Fox Conner

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Fox Conner
Fox Conner2.jpg
Major General Fox Conner
Born(1874-11-02)November 2, 1874
Slate Springs, Mississippi
DiedOctober 13, 1951(1951-10-13) (aged 76)
Washington, D.C.
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1898–1938
RankMajor General
Commands heldFirst United States Army
First Corps Area
Hawaiian Department
1st Infantry Division
20th Infantry Brigade
Battles/warsSpanish–American War
Pancho Villa Expedition
World War I
AwardsArmy Distinguished Service Medal
Purple Heart
Companion of the Order of the Bath (United Kingdom)
Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)
Croix de Guerre (France)
Commander of the Order of the Crown (Belgium)

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, and is best remembered as a mentor to the generation of officers who led the army in World War II, particularly as "the man who made Eisenhower".

Early career[edit]

Conner was born at Slate Springs, in Calhoun County, Mississippi.[1] His father, Robert H. Conner, was a soldier in the Confederate States Army who was wounded several times during the American Civil War.[2] In his final engagement, the Battle of Atlanta, Robert Conner was shot in the head and lost his sight.[2] After the war he was nicknamed "Blind Bob".[2] He learned to gauge the grades of cotton by touch, and became a successful cotton trader.[2] In addition, he began teaching at the Slate Springs Academy.[2] The school had been founded by Fuller Fox in 1872, and several members of the Fox family were on the faculty.[2] Robert Conner met Nancy (Nannie) Hughes Fox when both were teaching at the academy, and they married in 1873.[2]

Fox Conner was educated in Slate Springs, and in 1894 he was appointed to the United States Military Academy. He graduated as a second lieutenant in the Class of 1898, and was assigned to the 1st Artillery Regiment. The army denied his several requests for transfer to the Cavalry.[3]

Conner's first posting was to Fort Adams in Newport, Rhode Island. After brief assignments in Huntsville, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia he was sent to Cuba in January 1899 to serve with the United States occupation force following the Spanish–American War.[3]

In August 1900, Conner was reassigned to Washington Barracks (today named Fort McNair) in Washington, D.C. He was promoted to captain in 1901 and was transferred to Fort Hamilton, New York in November 1901 as commander of the 123rd Coast Artillery Company. He held this assignment until August 1905 when he began attendance at the Army Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He then served as adjutant of the Artillery sub-post at Fort Riley, Kansas from July 1906 to May 1907.[4]

In September 1907, Conner was assigned to the Army's General Staff and also as a student at the Army War College from which he graduated in July 1911. He was then attached to the French 22nd Field Artillery Regiment in Versailles, France from October 1911 to October 1912.[5]

Following his return to the United States, Conner commanded Artillery batteries in the Western states and on the Mexican border. In July 1916, Conner was promoted to major and assigned to the Inspector General's office in Washington.[5] He was in this position when the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917.

World War I[edit]

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 staff in France. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel on May 15, 1917 and to temporary colonel on August 5.[5] In November Conner was selected as Pershing's Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G3); his subordinates included John McAuley Palmer and George C. Marshall. Conner developed an immense respect for both, and later referred to Marshall as the ideal soldier and a military genius.

Conner was promoted to temporary brigadier general on August 8, 1918.[5] 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.[6]

In 1920, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives launched an investigation in the losses among United States Army personnel that had occurred in the hours between the time when the Armistice of 11 November 1918 had been signed and the time when it came into effect. During the hearings, Conner drew heavy criticism from Congressman Oscar E. Bland and was named by General John H. Sherburne of the Massachusetts National Guard as the individual most responsible for not stopping a scheduled attack by the 92nd Division of Robert Lee Bullard's Second Army.[7] The panel members rejected Sherburne's assertion and the final report of the subcommittee held no one person accountable for the losses.[8]

For his service as the "brain" of the AEF, Conner was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal and the French Croix de Guerre. After the war, Conner and Palmer received credit for writing the after-action report on World War I operations which influenced the content of the National Defense Act of 1920 and set the course for the interwar army.

Conner and Eisenhower[edit]

Conner's most remembered contribution to the army was his mentorship of promising subordinates, most notably Dwight Eisenhower. Conner first met Eisenhower "in Autumn of 1920, introduced by George S. Patton at a Sunday dinner at the Pattons." Eisenhower would later note that perhaps the greatest reward of his friendship with Patton was being introduced to Conner. Conner and Eisenhower immediately developed a great mutual respect: "Conner became Eisenhower's teacher and a father figure who he admired above all others." Following his promotion to permanent brigadier general in 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.[9]

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.'[10]

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, in addition to the class notes Eisenhower received from Patton, who had attended the school earlier.

Eisenhower later commented on Conner's abilities: "Outside of my parents he had more influence on me and my outlook than any other individual, especially in regard to the military profession."[11]

Later service[edit]

Conner left Panama in late 1924 to assume his duties in Washington as the Army's Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics (G-4), which started on December 1, 1924.[6]

Conner was promoted to major general on October 20, 1925 and assigned as Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army on March 9, 1926. He commanded the 1st Division at Fort Hamilton 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 First Corps Area in Boston on October 7, 1930.[6]

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 First United States Army in 1936 and retired on November 4, 1938 after forty years of service.[12]

Conner's lasting legacy was as a role model and inspiration to World War II high commanders including 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."[13]

Conner died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on October 13, 1951.[14] His ashes were scattered at Brandreth Park in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. In addition, there is a cenotaph to his memory at Dale Cemetery in Ossining, New York.


In 1902, Conner married Virginia Brandreth, the daughter of Franklin Brandreth, a successful patent medicine maker from New York, and granddaughter of Benjamin Brandreth.[15] They had three children: daughter Betty Virginia Vida (1903–2000), the wife of Colonel Frank Joseph Vida (1894–1970); son Fox Brandreth (1905–2000), a 1927 graduate of West Point who served as an army lieutenant before pursuing a business career as president of the Brandreth family business, the Allcock Manufacturing Company, a maker of humane animal traps; and daughter Florence Slocum Gans (1910–1964), the wife of Colonel Edgar A. Gans (1902–1965).[16]

Military awards[edit]

American awards

Foreign awards

Dates of rank[edit]

No insignia Cadet, United States Military Academy: June 15, 1894
No pin insignia in 1898 Second lieutenant, Regular Army: April 26, 1898
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant, Regular Army: January 25, 1901
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain, Regular Army: September 23, 1901
US-O4 insignia.svg Major, Regular Army: July 1, 1916
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel, Regular Army: May 15, 1917
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Temporary: August 5, 1917
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, National Army: August 8, 1918
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: August 22, 1919
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Regular Army: July 3, 1920
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel, Regular Army: March 4, 1921
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier General, Regular Army: April 27, 1921
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Regular Army: October 20, 1925
US-O8 insignia.svg Major General, Retired List: September 30, 1938


  1. ^ Rabalais, Steven (2016). General Fox Conner: Pershing's Chief of Operations and Eisenhower's Mentor. Havertown, PA: Casemate Publishers. pp. 1–3. ISBN 978-1-61200-397-9.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g General Fox Conner: Pershing's Chief of Operations and Eisenhower's Mentor, pp. 1–3.
  3. ^ a b Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. IV. p. 646.; Rabalais, "General Fox Conner: Pershing's Chief of Operations and Eisenhower's Mentor" p. 17
  4. ^ Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. V. p. 600.
  5. ^ a b c d Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. VI A. p. 833.
  6. ^ a b c Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. VII. pg. 463.
  7. ^ Rabalais, Steven (2016). General Fox Conner: Pershing's Chief of Operations and Eisenhower's Mentor. Havertown, PA: Casemate Publishers. pp. 158–160. ISBN 978-1-61200-397-9.
  8. ^ Persico, Joseph E. (2004). Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918, World War I and its violent climax. New York: Random House Publishing Group. p. 380. ISBN 978-1-61200-397-9.
  9. ^ Gates, Robert (Summer 2008). "Reflections on Leadership" (PDF). Parameters. United States Army War College (Winter 2010–11): 185–191. Retrieved August 25, 2012.
  10. ^ Dwight D. Eisenhower (1997). Crusade in Europe. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5668-6.
  11. ^ Bassford, Christopher (1994). Clausewitz in English: The Reception of Clausewitz in Britain and America 1818–1945. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-19-508383-5.
  12. ^ Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. p. 81. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 40298151.
  13. ^ Carlo D'Este (2003). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-5687-7.
  14. ^ Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. p. 82. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 40298151.
  15. ^ General Fox Conner: Pershing's Chief of Operations and Eisenhower's Mentor, pp. 18–23.
  16. ^ Davis, Jr., Henry Blaine (1998). Generals in Khaki. Pentland Press, Inc. pp. 81–82. ISBN 1571970886. OCLC 40298151.
  17. ^ "Valor awards for Fox Conner".


  • General Fox Conner: Pershing's Chief of Operations and Eisenhower's Mentor, by Steven Rabalais ISBN 1-61200-397-4 (hardback)
  • 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 [1]
  • Grey Eminence: Fox Conner and the Art of Mentorship, by Edward Cox ISBN 1-58107-203-1 (paperback)

Further reading[edit]

  • 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

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Dennis E. Nolan
Commanding General of the First United States Army
Succeeded by
Hugh A. Drum