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First Name: Joseph

Last Name: Conmy

Birthplace: Fort Snelling, MN, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Bartholomew

Date of Birth: 12 March 1919

Date of Death: 22 April 1994

Rank: Colonel

Years Served:
Joseph Bartholomew Conmy, Jr.
'Iron Raven'

Graduate, U.S. Military Academy, Class of 1943

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Joseph Bartholomew "Iron Raven" Conmy, Jr.
Colonel, U.S. Army

The Early Years

Joseph Bartholomew Conmy, Jr. was born on 12 March 1919 at Fort Snelling, MN, the son of an Army officer. He grew up on various Army posts in the U.S., the Philippines, and in Hawaii when it was a U.S. Territory. Joe survived an education often interrupted by his father's military orders. In 1937, he graduated from Leilehua High School, HI, and spent a year at the West Point Prep School there. Failing to gain an appointment, he joined two future classmates at St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, his father's old college. He earned a partial scholarship, was the janitor of the Science Building, and worked for the Athletic Department.

He finally won an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy, joining many of those who had followed him at the West Point Prep School. Joe had no problem staying above the middle of the class and climbed upward in his final two years. He was on the C Squad basketball team, B Squad cross-country, and won his letter in A Squad track in the 440 and the high jump. He also found time for the 100th Night Show and several class committees. He worked with the Catholic Chapel, where he met a lovely, blonde singer whom he was asked to escort. He and Marie Wilker were married on graduation day in Pleasantville, NY. They had four children whose birthplaces reflect the variety of Joe's assignments: Bart born at Fort Lewis; John in Honolulu; Mary Alice at West Point; and Barbara Ann in Paris.

Joseph Bartholomew Conmy, Jr. graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1943.

World War II

Joe joined the 44th Infantry Division at Fort Lewis, WA, and deployed with them to Europe in August 1944. As a Company Commander in the 114th Infantry Regiment, he was wounded after a month of combat. Returning to his unit, Joe became S-3 of the 1st Battalion of the 114th.

In between wars, Joe and Marie moved to Hawaii for a three-year tour with the ROTC.

Korean War

The 1949-50 Advanced Course led to orders for the 7th Infantry Division, which Joe joined just as they left for Korea. While in Korea, Joe was promoted to Major and then to Lieutenant Colonel. He rapidly was becoming a pre-eminent doughboy, and returned to USMA as a Tactical Officer.

Post-Korean War

Between 1955-60, the Conmy's were at Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, KS; in France with EUCOM; and at the Army War College at Carlyle Barracks, PA. Then he began eight years in Washington, four in ACSI and the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, and, in 1962, he began a four-year tour as Commander of the 3rd Infantry Regiment at Fort Meyer, called "The Old Guard." For Conmy, this was a dream come true: commanding the unit in which his father was serving when he was born at Fort Snelling.

The trouble was that Joe was so good at his job that he was held long beyond when he had wanted to go to Vietnam. Later in the 1960s, he served as a military aide to President Lyndon B. Johnson and traveled extensively with the President. In fact, Johnson used Conmy and another tall USMA grad on his overseas flights to dazzle the public. Conmy's West Point-classmates at one Pacific conference saw the Presidential plane arrive, doors open, and Joe and Hugh come down in immaculate whites to draw sabers and form a welcoming arch for LBJ as he debarked.

Vietnam War

Finally, Conmy was released to go off to his third Infantry war. In 1968, he went to Vietnam to command the 3rd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division. In May of that year, he led the Brigade in the Battle of Hamburger Hill in the Ashau Valley; one of the major battles of the war. After several days of desperate fighting, the hill was taken. A week later, brigade repulsed a night assault in the course of which Conmy was wounded once more.

Upon his return to the U.S. in 1969, he spent three years assigning colonels and a year as Liaison to the Inaugural Committee before retiring in 1973 after 30-years of service.

Major Medals and Awards

Silver Star Medal (3 Awards)
Legion of Merit (4 Awards)
Distinguished Flying Cross (2 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal with Combat "Valor" Device (5 Awards)
Purple Heart (3 Awards)


Combat Infantryman Badge with 2 Silver Stars (Indicates 3 awards: WWII, Korea, Vietnam). Conmy is one of only 230 Army soldiers to have received the coveted Combat Infantryman Badge in three wars.

In Retirement

After his retirement in 1973, Conmy became a research engineer for several companies. He also served as an adviser on the films "Hamburger Hill," which was about the battle, and "Gardens of Stone," which was about the Third Infantry and remembering fallen comrades.

The controversy over Vietnam spilled into Conmy's life when a former Army officer criticized Hamburger Hill, one of his Brigade's battles, as allowing leaders to win promotions by applying World War II standards to guerilla warfare and claiming victory when the enemy slid away. Conmy finally spoke out in a Washington Post article of 27 May 1989:

"By any standard in a limited war, the battle was a success. It probably saved thousands of American and South Vietnamese lives . . . The controversy surrounding the battle was generated stateside by politicians and members of the press who wanted the war to end but seemed to have no real solutions for ending it. However well-intentioned their criticisms, the net results were the enshrinement of inaccuracy, harassment of the troops and the denigration of Vietnam service."

Colonel Conmy did not write the Washington Post article in his own defense; he wrote it to protect the reputation his soldiers had earned in battle.

Comment from West Point Classmates

A premier Infantry soldier has left us. Joe Conmy was never concerned with the outward trappings of his success as a battlefield leader; he was a simple man who felt a calling to command troops in battle. One former soldier said, "Whenever I looked around the emptiness of the battlefield, there was 'Iron Raven' standing right behind us."

Death and Burial

Colonel Joseph Bartholomew Conmy, Jr., a combat veteran of three wars, died of cancer on 22 April 1994 at his home in Vienna, VA. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA. He was laid to rest in the cemetery where he had served so long by the famed 3rd Infantry Regiment, "The Old Guard" that he once commanded. His Old Guard did "their Colonel" proud.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Marie W. Conmy of Vienna; by his sons Bart, who lives in Florida, and John, who lives nearby in Richmond, VA; by Mary Alice Gill of Texas; and by Barbara Lowell of California. A brother and sister, 15 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild also survive him.

Joe's wife, Marie W. Conmy-Baden, died on 20 June 2000 and is buried with him.

Honoree ID: 2362   Created by: MHOH




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