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
November 9, 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
November 9, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: Mr. Bendetsen, continuing on from our first interview, you mentioned that you were called back from England to assist in the matter of the Japanese citizens who were being relocated. Why was it felt necessary to call you back from your task?

BENDETSEN: As I indicated to you earlier in our interview, I was ordered to duty in London, England, as a member of the staff of the Combined Supreme Allied Headquarters, to participate in planning the cross-channel invasion, which was then known by the code word, "Overlord." I reached my station at Norfolk House in St. James Square, London, England, in April of 1943. Approximately four months later, I received orders to proceed to the War Department, Washington, D.C., on temporary duty with instructions to report first to the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Marshall, and thereafter to the Honorable John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War.


There were a number of conferences held in the course of the first day, with senior officials of the War Department General Staff, and of the War Relocation Authority. I will usually refer to the War Relocation Authority hereafter as the WRA. You will recall that the War Relocation Authority was a civilian agency having no relationship at any time in its history to the United States Army or the War Department. Its first director (prior to the time when it became activated, in full measure) was Milton Eisenhower. He established his office in San Francisco on the third floor of the Whitcomb Hotel, just one floor below the offices the WCCA occupied. Our consultations were regular and frequent and I kept him thoroughly advised and informed of our progress and our plans. As you already know, it was intended from the beginning that when the evacuation had been completed and after the evacuees who had not already resettled had been transferred from assembly centers to the relocation centers, the War Relocation Authority which was established to assume the residual responsibilities


entailed would do so, wholly relieving the War Department and the Army from any further accountability.

Before the Army phase had been completed, Mr. Eisenhower left the WRA to accept another assignment as Deputy Director of the War Information Agency, a post which he vastly preferred. I believe he remained there for the rest of World War II.

There followed a period in which the WRA had no active officer in charge. It had no functions other than preparation for a future role. During this interval the WRA "lost" whatever institutional memory it may have had during Dr. Eisenhower’s tenure. It was not more than two months prior to the time when I transferred responsibility to the WRA that a new director replacing Dr. Eisenhower was assigned to it. His name was Dillon Myer. He had previously spent many years in the Department of Agriculture, as had Dr. Milton Eisenhower. As Mr. Myer delayed his departure from Washington, our "overlap" in San Francisco was necessarily brief and quite inadequate. My staff and I did the best


we could to bridge for him the vital history of the events which preceded our meeting. In retrospect, it later became clear to me that Mr. Myer failed to grasp the central fact that it had never been intended that the evacuees in the relocation centers remain there, incarcerated, so to speak. This commitment and the essential actions embodied by the declared policy was to aid the "evacuees" and their families to resettle as rapidly as possible. There was an active and successful effort of this nature under way before Mr. Myer took over. Thereafter, it was simply moribund.

Toward the end of March 1943, I transferred responsibility to him. By then all of the evacuees who had not been resettled, either from assembly centers, or directly on their own recognizance with their families, had been moved to the ten relocation centers. Operations were under way successfully and routinely. There were no problems. We had established health care, education programs for the young people, useful work programs for all who cared to participate,


libraries and recreational activities. We had advisory committees of evacuees advising the management of each center. We had trained and schooled the center managers and their staffs. We provided means within the limitation of wartime rationing to suit the palates of the evacuees and their families. Daily, a number of evacuee families were resettled to accept private employment as new members of various communities. These were the conditions of relocation center affairs when I left for my next assignment.

When I returned on temporary duty, to my amazement, I learned that in every one of the ten centers there were grave problems. It seems that during the intervening months in each of the ten centers many militant activists had surfaced. Agitation was rife. There were fires; there were pitched battles. WRA had to provide heavy guard forces. All was in turmoil. No evacuees had been resettled at all since the time when the WRA assumed responsibility. I was informed that my temporary duty assignment was


to restore peace, order, calm and equanimity.

I established and staffed an office at the Headquarters of the Ninth Service Command of the United States Army then located at Salt Lake City, Utah. It was composed of a small cadre of officers and a few civilians.

We determined who the militants were in each center. We took a head count. The number of those who were apparently beyond any early rehabilitation was large. They and their families would fill a large relocation center. I then concluded after extensive analyses and consultations that the relocation center at Tule Lake, California, was of the size and had the right facilities to accommodate all of the identified militants and their families.

HESS: But the camp had not been originally set up to house militants, is that correct?

BENDETSEN: It is certainly correct that neither Tule Lake nor any other relocation center was ever established for such a purpose! We had no militants during the Army phase. The selection of Tule Lake


as the place to receive all of the identified militants and their families was based on the findings mentioned above and its size which corresponded to the numbers to be accommodated in isolation from all the others. This was based on a careful analysis not only of the family composition of the militants but also of the complex logistics entailed. We carefully planned the needed actions, developed the requirements and made all the necessary arrangements.

The mission was accomplished without incident. It was not a simple task. There was no empty center to use. The peaceful residents of Tule Lake, aggregating over 95 percent of those then there, had to be moved in serials to nine other designated centers while militants were moved to Tule Lake as capacity for them opened. The railroad train scheduling was unusually complex.

We replaced some center management. We conducted orientation programs for all management. The manager and staff chosen to preside over Tule Lake were selected with great care and were extensively instructed with high-density methods as time was of


the essence. Four special programs of discussion were held with the leadership of the militants and order was established at Tule Lake as well. The remaining nine centers were then relatively placid and remained so.

I think I should introduce at this point for the first time some reference to the establishment of the famous regimental combat team of Japanese-Americans. This idea was born during discussions which I had initiated and held with Mr. McCloy, and he in turn with General Marshall long before I left for England. I had a very deep conviction that the Army should make use of the opportunity to find individuals who wished to give a good account of themselves not only as interpreters for the forces in the Pacific. This was already underway. I was convinced however that an opportunity should be extended to volunteers among the Japanese-American evacuees (the Nisei), to join one of more organized combat units to take part in the campaign in Europe.

HESS: Did that plan meet very much opposition initially?


BENDETSEN: No, I do not believe that it encountered any significant opposition. It was carefully considered. Many problems could have arisen if the selection process had been faulty or inept.

A regimental combat team composed of such volunteers had already been recruited and organized and was undergoing intensive training before I returned from England. Nevertheless, while I was at Tule Lake, I conferred with the leaders of the militants and advised them that if they wished for a chance to prove themselves and volunteer for special service if another combat team were to be organized, I would recommend them for consideration. A second group was not organized but some of the militants did serve as interpreters overseas and as instructors at the Army Language School successfully.

HESS: What was their reaction?

BENDETSEN: Very good.

HESS: When the units were first proposed, what was the reception of the Japanese at that time, the men who ultimately became members of those units?


BENDETSEN: Well, it varied. However, those who ultimately went through the process were very enthusiastic about the opportunity from the beginning.

HESS: They saw it as an opportunity to prove their citizenship.

BENDETSEN: Yes. Your comment inclines me to introduce another aspect, which you may consider pertinent to our discussion.

During my primary and secondary assignments (the first I described in our first interview and during the second one, we have now been reviewing), I made a special effort to meet many of the individual Japanese of all ages. It was out of these discussions that I was able to formulate the kind of program of self-discipline for them that made it possible for us to handle the assembly centers and the relocation centers, while we had responsibility, without incident. All aspects--transportation, the collection preceding assembly, the assembly center phase, the transfer to the relocation centers


went smoothly. There were no incidents, no demonstrations. As I said earlier in my transcript, we developed a set of clear rules. There were no exceptions ever made to any rule. In my discussions with leaders, I asked that they organize to assist us in administration, self-policing, etc. They did.

There was mutual respect for fair discipline. Many of these Japanese understood why this evacuation was necessary, if for nothing else, their own safety and protection. This is definitely not to say that any of them liked it. No one did. Certainly I did not. None of these aspects have been adequately covered in any of the main publications written by self-appointed authorities that have proliferated since World War II. These are revisionist histories created to suit the preconceptions of the authors about what happened in contrast to the Official Report which does give an accurate account of what happened.

When I went to Tule Lake on the occasion of my return for the temporary assignment I have


described, I knew some of the individual militants. We could talk. We reestablished a colloquy. This sort of communication had not been undertaken by the War Relocation Authority.

HESS: What did you find that seemed to be the basis of their militancy?

BENDETSEN: They believed strongly that they had been demeaned. They felt they had cooperated in a necessary but unpleasant situation. They had been assured that they would be given assistance to resettle from the centers. They saw that during the Army phase this assurance was an ongoing reality. No sooner had the WRA assumed responsibility than resettlement stopped. Overlaid on this was an environment in which the rules were not uniformly applied. They saw favoritism at work.

The Advisory Committees were no longer recognized by the WRA. All the Advisory Committees ever sought was to have a hearing, a fair hearing. If a fair hearing was held on some proposal or some grievance and it became evident to them that careful consideration


was always given to what was said by the Advisory Committees, it was not necessary that we agree with them. It was necessary to show good faith, mutual respect and uniform application of rules, all things considered. After a hearing, rules could be and were modified, but individual exceptions could never be made without inviting trouble. In the Japanese society, rules must be uniformly applied. The problems of the WRA seemed to me to arise from a case of bureaucratic insensibility, based on rootless social "theory," a lack of understanding, and no familiarity with these sorts of problems. This was coupled with no knowledge of Japanese mores and customs. There was nothing deliberate about it. Rather, it was inept, careless management and administration. Certainly I had no previous experience in dealing with evacuees either. Who had? To be quite frank, all that would have been required was common sense. This was apparently not shown to have been available in any abundance.

HESS: By the War Relocation Authority?


BENDETSEN: Right. I did what I could to help them through training and indoctrination. Thereafter, out of this experience, to their eternal credit, they learned a great deal and had a much better time of it. The same episode did not repeat itself. However, as I said earlier, every aspect I have just mentioned was exhaustively discussed with WRA officials before the transfer. To repeat, there was no institutional memory.

HESS: At the conclusion of our first interview, did you mention that you had spoken with Senator Truman upon your return from England?

BENDETSEN: Yes, I did.

HESS: Can you tell me about that occasion?

BENDETSEN: As I have already related during our preceding interview, Senator Truman had been deeply interested in the evacuation and in what effect it might have on the war effort. I had previously conferred with him before Executive Order 9066 had been signed by


President Roosevelt. When I returned from London on temporary duty, I suggested to Mr. McCloy that as a courtesy, perhaps I should call on then Senator Truman. Mr. McCloy agreed.

Senator Truman saw me almost at once. I gave him an account of my findings and how I had arrived at them and what I intended to do about the situation. He asked many questions. In conclusion, he indicated his complete agreement with the approach and proposed solution to the problems. He always greatly impressed me with his high capacity for quick understanding of any subject.

In our relatively brief interview he expressed an interest in the transportation resources which would be required to carry into effect the plan I had outlined to him for bringing peace to the relocation centers. He was concerned that an undue burden might be placed on the already overstrained transportation resources of the nation in support of the war effort. After our discussion, during which I went into some detail about the logistics which would be involved, and the number of train


crews, rail cars and locomotives required, he was completely satisfied that the disruption would not be serious.

Before concluding this aspect, it occurs to me that for this record I should supplement those broad aspects of how the Army carried out the evacuation and resettlement efforts which have already been described. It is pertinent in any case but more particularly at this point because Senator Truman questioned me in some depth about both resettlement and transportation arrangements.

On the subject of resettlement, he felt as I did that the evacuees were industrious and able and would make an important contribution not only to the war effort itself but to the general economy if the circumstances were right and conducive. In the case of transportation, he was on the one hand acutely aware that the war effort strained our transportation national resources to the limit and on the other, quite fascinated by what he regarded as unique and innovative measures I had introduced


for effective train management.

First, allow me to narrate a number of additional aspects about resettlement. What had the Wartime Civil Control Administration done in an intensive effort to assure results?

For the first phase of direct resettlement wherein families and individuals were urged and encouraged to resettle without passing through either an assembly or a relocation center, the highlights of the arrangements were as follows:

Following the initial Salt Lake Conference of Governors and their aids the WCCA placed agents in numerous communities of southern Idaho, northern Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Iowa, Nebraska and Arkansas. These agents organized local citizen reception committees to aid toward finding jobs, housing, schools, farm and other agricultural situations--and generally to aid in assimilation. The agents continually reported opportunities and these were posted locally on Assembly Center bulletin boards. In addition, in these evacuation zones with pending


evacuation schedules, local volunteer Japanese monitors were appointed to pass the word. Many families who had their own automobiles responded, as already indicated.

Each volunteer family was given a highway route to follow and instructed to follow that route. WCCA arranged special gasoline allotments. Each family unit was also provided with instructions to check in at pre designated waypoints upon arrival at each one. The WCCA had an agent in a temporary office at each waypoint. He could and did direct "units" to overnight motels or other housing where no untoward treatment would be encountered. These agents were in a position to seek and obtain local help such as reliable car repairs, medical aid, etc.

As the early re settlers were given routes and route maps, they passed through "exit" gateways, so to speak. There, check points were WCCA manned and at these points, permits, which protected them, while driving within the sea-frontier territory were no longer needed. These were collected and


the next waypoint agent was notified of how many in each party. At times convoys were formed of up to 20 cars and state highway police aided such convoys to stay together and reach exit gateways more easily. The large convoys were thus expected at overnight waypoints and the WCCA agent could make suitable arrangements in advance. Convoy or single party monitors (Japanese) had full information and telephone numbers of way point stations along their prescribed routes.

The important details I have highlighted throughout this narrative were all covered in a long "concept and action letter" I earlier mentioned that I had prepared for General DeWitt and for the Honorable John J. McCloy. Following my surprise assignment to the task, there were a thousand and one other important details that I catalogued over five 18-hour days immediately following my sudden assignment to the unprecedented task.

Follow-on resettlements either from assembly or relocation centers were similarly aided. As would be expected, reception committees and agent


services became more effective and more communities were added in the mentioned states. Several reception committees were organized in communities of additional states.

What I have briefly sketched here about resettlement, I had related to Senator Truman in much greater detail. I sent him a copy of my long action "letter." He said he was impressed and was highly complimentary. We both shared great regret and some even more "colorful" reactions about the mystery of why and how the WRA had allowed these arrangements to wither so that resettlement virtually halted altogether.

The highlights of rail transportation which fascinated Senator Truman were essentially these. We resorted to innovative practices as will be briefly described.

At peak, there were six "trains" in continuous service for distances involving overnight (one or two nights) routes. While we varied train length, these variations entailed passenger cars only. Each was standardized with (1) a command and administrative


car with special radio communications, paramedical and other services, (2) a baggage car for food preparation using Army equipment, and (3) a baggage car for special gear needed at destination and a space for conferences with appointed "volunteer" Japanese train sanitation and service monitors.

Daytime trains numbered at peak, four. These were similar except that no food preparation car was needed. Box lunches were used.

In the cases of both overnight and daytime service, except for locomotive change-out, trains went through in all cases and remained intact.

This required innovative interline railroad accounting never before attempted. It also required interline cooperation never before accomplished. These methods were adapted and standardized by the Army for all domestic rail troop movements. Also, obviously necessary was a very highly coordinated crew change procedure.

In consultation with railroad and troop movement schedulers the WCCA specified routes. WCCA agents were posted at railway points to assure


priority railroad equipment services as needed and supplies for evacuees. Certain recreation stops for the long trips were scheduled where sidings were available in rural rather than urban areas.

Bus transportation and truck transportation at "railheads" proximate both to assembly and relocation centers were specially contracted and scheduled.

Evacuee volunteers appointed as monitors, food preparers, sanitation inspectors and aides were very effective. Volunteer entertainment was organized in advance from among those to be aboard each train movement and proved to be most useful for both children and adults. Portable musical instruments were not permitted. They were also furnished by WCCA for each train.

Incidentally, each assembly and relocation center had a newspaper named and edited by evacuees. These were mimeographed. When the WRA encountered explosive conditions, the newspapers were temporarily out of control. The WRA closed them down.


Evacuees volunteered as school teachers. All centers conducted regular school classes for children and young adults. Textbooks and other materials were provided. School authorities in the states concerned were consulted and provided indispensable counsel.

Before concluding, there are two additional subjects concerning which then Senator Truman made inquiry of me. Neither has thus far been mentioned during the course of our interview. Mr. Truman knew these subjects were included among my duties while I served under the command of General John L. DeWitt (the Commanding General of the Fourth U.S. Army and the Western Sea Frontier).

The first of these related to German and Italian enemy aliens. By delegation to me from the President through the Secretary of War and redelegation by General DeWitt, enemy aliens (German and Italian) within the Western Defense Command (WDC) were also my responsibility. I had the full support of all intelligence services. Those who were considered dangerous or potentially so were to be interned.


You will recall during 1941 (pre-Pearl Harbor) I had dealt extensively with the preliminaries and with preparations should war come. I had selected sites and directed the construction of internment facilities. Those aliens in WDC ordered interned were sent to these facilities.

Under my direction, hearing boards were appointed and hearing procedures established whereby enemy aliens believed to be potentially dangerous could have counsel, appear before a hearing board, call character witnesses, etc. The review panel considered each recommendation of each hearing board together with the transcript. Counsel for each alien and WCCA counsel prepared summaries for me with copies for General DeWitt. There were twenty-five traveling hearing boards. Hearing board members had access to intelligence reports. Hearings usually lasted from one to three hours. Transcripts were completed by the end of the second day, reviews completed not later than five days after hearings. I do not have statistics at hand but my recollection is that one-third of the potentially dangerous aliens


were cleared; the balance were interned. There were special internment facilities, which housed husbands, wives and minor children if that was the desire of the internee and his family. A large one of this type was near San Antonio, Texas, for example.

The second subject of then Senator Truman’ s interest was Alaska Travel Control.

Alaska was a part of the Western Sea Frontier. It was a vital multiple military base area with enormous and unprecedented construction requirements. Alaska was a sensitive region. By Presidential order it became a closed area into which no one could enter without a permit. All travel was strictly controlled.

By delegation, the entire problem was assigned to me. I established Alaska Travel Control and designed the entire permit granting and monitoring procedures. ATC offices were opened and staffed in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Houston, Chicago, Salt Lake City, Great Falls, Spokane, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and also at Vancouver, B.C.,


Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg, Canada. These processed applications and issued travel permits.

It was not a simple exercise. The demand for construction workers was immense. I told Mr. Truman, "You might look upon the problem like this. Twenty-five thousand workers were required on the job. Conditions were rugged. Job ‘rotation’ was extraordinarily high. We had in effect one crew (of 25,000) on deck, one on the way out and another on the way in. We made it work."

He laughed and said, "You have to be some kind of a magician."

As stated, in cooperation with the Corps of Engineers the major prime contractors, Alaska Travel Control established field employment application offices at places already listed where ATC agents received permit applications concurrently.

The Engineers and major contractors agreed to the list of "gateway cities" recited above.

I set up in ATC what was probably the first mechanical, keypunch, electrified information


storage and retrieval system. We were connected to the FBI and other intelligence sources by teletype over leased lines. The nighttime hours carried the peak traffic. Our teletype system also was connected to major contractors and Army Engineer offices. Permits were issued at the gateway offices. Applicants were directed to the appropriate gateway where their permits were ready by teletype. A photograph of each permittee was taken and printed in five minutes. It was affixed to the permit. Each gateway office had a battery of cameras and fast printout facilities. These offices were large and fully staffed. An applicant would come in, present himself to an attendant at a long counter, have his photograph taken, bring it to the attendant where his permit awaited him and be on his way in less than fifteen minutes in most cases.

I will now resume my account of my overseas duties, which began in London.

When I had completed my task, I returned to St. James Square as a member of the C.O.S.S.A.C.


General Staff. The Chief of Staff’s name was Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Morgan. However, there was as yet no Supreme Allied Commander. General Eisenhower was so designated after the Cairo Conference.

My duties there were intensive and challenging. About three months before D-Day, my assignment was changed. I was designated as the chief liaison officer of the First U.S. Army, under General Bradley, to General Montgomery, whose headquarters was at St. Paul’s School. He commanded the British forces, which ultimately became designated the 21st British Army Group.

About a month before the invasion, I was assigned to the Forward Echelon of the U.S. Communications Zone as Deputy Chief of Staff. This involved planning for, and ultimately carrying into effect, the initial organization of the Omaha and Utah beaches; the operation of the artificial harbor known as Mulberries; the evacuation of sick and wounded, the input of reinforcements and additional


supplies of all classes ashore, and provision of heavy message traffic facilities, both radio telephone and radio code. The Forward Echelon and its associated units took off from Torquay in South England the night before D-Day.

After the lodgment was complete at Saint-Lo in Normandy, I was assigned to General Bradley’s 12th U.S. Army Group as Chief Combat Liaison Officer. The Army Group had been organized after the First U.S. Army forces reached Saint-Lo and the Third U.S. Army, under General Patton, came ashore to form the 12th U.S. Army Group. General Hodges commanded the First Army, General Patton the Third Army. Both were under the command of General Bradley.

In my assignment I had probably the broadest view of the campaign across Europe that most any officer could have. I was on a roving assignment to the two Armies, the component Army corps and divisions as well as their major field units during the entire campaign. My assignment was to "short cut," where it seemed appropriate in my discretion, more lengthy command channels and use my special communications equipment to communicate directly to General Bradley to recommend quick


reinforcement support to exploit developing "breakthroughs." At the conclusion of the campaign in Europe, I was assigned to be chief of the Control Division, European Theater Headquarters.

HESS: Before we move on too far, would you give me a thumbnail sketch or some characterization of a few of the men that you met and worked with in Europe at that time? I have in mind General Omar Bradley, General Patton, General Eisenhower.

BENDETSEN: Certainly, in such degree as you desire. I had known General Eisenhower for many years before World War II, and when he became Chief of the Operations Division of the War Department General Staff. He had this assignment shortly after December 7, 1941.

It was from this assignment that he was sent to command the forces in Africa. I had many interesting conferences with General Eisenhower in England after he came from Africa to become the Allied Commander, and very briefly I was the Secretary of the General Staff of the Supreme Allied Headquarters. I liked this assignment and it was very interesting and very challenging; it was right at the center of everything. I liked General Eisenhower very much and


also General Bedell Smith, his Chief of Staff, whom I had come to know earlier. (We were briefly together in the Secretariat of the War Department General Staff when he was a Major and later a Lt. Colonel and I was a Captain.) When the position of Deputy Chief of Staff of the Forward Echelon of the Communications Zone opened, they were very nice to me and said perhaps I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to get in on the cross-channel invasion right from the start. I said, "I certainly would." And so, I left this assignment.

HESS: To get in on the ground floor.

BENDETSEN: Yes. I met General Bradley only after I had come to England. I met him while I was still on the C.O.S.S.A.C. Staff because in the planning phases of "Overlord" there were many communications between the staff officers of C.O.S.S.A.C. and the First U.S. Army and its headquarters officers. Later, while I was at St. Paul’s School temporarily as liaison officer to General Montgomery’s headquarters, I frequently and necessarily saw General Bradley and his general staff officers, including his Chief of Staff, General Levan Allen. At St. Paul’s School I came to know (as well


as any U.S. type could) General Montgomery and his senior staff officers.

I had known General Jacob L. Devers in London, England. When I first arrived at Norfolk House, he was the European Theater Commander (ETOUSA). He went to Africa to assume command when General Eisenhower came from Africa to become Supreme Allied Commander. Devers took over command of the U.S. forces on the Mediterranean littoral. From there he led the 6th U.S. Army ashore in the south of France when it started its drive to link up with the forces of General Bradley.

While in London, General Devers (when he was European Theater Commander), and his general staff had many direct communications with the C.O.S.S.A.C. staff. I came to know most of his staff officers and General Devers very well. I developed much esteem and affection for General Devers before he left London. He was exceptionally helpful and considerate. Our relationship has endured.

HESS: In speaking of General Bradley and General Patton, can you think of a particular incident, anecdote, or


a circumstance that might characterize them as the men that you know them to be?

BENDETSEN: Well, it is difficult to select one in the case of General Bradley, not because such incidents are hard to find, but because they were so numerous. He was such a splendid man of great capacity and humility. His humility is really inspirational. I have continued my close association with him because I am now Chairman of the Bradley Foundation which aims to complete his vast oral history, the full account of General Bradley’s life, his associates, his Army service, his civilian service and all his achievements and all he stood for. The Foundation will build a Bradley Library and Museum and Research Center at the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania and present it to the U.S. Army as part of the Army Historical Center.

HESS: How about General Patton?

BENDETSEN: General Patton was a unique man and if you have


yourself seen the movie "General Patton"…

HESS: I have.

BENDETSEN: ...I can tell you it is a very accurate portrayal both of General Patton and of General Bradley, although the man who played General Bradley looks less like General Bradley actually looks than [George C.] Scott looks like Patton actually looked.

One incident that you may wish to have on the tape involving General Patton followed immediately upon the heels of the "Ardennes breakthrough" when the German forces facing France after retreating across the Meuse River organized a major counterattack, which wreaked havoc.

HESS: The Battle of the Bulge.

BENDETSEN: Yes, exactly, the Battle of the Bulge in which Hitler’s armies made their final desperate attempt to break the allied drive. They did achieve some element of surprise and greatly disrupted our forces. They caused great U.S. loss of life and many wounded.


I myself had been at a conference at Brussels at 21st Army Group early in the morning of what turned out to be the Ardennes breakthrough date. I drove in darkness that night over the back roads with my Sergeant through the Ardennes Forest enroute to Luxembourg. I had not gotten word of the counterattack. Thus I did not know that the two of us were under attack. We were fired upon, my faithful Sergeant was killed, our jeep ditched in the snow. I was thrown out on my back and my spine struck a small rock. I would not let the Army medics "fix" it, because I did not believe I would ever get out of their hands. I later learned that a vertebrae had been fractured. I lay still until I was reasonably certain that no enemy units or patrols were nearby. I managed to right the jeep with a log as a lever. I lifted Sergeant Mills into the jeep and we finally made it back to my headquarters--General Bradley’s headquarters rather--at Luxembourg. I was bedraggled by the time I reached EAGLE FORWARD at Luxembourg. (EAGLE was General Bradley’s


codename.) I went into the situation room and there were General Bradley and several other officers. They looked at me and General Bradley said, "Bendetsen, where have you been?"

I said, "I am not exactly sure, sir, but somebody just told me I could not have been where I was because I came across the Ardennes Forest."

He said, "Show me on the map where you think you were."

I said, "Yes, sir."

He said, "Well you were in enemy territory most of the night."

I said, "I am now beginning to realize that." We had quite a good time over that as it came out all right. It touched everybody’s sense of humor that I did not know I had been in enemy territory.

HESS: What seemed to be their attitude when you came in at that time?

BENDETSEN: Well, they were remarkably calm and cool, but very intense and very determined to get on top of the situation which they did with remarkable speed.


Within a few hours, I was sent to General Patton’s headquarters to see if I could be of any assistance. General Patton was holding a general staff conference and I was admitted. He welcomed me and said, "Sit down and listen in, maybe you can help." He was required to undertake a military maneuver of great complexity. His Third Army was a very large and powerful force of three Army Corps of three divisions each. These were based upon Army supply areas that were on the axis of the attack, which the Third Army had been following. Patton faced the task of turning 90 degrees and attacking at right angles to the axis of attack his forces had been pursuing. This is complex and difficult at best and in battle conditions it is vastly more so with only a limited road net available. He wanted to be sure of his supplies of P.O.L. (petroleum, oil and lubricants), ammunication, ordnance, transport, replacements, rations, etc. He then said, "Bendetsen, there’s something you can do for me and I believe you can do it if you really want to."


I said, "Sir, anything you request is an order. I will give it all I’ve got."

He said, "I need a freight train. I’m not going to be satisfied unless the Third Army can have its own freight train for this temporary period." He said, "You know where more supplies and equipment and transportation gear are located in France than anybody else I know. In the past you’ve always seemed to be able to come up with something that didn’t seem to be available." He added, "I do not know whether there are any freight trains immediately available; nevertheless I want one, and I call upon you to provide it by any means, fair or foul."

To make a long story short, I managed to steal a freight train for him and survived the operation. It probably made some contribution toward providing the vital supply and support required for the critically important success of the Third Army in turning back the last major lunge of Nazi ground forces.

I believe this responds to your request that I


add a few parenthetical comments about some of the principal commanding generals.

HESS: That is very good, very good. What was your next assignment?

BENDETSEN: At the end of the campaign in Europe and the great V-E Day achievement of the allied armies, I was sent to Paris immediately to become chief of the Control Division of Headquarters ETOUSA, which stands for European Theater of Operations, United States Army. My task was a complex one.

You may recall the "point system." It was famous after V-E Day. Every GI was his own computer. The point system determined whether and when an individual was entitled to be released from active service.

The point system provided the basis for preparation of orders both for units and individuals then in ETOUSA to join General MacArthur’ s forces being prepared for operation OLYMPIC, the final effort against Japan as well as for units and individuals


required for organizing occupation forces in Europe. It was my assignment to apply the point system to all individuals and units then ashore in Europe. This analysis would determine, which individuals would be immediately released; which units would go directly from Europe to Japan to participate in operation OLYMPIC; which units would go to the Far Pacific via the United States to participate in OLYMPIC; which units would be reformed in Europe for the Army of Occupation, and from where the filler replacements would be obtained. These diverse requirements needed to be folded into a schedule of logistics which would handle the equipment, the people, the units, and get everything where it was supposed to be on time, etc. That was my assignment. Needless to add, I suppose, is that it required a large facility, very able people, keypunch systems for storage and retrieval of much more than a million records.

HESS: One question before we move on: Shortly before V-E Day, President Roosevelt died. V-E Day, of course,


was May 8, 1945; President Roosevelt had died just about a month before that on April 12, 1945. Where were you when you heard the news of President Roosevelt’s death and what were your thoughts about how the new President might function in office? What kind of a President did you think President Truman would make? First, where were you when you heard of the news?

BENDETSEN: When I first heard the news I was in the Majestic Hotel, Paris, France, at the headquarters of the European Theater of Operation. I had flown there from Luxembourg for a conference with the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 of the European Theater staff. G-4 is the logistics general staff officer. We were to discuss and settle some supply problems for the support of certain elements of the 12th U.S. Army Group of General Bradley, some of whose elements had long since crossed the Rhine. Word came when I was in his office that the President had died. It was 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning, and because most of us had been so deeply engaged in the


conduct of the campaign in Europe, we had no impressions whatsoever about President Roosevelt’s health. I am not sure whether we might have had, had we been in the United States. It was a great shock. And from what I could observe, it was for everyone.

HESS: As you had met Mr. Truman previously to this time, what kind of a President did you think he would make?

BENDETSEN: I thought that Senator Truman, who was then Vice President Truman, was an exceedingly capable man of great capacity. I was deeply concerned for him because it was my impression that as Vice President he perhaps had not been (not through his doing, but nevertheless under the circumstances) as close to the high level aspects of the Allied effort as it would have been advantageous for him to have been. So I had deep sympathy for him. I knew he had the quiet courage, humility, stamina and ability. I felt that given the extensive background and knowledge that Mr. Truman had developed while a Senator, the


unique qualities of his basic wisdom, judgment and common sense would equip him for the enormous task. Nevertheless, I felt a great sadness for him under the circumstances, more for him even than for the family of Mr. Roosevelt. Does this respond?

HESS: Yes, it does.

BENDETSEN: I completed my duty at headquarters ETOUSA in mid-July, and was ordered to duty as a member of the War Department General Staff, Washington, D.C. My assignment was to the office of the Chief of Staff. Once again, I served under then Major General Wilton B. Persons. Once having served as liaison with the Congress and still knowing many members of Congress, my assignment was no surprise to me. There were pressing problems on the Hill and I was not accorded the 45 days of rest and rehabilitation leave that all others who returned from overseas duty were uniformly given. I had enough points by far to leave military service altogether. I was urged to remain. I agreed to do


what I could. It proved to be a very active assignment.

The War Department had many problems. At that moment it was not clear when the war in Asia would be concluded. However, as you will recall, V-J Day came within a relatively short time after I returned and then the full impact of the postwar phase of World War II sprang full panoply in all its various pressures, complexities and configurations. In addition to my chief duties, I also had my assignment as the secretary of a board of general officers who were planning the postwar Army.

There was a heavy burden of coordination with the members of Congress and the respective committees of the two houses on military affairs. President Truman was interested deeply in universal military training and in unification. There was an obvious relationship between Congressional liaison and postwar planning. It was one of our missions to support, with objective data and materials, an effort in the Congress to enact a universal military


training law. Another mission was actively to further the War Department objective of generating legislation leading to unification of the War and Navy Departments into a single department.

It was during this phase and because of this aspect of my complex assignments that I met Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Forrestal. Mr. Forrestal was opposed to unification. As you undoubtedly know, he was a man of great intellectual attainments. Despite his lofty position as Secretary, nevertheless, although I was just another commissioned officer of the Army, we had many frank discussions about unification. We developed a very warm and cordial relationship notwithstanding our rather spirited disagreements concerning unification.

HESS: How would you describe his views; why was he opposed to unification?

BENDETSEN: This ought to be an easy one to answer. It certainly is not, however. He said that unification would be a terrible risk for the nation because the Chief of Staff and the Secretary, the Cabinet Secretary


who presided over unified armed services would be too powerful; that one of them would become "a man on horseback" and threaten the very foundations of our freedom. This he said frequently. Frankly, I thought it was hogwash. I still think so. I am certain he was nevertheless personally sincere.

HESS: Did he express the view that the United States Navy might somehow be downgraded, might lose various functions to either the new Air Force or to the Army, if there was unification?

BENDETSEN: Ad infinitum he expressed this view, over and over, and I said, naturally that, "Mr. Secretary, you are completely right. It not only would, but should lead to a reorganization. It might even change some of the tradition-encrusted aspects of the Navy Department and of the Army. If so, it would improve the United States Navy and Marine Corps and the Army. Unification would serve the nation more adequately. It would bring needed change. So what difference would it make if the old order long overdue for change is changed?"


HESS: You used two interesting words there, "tradition encrusted." Speaking as an Army officer, do you think that the Navy is tradition encrusted more than the Army ?

BENDETSEN: Yes, much more so at that time; much less today. That tradition has since ameliorated. I mean this in the sense that the Navy has become less tradition encrusted.

HESS: Why is that so? Why does the Navy seem to be more bound by tradition than the Army?

BENDETSEN: You are asking a good question. I have given a great deal of study and thought to this. There would be many you encounter who will sharply disagree, with a considerable amount of heat rather than light, about the answer I will give you.

The reason why this is the case goes back into British naval history. The First Sea Lord, in British terms, was a full Admiral. He was accountable to no one but the King, There was no Navy Department, so to speak; he was the Commander in Chief of the Fleet, subject to the orders only of the King, The fleet was provisioned by a ministry of supply rather beneath


his notice. As he would bring the fleet into harbors and come ashore on leave, he would simply order that the fleet be provisioned, but he brooked no interference by anyone with his authority and power over the Navy forces. The most powerful governing influence in shaping the attitudes and traditions of the professional U.S. Navy springs directly from the British Navy.

Our U.S. Navy Department never did adopt or permit a system whereby the Secretary of the Navy was really in command of the Navy as the President’s alter ego. He was and is an administrative officer. The U.S. Navy never has had a Chief of Staff; it has always had a Chief of Naval Operations. He is in command. He is not the Chief of Staff of the staff of the Secretary of the Navy as is the case in the Army. The War Department General Staff is the staff of the Secretary! The authority is vested in him. The Chief of Staff’s authority is derived from the authority of the President, transmitted now through the Secretary of Defense, and before that through the Secretary of War. Until let us say, not long before


World War II, the Chief of Naval Operations did not even occupy an office in the Navy Department. His office was on a battleship moored on the Potomac River.

The Secretary of the Navy was and is engulfed in paper work. He signed all the transfers of the civilians, even the lowest civilian, as well as promotions and retirements. The Navy staff saw to it that each such "minute" order was personally signed by the Secretary of the Navy. The professional Navy was a power unto itself and its commissioned personnel would brook no interference. They treated the Secretary of the Navy wonderfully, in a ceremonial manner.

HESS: Just as long as he kept out of the way?

BENDETSEN: He had no time to do anything else. But he really did not know what buttons to press if he had decided to try his hand.

HESS: He was busy signing papers. I believe Frank Knox was Secretary of the Navy at that time, was he not?


BENDETSEN: No, not then. He was Secretary preceding Forrestal, who was Under Secretary for Knox.

HESS: That’s right.

BENDETSEN: The Chief of Staff of the Army is the Chief of the Secretary’s staff. The Chief has no inherent command authority. He can issue orders in the Secretary’s name only. The War Department went through many phases. Elihu Root introduced the general staff system first when he was Secretary of War. General Pershing furthered it when he returned from France. At the headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces, the French general staff command system was copied. The Army has always had many more people who have had some service in it than the Navy. There is not any "mystique" about the Army. In the minds of most of such people, however briefly they served and at however lowly their rank, they somehow believed they know all about the Army. Every member of Congress, nearly, has done squads right, squads left, and the manual of arms, and so they all know all about the Army, so they think. Only naval officers and sailors


have ever known until recent times much about the Navy.

Congress did not appropriate in the case of the Navy for so many bayonets, canteens, knapsacks and bags of sugar. They appropriate for a battleship complete with auxiliaries and support vessels. For these reasons, in the case of the Navy, the British influence and tradition held through most of our history.

Now, I have only begun to touch on this subject, but perhaps I have given you something of an answer. Have I?

HESS: I think so.

One further question on that: Were there times in the Second World War when you were in Europe that you found where there was lack of cooperation between services which hampered the war efforts before unification?

BENDETSEN: No, I do not think I observed anything like that at all at any time during World War II in the


field. In war, the farther forward one goes in the field toward the battlefront, the more the cooperation between elements within each service and between the services increases. All basically face the same hazards. The farther back, up the line of supply one goes toward the "zone of the interior," the more likely that inter-service as well as intra-service rivalry would appear and cause problems. I think this is a fair summary of it. Men, even though badly organized who are good men, will get any job done where everyone has a common cause to serve.. I cannot say that I ever witnessed any great problems in the field of the type that I assume you have in mind.

HESS: Fine. Now before we go on, you were discussing unification. Were these matters that you dealt with before you went back to California?

BENDETSEN: All of them, yes.

HESS: All right. Have we covered everything while you were still associated with the service?


BENDETSEN: I was in uniform as a Colonel, U.S. Army, the entire time following my return from the European Theater until I resigned at the end of December 1945.

HESS: Approximately what time in 1945 did you return to your civilian pursuits?

BENDETSEN: At the end of December 1945 when I returned to the West Coast.

HESS: You then returned to California?


HESS: And your first postwar role there was as management counselor.

BENDETSEN: Yes, I joined a firm of management consultants. Army management methods had become highly regarded by U.S. business and industry. The five section general staff: personnel; intelligence; operations; logistics and plans could readily be adapted to industry and large business. My management of the difficult evacuation of Japanese was widely known. I could and did make some recognized


contributions. Additionally, it would provide me with a useful "space filler." Much of what had happened in the U.S.A. while I was overseas was virtually "blank space" in my head. The Stars and Stripes was not exactly a full coverage newspaper. There was no business section. Most of its reporting related to "ETOUSA" events (European Theater of Operations of the United States of America).

HESS: You could make more money there than you did in the Army.

BENDETSEN: I was not really thinking about money. I had had an intensive and uniquely varied period of service in the Army. I believed that I could apply some rather effective management and control procedures which I was forced to develop because they did not exist and bring them to bear very usefully in industry and business. It turned out to be the case. I had an opportunity to make some contributions that my clients thought were unique. I also


learned much from them. And I did fill in some of the blanks.

I had one interesting assignment that was unanticipated. I was asked to analyze the trade barriers against margarine. As you know, until sometime in the early ‘50s, the Federal Government, by act of Congress and most of the 48 states by legislative action, would not permit margarine to be colored to look like butter. Margarine, nevertheless, made of the right components of polyunsaturated oils and skimmed milk was a very healthy table spread and cooking aid. I agreed to undertake the study and make recommendations which might lead to the repeal of most of these trade barriers. I made clear that I would not be available to carry any approved program into execution. I said I had up to twelve months and no more when I wanted to return to the practice of law.

I made this study by first doing a statistical analysis, congressional district by congressional district, county by county, in each of the 48 states of what the streams of income were, identifying by


category and source the composition of the gross product of each county and each congressional district. I determined which areas were primarily interested in dairy farming and substantially dependent on income from whole milk and butterfat. I found that 14 states were of this category.

Then I analyzed the impact of these trade barriers adversely for other "pocketbook" interests. In 40 of the 48 states, this impact was adverse, significantly so. Strangely however, this adverse impact was not realized. I talked to the Farm Bureau Federation and the National Grange, presenting a thorough analysis, which conclusively proved that the trade barriers against margarine were heavily adverse to the pocketbook interests of their members. They were astonished. The situation was just opposite of what they had thought. As examples, consider cash crops such as soybean oil, cottonseed oil, corn oil and peanut oil. These oils were all ideal for margarine as a butterfat substitute, both cheaper and healthier. There were many other aspects; for example, labor unions.


The teamsters supported the dairy industry (whole milk and butter) because largely involved was home delivery of both. However, all other unions, industrial unions, had failed to recognize that their members were paying over 75$ per pound for butter when margarine could be available at 40$ to 50$. The supermarkets began to realize that they could become a substitute for the home delivery market at lower cost to the customer and higher volume to them. I need not pursue these illustrations further in order to convey the nature of the analysis and the consequent recommendations.

I recommended a detailed plan of organization and grass roots effort on a merit basis and they adopted my recommendations. I told them I thought that if they started such an effort in late ‘48, they could expect to have Congress adopt legislation at the Federal level by the end of 1950, repealing the barriers so far as they are related to interstate commerce; so far as they were related to purchases by the armed services, or by the Public


Health Service or by any part of the Federal Government. I was "wrong" about that. Congress repealed the trade barrier laws by June of 1950 instead of December. Margarine has advanced to the forefront ever since. The non-dairy states rapidly followed suit.

HESS: All right, in 1948 you were asked to be consultant and special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, is that correct?

BENDETSEN: Yes, sir.

HESS: What were your duties, and why were you selected to perform these duties?

BENDETSEN: I will respond to the second question first, if I may. Mr. Forrestal phoned me in San Francisco where I was practicing law and said that an emergency was in the making, the Berlin crisis storm was gathering, the probabilities were high that the Defense Establishment, as it was then known, would be required...


HESS: The National Military Establishment.

BENDETSEN: Right you are. The National Military Establishment was created by the National Defense Act of 1947.

HESS: Correct.

BENDETSEN: This crisis would require the submission of a unified supplemental budget request to the Congress far sooner than any sort of a unified budget had been contemplated. Inasmuch as I had been intensively involved in the unification process and inasmuch as he believed from our earlier meetings that I knew enough about unification to know how a unified budget should be coordinate for three armed services and the Marines, he asked me to help.

My duties were general; I was really a special assistant. I knew many officers of the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy; I knew many of the civilians in the three departments of Army, Navy and Air and had a working knowledge of the budget process. I also knew many members of the House and Senate.


So I busied myself with coordinating and administration chores helping in every way I could. I also prepared, in concert with others, Mr. Forrestal’s draft testimony to be presented in support of a unified supplemental budget. I followed through with him in the course of these hearings. I accompanied him to the Hill. I conferred with certain Senators and Representatives on these committees.

HESS: What particular duties did you have in connection with the Berlin blockade and the Berlin airlift?

BENDETSEN: No direct duties. My duties were in general support functions. I had no direct military assignments. I was not in uniform at this time. I served as a civilian.

HESS: A management consultant.

BENDETSEN: No, as a special assistant to the Secretary of Defense.

HESS: As we have mentioned unification, let’s go a little deeper into that subject. The unification


of the armed forces had taken place by this time, and you mentioned previously that Mr. Forrestal was opposed to unification. If he was opposed, just in your opinion, why was he selected as the first Secretary of Defense?

BENDETSEN: Well, I think that President Truman used great sagacity and wisdom in choosing such a man as Forrestal. He had great capacity and ability. And Mr. Forrestal being a man of integrity, if he accepted, it meant that he would fulfill his duties in good faith. Moreover, as it was widely recognized that he was above reproach, the Army and the Air Force had to realize that he could not afford to be biased against them while the Navy had to know he would be neutral but fair toward them. I think that is the answer to your question.

HESS: Quite clear. Do you think that the Army would have liked to have taken over functions from the Navy, such as the Marine Corps? Would the Army like to have taken over the Marine Corps?


BENDETSEN: The Army never made such proposals. However, the Army believed the Marines unnecessary. I will relate to you an episode which may throw some light upon the subject.

After one of my conferences in the Navy Department, I discussed a proposal with General Marshall. I said, "General Marshall, there is absolutely no chance that Mr. Forrestal is going to be convinced that he should support true unification. His reasons are sufficient unto him. In my humble opinion, they are not all rational; they are somewhat emotional. They are mixed. He believes deeply and holds these convictions deeply." I said, "General Marshall, the Navy Department obviously in and of itself is already a Department of Defense. It has land, sea and air forces. You yourself as a great soldier-statesman have made it clear to me that you believe deeply in unification and that you would go to any reasonable length to bring it about. I think I know how that might be done." He expressed deep interest.


I said, "I suggest that you go to the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of War and you go to President Truman and make a proposal to him. The proposal I suggest is that the Navy Department become the Department of Defense and that it take over the armed forces of the United States. I think then it might be possible to have unification instead of triplification, which is the most we are going to get in my opinion."

General Marshall, to my surprise, said, "I want to think this over overnight. Be at my office at 8 o’clock tomorrow."

I was there. He said, "I think you have a sound idea." He said, "Obviously, it will never completely take this form, but even if it did, I could not in good faith oppose it in view of my commitment to unification. As soon as the Secretary of War comes in, I will take you in with me."

I said, "Oh, I think you should do this alone."

"No, I want you to come," so I went.

Mr. Stimson thought it over overnight and said, "Let’s go to the President." So they did.


When they returned I was told: "The President was very interested in this and he asked me, ‘General Marshall, where did this idea originate?’ I told him that this had come from you,. and of course the President knows you." He said, "He’s somewhat troubled at this point as to what the next step might be to bring this about. The Secretary and I are also in doubt."

I said, "May I make a suggestion?"

"Of course."

I said, "Suppose I go to Mr. Forrestal in a day or two and tell him that I have had an idea that I want to try out on him. Then no one at the level of either you or the Secretary of War or the President needs to be involved at all, and see what kind of reaction I get." And that is what happened, and I did.

HESS: What was Mr. Forrestal’s reaction?

BENDETSEN: He said, "I’m against it; it would create a man on horseback." But I have answered your first question, have I not?


>HESS: Yes, you have. Did General Marshall think it was feasible to have the Navy Department absorb the War Department?

BENDETSEN: General Marshall thought that if the germ of my idea were to be put into a draft piece of legislation, the Congress would consider such a proposal as disestablishing the War Department, renaming the Navy Department as the Department of Defense and placing the officers and men of the various armed services under the direction of the Secretary of Defense. He was of the view that there would not have been anything fundamentally wrong with the idea and that it could have been worked out by changing the superstructure of the Navy Department.

HESS: But they decided not to do it.

BENDETSEN: Well, Forrestal said he was opposed to it. I cannot tell you that President Truman would have finally gone to this length, but he did think it was an interesting idea. He wanted it to be further


explored. What led to my suggestion in the first place was that Forrestal might have ceased to oppose a single department of defense if that department was the Navy. But when it appeared that Mr. Forrestal held these strong convictions about "a man on horseback" as deeply as he did, we would not have solved very much by coming forward with legislation embracing the proposal so far as he was concerned.

With particular regard to the problems of unification, I told you that the Army had no ambitions to take over the Navy Department and I think I fully exemplified this in relating the episode regarding my suggestion that the Navy Department become the nucleus of the Department of Defense under appropriate legislation. However, the United States Army has always thought, or at least thought for the last fifty years or so, that the Marine Corps was an unnecessary appendage to the armed forces and really had no further justification whatever. Considered to be expensive, a duplication, and out of the experiences in World War II wholly unnecessary!


There is no doubt about that. The Navy Department staunchly and successfully defended the retention by the Marine Corps of its close support aviation forces. On the other hand, with further reference to the problem, you are undoubtedly aware that the Army Air Corps wanted to own and operate anything that flew, from balloons to aircraft, to transports, to close-in combat aircraft, strategic air and so forth. And the Army properly was opposed to this. So there were basic problems.

The Air Corps had the best support from its lobby, second only to the Navy Department. So the Navy got what it wanted, the Army Air Corps got what it wanted. The Army gave up most of all, and still supported unification nevertheless. This is what happened.

HESS: All right, I have one further question on unification and that deals with a change of attitude that Mr. Forrestal may have undergone under the National Military Establishment from 1947 until 1949. There are historians who say that the way


that it was set up in 1947 was more of a confederation than a unification, because the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force all had Cabinet status. And the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Forrestal, had a rather small staff.

In the Department of Defense reorganization two years later, the staffs for the Department of Defense and of the Secretary of Defense were enlarged and the Cabinet status was dropped for the Secretary of the Army, Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of the Air Force. Did you feel, or didn’t you feel, that during that two-year period, Mr. Forrestal’s views about the necessity for unification changed somewhat and that he saw that there needed to be greater unification or greater control from the top?

BENDETSEN: I am firmly convinced, in fact it is within my certain knowledge, that Mr. Forrestal underwent major changes of perspective. I believe he would not have preferred to go back to the separate


departments of War and Navy, which pre-existed the creation of the National Military Establishment. But he came to realize that the National Military Establishment was an unworkable monstrosity and that the triplification, which resulted impaired any real progress toward the original concepts of unification.

HESS: Was that discussed?

BENDETSEN: Once he said, "I grow nostalgic for the old days. The two separate departments with Cabinet rank were better than this--no one is in charge now."

There is no question but what he realized for such an assignment and such an office, it was utterly impossible to fulfill his accountability with the limited authority and resources which the original National Security Act of 1947 provided. This is beyond any shadow of a doubt. He said so to me, several times, not once. I could not restrain myself in view of our previous conversations from asking him from time to time how he felt about this subject, so we did discuss it. I did not go as far


as to remind him that the National Security Act of 1947 which created the monstrosity (it still is) was virtually the precise work of Forrestal and Ferdinand Eberstadt.

HESS: Did he say why he had changed his mind? Did he mention any difficulties he may have had?

BENDETSEN: He certainly did. He had all sorts of difficulties; he could hardly get anything done at all. If Mr. Symington did not want to agree with Mr. Forrestal’s program, Symington just jolly well followed his own convictions.

HESS: All right, it is interesting that you have mentioned Mr. Symington. Let’s discuss the Service Secretaries for just a minute. The Secretary of the Army, the first Secretary of the Army, was Kenneth C. Royall.

BENDETSEN: Yes, I knew him well and intimately.

HESS: The Secretary of the Navy, who took over at the time that Mr. Forrestal was made Secretary of Defense, was John L. Sullivan.


BENDETSEN: I know him very well; he still lives in Washington.

HESS: He and I have had some very interesting interviews. And the Secretary of the Air Force was Mr. Stuart Symington.

BENDETSEN: I know Mr. Symington well--now Senator Symington. I see him from time to time, and I was "present at the creation."

HESS: You were "present at the creation." You didn’t by chance suggest that to Mr. Dean Acheson as the title of his book though, did you?

BENDETSEN: No, I borrowed his title in making this comment.

HESS: Let’s discuss those three gentlemen just a moment: Mr. Royall, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Symington. What I’m really aiming for here is during this two-year period, from ‘47 to ‘49, where these three men had Cabinet status, which of those three men gave Mr. Forrestal, the Secretary of Defense, less cooperation and more trouble?


BENDETSEN: This is confidential and will have to be regarded under the procedure for closing.

HESS: All right.

BENDETSEN: Well, I think...

HESS: Would you like to close this for five years after the death of the person referred to as we discussed or would you prefer a different length of time?

BENDETSEN: Three years.

HESS: Three years, all right, fine.

BENDETSEN: I should say that number one by several lengths was Mr. Symington.

HESS: Can you give me an illustration, something to illustrate that? A "for instance" in other words?

BENDETSEN: For instance the "70 group air force," which had a very distressing habit of becoming larger and larger while still being called 70 groups, by the simple expedient of adding numerous wings to each group.


HESS: All right, what about the other two men; tell me a little bit about Kenneth Royall. What kind of a man was Kenneth Royall?

BENDETSEN: Kenneth Royall was a man of great sagacity, an astute politician and an able lawyer. He was (this will also have to be closed, I guess for four years after his death, because we are in the third year now) an exceedingly stubborn man once he made up his mind. Some people caused him to become more stubborn than others, because they approached him in a way that apparently stimulated his inclinations to become stubborn about certain things. He was diligent; he made a very important contribution during World War II. He was a very diligent Under Secretary and Secretary of War. He was hard on the senior commissioned officers. He was not a man of humility. He loyally carried into effect the orders of the President, including Mr. Truman. He gave his own Army a bad time, but it did not suffer any irreparable damage. They thought they were being abused by the Secretary because of his rather overweening manner. This was


largely because he declined to listen (sometimes) to the ideas of the general staff. This is not to argue that all of its ideas were always worth listening to! On the other hand, he was cooperative in the fullest sense of the word in doing what he could to advance the purposes of unification and to seek "more bang for the buck" as the saying has become.

I hasten to add that I held Mr. Royall in high esteem and great affection, and I had an exceedingly close relationship with him, which lasted until shortly before his death. Whenever I came to Washington I would see him; whenever he was in New York as head of the law firm that he joined, Royall, Koegel, Wells and Rogers, I would call on him and after I came here to live in New York five years ago, I saw him from time to time. He always treated me very well. I think at an early stage I somehow perceived the ways in which he liked to approach problems and discussions.

HESS: What were those ways? What were his methods of administration?


BENDETSEN: I would say that the key to getting him to listen, aside from questions of administration, was usually to say, "Mr. Secretary, there are several options here on this question. There are several ways to go. There is indeed no crystal clear choice necessarily and there well may be disadvantages in any choice. Here are the options." By doing that, if he happened to hold, at that moment, one of these options as his predilection he would listen very carefully to...

HESS: To the others.

BENDETSEN: He would listen very carefully to the others. But if you approached him and said, "I’ve studied this problem and this is the way it seems to me it has to be solved," the chances are that if you did not happen to hit the jackpot and just happen to be on his wavelength, he somehow felt, I believe, that you must have failed to take into account that he had any ideas of his own. Something like that.

HESS: You mentioned awhile ago about the Chief of Naval


Operations running the Navy and the Secretary of the Navy not having adequate control over the Navy. Did you feel at this time that Secretary Royall had more administrative control over the Army than the Secretaries of the Navy did over the Navy?

BENDETSEN: Infinitely more, and so did Mr. Stimpson.

HESS: How about John Sullivan? He took over as Secretary of the Navy after Forrestal. Did he have less control of the Navy than Royall did of the Army?

BENDETSEN: Yes, much less.

HESS: Less control.

BENDETSEN: Less control.

HESS: Tell me about Mr. Sullivan, what kind of a man is he?

BENDETSEN: Mr. Sullivan is a very engaging, very charming man, knowledgeable, an excellent persuasive lawyer, well versed--not only in his field, but in many another. He is quite widely read, he is an advocate,


and I mean that in this sense: Mr. Royall was also an advocate in that he is a lawyer, and had a very successful practice--as did Mr. Sullivan. But Mr. Sullivan, by nature, was so disposed that he considered it his duty, as Secretary of the Navy, to advance the advocacy of what the Navy felt it should have and ought to do. And he did that well. In fact, he did it so well that he resigned when the Navy did not get the super carriers it wished. He got himself so far out on that limb that he did not have much choice other than to follow up on his "If I don’t get it I will resign," sort of threat. Well, that is--that’s carrying advocacy beyond the point of effectiveness. I do not think it produced anything.

HESS: That was at the time that Louis Johnson had taken over after Mr. Forrestal had left.

BENDETSEN: Yes, I think perhaps these comments about John L. Sullivan ought to be closed for two years after his demise.


HESS: Fine.

BENDETSEN: I will try to be very frank with you for the purposes of history. Have I answered your question?

HESS: Yes. And then Mr. Symington as Secretary of the Air Force. Do you recall anything in particular where Mr. Symington--that might point out any lack of cooperation with the new Secretary of Defense?

BENDETSEN: My statements regarding Mr. Symington are closed under the usual procedure and understanding.

Well, it was very rarely that I can recall when he was ever exactly cooperative. He is a very charming man and we got along fine. (There was a brief period when we did not. But this was based on his misunderstanding of something concerning my course of action at a certain point which has no bearing on this oral history.)

When he recognized his mistake, he acknowledged it and we have been very good friends ever since. I like him. But when it came to the Air Force, anything and everything the then fledgling Air Force


wanted, he was for. Whenever the Air Force wanted to take something away from the Army, which was frequently, he would press hard for it and go straight to the President. Whenever the Army wanted to have a few light aircraft for fast logistics transportation in the field under battle conditions from one headquarters to another, he strenuously opposed and insisted that anything and everything that flew was Air Force business. He was absolutely adamant on all these questions. So, when you talk about cooperation, I assume you are asking me to comment on whether he was willing to yield and compromise in order to advance the work of unification. He was very rarely, if ever, willing to do that in the course of my experience and my observation. There may be others who may have seen it. I did not.

HESS: All right, we may have questions on all three of those men that will come up in the future, but I want to ask a question about Mr. Forrestal before we move on.


What do you recall about the unfortunate mental breakdown that overtook Mr. Forrestal? When did that first become evident to you that there may have been something wrong?

BENDETSEN: In retrospect, there were periods when it seemed to me he became rather severely depressed and disheartened. And I say in retrospect, because I relate them to what later happened to him in this tragic and unfortunate breakdown that he suffered and which led to his death.

HESS: Do you recall when you first may have noticed something of that nature? We should mention that the day of his death was May 22, 1949. He retired as Secretary of Defense on March 28, 1949. The 1948 election had come before this particular time, about six months before his death. Did you notice the periods of depression before or after the election?

BENDETSEN: After I left the role of special assistant to him in, I believe, July of ‘48, I saw him a number of times, called on him when I came to Washington


for one reason or another, and I saw him after the election of Mr. Truman. And on these occasions, I encountered him twice before the election and once afterwards in what I would regard moods of depression, and they troubled me. That is about all I can say.

HESS: Do you have any recollections at all concerning Mr. Forrestal’s support, or lack of support, of Mr. Truman in 1948?

BENDETSEN: I think he was quite inactive in that regard but I believe it was--I believed then, and I have no way of knowing whether I am right or wrong--that it was because of the tradition that the Secretary of State and Treasury--or less so Treasury--War, Navy and Defense do not participate actively in political campaigns. I associated it with that.

HESS: Some historians speculate that his lack of support, if indeed there was a lack of support, may have had some relationship to his resignation. What do you say to that?

BENDETSEN: I am aware of these contentions. I am also


aware of the contention that because Mr. Truman thought that we ought to as a matter of national policy give some support to Israel, there are those who say this caused a severe disruption in the relationship between Truman and Forrestal. I have no knowledge that would lead me to lend any credence to that. I did know that Mr. Forrestal felt that we might be facing an energy crisis in the United States a number of years in the future and that we would have a need to do the sound things required to secure our lines of supply, but the Israel question I know nothing about. I did not associate his lack of support so far as my own observations are concerned with anything except that which I have already mentioned.

HESS: In general, and to conclude this subject, what would be your evaluation of Mr. Forrestal’s administrative ability, effectiveness and of his handling of the Defense Establishment?

BENDETSEN: I will endeavor to respond to your question in three parts. First, his administrative ability.


I would say Mr. Forrestal had considerable administrative ability. He was not an experienced manager because that was not his profession, but he had a natural capacity for being able to deal with concurrent considerations. Some people have no capacity for that. He did have. As to his effectiveness...

HESS: Which would really tie in with his handling of the Department--effective handling.

BENDETSEN: He was not very effective, measured objectively. I would not, however, attribute his lack of effectiveness to his own lack of capacity. I think he could have been infinitely more effective than he actually was, had he been given authority commensurate with the task assigned. He handled people fairly well. But he was not patience itself. Ordinarily he was engaging; he had considerable but by no means infinite patience.

I think he had many, many personal problems which could not help but diminish even the limited effectiveness with which the National Security Act


imposed upon him. He had terrible problems at home; they bore heavily on him. I would see him late at night in the Pentagon. During this period, I worked 18 hours a day. He would return frequently late at night, lonely; he wanted to talk. So I would have to sum up by saying that...

HESS: Did he talk about his personal problems?

BENDETSEN: Once or twice. I would rather not discuss this aspect. So I would sum up by saying that the severe limitations in the Act itself, coincident with his severe personal problems, made him less effective than he might have been. If he had been free of these personal problems, I think he could have been a remarkable man in that position. However, General Marshall (who followed Louis Johnson) and Robert Lovett, who followed General Marshall as Secretaries of Defense, were effective despite the stultifying inadequacies of the National Security Act of 1947. But then, it was wartime--the Korean war.


HESS: All right, and during this time, as I have mentioned previously, was the 1948 election. Mr. Truman’ s upset election. Did you think that Mr. Truman was going to win in 1948?

BENDETSEN: I thought so by the end of October of that year, but I did not think so at any time before that.

HESS: What did you see by the end of October that made you change your mind?

BENDETSEN: I began to sense a change of feeling of people I encountered. I began to sense that Dewey did not seem to be following up as actively as he should have, and he seemed to be overconfident. sensed that Mr. Truman was engaging the people and that Dewey had lost them. I was convinced that many of Dewey’ s supporters in the field, some of whom I knew, were overconfident and it just meant to me, cumulatively, that this is almost a sure-fire formula for what would be called an upset.

HESS: Were you back in California at this time?



HESS: Mr. Truman went through California. Did you hear him speak?


HESS: Tell me about that, tell me about the occasion.

BENDETSEN: Well, now which place was it? . . . San Francisco or Los Angeles?

HESS: I don’t have my itineraries here today, but the usual procedure was to go through the northwest, go up through Idaho, Washington, Oregon and then down through California, then out through Arizona.

BENDETSEN: Right. I am trying to remember whether I heard him in San Francisco or Los Angeles, because I was shuttling back and forth, but I think it was San Francisco. I cannot quite remember the date.

HESS: Was he speaking to a particular group at that time or was it a whistle stop?

BENDETSEN: It was a large group. I was not active in


the campaign. There were advance men to arrange to get people out. They succeeded very well. He made a very forceful talk before a substantial audience and he carried the crowd with him with great enthusiasm. He hammered away at the "do-nothing Congress."

HESS: The do-nothing 80th Congress.

BENDETSEN: That is right. That was his campaign theme. There was not anything new or different in what he said, but it was firsthand and there he was giving it all he had.

HESS: A little off the record, but that phrase came up in a press conference in August of 1948 in which an unnamed reporter said something to the effect, "Mr. President, do you think they could be called a do nothing 80th Congress?" and Mr. Truman jumped on it. And after that, it was mentioned many times, but that unnamed, maybe unknown reporter, came up with a new phrase, for the political dictionary, the "do-nothing 80th Congress."


All right, were you associated with the Department of Defense in 1949, in any way?


HESS: What were your duties then?

BENDETSEN: Well, I will tell you what happened. I went back on request during the fall of ‘48 to do a special study for Mr. Gordon Gray whom I had met when I was working for Mr. Forrestal. Gray was then Army Secretary. This study related to the Alamogordo, New Mexico bombing range. The Army, the Air Force and the Navy were having a terrible battle as to who was going to own what in these ranges. My assignment was to study the situation, analyze the conflicting claims and propose a solution that would work.

HESS: What was your plan, briefly?

BENDETSEN: The New Mexico range was to be "joint Army-Air Force." The Army had certain areas which would be used for its artillery and its short-range missiles and the Air Force had the long-range part of it for strategic missile development. The


commands would be joint, and that was accepted. It was later changed. The Air Force took all of it.

The Navy kept its dry lake range in southern California, which it still has, for bombing and missile development, and the Air Force, until the space agency came along, had the Banana River range, which became ultimately Cape Kennedy--you remember all that history. I made these studies.

Well, then Mr. Gray asked me to come back to be Assistant Secretary of the Army and I came. I think it was in September, and my name went up through...

HESS: Mr. Gray was Secretary of the Army from June 20, 1949 until April 13, 1950 and you came in September of 1949. He left in April ‘50.

BENDETSEN: When did he become Secretary of the Army?

HESS: I have it here that he was sworn in on June 20, 1949. That was two days after Kenneth Royall’s resignation.


BENDETSEN: Right. He was sworn in in June of ‘49 and he left in April of ‘50 to become Assistant to President Truman. (He studied "the dollar gap" problem as it was then called.) Frank Pace then became Army Secretary. I had asked that he release me as soon as convenient. The Korean conflict overtook.

When the Honorable Gordon Gray became Secretary of the Army, he asked me to become his Assistant Secretary of the Army. I accepted and left San Francisco.. We kept our house; and we took an apartment in Washington, and my name was sent to the White House to go to the Senate. And a fellow who later became a friend of mine, Donald Dawson, President Truman’ s White House personnel assistant.

HESS: Donald Dawson, personnel man for the White House.

BENDETSEN: Yes "personnel" man for the White House. He did not let my name go to President Truman because I was a Republican. After some months had passed Gordon Gray went to the President. I had been made special assistant to Gray, and while I was doing all


of this I had a wide range of assignments. I was very busily engaged in the Pentagon.

HESS: You had the tasks but not the title.

BENDETSEN: That is right. During this period I also recommended the creation of the office of general counsel which Gray approved. I was, though I am not sure it is so recorded in the official record--the First General Counsel. It was just before I became Assistant Secretary.

HESS: In January of ‘50.

BENDETSEN: Well, the reason I did not think it was January of ‘50 was that I was performing the role of Assistant Secretary for so long that the date when I was confirmed ceased to be clear in my mind. But finally, Gordon went to the President and was unhappy about this. Mr. Truman did not know about it. And so as soon as he learned of it, he said, "Well, I remember Bendetsen," and apparently told Mr. Gray that his recollections were favorable and he did not


see any reason why I should not be appointed. So he sent my name up and I was appointed. The Senate committee took about three minutes because they all knew me. That is the story.

HESS: Have you ever talked with Mr. Dawson about that in years since?

BENDETSEN: I see him once in awhile in Washington and I kid him about it.

HESS: There were many Republicans in the Department of Defense--you would have been just one more. I wonder why he held yours up.

BENDETSEN: I just never asked--I will some day.

HESS: All right.

BENDETSEN: When I kid him he looks rather sheepish about it. But no, we have never had any unkind words. I was so busy I did not really pay any attention to it. Gordon Gray was really more exercised about it than I was, by far.

HESS: All right. Now let’s make one point here, because


during this period of time, in March of ‘49, was when Mr. Louis Johnson succeeded Mr. Forrestal as Secretary of Defense. Was that a period of time when you were in San Francisco?

BENDETSEN: Yes, I came back in the summer of ‘49. Louis Johnson was still there.

HESS: That’s right.

BENDETSEN: And I knew him well.

HESS: All right, would you compare the methods of operation between Louis Johnson and Forrestal? In other words, what changes, either in operation, routine or structure, did Louis Johnson make when he came in?

BENDETSEN: In answering your question, I think I should lay down a little foundation. First, during most of Forrestal’s service as Secretary of Defense he had an "inclining" situation. He had the Berlin blockade; he had to go for supplemental appropriations. He was not really engaged in reducing the level of expenditures to the degree that Louis Johnson made it his


business to do (probably because Mr. Truman undoubtedly wanted him to). But Mr. Johnson was in there to cut the budget severely and he did. He virtually emasculated the Army and the Navy.

HESS: In your opinion, did he cut the budget more than Mr. Truman had requested? Was he just following the orders of the President, or was he going on beyond what the President had requested?

BENDETSEN: I do not believe I could fairly say that I know.

HESS: One other point: Why was he selected? In your opinion why was he made the Secretary of Defense?

BENDETSEN: Well, it would be difficult to say what the precise reasons for his selection may have been in Mr. Truman’s mind. Quite obviously, he had considerable experience in the sense that he was Assistant Secretary of War prior to World War II.

HESS: With Harry Woodring.

BENDETSEN: With Harry Woodring, yes. He was Chairman of the then Munitions Board. So undoubtedly, Mr.


Truman had these previous experiences in mind. Second, Mr. Johnson had considerable grass roots support and a Cabinet officer should have a certain amount of grass roots support if he can manage it. He acquired that through making a great deal out of his service as National Commander of the American Legion.

HESS: The National Commander of the American Legion.

BENDETSEN: That is right. And he was a very active National Commander of the American Legion. He also very much wanted to be the Secretary of Defense. In summary, all of these considerations probably, plus his political clout, led to his appointment by President Truman. It is fair to say, I believe, that he wanted intensely to be Secretary of Defense and perhaps had political aspiration for still higher office in the future.

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