Lee, John Clifford Hodges, nickname “Jesus Christ Himself”, born 01-08-1887 in Junction City, Kansas, the son of Charles Fenelon Lee and John Clifford born Hodges. He had two siblings: an older sister, Katherine, and a younger sister, Josephine. Known as Clifford Lee during his teenage years, he graduated from Junction City High School in 1905, ranked second in his class. His high school success enabled him to compete in 1904 for a 1905 appointment to the United States Military Academy from Representative Charles Frederick Scott without having to take the qualifying exam. He was selected as the first alternate, and planned to attend the Colorado School of Mines, but received the West Point appointment after the first choice resigned.
Lee graduated 12th in the class of 1909. His classmates included Jacob Loucks “Jamie”. Devers, who was ranked 39th, and George Smith “Old Blood and Guts” . Patton Jr., who was 46th. The top 15 ranking members of the class accepted commissions in the United States Army Corps of Engineers, into which Lee was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 11-06-1909. Patton would die in a car accicent as John Lee, only Patton as the result of a road crash, in late 1945, aged 60 and the circumstances are doubtful.
Lee was sent to Detroit, Michigan, where he was from 12 September to 02-12-1909, and then to the Panama Canal Zone until May 1910, after which he was posted to Rock Island, Illinois, where he worked on a project on the upper Mississippi River, and then in July 1910 to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to work on the Ohio River locks. In August 1910 he went to Washington Barracks for further training at the Engineer School there. On graduation in October 1911, he reported to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he was in charge of the engineer stables, corrals and shops with the 3d Engineer Battalion.
In Wheeling, Lee met and married Sarah Ann Row. Reverend Robert Edward Lee Strider, Sr.
, who later became the Bishop of the West Virginia, conducted the ceremony at St. Matthew’s Church in Wheeling on 24-09-1917. The couple’s only child, John Clifford Hodges Lee, Jr., was born on 12-07-1918 and would likewise become a career Army officer, serving in World War II and various domestic assignments, ending his career as Colonel leading the Office of Appalachian Studies, and dying in 1975.
Lee was appointed Wood’s aide de camp on 23-04-1917, shortly after the United States formally declared war on Germany.Wood was offered commands in Hawaii and the Philippines, but turned them down in order to take command of the 89th Division, a newly-formed National Army division at Camp Funston, Kansas. Lee, who was promoted to Major on 05-08-1917 and Lieutenant Colonel on 14-02-1918, became the division’s acting chief of staff and then assistant chief of staff.
For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal. His citation read:
For exceptionally meritorious and distinguished services. In the preparations for the drive on the St. Mihiel salient in September, and for the Argonne-Meuse offensive in October, 1918, he had charge of the detailed arrangements for and the subsequent execution of the operations of the 89th Division. The successes attained by this division were largely due to his splendid staff co-ordination, marked tactical ability, and sound judgment. Lee was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre, and was made an Officer of the French Legion of Honor
Lee served a second tour of the Philippines as G-2 of the Philippine Department from September 1923 to July 1926. On returning to the United States, he was posted to Vicksburg, Mississippi, as the District Engineer. This coincided with the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States. Over 16,000,000 acres (6,500,000 ha) were flooded, 162,000 homes were damaged and 9,000 homes destroyed. Lee directed relief work, attempts to shore up the levees, and evacuations of towns and districts.
Promoted to Brigadier General in the Army of the United States on 01-10-1940, Lee was Commanding General of Pacific Ports of Embarkation, working out of Fort Mason, California. He was responsible for updating all Pacific ports for wartime, engineering the changes needed to transfer materiel and troops more efficiently from rail to ship. However, he was warned by the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General George Catlett Marshall, that his tenure might be brief, and might soon be given another assignment, so he should select a deputy and train him to take over. Lee chose Colonel Frederick Gilbreath. Gilbreath survived the war and died 28-02-1969 (aged 81) in Austin, Texas.
A sign that Lee was being considered for a command assignment was his being sent to Fort Benning, Georgia, for a refresher course on infantry tactics. Lee was designated as an observer at the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1940 and 1941. During those maneuvers, the 2d Infantry Division had been disappointing, and Lee was ordered to assume command of it at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and bring it up to standard. He replaced the commander of the 38th Infantry Regiment with Colonel William Gaulbert Weaver. Weaver died on 25-11-1970, age 82.
Lee was concerned about the performance of the divisional artillery, and arranged for it to receive additional training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, which was where he was when he heard the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which brought the United States into World War II. Lieutenant General Lesley James “Whitey” McNair was impressed with Lee’s performance, and Lee was promoted to Major General on 14-02-1942. “Whitey” McNair on 25-07-1944, was killed by friendly fire, age 61, in Normandy.
In May 1942, the War Department considered the creation of a Services of Supply (SOS) organization in the European Theater of Operations (ETO) to handle the large volume of service troops and supplies being deployed to the United Kingdom for Operation Bolero, the buildup of US troops there for Operation Sledgehammer, the proposed Allied invasion of France in 1942, and Operation Roundup, the larger follow up operation in 1943. Lee’s name was put forward for the position of its commander by the Secretary of War, Henry Lewis Stimson; the commander of United States Army Services of Supply (USASOS), Lieutenant General Brehon Burke Somervell; and McNair, the commander of Army Ground Forces. Marshall had already formed a positive impression of Lee when he had commanded the Pacific Ports of Embarkation, and decided to appoint him.
Although Lee was a brilliant logistics officer, his conduct as head of the SOS attracted criticism both during and after the war. He was accused of leading a lavish lifestyle during a period of wartime scarcity, often indulging in the best hotels and food. After the liberation of Paris, Lee relocated the SOS and 29,000 personnel to the French capital, in spite of Eisenhower’s desire to keep major headquarters away from large cities and to reserve Paris for combat troops on leave. Lee claimed that this was done because of the city’s role as a transportation and communications centre, but the move strained an already overworked supply chain. The general’s arrogance and religiosity led other officers to joke that his initials—J.C.H.— stood for “Jesus Christ Himself,” and Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower l abeled him “a modern Cromwell,” although he conceded that “his unyielding methods might be vital to success in an activity where an iron hand is always mandatory.”
Lee also stood out because of his outspokenness on racial issues and his early advocacy of integration. As the majority of African American soldiers in the ETO were assigned to supply units, they fell under Lee’s command.
Lee gives a speech. Brigadier General Benjamin Oliver Davis Sr., the army’s first African-American General sits behind him. Davis Sr. the first African American to be promoted to General in U.S. Military history and also the father of U.S. Air Force Lieutenant General Benjamin Oliver Davis Jr. Jr. died 04-07-2002 at the age of 89 of Alzheimer’s disease, in Washington, District of Columbia, District of Columbia, USA.
During a manpower shortage in the winter of 1944–45, Lee offered black soldiers the chance to volunteer for combat duty. His original ideas for integrated units met resistance at higher levels, and individual black soldiers were not allowed to replace their white counterparts as needed. Instead, segregated units were created, and some 37 African American rifle platoons had been formed from SOS personnel by 01-03-1945. Although the U.S. military would remain officially segregated until the signing of Executive Order 9981 by President. Harry Shipp Truman in 1948, Lee’s efforts have been seen by some historians as an important milestone in the integration of the U.S. armed forces.
Lee became commander of U.S. Army forces in the Mediterranean theatre of operations in December 1945, and his conduct in that role once again became a source of controversy. A series of sharply critical newspaper articles accused Lee of mistreating enlisted men under his command, but an internal army investigation cleared Lee of any wrongdoing and cast doubt on the articles’ accuracy. He retired from the army and public life in 1947.
After 38 years of active service, Lee retired from the army on 31-12-1947 at the Presidio of San Francisco. He received many honors and awards for his services, including the Army Distinguished Service Medal, the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, the Silver Star, and the Legion of Merit. Foreign awards included being made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by the UK, and a Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor, Commander of the Order of Merit Maritime and a Commander of the Order of Merite Agricole by France, which also awarded him the Croix de Guerre for his WWI service.
Belgium made Lee a Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown and awarded him its Croix de Guerre. He received the Grand Cross of the Order of the Oak Crown and the Croix de Guerre from Luxembourg, which also made him a Grand Officer of the Order of Adolph of Nassau. Italy made him a Grand Cordon of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus and a member of the Military Order of Italy, and he received the Papal Lateran Cross from the Vatican.
In addition, Lee was made an honorary member of the French Foreign Legion, the II Polish Corps, the Italian Bersaglieri and several Alpini Regiments. He was declared an honorary Citizen of Cherbourg in France, and Antwerp and Liège in Belgium, was given the school tie of Cheltenham College in England, and awarded an honorary doctor of law degree from the University of Bristol.
Lee was an Episcopalian and kept a Bible with him at all times. He declined post-war invitations to serve as a corporate board executive, preferring to devote his life to service. In retirement he spent his last eleven years leading the Brotherhood of St. Andrew, a lay organization of the Episcopal Church, as executive vice president from 1948 to 1950, and then as its president.
Death and burial ground of Lee, John Clifford Hodges “Jesus Christ Himself”.
Lee’s first wife Sarah died in a motor vehicle accident in 1939, and he remarried on 19-09-1945 to Eve Brookie Ellis, whom he also survived. He died in York, Pennsylvania, on 30-08-1958, aged 71, and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery beside his first wife. Section 2, Site 3674 CWH.
There is a large portrait of General Lee in the West Point Club at the United States Military Academy.