Major General Fox Conner
November 2, 1874|
Slate Springs, Mississippi
|Died||October 13, 1951(aged 76)|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1898-1938|
|Commands held||Hawaiian Department
Panama Canal Zone
First Corps Area
First United States Army
|Battles/wars||World War I|
|Awards||Distinguished Service Medal
Croix de guerre
Fox Conner (November 2, 1874-October 13, 1951) was a major general of the United States Army. He served as operations officer for the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, but is best remembered as "the man who made Eisenhower".
Conner was born at Slate Springs, in Calhoun County, Mississippi. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy on June 15, 1894, and graduated as a 2nd lieutenant in the 1st Artillery Regiment on April 26, 1898.
His first assignment was to Fort Adams in Newport, RI until October. After brief assignments in Huntsville, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia he was sent to Cuba in January 1899 to serve with the Cuban occupation force.
In August 1900 he was reassigned to Washington Barracks (today named Fort McNair) in Washington, D.C. He was promoted to captain on September 3, 1901 and was transferred to Fort Hamilton, NY in November 1901 to command the 123d Coast Artillery Company. He held this assignment until August 1905 when he attended the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He then served as adjutant of the Artillery sub-post of Fort Riley, Kansas from July 4, 1906 to May 1907.
In September 1907 Conner was assigned to 3rd Division, General Staff and also as a student at the Army War College from which he graduated in July 1911. Conner was then attached to the French 22nd Field Artillery Regiment in Versailles, France from October 1911 to October 1912.
He developed a reputation as a rising star in the Army, serving in the Army General Staff, as an instructor in the War College, and in several other positions in which he influenced the future direction of the Army.
World War I
In June, 1917 Conner was selected by General John J. Pershing to be a member of the operations section (G3) for the American Expeditionary Force in France. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on May 15, 1917 and to temporary colonel on August 5. In November Conner was selected as Pershing's Assistant Chief of Staff from Operations (G-3) with Colonel John McAuley Palmer under his immediate supervision. Another one of his subordinates was then-Lieutenant Colonel George C. Marshall, for whom Conner developed an immense respect, later recommending Marshall as the ideal soldier and a military genius.
Conner was promoted to temporary brigadier general on August 8, 1918. After the armistice was signed in November, Conner was assigned to the Army General Staff in Washington and was promoted to permanent colonel on August 22, 1919.
For his service as the "brain" of the AEF, Conner was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and the Croix de Guerre. After the war, Conner wrote the after-action report that influenced the 1920 National Defense Act that set the course of the interwar Army.
His temporary appointment to brigadier general expired on June 30, 1920 and he reverted to his permanent rank of colonel.
Conner and Eisenhower
Conner's most lasting contribution was his mentorship of a young Army officer named Dwight Eisenhower. Conner first met Eisenhower in 1919 at the Infantry Tank School at Camp Meade and the two men immediately developed a great mutual respect. Following his promotion to brigadier general in the Regular Army April 27, 1921, Conner took command of the 20th Infantry Brigade in Panama. He invited Eisenhower to join his staff and for three years Conner conducted a systematic course of study for Eisenhower that ranged from extensive readings in military history to daily practical experience writing field orders for every aspect of the command.
Conner had three principles or rules of war for a democracy that he imparted to both Eisenhower and Marshall. They were:
- Never fight unless you have to;
- Never fight alone; and
- Never fight for long.
Of particular importance to Eisenhower's later career, Conner emphasized the importance of coalition command in preparation for the inevitable war. Said Eisenhower,
One of the subjects on which [Conner] talked to me most was allied command, its difficulties and its problems. Another was George C. Marshall. Again and again General Conner said to me, 'We cannot escape another great war. When we go into that war it will be in company with allies...We must insist on individual and single responsibility—leaders will have to learn how to overcome nationalistic considerations in the conduct of campaigns. One man who can do it is Marshall—he is close to being a genius.' 
Conner pulled strings to get his protégé admitted to the Command and Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, where Eisenhower graduated first in his class thanks in no small part to his comprehensive Panamanian tutelage.
Conner left Panama in late 1924 to assume his duties as Acting Chief of Staff, G-4 in Washington, starting on December 1, 1924.
Conner was promoted to major general on October 20, 1925 and assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff on March 9, 1926. He commanded the 1st Division at Fort Hamilton, NY from May 1 to September 1, 1927 and the Hawaiian Department in Honolulu from January 25, 1928 to August 5, 1930. He was assigned as commander of the 1st Corps Area in Boston on October 7, 1930.
Conner was Pershing's preference for Chief of Staff in 1930, but was passed over in favor of Douglas MacArthur. He was assigned to command the First United States Army in 1936 and retired on November 4, 1938 after forty-four years of service.
Conner's greatest disappointment was that he never had the opportunity to lead troops in wartime. Like Marshall, Conner was considered too valuable a staff officer to be released into the field. Nevertheless, he served as role model and inspiration to future World War II high commanders like Marshall, Eisenhower, and George S. Patton. Eisenhower considered Conner to be the greatest soldier he ever knew, saying: "In sheer ability and character, he was the outstanding soldier of my time."
- Distinguished Service Medal
- Purple Heart
- Spanish War Service Medal
- Army of Cuban Occupation Medal
- Victory Medal
- Companion of the Order of the Bath
- Commander of the French Legion of Honor
- Commander of the Belgian Order of the Crown
- Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. IV. pg. 646.
- Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. V. pg. 600.
- Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. VI A. pg. 833.
- Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. VII. pg. 463.
- Gates, Robert (Summer 2008 issue). "Reflections on Leadership". Parameters (United States Army War College) (Winter 2010-11): 185–191. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1997). Crusade in Europe. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5668-6.
- Carlo D'Este (2003). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-5687-7.
- Nineteen Stars; by Edgar F. Puryear, Jr. ISBN 0-89141-148-8 (paperback)
- The Next Middle East War; by Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense 
- Grey Eminence: Fox Conner and the Art of Mentorship; by Edward Cox ISBN 1-58107-203-1 (paperback)
- Cox, E. 2010. Grey Eminence: Fox Conner and the Art of Mentorship. New Forums Press. ISBN 978-1-58107-203-7
- Perry, M. 2007. Partners in Command: George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace. The Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1-59420-105-9
Dennis E. Nolan
|Commanding General of the First United States Army
30 April 1936 to 4 November 1938
Hugh A. Drum