed. Many viewed Crombez as an inept troop leader who was utterly insensitive to his losses and to the welfare of his men, an egotist and self-promoter who was in Korea principally to "get his ticket punched" as a combat regimental commander to better qualify himself for promotion to general. One West Pointer with the 5th Cav said: "Brave, yes. Professional, no." Another West Pointer said: "He was a son-of-a-bitch."[8-4]

 

 

 In the 3/5 Charles Parziale had replaced the missing Edgar Treacy on February 16. At Crombez's direction Parziale was transferring out the senior officers (John Barrett, Norman Allen, et al.) who were openly critical of the callous loss of men in the Chipyong rescue. See Battle of Chipyong.

September 1, 1950

In contrast, Marcel Crombez resented the arrival of Edgar J. Treacy in the 5th CR. During World War II Treacy, a handsome, bright Army "comer," had become a protégé of XIV Corps commander Oscar W. Griswold and was promoted to full colonel  on a par with Crombez, who was ten years his senior. As such  the story went  Crombez and Treacy had crossed swords someplace. One account had it that Treacy had served on a board which had recommended Crombez's reduction in rank to lieutenant colonel after the war. Whether this was the case, or whether, as others in the 3/5 analyzed it, Crombez was "jealous" of Treacy's high Army connections and "command presence" and obvious bright future, there was an instant personality clash between Crombez and Treacy which would lead to extreme difficulties for the 3/5 and ultimately, some would charge, to Treacy's death. The S3 of the 1/5, James M. Gibson, remembered: "The Third Battalion hated Crombez and vice versa."[9-58]