Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Oral History Interview with
Karl R. Bendetsen

General counsel, Department of the Army, 1949; Assistant Secretary of the Army, 1950-52; Under Secretary of the Army, 1952. More

New York City, New York
October 24, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Bendetsen Oral History Transcripts]

This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened 1981
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Bendetsen Oral History Transcripts]

Oral History Interview with
Karl R. Bendetson

New York City, New York
October 24, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: To begin Mr. Bendetsen, will you tell me about your introduction into the Army, when you joined the Army and what your assignments were?

BENDETSEN: Mr. Hess, I will undertake to give you a sequential account. I entered the United States Army on extended active service in 1940. I had been a commissioned officer of the Officerís Reserve Corps since 1929 when I received my bachelorís degree at Stanford University, and I was commissioned in the field artillery. I reached the rank of captain of field artillery in 1939, some ten years thereafter. In the intervening years I saw no active duty at any high level headquarters. All of


my commissioned active duty was performed at Fort Lewis, Washington, in fortnightly periods. The 10th Field Artillery was stationed there during that decade, and my assignment as a Reserve Officer was to that Regular Army field artillery unit. This arrangement obtained in a number of cases around the country where a Reserve Officer happened to have his residence sufficiently close to a Regular Army unit of his military branch to permit frequent communication, inactive duty assignments on weekends and other times of convenience. So, I had some preceding connection with the Army at numerous times each year.

Parenthetically, I would add that I joined the Washington State National Guard when I was 14 years old, enlisting in the 248th Coast Artillery Battalion (Separate). I now "confess" that I prevaricated about my age. It was general practice in those days. Many young men of high school age thought it was "the thing to do" to be in the National Guard. So did I. The State authorities maintained a convenient posture of official ignorance. My span


of military service began then.

In late 1939 while I was practicing law, then at Aberdeen, Washington, I became deeply concerned about our national situation. I shared the view of many others that the clouds of war were gathering and we were ill prepared. At my own expense and with my slender resources, I took myself to Washington, D.C. in late 1939 to talk to my Washington State U.S. Senators and to my Congressman about our woefully inadequate military posture. I stayed for two weeks. I was not encouraged by what I heard. I returned to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1940 and joined with others of like mind. We were there as private citizens to persuade Congress to enact a draft law. I was really for universal military training, which as you know, so also was President Truman.

HESS: Very much so.

BENDETSEN: I believed strongly in it. We urged that the Congress adopt some such law. Short of that, certainly Selective Service was essential because our standing forces, our reserves and our federally


recognized National Guard were small and ill prepared.

On August 16, 1940, Congress passed Public Law 96. This authorized the President to call the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserves and the National Guard of the several states into active Federal service. This statute also authorized the establishment of Selective Service.

At that point, someone casually said to me, "Well, Bendetsen, youíve been around here on your own for several months trying to help get this through Congress. As a citizen, it seems to me you had ought to be one of the first ones to come forward and say you are ready to come into the Army."

I said, "I can hardly deny the force of your argument so I will do just that. Let me have up to 60 days to settle my affairs. After all, I have been here on some sort of active service for three months as it is."

I was ordered to active duty effective about 75 days later. I then reported as a captain of


field artillery to the Commanding Officer, 10th Field Artillery, Fort Lewis, Washington . While serving there I chanced to meet the Judge Advocate of the Third U.S. Army Division which had its headquarters at Fort Lewis. He was then a colonel. His name was Harry Auer. He soon became a brigadier general as the Assistant Judge Advocate General of the Army under Major General Allen W. Gullion. As he was leaving for Washington, D.C. he told me, "You shouldnít be here in the 10th Field Artillery; you ought to be in the Judge Advocate Generalís Department at the War Department in Washington, D.C."

I said, "Colonel Auer, I want nothing to do with the Judge Advocate Generalís Department. If Iím going to practice law, I would rather go back to my office, and thatís how it is."

"Well," he said, "thatís an interesting point of view. I suppose I should respect it."

I said, "I certainly hope you will."

After I had been at Fort Lewis a month, I was ordered to the headquarters of the 9th Service


Command at the Presidio of San Francisco. You may recall having heard the term "service command" with relation to the Army. There were nine service commands in the United States then. These constituted the field structure of the Army. Each respectively had responsibility for the administration and command and management of all posts, camps and stations, and Army troops in the field within Continental United States. This structure was soon to be abandoned in favor of other organizational arrangements. I will briefly allude to these arrangements later because they have some bearing on some of my subsequent remarks which will be closer to the center of the area of your interest in gathering this oral history.

To return to my new assignment, I was afraid I was going to be assigned to the Judge Advocateís office of the 9th Service Command. As it turned out in the beginning, my fears were not well founded. To my delight, I was assigned to the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff G-3, the operations section


of the general staff of the 9th Service Command. I enjoyed that service. It did not last long. General Auer apparently had not changed his mind! I was transferred to the office of the Judge Advocate of the 9th Service Command!

This also became a relatively brief tour of duty. A month later, I received orders to report to the Judge Advocate General of the Army at the War Department in Washington, D.C.

I was assigned to the Military Affairs Section which can be described as the Attorney Generalís office of the Army. It did not deal with military justice subjects. Instead, it dealt with the broadest range of legal questions: international law, civil functions of the Engineer Corps, administrative law, the status of Army personnel stationed offshore and abroad, the precursory considerations and legal bases for lend-lease agreements, for example. I met an expanding circle of both civilian and military personnel in the War Department and in other executive departments and agencies. I met members of the


House and Senate and their key staffers in the course of these duties. While it was not my desire to be in the law department or in Washington either, I found my role both stimulating and challenging.

I began to receive a number of assignments bearing very directly upon the provisions of the National Defense Act and also upon the civil status of draftees. It fell to me to draft, and to present to the Bureau of the Budget and then to ten committees, proposed legislation which I authored known as "The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act." There were four legislative committees, two in each House dealing with military and naval affairs respectively. There were also four subcommittees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees dealing with military and naval affairs. Finally, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act also came under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committees, one in each House. Thus there were ten individual committees through which the proposed legislation required clearance.

This was an intensive experience. Two major law journals requested authoritative coverage. I


prepared them and each was published. Within certain large circles, the demand for these articles was unprecedented. Requests poured in to the Adjutant General (who then handled all War Department correspondence and issued all travel orders) that I address special groups in various sections of the nation. I received orders to do so.

This brought me into my first direct introduction to then Senator Truman as a member of the Military Affairs Committee of the Senate (which later was merged with the Naval Affairs Committee, as you know, to become the Armed Services Committee after the 1947 Act established the Defense Establishment). This was "The National Security Act of 1947," which Felix Larkin undoubtedly discussed with you. Senator Truman was very deeply interested in fair protection for draftees and as well for their families. Most of them had no real means to defend themselves against various kinds of civil actions brought against them for debt, or alleged debt, or for mortgage foreclosures or any number of actions whether in contract or tort, or domestic relations.


"The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act" provided such means. It became milestone legislation.

The very intelligent and penetrating questions which Senator Truman asked were of major assistance to me. Several times he asked me to come to his office and explain to him whether in fact the provisions of certain parts of the bill would take care of special situations. He was interested not only in preparedness, but he thought that protection of draftees, other military personnel and their families had much to do with that subject. Most fully, I agreed with him.

HESS: When you would go to his office would you also see Hugh Fulton, the Chief Counsel of the Committee, or was it generally Mr. Truman?

BENDETSEN: Senator Truman primarily. I knew Mr. Hugh Fulton, but not well. He was widely respected and I was among the many who admired him. Many people knew him well but I doubt that he would remember me. Although I met him on a number of occasions, these were very active days for him.


A proposal for legislation of this nature such as the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, originating in the War Department, fell within the purview of the G-l section of the War Department General Staff (the Personnel Section). The Assistant Chief of Staff then was Brigadier General [Wade Hampton] Haislip, who after World War II became the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. General Haislip presided over the entire Personnel Section of the General Staff. He was responsible to the Chief of Staff for personnel program preparation and for proper personnel actions of every nature, a gargantuan task. He was a very able man. He took a deep interest in the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act. Thus, I had occasion to brief him. On introduction of the measures, after clearance by the Bureau of the Budget and the White House, he went to Capitol Hill to introduce the subject and me first to the Military Affairs Committees of each House.

He then had many other legislative problems to deal with. Apparently he believed that my handling of the relationships with Senators and the Congressmen


and the other agencies of the Government which were directly or indirectly involved in the course of the Civil Relief Actís passage, etc., qualified me to assist him in a variety of other legislative subjects. He requested that the Judge Advocate General (Major General Gullion) make my services available to assist him. Shortly this relationship reached the point in which he would not go to the Hill for any purpose without taking me along. By that time I could recite from memory, every line of the National Defense Act, and all of its amendments. It was a case of necessity. Someone had to be there by his side who knew the subjects well. In the rush of legislation, much unintentional damage can otherwise be done.

These assignments led in a very natural way to answering many of Senator Trumanís questions and to my attendance at informal conferences with him and others.

Another significant legislative problem arose during the prewar emergency. A bill, which had been


introduced in both Houses of the Congress was pending before the Judiciary Committees of both Houses, the exact title of which escapes me at the moment--it may later return to my recall, it probably will, usually does. The effect of the bill would have been to require "quasi-judicial" proceedings, involving notice, hearings, the right to counsel, in regard to hundreds of thousands of Executive Department and independent agency actions, both at the seat of Government and in the field. Its provisions were so sweeping that, for example, the War Department and Navy Department could not issue regulations touching military personnel either at the seat of Government or in the field without giving advance notice of publication of the proposed regulations and of a date and place for a formal hearing before an administrative law judge. The provisions of the legislation were such that the Corps of Engineers in making decisions related to Civil Works would become enmeshed in a stranglehold of red tape. The concept did not violate anybodyís sense of justice.


However, the bill had a potential for great damage by seeking to erect a massive bureaucratic superstructure over the military departments during a national emergency.

As the hearings developed, I had been directed to represent both the War and Navy Departments with the consent and approval of both Secretaries and their respective chief military subordinates as well as the Chief of Engineers with regard to his extensive civil functions. I cleared the thrust of my prepared testimony with the Director of the Bureau of the Budget.

Oh, yes, I do recall the title. It was a measure whose title was: An Act to Provide for Quasi-Judicial Processes and Procedures Throughout the Executive Branch; For Notice and Hearings; for Appeals to the Federal Circuit Courts; and for Other Purposes. It was 350 pages long!

My prepared testimony consisted of twenty pages of summary; plus twenty-six chapters such as, for example, in each case a chapter for the functions,


respectively, of the Secretaries of War and Navy (including their Under and Assistant Secretaries); the Chief of Staff and the General Staff of the Army; the Chief of Naval Operations and the Navy Staff; each of the Technical Services and Bureaus respectively of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps; the Munitions Board, etc., etc. These chapters were topical and were cross-referenced to each section and subsection of the bill. The chapters filled 200 pages plus annexes. There was a complete index. The summary, also indexed, was made available separately to meet obvious necessities.

My principal appearances on the Hill were before the two Committees on the Judiciary. It took sixty days of eight to twelve hours each to complete the research and prepare my testimony.

When I testified as the War Department representative, both in the House and in the Senate, I was still a captain. And here again, the then Senator Truman had a very deep interest in this subject because he could see that it would have profound implications


upon the ability of the armed services to lift themselves by their boot straps. I might remind you in this regard that in August of 1940, only 16-1/2 months before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army consisted of 165 thousand officers and men, total.

HESS: Total?

BENDETSEN: Yes. That included offshore as well as stateside personnel, commissioned, warrant and noncommissioned officers as well as enlisted personnel. It did not include civilian personnel.

HESS: This was at a time too that when the Army would go on maneuvers, they would have to use broomsticks for rifles, isnít that correct?

BENDETSEN: Well, that is almost correct but not quite. In August of 1940 the only Army troops on active duty were Regular Army troops and officers. While their arms were antiquated, they did not use broomsticks. They had rifles, sidearms and French 75 nun. and other World War I artillery pieces, still horsedrawn, not even mechanized, some tanks, a few howitzers,


some WWI machine guns, gas masks and old trucks. It was when pursuant to the Act of August 16, 1940 (Public Law 96), that the large elements of the National Guard were activated into the Federal service and when a few months later, large numbers of selectees began to report for induction into the Army, that there was not sufficient ordnance materiel to equip them with the basics such as rifles, sidearms, bayonets, or even canteens. That was the "broomstick" era.

It was during this latter period, in which efforts to remedy these deficiencies were accelerating, that Senator Truman became interested, on the one hand, to see to it that preparedness actions would not provide an umbrella under which to hide abuses, and on the other, to facilitate an effective preparedness effort.

To return to the "Quasi-Judicial Process" bill, Senator Truman asked me to summarize for him, before the hearings on the proposed measure, what I was going to say and why. He wanted to be sure that he understood it, mainly for his Preparedness Subcommittee


of the Military Affairs Committee (then known as a Committee because it was established by the Senate as a whole).

HESS: Thatís right.

BENDETSEN: It was during the Louisiana maneuvers in the winter and spring of 1941 (General Eisenhower was then a Brigadier General) that shortages of ordnance weapons led to the issue of wooden rifles to many of the personnel involved.

Well, back to the Procedures Act. After I had "negotiated" the ordeals at the Judiciary Committees, General Haislip asked that I be assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff G-1 over which he presided. I was then made a member of the General Staff of the War Department, which is a detail and not a branch. An officer can be detailed to the General Staff, War Department, or to the General Staff with Troops from any basic Army branch. It was then that General Haislip suggested that there was a law which would enable the President to appoint me as an officer of the Regular Army if I were willing


to accept a commission. I said that I was highly complimented by his offer and hoped that such an appointment would not immediately change the assignment I had just been given. In consequence, I accepted a commission in the Regular Army, as a captain. It was a direct appointment by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and with rank, just before the members of the graduating Class of 1929 at the Military Academy. Army serial number 022885 was assigned.

HESS: You will remember that for a long time, wonít you?

BENDETSEN: Yes, although I also remember the serial number I have now as a retired Reserve officer because it is the same as my Social Security number!

I had various assignments in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff G-l. These entailed coordination with other elements of the General Staff. In the course of those assignments came the answers to the questions which had not then been asked and fully answered for a long time such as, for example:


If war comes, how will prisoners of war be handled? Should steps immediately be taken to work out the details of a Prisoner of War Information Bureau as contemplated by the Geneva Treaty on the subject, to which the U.S. was a signatory? The Germans and most of our allies were signatories whereas the Japanese and the Soviets were not. What steps should be contemplated regarding enemy aliens if war came? What, if anything, should now be done to prepare for such contingencies?

There had not been a Provost Marshal General since World War I and no Corps of Military Police since 1921. Should these be reestablished? If war came and we found ourselves engaged overseas, what about military government and civil affairs? How would these vital functions be effectively performed? How would suitably trained officers conversant with these essentials be provided in a timely manner?

I prepared a study and research agenda to deal with such questions as these. I formulated a series of recommendations for proposed appropriate actions which after General Haislip approved, I coordinated


through the sections of the General Staff. These followed presentations to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War and briefings for appropriate Senate and House subcommittees. Then Senator Truman had a deep and abiding interest in all these questions. We discussed each topic frequently. He had a keen perception of all aspects of preparedness.

These considerations culminated in approvals (some by the President) and concurrences by the Military Affairs Committees of the Senate and the House to create the Office of the Provost Marshal General; the Corps of Military Policy; and a School of Military Government. In the Senate, the active support of then Senator Truman was indispensable.

Colonel Wilton B. ("Jerry") Persons, later Major General Wilton B. Persons, later Special Assistant to the President of the United States, Mr. Eisenhower, who later became a dear friend of mine, had observed the performance of my duties on Capitol Hill. He was then the Chief Congressional Liaison officer of the War Department. His assignment was a part of the


Office of the Chief of Staff. He recommended to General Marshall that I be assigned as an assistant to him (Colonel Persons) for congressional relations.

It was during that service in August of 1941, five months before Pearl Harbor, that a crisis event took place in the House of Representatives. The Selective Service Act of August 16, 1940 would expire on August 16, 1941 if not extended by congressional action. The Senate had voted for extension in a relatively close vote. In the House there were great pressures to let the Act die. Most people have probably forgotten how some of the draftees and many others were behaving in those days. Draft cards were publicly burned. There were riots. There was a concerted effort to end the draft. It was a "rehearsal" for the anti-Vietnam demonstrations.

As mentioned, the bill passed the Senate by a narrow margin but only as a consequence of a major effort there. We had worked night and day trying to supply the Senators, who were the Managers of the Bill to extend the draft, with every conceivable kind


of information. This was a very sensitive task. As neither of us was eligible to be on the floor of the Senate, gallery seats were reserved for Persons and me in the first row where the Managers of the Bill could see us and we them. We would signal one of them by a prearranged method or one of them would signal us, using a mutually agreed method unobservable to the uninitiated. One or both of us would then rush to the cloakroom of the Senate for a conference. In some cases, the questions put to us would require that we reach by telephone either the Chief of Staff of the Army or his Deputy. Senator Truman was totally committed to extension of the Act. He knew it to be absolutely essential.

The bill came to the floor of the House for debate a very short time before it was due to expire, about seven days as I recall. Mr. [Sam] Rayburn was Speaker of the House. He was for extension. Jerry Persons and I literally "lived" 18 hours a day on Capitol Hill. There was strong sentiment against the extension. The Speaker was very kind to us. He made his outer office and a


special pair of telephones available to us wherewith to make and receive calls. He assigned a secretary to us also. He knew that we had to support the Managers of the Bill in the same manner as in the Senate. Similar arrangements were made with the Managers of the Bill in the House. We were required to inform Mr. Stimson, the Secretary of War, the Chief of Staff and the office of the President of all significant developments. We provided the Speaker with background.

An hour before the final vote, Mr. Rayburn sent word that he wished to see us both at once. He instructed us to get in touch with the Secretary of War. He said that if the Secretary agreed with him that we should state that the Speaker desired that Mr. Stimson get in touch with the President to seek the latterís agreement. He told us that a compromise had been proposed which would assure passage if agreed to. He then outlined the compromise. He stated that the extension Act would limit the total length of service of each draftee


to 12 months; prohibit service outside the Continental limits of the 48 states; and require the immediate redeployment of each individual draftee then serving beyond these territorial limits, such as for example: Puerto Rico, the Canal Zone, Hawaii, the Philippines and Alaska. "What do you think of the compromise?" he asked?

I waited for Jerry Persons, my senior, to speak. Colonel Persons said, "Mr. Speaker, there is a custom in the armed services that the junior speaks first, because his views should not be prejudiced by hearing from his superior first, when then he would be constrained to express his own views." He said, "Karl, tell the Speaker what you think."

I said, "Mr. Speaker, while I would rather not tell you what I think, because I donít want to prejudice anything I say, or may be called upon to say to Mr. Stimson, or the Chief of Staff, or anyone else on the executive side, if you really want to know I will, of course, respond."

He said, "Yes, I do want to know."


I told him, "Itís untenable, unworkable. It will intensify the crisis that we already face. This compromise will make it impossible adequately to train, deploy and replace our soldiers. The logistics which this compromise would impose are unworkable. They would be inordinately expensive. The President has declared that an emergency exists. If the draft is extended under the proposed severe limitations, the people will believe that the Congress does not believe there is an emergency and the draftees themselves, those on board now and those later drafted, will not believe there is any emergency. Morale is not high now. If the Congress does this, morale will vanish and we could have a series of mutinies. The country will be torn apart. It will make conditions in the ranks far worse than they are today. Beyond all this, it will send the wrong signal to our potential adversaries. Mr. Speaker--that is my view."

He then asked, "Jerry, what do you think?"

He said, "I think weíre caught up with an unacceptable proposal."

The Speaker said, "Well, so do I."


It was a critical situation. Jerry and I made our telephone calls to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War. After 20 or 30 minutes, we were instructed to advise the Speaker that the Secretary and the Chief of Staff "cannot, in deference to our accountability for the preparedness of the nation agree to such a compromise."

The Speaker said, "We will see what happens. I canít predict the result." He handled the situation masterfully. A final vote was soon taken. It was the then to become famous vote of 201 to 200 in favor. Mr. Rayburn banged the gavel at a critical moment and declared the Bill had passed. If he had not banged it at the precise moment he did, the vote would have been reversed in the next few minutes. The fainthearted Congressmen who had voted "aye" would have switched their votes when they realized that there were 200 votes against. The Speaker sensed this and he knew his parliamentary rules full well. If the nation owed anyone a debt, it was to him for that forthright action. He later told us in his office that as he raised the gavel,


he saw five "doves" on the way to the floor of the House. He knew they would sink the extension! Still later, we all went over to see Senator Truman who invited us to Les Biffleí s office (The Secretary of the Senate) where we raised a toast with a small splash of bourbon!

Shortly after this dramatic experience, my assignment to the office of the Chief of Staff under Colonel Persons terminated. I disliked to leave it. The establishment of the Provost Marshall Generalís Office had been approved while all of this had been going on and General Allen W. Gullion, who was the Judge Advocate General when I was suddenly transferred from the Presidio of San Francisco to General Gullionís office, had been appointed the Provost Marshall General. He went to the Chief of Staff and later told me that he said to the Chief of Staff, "Iíd like to have Captain Bendetsen, and Iíd like you to promote him to temporary Major. He knows more about what needs to be done than anybody else. He made the study, he did the work, he


researched the World War I history, he has a good base. This will require coordination with the FBI, the Justice Department and other agencies. He will have to keep certain people on the Hill informed. He has demonstrated his capacity for this assignment. His experience is just what I need." The Chief of Staff agreed. I was promoted to the temporary rank of Major and assigned as General Gullionís assistant.

It proved to be a many faceted assignment entailing extensive research and detailed preparation of plans and programs which required coordination and concurrences both within and beyond the War Department.

Included were specifics for site selection; construction arrangements for housing of enemy aliens during wartime; laying the groundwork and readying for immediate activation in case of war of a Prisoner of War Information Bureau. In this latter case, the Department of State, the Swiss Embassy and the International Red Cross were heavily involved.


As should be evident, the enemy alien aspects entailed close consultation with U.S. intelligence agencies, notably the FBI, the Offices of Naval Intelligence and Army Intelligence.

Negotiations were initiated for the establishment of a School of Military Government to be located at the University of Virginia.

Senator Truman envisioned all of these needs. He closely questioned me and made many valuable suggestions.

Some of my duties dealt with subjects of a very sensitive and highly classified nature. These led General Gullion to conclude that someone be sent to the Hawaiian and Philippine Departments of the Army, as they were then known, for coordinating conferences. The Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department was General Walter C. Short whose headquarters were at Fort Shafter on the outskirts of the City of Honolulu. The Commanding General of the Philippine Department was General Douglas MacArthur.

General Gullion made such an urgent recommendation to the Chief of Staff who talked to the Secretary of


War. The recommendation was approved and it was decided that I should go with the title of Special Representative of the Secretary of War. This answers the question you asked me about how I happened to see General Douglas MacArthur in late 1941 and also answers a similar question relative to my conference with General Short and Admiral Kimmel at Fort Shafter shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I conferred with General Short and his staff on the way to the Philippines as well as with the Office of Naval Intelligence, the FBI and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. At the conclusion of my Hawaiian Department mission, I left via Boeing Clipper for the Philippines.

On my return from the conferences in the Philippines with General MacArthur and his staff and others, I briefly stopped over at Fort Shafter, the Headquarters of the Hawaiian Department arriving via Boeing Clipper at Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of December 4. The through passengers, myself included, were advised that scheduled departure for San Francisco would be delayed several hours. General Short sent for me.


HESS: What did General MacArthur and General Short have to say to you during the trip?

BENDETSEN: Before responding to your question, I will summarize my remaining travel. I stayed overnight with General Short at his invitation because we (the passengers) had been informed that the Boeing Clipper would not be ready for departure until the next night. This explains why I could not leave until the night of December 5.

I was introduced to Admiral Kimmel at dinner the night of the fifth. After dinner at General Shortís quarters, I left for San Francisco.

At San Francisco I boarded the first available flight to Washington. It flew overnight landing there about 9 a.m. December 7, 1941 (before the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor). Nine a.m. Washington time was 4 a.m. at Honolulu. The Clipper departed Pearl Harbor at approximately 9:30 p.m. It landed at San Francisco nonstop over fourteen hours later on December 6. The cross-country flight with three essential stops entailed about fifteen hours. Thus,


the United AirLines flight could not reach Washington, D.C. until approximately 9 a.m., December 7.

Upon arrival, I went by taxi directly to the office of the Chief of Staff. Walter Bedell Smith was on duty. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel in the office of the Secretary, General Staff. As an Assistant Secretary, he was duty officer that morning. (Parenthetically, I omitted to mention that I had briefly served in that Secretariat.) To go on--I reported to Colonel Smith that I had been requested by General Short to convey a personal and important message to the Chief of Staff as soon as possible. He said, "The Chief will want to see you, and he will soon be here, so instead of briefing yourself to me, you look a little tired, why donít you go home, kiss your wife, freshen up and return here promptly. I will order a staff car for you to save time. The Chief left here about 8:30 for some exercise. He will have some incoming and outgoing messages to attend to; so be here by 10 a.m."

HESS: Horseback riding?


BENDETSEN: Right. "He will see you then."

HESS: This was his routine on Sunday mornings, was it not?

BENDETSEN: Yes, it was. I reached my residence in Bethesda, Maryland, just over the District line. I was happily greeted by my wife--I had been away for some time. And as we were walking arm-in-arm into the house, the telephone rang. My wife answered, and she said, "Itís for you, dear." It was Bedell Smith. He said, "The Chief is coming in the building, get back down here right away!" and hung up.

HESS: But you didnít know anything about the attack at that time.

BENDETSEN: No, I did not learn of the attack until I reached the Munitions Building in record time some twenty minutes later. He did not tell me anything on the phone. Word was only then being flashed to the President, the Secretaries of State, War and Navy.


I will now summarize what I was told by General Short and Admiral Kimmel and staff--the nature of the urgent private channel messages which General Short and Admiral Kimmel so intensively wished me to convey.

I was told by General Short at dinner that many months prior to December 5, 1941, the Army and Navy forces commanded from Hawaii had been on Yellow Alert and the Pacific Fleet was not concentrated in Pearl Harbor. Yellow Alert is a 24-hours per day, 7-days per week alert with all stations and facilities manned (some skeleton manning) with minimal leaves, furloughs and passes and no weekend intervals and with communications and early warning networks being manned fully around the clock. Yellow Alert is only one stage less than Red Alert wherein all battle stations, communications and other facilities are fully manned around the clock, etc.

Further, I was informed that the Yellow Alert had been cancelled by direction of the President. Shortly after this order (which greatly surprised both) the Commander in Chief ordered the concentration of the


Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor.

I was informed that each had appealed to Washington repeatedly, Kimmel for permission to disperse the Fleet and both Short and Kimmel to resume Yellow Alert status with air and naval patrols. Each time, word came that the President declined to approve their requests.

The urgent messages given to me were well reasoned and in part factually supported appeals to authorize Red Alert status, dispersal of the Fleet and resumption of air and seaborne patrols. They placed their hopes upon the effectiveness of private and personally delivered messages of the nature entrusted to me. Each one believed that classified command channels were of no avail because they were regularly furnished to both the Department of State and the White House. Having resort to me to make a direct presentation to General Marshall was in effect almost an act of desperation. Both told me that each had separately concluded all signs pointed to the likelihood of surprise attack of some kind.


They stressed that large elements of Japanese naval strength had been on radio silence. They cited among other supporting facts suspicious behavior on the part of some Japanese residents whom Intelligence kept under close surveillance.

General Short said as I was taking my leave from his quarters to board the flight to San Francisco, "You could well save the day, perhaps you could well be the last hope. If I had my say, my command would be on Red Alert now."

When I returned to the Munitions Building from my home, Colonel Smith told me of the surprise attack. I then knew, of course, the urgent messages I carried had become of no avail. Before I later saw the Chief of Staff, I had talked by telephone to Colonel Fielder at Fort Shafter. He was then Assistant Chief of Staff G-2 (Intelligence) of the Hawaiian Department which General Short commanded. He had been at the dinner the evening of December 5. I telephoned him because it was my duty to relate some important instructions concerning enemy aliens.


When he came on the line and I had delivered these instructions, I then asked, "Do you know whether General Short would wish me to present the messages from him (and Admiral Kimmel) to the Chief of Staff in view of what has already happened? I said that in my opinion, there would inevitably be great outcries and endless Congressional investigations as to why our Fleet was concentrated at Pearl Harbor and why there was no early warning, let alone interception of approaching enemy naval and carrier-borne air forces. General Short can well either wish me to report or ask that I not do so. The messages are potentially hot."

He replied to me, "When I was with General Short about twenty minutes ago, he said to me ĎIt would probably be just as well if Bendetsen did not deliver the messages from us although I would not attempt to intercept him. The messages will not do any good now and would probably add to General Marshallís already crushing burdens if they are delivered.í"


I answered, "Bedell Smith knows I have messages from General Short to convey to the Chief of Staff. I will tell him these messages would now be of no practical use. However, when and if I see the Chief of Staff and if I am asked to report, necessarily and obviously I will have no choice but to convey them."

Colonel Fielder said, "Of course, you will have no choice."

Several hours intervened until I was directed to report immediately to the Chief of Staff.

He said, "I have been informed that your assigned missions were each accomplished. If anything, you were dispatched on your journey when it was far later than we thought. I understand you were with General Short and Admiral Kimmel the evening of December 5. Tell me very briefly the essence of what they said to you that evening and then tell me the essence of what General MacArthur said to you on the prime topic."

I replied, "General Short and Admiral Kimmel told me that they expected a sneak attack at any


time and stated their reasons (which I stated) and that they were gravely concerned that the major elements of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were at maximum risk while concentrated in Pearl Harbor by Presidential order; and that Red Alert status or second best, Orange Alert, was urgently needed. Each requested for himself respectively that I carry a personal message to the Chief of Naval Operations from Admiral Kimmel."

I continued: "General MacArthur told me that he had received assurances of support which he appreciated; that he had received some badly needed reinforcements, especially B-l7 s; that preparations for defense were proceeding but not ostentatiously (as directed by Washington) and that the order to conduct such activities under cover was naturally a handicap. He added that although he believed an attack on the Philippines to be inevitable, he was convinced it would not come before the spring of 1942." I added, "He did not elaborate his reasons for this conclusion. The setting was such as to


cause me to decide that I was not in an appropriate position to ask, and my decision was reinforced by my belief that had he felt I should know, he would have made this known."

HESS: All right, Mr. Bendetsen, when you were in the Philippines and in the Hawaiian Islands, what else did you discuss with General MacArthur and General Short?

BENDETSEN: I met with both General MacArthur and General Short and their general and certain special staff officers, to discuss with them, among other subjects, the arrangements which were to be carried into effect, if war came concerning compliance with the Geneva Convention as it applied to prisoners of war and an Information Bureau. We profoundly hoped if war came, as seemed ever more probable, the Japanese would respect the treaty. The Secretaries of War, Navy and State desired that the United States forces scrupulously abide by the Geneva Convention in the hope that our example would be emulated by our adversaries. As you know, as it turned out, the


Japanese disregarded it except for diplomats. The Germans complied both as to diplomats and military prisoners.

We also discussed at length the arrangements which were to be placed into effect concerning enemy aliens within their respective jurisdictions who, for reasons established by intelligence sources, were presumed to be dangerous, or potentially dangerous, in a wartime situation.

These two subjects were among the principal purposes of my trip and the details were important, somewhat complex and required more than the transmittal of orders to each Commanding General. There were aspects which necessarily had to be highly confidential. In the light of history, everyone knows what happened. The purposes for which I was sent were sensitive at that time in what proved to be a delicate prewar situation. As we know, war was much more imminent at the time of my visits than any of us involved then assumed.

HESS: As you spoke with both General MacArthur and General


Short shortly before the attack, was it discussed as to how imminent the attack might be, or when the attack might come?

BENDETSEN: The subject of the very tenuous relationships between the United States Government and the Japanese Government, and the growing probability that these might deteriorate into a war situation in the Pacific area, were discussed at length, both in the Philippines with General MacArthur and staff, and in the Hawaiian territory with General Short and staff. When you speak of "the attack," I would wish to make clear that "the attack" in the terms in which it actually happened was not discussed "outbound" with General Short--only on my brief stopover at Fort Shafter on my return trip.

In the case of the discussions at General Mac Arthurís headquarters our discussions did embrace the possibilities of a heavy Japanese attack on the Philippines at several points with landings in force. An air attack was not expected; carriers were not considered. Taiwan was beyond their available round


trip capacity. However, no one I encountered there gave any slightest indication that he even conjectured that there would be an air attack on Pearl Harbor. It was on my return trip stopover at Pearl Harbor that both Short and Kimmel had then become convinced that an attack had become a distinct probability. As I have stated, the "mind-set" to which I have referred had yielded to the recognition of what aircraft carriers could make feasible.

HESS: I was really asking if the possibility that war might break out in the Pacific was discussed.

BENDETSEN: I take it that your question seeks to pin down whether the imminence of war was discussed.

HESS: Thatís right.

BENDETSEN: The answer is very definitely yes and I believe I have clearly so indicated.

HESS: But you feel that information is still classified, correct?

BENDETSEN: Well, Mr. Hess, I have no current knowledge concerning the question what, if any, aspects remain


classified today. There are no classifications applicable to anything that I have thus far stated. I do not feel that in the absence of definite knowledge of total declassification of all pertinent aspects of who knew what and when he knew it, I should now continue further. To repeat, the short answer is that both in the Philippines and Hawaii the subject that war in the Pacific might well be imminent was extensively discussed and on my return stopover at Fort Shafter I was asked to convey to General Marshall a message that he secure approval to authorize very urgent measures for placing all forces on Full Alert--an around-the-clock all out defense posture for which authority had been denied by Presidential direction.

HESS: All right.

BENDETSEN: For the reason stated of lack of definite knowledge, I regret that I do not now feel at liberty to report fully on the conversation of December 7, 1941 between the Chief of Staff and me during our brief conference. In order to fully cooperate, I will however carefully check the status of classifications and if I find that I can do so, I will enlarge upon the conversations between the Chief of Staff and me.


HESS: Agreed.


BENDETSEN: Inasmuch as all applicable classifications have expired, I find that I am free to expand on my meeting with General Marshall on December 7, 1941. In order to provide both setting and context to a suitable degree, there will be some repetition.

On my way westbound through Pearl Harbor, I did not see Admiral Kimmel. I did, however, see General Short and some members of his staff, including Colonel Fielder, his Chief of Intelligence (G-2). I received the impression then that General Short and Colonel Fielder were uncomfortable about the situation but had not reached the point where I could say that their remarks indicated to me whether either had reason to believe that an attack by the Japanese was imminent. However, it was quite clear that although it would not be General Shortís responsibility to interdict a naval warship and carrier-borne surprise attack, he did command Army Air Corps forces which could, if alerted, inflict heavy damage on an attempt. Certainly the subject had a great deal to do with the defense of the Islands. He was profoundly disturbed by the very inviting target the concentration


of U.S. Navy warships in Pearl Harbor provided. I believe you will find that the record will show that there were 94 American warships, including aircraft carriers and eight battleships, anchored there. I know you realize that battleships were then considered to be the queens of the sea.

As a matter of fact, General Short was not alone in his concern. Admiral John O. Richardson, who once commanded the Fleet, has written a very revealing book on the subject which is in my possession. Its title is On the Treadmill to Pearl Harbor. General Short was profoundly disturbed. He told me that he had exerted great effort through channels to urge that the President be persuaded to authorize the dispersal of the main strength of the U.S. Fleet from Pearl Harbor. As I indicated to you, our naval strength had been concentrated there on orders of the Commander in Chief, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

I do not believe that President Roosevelt was motivated in this regard by any sinister purpose. Some military (Army and Navy) officers were of the view that the President believed that the Japanese would be provoked more certainly if the Pacific Fleet were on patrol on the high seas. Furthermore, there was a


very deeply engraved "mind-set" in those days among many senior military officers of the Army and the Navy. This "mind-set" was so antiquated that very probably almost no senior officer, military or political, had any concept that Japanese Air could reach Pearl Harbor, let alone Manila. What is amazing is that both the U.S. and Japan had aircraft carriers. I am sure you do not fully realize unless you have encountered this in your deep studies of the records of the time that both the War and the Navy Departments separately estimated that Japanese air could not reach Manila from Taiwan, reflecting an almost unbelievable mind-set. What about carrier-borne air?

General MacArthur on the other hand clearly believed that a full-fledged Japanese attack was imminent in the spring of 1942 and stated so to me. However, he had concluded that it could not come before April of 1942. I have no idea on what basis he reached that conclusion. I later learned that this appraisal had been previously shared by General Marshall. For myself, I was then at a loss to understand the basis for any of these various estimates. I remain so today.

There had finally been a reversal in the War Department of a longstanding position (which is no longer secret but certainly was then highly classified)


that the Philippines would not be defended and that if any U.S. forces were there at the time of a Japanese attack, these forces would take refuge in the Bataan Peninsula, a rugged wilderness. That longstanding position was stubbornly adhered to by the senior officials of the War Department until as late as the spring or early summer of 1941. MacArthur had finally convinced General Marshall that the Philippines must be defended and should be reinforced as soon as possible with ground, naval and air forces.

When I arrived in Manila, General MacArthur had already received some B-l7 bombers with which to attack Japanese warships, should they approach, and of course, for other purposes. B-l7s could inflict great damage on Japanese positions elsewhere in the Western Pacific. The War Department also promised additional troops and some few had begun to arrive. It is my recollection that at the time of Pearl Harbor, MacArthur probably had a total U.S. ground force of around six to seven


thousand. The plans were to augment these ground forces with additional artillery, mortars, other heavy infantry weapons, more modern rifles than outdated Enfields, and large stocks of ammunition.

General MacArthur, it is reported, had been sympathetic toward General "Billy" Mitchell and it is also reported that he voted for acquittal on the charges which had been brought against General Mitchell but no one knows for certain. I say this because this would indicate that General MacArthur had some advance and sympathetic concepts of air power, but he was by no means a full convert. For that matter, no one of importance either in the Navy or at the top levels of conventional Army forces had fully subscribed to the claims of air power advocates.

As late as 1941, the concepts obtained that wars were to be fought as they had been fought in the past. Some of the lessons of World War I were still painfully accepted. Early in World War I, General Haig of Britain thought the machine gun was vastly overrated and that the tank was a toy. Incredible but true!


We cannot forget the Maginot line in France. It was based upon refusing to believe that if World War II came it would be a war of mobility. I am anxious to say, however, that the top level officers of the War Department, and certainly General MacArthur, believed then that in any "next war," ground warfare would necessarily entail mobility. But this did not greatly influence the thinking behind the notion that 94 men-of-war would be safe in Pearl Harbor. So thought the President of the United States and many others--but certainly not Admiral Richardson.

General MacArthur believed that if he was to be reinforced, as he then thought the reversal of the War Department plans for the defense of the Philippines had promised, he could defend the Philippines. He had in mind highly mobile small torpedo boats to harass the enemyís men-of-war and shipping support. He had in mind making the landing beaches untenable which would not be hard to do if the enemy had no air cover.

At least by the time of my return trip through


Pearl Harbor, General Short and Admiral Kimmel, each for himself, had liberated themselves from the old mind-set. They realized that carrier-borne attack aircraft could be brought within striking distance of Pearl Harbor.

So, when I returned to Pearl Harbor, General Short and Admiral Kimmel made clear that each was deeply disturbed by the concentration of U.S. Pacific Fleet sea power in Pearl Harbor for the reasons already stated. Both knew that the Islands could not be defended without sea power deployed for battle action. Both realized that with a sneak approach of naval carriers an air attack could be launched, as I have already indicated. Both of them were highly nervous about the situation. They indicated to me that each not only believed that an attack could come any time and that therefore they believed it imperative to place all forces under their respective commands on Red Alert and to deploy the Pacific Fleet immediately.

I did not learn until after I had returned to the Munitions Building that at the end of November


or within a day or two prior to the end of November, the War Department had cabled MacArthur with information copies to Short and Kimmel that negotiations between Japan and the United States had then broken down. The cable stated that the outlook for resumption was bleak. That some sort of a surprise Japanese attack somewhere might well be imminent was not specifically mentioned.

No one in authority except Short and Kimmel had concluded that an attack could come before spring. Each of them had developed strong hunches that a naval attack on Pearl Harbor could come at any time. When that cable was sent, the Japanese fleet was already in force with carrier-borne aircraft on the high seas in radio silence steaming for its attack upon Pearl Harbor, the Philippines and Singapore.

No one needs to be reminded that the main purpose of the attack on Pearl Harbor was to disable a substantial part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. This in itself indicates that the mind-set of the Japanese as well as of the U.S. military authorities was that


World War II would be very much the same in many respects as previous wars. The lesson that this war would not be the same as the last previous one did not fully dawn upon the Japanese until after Midway, as we now know. As one authority some years ago observed to me, Yamamoto did not seem to realize that the air power he used against the US. Fleet in Pearl Harbor could also be used against his men-of-war as it was so ingeniously and effectively at Midway.

It was undoubtedly this secret cable which so substantially stimulated the concerns of General Short and Admiral Kimmel. There is no doubt that I was in Manila when this secret cable arrived, although I then had no knowledge of it.

Activity was however intense on the part of MacArthurís general staff when I arrived. I cannot say that I observed any marked change in degree between the time when I first arrived and when I left. In contrast to Short and Kimmel, I repeat that MacArthur still thought that if an attack came,


it would not come before spring. Certainly his staff, including his Chief of Staff General Sutherland, were not yet brought forward into the air age and although MacArthur ordered the dispersal of his air power, limited though it was, his Chief of Staff delayed for three days in carrying General MacArthurís orders into effect. The delay of three days was fateful. As a result, most of MacArthurís air power was destroyed on the ground by Japanese air forces.

I hope the foregoing background which I have inserted will prove useful to the reader.

I will now cover my audience with General Marshall on December 7, 1941 in greater detail.

Approximately two hours after I had returned to the Munitions Building, the Chief of Staff sent for me.

As soon as I had taken my place in his office he said, "Bendetsen, I know you have been without sleep for over 48 hours. Remarkably, you do not show it. Now that we have been forced into a war of vast dimensions, your unusual endurance will stand you in good stead."


He went on: "I have learned from Smith that you had dinner with Short and Kimmel the evening of December 5. Tell me briefly the substance of what was said to you and of any important messages you were asked personally to convey."

I replied that each had expressed deep concern about the continued concentration of the Pacific Fleet in Pearl Harbor by Presidential order and by the continuing hold on authorizations to place their respective forces on Red Alert, or at least Orange Alert. Their concerns had been heightened by official word several days earlier that U.S.-Japanese negotiations had broken down. I was requested to carry personal messages appealing for action they considered of prime urgency to bring about authorizations from the Commander in Chief to assume Red Alert and naval orders immediately to deploy the Fleet in battle array.

General Marshall then told me that he knew we shared an extraordinary degree of regret that I had not been at Fort Shafter the evening of December 4 rather than December 5. He continued: "For your


ears only, at 8 oíclock the morning of December 4, Washington, D.C. time, I sent messages to MacArthur and to Short directing that all forces and facilities be immediately placed on full Red Alert (war footing against surprise attack by seaborne carrier air). At that same time the Chief of Naval Operations was authorized to send similar messages to Naval Commanders in the Pacific area. Kimmel was directed by that message immediately to deploy the Fleet, assuming battle stations."

The Chief of Staff added that he had not learned until immediately after the attack that neither of these messages had been delivered. He said, "These messages were enciphered with topmost security classification. Each was sent through the same security communications channel with highest priority. There was an unprecedented failure of the sophisticated enciphering and deciphering equipment. None of the Army or Naval Commanders to whom they were addressed received then. You may not yet know that MacArthurís aircraft had not been adequately dispersed and that he lost much of his air power,


including B-l7s.

"Singapore was also attacked with heavy losses. The U.S. Pacific Fleet had been disabled. The concentration of sea power in Pearl Harbor became a major disaster. The President had ordered the concentration to avoid what he thought might be a provocation to the Japanese if the Fleet had been deployed.

"If you had been able to be with General Short and Admiral Kimmel the evening of December 4, you would have reported to me the morning of December 6 with the messages you were carrying. This would have informed us that my top priority directives as well as those sent to the Naval Commanders in the Pacific had not been transmitted. There would then have remained adequate time greatly to diminish the crushing impact of the day. By travelling straight through you did your utmost as it is."

What a superbly remarkable man General Marshall was! I hold a deep sense of profound respect and admiration for him. In the light of the crushing


burdens he bore I was literally overwhelmed that he would take even a few minutes for such extraordinary consideration of a junior officer.

As I left the office of the Chief of Staff, I bore a heavy burden which I could not share with anyone else. I felt deep sympathy for General Marshall whose vital messages of December 4 were not delivered. This knowledge, imparted by the Chief to me for my ears alone, I could not reveal to anyone. There was no escape from a searing sense of guilt that somehow, some way I could have arrived at Pearl Harbor two days earlier on the next previously scheduled Clipper flight and at Washington on the morning of December 6. Lives might not have been lost. Our naval and military resources might not have been so cruelly decimated.

Beyond these painful thoughts there was overlaid an abiding concern born of the onslaught of the revelations to me during the outbound stopover at Shafter and during my temporary duty at Manila. How was it possible that so many officers could harbor


and hold such mind-sets? Both we and the Japanese had developed aircraft carriers. How could it escape so many professionals that carrier-borne aircraft could attack Clarke Field in the Philippines? And Pearl Harbor? What did this portend for our forces and our nation?

I have never before related to anyone any of the foregoing, either orally or in writing.

This is the end of the INSERT.

HESS: After your return to the United States, on that Sunday, you have stated you went back to the War Department. What was the attitude around the War Department at this time? Was there shock and surprise that the Japanese had attacked in Pearl Harbor on that December the 7th?

BENDETSEN: Yes, there was. Without exception the news struck with stunning force. Word of the devastating degree of destruction spread quickly. When it was further fully realized that there was virtually no warning because the garrisons had not been on any degree of alert but instead were on "weekend" status,


there was also a sense of disbelief and shame. The added awareness that a major portion of the Fleet had been destroyed because it had been concentrated as a ready-made target was also a source of anger.

HESS: What were a few of your first duties after war ensued? What were a few of the first problems that you had to deal with?

BENDETSEN: They were widely varied. Their essence was to activate the detailed plans which I have heretofore mentioned: The organization and launching of the military government school; full activation of the Corps of Military Police; full activation of the functions of the Provost Marshall Generalís Department, including a military police training center; the establishment of the Prisoner of War Information Bureau; the carrying into effect of the measures regarding potentially or actually dangerous aliens within our boundaries including Hawaii and Alaska. These steps were all promptly taken in parallel. The enemy alien reception centers were


immediately placed in operation with skeleton manning. One of these was established at a hotel. This was for diplomats of enemy nations. The War Department had no authority over enemy aliens anywhere except following the issuance of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This applied to enemy aliens within the Western Defense Command only.

Placing the Prisoner of War Information Bureau in active status required meticulous compliance with the considerably complex provisions of the applicable Geneva Convention. A host of important details required crystal clear explanation and dissemination so that grievous mistakes were not made which might penalize our own nationals in enemy hands. Effective instruction in compliance with the Geneva Convention was essential.

HESS: The evacuation of the Japanese from the West Coast was carried out under the authority of Executive Order 9066 of February 19, 1942 and the War Relocation Authority was established by Executive Order 9102 of March 18, 1942. Lieutenant General John


DeWitt was Commanding General of the Western Defense Command.

BENDETSEN: And Fourth Army.

HESS: ...and Fourth Army. And he was the military man in charge of carrying out the relocation, correct?

BENDETSEN: No, he was delegated by the President to carry out the evacuation ordered by Executive Order 9066 dated February 19, 1942. The later Executive Order 9102 dated March 18, 1942 covered relocation only. It had nothing to do with evacuation. The War Relocation Authority was a civilian agency. It was not at any time a part of the War Department or the Army. It took over after the evacuation phase. The military phase was usually termed evacuation (from the sea frontiers). General DeWitt delegated the entire evacuation task to me. No one could possibly have been more surprised than I to find myself in this position.

HESS: Thatís right.


BENDETSEN: The War Relocation Authority was not established until sometime after Executive Order 9066 was issued. It did not do any relocating eitherÖ

HESS: This is from the 1942 volume of the Papers of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It is the note to item 37. Item 37 is the "Establishment of the War Relocation Authority, Executive Order 9102, March the 18th of 1942" and the note was by the editor, Samuel I. Rosenman. Just to give some background so that people will know what we are looking at at the present time.

BENDETSEN: Paragraphs 1 and 2 of your citation do not accurately describe the function and role of the War Relocation Authority. It performed no duties whatever until the evacuation phase had been completed and the persons of Japanese ancestry who still then remained in custody had been placed in ten Relocation Centers established by the Army inland to hold the evacuees until they could be absorbed into the economies of inland states. Only when all of them had been placed there, after the Relocation


Centers had been staffed and manned in all respects, did the War Relocation Authority take over any operating functions of any kind. As I will later add in my account, it seriously mishandled its assignment.

HESS: It was all done by the Army up until that time, right?

BENDETSEN: Yes, by an agency of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army known as the WCCA, the Wartime Civil Control Administration. I was the Commanding Officer, an assignment I most certainly did not seek. I refer you to a volume on file in the Library of Congress in which General DeWitt reports on the carrying into effect of Executive Order 9066 to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War in a complete and totally documented factual way.

General DeWitt made a complete delegation to me of the provisions of Executive Order 9066 which had been delegated to him. I had the responsibility for carrying out the entire program which I will


describe to you in a few moments. The delegation by the President of the United States to the Secretary of War of the provisions of Executive Order 9066 of February 19, 1942 was in turn by the Secretary of War, delegated to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, General Marshall. In turn by Marshall, there was a complete and total delegation to General DeWitt, and finally by General DeWitt there was a complete and final delegation to me with the approval of the Secretary of War. I will describe all this in the course of my narrative.

Starting at the beginning, and viewed in the perspective of the months following December 7, 1941, and especially the winter and spring of 1942, you will recall through other oral histories, and from your general knowledge, that the tides of war in the Pacific were running most adversely to the United States. Our naval forces had been crippled, we had suffered many reverses; the Japanese had successfully shelled the West Coast of the United States with submarine-mounted cannon; had bombed military bases in the Aleutian Islands as far east


as Cold Harbor and Kodiak; had occupied the Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.

You will also recall that the preponderance of all persons of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast of the United States, west of the Sierra Nevadas, the Cascades, and in the southern halves of Arizona and New Mexico, had largely concentrated themselves into specific and readily identifiable clusters.

They carried on their own culture; their own educational system. Their Shinto religious beliefs predominated and these beliefs coupled with the isolation which arose out of the legal restrictions of the applicable laws of the U.S. and California, Oregon and Washington states then in force, combined in influence to generate a separate way of life. You will recall also that the Alien Exclusion Acts (which I always felt embodied very bad policy with which I was never in sympathy) nevertheless were in force over many decades. The fact was that under these Acts, people of Japanese ancestry (who migrated to the United States from Japan) were not permitted to intermarry with U.S. citizens, were not permitted


to own land or to take legal title to land and could not become citizens. And so, over the years there was very little real assimilation either of the migrant or of the first generation Japanese born of the many thousands of native Japanese who had migrated to the United States. The U.S.-born are Nisei; the migrants Kibei.

The Justice Department and the FBI had great concerns about national security on the Pacific Sea Frontier, west of the mountain ranges, and in the southern halves of Arizona and New Mexico where there were extensive but unmonitored boundaries, with Mexico to the south, for traffic into the United States. It is still going on.

HESS: They canít stop it now.

BENDETSEN: General DeWitt, as Commanding General, was responsible for the defense of the Western Sea Frontier, including Alaska. The tides of war there were almost totally adverse, with one disaster after another. Our first victory was the Battle


of Midway. It gave us a slender margin of hope. General DeWitt was vitally concerned. The War Department became vitally concerned, the FBI and the Justice Department became vitally concerned, and so did the President himself. An Assistant Attorney General, Mr. James Henry Rowe, Jr., was the principal Justice Department action officer responsible in this field. Mr. Tom Clark (later the Attorney General of the United States and Justice of the Supreme Court) was the Special Representative of the Department of Justice on the West Coast in Los Angeles. His duties then concerned only this subject.

Unscrupulous persons were imposing on the Japanese and this led to many false reports that they lost all their properties. This was not so. Doubtless a few of them were exploited. Nothing was ever confiscated. To the contrary, extraordinary measures were taken to preserve their properties.

You will recall that units of U.S. Marine Reserves and of the National Guard from Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington had been stationed


in the Philippines prior to December 7, 1941. These units had been decimated by the Japanese who treated them brutally as prisoners of war, a subject which had become widely known. Anti-Japanese feeling was intense.

The situation which arose from these reports created a powder keg. Violence was near at hand. General DeWitt, after conferring with various people, communicated with General Marshall that he felt he could not provide for the security of the sea frontier, its sensitive installations, the vital manufacturing establishments, and the harbor facilities; and that he could not deal with inchoate civil violence unless effective means of bringing the deteriorating situation under control could be found.

I was sent out to the headquarters of General DeWitt to confer with him as a representative of the War Department. I made many such trips in December and January. I became a "commuter."

My assignment was to gather facts and convey General DeWittís analyses to his superiors in


Washington. Each time I returned from the Presidio I would brief General Gullion, the Provost Marshal General, the Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary of War (Mr. McCloy), Mr. James Rowe of Justice and others.

It never occurred to me that I would be assigned to General DeWittís command with duties related to an evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. I did not recommend such action. I was never asked my opinion. Certainly I did not seek such an assignment and would not have desired it. I did my best as a staff officer, accurately to reflect the concerns of General DeWitt and his staff, of the FBI, of Mr. Clark, of the Naval Commander (Admiral Greenslade) and faithfully to convey these concerns to the authorities in the War Department, Justice Department and the White House staff. I also went to Capitol Hill and reported to certain members of the House and Senate. At his request, I reported the concerns of all of these officials to Senator Truman.


HESS: What did he say?

BENDETSEN: He concluded that it was a grave and serious situation and stated the case clearly. He paid me a compliment. He said, "I think the staff work is in good hands. You are objective. It takes objectivity to gather the facts and be the go-between in a situation of this gravity." Finally, as he was preparing a "signal" that our conference was over, Senator Truman asked me to tell him in confidence whether I would be inclined to recommend that Japanese residents be evacuated from the West Coast. I told him that I had thus far studiously avoided reaching my own conclusion and hoped I would continue to refrain. I explained that I considered it my duty to report the locations of the principal concentrations of Japanese, and the concerns of the civil and military authorities on the West Coast and to present their views regarding what they considered to be the alternatives and options available for dealing with the major wartime problems posed. I added that if I had reached a conclusion


I could not remain objective. He congratulated me on my answer.

Ultimately, an Executive Order was prepared in the Justice Department, not in the War Department. No such order could have been presented to the President of the United States without the full approval of the Attorney General of the United States, Mr. Francis Biddle. That Executive Order was No. 9066. It preceded the Executive Order which created the War Relocation Authority to which I have already alluded.

Shortly after the Executive Order was issued, I was again sent to the Headquarters of the Western Defense Command at the Presidio of San Francisco. While I was there, the Honorable John J. McCloy, the Assistant Secretary of War, and the Chief of Staff of the Army (General Marshall) were conferring with General DeWitt.

I had completed my special assignment which I had been sent to do. I had paid my departure respects to General DeWittís Chief of Staff, General


[Allison J.] Barnett, and left for the San Francisco airport, to board a United Airlines flight for Washington, D.C. And as I was walking up the steps to enter the aircraft, an aide of General DeWitt drove out on the field in a military car and stopped the car right at the bottom of the companionway. He said, "Bendetsen, youíre wanted at the Presidio."

I asked, "What in the world has happened?"

He replied, "I donít know what has happened, but General DeWitt and Mr. McCloy are together and they are waiting for you. My orders were to come out and get you. I told the airline that General DeWitt had asked that the flight be held, if necessary."

Off we went to the Presidio; I was ushered into the august presence of Mr. McCloy, Generals Marshall and DeWitt. To my surprise, General DeWitt said, "Bendetsen, as you know, the President has signed Executive Order 9066, providing for the evacuation from the Sea Frontier of all persons of Japanese


ancestry. Mr. McCloy, General Marshall and I feel that you are the best choice to be in charge of this whole program."

HESS: Did they tell you why they selected you?

BENDETSEN: Well, they did in ways that were complimentary and so on, but it was an order, so they did not have to explain it.

HESS: You had been working with the problem for quite awhile anyway, hadnít you?

BENDETSEN: During nearly all of the last three weeks of January, and a good deal of time in February.

I had been asked by Mr. McCloy about ten days before to write out for him how such an evacuation might be carried into effect. I then wrote him two letters, a relatively short letter and a very long one. I gave him both. The deadline he gave me for this assignment was the next day, 24 hours later. I had used the entire period to compose them. He referred to these letters in the course


of the conversation at the Presidio. He stated that he regarded them as remarkable in their concepts as well as their details of how to proceed if such a decision were to be made. He said, "Those letters are what hung you, Bendetsen. The Secretary of War and I did not have any choice but to say to General DeWitt that weíre going to send Bendetsen out here to be under your command and to take full charge."

General DeWitt then said, "There is no time to lose. You will be designated as an Assistant Chief of Staff of the Fourth Army and Western Defense Command. I will create the Wartime Civil Control Administration which you yourself mentioned in your letter should be the main vehicle. You will be the commanding officer of the WCCA. You will then be authorized as an Assistant Chief of Staff of my general staff to issue orders in my name to yourself as commanding officer of the WCCA. You will thus have full power and authority to act." He then called in his sergeant (clerk) who operated the


stenotype and dictated his order:

I hereby delegate to you all and in full my powers and authority under Executive Order 9066, which in turn have been delegated by the President to the Secretary of War, by the Secretary of War to the Chief of Staff, and by the Chief of Staff to the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army. All rules and regulations of the Fourth Army over which I have any control or authority, you have authority to suspend, as in your judgment may be necessary. You will take this action forthrightly, you will establish a separate headquarters, you will have full authority to call upon all Federal civilian agencies as provided in the Executive Order and to call for assistance and cooperation of the State authorities as the President has in turn asked the Governors of the states concerned to provide. You will do this with a minimum disruption of the logistics of military training, operations and preparedness, and with a minimum of military personnel, and with due regard for the protection, education, health and welfare of all of the Japanese persons concerned. You will, to the maximum, take measures to induce them to relocate voluntarily under your authority, in areas east of the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and north of the southern half of Arizona and New Mexico, so that the burden upon them will be at a minimum. You will make known that the Army has no wish to retain them at any time for more than temporary custody. It would be contrary to the philosophy and desires of the Army to do otherwise. These measures are for the protection of the nation in a cruel and biter war, and for the protection of the Japanese people themselves. You will use all measures to protect the personal property of Japanese, including crops.

The following morning I was promoted to the grade of full Colonel with rank from February 1, 1942 which


made me the youngest in that grade at that time.

HESS: That sounds almost verbatim. Was that just about what it was?

BENDETSEN: That is right, exactly as it was. It would be hard to disremember.

HESS: Did you have a hand in the selection of the ten relocation centers?

BENDETSEN: There were 24 temporary Assembly Centers which I selected and established along the West Coast. I also selected the sites for the ten Relocation Centers to which those Japanese persons who had not already relocated in the interior could be moved pending their absorption into the economies of the interior states. The whole program was carried out under my direction. I not only had a hand in it, I selected them.

HESS: You selected those ten places.

BENDETSEN: Yes, as well as temporary Assembly Centers (24).


The War Relocation Authority had absolutely nothing to do with any of that.

HESS: Thatís right.

BENDETSEN: The essential structure of this was to designate evacuation zone control areas--we had the demographic data. I called upon all of the Federal agencies for assistance, including the Federal Reserve and the banks in the Federal Reserve System. I used agencies of the Departments of Agriculture and Interior.

I briefed the members of the press in meetings held at principal cities along the West Coast such as Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, the Los Angeles area and San Diego. I also converged similar briefings of the A.P., the U.P. and the I.N.S. in Spokane, Boise, Great Falls, Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix and Des Moines. I told them "This is a wartime situation. Please remember that our nationals now in the hands of the Japanese could be grievously tortured and cruelly handled. I will not impose any orders tantamount to censorship. You will be


fully informed of what we do. I ask instead that you be your own censors. I ask you to avoid publication of sensational photographs. Those that you do not use, send in to us. I ask you not to foment what would be the natural antagonistic feelings of these people in the face of this regrettable necessity, many of whom probably are patriotic. We cannot yet tell one from the other. This is the unprecedented tragedy of this wartime situation.

To their eternal credit, full cooperation of every newspaper in the western area, for that matter in the United States, was voluntarily extended. Not once was there any problem. The press formed review committees in each major city. No news stories were ever submitted to us in advance for approval. I had emphasized that I wanted nothing even approaching such an arrangement. We never objected to a single article, a single press release, or a single photograph. It was an admirable job.

You will recall that my orders directed in very specific words that "You will protect their crops, and harvest them and see that they are paid for their


produce." We harvested all crops, we sold them, we deposited the money to their respective accounts. We kept families together.

As I have already indicated, we established twenty-four interim family Assembly Centers and ten Relocation Centers. We built the relocation centers and furnished them with residential equipment, bedding, beds, dressers, tables, chairs, schoolrooms and teaching equipment as well as infirmaries. We moved them first to assembly centers. (Approximately four thousand of them moved to the interior on their own recognizance.) The families were not separated. We made special arrangements aboard the trains for their protection and for their reasonable comfort and health. Step by step, we evacuated people from designated evacuation zones into assembly centers--24 of them--which were equipped to house them. And we managed this first phase in 90 days.

We constructed ten relocation centers in record time. We fully equipped one in advance and successively


moved the evacuees, who had not relocated themselves, into the first one, which had been fully prepared.

When all those who had not resettled themselves had been moved to relocation centers and all arrangements had been made for training of personnel for full staffing of these centers, the Army then turned over the centers, lock, stock and barrel, to the War Relocation Authority. It was headed by a man named Dillon Myer. My task was completed and my assignment terminated. General DeWitt was most complimentary.

At his recommendation I was awarded an oak leaf cluster to the Distinguished Service Medal (my second award) and later with the Legion of Merit. He asked me what I would wish as my next assignment. I made known my preference only after much urging for I had resolved never to ask for any assignment. He gave me command of a regimental combat team. I was delighted at the opportunity!

This lasted four weeks. General DeWitt was assigned to establish the first Joint Army-Navy


Staff College in Washington. As his first act he sent for me to be his executive officer. That lasted eight weeks. I was assigned to C.O.S.S.A.C. (Chief of Staff to the Supreme Allied Commander) to be a member of the combined staff planning the Normandy invasion. My station then became Norfolk House, St. James Square, London.

Before concluding this interview, perhaps a summary would be in order.

The brief summation I have in mind is, I believe, historically important. It may serve as a bridge between where we now are and that which I will relate having to do with my sudden and surprising return to the continental United States.

I was temporarily detached from duty in London to deal with a severe problem which had developed in the Relocation Centers following the assumption by the War Relocation Authority of responsibility for supervision of the centers and for accountability for the Japanese themselves. The summary will serve, I would hope, to clarify a widely held misimpression


and refute numerous unfounded assertions concerning the entire episode sometimes described as the Japanese Evacuation.

First, about their assets, their lands (Nisei could own land), their possessions, their bank accounts and other assets, their household goods, their growing crops--nothing was confiscated. Their accounts were left intact. Their household goods were inventoried and stored. Warehouse receipts were issued to the owners. Much of it was later shipped to them at Government expense, particularly in the case of those families who relocated themselves in the interior, accepted employment and established new homes.

Lands were farmed, crops harvested, accounts kept of sales at market and proceeds deposited to the respective accounts of the owners.

Whenever desired, Shinto and other religious shrines were moved to the centers.

Second, it was never intended by Executive Order 9066 and certainly not by the Army that the Japanese themselves be held in Relocation Centers. The sole objective was to bring relocation anywhere in the interior--east of the Cascades and Sierras


Nevada and north of the southern halves of Arizona and New Mexico. Japanese were urged to relocate voluntarily on their own recognizance and extensive steps were taken to this end. The desire was to relocate them so that they could usefully and gainfully continue raising their families and educate their children while heads of families and young adults became gainfully employed. They were to be free to lease or buy land, raise and harvest crops, go into businesses. They were not to be restricted for the "duration" so long as they did not seek to remain or seek to return to the war "frontier" during hostilities.

In furtherance, from the very beginning I initiated diligent measures to urge the Japanese families to leave with the help and funding (whenever needed) of the WCCA (Wartime Civil Control Administration) on their own recognizance and resettle east of the mountains. To this end, I conferred with the Governors of the seven contiguous states east of the mountains. I called a Governorsí


Conference at Salt Lake City. I invited them to urge attendance by members of their cabinets, by members of their legislatures and by the mayors of their communities. It was a large and successful conference. I advised them in full, sought their full cooperation, asked them to inform their citizens and to welcome and help the evacuees to feel welcome without restrictions, to become members of their inland communities and schools and to help them find employment and housing. I told them that these people would become a most constructive segment of their respective populations. These who resettled certainly did. Where needed I told them that the WCCA would provide financial support for a limited period.

Further to this end, I conferred with the elders of each major Japanese community along the Pacific Coast, wherever they were and, as well, in Arizona and New Mexico. I carefully explained all this to them. I urged them to persuade their fellow Japanese to leave before the evacuation to assembly centers


began and while it was proceeding. I assured them that the WCCA would provide escort, if requested, by those who felt insecure. We organized convoys and shipped to those, who had resettled, their stored possessions.

This phase of resettlement from the temporary assembly centers came to a regrettable and necessary halt. Hostility toward the Japanese, at first, either nonexistent or minimal, developed quite suddenly and intensively in the western states of the interior, east of the Sierras and the Cascades.

The protection of the evacuees mandated that such a measure be instituted. I visited each assembly center and discussed the reasons for this with leaders among the evacuees. They fully understood. Assurances were given that unremitting efforts would be taken with state and city officials and with community leaders to deal with and to defuse these attitudes. Further assurances were given that resettlement from the ten Relocation Centers would


resume in due course. Fortunately, within ninety days or so, these hostile feelings were substantially diminished due to the good offices of officials, community leaders and the press of these interior states. As the process of relocation from the Assembly Centers to the Relocation Centers progressed, so also did the WCCA resume its actions to foster relocation or more properly "resettlement" directly from the Relocation Centers.

All of these promises were fulfilled except for one; a very important one was not. That this became so is for me an eternal mystery.

Over four thousand took advantage of the opportunity to leave on their own recognizance with WCCA help.

What promise was unfulfilled? The War Relocation Authority did nothing whatever to release or to resettle those who had reached the Relocation Centers over which the WRA accepted supervision. This led to smoldering resentment within the centers and later to defiance by organized groups within the centers. The WRA was unable to deal with


the problem. I was ordered back from London temporarily to restore tractable conditions.

HESS: It was intended to be a straight relocation.

BENDETSEN: Exactly. Internment was never intended. The intention and purpose was to resettle these persons east of the mountain ranges of the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, away from the sea frontier and away from the relatively open boundaries between Mexico and the states of Arizona and New Mexico.

Some readers may find it useful for reference purposes to here describe the coverage of the official Report dated June 5, 1943 which I prepared for General DeWitt.

The Library of Congress card catalogue reference under the letter "U" is officially titled:

United States Army, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast

The letter of transmittal to the Chief of Staff of the Army consisted of ten paragraphs, in itself a brief summary.


The Report is in nine parts consisting of 28 chapters with extensive reference materials and special reports appended. These reference materials included the reports of many Federal civilian agencies which had been placed under General DeWittís direction by order of the President. In addition, various primary source materials were selected and bound together. Two of these special reports, for example, were from the Farm Security Administration of the Department of Agriculture and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, a part of the Federal Reserve System. The Special Reports numbered twelve in all.

The official Report, together with all of its appended and supplemental materials, was filed in the Library of Congress and remains there. Other sets were filed in the War Department, in the custody of the Adjutant General (now the Department of Army).

General DeWitt recommended that his Report and all of its supplements be declassified and published immediately. His recommendation was adopted. At the same time, he also recommended that the type


which had been set for the printing of the Report, special reports and appendixes remain intact for additional printings, so that distribution of the Report and its associated material could be quickly made available to Federal and state agencies, public libraries, colleges and universities. This was done.

In the concluding paragraphs of, the Report, General DeWitt states that the agencies under his Command, military and civilian alike, as well as the efforts of the cooperating Federal agencies which have been placed under his direction "responded to the difficult assignment devolving upon them with unselfish devotion to duty." The paragraph (8) goes on to state: "To the Japanese themselves great credit is due for the manner in which they * * * responded to and complied with the orders of exclusion."

Executive Order No. 9066 did not relate exclusively to persons of Japanese ancestry. It established wartime civil control over the Western Sea Frontier on a broad basis. The Western Sea Frontier here described consisted of the Pacific Coastal regions


lying west of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as of Alaska. The Executive Order dealt with German and Italian aliens, as well as with persons of Japanese ancestry.

The Executive Order also provided for the designation of "military areas" from which all persons would be excluded other than those expressly authorized to enter. The principal "military area" so designated was Alaska. An agency entitled "Alaska Travel Control" governed all travel to and from Alaska.

Chapter Two of the Report discusses the need for military control and for evacuation. Chapter Three discusses the establishment of wartime civil control under Executive Order 9066. Chapter Four discusses the emergence of controlled evacuation. Chapter Five discusses the separation of jurisdiction over the evacuation on the one hand and the relocation on the other.

Subsequent chapters discuss the evacuation methods, the organization and functions of the cooperating Federal agencies.

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