Lesley James McNair

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Gen. Lesley J. McNair, commander of Army Ground Forces during World War II, was a great Minnesotan and national hero who was recognized as such by the United States Senate on July 25, 1994, the 50th anniversary of his death. All Americans can find in General McNair a model of the virtues that built and protected this country for the last two centuries. True to his Minnesota values, he was a warrior not of blood and iron, but of the heart. He knew that victory for democracy could come only from what was in the hearts of our people, not what was in the barrels of our guns.

Gen. George Marshall called General McNair a classic soldier, superior in every field. In 1940, he was made major general and undertook the reorganization of general headquarters at the Army War College. In 1941, he became a lieutenant general and commanding general of the Army Ground Forces. As Educator of the Army his contributions profoundly affected the outcome of WWII, providing a catalyst for victory. Even to this day, his genius in military training skills and strategies is unmatched. General McNair understood that courage and preparedness--together--are necessary building blocks of victory. It is for his organizational genius that he has been nicknamed 'A Maker of Armies' and for his courage that he is recognized as a national hero.

Another significant contribution to our nation is the fact that McNair was the main proponent of allowing African-Americans to serve in armored units. He believed his nation could ill-afford to exclude such a potentially important source of manpower. Among his most distinguished honors are included: the Distinguished Service Medal, the French Legion of Honor, and a Purple Heart for being wounded in the African campaign.

Lesley McNair was born on May 25, 1883, in Verndale, Minnesota, which was then a farming and mercantile community of 1,500 in Wadena County, 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul. McNair was killed in Normandy, France, July 25, 1944. He was the highest-ranking American to be killed in action in World War II. In 1954, Congress promoted him posthumously to the rank of General. Fort McNair in Washington, DC, is named in his honor.
~Devon Dougherty, Golden Valley, MN


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