Brigadier General Bonner Fellers

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Brigadier General Bonner Frank Fellers

Also Known As: "Frank"
Birthplace: Ridge Farm, Vermilion County, IL, United States
Death: October 07, 1973 (77)
Washington, District of Columbia, DC, United States
Place of Burial: 1 Memorial Avenue, Arlington, Arlington County, VA, 22211, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Frank Fellers and Florence Nightengale Fellers
Husband of Dorothy Bush Fellers
Father of Private
Brother of Marion Levi Fellers

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Brigadier General Bonner Fellers

Bonner Frank Fellers (1896–1973), was a U.S. Army officer who served during World War II as military attaché and psychological warfare director. He was a considered a protégé of General Douglas MacArthur.

World War II

In 1941, then-Colonel Fellers was Military Attaché to the U.S. Embassy in Egypt. He was assigned to monitor and report on British military operations in North Africa and the Middle East. As the representative of a very important friendly power, he was given full access to British activities and information. Fellers reported everything he learned to the U.S. His reports were especially prized by Army commander in chief General George Marshall.

Fellers' messages were sent by radio, encrypted in the "Black Code" of the U.S. State Department. The details of this code were stolen from the U.S. Embassy in Italy by Italian spies in September 1941; it was also broken by German cryptanalysts, who read "Black Code" messages.

Fellers' radiograms were intercepted and decrypted by the Germans. They were a treasure trove of valuable information to the Axis. The information was not only extensive and timely, it was also guaranteed authentic: the British would not be lying to their American friends.

Information from Fellers' messages alerted the Axis to British convoy operations in the Mediterranean Sea, including efforts to resupply the garrison of Malta. Information about the numbers and condition of British forces was provided to General Rommel, the famed German commander in Africa. He could thus plan his operations with reliable knowledge of what the opposing forces were. Rommel was so pleased with the intercepts that he referred to Fellers as "my bonnie fellow".

Fellers was later condemned for this information leak. But he had been ordered to use the State Department code over his objections, and had been ordered by Marshall to report in great detail. Criticism of Fellers for this problem generally came from those who distrusted him because of his close association both before and during the war with MacArthur. Marshall never found any fault with Fellers or with his actions in Egypt.

General Eisenhower is recorded in the diary of English Hermione, Countess of Ranfurly, as saying to her, when she expressed admiration for Fellers, "Any friend of Bonner Fellers is no friend of mine!" She was insulted and he apologised the next day, offering her lunch. But she refused. Eisenhower had disliked Fellers since the time the two were serving under MacAruthur in the Philippines.1936-1937 was the period in which the professional relations between MacArthur and Eisenhower became very strained and MacArthur began to use Fellers as his confidant. In July 1942, Fellers was transferred from Egypt. His successor as Attaché used the U.S. military cipher, which the Germans could not read. Upon returning to the U.S. Fellers was decorated with the Distinguished Service Medal for his excellent analysis and reporting of the North African situation. He was also promoted to Brigadier General, the first in the West Point Class of 1918. Although wishing to return to the Middle East as a member of the OSS, when he found out that that was impossible Fellers, in the summer of 1943, left his job in the Office of Strategic Services(OSS), where he played a central role in planning psychological warfare, and once again began working for General MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific. Fellers later served as military secretary and the Chief of Psychological Operations under MacArthur. While assigned to the OSS in Washington, he was, recalled a colleague, 'the most violent Anglophobe I have encountered.'

Postwar Japan

After the war, Fellers played a major role in the occupation of Japan. He met with the major defendants of the Tokyo tribunal. According to historians Herbert Bix and John W. Dower, Fellers—under an assignment by the code name "Operation Blacklist"—allowed them to coordinate their stories to exonerate Emperor Hirohito and all members of his family. This was at the direction of MacArthur, now head of SCAP, who wanted no criminal prosecution of the Emperor and his family.

Demobilisation and politics

In October 1946, Fellers was demobilized by Eisenhower and returned to his permanent rank of Colonel. He retired from the Army and worked for the Republican National Committee in Washington, D.C. In the early 1950s Fellers was actively involved in promoting Robert Taft as a Presidential candidate. After Taft's defeat to Eisenhower in the 1952 Republican convention, Fellers became a member of the John Birch Society. Fellers also became actively involved in promoting Barry Goldwater for the Presidency.

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Brigadier General Bonner Fellers's Timeline

February 7, 1896
Ridge Farm, Vermilion County, IL, United States
October 7, 1973
Age 77
Washington, District of Columbia, DC, United States
October 12, 1973
Age 77
Arlington National Cemetery, 1 Memorial Avenue, Arlington, Arlington County, VA, 22211, United States