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The FReeper Foxhole Profiles Major General Fox Conner - May 23rd, 2006
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Posted on 05/23/2006 3:50:36 AM PDT by snippy_about_it


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Major General Fox Conner


“The Man Who Made Eisenhower”

Men such as Douglas MacArthur and George Patton came from families with rich military heritages. They regarded the United States Military Academy at West Point as their first important step in a lifetime of military service. Dwight Eisenhower, on the other hand, saw “the Point” as little more than the source of a free college education and a place to play college sports, especially football. Ike was by no means certain he would make the Army a career.

By graduation in 1915, the future supreme commander of allied armies was known to his classmates as a fun-loving maverick, one who had earned little in the way of academic distinction or knowledge of military science. Four years of schooling above the Hudson River had yet to shape Ike into a military leader.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (With the Tank Corps, Camp Meade, Maryland, 1919.)

Indeed, after several years in the service, Eisenhower was downright discouraged. Despite enormous personal effort, he had not been sent overseas during World War I, the “Great War.” Then, when his intellectual potential began to emerge, he was slapped down by his superiors. In 1920, he was given a stiff verbal reprimand for having published an article about the future of tank warfare, an article deemed provocative and heretical by the Army’s chief of infantry. Less than a year later he was stoutly reprimanded for an honest mistake that would have seemed trivial outside the Army.

Without a combat record and having earned the disapproval of important superior officers, Ike’s military future looked bleak. Then, in 1921, his three-year-old son, Doud Dwight, died of scarlet fever. Ike and Mamie were devastated. It was a depressed and deeply dejected Captain Eisenhower who took up his new assignment in January 1922 at Camp Gaillard, in the Panama Canal Zone.

Camp Gaillard, Panama, 1922 General Fox Conner awards a commision to Eisenhower

The Army commander at the Canal Zone, Brigadier General Fox Conner, had been General Pershing’s Chief of Operations in France during the Great War. Wealthy, intellectual, and immensely respected throughout the Army, Conner had pulled some heavy strings to get Eisenhower transferred to Panama as his executive officer.

A top Army strategist and military historian, Conner was convinced that the peace treaty following the war was deeply flawed and would inevitably trigger a second world war. To prepare for that struggle, Conner set out to identify and guide the most talented younger officers, those who were likely to become the future leaders of the American Army. George Catlett Marshall was an early choice for his cultivation and then George S. Patton, Jr., followed. Patton introduced Conner to Eisenhower in 1919, and Ike soon became the next addition to the General’s list of promising officers.

For the next three years Fox Conner taught graduate courses in military history, strategy, and leadership in a “virtual” classroom located in the humid jungle of Panama. This classroom contained a single student, Dwight David Eisenhower. Military history classes at West Point had been poorly taught. But Fox Conner stirred Ike’s interest in history — he taught Ike how to read it, think it, and intelligently discuss its lessons. He drummed into Eisenhower his belief that another world war could not be escaped and that whenever it came it would have to be fought with allies. He imbedded this thought in Eisenhower’s mind: “Dealing with the enemy is a simple and straightforward matter when contrasted with securing close cooperation with an ally.”

Ike in Panama

Eisenhower was transformed by his mentor. Three years of rigorous service and education with Fox Conner changed his life. Ike became a more serious reader of everything from military history to science, philosophy and the classics. With Conner’s help, Eisenhower overcame depression and set out with determination to resurrect his military career.

General Conner’s mentorship continued long after Eisenhower’s assignment to Panama ended. Conner helped Ike in gaining admission to the Army’s Command and General Staff School. Ike graduated first in his class. Conner later influenced Eisenhower’s assignment to the American Battle Monuments Commission. This gave Ike the chance to work directly under General Pershing. Conner’s final act as a mentor was to bring Ike’s talents to the attention of George Marshall. When World War II came to America in 1941 — just as Conner had predicted — one of Marshall’s first actions was to have Eisenhower appointed to his personal staff.

Little wonder that in 1969 Frank Van Riper characterized General Conner as “the man who made Eisenhower.”

© Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial Commission, Washington, DC, 2004

KEYWORDS: aef; eisenhower; freeperfoxhole; history; mgfoxconner; samsdayoff; usarmy; veterans; wwi
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Major General Fox Conner

Noteworthy Mississippian of World War I Era

November 2, 1874 - October 13, 1951

A Brief Biography

by Lt. General Sidney B. Berry, U. S. Army (Ret.)

edited by Robert J. Bailey

Generally unknown to the American public, knowledgeable Army professionals such as John J. Pershing, George C. Marshall, George S. Patton, Jr. and Dwight D. Eisenhower judged Fox Conner to be one of the most able officers in the Army and revered the man and his work.

Fox Conner's service, contributions and significant accomplishments fall into three major areas: (1) as chief plans and operations staff officer for the American Expeditionary Forces during and following WW I; (2) as one of the Army's senior officers appointed to a number of responsible positions during the period between the two World Wars; and (3) as model, mentor and teacher of a select group of younger Army officers who rose to the highest positions of leadership during World War II, most notably Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Fox Conner was once described by Dwight D. Eisenhower as "the ablest man I ever knew".(1) That is quite a compliment for any man, but especially for one born and raised in Calhoun County, Mississippi.

Born in Slate Spring, Mississippi on November 2, 1874, he entered the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1894 upon the recommendation of Senator H. D. Money. Soon after Conner graduated from West Point and after the action of the Cuban Campaign had subsided, he served in the occupation forces there in 1899.(2)

Through the next ten to fifteen years Conner advanced through the ranks becoming a "serious soldier and a technically proficient artillerist".(3) His performance led to his recommendation for the Army General Staff in Washington and included teaching at the War College and service with the Third Division, responsible for artillery tactical doctrine. During this time, Fox Conner was one of several officers selected to examine the history of the preparedness of the United States.(4)

General Fox Conner, WWI

When the United States declared war against the central powers on April 6, 1917, Conner was serving with the Inspector-General's Department(5). In his capacity as an inspector of field artillery fire, Conner, along with several other officers, was charged by General Pershing to recommend the exact place to fight the enemy,(6)

but increasing concerns forced Pershing to revise his staff structures(7) which led to Fox Conner's appointment as a member of the Operations Section mapping the strategy for the employment of an American force in its own sector of the Allied Front, being one of the most difficult questions of the early American involvement.(8)

Conner was soon appointed chief of operations. "As Chief of G-3, which had to do with strategy and tactics and all battle action, his was the problem of how to hit the enemy harder than he hit you with more cost to him than to you."(9) Most of Pershing's higher staff officers were graduates of Fort Leavenworth's Staff College, and "they showed a common passion for precision planning, clear orders, simple movements and care of the troops". Fox Conner was the genius of operations for the AEF.(10)

Conner pulled together a team of skilled and brilliant technicians---one of them was Lt. Col. George Marshall.(11)

Conner was a demanding chief whose meticulous attention to the planning of AEF operations set high standards for all the American staffs. In one form or another, nearly every American action of the war came under Conner's view and influence. Even after the war it was his responsibility to write the AEF's after-action report in which he discussed the structure of future army divisions, and indeed, the future shape of the army itself.(12)

For services rendered during the war, General Conner was awarded the distinguished Service Medal with citation as follows:

For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished service as assistant chief of staff
in charge of operating sections, he has shown a masterful conception of the tactical
situations, which have confronted the American forces in Europe.

He also received the French Croix-de-Guerre.(13)

From 1921 to 1925 General Conner commanded a brigade in Panama which consisted of little more than keeping up a network of jungle trails for the use of troops and pack animals,(14) this period had a profound effect on one young officer by the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower. Eisenhower and Conner developed a teacher-student relationship.

Realizing that Eisenhower had little interest in military history, Conner invited him to use his personal library, first selecting two or three historical novels for him and later suggesting books on the military history of those periods(15). Conner would then ask Eisenhower probing questions on his readings, forcing the younger man to think about what he was reading.(16)

Two comments from Eisenhower's autobiography indicate his admiration for Fox Conner and the esteem in which Eisenhower held Conner:

---my tour of duty was one of the most interesting and constructive of my life. The main reason was the presence of one man, our brigade commander, General Fox Conner---a tall easygoing Mississippian---practical---down to earth---as open and honest as any man I have known---equally at home in the company of the most important people and with any of the men in the regiment.
General Conner was a natural leader and something of a philosopher---he had an extraordinary library, especially in military affairs---The range and curiosity of his mind was not limited to military affairs. He quoted Shakespeare at length, and he could relate his works to wars under discussion.

It is clear now that life with General Conner was a sort of graduate school in military affairs and the humanities, leavened by the comments and discourses of a man who was experienced in his knowledge of men and their conduct. I can never adequately express my gratitude to this one gentleman, for it took years before I fully realized the value of what he had led me through. And then General Conner was gone. But in a lifetime of association with great and good men, he is the one more or less invisible figure to whom I owe an incalculable debt.(17)

Conner's subsequent career was not quite as dramatic. He returned to Washington in 1925 and served as the deputy chief of staff. The battles during these years were over the budget.(18) General Conner held command in Hawaii and in 1933 when President Roosevelt instituted the civilian corps, he assigned Conner the task of mobilizing approximately 24,000 young men and World War veterans for the 125 Civilian Corps companies in the six New England States.

Conner retired from active service in 1938 after serving his country for forty-four years.(19)

"Conner was a "good soldier" in more ways than one. From the beginning of his career, he had disappointment and bore them to the end. When his dissatisfactions overtook him, he would turn to his own pursuits of language and the literature of war, particularly military history. In a branch he did not choose, Conner became a tactical and technical expert in great demand. His intelligence and drive marked him for staff eventually, and he was never able to escape from it to command troops in wartime. He had a significant influence over the National Defense Act of 1920 by formulating Pershing's own position on the future of the Army. His greatest contribution, however, may have been his influence over the young Eisenhower. Conner was a fiercely loyal subordinate, a superb if stern and demanding teacher and a meticulous planner; and while Fox Conner is generally unknown to the public, Army professionals such as Pershing, Marshall, Patton, Eisenhower and others revered Conner and his work."(20)

Major general Fox Conner died October 13, 1951 at the age of 77 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

1. Stephen E. Ambrose, The Supreme Commander: The War Years of General Dwight D. Eisenhower (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1970),

p- 7.

2. Roger J. Spiller, ed., Dictionary of American Military Biography (Westport,

Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1984), p. 198.

3. Ibid., p. 199.

4. Ibid.

5. Jackson Daily News, 13 July 1947.

6. Frank E. Vandiver, Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, 2 vols. (College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1977), 2: 730.

7. Ibid., p. 738.

8. Spiller, Dictionary of American Military Biography, p.200.

9. Frederick Palmer, John J. Pershing: General of the Armies (Harrisburg,

Pennsylvania: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1948), p. 136.

10. Vandiver, Black Jack, p. 944.

11. Ibid., p. 945

12. Spiller, Dictionary of American Military Biography, p. 200.

13. Charles F. Gaston, "Calhoun County - Important Personalities." Mississippi Department of Archives and History - Subject File - Fox Conner, p. 2.

14. Stephen E. Ambrose, Eisenhower: Soldier, General of the Army, President- Elect, 1890-1952 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983), p. 76.

15. Dwight D. Eisenhower, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, 1967), p. 185.

16. Ambrose, Eisenhower, p. 76.

17. Eisenhower, At Ease, p. 187.

18. Spiller, Dictionary of American Military Biography, p. 201.

19. Gaston, Fox Conner Subject File, p. 3.

20. Spiller, Dictionary of American Military Biography, p. 201.

21. Calhoun City (Mississippi) The Monitor - Herald, 1 November 1951, p. 1.

Today's Educational Sources;

and suggestions for further (in-depth) reading:

FReeper Foxhole Armed Services Links

1 posted on 05/23/2006 3:50:41 AM PDT by snippy_about_it
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To: All

Exerpted from other biographies:

Conner's father served in the Confederate Army and was blinded at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. In spite of his father's debilitating wounds, Conner wanted to become a soldier from a young age.

He was promoted to Major General in 1925. Conner retired in 1938 on the eve of World War II, which he predicted nearly twenty years earlier. Eisenhower and others continued to seek his counsel throughout the war, a testament to the great esteem in which they held him, "a born leader of men."

2 posted on 05/23/2006 3:52:24 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: alfa6; Allen H; Colonial Warrior; texianyankee; vox_PL; Bigturbowski; ruoflaw; Bombardier; ...

"FALL IN" to the FReeper Foxhole!

Good Tuesday Morning Everyone.

If you want to be added to our occasional ping list, let us know.

3 posted on 05/23/2006 3:53:49 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: All

Click on the Banner
Thanks GailA.

Showcasing America's finest, and those who betray them!

Thanks Coop

Veterans for Constitution Restoration is a non-profit, non-partisan educational and grassroots activist organization.

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Blue Stars for a Safe Return


The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul

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4 posted on 05/23/2006 3:54:36 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Freeper Foxhole.


5 posted on 05/23/2006 3:59:12 AM PDT by E.G.C.
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To: snippy_about_it

Talk about a man who "slipped through the cracks" of history! Makes you wonder how different things could have been without General Conner.

Once again in our history the right man at the right time.

6 posted on 05/23/2006 4:00:02 AM PDT by SAMWolf (Have you noticed that all you need to grow healthy, vigorous grass is a crack in your sidewalk?)
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf; The Mayor; Professional Engineer; bentfeather; All
Tuesday Morning Bump for the Freeeper Foxhole

Another Terrence Cuneo painting, "The Defence of Calais'


alfa6 ;>}

7 posted on 05/23/2006 4:14:13 AM PDT by alfa6
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To: alfa6

Nice painting. There'some really good war artwork out there.

8 posted on 05/23/2006 8:32:18 AM PDT by SAMWolf (Have you noticed that all you need to grow healthy, vigorous grass is a crack in your sidewalk?)
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To: alfa6; Professional Engineer; Peanut Gallery; SAMWolf; snippy_about_it; Wneighbor; Samwise; ...

Good morning everyone!
Sheesh, I have been flying all over looking for FR!

9 posted on 05/23/2006 8:33:08 AM PDT by Soaring Feather
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To: E.G.C.

Good morning EGC. ((Hugs back atcha))

10 posted on 05/23/2006 8:40:31 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it
Great one, Snippy. Fox Conner pushed Ike hard to study--made him read Clausewitz and when he was done told him to do it again--nobody understands Clausewitz the first time. Clausewitz's description of the requirements and pitfalls of coalition warfare are reflected in Eisenhower's greatest military achievement--keeping the WWII European Allied military forces together and operating to a common purpose.

I am in Afghanistan right now and the lessons about alliances that Eisenhower learned under Conner's tutelage 80 years ago are still applicable today!

11 posted on 05/23/2006 8:45:54 AM PDT by mark502inf
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To: snippy_about_it; bentfeather; Samwise; Peanut Gallery; Wneighbor; Valin; alfa6; Iris7; SAMWolf; ...
Good morning ladies and gents. Flag-o-The States-o-Gram.

Psst, Snippy. It's In There!

12 posted on 05/23/2006 9:07:45 AM PDT by Professional Engineer (USA, USA, USA)
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To: Professional Engineer

LOL. I see it!

13 posted on 05/23/2006 9:15:06 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: mark502inf

Stay safe.

As much history as we've done here at the Foxhole I did not know about MG Fox Conner. I just started reading "The Bitter Woods" by John S.D. Eisenhower and there was his name. I knew I had to find out more.

14 posted on 05/23/2006 9:22:23 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it; SAMWolf
All right - a new Foxhole thread!

I didn't know about this gentleman. What a great find and great read.

I'm a big Ike fan and this is fascinating. Boy, would history have been different if Ike had left the Army before WWII.

Ike also understood the importance of good staff work and planning to achieving an objective. I wonder if he first got that from Conner, too?

15 posted on 05/23/2006 9:36:56 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: mark502inf
We're hearing back here that things are not going well, especially in Southern Afghanistan, although it sounds like the Canadians have made a big contribution. More MSM spin?

Thanks for your service, and stay safe.

16 posted on 05/23/2006 9:39:08 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: snippy_about_it

Very cool!

17 posted on 05/23/2006 10:21:08 AM PDT by Professional Engineer (USA, USA, USA)
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To: colorado tanker

Here are a couple more exerpts from my educational links:

Eisenhower held independent command of Camp Colt, yet was puzzled by Conner's running the camp as a field command. Conner required Eisenhower to write daily field orders for the operation of the post instead of issuing the normal general orders concerned with matters of policy or administration. Conner explained the goals for the day and made the appropriate troop assignments to carry out an action plan. Eisenhower became so well acquainted with the techniques and routine of preparing plans and orders for operations and logistics that they became second nature to him."

Later, while attending the U.S. Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Eisenhower wrote to Conner expressing his uncertainty about his ability to handle work and the competition. Conner assured Eisenhower that because of his 3 years in Panama he was far better trained and ready for Leavenworth than anybody he knew. (12)

Conner was loyal to his junior officers, never hesitating to give credit when it was earned, but also expecting loyalty in return. (13) Do not, he insisted, have a personal enemy on your staff who could sabotage you or your command. (14) He spoke loudest when he selected Eisenhower as his executive officer. This great staff leader chose a man who would be prized by his superiors as one of the Army's most capable staff officers.


During Panama's dry season, Conner and Eisenhower rode on horseback to clear trails and map routes for the rapid movement of troops and pack animals. In the evenings they discussed Civil War battles. (26) Conner demonstrated the benefits and dangers of indiscriminately applying the general principles of war. Eisenhower once casually referred to World War I as the "Great War." Conner replied, "As far as we're concerned, that was only large-scale maneuvers." (27)

Conner asked Eisenhower to read Carl von Clauswitz's On War three times, each time reminding him that Clauswitz wrote primarily about operations and ignored logistics. (28) He contended that officers spent too much time on writing tactics and too little on writing the fourth paragraph, which explained how the commander was to supply his troops. (29)

18 posted on 05/23/2006 10:54:08 AM PDT by snippy_about_it (Fall in --> The FReeper Foxhole. America's History. America's Soul.)
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To: snippy_about_it
What a great leader and mentor.

"Amateurs talk tactics; professionals talk logistics." A tank unit can't win anything without beans, bullets and gas.

His message must have gotten through to the Army. I was so thoroughly drilled in preparing ops orders I could do it off the top of my head.

19 posted on 05/23/2006 11:58:15 AM PDT by colorado tanker
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To: mark502inf

I think it was Foche who said, "Now having been part of an alliance or was it 'coalition'?], I think somewhat less of Napoleon".

Fox Connor is one of the unknown, unsung and largely unremembered heroes of the U.S Army. His contribution in preparing the next generation of Army leaders is staggering.

20 posted on 05/23/2006 12:20:35 PM PDT by PzLdr ("The Emperor is not as forgiving as I am" - Darth Vader)
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