John Cogswell Oakes – Lieutenant General, United States Army

Courtesy of Sue Oakes Keith: October 2005

Lieutenant General, United States Army


Excerpted from obituary in the West Point Assembly and the Washington Post newspaper

John Cogswell Oakes, who retired from active duty in 1963 as a 3-star general and the Commanding General of the 7th Army in Germany ,died August 30, 1982 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

General Oakes was a native of Galveston, Texas. He was a 1928 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. As a young officer he served at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and in Panama as aide-de-camp to Major General Harold B. Fiske. He served seven consecutive years at the Artillery School at Fort Sill, first as a student, then as an instructor in the Department of Gunnery, the first student to be chosen to instruct immediately after his student officer course, and continued in the Dept. of Tactics. During those years Jack was a huntsman with the Artillery Hunt, played polo and steeple-chased. He retained his love for and interest in horses all his life and in later years had a small and successful racing stable.

In World War II, he commanded a Corps Artillery Fire Direction Center from Holland to the Elbe River. He served in Greece during the Greek Civil War as training officer of the Joint Military Advisory and Planning Group (JUSMAPG). He commanded the 25th Division in Korea and was Chief of Staff of the Eighth Army there in 1954. Almost immediately after that he headed the G-3 section of US Army Europe in Heidelberg, and was Chief of Staff of the Seventh Army in Stuttgart. I believe it was unique to have held the job of Chief of Staff in our two Armies abroad within the period of a few years.

He had meaningful jobs in the Pentagon at different times, an early one as Secretary to the General Staff and his last one as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations. He then returned to Germany as commander of VII Corps in Stuttgart and then became Commanding General of the Seventh Army there. During this job, a heart attack brought about his retirement at the age of just fifty-seven. Jack was admired, respected and loved by his superiors, subordinates and contemporaries alike.

His decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, the Bronze Star, the Knight Order of the Phoenix, Greece, and two decorations from Belgium.

Jack lived for the next twenty-two years in retirement in Washington, D.C. where he remained active in a number of endeavors. He headed the Army Distaff Foundation for many years during his retirement.

His mind was brilliant, his honesty a part of his being, his leadership fostered by integrity and interest, his judgment completely sound, and his heart deeply kind and compassionate. These ingrained qualities were shown in his work as well as his personal life. Jack was a fine man and one who stood high in the hearts of those who were privileged to know and love him.

Survivors include his wife, Margaret McKinley Oakes; two sons, Army Colonel John Hawley Oakes and James McKinley Oakes, and two daughters, Sue Oakes Keith and Margaret Oakes; a brother, Calvin Hawley Oakes of Washington, and seven grandchildren.

October 16, 1906-August 30, 1982
He is buried in Section  of Arlington National Cemetery

NOTE: The General's Father, John Calvin Oakes, Colonel, Corps of Engineers, United States Army, is also buried in Arlington National Cemetery.


Margaret McKinley Oakes, 75, daughter, sister, wife and mother of Army officers and great-niece of President William McKinley, died at Walter Reed Military Hospital on January 6, 1989.

She was born in Atlanta, Georgia and grew up happily as an “Army brat” living on several Army posts. In 1932 she visited an uncle and aunt who were stationed in Panama and met a young Captain,  John Cogswell Oakes, whom she married in 1934 in Washington, D.C. where her father, Major General James Fuller McKinley was Adjutant General of the Army.

Margaret exemplified all that a wife and mother should be, supportive of her husband and his career, mentoring to and beloved by peers and junior wives, loving and caring to her children, and later, to their children. She had a grace and gentleness and true caring for others, as well as a fine, quick, inquiring mind that could match her husband’s in brilliance.

After thirty years of married life in the Army, the Oakes lived another twenty-nine in retirement in Washington, D.C. where they had often been stationed and where they had family. Margaret lived her six and a half years of widowhood in nearby McLean, Virginia.

jcoakes-gravesite-photo-may-2008-001 jcoakes-042304jcoakes-gravesite-photo-01

Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment