Francis Stevens Greenlief – Major General, United States Army

From a contemporary press report



Francis Stevens Greenlief, 78, a retired Army major general who shepherded changes in the recruitment tactics of the Army-Air Force National Guard and who fought to improve benefit packages as Guard membership diminished at the end of the Vietnam War, died of cancer December 18, 1999, at Inova Fairfax Hospital, Virginia.

General Greenlief’s first military assignment at the Pentagon came in 1960 as assistant director of the Army National Guard. He later became director of the Army National Guard and served as chief of the National Guard Bureau for three years until his retirement in 1974.

Although his main role was to serve as a link between the Army and Air Force Departments and the 380,000 Army Guard forces and 140,000 Air Force Guardsmen, he took on other matters in an era of social unrest and rioting.

In the late 1960s, General Greenlief met with governors, civil rights leaders and other officials to promote desegregation of Guard units. He stepped up minority recruitment campaigns, emphasizing the opportunity for Guardsmen to parlay military training into skills in the civilian job market.

Recruitment was also a concern in the early 1970s as the draft was phased out and the Vietnam War began to wind down. As Army Guard strength dipped, General Greenlief worked with Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery (D-Miss.) to pass legislation for reenlistment bonuses and other benefits as part of incentive package.

After his retirement in 1974, General Greenlief joined the National Guard ssociation and served as its executive vice president for about 12 years until the mid-1980s.

General Greenlief was a resident of Oakton. He was a native of Nebraska, where he attended the University of Nebraska and served in the Army National Guard. He was a lineman on the university’s football team but missed the team’s 1941 trip to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena when his Guard unit was placed on active duty.

Instead, he was shipped to Europe with the 134th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Division and fought in the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of St. Lo. His military honors included a Silver Star, a Purple Heart and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.

He returned to Nebraska after the war and briefly worked in private business before taking a civilian position with the Nebraska Army National Guard.

His first wife, Mavis M. Greenlief, died in 1988.

Survivors include his wife, Phyllis Greenlief of Oakton; six children from his first marriage, Barbara Ellen Saunders of Williamsburg, Carol Ann De Deo of Vienna, Robert Stevens Greenlief of Oakton, Michelle Elaine Schultze of Gaithersburg, Constance Mary Greenlief of Vienna and Kevin Charles
Greenlief of Centreville; and 16 grandchildren.


Lauded as the predominant figure in bringing the National Guard into the modern era, died of cancer December 19, 1999 at the age of 78. General Greenlief, a Nebraska native, was a resident of Northern Virginia for over four decades.

He dedicated his long career, which included more than 20 years of active duty, in advocacy of the National Guard as the principal combat reserve force in the United States. During Pentagon assignments, first as Director of the Army National Guard and later, 1971 – 1974 as the Chief of the National Guard Bureau, he instituted important reforms with long-range implications.

He led the way to major modernization programs and took the lead in the integration of the Guard – starting at a point where minority membership was under 4% of the total Guard force.

As Chief of the National Guard Bureau he was responsible for the administration and conduct of training both for the Army and Air National Guard throughout the States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.

Greenlief was notified earlier this month that the Governor of Nebraska has approved the elevation of General Greenlief’s rank to Lieutenant General in the State of Nebraska.

Greenlief was born on July 27, 1921 in Hastings, Nebraska. Following graduation from Hastings High School, he attended the University of Nebraska, where he was a lineman on the 1940 Rose Bowl football team. Greenlief was unable to make the trip to Pasadena when his National Guard unit was mobilized, placing him on active duty many months before the US entered World War II. After officer candidate school he rejoined his outfit, the 134th Infantry Regiment of 35th Division for service in the European Theater of Operations. He fought in the Battle of Normandy, in the liberation of St. Lo and the Battle of the Bulge. He was a platoon leader and rifle company commander in the war.

He is survived by his wife, Phyllis of the home place in Oakton, Virginia. He is also survived by six children, Barbara Ellen Saunders, Williamsburg, VA, Carol Ann De Deo, Vienna, VA, Robert Stevens Greenlief, Oakton, VA, Michelle Elaine Schultze, Gaithersburg, MD, Constance Mary Greenlief, Vienna, VA and Kevin Charles Greenlief, Centreville, VA. He is also survived by a step-son, Richard L. Morris of Merion Station, PA. Additionally, he is survived by an uncle, Joseph Hayden, Cedar Rapids, IA; and by 16 grandchildren. He was previously married to Mavis M. Burt who died in 1988.

He retired from active duty as Chief of the National Guard Bureau in 1974.  Later he served as Executive Vice President of the National Guard Association. Until his death, he had served as a consultant to several defense contracting firms including United Defense of York, PA.

He was proud recipient of numerous medals and honors during his military career, including the Combat Infantry Badge, Purple Heart with two oak leaf clusters, Silver Star and Croix de Guerre. He recently was awarded the George Washington Medal of Freedom which had also been presented to President Ronald Reagan.

Greenlief was a member of the Knights of Columbus in Lincoln, Nebraska. At the time of his death he was a member of the Holy Comforter Episcopal Church in Vienna, Virginia.

Services and interment will take place on January 3, 2000 at 1 p.m. at the Old Chapel, Arlington National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the American Cancer Society, 124 Park St., SE, Vienna, VA 22180; or to the Church of the Holy Comforter, 543 Beulah Rd., NE, Vienna, VA 22180.

Greenlief, Francis Stevens,
07/27/1921 – 12/18/1999
US Army, MG
Res: Oakton, Virginia,
Section 30, Grave 950-B,
Buried. 01/03/2000

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