The Atlantic Report on the World Today: Washington
ON THE WORLD TODAY
WHO the in war? Washington No one contributed can prophesy most the to verdict winning of history when the facts are all in, but here is a ringside impression of the men who did the most.
One must begin with President Roosevelt. He was a poor day-to-day administrator; yet no President exacted more loyalty from his subordinates or put abler men in office. He was a grand improvisator. He knew all about geopolitics. He gave direction to the strategy of war in a way that left Churchill a poor second: and as Commander-in-Chief he held the respect of all the military leaders. His stature as a statesman is assured.
His successor, Mr. Truman, contributed most in the part he played as a gadfly of the war effort. There was plenty to criticize, plenty to praise. Congress made its major contribution through the Truman Committee, which saved the taxpayers millions of dollars, speeded up the war effort, and helped to keep it in the right direction.
Harry L. Hopkins deserves a high place among the home-front warriors. He was the President’s legs and wielded the Chief Executive’s influence in military and world councils, as well as in government. In a superb job of liaison, he was always recognizable as the alter ego of the President.
The military chiefs
Henry L. Stimson is in a class by himself, the elder statesman, with a natural sagacity and a ripe experience extending to several departments of government. His is one of the most open and accessible minds in the Capital.
General Marshall was responsible for the organization of the Army. His deficiencies were his unwillingness to build up a real General Staff, and his partiality for his old comrades of China days. But besides his remarkable grasp of the global conflict, he had Eisenhower’s rare gift for warfare by coalition.
General Somervell was a prodigal spender who wasted millions. But he had extraordinary dynamism, and the organization of our battle of production and our far-flung Army Services of Supply is his great contribution.
Admiral King is a hidebound martinet; nevertheless he lived up to his tremendous assignment. He deserves an accolade for his choice of the time and place for doing battle with the Japanese — namely, Guadalcanal.
Vannevar Bush directed the scientific work done under the aegis of government. Bush believed in anticipating as well as fighting the enemy. He and his staff figured out all the devices that the Germans introduced into the U-boat, and he had counterdevices ready. He inspired the Anglo-American activity which prevented the V-weapon from wiping out Britain. What Bush did in connection with the atomic bomb is now well known.
“Wild Bill” Donovan was in charge of the Office of Strategic Services. He made of it a new Intelligence organization in place of the inefficient and inadequate and antiquated G-2 of the Army and the Office of Naval Intelligence. The OSS was a significant auxiliary to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Donovan organized the brains of the country in the collection and interpretation of information. He sent his commandos all over the world to sabotage enemy installations as well.
Both Bush and Donovan were victims of brass-hat obstruction, and both could have done far more work if they had not been hampered at every turn by the “trade school boys” — that is, the men in entrenched service authority. Bush and Donovan have both sent Mr. Truman memoranda requiring vital action.
Ships and food
Henry Kaiser was not a man who worked in Washington, but he was of Washington. His baby flattops, to name only one of his products, swept the U-boat out of the Atlantic. Kaiser ran rings around the entrenched production chiefs who were suffering from hardening of their industrial arteries. He entered one field after another successfully.
Captain Granville Conway, former skipper of the Merchant Marine, and unknown outside Washington, kept the ships plying over the sea lanes, putting them where they were needed and withdrawing them when the military tried to use them as warehouses. Like the late Joseph B. Eastman, the railroad administrator, he is the bureaucrat at his best, devoted to the public service and impervious to any other consideration.
Leon Henderson did a superb job in organizing price and rationing controls. Without his spadework the war might have been accompanied by a runaway inflation. He was the most unpopular man in Washington when he was scolding Congress and the people on what total war meant. But he drove home the lesson of controls as no other man did.
The mind of Pearl Harbor
The Pearl Harbor Report is the first big exposé in the “now it can be told” era. It would be a pity if it were considered solely as an indictment of personalities. General Marshall’s record is its own redemption. Mr. Hull’s career likewise is secure. Our national propensity is to build up reputations beyond their intrinsic worth and to pull them down with equal fervor.
The lesson we must learn from the report is that lionizing and debunking are enemies of wise policymaking and good administration. The report is really an indictment of both our national purblindness and our defense system. Purblindness came from the lack of intellectual awareness of world forces.
Everybody who was surprised that the Japanese would dare to attack us must accept a measure of blame for the disaster at Pearl Harbor. Even our leaders appear to have shared the people’s sense of security, and the organization of our defense policy is now shown to have been full of flaws.
There seems to have been little interdepartmental liaison. Secretary Hull operated in one compartment, the armed services in another. The link should have been the President, but liaison is difficult to achieve at the top, and should be set up at the departmental level. It is fantastic that all through the negotiations in 1941 with Japan the military seem to have been left out of account.
The reconversion rush
The last word still has to be said about the Pearl Harbor tragedy. It would be a Dreyfus case if it were left in its present state, with General Marshall and Admiral Stark put alongside Admiral Kimmel and General Short as victims. The Congressional investigation ought to clear the air.
The ending of Lend-Lease was a bad example of the reconversion rush. It is a pity that it has led to an acid exchange between Britain and America. In Britain’s behalf one may say that that country was entitled to a little more form than was vouchsafed, such as a ninety-day notice. The British economy had become tied to Lend-Lease by the specialization of function which had been decided upon by the United States and Britain for war purposes.
Britain went all-out in production of war materials and combat service on the assumption that her food needs would be taken care of by America. But informally the British had had ample warning that as soon as hostilities ceased, Lend-Lease would be wound up. The last warning was given at the Potsdam Conference.
President Truman would have been untrue to the expressed will of Congress if he had delayed action. This the British don’t seem to recognize. They appear to forget that the development of a program of international economic aid depends in the final analysis upon Congress.
It is estimated that the investment abroad required to begin reconstruction amounts to 28 billion dollars. Most of it will have to come from the United States. It was necessary to clear the way of wartime expedients like Lend-Lease in order to get this program moving.
The French were more forehanded than the British in the matter of financial and commercial discussion. De Gaulle and his mission arrived almost simultaneously with the termination of Lend-Lease. They were little perturbed. Aid has lately been going to France in quantity, and there will be little interruption of consignments, because the French have ample dollar resources to pay for them. What the French have in mind is a huge reconstruction loan which will enable them to modernize their industry.
A good deal of unpleasantness in Franco-American relations was ironed out in the de Gaulle-Truman talks. De Gaulle conducted himself with humor and urbanity. Our policy, which the British are balking at, is anti-discrimination, anti-preference; it will certainly be a condition of aid to Britain that the British make some concessions in line with our policy. In asking American assistance in the retention of Indo-China, de Gaulle outlined a new colonial policy which would abolish trade discriminations.