Franks in March 2003, during his tenure as CENTCOM commander.
|Birth name||Tommy Ray Bentley|
17 June 1945 |
Wynnewood, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Army|
|Years of service||1965-2003|
|Commands held||2nd Battalion, 78th Field Artillery
82nd Field Artillery Regiment
2nd Infantry Division
Third United States Army
United States Central Command
|Awards||Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit (4)
Bronze Star (5)
Purple Heart (3)
Air Medal (9)
Army Commendation Medal
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Tommy Ray Franks (born 17 June 1945) is a retired general in the United States Army. His last Army post was as the Commander of the United States Central Command, overseeing United States Armed Forces operations in a 25-country region, including the Middle East. Franks succeeded General Anthony Zinni to this position on 6 July 2000 and served until his retirement on 7 July 2003.
Franks was the U.S. general leading the attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan in response to the 11 September attacks on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon in 2001. He also led the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Early life and education
Franks was born Tommy Ray Bentley in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, and was adopted by Ray and Lorene "Pete" Parker Franks. Franks graduated from Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, Texas one year ahead of First Lady Laura Bush. He attended the University of Texas at Austin where he was a brother of Delta Upsilon International Fraternity. He dropped out of college after two years due to subpar grades and lack of motivation. Franks decided to give himself a "jolt" and joined the United States Army.
Later, through the military, Franks was able to enroll to the University of Texas at Arlington, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1971. Additionally, he holds a Master of Science in Public Administration from the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff College and the Army War College.
Franks enlisted in the United States Army in 1965 and attended Basic Training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri and received his Advanced Individual Training as a cryptologic analyst at Fort Devens, Massachusetts. Standing out amongst his peers in outstanding marksmanship and leadership qualities, PFC Franks was selected to attend the Artillery and Missile Officer Candidate School, Fort Sill, Oklahoma and was commissioned a second lieutenant in 1967. After an initial tour as a battery Assistant Executive Officer at Fort Sill, he was assigned to the US 9th Infantry Division, Republic of Vietnam, where he served as Forward observer, Aerial observer, and Assistant S-3 with 2nd Battalion, 4th Field Artillery. He also served as Fire Direction Officer and Fire Support Officer with 5th Battalion (mechanized), 60th Infantry during this tour.
In 1968, Franks returned to Fort Sill, where he commanded a cannon battery in the Artillery Training Center. In 1969, he was selected to participate in the Army's "Boot Strap Degree Completion Program," and subsequently attended the University of Texas at Arlington, where he finished his bachelor's degree in 1971. Following attendance at the Artillery Officer Advanced Course, he was assigned to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in West Germany in 1973, where he commanded the 1st Squadron Howitzer Battery and served as Squadron S-3. He also commanded the 84th Armored Engineer Company, and served as Regimental Assistant S-3 during this tour.
Franks, after graduating from the Armed Forces Staff College, was posted to The Pentagon in 1976, where he served as an Army Inspector General in the Investigations Division. In 1977 he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Staff, Army where he served on the Congressional Activities Team, and subsequently as an Executive Assistant.
In 1981, Franks returned to West Germany where he commanded 2nd Battalion, 78th Field Artillery for three years. He returned to the United States in 1984 to attend the Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where he also completed graduate studies at the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. He was next assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, as III Corps Deputy Assistant G3, a position he held until 1987 when he assumed command of Division Artillery, 1st Cavalry Division. He also served as Chief of Staff, 1st Cavalry Division during this tour.
His initial general officer assignment was Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver), 1st Cavalry Division during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm. During 1991-1992, he was assigned as Assistant Commandant of the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill. In 1992, he was assigned to Fort Monroe, Virginia as the first Director, Louisiana Maneuvers Task Force, Office of Chief of Staff of the Army, a position held until 1994 when he was reassigned to South Korea as the CJG3 of Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea.
From 1995-1997, General Franks commanded the 2nd Infantry Division, Korea. He assumed command of Third (U.S.) Army/Army Forces Central Command in Atlanta, Ga. in May 1997, a post he held until June 2000 when he was selected for promotion to general and assignment as Commander in Chief, United States Central Command. Franks was the U.S. general leading the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban in government in response to the 11 September attacks. He also led the 2003 invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
Critics of Franks' tenure as commander of US forces in Afghanistan cite his failure to deploy 800 US Army Rangers to the Battle of Tora Bora as a key factor in allowing Osama bin Laden to escape into Pakistan. Peter Bergen, a prominent journalist and expert on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, described Franks' decision as "one of the greatest military blunders in recent US history," which allowed al-Qaeda to recover and begin to mount an insurgency. Franks defended his decision with the support of other prominent US military leaders, citing a lack of conclusive evidence that bin-Laden was at Tora Bora, but Bergen and other critics, including the Delta Force commander at Tora Bora, Dalton Fury, claimed that the evidence that bin-Laden was present at the battle was very robust; Fury claimed that his team came within 2,000 meters of bin Laden's suspected position, but withdrew because of uncertainty over the number of al-Qaeda fighters guarding bin Laden and a lack of support from allied Afghan troops.
General Franks' retirement was announced on Thursday, 22 May 2003 . Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reportedly offered him the position of Army Chief of Staff, but he declined. On 7 July 2003 Franks' retirement took effect.
General Franks' awards include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal; Distinguished Service Medal (two awards); Legion of Merit (four awards); Bronze Star with Valor device and two oak leaf clusters; Purple Heart (two oak leaf clusters); Air Medal with Valor Device; Army Commendation Medal with Valor Device; and a number of U.S. and foreign service awards. He wears the Army Staff Identification Badge and the Aircraft Crewmember's Badge. He is a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire. In 2004, President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Authors suggest wrongly that Franks was worn down by repeated pressure from U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to reduce the number of U.S. troops in war plans and cancel the deployment of the 1st Cavalry Division, a scheduled follow-on unit that was slated for deployment in April 2003. (New York Times: Dash to Baghdad Left Top US Generals Divided 13 March 2006) More generally, they argue Franks' command was somewhat understandably focused on the immediate task in front of it – defeating Saddam Hussein and taking Baghdad – and few were willing to divert resources away from that effort and toward the long-term post-war needs.
The writers also question his decision during the war to keep sealift ships carrying the equipment for the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) at sea instead of bringing the equipment ashore in Kuwait sooner so the division could have entered Iraq earlier than it did to add to the force levels in post-war Iraq. Franks argues that by keeping the ships at sea the Iraqis were deceived into believing a U.S. attack was yet to come from the north through Turkey, though Colin Powell and others have questioned his view (Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, 2004).
Franks wanted to retire after the major combat phase of the war, tired from having planned for and prosecuted two major wars and led a war on terrorism since September 2001. As a result, Gordon and Trainor argue he was slow to act during the crucial months following the fall of Baghdad. They suggest there was a leadership void at U.S. Central Command because his two deputies, Michael Delong and John Abizaid, were at odds with each other until Abizaid succeeded Franks in the middle of the summer of 2003. Delong retired with a bitter taste in his mouth and wrote his own book regarding the leadership failures in the headquarters. They also note that there was a command transition in Iraq as V Corps and General Ricardo Sanchez took command of U.S. forces in Iraq without being fully resourced and trained for the mission in advance. (COBRA II Gordon and Trainor 2006)
In Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq, veteran defense and Pentagon reporter Thomas E. Ricks echoes criticism from officers who had served under Franks who put forth that, while tactically sound, he lacked the strategic mindset and overall intellect necessary for the task. Some close to him argued he was more thoughtful than he seemed, was aware that Secretary Rumsfeld and his staff were unable to discuss the Iraq War in military terms and had an obligation to put forth stronger objections to the civilian control of military planning. While demanding and goal oriented he was also criticized for being unwilling to countenance alternate viewpoints and for detaching himself from day-to-day affairs when the ground war ceased and he prepared for retirement.
Weapons of mass destruction
According to Time magazine, on 21 November 2003, Franks said that in the event of another terrorist attack, American constitutional liberties might be discarded by popular demand in favor of a military state. Discussing the hypothetical dangers posed to the US in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks, Franks said that “the worst thing that could happen” is if terrorists acquire and then use a biological, chemical or nuclear weapon that inflicts heavy casualties. If that happens, Franks said, “... the Western world, the free world, loses what it cherishes most, and that is freedom and liberty we’ve seen for a couple of hundred years in this grand experiment that we call democracy.” Franks then offered “in a practical sense” what he thinks would happen in the aftermath of such an attack.
“It means the potential of a weapon of mass destruction and a terrorist, massive, casualty-producing event somewhere in the Western world – it may be in the United States of America – that causes our population to question our own Constitution and to begin to militarize our country in order to avoid a repeat of another mass, casualty-producing event. Which in fact, then begins to unravel the fabric of our Constitution."
"[No] one in this country probably was more surprised than I when weapons of mass destruction were not used against our troops as they moved toward Baghdad," said Franks on 2 December 2005.
Dates of rank
Awards and decorations
Since 2003, General Franks has operated Franks & Associates LLC, a private consulting firm, active in the disaster recovery industry. In June 2006, General Franks formed a partnership with Innovative Decon Solutions.
Following his retirement, General Franks published his memoirs in American Soldier (HarperCollins), which debuted as Number #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list in August 2004, displacing President Bill Clinton's memoir from the top spot. One reviewer praised General Franks recollections of his Vietnam service but opined that the book, like the plan for and execution of the Iraq war itself, he said, "begins better than it ends." The reviewer expressed the wish that Franks had "relied less on the official record and more on his own experience and memories" in recalling the later war, as he had in recalling the earlier one.
Speaking at the Republican Convention in New York on 31 August 2004, General Franks endorsed President George W. Bush for re-election. President Bush awarded Franks the country's highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom on 14 December 2004. In the same month, Franks became a spokesman for Teen Arrive Alive, which is a company that uses GPS in cellular phones to tell parents how fast their teenage children are driving.
In December 2005, Franks was appointed to the Bank of America board of directors, a position he held until resigning on 11 June 2009 for unspecified reasons but as part of an "exodus" of ten directors from April to August, 2009. The bank had received $45 billion of U.S. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funding and sustained dramatic losses starting in 2008.
Franks sits on the Board of Directors of the National Park Foundation. He is an advisor to the Central Command Memorial Foundation and the Military Child Education Coalition, and is a spokesman for the Southeastern Guide Dogs Organization.
A museum dedicated to him lies in Hobart, Oklahoma.
Franks currently resides in Roosevelt, Oklahoma.
In January 2008, ABC News and the Army Times reported on Franks' involvement with the charitable Coalition to Salute America's Heroes, which he charged $100,000 to use his name to raise money for wounded soldiers. Following Congressional investigators and watchdog groups' criticism because only 25% of the money found its way to wounded veterans, compared to the industry standard of 85%, Franks ended his support for the group in late 2005. Roger Chapin, president of the charity, and his wife had apparently been living a lavish lifestyle on the charity's money. Bob Schieffer, host of CBS's Face the Nation, criticized Franks, saying, "What kind of person would insist, or even allow himself, to be paid to raise money for those who were wounded while serving under him? Franks says he severed his connection to the fundraiser when he realized most of the money he helped raise went to the fundraiser, not the troops." 
- March 2003-franks-profile_x.htm "Texas general takes sharpest of minds into Iraq conflict". The Associated Press. 9 March 2003. Retrieved 10 April 2008.[dead link]
- "About General Franks." Article at tommyfranks.com. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "The Battle for Tora Bora – How Osama bin Laden slipped from our grasp: The definitive account"
- Bergen, Peter. Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abottabad. 2012. p. 50-51
- Efran, Shawn (producer), "Army Officer Recalls Hunt For Bin Laden", 60 Minutes, CBS News, 5 October 2008.
- Warrick, Joby (16 August 2004). "Retired general 'surprised' no WMD found". CNN. Retrieved 2011-06-22.
- Franks, Tommy R. (2004). American Soldier. Harper Colins. p. 623. ISBN 9780061739217.
- "www.idsint.com". Retrieved 27 September 2007.
- Publisher Web page. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "'American Soldier': Man With a Plan, Sort Of" Review by Michael Newman, The New York Times Sunday Book Review, 26 September 2004. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "Text: Remarks by Retired General Tommy Franks to the Republican National Convention", Washington Post, 2 September 2004 10:21 PM ET. Retrieved 2010-03-02.
- "Bank of America Says Three Directors Quit as Exodus Totals 10" by David Mildenberg, Bloomberg.com, 1 August 2009. Retrieved 8/1/09.
- Loder, Asjylyn (2 April 2008). "Chuck E. Cheese enlists Gen. Franks". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Ross, Brian (17 January 2008). "Gen. Tommy Franks Paid $100,000 To Endorse 'F' Veterans Charity". ABC News. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- Jowers, Karen (18 January 2008). "Charity draws fire for paying generals". Army Times. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- Rucker, Philip (18 January 2008). "Chief of Veterans Charities Grilled on Groups' Spending". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- Barrett, William P. (21 December 2007). "Charitable Taking". Forbes. Archived from the original on 23 December 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
- Schieffer, Bob (20 January 2008). "The Follies Of Fundraising". CBS News Opinion: Face The Nation. Retrieved 20 January 2008.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tommy Franks.|
- Gen. Tommy Franks paid $100,000 out of money donated for wounded veterans. Army Times, 18 January 2008
- Gen. Tom Franks: A silent partner in Operation Enduring Freedom - CNN, 24 October 2001
- General Tommy Franks - UK Guardian, 9 November 2001
- Official publisher web page for American Soldier
- - the truth seeker, 07/03/2003
- Franks & Associates LLC — About General Franks
|Commander-in-Chief of United States Central Command
2000 – 2003
Robert R. Ivany
|Commanding General of the Third United States Army
1997 – 2000
Paul T. Mikolashek