Verndale's Most Famous Citizen
Four Star General


On July 25, 1994, the United States Senate honored Verndale's most famous citizen in the chambers of the Senate in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death. The following is a transcript of the Senate proceedings.

(US Senate - July 25, 1994)

[Page: S9639]

Mr. DURENBERGER. Mr. President, I rise to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the passing of one of the greatest Minnesotans in history.

I must tell my colleagues that a mere 6 weeks ago I did know that this man was a great Minnesotan. I was walking the incredible cemetery at Deauville above Omaha Beach after the 50th anniversary speeches had concluded, and I saw a simple stone that said Lesley J. McNair, Minnesota, July 25, 1944. I said could it be the Lesley J. McNair of Fort McNair?

I came home with a list of others as well, but in this particular case I came home to find out that 50 years ago today it is true that Gen. Lesley J. McNair, the son of a merchant in town of Verndale, MN, gave his life so that Europe and the rest of the world might be free.

Lesley McNair was the highest ranking, and I believe may still be the highest ranking U.S. Army officer ever to be killed on the front lines. The news reached Verndale on August 3, 1944: General McNair had been killed by a misdirected bomb in St. Lo, France. It was just shortly after the so-called breakout at St. Lo in which our colleague Fritz Hollings participated.

He was observing action during Operation Cobra, the Army's push into mainland Europe. Flags went to half mast in Verndale that day, but pride intermingled with sadness.

All Minnesotans--all Americans--can take pride in the courage and leadership that he displayed in that campaign. Gen. George Marshall was right when he called General McNair a classic soldier, superior in every field.

General Marshall also pointed out that the astonishing successes of the Armies--McNair--organized and train- ed constitute the only praise that he desired. The aggressive spirit that General McNair instilled in our men was the driving force of his own character.

He was a warrior not of blood and iron, but of the heart. He knew that victory for democracy could come only from what was in the hearts of our people, not what was in the barrels of our guns.

Lesley McNair was born on May 25, 1883, in Verndale, what was then a farming and mercantile community of 1,500 in Wadena County, 150 miles northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul.

He graduated from West Point at the age of 21, and saw service under Gen. John J. Pershing, first in Mexico and then in France in the First World War. For his outstanding service, he was awarded both the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Legion of Honor.

In 1940, he was made major general--and undertook the reorganization of general headquarters at the Army War College. In 1941, he became a lieutenant general and commanding general of the Army Ground Forces. Chris Gabel has written of McNair's training skills, in which he still has no peers, in a book entitled `Louisiana Maneuvers.'

McNair, at the time of his death, had already received a Purple Heart for being wounded in the African campaign, when he met his destiny at the battle of St. Lo, 50 years ago today.

General McNair understood that courage and preparedness--together--are necessary building blocks of victory. It is for his organizational genius that he has been nicknamed `A Maker of Armies'--and for his courage that he is recognized as a national hero.

Mr. President, those who are stationed today at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, have a truly proud example to live up to. Indeed, all Americans can find in General McNair a model of the virtues that built and protected this country for the last two centuries. I ask my colleagues to join me in commemorating this important anniversary.

Mr. President I suggest the absence of a quorum.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The absence of a quorum has been suggested. The clerk will call the roll.

The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

[Page: S9640]

Mr. BYRD. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.


  General McNair on the cover of TIME magazine, December 28, 1942.
  A photo of General Bradley as he is seen pointing out one of the maneuver situations to General McNair of the Third Army in Louisiana.

PHOTOGRAPHER / CREDIT: Office of War Information. Overseas Picture Division. DATE: 1942
  The Louisiana maneuvers, Dwight D. Eisenhower working with Lt. General Lesley McNair September 1941
  Gen. Lesley J. McNair and General George C. Marshall discuss the Third Army maneuvers in Louisiana on September 26, 1941. (GCMRL/Photographs, 333)
  Gen. McNair and Maj. Gen. Patton at the Desert Training Center, 1942


Information and photos on this page were collected through my own research and information
gleaned from Pages from History published by the Verndale Historical Society.

I am actively seeking postcards and photos of Verndale, MN., to add to this Web site.
If you have any, please contact me at: