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
Died October 13, 1951(1951-10-13) (aged 76)
Washington, D.C
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service 1898–1938
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Commands held 20th Infantry Brigade
1st Infantry Division
Hawaiian Department
First Corps Area
First United States Army
Battles/wars Spanish–American War
Pancho Villa Expedition
World War I
Awards 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
Croix de guerre 1914–1918 (France)

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

Conner was born at Slate Springs, in Calhoun County, Mississippi. He was appointed to the United States Military Academy in 1894, graduated as a Second Lieutenant in 1898, and was assigned to the 1st Artillery Regiment.[1]

His 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 U.S. occupation force during the Spanish–American War.[1]

In August 1900 he 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.[2]

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.[3]

Following his return to the United States Conner commanded Artillery batteries in the Western states and on the Mexican border during the Pancho Villa Expedition. In July 1916 Conner was promoted to Major and assigned to the Inspector General's office in Washington.[3] He was in this position when the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917.

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.[3] In November Conner was selected as Pershing's Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G3) 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.[3] 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.[4]

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 National Defense Act of 1920 and set the course for the interwar Army.

Conner and Eisenhower

Conner's most lasting contribution was his mentorship of 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.[5]

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.'[6]

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: "In sheer ability and character, he was the outstanding soldier of my time.... Outside of my parents he had more influence on me and my outlook than any other individual, especially in regard to the military profession."[7]

Later service

Conner left Panama in late 1924 to assume his duties as Acting Chief of Staff, G-4 in Washington, starting on December 1, 1924.[4]

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.[4]

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 years of service.

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."[8]

He died at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on October 13, 1951. 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 a successful patent medicine maker from New York. They had three children: daughter Betty Virginia Vida (1903–2000), the wife of Army Colonel Frank Joseph Vida (1894-1970); son Fox Brandreth (1905–2000), a 1927 graduate of West Point who served as a 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).

Military Awards

American awards

Foreign awards

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. IV. pg. 646.
  2. Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. V. pg. 600.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. VI A. pg. 833.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Cullum's Register of Graduates of the USMA. Vol. VII. pg. 463.
  5. Gates, Robert (Summer 2008 issue). "Reflections on Leadership" (PDF). Parameters. United States Army War College (Winter 2010-11): 185–191. Retrieved August 25, 2012. Check date values in: |publication-date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Dwight D. Eisenhower (1997). Crusade in Europe. JHU Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-5668-6.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Carlo D'Este (2003). Eisenhower: A Soldier's Life. Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-8050-5687-7.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Other sources

  1. Nineteen Stars, by Edgar F. Puryear, Jr. ISBN 0-89141-148-8 (paperback)
  2. The Next Middle East War, by Robert Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense [1]
  3. Grey Eminence: Fox Conner and the Art of Mentorship, by Edward Cox ISBN 1-58107-203-1 (paperback)

Additional reading

  • 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
Military offices
Preceded by
Dennis E. Nolan
Commanding General of the First United States Army
30 April 1936 to 4 November 1938
Succeeded by
Hugh A. Drum