Edward Cox needed to do a lot of research to accomplish writing Grey Eminence. I really respect him for that. He shares this in the book: “The dearth of information about Conner is not accidental. After a career that spanned four decades, this master strategist ordered all of his papers and journals burned. Because of this, most of what is known about Conner is oblique, as a passing reference in the memoirs of other great men.” Mr. Cox did a wonderful job of putting together this book based on Fox Conner’s mentorship of three famous men: George C. Marshall, Dwight (Ike) Eisenhower, and George Patton. We’ve all heard of these three men, but have we heard of Major General Fox Conner? I hadn’t, but I now know about this great soldier and leader and how he impacted the U.S. Army, WWII, and beyond.
Even though each of these three men (Marshall, Eisenhower, and Patton) had many influences on their military careers, they all attribute a lot of their success to their relationship with Fox Conner. He provided them with friendship and a father figure. He also was there to “provide advice, lend assistance, or call in a favor.” Marshall stated that he “owed his greatest debts to Conner.” Eisenhower felt that Conner “was the person who most shaped his career.” And Patton felt that Conner had a grasp of the art of war that was superior to his own.
As a reader, I appreciated the fact that Mr. Cox let us in on glimpses of the family lives of these men. That helped me to maintain my interest in the book. I’ve never been one to read a lot of history books, but this one is well-balanced and wants to share with us that mentorship is critical, and the lives of those who have gone before us should be looked upon as models, just as Fox Conner was a model for developing strategic leaders. “Each of his protégés developed subordinates of their own who would go on to face new challenges during the Cold War, fighting once again in distant lands like Korea and Vietnam.” Edward Cox’s reason for writing this book seems to be that which he states in the last sentence of the book: “Today it is time for a new generation of leaders to learn from and follow Conner’s example, and to mentor future members of the profession of arms to lead the Army in the twenty-first century.”
Reviewed by: Joyce Gilmour (2011)
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. What little is known about Conner comes primarily through stories about his relationship with Eisenhower, but little is known about Fox Conner himself. After a career that spanned four decades, this master strategist ordered all of his papers and journals burned. Because of this, most of what is known about Conner is oblique, as a passing reference in the memoirs of other great men. This book 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 was a master of his craft. Secondly, he recognized and recruited talented subordinates. Then he encouraged and challenged these protégés to develop their strengths and overcome their weaknesses. Finally he wasn't afraid to break the rules of the organization to do it. Here, for the first time ever, is the story of Major General Fox Conner.