Delk M. Oden
Biography: Delk McCorkel Oden was born July 13, 1911, the son of Samuel Bell Oden and Clara Elizabeth Henderson. He attended Marion Military Institute in Alabama and later West Point, graduating in 1937, as a 2nd Lt. (Infantry).
Service Time: His first assignment as an officer was with the 27th Infantry in Hawaii. With WWII beginning in Europe, he transferred to the Cavalry and served in the 7th and 10th Regiments. In January of 1942, he transferred to the 84th Reconnaissance of the 4th Armored Division and later as a Major, took command of the 704th Tank Destroyer Battalion on June 22, 1942. The unit had been formed, just six months before, in December of 1941, and required extensive training to meet the standard he would set for them.
Delk was promoted to Lt. Colonel on January 23, 1943, and the unit was tasked with testing the new T-70 (M18) Tank Destroyers. Their time with the new TDs brought about a number of changes, which would be incorporated in the final units. Delk continued with the unit, which would receive considerable accolades for their performance in both training within the U.S. and their exploits during the early part or the war.
The 704th would go on to receive credit for campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, the Ardennes and Central Europe. In August of 1944, Delk was reassigned to the 35th Tank Battalion, also serving under the 4th Armored Division and the 3rd Army. On March 28, 1945, while leading his forces, he would be involved in actions leading to the award of the Distinguished Service Cross.
The photo on left was Delk while attending West Point. The photo on right is from 1942, at the beginning of his command of the 704th.
Delk would continue his service to our country in a number of varied assignments, most notable were Commanding General, Army Support Command in Vietnam from July of 1963 to February 1965. He would also serve as Commanding General, U.S. Army Aviation Center, located at Fort Rucker, Alabama, from 1967 to 1970. He retired on October 1, 1970, at the rank of Major General.
His extensive list of accomplishments and awards include the DSC, two awards of the Silver Star, four awards of the Distinguished Service Medal, two awards of the Bronze Star (one with Valor device), Legion of Merit, two Purple Hearts, two awards of the Croix De Guerre and many, many, more.
Delk had married the former Margaret Avery and the couple would have three children, Delk, Margaret and Ray. The elder Margaret was a founding member of the Armed Forces Community Services.
Rather than sit back and enjoy his retirement, Delk would share his vast military and organizational experience with industry, as a consultant. In 1973, he helped form Bell Helicopter International and became the President and Chief Operation Officer. He left the company in 1975, finally retiring to the Washington D.C. area.
Delk passed away on June 13, 1997 and was buried at the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, Section 30, Site 739-LH.
I was able to contact Delk’s son Ray concerning his father and he was kind enough to provide the following essay, written by his son Michael. The Essay was done for the Valley Forge Military Academy and was an Admiral Becton Military History Research Award winner for 2010, written by CDT 1LT Michael Oden, Class of 2010 (grandson of Delk Oden).
Delk himself wrote a number of articles relating to his military experience. The following was written for the October 1962, issue of Military Review. At the time, Delk held the rank of Brigadier General.
The following note was published in the September October 1997 issue of Armor Magazine. It was written by the publication’s Editor-In-Chief, Lt. Col. Terry A. Blakely, concerning the recent death of Delk Oden.
I want to thank the Delk family and particularly Ray and his son Michael for providing information, photos and the essay shown above. I also want to thank Digital Data Online, Inc. and E-Yearbook.com for the use of the photo of Delk, while a student at West Point.
A short write-up and his grave marker can be seen on the Arlington National Cemetery website, which is a private site, run by Michael Robert Patterson. The link is provided below.