A Forgotten Intelligence Officer, A Forgotten Military History Journal

Colonel Arthur Conger

Arthur Conger (1872-1951) is a sadly forgotten player in American military and intelligence history.  He shows up briefly in the PhD. dissertation I am working on, but I’m hoping to be able to write a short article on him after that is done.  He deserves more attention not only for his contributions to intelligence, but also for having lived a fascinating life. 

Conger was a veteran of the Spanish-American War and the Boxer rebellion.  He also did intelligence work in the Philippines War (once known as the Philippines Insurrection).  This placed him in the very thin ranks of American officers who had any experience with intelligence during the pre-World War I years.  Conger also studied in Berlin, even attending lectures by the great military historian Hans Delbrück.  He also tought at the Army School of the Line at Fort Leavenworth a forerunner to what today is the Army’s Command and General Staff College. In 1916, he co-founded and became co-editor of military history journal called Military Historian and Economist.  The entire run of this journal is available on Google Books.  However, the journal was fated to be short-lived as he and his co-editor were called into Federal service when the United States entered World War I.   

Volume 1 (1916).     

Volume 2 (1917).     

Volume 3 (1918).     

An early member of the staff of General John J. Pershing’s American Expeditionary Force, Conger had original been assigned to the operations section, but the G-3 found him such a difficult personality, that he was more than happy to give him up to Dennis Nolan, the G-2.  As the AEF G-2 grew, Nolan placed him in charge of G-2-A which had charge of intelligence analyses as well as the AEF’s signals intelligence and (less directly) aerial efforts.  Conger also was deeply involved in AEF deception operations, most notably the so-called Belfort Ruse, though he found parts of that effort–notably the decidely 19th century measure of dropping fake plans into a waste paper basket to be found by spies–embarassingly crude.  In fact, however, he sells himself short, for he was also involved in much more sophisticated aspects of the plan, including arranging false radio transmissions and laying on aerial reconnaissance flights intended to be detected by the Germans and mislead them about what areas of the front the United States was most interested in.     

Conger’s post-war career is potentially comparably interesting.  After the War, Conger served as military attaché in Berlin from 1924-1928.  Interestingly enough, however, Conger is probably best known for an endeavor which today might be viewed as somehow incompatible with his intellectual endeavors.  He was a long-time prominent member of the the Theosophical Society, eventually becoming its president.      

Intriguingly, a Tamil who blogs about Sri Lanka had a post a while back about a paper article called “The Function of Military History,” that Conger presented at a conference in 1916.

Published in: on December 27, 2009 at 3:18 AM  Comments (1)  

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  1. Dear Researcher,

    I could not agree with you more on the lack of history on Conger. My discovery of the Colonel was most accidental. I’ve spent a great deal of time researching his father’s Civil War regiment and consequently his father…
    Conger Jr. is much more interesting!
    I’m preparing a talk for my Civil War Round Table on Conger entitled “Lost in the Footnotes: Akron’s Forgotten Soldier, Historian, Author and Theosophist.”
    His connection to the Civil War of course has to do mostly with his scholarship and teaching at the Leavenworth Schools.

    It’s good to see someone else recognizes him as well!

    Paul Huff, President
    Cuyahoga Valley Civil War Round Table

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