Lightning Joe

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By GEN J. Lawton Collins - Class of 1938

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J. Lawton Collins was one of the most important and influential American military leaders of the twentieth century. Although he did not see service in France during World War I, his exemplary service during the long, lean interwar years earned him a sterling reputation as an army officer. This resulted in his appointment as chief of staff of VII Corps, newly formed in California to defend the western United States following Pearl Harbor. Shortly afterward General Collins was sent to Hawaii, where he took command of the 25th Infantry Division, which he led in heavy fighting on Guadalcanal following its arrival in December '42 through January '43. It was there that he earned the nickname "Lightning Joe. " In 1944, Operation Overlord, the Normandy invasion, found him back with the VII Corps, this time as its commanding general. His descriptions of the fighting in France, the Battle of the Bulge, and the ultimate conquest of Germany offer important insights for anyone interested in the Second World War. Following the war he served as the army's vice chief of staff, and played an important role in shaping the National Security Act of 1947, which created an independent air force and the Department of Defense. As army chief of staff from 1949 to 1953, General Collins' thoughts on the korean War were particularly valuable. At the end of an army career that spanned five decades, he was picked by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to visit the fledgling Republic of Vietnam on a fact-finding tour. his misgivings about the viability of the South Vietnamese government ultimately proved prophetic.

Lightning Joe is the candid, thoughtful appraisal of world-shaking events by a man considered to be one of the most innovative, aggressive, and effective generals the United States has ever produced. -- Midwest Book Review