Frederick Melvin Franks, Jr.
Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1959
Engagements: • Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)• Gulf War (1990 - 1991)
Frederick Melvin Franks, Jr.
Frederick Melvin Franks, Jr. was born on 1 November 1936 in West Lawn, PA. Franks graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1959 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He then attended the Armor Officer Basic Course; the Airborne School; and the Ranger School. After that, he joined the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Germany and that tour was followed by an assignment as an instructor at West Point in the 1960s.
Following his duty at West Point, Franks rejoined the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, which was now deployed in Vietnam. In a period of intense combat, Franks earned the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, the Bronze Star with V Device, the Air Medal, and two Purple Hearts. While fighting in Cambodia he was severely wounded and, after a series of unsuccessful surgeries, lost his left leg, which was amputated below the knee. Franks fought to remain in a combat unit, a request not normally granted to amputees, and was eventually permitted to remain in combat arms.
Through the 1980s, Franks served with the Army Staff in the Pentagon; commanded the 1st Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Bliss; served in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff; spent a year at the national War College; held several high-level positions in the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC); and finally, commanded the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, then assigned to the East German frontier as the V Corps covering force.
Following his promotion to Brigadier General in 1984, his flag-level assignments included Commanding General, Seventh Army Training Command; Deputy Commanding General, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College; and Director of Operational Plans and Interoperability (J-7). There he effectively integrated, for the first time, all joint staff operational planning, interoperability and warfighting functions within a single directorate of the Joint Staff, which resulted in significant increases in the joint warfighting capabilities of the U.S. In 1988, Franks again returned to Germany to command the 1st Armored Division, and a year later he assumed command of VII Corps.
In early November 1990, Franks was ordered to deploy the VII Corps to Saudi Arabia to join the international coalition preparing to drive Iraqi forces from Kuwait. On 24 February 1991, the Desert Storm land assault began with VII Corps making the main attack. VII Corps consisted of 146,000 American and British soldiers in essentially 5 armored divisions (one was a mechanized infantry division and one was a cavalry division). This consisted of close to 1600 tanks, American and British, and 800 helicopters. Supporting this was its support command and vital logistics support command comprising over 26,000 soldiers and 15 hospitals. In total, VII Corps consumed over 2 million gallons of fuel a day. In 100 hours of rapid maneuver and combat, VII Corps fought and won a great battle in the desert sands of Iraq. Under Franks' leadership, VII Corps units gained decisive victories at the Battle of Al Busayyah;, the Battle of 73 Easting; the Battle of Norfolk; and the Battle of Medina Ridge.
Controversy arose during and after the ground war over the pace at which VII Corps advanced. On the second day of the ground war, General Norman Schwarzkopf publicly expressed frustration over what he characterized as VII Corps' slow pace, allowing elements of the Republican Guard to escape destruction by fleeing toward Basra. Schwarzkopf said that "The window of opportunity is rapidly slamming shut." Certain Victory, the official Army summary on the war, said, "By the 28th (of February, the third day of the ground war), with the exception of the Hammurabi Division, the majority of the remaining Guard armor had already reached or passed through the Basra sanctuary en route to positions well inside Iraq." Franks tells the story in his own words in the book, written with Tom Clancy, Into the Storm - On the Ground in Iraq, which contradicts some arguments made by Schwarzkopf in his own autobiography It Doesn't Take a Hero.
Post-Gulf War Service
Following the Gulf War, Franks was promoted to the four-star rank of General, and took over the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
General Frederick Melvin Franks, Jr. retired in 1994 after almost 35 and a half years of active Army service.
Medals, Awards, Badges & Tabs
Defense Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star Medal Citation
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress July 9, 1918 (amended by an act of July 25, 1963), takes pleasure in presenting the Silver Star to Major (Armor) Frederick Franks, United States Army, for gallantry in action in connection with military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Major Franks distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous actions on 19 February 1970, while serving as S-3 with the 2d Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment, in the Republic of Vietnam. On this date, while flying a visual reconnaissance mission, Major Franks received a radio message that enemy movement had been observed in his area. He instructed his pilot to fly to the suspected enemy positions and to make several low level passes to draw the enemy's fire. When the helicopter received intense automatic weapons fire from the ground, Major Franks called in and adjusted artillery on the enemy positions. He then noticed a bunker complex with what appeared to be packs and equipment strewn on the ground. Disregarding his own safety, Major Franks directed his pilot to land the helicopter near the bunker. While the craft was settling down Major Franks spotted an enemy soldier maneuvering toward a tree line. After making every effort to allow the soldier to surrender he instructed his door gunner to commence fire upon him. He then returned to the bunker complex and, as the door gunner jumped from the craft and assaulted the position with a machinegun, Major Franks provided protective fire with his personal weapon. He then assisted in collecting and placing the packs and equipment on board. It was later found that the packs contained valuable intelligence information. Major Franks' gallantry in action was in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.
General Orders: Headquarters, II Field Force Vietnam, General Orders No. 3476 (August 29, 1970)
On 19 March 2011, he received the Guardian of Liberty Award presented by the West Point Society of Philadelphia at the Union League in Philadelphia.
Franks now serves as Chairman of the Board of the VII Corps Desert Storm Veterans Association, which assists veterans and next of kin of those who served in VII Corps during Desert Storm. He has also collaborated with Tom Clancy on a book, Into the Storm - On the Ground in Iraq. He works with the U. S. Army's Battle Command Training Program for senior tactical commanders and staffs teaching battle command in seminars and simulated war games. He also works as a consultant, speaks publicly on leadership, and teaches senior level battle command at military schools in the U.S. and United Kingdom.
He serves on the Board of Directors of Oshkosh Truck Corporation; the Customer Advisory Board for United Defense Corporation; and the Board of Trustees of the U.S. Military Academy.
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