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Samuel D. Rockenbach papers

Identifier: MS-0001
The collection consists of papers (1,000 items) documenting Rockenbach's career in the United States Army. Topics include:
  • His duties as Engineer officer in Cuba (1898-1902)
  • His duties in the Phillippines (1903-1910)
  • His duties France as Chief of the Tank Corps, American Expeditionary Forces (1917-1919)
  • His postwar work with the Tank Corps until his retirement in 1933
The collection contains the following:
  • Correspondence and memoranda (1889-1945)
  • Military orders (1891-1933)
  • Photographs
  • Miscellaneous personal documents (certificates, travel souvenirs, etc.)
  • Tank Corps material, including operations reports (1918), numerous photographs of early tank designs and tank maneuvers, drawings of tank designs, and reports and minutes of the Inter-Allied Tank Committee.
  • Letters and photographs documenting the early army career of George S. Patton, Jr., who served under Rockenbach during World War I (ca. 15 items). Other notable correspondents are John J. Pershing, Leonard Wood, Douglas MacArthur, James G. Harbord, and Charles P. Summerall.


  • 1889-1945


Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Manuscript collections in the VMI Archives are made available for educational and research use. The VMI Archives should be cited as the source. The user assumes all responsibility for identifying and satisfying any copyright holders. Materials from our collections may not be redistributed, published or reproduced without permission from the VMI Archives. Contact the VMI Archives for additional information.


3 cubic feet (6 manuscript boxes and oversized material)


Papers (1889-1945) of United States Army officer Samuel Dickerson Rockenbach, notable for his role in the establishment of the U.S. Army Tank Corps during World War I and his postwar work in the development of tank warfare.

Biographical / Historical

Samuel Dickerson Rockenbach, United States Army officer, was born on January 27, 1869 in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was graduated from the Virginia Military Institute in 1889 and in 1891 was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant. He married Emma Baldwin on October 19, 1898. Prior to World War I he saw tours of duty in Cuba, the Philippines, various U.S. posts, and served as a military observer in Germany in 1914. He arrived in France in June 1917 with the American Expeditionary Force and from 1917-1919 served as Chief of the newly formed Tank Corps, A.E.F. He was notable for his role in the establishment of the Tank Corps and for his work in the development of tank warfare.

At the end of the war, Rockenbach continued his work with tanks, serving as the Army's Chief of the Tank Corps and as Commander of the Tank School at Camp Meade, Maryland. He retired to Brownsville, Texas in 1933 and died in 1952 at the Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, DC.


The collection is divided into 8 series:
1. Correspondence and memoranda, 1889-1945
2. Military orders, 1891-1933
3. Subject files
4. Articles by Rockenbach
5. Speeches and lectures
6. Personal file
7. Bound volumes and printed material
8. Photographs

Physical Location

Manuscripts Stacks; and Oversized case 1, drawer 5

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was received from the estate of Samuel D. Rockenbach in 1953.
A Guide to the Samuel D. Rockenbach Papers, 1889-1945
Description rules

Revision Statements

  • 2016: Reviewed

Repository Details

Part of the Virginia Military Institute Archives Repository

VMI Archives
Preston Library
Lexington VA 24450