James D. O’Connell – Lieutenant General, United States Army

Totally different from the static trench fighting of World War I, World War II involved rapid mobility across Europe, crossing mountains in the China, Burma, India theaters, and island hopping in the Pacific. With men like Lieutenant General James D. O'Connell, the Signal Corps provided the communications that regardless of mobility and terrain “got the message through.”

Born in Chicago, Illinois, on 25 September 1899, O'Connell graduated from West Point and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Infantry on 13 June 1922. After one infantry assignment, O'Connell attended Signal School at Camp Alfred Vail, New Jersey, graduating in June 1925. Assignments during the 1920s included Communications Officer of the 35th Infantry Regiment and a company command with the 24th Infantry.

Detailed to the Signal Corps in 1928, O'Connell served as an instructor at the Signal School. By 1930 he had earned a Master of Science degree in Communications Engineering at Yale University and returned to the school as an instructor until 1936. Once more, O'Connell pursued his own education, this time at Command and General Staff School. He graduated in 1937 and returned to Fort Monmouth, serving first as Project Officer and later as Executive Officer of the Signal Corps Laboratories.

During World War II, O'Connell's duties included a tour in the Office of the Chief Signal Officer as Chief of the General Development Branch, Executive Officer of the Signal Supply Service and with Headquarters, 12th Army Group in England France and Germany. When the war ended, O'Connell returned to the United States as Chief of Engineering and then Director of the Signal Corps Engineering Laboratories at Fort Monmouth.

O'Connell served as Signal Officer of the Eighth Army in Japan from 1947 to 1948, and after a tour as Chief Signal Officer of the Second Army, was once again assigned to the Officer of the Chief Signal Officer from 1955 to 1959.

General O'Connell's military honors include the Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster, Eastern Campaign Medal with five Bronze Stars and France's Croix do Guerre Ordre de 1'Armee with Palm. His civilian awards are equally impressive. After retiring O'Connell used his technological and leadership abilities with, among other, the General Telephone and Telegraph Company. Among his recognition in the 12th Edition of American Men and Women of Science.

The General died on July 29, 1984 at Washington, D.C.  He was buried with full military honors in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery.

His wife, Edith Chase Schlosberg (1908-1965) is buried with him.

O'Connell, James Dunne O'Connell, 84, a former Chief of the Army Signal Corps who also had been a special assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, died July 28, 1984 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He had cancer.

General O'Connell, who maintained homes in Bethesda, Maryland, and Boca Raton, Florida, was a native of Chicago and a 1922 graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.

Before World War II, he served in the infantry and earned a master's degree in communications engineering at Yale University, and also graduated from the Army's Signal School and its Command and Staff College. By 1940, he was executive officer of Signal Corps laboratories at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. In 1941, he was appointed head of radio communications projects there.

General O'Connell served in both Europe and North Africa during World War II, then became Chief Signal Officer of the Eighth Army in Japan from 1947 to 1949. He was then named to the Signal Corps Board, and in 1951, was named Deputy Chief of the Corps. In 1955, he began a four-year tour as Chief. He was the first Signal Corps chief to attain three-star rank. He retired from active duty in 1959.

He then spent three years as a vice president of the General Telephone and Electronics Laboratories in Palo Alto, California, and two years as a consultant with the Stanford Research Institute before joining the White House staff in 1964. For the next five years, he was Special Assistant to the President for telecommunications and director of telecommunications management in the Office of Emergency Planning.

In 1969, he retired for a second time and moved to Florida.

General O'Connell's military decorations included the Distinguished Service Medal and two Legion of Merit medals. He was a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and had chaired its Joint Technical Advisory Committee from 1961 to 1964. He also had served on the secretary of Commerce's Frequency Management Advisory Council from 1978 to 1982.

His first wife, the former Edith Chase Scholosberg, whom he married in 1933, died in 1965. His survivors include his wife, Helen F., of Boca Raton and Bethesda; two children by his first marriage, Peter D., of Bethesda, and Sally Ann O'Connell of Fairbanks, Alaska; a brother, T. F. O'Connell of Hillsborough, California, and three grandchildren.

USMA 1922. WWII (12th Artillery Group). 1899-1984. S=3.


Read our general and most popular articles

Leave a Comment