Last month, author Hank H. Cox discussed his new book, The General Who Wore Six Stars: The Inside Story of John C.H. Lee (Potomac Books, 2018), before a group of thirty senior officers representing the different branches of service at the Pentagon, an audience that included seven three stars. Cox was invited by LTG Stephen R. Lyons Joint Staff Director for Logistics (JSJ4) who is responsible for advising the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on logistics. (Lyons has been nominated for his fourth star).
Lyons told Cox he was fascinated by the saga of LTG Lee, but even more by the highly complicated challenges associated with supplying U.S. forces in Europe during World War II. LTG Lee was the senior logistics officer in the European Theater. He was severely criticized by fellow officers at the time, and by many historians ever since. Cox’s book acknowledges Lee’s lack of popularity but explains it within the context of the awesome challenge he faced. General Eisenhower’s refusal to sack Lee, Cox contends, was based on the latter’s performance under fire. He did get the critical supplies across the English Channel on D-Day, he did find a way to get fuel to Patton’s racing tank brigades, and during the Battle of the Bulge he managed to remove the all-critical fuel dumps from the path of the onrushing Germans, leaving their armor marooned on the battlefield.
One reason for Lee’s lack of popularity was his advocacy of African-Americans in the Army in the era of Jim Crow when most blacks were relegated to service jobs. In December 1944, when the Army was running low on recruits, Lee issued an order permitting black soldiers to transfer from service units under his command to combat units. He came under heavy criticism for this, but he refused to back down. In his attitude on race, Lee was far ahead of his time.
The General Who Wore Six Stars has received rave reviews in Army Magazine which said the book “increases our historical understanding of one of the key, yet relatively unknown, individuals responsible for victory in Europe and reminds the military professional that logistics cannot be relegated to an afterthought.” The NYMAS review published by the New York Military Affairs Symposium, said it “will probably serve as the standard biography of Lee for some time.” In a review to be published in September, On Point magazine says, “This biography should be required reading for anyone interested in better understanding U.S. Army operations in World War II.”