Oral History Interview with
General counsel, Department of the Army, 1949; Assistant
Secretary of the Army, 1950-52; Under Secretary of the Army, 1952. More
Karl R. Bendetsen
New York City, New York
October 24, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Bendetsen Oral History
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,
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permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Harry S. Truman Library
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and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Bendetsen Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Karl R. Bendetson
New York City, New York
October 24, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: To begin Mr. Bendetsen, will you tell me about your introduction
into the Army, when you joined the Army and what your assignments were?
BENDETSEN: Mr. Hess, I will undertake to give you a sequential account.
I entered the United States Army on extended active service in 1940.
I had been a commissioned officer of the Officers Reserve Corps since
1929 when I received my bachelors degree at Stanford University, and
I was commissioned in the field artillery. I reached the rank of captain
of field artillery in 1939, some ten years thereafter. In the intervening
years I saw no active duty at any high level headquarters. All of
commissioned active duty was performed at Fort Lewis, Washington, in
fortnightly periods. The 10th Field Artillery was stationed there during
that decade, and my assignment as a Reserve Officer was to that Regular
Army field artillery unit. This arrangement obtained in a number of
cases around the country where a Reserve Officer happened to have his
residence sufficiently close to a Regular Army unit of his military
branch to permit frequent communication, inactive duty assignments on
weekends and other times of convenience. So, I had some preceding connection
with the Army at numerous times each year.
Parenthetically, I would add that I joined the Washington State National
Guard when I was 14 years old, enlisting in the 248th Coast Artillery
Battalion (Separate). I now "confess" that I prevaricated
about my age. It was general practice in those days. Many young men
of high school age thought it was "the thing to do" to be
in the National Guard. So did I. The State authorities maintained a
convenient posture of official ignorance. My span
of military service began then.
In late 1939 while I was practicing law, then at Aberdeen, Washington,
I became deeply concerned about our national situation. I shared the
view of many others that the clouds of war were gathering and we were
ill prepared. At my own expense and with my slender resources, I took
myself to Washington, D.C. in late 1939 to talk to my Washington State
U.S. Senators and to my Congressman about our woefully inadequate military
posture. I stayed for two weeks. I was not encouraged by what I heard.
I returned to Washington, D.C. in the spring of 1940 and joined with
others of like mind. We were there as private citizens to persuade Congress
to enact a draft law. I was really for universal military training,
which as you know, so also was President Truman.
HESS: Very much so.
BENDETSEN: I believed strongly in it. We urged that the Congress adopt
some such law. Short of that, certainly Selective Service was essential
because our standing forces, our reserves and our federally
recognized National Guard were small and ill prepared.
On August 16, 1940, Congress passed Public Law 96. This authorized
the President to call the Army, Navy and Marine Corps Reserves and the
National Guard of the several states into active Federal service. This
statute also authorized the establishment of Selective Service.
At that point, someone casually said to me, "Well, Bendetsen,
youve been around here on your own for several months trying to help
get this through Congress. As a citizen, it seems to me you had ought
to be one of the first ones to come forward and say you are ready to
come into the Army."
I said, "I can hardly deny the force of your argument so I will
do just that. Let me have up to 60 days to settle my affairs. After
all, I have been here on some sort of active service for three months
as it is."
I was ordered to active duty effective about 75 days later. I then
reported as a captain of
field artillery to the Commanding Officer,
10th Field Artillery, Fort Lewis, Washington . While serving there I
chanced to meet the Judge Advocate of the Third U.S. Army Division which
had its headquarters at Fort Lewis. He was then a colonel. His name
was Harry Auer. He soon became a brigadier general as the Assistant
Judge Advocate General of the Army under Major General Allen W. Gullion.
As he was leaving for Washington, D.C. he told me, "You shouldnt
be here in the 10th Field Artillery; you ought to be in the Judge Advocate
Generals Department at the War Department in Washington, D.C."
I said, "Colonel Auer, I want nothing to do with the Judge Advocate
Generals Department. If Im going to practice law, I would rather go
back to my office, and thats how it is."
"Well," he said, "thats an interesting point of view.
I suppose I should respect it."
I said, "I certainly hope you will."
After I had been at Fort Lewis a month, I was ordered to the headquarters
of the 9th Service
Command at the Presidio of San Francisco. You may recall having heard
the term "service command" with relation to the Army. There
were nine service commands in the United States then. These constituted
the field structure of the Army. Each respectively had responsibility
for the administration and command and management of all posts, camps
and stations, and Army troops in the field within Continental United
States. This structure was soon to be abandoned in favor of other organizational
arrangements. I will briefly allude to these arrangements later because
they have some bearing on some of my subsequent remarks which will be
closer to the center of the area of your interest in gathering this
To return to my new assignment, I was afraid I was going to be assigned
to the Judge Advocates office of the 9th Service Command. As it turned
out in the beginning, my fears were not well founded. To my delight,
I was assigned to the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff G-3, the
of the general staff of the 9th Service Command.
I enjoyed that service. It did not last long. General Auer apparently
had not changed his mind! I was transferred to the office of the Judge
Advocate of the 9th Service Command!
This also became a relatively brief tour of duty. A month later, I
received orders to report to the Judge Advocate General of the Army
at the War Department in Washington, D.C.
I was assigned to the Military Affairs Section which can be described
as the Attorney Generals office of the Army. It did not deal with military
justice subjects. Instead, it dealt with the broadest range of legal
questions: international law, civil functions of the Engineer Corps,
administrative law, the status of Army personnel stationed offshore
and abroad, the precursory considerations and legal bases for lend-lease
agreements, for example. I met an expanding circle of both civilian
and military personnel in the War Department and in other executive
departments and agencies. I met members of the
House and Senate and
their key staffers in the course of these duties. While it was not my
desire to be in the law department or in Washington either, I found
my role both stimulating and challenging.
I began to receive a number of assignments bearing very directly upon
the provisions of the National Defense Act and also upon the civil status
of draftees. It fell to me to draft, and to present to the Bureau of
the Budget and then to ten committees, proposed legislation which I
authored known as "The Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act."
There were four legislative committees, two in each House dealing with
military and naval affairs respectively. There were also four subcommittees
of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees dealing with military
and naval affairs. Finally, the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act
also came under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committees, one in
each House. Thus there were ten individual committees through which
the proposed legislation required clearance.
This was an intensive experience. Two major law journals requested
authoritative coverage. I
prepared them and each was published. Within
certain large circles, the demand for these articles was unprecedented.
Requests poured in to the Adjutant General (who then handled all War
Department correspondence and issued all travel orders) that I address
special groups in various sections of the nation. I received orders
to do so.
This brought me into my first direct introduction to then Senator Truman
as a member of the Military Affairs Committee of the Senate (which later
was merged with the Naval Affairs Committee, as you know, to become
the Armed Services Committee after the 1947 Act established the Defense
Establishment). This was "The National Security Act of 1947,"
which Felix Larkin undoubtedly discussed with you. Senator Truman was
very deeply interested in fair protection for draftees and as well for
their families. Most of them had no real means to defend themselves
against various kinds of civil actions brought against them for debt,
or alleged debt, or for mortgage foreclosures or any number of actions
whether in contract or tort, or domestic relations.
and Sailors Civil Relief Act" provided such means. It became milestone
The very intelligent and penetrating questions which Senator Truman
asked were of major assistance to me. Several times he asked me to come
to his office and explain to him whether in fact the provisions of certain
parts of the bill would take care of special situations. He was
interested not only in preparedness, but he thought that protection
of draftees, other military personnel and their families had much to
do with that subject. Most fully, I agreed with him.
HESS: When you would go to his office would you also see Hugh Fulton,
the Chief Counsel of the Committee, or was it generally Mr. Truman?
BENDETSEN: Senator Truman primarily. I knew Mr. Hugh Fulton, but not
well. He was widely respected and I was among the many who admired him.
Many people knew him well but I doubt that he would remember me. Although
I met him on a number of occasions, these were very active days for
A proposal for legislation of this nature such as the Soldiers and
Sailors Civil Relief Act, originating in the War Department, fell within
the purview of the G-l section of the War Department General Staff (the
Personnel Section). The Assistant Chief of Staff then was Brigadier
General [Wade Hampton] Haislip, who after World War II became the Vice
Chief of Staff of the Army. General Haislip presided over the entire
Personnel Section of the General Staff. He was responsible to the Chief
of Staff for personnel program preparation and for proper personnel
actions of every nature, a gargantuan task. He was a very able man.
He took a deep interest in the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act.
Thus, I had occasion to brief him. On introduction of the measures,
after clearance by the Bureau of the Budget and the White House, he
went to Capitol Hill to introduce the subject and me first to the Military
Affairs Committees of each House.
He then had many other legislative problems to deal with. Apparently
he believed that my handling of the relationships with Senators and
and the other agencies of the Government which were
directly or indirectly involved in the course of the Civil Relief Acts
passage, etc., qualified me to assist him in a variety of other legislative
subjects. He requested that the Judge Advocate General (Major General
Gullion) make my services available to assist him. Shortly this relationship
reached the point in which he would not go to the Hill for any purpose
without taking me along. By that time I could recite from memory, every
line of the National Defense Act, and all of its amendments. It was
a case of necessity. Someone had to be there by his side who knew the
subjects well. In the rush of legislation, much unintentional damage
can otherwise be done.
These assignments led in a very natural way to answering many of Senator
Trumans questions and to my attendance at informal conferences with
him and others.
Another significant legislative problem arose during the prewar emergency.
A bill, which had been
introduced in both Houses of the Congress was
pending before the Judiciary Committees of both Houses, the exact title
of which escapes me at the moment--it may later return to my recall,
it probably will, usually does. The effect of the bill would have been
to require "quasi-judicial" proceedings, involving
notice, hearings, the right to counsel, in regard to hundreds of thousands
of Executive Department and independent agency actions, both at the
seat of Government and in the field. Its provisions were so sweeping
that, for example, the War Department and Navy Department could not
issue regulations touching military personnel either at the seat of
Government or in the field without giving advance notice of publication
of the proposed regulations and of a date and place for a formal hearing
before an administrative law judge. The provisions of the legislation
were such that the Corps of Engineers in making decisions related to
Civil Works would become enmeshed in a stranglehold of red tape. The
concept did not violate anybodys sense of justice.
However, the bill
had a potential for great damage by seeking to erect a massive bureaucratic
superstructure over the military departments during a national emergency.
As the hearings developed, I had been directed to represent both the
War and Navy Departments with the consent and approval of both Secretaries
and their respective chief military subordinates as well as the Chief
of Engineers with regard to his extensive civil functions. I cleared
the thrust of my prepared testimony with the Director of the Bureau
of the Budget.
Oh, yes, I do recall the title. It was a measure whose title was: An
Act to Provide for Quasi-Judicial Processes and Procedures Throughout
the Executive Branch; For Notice and Hearings; for Appeals to the Federal
Circuit Courts; and for Other Purposes. It was 350 pages long!
My prepared testimony consisted of twenty pages of summary; plus twenty-six
chapters such as, for example, in each case a chapter for the functions,
respectively, of the Secretaries of War and Navy (including their Under
and Assistant Secretaries); the Chief of Staff and the General Staff
of the Army; the Chief of Naval Operations and the Navy Staff; each
of the Technical Services and Bureaus respectively of the Army, Navy
and Marine Corps; the Munitions Board, etc., etc. These chapters were
topical and were cross-referenced to each section and subsection of
the bill. The chapters filled 200 pages plus annexes. There was a complete
index. The summary, also indexed, was made available separately to meet
My principal appearances on the Hill were before the two Committees
on the Judiciary. It took sixty days of eight to twelve hours each to
complete the research and prepare my testimony.
When I testified as the War Department representative, both in the
House and in the Senate, I was still a captain. And here again, the
then Senator Truman had a very deep interest in this subject because
he could see that it would have profound implications
upon the ability
of the armed services to lift themselves by their boot straps. I might
remind you in this regard that in August of 1940, only 16-1/2 months
before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army consisted of 165 thousand officers
and men, total.
BENDETSEN: Yes. That included offshore as well as stateside personnel,
commissioned, warrant and noncommissioned officers as well as enlisted
personnel. It did not include civilian personnel.
HESS: This was at a time too that when the Army would go on maneuvers,
they would have to use broomsticks for rifles, isnt that correct?
BENDETSEN: Well, that is almost correct but not quite. In August
of 1940 the only Army troops on active duty were Regular Army troops
and officers. While their arms were antiquated, they did not use broomsticks.
They had rifles, sidearms and French 75 nun. and other World War I artillery
pieces, still horsedrawn, not even mechanized, some tanks, a few howitzers,
some WWI machine guns, gas masks and old trucks. It was when pursuant
to the Act of August 16, 1940 (Public Law 96), that the large elements
of the National Guard were activated into the Federal service and when
a few months later, large numbers of selectees began to report for induction
into the Army, that there was not sufficient ordnance materiel to equip
them with the basics such as rifles, sidearms, bayonets, or even canteens.
That was the "broomstick" era.
It was during this latter period, in which efforts to remedy these
deficiencies were accelerating, that Senator Truman became interested,
on the one hand, to see to it that preparedness actions would not provide
an umbrella under which to hide abuses, and on the other, to facilitate
an effective preparedness effort.
To return to the "Quasi-Judicial Process" bill, Senator
Truman asked me to summarize for him, before the hearings on the proposed
measure, what I was going to say and why. He wanted to be sure that
he understood it, mainly for his Preparedness Subcommittee
the Military Affairs Committee (then known as a Committee because it
was established by the Senate as a whole).
HESS: Thats right.
BENDETSEN: It was during the Louisiana maneuvers in the winter and
spring of 1941 (General Eisenhower was then a Brigadier General) that
shortages of ordnance weapons led to the issue of wooden rifles to many
of the personnel involved.
Well, back to the Procedures Act. After I had "negotiated"
the ordeals at the Judiciary Committees, General Haislip asked that
I be assigned to the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff G-1 over
which he presided. I was then made a member of the General Staff of
the War Department, which is a detail and not a branch. An officer can
be detailed to the General Staff, War Department, or to the General
Staff with Troops from any basic Army branch. It was then that General
Haislip suggested that there was a law which would enable the President
to appoint me as an officer of the Regular Army if I were willing
accept a commission. I said that I was highly complimented by his offer
and hoped that such an appointment would not immediately change the
assignment I had just been given. In consequence, I accepted a commission
in the Regular Army, as a captain. It was a direct appointment by the
President, confirmed by the Senate, and with rank, just before the members
of the graduating Class of 1929 at the Military Academy. Army serial
number 022885 was assigned.
HESS: You will remember that for a long time, wont you?
BENDETSEN: Yes, although I also remember the serial number I have now
as a retired Reserve officer because it is the same as my Social Security
I had various assignments in the Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff
G-l. These entailed coordination with other elements of the General
Staff. In the course of those assignments came the answers to the questions
which had not then been asked and fully answered for a long time such
as, for example:
If war comes, how will prisoners of war be handled?
Should steps immediately be taken to work out the details of a Prisoner
of War Information Bureau as contemplated by the Geneva Treaty on the
subject, to which the U.S. was a signatory? The Germans and most of
our allies were signatories whereas the Japanese and the Soviets were
not. What steps should be contemplated regarding enemy aliens if war
came? What, if anything, should now be done to prepare for such contingencies?
There had not been a Provost Marshal General since World War I and
no Corps of Military Police since 1921. Should these be reestablished?
If war came and we found ourselves engaged overseas, what about military
government and civil affairs? How would these vital functions be effectively
performed? How would suitably trained officers conversant with these
essentials be provided in a timely manner?
I prepared a study and research agenda to deal with such questions
as these. I formulated a series of recommendations for proposed appropriate
actions which after General Haislip approved, I coordinated
the sections of the General Staff. These followed presentations to the
Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War and briefings for appropriate
Senate and House subcommittees. Then Senator Truman had a deep and abiding
interest in all these questions. We discussed each topic frequently.
He had a keen perception of all aspects of preparedness.
These considerations culminated in approvals (some by the President)
and concurrences by the Military Affairs Committees of the Senate and
the House to create the Office of the Provost Marshal General; the Corps
of Military Policy; and a School of Military Government. In the Senate,
the active support of then Senator Truman was indispensable.
Colonel Wilton B. ("Jerry") Persons, later Major General
Wilton B. Persons, later Special Assistant to the President of the United
States, Mr. Eisenhower, who later became a dear friend of mine, had
observed the performance of my duties on Capitol Hill. He was then the
Chief Congressional Liaison officer of the War Department. His assignment
was a part of the
Office of the Chief of Staff. He recommended to General
Marshall that I be assigned as an assistant to him (Colonel Persons)
for congressional relations.
It was during that service in August of 1941, five months before Pearl
Harbor, that a crisis event took place in the House of Representatives.
The Selective Service Act of August 16, 1940 would expire on August
16, 1941 if not extended by congressional action. The Senate had voted
for extension in a relatively close vote. In the House there were great
pressures to let the Act die. Most people have probably forgotten how
some of the draftees and many others were behaving in those days. Draft
cards were publicly burned. There were riots. There was a concerted
effort to end the draft. It was a "rehearsal" for the anti-Vietnam
As mentioned, the bill passed the Senate by a narrow margin but only
as a consequence of a major effort there. We had worked night and day
trying to supply the Senators, who were the Managers of the Bill to
extend the draft, with every conceivable kind
of information. This was
a very sensitive task. As neither of us was eligible to be on the floor
of the Senate, gallery seats were reserved for Persons and me in the
first row where the Managers of the Bill could see us and we them. We
would signal one of them by a prearranged method or one of them would
signal us, using a mutually agreed method unobservable to the uninitiated.
One or both of us would then rush to the cloakroom of the Senate for
a conference. In some cases, the questions put to us would require that
we reach by telephone either the Chief of Staff of the Army or his Deputy.
Senator Truman was totally committed to extension of the Act. He knew
it to be absolutely essential.
The bill came to the floor of the House for debate a very short time
before it was due to expire, about seven days as I recall. Mr. [Sam]
Rayburn was Speaker of the House. He was for extension. Jerry Persons
and I literally "lived" 18 hours a day on Capitol Hill. There
was strong sentiment against the extension. The Speaker was very kind
to us. He made his outer office and a
special pair of telephones available
to us wherewith to make and receive calls. He assigned a secretary to
us also. He knew that we had to support the Managers of the Bill in
the same manner as in the Senate. Similar arrangements were made with
the Managers of the Bill in the House. We were required to inform Mr.
Stimson, the Secretary of War, the Chief of Staff and the office of
the President of all significant developments. We provided the Speaker
An hour before the final vote, Mr. Rayburn sent word that he wished
to see us both at once. He instructed us to get in touch with the Secretary
of War. He said that if the Secretary agreed with him that we should
state that the Speaker desired that Mr. Stimson get in touch with the
President to seek the latters agreement. He told us that a compromise
had been proposed which would assure passage if agreed to. He then outlined
the compromise. He stated that the extension Act would limit the total
length of service of each draftee
to 12 months; prohibit service outside
the Continental limits of the 48 states; and require the immediate redeployment
of each individual draftee then serving beyond these territorial limits,
such as for example: Puerto Rico, the Canal Zone, Hawaii, the Philippines
and Alaska. "What do you think of the compromise?" he asked?
I waited for Jerry Persons, my senior, to speak. Colonel Persons said,
"Mr. Speaker, there is a custom in the armed services that the
junior speaks first, because his views should not be prejudiced by hearing
from his superior first, when then he would be constrained to express
his own views." He said, "Karl, tell the Speaker what you
I said, "Mr. Speaker, while I would rather not tell you
what I think, because I dont want to prejudice anything I say, or may
be called upon to say to Mr. Stimson, or the Chief of Staff, or anyone
else on the executive side, if you really want to know I will, of course,
He said, "Yes, I do want to know."
I told him, "Its untenable, unworkable. It will intensify the
crisis that we already face. This compromise will make it impossible
adequately to train, deploy and replace our soldiers. The logistics
which this compromise would impose are unworkable. They would be inordinately
expensive. The President has declared that an emergency exists. If the
draft is extended under the proposed severe limitations, the people
will believe that the Congress does not believe there is an emergency
and the draftees themselves, those on board now and those later drafted,
will not believe there is any emergency. Morale is not high now. If
the Congress does this, morale will vanish and we could have a series
of mutinies. The country will be torn apart. It will make conditions
in the ranks far worse than they are today. Beyond all this, it will
send the wrong signal to our potential adversaries. Mr. Speaker--that
is my view."
He then asked, "Jerry, what do you think?"
He said, "I think were caught up with an unacceptable proposal."
The Speaker said, "Well, so do I."
It was a critical situation. Jerry and I made our telephone calls to
the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of War. After 20 or 30 minutes,
we were instructed to advise the Speaker that the Secretary and the
Chief of Staff "cannot, in deference to our accountability for
the preparedness of the nation agree to such a compromise."
The Speaker said, "We will see what happens. I cant predict the
result." He handled the situation masterfully. A final vote was
soon taken. It was the then to become famous vote of 201 to 200 in favor.
Mr. Rayburn banged the gavel at a critical moment and declared the Bill
had passed. If he had not banged it at the precise moment he did, the
vote would have been reversed in the next few minutes. The fainthearted
Congressmen who had voted "aye" would have switched their
votes when they realized that there were 200 votes against. The Speaker
sensed this and he knew his parliamentary rules full well. If the nation
owed anyone a debt, it was to him for that forthright action. He later
told us in his office that as he raised the gavel,
he saw five "doves"
on the way to the floor of the House. He knew they would sink the extension!
Still later, we all went over to see Senator Truman who invited us to
Les Biffle s office (The Secretary of the Senate) where we raised a
toast with a small splash of bourbon!
Shortly after this dramatic experience, my assignment to the office
of the Chief of Staff under Colonel Persons terminated. I disliked to
leave it. The establishment of the Provost Marshall Generals Office
had been approved while all of this had been going on and General Allen
W. Gullion, who was the Judge Advocate General when I was suddenly transferred
from the Presidio of San Francisco to General Gullions office, had
been appointed the Provost Marshall General. He went to the Chief of
Staff and later told me that he said to the Chief of Staff, "Id
like to have Captain Bendetsen, and Id like you to promote him to temporary
Major. He knows more about what needs to be done than anybody else.
He made the study, he did the work, he
researched the World War I history,
he has a good base. This will require coordination with the FBI, the
Justice Department and other agencies. He will have to keep certain
people on the Hill informed. He has demonstrated his capacity for this
assignment. His experience is just what I need." The Chief of Staff
agreed. I was promoted to the temporary rank of Major and assigned as
General Gullions assistant.
It proved to be a many faceted assignment entailing extensive research
and detailed preparation of plans and programs which required coordination
and concurrences both within and beyond the War Department.
Included were specifics for site selection; construction arrangements
for housing of enemy aliens during wartime; laying the groundwork and
readying for immediate activation in case of war of a Prisoner of War
Information Bureau. In this latter case, the Department of State, the
Swiss Embassy and the International Red Cross were heavily involved.
As should be evident, the enemy alien aspects entailed close consultation
with U.S. intelligence agencies, notably the FBI, the Offices of Naval
Intelligence and Army Intelligence.
Negotiations were initiated for the establishment of a School of Military
Government to be located at the University of Virginia.
Senator Truman envisioned all of these needs. He closely questioned
me and made many valuable suggestions.
Some of my duties dealt with subjects of a very sensitive and highly
classified nature. These led General Gullion to conclude that someone
be sent to the Hawaiian and Philippine Departments of the Army, as they
were then known, for coordinating conferences. The Commanding General
of the Hawaiian Department was General Walter C. Short whose headquarters
were at Fort Shafter on the outskirts of the City of Honolulu. The Commanding
General of the Philippine Department was General Douglas MacArthur.
General Gullion made such an urgent recommendation to the Chief of
Staff who talked to the Secretary of
War. The recommendation was approved
and it was decided that I should go with the title of Special Representative
of the Secretary of War. This answers the question you asked me about
how I happened to see General Douglas MacArthur in late 1941 and also
answers a similar question relative to my conference with General Short
and Admiral Kimmel at Fort Shafter shortly before the attack on Pearl
I conferred with General Short and his staff on the way to the Philippines
as well as with the Office of Naval Intelligence, the FBI and the Immigration
and Naturalization Service. At the conclusion of my Hawaiian Department
mission, I left via Boeing Clipper for the Philippines.
On my return from the conferences in the Philippines with General MacArthur
and his staff and others, I briefly stopped over at Fort Shafter, the
Headquarters of the Hawaiian Department arriving via Boeing Clipper
at Pearl Harbor on the afternoon of December 4. The through passengers,
myself included, were advised that scheduled departure for San Francisco
would be delayed several hours. General Short sent for me.
HESS: What did General MacArthur and General Short have to say to you
during the trip?
BENDETSEN: Before responding to your question, I will summarize my
remaining travel. I stayed overnight with General Short at his invitation
because we (the passengers) had been informed that the Boeing Clipper
would not be ready for departure until the next night. This explains
why I could not leave until the night of December 5.
I was introduced to Admiral Kimmel at dinner the night of the fifth.
After dinner at General Shorts quarters, I left for San Francisco.
At San Francisco I boarded the first available flight to Washington.
It flew overnight landing there about 9 a.m. December 7, 1941 (before
the fateful attack on Pearl Harbor). Nine a.m. Washington time was 4
a.m. at Honolulu. The Clipper departed Pearl Harbor at approximately
9:30 p.m. It landed at San Francisco nonstop over fourteen hours later
on December 6. The cross-country flight with three essential stops entailed
about fifteen hours. Thus,
the United AirLines flight could not reach
Washington, D.C. until approximately 9 a.m., December 7.
I went by taxi directly to the office of the Chief of Staff. Walter
Bedell Smith was on duty. He was then a Lieutenant Colonel in the office
of the Secretary, General Staff. As an Assistant Secretary, he was duty
officer that morning. (Parenthetically, I omitted to mention that I
had briefly served in that Secretariat.) To go on--I reported to Colonel
Smith that I had been requested by General Short to convey a personal
and important message to the Chief of Staff as soon as possible. He
said, "The Chief will want to see you, and he will soon be here,
so instead of briefing yourself to me, you look a little tired, why
dont you go home, kiss your wife, freshen up and return here promptly.
I will order a staff car for you to save time. The Chief left here about
8:30 for some exercise. He will have some incoming and outgoing messages
to attend to; so be here by 10 a.m."
HESS: Horseback riding?
BENDETSEN: Right. "He will see you then."
HESS: This was his routine on Sunday mornings, was it not?
BENDETSEN: Yes, it was. I reached my residence in Bethesda, Maryland,
just over the District line. I was happily greeted by my wife--I had
been away for some time. And as we were walking arm-in-arm into the
house, the telephone rang. My wife answered, and she said, "Its
for you, dear." It was Bedell Smith. He said, "The Chief is
coming in the building, get back down here right away!" and hung
HESS: But you didnt know anything about the attack at that time.
BENDETSEN: No, I did not learn of the attack