General Fox Conner

Fox Conner, U.S. Army

As we get closer to the one hundred year anniversaries of the First World War, please allow me to highlight certain people and certain things that I think are remembering. One such person worth remembering is a general by the name of Fox Conner:
Even without a published monograph, this intelligent, insightful and competent officer was held in the highest esteem of his contemporaries. He was not only a competent military historian, but also a brilliant military war planner and strategist as the chief architect of the American victories at Saint-Mihiel and the Argonne in 1918. A serious military science intellectual, Conner's series of War College lectures in the 1930's integrated critical yet sagacious observations of lessons learned by the AEF in the Great War and some that the army had yet to learn. While proposing a structure that an Allied military coalition for the future must resemble in order to be successful in the coming European conflict that he often predicted, Conner established a theoretical and constructive framework not for an Allied Generalissimo but a Supreme Allied Commander. He was the chief advocate and a founding father of the inter-war re-configuration reforms of the modern American infantry division that eventually marched into Europe a second time, long after he had retired. 
Concomitantly the General spoke forcefully against the inadequate replacement system of the Peyton March period, and successfully won the necessary reforms that saw service in the Second World War. Not only does MG Conner's critical role and achievements while serving on Pershing's staff deserve long overdue recognition, moreover his personal dedication and influence supporting the career development of many of the new breed of army officers who would become household names as they later fought the Second World War. His most notable pupil was Dwight David Eisenhower. Upon further reevaluation, MG Fox Conner emerges as the most influential officer intellectual in the United States Army during the inter-war period. Conner's contributions to the United States Army can be evaluated in three capacities. First, as G-3, chief of war plans and operations on the Allied Expeditionary Forces staff in the First World War, Conner was the senior architect of the Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne offensive. Secondly, as the general commanding the Army's most important inter-war assignments; and, thirdly, as instructor, military scientist, lecturer and personal role model for younger officers in the lean army career years of the 1920s and 1930s. According to Eisenhower, "Outside of my parents, he had more influence on me and my outlook than any other individual, especially in regard to the military profession." 
Eisenhower would later deem as prophetic Conner's poignant observations regarding Allied political decisions that allowed German military forces to march back to the Fatherland, unmolested following the armistice, carrying their arms with bands playing and flags flying. Conner predicted that a myth would be born inside Germany that the Imperial German Army had never really been defeated by the Allies, but rather been traitorously stabbed in the back at home by fifth columnists. This was indeed the myth that Adolph Hitler and the National Socialists would expeditiously exploit in order to seize power. 
Conner, said Eisenhower, warned that a lasting peace had been doomed at Versailles by accepting the principle of a negotiated peace rather than a dictated peace and "in the not too distant future the whole job would have to be done again." Conner was dismayed at the determination of the allies in 1919 to exact a punishing revenge on Germany within the terms of Versailles Treaty, and yet, fail to foresee dire consequences ahead. As Conner told Eisenhower in 1922, "You can't take the strongest and most virile people in Europe and put them in the kind of strait jacket that this treaty attempts to do." 

That's a good bit of history right there. It's too bad we never seem to remember the right history.