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J. Lawton Collins

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J. Lawton Collins (1896-1987) was a general in the United States Army, who served as Chief of Staff of the Army during the Korean War. Subsequently, he was the U.S. representative to the NATO Military Committee until 1956, and had a final assignment to South Vietnam.

Early career

Graduating from the United States Military Academy in 1917, he served in various Infantry positions, rising to temporary Major, September 1918; he commanded the 3d Battalion, 22d Infantry, in France, 1919, and was assistant chief of staff, G–3, of American Forces in Germany, 1920–1921; he married Gladys Easterbrook, 1921; he reverted to Captain, 1920.

Subsequently, he taught chemistry at West Point, 1921–1925; graduated from Infantry and Field Artillery School, was an instructor in weapons and tactics at the Infantry School, 1927–1931; was promoted to Major, August 1932; was executive officer of the 23d Brigade, Manila, and assistant chief of staff, G–2, Philippine Division, 1933–1934; graduated from the Army Industrial College, 1937, and the Army War College, 1938; was an instructor at the Army War College, 1938–1940; he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, June 1940;

World War II

One of the few generals to serve in the Pacific and European Theaters, he began WWII as Chief of Staff of VII Corps and participated in the Guadalcanal campaign

Korean War

In early 1950, he asked Douglas MacArthur if he could provide information on areas outside his responsibility. MacArthur was reluctant to commit to regular reporting without orders to do so, but he thought he had the personnel to do so. [1]

"By late 1949, the KLO was reporting that the Communist guerrillas represented a serious threat to the Republic of Korea (ROK)..." Willoughby also claimed that the KLO had 16 agents operating in the North. KLO officers in Seoul, however, expressed suspicion regarding the loyalty and reporting of these agents. Separate from Willoughby's command, then-Capt. John Singlaub had established an Army intelligence outpost in Manchuria, just across the border from Korea. Over the course of several years, he trained and dispatched dozens of former Korean POWs, who had been in Japanese Army units, into the North. Their instructions were to join the Communist Korean military and government, and to obtain information on the Communists’ plans and intentions.

Still, CIA did have an analytic function under its control, and issued reports. While its 16 July 1949 Weekly Summary dismissed North Korea as a Soviet "puppet", the 29 October Summary suggested a North Korean attack on the South is possible as early as 1949, and cites reports of road improvements towards the border and troop movements there. [2]


Serving as President Eisenhower's special envoy to Saigon, during the transition from French government, on 13 December 1954, he concluded a formal agreement with General Paul Ely. His additional duties to Saigon were within the scope of the U.S. defense system centered on NATO; he had the personal diplomatic rank of Ambassador. This was his last assignment before retirement. [3] Collins, in late 1954 and early 1955, supported the French recommendation that Diem could not unify the Vietnamese nationalists. [4]


  1. Schnabel, James F. (1972), United States Army in the Korean War, Policy and Direction: the First Year, Center for Military History, U.S. Department of the Army
  2. Rose, P.K., "Two Strategic Intelligence Mistakes in Korea, 1950: Perceptions and Reality", Studies in Intelligence
  3. Conversations with General J. Lawton Collins, Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1983, Combat Studies Institute No. 5
  4. Patti, Archimedes L. A (1980). Why Viet Nam?: Prelude to America's Albatross. University of California Press. , p. 446