Tommy Franks Biography

United States Army general

Born Tommy Ray Franks, June 17, 1945, in Wynnewood, OK; married Cathryn (maiden name, Carley; March 22, 1969); children: Jacqueline. Education: Attended University of Texas at Austin, 1963–65; graduated from U.S. Army Artillery Officer Candidate School, Fort Sill, OK, 1967; University of Texas, Arlington, B.A. (business administration), 1971; graduated from Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, VA, 1976; graduated from U.S. Army War College, Carlisle, PA; Shippensburg University, Shippensburg, PA, M.S. (public administration), 1985.


Office— U.S. Army Central Command, 7115 S Boundary Blvd., MacDill Air Force Base, FL 33621–5101.


Commissioned as Second Lieutenant in U.S. Army, 1967; served as battery assistant executive officer at Fort Sill, OK; assigned to Ninth Infantry Division in Vietnam, serving as forward observer, aerial observer, and assistant S–3 with Second Battalion, Fourth Field Artillery; served as fire support officer with Fifth Battalion, 60th infantry; returned to Fort Sill to command cannon battery in Artillery Training Center, 1968; assigned to Second Armored Calvary Regiment in West Germany, 1973; commanded the 84th Armored Engineer Company and served as regimental assistant S–3; posted to Pentagon as Army Inspector General in the Investigations Division, 1976–78; served on Congressional Activities Team and as executive assistant, Office of the Army Chief of Staff, 1977; assumed

Tommy Franks
command of Second Battalion, 78th Field Artillery in West Germany, 1981–84; returned to United States in 1984 to attend Army War College, after which he was posted to Fort Hood, TX, as III Corps Deputy Assistant G3; given command of Division Artillery, First Cavalry Division, 1987; chief of staff, First Cavalry Division; named Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver), First Cavalry Division during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, 1991; assistant commandant of Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, 1991–92; director of Louisiana Maneuvers Task Force, Office of Chief of Staff of the Army, 1992–94; dispatched to South Korea to assume command of U.S. Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command, 1994; commander of Second Infantry (Warrior) Division in Korea, 1995–97; assumed command of Third Army/Army Forces Central Command in Atlanta, GA, 1997–2000; promoted to general and named commander–in–chief of U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, FL, 2000; commanded United States–led invasion of Afghanistan, 2001–03; commanded Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2003.


Defense Distinguished Service Medal, Distinguished Service Medal (two awards), Legion of Merit (four awards), Bronze Star Medal with "V" (three awards), Purple Heart (three awards), Air Medal with "V", Army Commendation Medal with "V", numerous United States and foreign service awards.


After a distinguished military career spanning five decades, General Tommy Franks retired from active duty in July of 2003. The head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) during the American invasion of Iraq during the spring of 2003, Franks in May was offered the post of Army chief of staff—the top job in the U.S. Army—but turned it down, mostly because he had little heart for the political infighting of the Pentagon bureaucracy. As one Defense Department official told CNN, "This is a man, a combat commander, who has won two wars. He's not really excited about a desk job."

In the first two major American military engagements of the new millennium—Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom—Franks deftly commanded United States troops to quick victories. In the early days of the Iraqi campaign, he, along with the rest of the Bush defense team, endured searing criticism from opponents of the war, most of whom decried the slow pace of coalition advances and suggested that the United States ran the risk of a much broader war in the Middle East. In the end, Franks and his lieutenants were able to demonstrate the essential soundness of their military strategy, concluding the all–out battle phase of the operation in a relatively short period of time. Although there were lingering questions about the accuracy of the intelligence used as a pretext for launching the war, this had little to do with Franks' role in the conflict and did nothing to tarnish his image as a military leader.

The general's military experience extends from the Vietnam War of the late 1960s through the second United States war against Iraq. In between Franks was involved in United States military operations around the world. In the mid–1970s, he commanded a howitzer battery in West Germany, and he later served as commander of the Second Battalion, 78th Field Artillery in Germany during the first half of the 1980s. During the Gulf conflict of 1990–91, Franks was assistant division commander for operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Between 1995 and 1997, he commanded the Second Infantry Division in South Korea. From CENTCOM's headquarters in Tampa, Florida, Franks directed Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan beginning in late 2001. To lead United States military operations in 2003's Operation Iraqi Freedom, Franks alternated between CENTCOM's Tampa headquarters and a command base in Doha, Qatar.

Born in Wynnewood, Oklahoma, on June 17, 1945, Franks grew up in Midland, Texas, where his family had moved shortly after his birth. He attended Robert E. Lee High School in Midland, where he played linebacker on the Rebels football team. Other distinguished alumni of the high school include President George W. Bush and the First Lady, the former Laura Welch. After high school graduation in 1963, Franks headed to the University of Texas at Austin, where he studied business administration. He dropped out two years later to join the Army as the United States became increasingly entangled in the conflict between North and South Vietnam.

After completing basic training and Artillery Officer Candidate School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Franks was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He served briefly as a battery assistant executive officer at Fort Sill before being dispatched in 1967 to Vietnam, where he was assigned to the Ninth Infantry Division. During his tour in Vietnam, Franks served as a forward observer, aerial observer, and assistant S–3 with the Second Battalion, Fourth Field Artillery. He also served as a fire support officer with the Fifth Battalion (mechanized), 60th Infantry, while in Vietnam. He was wounded three times in combat in Vietnam.

Returning to Fort Sill in 1968, Franks assumed command of a cannon battery in the Artillery Training Center. Selected to participate in the Army's Boot Strap Degree Completion Program the following year, he took classes at the University of Texas in Arlington, earning his bachelor's degree in business administration in 1971. Franks next attended the Artillery Advance Course, after the completion of which he was assigned to the Second Armored Calvary Regiment in West Germany in 1973. During the time he was attached to the Second Regiment, he commanded the First Squadron Howitzer Battery and served as Squadron S–3. He subsequently assumed command of the 84th Armored Engineer Company and served as Regimental Assistant S–3.

Back in the United States, Franks attended the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Virginia. Upon graduation in 1976, he was assigned to the Pentagon where he served as an army inspector general in the Investigations Division. The following year he was posted to the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, serving first on its Congressional Activities Team and later as an executive assistant. After spending five years at the Pentagon, Franks in 1981 was once again assigned to West Germany where for the next three years he commanded Second Battalion, 78th Field Artillery.

In 1984 Franks returned to the United States from West Germany to attend the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At the same time, he also managed to complete work on a master's degree in public administration at nearby Shippensburg University. After completing his studies in Pennsylvania, Franks in 1985 was assigned to Fort Hood, Texas, where he served until 1987 as III Corps Deputy Assistant G3. He assumed command of Division Artillery, First Calvary Division, in 1987, also serving as chief of staff, First Cavalry Division during this tour.

Franks' first assignment as a general officer came during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the Persian Gulf region at the beginning of the 1990s. During that first American conflict with Iraq, he served as assistant division commander (maneuver) of the First Calvary Division. At the close of hostilities with Iraq, Franks was assigned to the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill as assistant commandant. In 1992 he was named first director of the Louisiana Maneuvers Task Force, Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army, at Fort Monroe, Virginia, in which post he continued until 1994. In March of that year Franks was reassigned to South Korea as commanding general of the Second Infantry (Warrior) Division, First Army. Promoted to lieutenant general in 1997, Franks spent the rest of the 1990s as deputy commanding general of the Third Army at Fort McPherson in Georgia.

Franks was made commander–in–chief of CENTCOM in July of 2000. Headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, CENTCOM was responsible for military operations in the Middle East as well as much of the former Soviet Union. Franks moved into this critical post only months before Middle East terrorists launched a new series of devastating attacks against western—mostly American—targets. Suicide bombers struck the U.S.S. Cole, an American destroyer anchored off the Yemeni port of Aden, in October of 2000. The attack not only crippled the Cole but left 17 American sailors dead and 39 injured. But far worse was yet to come. On the morning of September 11, 2001, al–Qaeda terrorists launched a deadly attack on the United States. Al–Qaeda operatives hijacked four aircraft, two of which were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City while another was flown into the Pentagon, just outside Washington, D.C. The fourth hijacked craft was believed to be headed for the White House or another target in the nation's capital when passengers aboard the jet, seeking to regain control of the plane, struggled with the hijackers. The plane crash–landed in the southwestern Pennsylvania countryside, well short of its intended target. The terrorists's September 11 attacks left more than 3,000 dead and called into question the adequacy of United States security measures.

In the wake of the terrorists' attack, President George W. Bush declared war on al–Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, as well as the countries harboring them. In the case of al–Qaeda, clearly implicated in the September 11 attacks, Afghanistan, under the oppressive rule of the Taliban regime, was known to strongly support the terrorist group and its leader, Osama bin Laden. On October 7, 2001, less than a month after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, American forces launched operations designed to rout both al–Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan. Franks was named commander of American forces in Afghanistan.

Under the direction of Franks, most of the initial goals of Operation Enduring Freedom—including the dismantlement of Taliban rule and destruction of al–Qaeda training camps—were quickly accomplished, but despite exhaustive searches in the rugged, mountainous country, most Taliban and al–Qaeda leaders remained at large. More than a year after the American offensive in Afghanistan was launched, Franks told Mike Eckel of the Associated Press, "While an awful lot has been done in Afghanistan, this is Afghanistan. We're just going to have to stay with it for as long as it takes to be sure that we don't permit terrorism to retake Afghanistan." As of mid–2003 American military operations in Afghanistan were continuing.

Even as American military operations continued in Afghanistan, the Bush administration began expressing growing concern about the threat posed by the regime of President Saddam Hussein in Iraq. American concerns focused on widespread reports that the Iraqi regime possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and was continuing to develop still other such weapons. Although teams of United Nations weapons inspectors failed to uncover definitive evidence of Iraqi WMD, the United States, along with the United Kingdom and a handful of other allies, decided to invade Iraq with the twin goals of finding and destroying WMD and ending Hussein's repressive regime. Once again, as commander–in–chief of CENTCOM, Franks was assigned to direct the American offensive in Iraq.

Perhaps because of the speed and low casualties with which the goals of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm were accomplished in 1990–1991, many Americans seemed confident that Operation Iraqi Freedom similarly would go off with barely a hitch. When a couple of weeks had passed without coalition troops yet occupying Baghdad, the seat of government in Iraq, Franks and other American military strategists came under fire for their supposed failure to put together a viable plan for the invasion. However, the critics were soon quieted as American troops entered the Iraqi capital and effectively dismantled what remnants of the Hussein regime remained. The location of Hussein himself remained uncertain, but his oppressive regime was toppled once and for all.

In an interview with Newsweek after the end of the war, Franks reported that the United States war strategy had originally been expected to take up to four months to fully implement. As it happened, however, Hussein was toppled in less than three weeks. Anxious to accomplish American goals in Iraq with a far leaner force than many thought would be needed, President Bush ordered Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to come up with such a war plan. Rumsfeld turned to Franks for assistance, and together the two hammered out the plan that was eventually put into action. Their planning sessions, on which General Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, often sat in, were sometimes tension–filled, but Franks told Newsweek that he never found the defense secretary abrasive. "His style is direct. He doesn't waste a lot of time. But in–your–face, absolutely not." Together the two mapped out a war strategy that took full advantage of new technology to accomplish what previously might have taken far more American troops to do.

On May 22, 2003, Rumsfeld announced that Franks would retire from active duty the following summer. Rumsfeld had offered Franks the post of Army chief of staff—the highest job in the Army—but Franks turned it down. In October of 2003, it was announced that Franks had agreed to write his memoirs. The book will be published by Regan-Books, an imprint of HarperCollins; Franks had reportedly sought a seven–figure deal. Married since 1969 to the former Cathryn Carley, Franks lives with his wife in Tampa, home of MacDill Air Force Base and CENTCOM. Whether he will stay in the Tampa Bay area after stepping down from the military remains to be seen, but if he does he will join scores of other retired military leaders living in the area. So big a fan is Franks of the Super Bowl–winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he made special arrangements to watch 2003's big game from his hotel room in Pakistan. Fellow Tampa resident George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, told the Tampa Tribune, "It means something great for our community that Gen. Franks and his wife are fans of Tampa Bay."

On May 25, 2004, Franks received the honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his "inspirational leadership." A defense ministry spokesman told , "Gen. Tommy Franks has been a sterling friend of the United Kingdom during a period of turbulence in world affairs." The honor came with controversy, however, because the United States-led invasion of Iraq had become increasingly unpopular with the British public. Some felt that it was not the right time to be honoring an American military figure.



Complete Marquis Who's Who, Marquis Who's Who, 2003.

Carroll's Federal Directory, Carroll Publishing, 2002.


AP Online, November 29, 2002.

Esquire, August 2002.

Newsweek, December 30, 2002; January 6, 2003, pp. 60–61; April 7, 2003, p. 24; May 19, 2003.

Seattle Post–Intelligencer, April 4, 2003.

Tampa Tribune, May 23, 2003.

Time, March 8, 2002.


"Biography: General Tommy Franks," United States Central Command, (June 22, 2003).

Biography Resource Center Online, Gale Group, 2002.

"Gen. Tommy Franks Signs Book Deal," , (October 7, 2003).

"Gen. Tommy Franks to Retire," , (June 22, 2003).

"Interview with Army General Tommy Franks," Arizona Reporter, (June 22, 2003).

"U.S. general knighthood sparks row," , (July 9, 2004).


All Things Considered, National Public Radio, November 8, 2001.

Morning Edition, National Public Radio, November 21, 2001.

Don Amerman

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