“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,” wrote Dwight D. Eisenhower of his mentor, General Fox Conner. “In sheer ability and character, he was the outstanding soldier of my time.”
When Lafayette attorney Steven Rabalais read the words of the former general, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, he wanted to learn more about Fox Conner. Upon discovering that no full-length biography existed of the forgotten figure in American military history, Rabalais decided to write one.
In “General Fox Conner: Pershing’s Chief of Operations and Eisenhower’s Mentor,” Rabalais tells the story of a quintessential man-behind-the-scenes who shunned notoriety but nonetheless left his mark.
Conner rose from humble beginnings as the son of a blinded Confederate veteran from rural Mississippi to become a key figure in the American high command during World War I. General John J. “Black Jack” Pershing, who commanded the American army in France during the first world war, considered Conner “a brilliant solider” and “one of the finest characters our Army has ever produced.”
In the 1920s, when most of America slumbered in isolationism, Conner predicted the outbreak of a new world war within two decades. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, as the U.S. Army had shrunk to a size smaller than Portugal’s, Conner continued to warn of the dangers posed by German and Japanese militarism.
Poor health and retirement prevented General Conner’s participation in World War II, while others whom he influenced, including Eisenhower, George Patton and George Marshall, went on to fame.
Fighting for Access
Conner did not make his biographer’s task an easy one.
“When I began my research,” Rabalais said, “One of the first things I learned was that a former aide had followed Conner’s instructions and burned the general’s papers after his death in 1951.”
Rabalais then discovered that a high school history teacher in Mississippi had compiled information for years on Conner.
“The big break for me was finding the general’s grandson. He collected a lot of stuff on his grandfather,” Rabalais said.
Those leads eventually led the writer to a wealth of information at several National Archives facilities including West Point. Rabalais gradually pieced together the portrait of Conner’s distinguished military career.
The Conner family also provided Rabalais with numerous personal letters, photographs and other memorabilia enabling him to develop an understanding of Conner the person.
Rabalais said he wrote a balanced biography that addresses Conner’s foes and flaws along with his many admirers and successes. In other words, the story of an interesting life, he said.
Published by Casemate Publishers/Casemate UK, “General Fox Conner: Pershing’s Chief of Operations and Eisenhower’s Mentor” is available through Amazon and all major booksellers.
For more information, visit www.generalfoxconner.com or General Fox Conner on Facebook.