Oral History Interview with
US Congressman, Fifth District of Missouri, 1949-1983.
by Niel M. Johnson
Oral History Interview with
US Congressman, Fifth District of Missouri, 1949-1983.
by Niel M. Johnson
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened June, 1990
Oral History Interview with
October 21, 1988
Niel M. Johnson
JOHNSON: I'm going to begin Mr. Bolling by asking you where and when you were born, and what your parents' names were.
BOLLING: I was born in New York City, on the l7th of May l9l6. My mother was Florence Easton Bolling; my father was Richard Walker Bolling.
JOHNSON: Do you have any brothers and sisters?
BOLLING: I had one brother, John. He died young; I can't give his exact age, but he was in his thirties. He was seven years younger than I.
JOHNSON: How long did you live in New York City?
BOLLING: My father was the chief surgeon of a great New York hospital, St. Lukes, and he died in his forties. I hated
New York and I talked my mother into going back to one of the places that we visited regularly, his home, or his birthplace, Huntsville, Alabama. She herself was from Wisconsin. We had had a circle, when my father was alive, of going to Huntsville some, to LaCrosse, Wisconsin some, spending some time in Long Island, and spending some time in New York. I hated New York. I loved Long Island, but I hated New York, so I talked my mother--and this was a very bad thing to have done I'm afraid--I talked my mother into moving back to Huntsville. So I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama, having lived in New York until I was l3 or l4.
JOHNSON: So your education did start in New York City.
BOLLING: That's correct.
JOHNSON: One of the public schools?
BOLLING: No, I did not go to school until I was about l0 or 11, and then I went to a private school, Allan Stevenson.
JOHNSON: You're getting educated at home, by your parents?
BOLLING: By my mother, who was quite a remarkable person. It would be a long story about my mother, but I won't tell it, unless you ask much later on. My mother was educated
at Vassar, and a leader of virtually everything at Vassar; she was an intellectual, a friend of [Justice Louis] Brandeis as a young woman. She was of that quality. She was very opinionated, a rationalist if there ever was one. She, and the books that were available, educated me. The story that I've always heard is that I was frail, and I spent an awful lot of time at home because of that, and I did an incredible amount of reading. I read, I think you could say, practically everything that would be in an upper income family, from English literature of the l9th century.
I had a grandmother who was a Francophile, who saw to it that I had plenty of French books. My mother knew and maintained her knowledge of at least three and perhaps four languages: English being one, along with German and French. In her widowhood she never remarried; she learned all the rest of the Romance languages, and one or two other languages, just on her own. So I was dealing with--I guess with any prejudice that I would have, I would be accurate in this one to say--a superior intellect and a superior intellectual.
JOHNSON: A prodigy.
BOLLING: She missed New York, and occupied her time as a widow
in Huntsville, Alabama, by taking over the Board chairmanship of the little hospital where you went to die, and turning it into a tri-county hospital--and so on, and so on.
JOHNSON: Is it correct to say that your father was of an aristocratic southern background?
BOLLING: Well, it was as close as you could get to a political, aristocratic background.
JOHNSON: Is it true that you are a distant cousin of Edith Bolling Wilson?
BOLLING: That's right. I visited her and there's a funny story about that. But my great-great something or other was called Charles William Walker. He presided over the Constitutional Convention of Alabama, and he was the first Senator of Alabama. I don't know much else about him. One of my role models was my great uncle who lived across the street in Huntsville. He lived on what you would call "snob hill," McClung Hill, a very conservative area, but my mother was not a conservative.
He was a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals judge, and a monumental person in a variety of ways. I don't have much idea or a notion of his politics, and I don't really
remember exactly when he died, but we had enough contact so I remember him as a person that I admired a great deal. Later on, I had the interesting experience of talking about him, at least somewhat, to a man who had become more than an acquaintance, and less than a close friend, Justice [Hugo] Black. I had figured out finally that my great uncle had to be a political person.
JOHNSON: What was his name?
BOLLING: His name was Richard Wilde Walker, obviously my grandmother's brother. Black and I had sort of a casual conversation about him, during which he grinned a lot, so obviously I was hitting the right notes. But I always had a consciousness of this, and I was influenced not only by the old boy, but by the consciousness of having come from such a background.
More interesting perhaps, or just as interesting, and I have not looked any of this up--I never was very interested in it except that it gave me a certain kind of feel--the Bollings came from Virginia and some Bollings were involved with people like Thomas Jefferson. Now that might turn out to be a myth. One of the things that I think was a myth was that we were in some way related to people who had been involved with Pocahontas; that was a
big myth, that the Bollings were involved with that. Inevitably, you had a strong feeling of country, of being a part of the country. My reaction to it was always sort of negative; that it didn't do a hell of a lot of good to have ancestors like that, but what mattered was what you did yourself.
JOHNSON: Was that an idea that just came to you from your reading, or where did you get that impression that regardless of having an elitist-type background, that you still had to do it on your own?
BOLLING: I don't know where I got it; I suspect I got it from my mother. My mother always claimed to be apolitical, but she was intensely political. And I think she was probably something very close to a LaFollette progressive, although we never had a discussion on politics as such.
JOHNSON: On your father's side, were there veterans of the Confederate Army, or the Confederacy?
BOLLING: Oh, yes, my grandfather was supposed to have died as the result of being in some Federal prison. Whether that's true or not, I don't know. I know I had a disagreeable, charming grandmother on that side. I got to know her; but she was the kind of person who, when my
father died, would send a telegram to my mother, asking "would the check continue"--that kind of thing. She was a southern belle of less than great quality. But then I had an equally remarkable, compared to the judge, maybe more remarkable grandfather on my mother's side, who I knew quite well.
JOHNSON: What was his name?
BOLLING: His last name was Easton; Frederick, I think he was called, but I never called him anything but "grandfather." I guess my grandmother called him Fred; I think that's right. They weren't an old aristocratic family; he was a second generation of a family that was extraordinarily rich. They were the rich people of LaCrosse, and there was a funny ending to that. In the Depression they went broke. This is a very complicated story--you could write a novel about it--fascinating, complicated, and true. I knew quite a lot about this myself. But anyway my grandfather had been chairman of the school board in LaCrosse, Wisconsin for years and years, and had been very influential in the quality of the schools. He didn't go broke, but the trust that he was the beneficiary of went broke because my grandmother didn't handle it very well. That's being nice about it. When he went broke, they
wanted to keep him involved, so they shifted him. He needed a job, although he was in his 60s. They kept him, really not as the chairman of the board because he was an employee, but they put him in charge of all of the facilities. He never had had an actual job in his life; he was an inventor, and he invented a number of things. I'm told--I never checked it out--that if he had kept the invention in his own hands, he would have gotten rid on it. It was some pumps that were exceptionally complicated. So I had an extraordinary background.
JOHNSON: Yes, both North and South.
BOLLING: My mother being most extraordinary. I then went on to Phillips-Exeter and was a disaster. I didn't like it, and I didn't like being away from the place in Long Island. I had--let's say--four, five, or six bad years.
JOHNSON: Was that when you were living in New York City that they sent you to Exeter?
BOLLING: I started from there. I didn't do a bit of good at Exeter, and I'm not particularly interested in even worrying about it, because I decided a long time ago that there wasn't any point in my going to a psychiatrist unless I was going to spend a lot of time. And no matter
how screwed up I was, it worked, so I wasn't going to mess with it. But in any event, I had a bad time, and I went to a little place called Sewanee, University of the South, Tennessee. I went there and you could say that I was a good football bum, and chased girls and didn't do much of anything. I got a bad injury; the injury was bad enough so that I was immobilized for four months, and I got back to the books. Then I started to be an intellectual.
JOHNSON: A fateful injury.
BOLLING: I started to be an intellectual again, because that's essentially what I was at l3, with mother. I started back, and I had a couple of jobs that were in the teaching field.
JOHNSON: You did get good grades there?
BOLLING: No, I didn't get good grades until my last year. When I got to my last year, when I had that bum leg and couldn't get around, I had much more...
JOHNSON: No longer the playboy in other words.
BOLLING: That's right. And besides, I decided it was a waste of time. What I did was not very healthy.
JOHNSON: You majored in literature apparently there.
BOLLING: Both bachelor and masters degrees.
JOHNSON: Masters in literature. How about history; didn't you study history at that time?
BOLLING: That was when I moved from literature, which I thought was reasonable. I went down to Vanderbilt for another year. Then I decided to volunteer under the Selective Service Act, thinking that I couldn't finish up on the Ph.D. It turned out that I could have, because they didn't call me under the Selective Service Act until almost a year later. I surely could have gotten finished. I turned and shifted to a Ph.D. in history. I hadn't written the thesis, but if I had known that I had a year I probably could have gotten through with the work, maybe not. But I never got the Ph.D. except in an honorary fashion.
JOHNSON: And then...
BOLLING: History was what I was interested in.
JOHNSON: Before you entered the service, you apparently worked at Florence State Teachers College in Alabama.
BOLLING: That's right. That's peculiar because I was working with a fellow that came out of Columbia, who had been the
head of the education department there, and somebody at Florence State Teachers College was smart enough to employ him down there. I was not working for a southerner.
JOHNSON: So it was a Dewey style philosophy?
BOLLING: You got it.
JOHNSON: And you apparently had to work with rural schools and teachers.
BOLLING: That's right; we were doing the real thing. We were going out and working in poverty stricken areas.
JOHNSON: You saw poverty at its worst, I suppose.
JOHNSON: In other words, this could have been an influence on your life.
BOLLING: Well, it was an enormous influence at Sewanee. I had a weird, weird, Bible teacher; that's the way he billed himself, but he was not a radical. He was a far-out liberal. He ran the movie theater among other things. He taught Bible. Well, it was comparative religion; that was what it was. He also ran the movie theater and he had a for-profit sort of cafeteria. One of the experiences that
I still get chills from is when I was sitting there, I guess still on a crutch, just sitting there drinking a cup of coffee and thinking, when there wasn't much activity, and I saw this guy come in from the road. Tony--who I later roomed with, this professor who I later roomed with in my graduate year--Tony had a rule that whoever came in there got something to eat, whoever came in begging during the Depression. I graduated in '37, '38.
This guy came in and he got, what I found out later by asking, he got the handout which was a couple of donuts, probably second-day or third-day donuts, and a big cup of coffee--with all the things that you'd put in a cup of coffee. I happened to watch this guy, and he drank the coffee down about that far, and then he filled it up with sugar and a little cream. This was a smart guy; he wasn't a dummy about food. That's what he had; he had those two donuts. And that got me to thinking. I'd already seen an awful lot on the train, when we'd come down and go back, there would be dead bodies beside the railroad tracks. My mother was a liberal in a real sense. When they set up a CCC camp down the road on the other side of town, over the hill and down where they had an old man's CCC camp, the snobs and the snots on McClung Hill said they weren't going to be allowed to walk over the hill. They found
they had a tiger in their midst, and they found that they [the CCC men] also had the support of the judge. He just didn't think it was fair; he didn't have my mother's kind of views, but my mother's egalitarian views prevailed. Little things like that have an effect on you. I had enough of them so I came out...
JOHNSON: Tony is the religion professor?
BOLLING: Tony Griswold.
JOHNSON: The professor you were talking about?
BOLLING: Yes. And then I had two other things that happened to me aside from the gross thing that happened, of getting hurt and starting back with the books. Near Sewanee there was a place called Mount Eagle. And Mount Eagle had sort of a Chatauqua-like place; Sewanee was high enough up in the hills, the mountains, so that it was cooler in the summer, substantially cooler than the land down. The people that came up there came up there from Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Nashville, Tennessee, and in Nashville, Tennessee is Vanderbilt University. Vanderbilt University at that particular time had a remarkable group of professors, and others, who were involved in something called the "Fugitive Movement"--Robert Penn Warren, Allen
Little, and the whole bunch of them. Carolyn Gordon was Warren's wife, and she was a writer too. There were a number of other names, of real quality, and they were involved in this thing called the Fugitive Movement. It was some way of restoring a Jeffersonian culture and the sort of phrase that they used on themselves was "40 acres and a steel mule."
It was about the time that the New Deal, the "red hot" New Deal--I don't mean the communist New Deal or the Stalinist New Deal, the people who were trying to infiltrate--but I'm talking about the real left, intellectual left. They were trying to figure out--and Mrs. Roosevelt helped a lot on this stuff--they were trying to figure out how to compensate for the inadequacy of the land in various ways. The land in the southeast was a disaster in those days. Reconstruction of the land that came from the TVA is probably one of the great national phenomena that everybody has forgotten. These people had a few students who came over and visited with them, drank with them, and some of them were Vanderbilt students. But a very few of them were Sewanee students, and I was one of the ones that got there. Then there was another institution up there, that was probably Communist-dominated, Stalinist-dominated, and of course, I later on
had a considerable career in dealing with Stalinists in various institutions. ADA [Americans for Democratic Action] was established to give liberals a home that was not connected with the Stalinists, the CPUSA [Communist Party-USA].
Well, for some reason, I've forgotten why, I guess the year between my graduation in '37 and the beginning of my masters, which was in English literature--I got my bachelor's in French literature and my masters in English--I went to a Quaker school, a Quaker camp, at a place called the Highlander Folk School. The Highlander Folk School was famous in those days for being dominated by the Stalinists. But there were also people like the Friends; the camp was a Friends camp at this school. I got exposed to all of that. I had a couple of people that are relatively well-known in Washington, one that was there, and we each remember the other as relatively sympathetic to their anti-Stalinist view. They were the ones that were most interested in the anti-Stalinist view. The guy I'm talking about is Adam Yarmalinsky, an intellectual with considerable potency.
JOHNSON: This Quaker school would be inherently anti-Stalinist, would it not, since they do not believe in dictatorship?
BOLLING: They didn't believe in it, but they were at the same school.
JOHNSON: They were at the same school--or on the same grounds?
BOLLING: No, they were there as guests of and paying their way at Highlander. In those days there was a large amount of infiltration into liberal groups that didn't know they were infiltrated.
JOHNSON: They were going to try to convert these Quakers in the South, to their cause, I suppose.
JOHNSON: Did you ever meet Reinhold Niebuhr?
BOLLING: Of course, I met him; I was a founder of ADA [Americans for Democratic Action] as well as an organizer.
JOHNSON: So you read his work and was influenced by it?
BOLLING: Oh yes, I was much influenced by it. I missed the earlier part; what came before ADA, but it was a much smaller group that he was heavily involved in. And Niebuhr in effect was one of my bosses. People like Joe Rauh were heavily involved in that. It's a funny story about ADA later on with Mr. Truman, because they were one
of the groups--and you should remember this, I might forget it--they were one of the groups that wanted to dump Mr. Truman in the '48 convention. And you're going to see as we develop all this, an almost unbelievable set of reasons why I developed as I did, why I got the experience. It's already pretty wild.
JOHNSON: Yes, it sounds like it. Was your mother living on income from her job, or was it coming from other sources?
BOLLING: She was left a considerable amount of insurance by my father. There's a story about that later on, but what she did, she ultimately spent herself into poverty. I figured it out when I was in Congress, and began to take good care of her, but there was a time in there that I ought to be ashamed of, when I did not realize what kind of trouble she was in.
JOHNSON: But there apparently were some aunts and uncles who were landowners, landed gentry, so to speak?
BOLLING: Not really. Not really; the family is sort of gone in Alabama. There's not much Walker left, from that brand; I'm really sort of the end of it, of the Walker line.
JOHNSON: So you joined the service before Pearl Harbor.
BOLLING: That's right. I worked at Florence State Teachers College, with Morris Mitchell. There were several Mitchells who were famous in that period. He was the teacher, probably a socialist, and surely a pacifist, who had a place in North Carolina, one of those idealistic communities. It worked pretty well as long as he was around and later he turned up at Putney School as the master there, after I was in Congress. So all kinds of things have changed with him. But I had a lot of strange...
JOHNSON: Yes, that raises a question; in view of all these influences, why was it you decided to become a military man, join the military, in early 1941?
BOLLING: Well, Morris Mitchell was the last influence I had after I was committed. I had already volunteered, and I didn't find any conflict between the influences that I had had and the attitudes that I had developed, and the need to defeat Hitler. My mother, who pretended to be apolitical, was extraordinarily opinionated, and she recognized Hitler for what he was, much earlier than most people, because of her background. Those languages she didn't use. She was talented, but she was enormously knowledgeable about Europe.
JOHNSON: She was anti-isolationist, it seems.
BOLLING: Oh, totally. But she had been talented enough; the myth is--and I can't prove it--that she had training with Monnet, and she stopped painting when he told her that she would be very good but never great.
She had a similar quality as teacher of piano. That's one of the reasons that I was always sort of pleased with Mr. Truman and amused by what I could connect in my head. She played the piano, and had a grand. That was one of the last things that she sold off. So she must be the dominant influence. I don't much give a damn, just so long as I had it, but hers was not an isolationist position.
JOHNSON: She was warning about Hitler and what would happen if something wasn't done to stop him?
BOLLING: I also, on my own, got the same sense; that we had to win that war although we weren't in it. I'm very much of an Anglophile; I was then, and that's obviously from the literature.
JOHNSON: George Bernard Shaw; did you read his stuff?
BOLLING: I read his stuff, among others. I read them all. I
ended up, not with a Churchillian view; I had a very liberal domestic view before I went into the Army. It wasn't stopped by the Army. Of course, I had a weird job in the Army. I didn't start out with a weird job; I was one of those people that I suppose made the mistake of insisting on going in at the bottom. Most of my friends were going in as Naval ensigns or whatever they the hell called it.
JOHNSON: What month and year was it you went in?
BOLLING: I went in April 1941. I don't know how much detail you want--I can be quick--they couldn't figure out what to do with me and I spent a month and a half, two months, learning about real poverty in the South by looking at the people who were recruited with me. There were two people with some college in the group that I went in with, 200 from the draft, and the other guy was a drunk already. Later on in my career I had some problems with alcohol, but he started out that way. And mine never interfered with any part of my career, although it interfered with my life. They didn't know what to do with me, and they put me in a chemical warfare company. To make a very long story short, I ended up on the high seas seven days out of Pearl Harbor on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. We were on
the wrong side of Pearl Harbor, and we ended up in Australia. Again, to make it a very short story, I got a job running the first Post Office in that theatre. I did that.
JOHNSON: What outfit were you with at this point?
BOLLING: Chemical warfare; I don't even remember the number. I think it was the 66th. It was a separate chemical warfare company.
JOHNSON: You were attached to MacArthur's headquarters?
BOLLING: It wasn't attached to anything, not at that stage. We were a filler convoy sent to the Philippines; there were about 6,000 troops of all kinds, all little pieces.
JOHNSON: Well, apparently they decided at this point that they weren't going to reinforce the Philippines. They diverted you down to Australia.
BOLLING: We had one vessel to protect us; it wasn't a destroyer, it was another notch up, a cruiser. And we were met by an Australian cruiser wherever the hell we were, seven days out of Pearl. We were taken first into the Fiji Islands, and were kept there for a day, and then we were taken into Brisbane, Australia. I spent some time
there, and in the process I moved from the Post Office to the BASE Section Command. I became the Sergeant Major of the BASE Section.
JOHNSON: In Brisbane?
BOLLING: In Brisbane, which is a big jump, a big job, an enormous responsibility, because I had relatively inadequate officers. I never did get my last stripe because I was on special duty from that chemical warfare company, and I was always a Tech Sergeant. I never got to be a Master Sergeant. But all of a sudden, I got to be a Warrant Officer and I was offered a commission, which was withdrawn quickly when they realized, within a day, that they were going to have an OCS [Officer Candidate School]. I went to a six weeks OCS in Brisbane, the start-up of a regular OCS that worked with--I guess he was just a colonel, not a general.
JOHNSON: What was his name?
BOLLING: Donaldson. His family asked me, when he died suddenly after World War II, when I was in Congress, to write his obituary. He was a hell of a good guy; I'm not sure how good a general in terms of going all the way to the top, but I think he went to Major General maybe. He
was a good man, a very decent person, and he wouldn't let me go anywhere else. So I came back and the place where I had sat when I was sergeant major was right here, and the place where I sat when I was assistant adjutant general was right there. Theoretically, I should have had a lot less power when I moved. But having come from there, I didn't have less power. And this is where I began to learn about power--I mean consciously.
JOHNSON: What rank were you at this point?
BOLLING: Second John, second lieutenant. I had had "a much higher rank" before; the sergeant major had a hell of a lot more responsibility directly upon him. The difference was that when I got there, when I signed something, that made it official. The sergeant major didn't sign a goddamn thing; he just got people to sign things. There's no point in going into that. I could spend a couple of days on the philosophy of the military, and so on, most of it pleasant, but not all of it.
This guy Donaldson was the best they had, and they picked him to be in charge of the advance echelon of the Services of Supply; the BASE Section was of the Services of Supply. He took me as his aide and assistant adjutant general; and I don't know how long I spent with him. But
you know, I was an alter ego. Not in the personal sense; it was very professional. I was not the kind of person that was interested in a personal relationship. I wanted to get on with it. It's a strange attitude, and I haven't found many people like that. I didn't want to get on with it because I wanted to get promoted; I wanted to get on with it because I wanted to get it done. And that's when I first realized that what really moved me, and interested me, was to get something done that I really believed to be important and in the public interest. I really had gotten, at that point, into a hard commitment to public service of some kind.
JOHNSON: So in a sense, this kind of initiated your interest in politics, in a larger sense?
BOLLING: I missed the fact that I had been president of the student body at Sewanee when I was a graduate student. The guy that caused that to happen is still alive; he was a classmate of mine who decided that they needed me for another year as he left Sewanee to go on to law school. He arranged it so that I got to do that.
JOHNSON: So you had experience in student government.
BOLLING: Yes, and I was a radical in student government. I
tried to get rid of hazing, and succeeded in that by one vote. I tried to get rid of the fraternities, and lost that.
JOHNSON: This was at the University of the South at Sewanee?
JOHNSON: Well, then somewhere along the line you met General MacArthur.
JOHNSON: What was your immediate impression of him?
BOLLING: Well, I didn't have any meeting; I didn't meet him for years. I didn't try to meet him. I didn't even try to look at him. But he did depend on my boss, his adjutant general, who was in a very peculiar job because it was different from any other adjutant general that I ever heard of. We handled all the incoming and outgoing messages of all kind, including the highest level of secrecy, which means combat operations. That came through that adjutant general, and although I didn't know it, that was the job I was hired for. The reputation I had from my work in BASE Section 3 and the advance section of SOS in New Guinea was such that they picked me out to take a look
at. They brought me back to Brisbane and took a look at me and offered me the job. I was told later that they looked at twenty guys, but they picked me out, and they gave me this job. That was not the job that was at the highest level of secrecy, but it was the one that led into it, and relatively quickly. I had gone through the preliminaries and they had finished all kinds of investigations. The FBI turned me down one time, but Donaldson overruled them. That was when I moved from being an enlisted man to being an officer. At least that's what I heard. I never bothered to get those files. You know, it'd just clutter up what I am really interested in. But in the headquarters, Fitch had three assistants, three top assistants.
BOLLING: B.M. Fitch was the Adjutant General. I became ultimately the third assistant; the other two were Regular Army enlisted men who outranked me. But in that job I was given more and more responsibility, and more and more rank. I came out finally, at the end, a legitimate Major. But he gave me the last push up, you know, when I left, and I came out a lieutenant colonel. I had two decorations and a bunch of other stuff.
JOHNSON: So you were in on some of these major operations...
BOLLING: I was in on all of them after I joined the Headquarters. I was on the advanced echelon of GHQ and MacArthur always had an advance echelon which he led.
JOHNSON: Even though you weren't seeking to meet him, you had to somehow make contact with him.
BOLLING: Oh, of course. When I got to Leyte--when we invaded Leyte on October 20, 1944, as I remember it--I went in a few hours after he did. I was told where to set up his office. It was set up here on a road, and mine was here just across the street. I still didn't see him much, except casually. I didn't have many associations, but I worked with him very closely. He'd say what kind of order he wanted or what kind of message he wanted to send, sometimes to me, through his...
JOHNSON: You didn't have any input into the strategy?
BOLLING: Oh no. I observed it with fascination. No, no, I didn't have that kind of operation.
JOHNSON: Then, after Leyte there was the Okinawa campaign. Did you go into Okinawa?
BOLLING: I went through Okinawa. I spent 40 months in the
Pacific before I came back the first time.
JOHNSON: Did you miss Iwo Jima?
BOLLING: No, I went to all those places, but I wasn't in on the fight. You see, MacArthur didn't go in on those fights either. Okinawa and Iwo Jima were Navy; that came out of the other part of the Pacific. I came to Hollandia, Leyte, the Philippines generally. I was back from the U.S. to the Philippines in time for the surrender and on into Japan.
JOHNSON: I understand there were some who referred to MacArthur as "Dugout Doug," apparently questioning his bravery.
BOLLING: Yes, that was Navy propaganda. I'm not a great fan of MacArthur as a politician nor as the one in charge in Japan, but I'm a great fan of his as a general. He was a nut; he was so fearless. I went in a couple of hours later than he did into Leyte, and I was scared to death and had a right to be scared to death because they were still shooting at us. He believed that God's hand was on his shoulder. He was a kook. My wife and her brother do a great job of kidding me about MacArthur; every time they can find a funny picture they bring it back. When Truman fired him, by then I was far enough along so that radio people wanted to talk to me. One of them asked what I
thought about it, and I said, the President made a terrible mistake; he waited too long.
JOHNSON: Well, we're going to get to that, of course. On August 6, the atomic bomb was first used. Did you know anything at all about this project, before the dropping?
BOLLING: No, sir, I didn't know anything at all about it, but I saw the guy come in with a briefcase that was handcuffed to him. He was the guy that brought the news to MacArthur. But I didn't know that then.
JOHNSON: Brought the news?
BOLLING: It came through a messenger. I think the guy was a general.
JOHNSON: What was your reaction to that, the use of the atomic bomb?
BOLLING: Well, I knew what wave I was going to be in, on the invasion of Japan, and I was very sympathetic. I was going to be in the eighth wave and my chances of getting through that were relatively limited. I was going to go in with MacArthur, and you know, I didn't believe a hell of a lot in what MacArthur believed. I didn't think I was being
taken care of by the Lord. So I was glad not to have to do that. I did the paperwork on the first examination by whatever the committee it was, on Hiroshima, and I got quite a lesson out of that.
JOHNSON: Getting ready for the surrender ceremonies in Tokyo harbor, you apparently had something to do with the arrangements for that ceremony?
BOLLING: I worked as about the third man, working on the arrangements.
JOHNSON: How about the writing of the treaty itself? You had nothing to do with it?
JOHNSON: You landed in Japan, what, two days before the signing?
BOLLING: That's correct.
JOHNSON: And it was a secure area?
BOLLING: Well, it was supposed to be secure; MacArthur felt it was secure. I don't think the rest of us thought it was secure.
JOHNSON: What kind of reaction did you get when you landed in Japan?
BOLLING: It scared the hell out of us. When we got into buses that the Japanese ran, and we came in from the airport, which ever one it was, we went down roads that were still fields, and every Japanese turned their back on us. And when they took us into places to eat or live, I was scared all the time, and most of the rest of us were. There were a few war correspondents who were so nutty by then that they weren't scared. It went the way MacArthur said it would.
JOHNSON: So you arranged for the U.S.S. Missouri to be where it was with other ships around it.
BOLLING: Yes, I was just, you know, a flunky. I had to interview some of the generals and make sure they got where they were supposed to go, and get it all lined up. I just had a flunky's job at that point.
JOHNSON: The Secret Service wouldn't be involved at all.
BOLLING: Oh, I knew all the secrets. I didn't know about the atomic bomb but I had every secret there was except maybe a few sort of "double eyes only" to MacArthur.
JOHNSON: In other words, almost all messages that came to MacArthur came through you during the war?
BOLLING: Yes. The great bulk of them. Now there must have been some operational ones I didn't see, but I saw them in that advance echelon.
JOHNSON: I guess there was a little rivalry between Nimitz and MacArthur, or did you notice any.
BOLLING: I knew it was there and I was very concerned about the coordination. I knew enough to know that there was constant friction.
JOHNSON: And everything went off as planned for this ceremony, the signing of the surrender?
BOLLING: To my knowledge it did. To my knowledge there wasn't any problem.
JOHNSON: Where were you when the ceremony itself took place?
BOLLING: I was so mad at the brass at that stage that I didn't go. One of my rewards was supposed to be to have a place to hide on the Missouri. But I didn't go; I was furious.
JOHNSON: You were on shore then when this was happening.
BOLLING: That's right. Yes. Oh, all I worked with was plans
and people. I didn't work on the ship. Somebody else decided where the ship would be.
JOHNSON: You weren't on the U.S.S. Missouri; you never got on board?
BOLLING: I never tried to. I refused to go as a matter of fact. I was in a position where I could refuse to go.
Of course, it was obviously silly, but I was furious. I had worked in several privileged positions with very, very tough people who were very insistent on being treated as generals and so on. I, for example, would go to a cocktail party in Leyte, and I'd g