The Info List - J. Lawton Collins

General Joseph "Lightning Joe" Lawton Collins (May 1, 1896 – September 12, 1987) was a senior United States
United States
Army officer who served in World War II
World War II
and became Chief of Staff of the United States
United States
Army during the Korean War. During World War II, he served in both the Pacific and European Theaters of Operations (ETO), one of few senior American commanders to do so.[1] His elder brother, Major General James Lawton Collins, was also in the army. His nephew, Michael Collins, was the command module pilot on the Apollo 11
Apollo 11
mission in 1969 that put the first two men on the Moon
and would retire as a major general from the United States
United States
Air Force.


1 Biography

1.1 Early life and military career 1.2 Between the wars 1.3 World War II 1.4 Postwar

2 Awards 3 Promotions 4 Notes 5 References 6 External links

Biography[edit] Early life and military career[edit] Collins was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, into a large Irish Catholic family on May 1, 1896. He entered the United States
United States
Military Academy (USMA) at West Point, New York
West Point, New York
in June 1913, at the age of 17, and graduated on April 20, 1917, exactly two weeks after the American entry into World War I, and shortly before his 21st birthday. Due to the outbreak of war, the graduation was several weeks early. He graduated 35th in his class of 139. Among those he graduated alongside were Matthew Ridgway, Mark W. Clark
Mark W. Clark
(who shared the same birthday as Collins and, as the two youngest cadets, were both known as the "class babies"), Bryant Moore, Ernest N. Harmon, William C. McMahon, Norman Cota, Laurence B. Keiser, William W. Eagles, William Kelly Harrison, Jr. and Frederick Augustus Irving. All of these men were, like Collins, destined to become general officers and later to achieve high rank in the army, with Ridgway, along with Collins, becoming Army Chief of Staff and Clark becoming a four-star general. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the Infantry Branch of the United States
United States
Army and was assigned as a platoon and later company commander with the 22nd Infantry Regiment. He was promoted to first lieutenant in May, and temporary captain in August. He attended the U.S. Army Infantry School of Arms at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
and served with the regiment at various locations between 1917 and 1919. He was promoted to captain in June 1918, and to temporary major in September, and took command of the 3rd Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment the following month. The war came to an end soon afterwards, on November 11, 1918 at 11:00am. Unable to fight overseas during World War I, he commanded the 3rd Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment in France
in June 1919, and was assistant chief of staff, as a G-3 staff officer with the American Forces in Germany from 1920–1921. During this time Collins served in the Army of Occupation with the Philippine Scouts
Philippine Scouts
in Germany.[2] Between the wars[edit] Collins married Gladys Easterbrook in 1921 and, reverting to the rank of captain in 1920, he was instructor in the department of chemistry at the USMA from 1921–1925. He graduated from the company officer course at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia in 1926, and from the advanced course at the U.S. Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma
the year after. He was an instructor in weapons and tactics at the U.S. Army Infantry School from 1927–1931 and, promoted to major in August 1932, was executive officer (XO) of the 23rd Brigade in Manila, and assistant chief of staff, was a G-2 staff officer with the Philippine Division
Philippine Division
from 1933–1934. He graduated from the U.S. Army Industrial College in 1937, and the U.S. Army War College the following year. He was then an instructor at the U.S. Army War College, 1938–1940. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in June 1940 and, now a full colonel, was chief of staff of VII Corps in 1941. World War II[edit] By the time the United States
United States
entered World War II, which occurred on December 7, 1941, due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and this was followed four days after by the German declaration of war on America, Collins had been a temporary colonel since January 1941. In February 1942 he was promoted to the one-star general officer rank of brigadier general and the two-star general officer rank of major general in May.[3] He was chief of staff of the Hawaiian Department
Hawaiian Department
from 1941–42 and served as the Commanding General (CG) of the 25th Infantry Division—nicknamed the "Tropic Lightning" Division—on Oahu
and in operations against the Japanese on Guadalcanal between 1942–43 and on New Georgia
New Georgia
in from July to October 1943. At the time of his appointment he was the youngest division commander in the U.S. Army, aged just 46. It was during this campaign that Collins gained his nickname of "Lightning Joe".[4]

On the right, Major General J. L. Collins, commander of the 25th Division and, on the left, Major Charles W. Davis, commanding the 3rd Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment confer on New Georgia, August 14, 1943.

He was later transferred to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), he commanded the VII Corps in the Allied invasion of Normandy and on the Western Front through to the end of World War II
World War II
in Europe in May 1945. Collins was chosen by Lieutenant General Omar Bradley, who had served with Collins at the U.S. Army Infantry School before the war and was then commanding the First Army in England, as a replacement for Major General Roscoe B. Woodruff, the original commander of VII Corps and one of Bradley's West Point classmates, who was senior to Collins but, unlike Collins, had no recent combat experience. He was appointed after a brief interview with Bradley and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, about his combat experience after Collins summed up his tactical approach in the Pacific as always targeting the high ground in an attack. Bradley turned to Eisenhower, claiming that Collins "talks our language."[5] At the age of just 47, this made Collins the youngest corps commander in the U.S. Army. Among the units serving under Collins' command in Normandy was the veteran 82nd Airborne Division, commanded by Major General Matthew Ridgway, a fellow graduate of the West Point class of 1917. VII Corps played a major role in the Normandy landings
Normandy landings
in June 1944 and the subsequent Battle of Normandy, including Operation Cobra. Lawton Collins was a favourite of the 21st Army Group
21st Army Group
commander, General Sir Bernard Montgomery, who after Operation Goodwood
Operation Goodwood
laid the path for VII Corps to break out in Operation Cobra
Operation Cobra
on 27 July 1944.[6] After Cobra was the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, which completed the destruction of the Wehrmacht
in Normandy, the corps then took part in the liberation of Paris and the Allied advance from Paris to the Rhine, where the corps broke through the Siegfried Line
Siegfried Line
and endured heavy fighting in the Battle of Hürtgen Forest. VII Corps later played a major role in the Battle of the Bulge, the largest battle on the Western Front during World War II, and finally took part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany. VII Corps is perhaps best known for the leading role it played in Operation Cobra; less well known is Collins' contribution to that plan.[7]

Major General J. L. Collins, commanding VII Corps, with Field Marshal Sir B. L. Montgomery, commander of the 21st Army Group, and Major General M. B. Ridgway, Commanding XVIII Airborne Corps, December 1944.

One of the few U.S. senior commanders to fight in both Europe and the Pacific, against the Germans and Japanese respectively, Collins contrasted the nature of the enemy in the two theaters of war:

The German was far more skilled than the Japanese. Most of the Japanese that we fought were not skilled men. Not skilled leaders. The German had a professional army.... The Japanese... didn't know how to handle combined arms - the artillery and the support of the infantry - to the same extent we did. They were gallant soldiers, though.... They fought very, very hard, but they were not nearly as skillful as the Germans. But the German didn't have the tenacity of the Japanese.[8]

Collins was promoted to temporary three-star rank of lieutenant general in April 1945 and permanent brigadier general in June. He was very highly regarded by General Omar Bradley, Collins' superior for most of the war, and many German senior commanders believed Collins, along with Lieutenant General Troy H. Middleton, commanding the VIII Corps, to be one of the best American corps commanders on the Western Front.[9] Bradley commented that "Had we created another ETO Army, despite his youth and lack of seniority, Collins certainly would have been named the commander." For his service during the war Collins was three times awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal, twice awarded the Silver Star
Silver Star
and twice the Legion of Merit.[10] Postwar[edit] After the war he was deputy CG and chief of staff of Army Ground Forces from August–December 1945. Later he was director of information (later chief of public information) of the U.S. Army between 1945–1947. He was deputy, later Vice Chief of Staff of the United States
United States
Army from 1947–1949 and was promoted to temporary general and permanent major general in January 1948.[11]

Collins with Walton Walker
Walton Walker
and John H. Church
John H. Church
in Korea.

Collins was Army Chief of Staff from August 16, 1949 – August 15, 1953; as such he was the army’s senior officer throughout the Korean War. As a wartime chief of staff his primary responsibility was to ensure that adequately trained and equipped soldiers were sent to fight in Korea. He directed the army’s operation of the railroads, brought the first Special Forces
Special Forces
group into the order of battle, and was closely associated with the development of the army’s contribution to the newly established North Atlantic Treaty Organization
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO). Collins was representative of the United States
United States
to the Military Committee and the Standing Group of NATO from 1953–1954. He was special representative of the United States
United States
in Vietnam
with ambassadorial rank, 1954–1955 and returned to his NATO assignment. He retired from active service in March 1956, after almost 40 years of military service. General Joseph Lawton Collins died in Washington, D.C., on September 12, 1987. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia. Awards[edit]

1st Row Distinguished Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters Silver Star with oak leaf cluster

2nd Row Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster Bronze Star Medal with "V" device World War I
World War I
Victory Medal

3rd Row Army of Occupation of Germany Medal American Defense Service Medal Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two campaign stars

4th Row European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with five campaign stars World War II
World War II
Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal

5th Row National Defense Service Medal Order of the Bath (Knight Commander) Legion of Honour (Grand Officer)

6th Row Order of Leopold (Grand Officer) Order of Suvorov (2nd Class) Croix de Guerre with palm


Insignia Rank Component Date

No insignia Cadet United States
United States
Military Academy June 14, 1913

No pin insignia at the time Second lieutenant Regular Army April 20, 1917

First lieutenant Regular Army May 15, 1917

Captain Temporary August 5, 1917

Major Temporary September 9, 1918

Captain Regular Army June 25, 1919 (Discharged as temporary major and resumed permanent rank of captain on March 10, 1920.)

Major Regular Army October 1, 1932

Lieutenant colonel Regular Army June 25, 1940

Colonel Army of the United States January 13, 1941

Brigadier general Army of the United States February 14, 1942

Major general Army of the United States May 26, 1942

Lieutenant general Army of the United States April 16, 1945

Brigadier general Regular Army June 19, 1945

Major general Regular Army January 24, 1948

General Army of the United States January 24, 1948

General Regular Army, Retired March 31, 1956


^ Video: Dragon's Teeth. U.S. Army Pictorial Service. Retrieved February 21, 2012.  ^ Edwards, Paul M. (2010). Historical Dictionary of the Korean War. Volume 41 of Historical Dictionaries of War, Revolution, and Civil Unrest. Scarecrow Press. p. 65. ISBN 9780810874619. Retrieved 19 March 2013.  ^ http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_collins_j_lawton.html ^ http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_collins_j_lawton.html ^ p. 115, Alan Axelrod, Bradley: A Biography ^ Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, 1887-1976: A Selected Bibliography by Colin F. Baxter, page 76 ^ http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_collins_j_lawton.html ^ Maj. Gary Wade No. 5 Conversations with General J. Lawton Collins United States
United States
Army Command and General Staff College 1983 ^ http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/people_collins_j_lawton.html ^ http://valor.militarytimes.com/recipient.php?recipientid=100086 ^ http://unithistories.com/units_index/default.asp?file=../officers/officers_american.html


Joseph Lawton Collins (1969). War in peacetime: the history and lessons of Korea.

External links[edit]

Wikimedia Commons has media related to J. Lawton Collins.

Joseph Lawton Collins biography in Commanding Generals and Chiefs of Staff a publication of the United States
United States
Army Center of Military History J. Lawton Collins
J. Lawton Collins
Collection Finding Aids US Army Heritage and Education Center, Carlisle, Pennsylvania Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery
Biography Conversations with General J. Lawton Collins, Combat Studies Institute report Papers of J. Lawton Collins, Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Presidential Library Papers of John J. Walsh (Aide-de-Camp to J. Lawton Collins), Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library J. Lawton Collins
J. Lawton Collins
at Find a Grave A film clip AIR ASSAULT TACTICS ETC. (1945) is available at the Internet Archive

Military offices

Preceded by Maxwell Murray Commanding General 25th Infantry Division 1942–1943 Succeeded by Charles L. Mullins, Jr.

Preceded by Roscoe B. Woodruff Commanding General VII Corps 1944–1945 Succeeded by Post deactivated

Preceded by Newly activated post Vice Chief of Staff of the United States
United States
Army 1947–1949 Succeeded by Wade H. Haislip

Preceded by Omar Bradley Chief of Staff of the United States
United States
Army 1949–1953 Succeeded by Matthew Ridgway

v t e

Leaders of the United States
United States

Senior Officer / Commanding General

Washington Knox Doughty Harmar St. Clair Wayne Wilkinson Washington Hamilton Wilkinson Dearborn J. Brown Macomb W. Scott McClellan Halleck Grant Sherman Sheridan Schofield Miles

Chiefs of Staff

Young Chaffee Bates Bell Wood Wotherspoon H. Scott Bliss March Pershing Hines Summerall MacArthur Craig Marshall Eisenhower Bradley Collins Ridgway Taylor Lemnitzer Decker Wheeler Johnson Westmoreland B. Palmer Abrams Weyand Rogers Meyer Wickham Vuono Sullivan Reimer Shinseki Schoomaker Casey Dempsey Odierno Milley

Vice Chiefs of Staff

Collins Haislip Hull Bolte W. Palmer Lemnitzer Decker Eddleman Hamlett Abrams Haines B. Palmer Haig Weyand Kerwin Kroesen Vessey Wickham Thurman A. Brown RisCassi Sullivan Reimer Peay Tilelli Griffith Crouch Shinseki Keane Casey Cody Chiarelli Austin Campbell Allyn McConville

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 42769309 LCCN: n78095803 ISNI: 0000 0001 1629 8137 GND: 12436490X SUDOC: 08147878X NDL: 00436381 SN