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  #1  
Old 08 May 12, 11:45
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Grey Eminence: Fox Conner and the Art of Mentorship

Came across this article by Major Edward Cox.
http://www.ausa.org/publications/ilw...x%20Conner.pdf

If you don't know who Fox Conner was, or even if you do, its an interesting read. Here is the forward by General Gordon Sullivan:

Quote:
To those who have heard of him, Fox Conner’s name is synonymous with mentorship. He is the “grey eminence” within the Army whose influence helped to shape the careers of George Patton, George Marshall and, most notably, President Eisenhower. Most of what is known about Conner comes from stories about his relationship with Eisenhower. Despite a distinguished military career that spanned four decades, Conner’s life and his service to the Army and the nation are revealed primarily through passing references in the memoirs of other great men.

A study of Conner’s life and his method for identifying talented subordinates and developing them for future strategic leadership positions offers contemporary readers a highly salient example to emulate. This paper combines existing scholarship with long-forgotten references and unpublished original sources to achieve a more comprehensive picture of this dedicated public servant. The portrait that emerges provides a four-step model for developing strategic leaders that still holds true today. First and foremost, Conner became a master of his craft through a process of personal and professional self-development as a lifelong learner. Second, he recognized and recruited talented subordinates. Third, he encouraged and challenged those protégés to develop their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. Finally, he wasn’t afraid to break the rules of the organization to do it.
Enjoy.
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Last edited by The Ibis; 08 May 12 at 15:05..
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  #2  
Old 08 May 12, 11:53
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ibis View Post
Came across this article by Major Edward Fox.
http://www.ausa.org/publications/ilw...x%20Conner.pdf

If you don't know who Fox Conner was, or even if you do, its an interesting read. Here is the forward by General Gordon Sullivan:



Enjoy.
I'd never heard of him till I read read a bio of Ike a couple moths ago.

He saved Ike's career from stagnation and helped him get some plum postings during the 20's and 30's.
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Old 08 May 12, 13:49
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Conner was one of the Army's "big thinkers" who thought in terms of coalition warfare and national interests rather than battles - which was why his influence on Eisenhower was so far-reaching.

This was no great shakes for countries like Britain and France, whose commanders had been fighting with coalitions for centuries (Vercingetorix and Marlborough come to mind), but it was a big deal to the provincial U.S. Army, which had only tasted alliance warfare for a short time during World War I.
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Old 08 May 12, 14:32
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Ike has his old friend Patton to thank (also gave him all his notes for Staff College at Leavenworth & introduced him to armour before it took its hiatus after WW I) for his introduction to Fox Conner after having brought him to his attention. Few actually realize that Patton had alot to do with Ikes up & coming in the early years, just like Marshall did with both. Fox Conner was the standard all 3 attuned themselves too, even though each was unique of the others. Ike was quite fortunate to get to Conner in Panama. Ike essentially and almost exclusively experienced Fox in a sommat 'classroom' sort of way the entire 3 years time.

This should be a good work.


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Old 08 May 12, 14:58
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It is the thinking of such men in the upper echelons of the US military and political structure pre-world war 2 that helped develop the US strategic change in thinking beginning in 1938. The idea of "national interests" and coaltion warfare in the industrial age influenced US planners and the shift to such ideas as "Germany first" long before Germany even appeared as a direct threat to the US. The extraordinary success of US policies (military and diplomatic) before, during and after the war are directly linked to this thinking.
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Old 08 May 12, 15:07
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If you're interested in a more in-depth treatment, Major Cox has a book on the same subject. The title is the same as the title of the article.

http://www.amazon.com/Grey-Eminence-.../dp/1581072031
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Old 08 May 12, 15:34
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Actually, one of the best things that he likely impressed upon all 3, though Ike by a wide margin more so in Panama as the one most removed of World War I itself (not for lack of Ikes desperate trying to get 'over there') was that WW II was inevitable due to the ridiculous conditions imposed on its ending & that facing & fighting the enemy was easy compared to being able to secure & bind up allies in concert of the common goal of their most effective or certain defeat of common enemy. Fox Conner made most plain & quite obviously certain to Ike that there was absolutely NO WAY IN HELL that any one nation would stand & achieve triumph alone.

These are things Patton already knew of his own opinions & experiences as our 1st Armored Commander during WW I where he, Conner & Marshall met up again under Pershing, but were likely much more refined by his personal friendship with Fox dating back to Ft Riley & the Mexican Crisis before WW I. They both were fishing & hunting buddies & it is a certainty that Fox very much did rub off on George. Prolly the most obvious on the outside looking in is his eloquence in cussing & profanity. Marshal & Patton were both 'borne' of Pershing (Pattons sister 'Nita' being one of Pershings romantic desires & serious interests for a time) and very much refined by Fox Conner. Ike, on the other hand, owed it almost entirely to Fox Conner in his own right.

Lotta great men picked up much from Fox Conner, a real gem far to often overlooked beyond casual mention in the stories of other great men.

He was a great man unto himself.


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Old 08 May 12, 16:17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admiral View Post
Ike, on the other hand, owed it almost entirely to Fox Conner in his own right.
I'm not sure I'd go that far. Ike certainly learned a lot from Conner. He also learned alot from George V. Moseley. It was Moseley who convinced MacArthur to take Ike onto his staff. And notwithstanding what people say of their relationship, Ike certainly learned quite a lot from MacArthur - and not just theatrics.

Speaking of that, does anyone have any info on conversations between MacArthur and Ike concerning Conner. As one of the key members of the Chaumont crowd, Conner could not have been a MacArthur favorite. Did MacArthur try and test Ike's loyalty in any way using Ike's relationship with Conner as the instrument of that test?
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Old 08 May 12, 16:26
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If Conner had not pulled Ike out of the fire (he had pissed a whole lotta Infantry ocifers off with his written 'Armor idears') Mac never would have had a thing to do with him in most all likelihoods...

But, yes. Mac had his influences upon him, too, but nothing at all like that of Fox.


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Old 08 May 12, 16:31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Admiral View Post
If Conner had not pulled Ike out of the fire (he had pissed a whole lotta Infantry ocifers off with his written 'Armor idears') Mac never would have had a thing to do with him in most all likelihoods...


Maybe so. But even if its true, "for want of a nail"* isn't the be all and end all.** The nail might be the most important thing, but the horse can be pretty darn important too.

*
For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail


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Old 08 May 12, 17:12
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For the US, I think Ike was just the right man at the right place at the right time in Europe. Fox set Ike on the course that he eventually navigated in Europe with all the focus on not just how a certainly required alliance might be accomplished & so focused upon the enemy, but why the very things that were soon to come came to be & why victory must be accomplished.

As his aide, Ike advised Mac against actually leading the crackdown on the 'Bonus Army' arguing that the "communists" really held no actual sway over the marchers. He acknowledged that most the hay made of it was purely political, but also intimated that Mac acted against orders from the WH in doing so. Of course he didn't say that part until after Mac died, so Mac couldn't actually refurte the 'orders' assertion by Ike. Even Patton, too, was disgusted by the tactics used & most giving of credit to the actual men on both sides that no shots were fired, not MacArthur for his manner & means of the Army's put down of civil unrest. Both were participants.

Sorry, but after 12/8/41, I would have sacked Mac just as fast as Short & Kimmel were sacked. (No, I'm not suggesting they both bore all the blame they had heaped upon them, but Mac had his own Code Machine, they did not) I think Ike would have been a major hindrance in the Pacific, but I think he could have done at least as well as Mac. Having been in PI, known Macs plans, options, resources, etc. Ike is known to have thought Macs MOH was a farce for the sake of making heroes in times when people 'needed' heroes. I tend to agree, but that's JMO & another topic entirely. I'm NO fan of Mac, but do give him credit for things when due. IMO, if Ike learned anything of real value for his future from Mac, it was how not to do some things, while soaking up some useful pointers of political & operational Staff finessence. We all know that it takes more than one nail for a horseshoe & more than one horseshoe for a horse... I'd equate MacArthur to several nails in maybe a couple of Ikes shoes, but certainly not even one of the horseshoes themselves. MacArthur ignited no passion in Ike like that lit by Fox Conner.



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Old 09 May 12, 15:11
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Eisenhower learned quite a bit from a lot of sources. On military matters, he learned from Conner (grand strategy) and Patton (tactics). He learned politics from living in Washington while working at the War Department, socializing and listening to his brothers (Milton IIRC was in the Hoover Agriculture Department), writing speeches for MacArthur, and dealing with Quezon, MacArthur, & Co. in Manila (which taught him the budgeting process as well). He learned about logistics by touring factories in the 20s and 30s, and on the 1919 Transcontinental Road Trip. As an extrovert, he drew energy from being around other people, and in the course of his many associations he soaked up a lot of information and perspectives.

There is a great deal to be said for Fox Conner's philosophical influence, but there were many different nails in this particular horse shoe, and they combined to give Eisenhower arguably the best education of any up-and-coming officer in the US armed services.
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Old 07 Jun 12, 14:28
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I am a great fan of General Marshall and have read several works on his organizational abilities in taking the US Army from peacetime garrison to a wartime global superpower.

What was striking to me was the overall professional preparation that the stars (no pun intended) of WWII (Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marine Corps) were undertaking as junior officers in a very small military from 1900-1930s.

Read any of the biographies and you will find many Fox Conners and their Eisenhowers, Pattons, Kings, Nimitzs, Arnolds, etc...inspired and working on every major military strategy, technology, operational innovation that came to fore in WWII. IMHO, This was the golden age of military leadership

Do we have that same culture in our military today that is cultivating the next crop of leaders for future crises?
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Old 08 Jun 12, 06:55
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.....

What was striking to me was the overall professional preparation that the stars (no pun intended) of WWII (Army, Army Air Corps, Navy and Marine Corps) were undertaking as junior officers in a very small military from 1900-1930s.

Read any of the biographies and you will find many Fox Conners and their Eisenhowers, Pattons, Kings, Nimitzs, Arnolds, etc...inspired and working on every major military strategy, technology, operational innovation that came to fore in WWII. IMHO, This was the golden age of military leadership

Do we have that same culture in our military today that is cultivating the next crop of leaders for future crises?
I dont know if it was a golden age compared to any particular era in the earlier 20th Century or 19th Century. For the US artillery the intellectual & technical ferment started a few years after 1900 with the establisment of a formal gunnery school @ Ft Sill. A professional journal for the field artillery was regularly published before the Great War. As a open forum for discussion it lent a small bit of academic air to the after dinner talk of the officers.

The US as a whole is a very different culture than that of 1910 or 1930. The US Army tries to develop the broader intellect of its top officers. Service with joint command staff (Purple tours of duty), advanced university degrees, ect... are offcially encouraged. As in 1825 or 1925 these can in reality be viewed as a hindrance to advancement as much as a advantage. ie: Stillwells two tours as intelligence officer of the 15th Infantry Regiment in China were regarded by some seniors as a waste. He was wandering about the landscape among the warlord armies and Japanese soldiers instead of honing his skills as a rifle company commander. Kruegers extended time with development staffs, his schooling at the USN naval warfare school and general skills at joint warfare of combined naval/army operations were suggested by some as reason for retirement in 1939-40. Similarly Eisenhower was seen as lacking suffcient time at drilling a rifle battalion at proper 1930s assualt tactics. Skimming through the US military literature today I get the same sense of dichotomy. The Captains and Lt Colonels are torn between tough choices over developing technical skills in their specialty or a broader knowledge. Time is finite requiring serious decisions.

One trend I have observed is in the professional literature. Part of my research has included picking closely through the US Field Artillery Journal from 1918 forward. Between the volumes of the 1920s & those of the 1990s there is little to compare. The quantity of content fell off massively, entire sections of discussion or inquiry were reduced to fragment or vanished. Challenge & debate were eliminated. By the 21st Century the FAJ had been turned into a dull techincal bulletin, useful for checking on the latest 'party line' for doctrine or perhaps reading the article on how to correctly disband your battalion that is eliminated by downsizing. Open forums for US Army officers discussion were elsewhere. Unfortunatly I've not the time these days to search them out.

The 'US Naval Institute Proceedings' and Marine Corps Gazette continue as open forums for new ideas & debate on matters of strategy and doctrine. How useful they are in the cyber age I cant say, but the discussions are as heated as those here, tho a lot more informed...
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