Oral History Interview with
Secretary, General Staff of the Far East Command, and Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, 1948-50; staff officer and combat officer, Korean war, 1950-51.
General John H. Chiles
July 27, 1977
by D. Clayton James
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
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. ) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
General John H. Chiles
July 27, 1977
by D. Clayton James
Notice: Online permission granted by the MacArthur Memorial and Library.
DCJ: This is D. Clayton James, interviewing Major General John H. Chiles in the conference room in the Harry S. Truman Library at Independence, Missouri. General Chiles’ permanent address is the Beaufort address, isn’t? Not Liberty?
DCJ: You want the Liberty address listed as permanent? Okay. That’s 128 North Leonard Street, Liberty, Missouri. This is July 27, 1977. We also have a recording being made for the Truman Library’s oral history collection.
General Chiles, I normally start out by having colleagues of General MacArthur just hit high points of their military careers, but we won’t need to do that in your case except to pick up when you graduated from West Point.
DCJ: ‘36. In World War II you were in Europe, right?
DCJ: But you do have a prior association with MacArthur?
DCJ: Let’s start with that then.
JHC: I first knew General MacArthur when I became military aide to the High Commissioner of the Philippines in 1939. General MacArthur,
of course, was Field Marshal of the Philippine Army during that period, living in the penthouse on top of the Manila Hotel. Since my wife and I accompanied the High Commissioner and his wife to most of their functions, I, just by inadvertence, became probably the only junior American officer that General MacArthur had any acquaintance with. When he became Commander-in-Chief, Southwest Pacific [USAFFE], he would take no one on his staff from the Philippine Department headquarters. He had acted this way toward General Grunert and the Philippine Department since they had not granted him everything he asked for the Philippine Army over the past few years. So he would accept nobody on his staff who had served in Philippine Department headquarters. As a result, he got a bunch of officers, most of whom were Army War College graduates--lieutenant colonels. I came back to the Philippine Scouts. Francis B. Sayre, Woodrow Wilson's son—in—law, was already over there. Sayre had two marriageable age daughters. He didn’t know much about the military; anyway, he didn’t want a married aide. He wanted a bachelor aide, I suppose, to squire his two daughters. In any event, a classmate of mine named Priestly became his aide, and I was not banished but sent back to the Philippine Scouts. Priestly later was killed, by the way, in the Death March. Anyway, one of General MacArthur’s first steps was to unfreeze the officers in the Philippines. We had been all frozen and downhearted. Am I digressing too much?
JHC: We thought we’d be sitting there all during the war like World War I people did in the Philippines.
DCJ: If I may interrupt, by unfreezing you mean on promotion?
JHC: No. All the families were sent back before General MacArthur took command. I guess it was War Department orders, but I don’t remember. All of our families were sent back in the spring of 1941, and all of the officers, American officers, were frozen with no assignments; they were stuck. When MacArthur came in, I’m sure as a moral gesture, he decided that fifty officers a month would return to the United States in the order in which they’d arrived. And I was in the third group of fifty that came back in September, as it turned out.
DCJ: Yes, he took over, I believe, in late July, ‘41.
JHC: July. Before I was ordered back to the States under his policy, I got word from my former battalion commander. I was a captain at this time, but Congress hadn’t passed its bill authorizing our salaries. Al Dewey was my original commander. My battalion commander would become MacArthur’s G-4--Lewis C. Beebe. And Brougher was my regimental commanding officer; I lived with him. I was sort of a low man in the regimental quarters.
DCJ: You mean William Edward Brougher?
DCJ: Are you aware of my book on Brougher? I wrote a book for University of Georgia Press, South to Bataan, North to Mukden.
JHC: I thought he wrote it. I’ve got a copy of it.
DCJ: Yes, well, I edited his diary.
JHC: It’s a good book.
DCJ: Probably, since you knew him, he gave you the Long Dark Road. He gave, I believe, a copy to everyone.
JHC: Sure. But he died at Fort Benning. Mrs. Brougher and two of their daughters were in our quarters at Benning, in Georgia
DCJ: She’s a sweet person.
JHC: Anyway, Colonel Beebe came back with the news General MacArthur had selected me to be his aide. Well, our first child was about to be born. I was going back to the 2nd Division because Beebe had told somebody in the War Department that was the best place for me. If I’m digressing too much, let me know.
DCJ: No, go ahead.
JHC: Anyway, I did not say “No, thank you” to General MacArthur but, of course, I was dying to go home. And so I sent the word back that it wasn’t my choice, under his policy I was ordered back, and yet it’s his decision to make me his aide, so which was I
to do? I thought the answer would come back the next day. I didn’t sleep that night. Well, about three nights went by. Finally word came that I was to follow my orders to return and that he wasn’t going to change his policy for himself just after he had enunciated it. So I got back. The thing that always has intrigued me was that when General MacArthur left Bataan, he left one of his aides with General Wainwright and took the other one with him. Which one would I have been? So, like the story of the tiger and the lady, I’ll never know. But that was my first acquaintance with General MacArthur.
DCJ: And he didn’t take Beebe with him either.
JHC: That’s right. Beebe became Wainwright’s chief of staff.
DCJ: Before we leave that early Manila period, did you happen to meet Ike before he went home?
DCJ: He went home about December ‘39.
JHC: If you’re interested, I’ve another human interest story. I think this might intrigue you. We went to the Philippines on our honeymoon in 1938. We had our first wedding anniversary on March 12, 1939. We went to the brand new Marco Polo Hotel. They had a roof restaurant, as I guess you’d call it now, with music. We are up there and had a bottle of champagne and flank steaks, which was the most ritzy thing you could buy in those
days. After dinner we were dancing, when here came Lieutenant Colonel Eisenhower, who’d been MacArthur's G-3 for five years, I guess. I don’t know where Lieutenant Colonel MacArthur had been, but he was a little bit under the weather. He was in a real rumpled linen suit. He came in alone.
DCJ: You mean Eisenhower?
JHC: What did I say?
DCJ: You said Colonel MacArthur.
JHC: Colonel Eisenhower, sure. Anyway, I stood up and invited him to join us. He said no, he didn’t want to interrupt a wedding anniversary. We told him that we’d already had our champagne and steak. So he sat down and was feeling sorry for himself. He must have spent forty-five minutes explaining how he’d come over there. He’d worked for MacArthur before in Washington.
DCJ: Yes, when he was Chief of Staff.
JHC: When he was Chief of Staff, that march on Washington took place.
DCJ: Yes, the Bonus Army.
JHC: Yes. So when MacArthur went to the Philippines, he asked for Eisenhower, who came over as the deputy chief. At the table Eisenhower told us that the war clouds were hovering over Europe, and America was beginning to see the handwriting on the wall. Anyway, the gist of it was that he, Eisenhower, said he had been
number one in his class at Leavenworth, he’d been a lieutenant colonel with two or three years’ service, and had a real promising career. But he had stayed too long with MacArthur, and all the good jobs were being dealt to his contemporaries in the States, and it was too late to do anything about it. He had lost out in the competition for the good jobs. On the way home that night, my wife and I said, “Well, isn’t that too bad. This handsome, articulate, dynamic lieutenant colonel has lost out.” Next time I saw him was on Omaha Beach. He had four stars, and shortly after that he had five. Then when he got elected President, I couldn’t stand it any more so I wrote him a letter. I reminded him how this poor unfortunate guy now was President-elect of the United States. I never got an answer from him because he was off even then at Augusta playing golf. Senator Vandenberg’s nephew was sort of his liaison; I don’t know what his actual job was. Anyway, he answered me that the President-elect was off to Augusta, but, as soon as he got back, my letter would be brought to his attention and he would answer it. Of course, he never did. But, yes, I did know him, Colonel Eisenhower.
DCJ: Now, General Chiles, from this period 1939 to ‘41 in the Philippines, you came back to the States, and then you had a tour of duty in the European Theater in ‘44-’45, is that right?
JHC: I joined the 2nd Infantry Division at Fort Sam Houston in November 1941, just before Pearl Harbor, and stayed with it until I went to the Armed Forces Staff College in the summer
of 1947. That was my first tour of duty with the 2nd, the first of four with the 2nd Division.
DCJ: As far as actual combat operations, though, you were involved in what campaigns?
JHC: In Europe?
JHC: There were five, beginning with Omaha Beach and ending up in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.
DCJ: The race across North France and into Germany?
JHC: Yea, we were in the battles at Brest, the Bulge, and then the Siegfried Line.
DCJ: Was that First Army?
JHC: Part of the time. Originally it was First Army, but we were in Simpson’s Ninth Army.
DCJ: Okay, I want to move on into this period I’m most directly concerned with and that’s post-World War II. Now, after the war, what tours of duty?
JHC: After the war I stayed in the 2nd Division until ‘47, as I mentioned. I went to the Armed Forces Staff College in Norfolk; from there I went to Tokyo. Well, to back up, I was commanding a regiment at the end of World War II, and General Almond took command of the division at Camp Smith, Texas.
DCJ : When Almond came in, did you hear anything of his reputation with that black 92nd Division in North Italy? Did you get any scuttlebutt on that?
JHC: Yes, he had a reputation of being a very rough commander.
DCJ: I believe that’s the right division, isn’t it? It was the 92nd?
JHC: 92nd, yes. And I might interject right here, that whatever you might think of General Almond, and he‘s a very controversial man, he had an attribute that you hear a lot of people reflect on: he never failed to take a military objective. And that’s why we were being paid, all the other things aside. He also had a faculty that I‘ve only known two or three others to have, of choosing people with, in general, great potential for his staff. For instance, in my G-3 section of X Corps, at least six in my section alone, G-3 section, rose to two to four stars. So Almond picked ‘em.
DCJ: That’s interesting.
JRC: Yes. He was rough. In fact, I was commanding the 23rd Infantry when he joined us. And we thought we were heroes. We admitted it. And he came in and started slashing around, which we didn’t appreciate. Maybe it was more our fault then it was his. We probably were pretty cocky. Anyway, at staff and commanders’ meetings each week for three weeks in a row he announced that when he drove into the 23rd Infantry gate in his own private
car from Austin to Camp Swift that the 23rd Infantry MP on the gate failed to salute him. So I ended with a lieutenant colonel with a walkie-talkie and a code to whistle when he saw General Almond show up. Well, the fourth time I was getting a little bit bugged, edgy about this-- to be denounced in public every week. So a fourth time he said, “I drove into the 23rd Infantry gate and I failed to get a salute.” He said, “Chiles, what are we going to do about this?” Well, I shouldn’t have made an angry response, but I said, “Sir, why don’t you try driving into the 38th Infantry gate.” Boy, there was a deathly silence. All of a sudden he grabbed his sides and almost fell on the floor laughing, and he said, “Approved, Chiles.”
DCJ: What rank were you at that time?
JRC: I was temporary colonel.
DCJ: When did you go to permanent colonel?
JHC: I don’t remember.
DCJ: What about BG?
JRC: I made BG in 1960, I guess it was.
DCJ: And major general?
JRC: Major general was ‘64, I guess.
DCJ: And you retired in ‘70, didn’t you? Okay, when you were Secretary of the General Staff in Tokyo, was that FEC and SCAP?
JHC: Both. And along with that also UN.
DCJ: Yes, in 1950. But FEC and SCAP in 1948-50, right?
JHC: I went over there in ‘48.
DCJ: About when in ‘48 did you go?
JHC: I arrived in March ‘48 and became SGS in ‘49. General Almond had fed me into this; it was his doing that made me the SGS.
DCJ: When you came, though, Paul Mueller was still Chief of Staff, wasn’t he?
DCJ: And Almond took over some time in ‘49, didn’t he?
JHC: That’s right.
DCJ: Succeeded him?
JHC: Almond was the Deputy Chief for the FEC staff.
DCJ: Pat Fox was there, too, wasn’t he?
JHC: Yes. When Almond became Chief of Staff, Doyle Hickey came in to be the FEC Deputy. So I was there during all the preliminaries to the Korean War. The attack in June 1950 was an absolutely complete surprise.
DCJ: From Secretary of the General Staff, SCAP and FEC, 1948-50, you moved on to what position?
JHC: Well, General Almond selected his staff largely out of GHQ itself. I was made the G-3 of X Corps.
DCJ: And X Corps’ first specific reason for existing was Chromite, or Inchon, wasn’t it?
JHC: The Inchon landings.
DCJ: Or Chromite Operation; that was the code name. Now, you stayed as G-3 under Almond from about July or August ‘50?
JHG: I guess it was July.
JHC: Until Valentine’s Day of ‘51 when I relieved the wounded Paul Freeman, commander of the 23rd Infantry.
DCJ: Okay, now that was 2nd Division again. Wasn’t the 2nd your old division?
JHC: Yes. It was my second tour with them. The regimental combat team was surrounded at Chippyong-ni by the Chinese, and that was my reintroduction. There are various spellings to all these Korean names.
DCJ: Right. Well, there are Japanese, Chinese, and Korean spellings.
JHC: We had Japanese maps——a lot of times we couldn’t tell.
DCJ: Well, like Chosin Reservoir--I believe Chosin is the Japanese spelling. Now, you stayed as the 23rd’s commander till when?
JHC: The fourth of July.
DCJ: Okay, from February till July of ‘51. And then what? Returned to the States?
JHC: I became a student at the Army War College, and who should show up but Ned Almond as the Commandant at the Army War College. So my service with him was inadvertent, although he rewarded me richly, I must say.
DCJ: Now, just hit high points very quickly from ‘51 till retirement, and then I want to go back to this war period.
JHC: All right. In ‘51 I went to the Army War College. Then General Almond again kept me on the faculty; I had the operations course at the Army War College for three years. Then I went to MAG Spain for three years with Bert Barnes, who was the Assistant Commandant. Then I came back to the Pentagon, in operations; I had the Middle East Division on the Joint Staff. Then I was selected to start a new mission in Argentina.
DCJ: Now this is ‘61? I’ve got you wounded then in the West Point register.
JFC: No, wounded is an error, and I had them correct that. I was not wounded in Argentina.
DCJ: I wondered how that happened.
JHC: I wrote to them and asked them where in the hell they got that idea. They never answered, but they changed it.
DCJ: That sounds like Clovis Byers' wound in Papua. I don't know if you ever heard about that.
JHC: That was just a misprint. Anyway, I was sent down there as a colonel and got promoted before my family showed up a couple of months later. I would have bucked and kicked otherwise. Clyde Eddleman was the one that ended up picking me to go down there in this new mission, which was quite a feather in my cap. He knew damn well I was on the BG’s list, but he didn’t want to go through all the rigmarole of the State Department dragging their feet and getting somebody cleared with the Argentine Government, so secretly he decided to send me down for one year. It worked out all right. President Kennedy had just come in. I got promoted. They said, “Look at this handsome young Catholic American President who thinks so much of Argentina that he sends a guy that gets promoted.” When I left, the next guy was only a colonel, so the Argentine Ambassador camped on Lemnitzer‘s doorstep till he sent them another BG. After Argentina I came back and was Assistant Division Commander under Ralph Haynes in the 1st Armored Division. We almost got to Cuba.
DCJ: Where were you?
JHC: At Hood, but when the Russian missiles were discovered, they fired us to Camp Stewart in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
DCJ: That was during the missile crisis period, wasn’t it?
JHC: Yea, and after eighteen months there, to my disgust, I was sent down as attaché to Mexico. I only stayed there a year. I got promoted out of there and came back to command the 2nd Division, then a year at Benning. H. K. Johnson became Chief of Staff. H. K. was S-3 under Brougher and Beebe when I was the S-2. Then, as Chief of Staff, he gave me the first division he had open, which I appreciated.
DCJ: Did you all call him “H. K.” and not “Harold”?
JHC: “Johnny” is all I ever called him. Then I commanded the 2nd Division for two years in Korea.
DCJ: That was ‘64-’66 when you went to Korea again?
JHC: Right. Then I came back as Deputy CG in Fifth Army, till I retired.
DCJ: Which was where?
JHC: Fort Shaven. My first station as a commissioned officer was in Fort Shaven and my last one, which not many people can do.
DCJ: Now, let’s go hack to the ‘48-’51 period. Let me ask you about a few people, and what’s your opinion of them. I want personality sketches, as I told you before we went on tape.
JHC: I might say, of course, I was kind of young but had the opportunity, as not very many junior officers had, of seeing all these people. I don’t think my mind was as set in concrete as a lot of these people.
DCJ: Now, during that ‘48 to ‘51 period, you were what rank?
JHC: Lieutenant colonel. I’d been busted back like everybody else.
DCJ: You were a lieutenant colonel during that whole period? When you came back to the Army War College , were you still one?
JHC: Oh, no. I got a battlefield promotion commanding the 23rd in the spring of ‘51.
DCJ: Okay, so you came back as a colonel, but you went out to Tokyo as a lieutenant colonel in ‘48.
JHC: That’s correct.
DCJ: I just wanted to get that straight.
JHC: Well, I had been colonel, but then was busted back.
DCJ: All right. Let me ask you about a few people before we turn to MacArthur. How would you describe Ned Almond in personality? Now, remember I know him, but the man I know today is not the man you knew thirty years ago. So we’re talking in essence about different people.
JHC: That’s right. General Almond himself often said, “If I have not seen somebody in five years, I will not know him.”
DCJ: Yes, I’m talking about a much older man, and you’re talking about a man in his prime. So how would you, in a few words, General Chiles, describe him?
JHC: Okay. Very proud, very intolerant, but very fundamental along with it. One time while we were eating, the Chinese hit us in a big May offensive. I thought he was going to hit me because against my orders one of my battalion commanders got his kitchen trucks burned up.
DCJ: You’re talking about May ‘51?
JHC: Yes. I tell you, he was so mad I thought he was going to swing at me. I got wounded that night in the leg. My leg was swollen up; there were fragments in it. The next morning Almond cried when he saw I was hurt. But he’d send me into certain death if he thought it necessary. He was highly intelligent, opinionated, and completely devoted to General MacArthur. General MacArthur didn’t have anybody that was more of a disciple than Ned Almond.
DCJ: Paul Mueller was Chief of Staff before Almond. What kind of guy was he?
JHC: A cold fish.
DCI: I’ve heard that elsewhere.
JHC: Sort of beady, blue eyes. If he had a sense of humor, it was not revealed much to us lieutenant colonels. We called ourselves the “Certified U.S. Mules.” I don’t know whether you ever heard this or not. “Dog-packs” weren’t strong in those days; we could only deliver mail in “dog-pack” by certified U.S. mules. Well, the G’s were not allowed to brief the Chief of Staff or MacArthur. They had to use the Secretary to brief the Chief of Staff for them. So we were “Certified U.S. Mules.”
DCI: Okay, what about Pat Fox?
JHC: Very kind, thoughtful, scholarly, perhaps a little bit introverted, a gentleman.
DCI: Pinky Wright?
JHC: I couldn’t prove this, I don’t think Pinky was as smart as he ought to have been at his job. He was generally an affable, likable guy, but short-tempered.
DCJ: As a corps C-3, did you actually deal with the FEC G-3, which he was?
JHC: No. I came back twice to brief General Hickey and the staff on the Wonsan operation--first, the move around from Inchon around to Wonsan and then the Chosin operation. But, no, I had really no dealings with Wright.
DCJ: Okay, let’s turn to another man--Willoughby. Did you ever see him?
JHC: “Sir Charles,” yes.
DCJ: Okay, how would you describe him?
JHC: Insufferably hardy. I’m sure, a highly intelligent guy, hut moody. He manufactured intelligence he wanted General MacArthur to hear. That’s a pretty damning statement, and I don’t think I could prove it.
DCJ: Yes, I’ve got it elsewhere on tape--I mean, similar statements.
JHC: He chewed something that made him smell like formaldehyde.
DCJ: I’ve never heard that.
JHC: Want me to tell you a little story about him?
JHC: When General MacArthur went down to see Chiang Kai-shek, I felt very privileged to have been the little guy with all these big ones in these big meetings.
DCJ: We’re talking about the summer of ‘50?
JHC: That’s correct, yes.
DCJ: The controversial visit?
JHC: When MacArthur went down, he didn‘t even ask the State Department or tell the War Department he was going. He took his whole staff. I went along as a junior guy. While we were waiting for General MacArthur to show up out at the airport, Willoughby sideled up to me and reached out and put something in my hand. It was a roll of fifty ten-dollar bills, as I soon discovered. If I had any time at all, I’d have had some of these changed into one-dollar bills. But General MacArthur drove up just then, and General Willoughby said to me, ‘This is a confidential fund. Make no record of this money. Just spend it where it will do the most good.” So we got to Taipei. The Generalissimo and General MacArthur went up to his private mansion, or whatever it was, up on Grass Mountain. We went on to the top of Grass Mountain, and the others followed us. They were all major generals except me. They didn’t have their aides, except me under General Almond. Anyway, after all the bags were taken up, the bell captain and his employees all lined up there. Looking back on it, I guess I could have taken a couple of those tens and told them to break them up; that‘s all I had .I gave each one of them a ten-dollar bill, and the next morning when we came down, here were all these sedans lined up to whisk all the generals away. They all climbed in, two or three to a sedan, but here was a sedan for me alone with a Chinese lieutenant general, who opened the door. He knew where the money was.
DCJ: How did you happen to go on that Formosa trip? I wasn’t aware of that.
JHC: General Almond asked me to. He was Chief of Staff, and well, I think General Almond always liked me and trusted me. Many of these things were just fascinating experiences. Probably you’re going to get around to the telecons when the Korean war started?
DCJ: Yes, I want to go back to it. But another person I want to ask about is Doyle Hickey. How would you describe him?
JHC: One of the kindest. I felt about General Hickey sort of like I felt, at a greater distance, about Omar Bradley. I always felt that General Hickey needed my help, and I’ll be darned if I wasn’t going to try to help him. He was kindly, really sort of selfless--a very down-to-earth thinker. If anybody didn’t like Doyle Hickey, there was something wrong with him.
DCJ: Okay, how about 0. P. Smith?
JHC: Well, watching him and General Almond square off at each other, I must say I was a little more inclined to be for General Almond, although I’m sure there are two sides to the coin.
DCJ: Yes, you ought to hear the Smith tape I’ve got.
JHC: 0. P. Smith resented being under an Army commander of any sort, and it didn’t take but about the second meeting for them to hate each other. Smith came as close to getting insubordinate as he could he.
JHC: Almond also was overbearing. It was a very unfortunate personality conflict. I didn’t think 0. P. Smith ever really went forward, but Ned Almond was right down in the front-line battalions all the time. Almond was usually riding in 0. P. Smith’s helicopter because he didn’t have one at that time. I was not overly impressed with 0. P. Smith. I was more impressed with his C-3, Al Bowser.
DCJ: Yes, I interviewed Bowser.
JHC: He was a very capable guy. Was it Ray Murray who had the 1st Marine Regiment over there?
DCJ: I don’t remember. Several Marines told me tales about Almond’s luxurious trailer. Was that in the Wonsan-Hungnam area?
JHC: General Almond lived first class.
DCJ: Yes, and still does I might add.
DCJ : I think his Anniston home is as pretty as any I‘ve been in, of all these persons I’ve interviewed. Now, did you ever have any opportunity to run into Courtney Whitney? If so, how would you describe him?
JHC: Well, I guess you probably already know that General MacArthur was the “Emperor.” He did not do scarcely any traveling at all. He did go down when the Philippines became a republic. I went with him on that first trip to Korea, but by and large he didn’t travel.
DCJ: The first trip to Korea--you’re talking about his visit to the Han River in late June of ‘50?
JHC: Yes, after the war started. But he kept himself very remote. The only people who saw him, or could see him--well, there were exceptions once in a while--were the Chief of Staff, Courtney Whitney, Willoughby, and his two aides, Sid Huff and Larry Bunker. They were the only people who could get in to see him, and who did see him weeks upon end. Courtney Whitney was a crony from the Philippines. As I recall, he went out in the Spanish-American War, stayed on, and made a fortune, I believe in Baguio Consolidated Mines. And MacArthur was paid partly as the Field Marshal of the Philippine Army in Baguio Consolidated Mines stock. But I’m unconvinced of it. I don’t know whether Whitney had any military rank when the war started or not, but he ended up with the Government Section as a major general.
DCJ: He had been in the Army Air Service in the twenties and then had quit. He had become a lawyer in Manila and made quite a bit of money. Then in World War II, in June of ‘43, he came out to SWPA headquarters; he was a colonel at that time and was in charge of the guerrilla liaison activities with the Philippines. Then, as you say, he moved up to SCAP Chief of Government Section.
JHC: I would say from my standpoint, since we had met in Manila that he knew who I was. He ignored almost everybody pretty much. He was grave-faced, obviously with not any particular military background, but he had MacArthur’s complete confidence, as far as I could tell. They would sit for hours in MacArthur’s office; I have no idea what they were talking about.
DCJ: As you and I both know, Almond and Whitney had something going there in the way of friction.
JHC: Almond thought Whitney was poison in MacArthur’s mind.
DCJ: Well, that was what I was getting ready to lead up to. What do you think was the root of that?
JHC: I think General Almond, as Chief of Staff, felt that nobody should go around him to see MacArthur.
DCJ: Sutherland, the World War II Chief of Staff, had that same trouble with Whitney.
DCJ: Of the Chiefs of Staff that MacArthur had during the period you were there, Almond was the closest. I’ve heard very few men suggest that Paul Mueller was close to MacArthur. Would you back that up also?
JHC: As far as I can tell, yes. Mueller was a really colorless guy. Not an engaging personality. Inclined to be abrupt. He’d been a division commander, He was pretty much of a cold fish.
DCJ: Can you remember any interesting episodes relating directly to MacArthur when you were Secretary of the General Staff in Tokyo, ‘48-50?
JHC: I think this one is terrific. General MacArthur, day after day, week after week, would arrive with his MP convoy with the radios on at both ends and the big crowds restrained by MPs as he walked up.
DCJ: You mean the Embassy-Dai Ichi itinerary?
JHC: Yes, Embassy-Dai Ichi--right down that one road. MacArthur, when he either got in or out of his car, usually had his hands behind his back, with that John Barrymore profile--a lot of times with his corncob pipe in his mouth. He never looked up. He had one of his aides, either Huff or Bunker, with him. He became one of the big events in Tokyo, like the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Inside the
Dai Ichi building everybody would not flatten against the wall, but they got well out of his way. This one time an elevator opened for General MacArthur to get in, and, as far as I know, that’s the only time he ever even looked up or recognized anybody was there. This one morning as he got in the elevator, he turned around and said, “Anybody want a ride?” Of course, everybody just sort of stood back, but one brash young major who had just arrived said “Yes, sir.” He came forward and got in, and the elevator door closed. Larry Bunker reported this story. And this young major said, “Three, please.” The operator whipped them up right to the fifth floor, opposite MacArthur’s office. As General MacArthur got out, he turned around and said, “You got more of a ride then you bargained for, didn’t you, young man?” That was a rare occasion.
DCJ: Are there any other anecdotes that you might remember from that period when you were Secretary of the General Staff in Tokyo, ‘48-50?
JHC: Well, shortly after I became the SGS instead of the Assistant SGS, I was in General Almond’s office. To back up, between General MacArthur’s office and the Chief of Staff’s office was a conference room. That’s where, for instance, they had the briefing for the Inchon landing, but it was very seldom used by MacArthur. Once or twice a day he would open his door and come across to the Chief of Staff’s office. Well, you could always hear the click of his door, and we all knew that
when you heard the click, you grabbed whatever you had and beat it out of the room. Well, I hadn’t actually personally seen General MacArthur since the Philippine days. We’d actually not met or shook hands. He had no social life, as you know, though he did give luncheons on occasions. But, anyway, I was leaning over General Almond explaining something, and I felt a hand on my shoulder and looked up, and it was General MacArthur. For some reason or other, there’d been no click. General Almond leaped to his feet and said “Sir, you know Colonel Chiles?” MacArthur patted me on the shoulder and said, “Of course, I do. I see him every day.” What he’d been seeing was my fat fanny disappearing down around the corner. “See him everyday.’”
DCJ: Okay, now as General Staff Secretary, what were your functions in Tokyo?
JHC: I guess the shortest description would be executive to the Chief of Staff. I kept all of the records, or the files, of the Chief of Staff, and most of General MacArthur’s files, too. He kept a few of his own, but, by and large, we were the message center. Of course, I had an assistant because we really had one job then. It’s too bad you didn’t interview John Hightower. He was my assistant.
DCJ: What rank? And where is he?
JHC: He retired a major general.
DCJ: Where is he?
JHC: Royal Pines, in Beaufort.
DCJ: Isn’t Hightower a neighbor of Mildren. He’s right around the drive, isn’t he?
JHC: Yes. You didn’t see him?
DCJ: No. He was gone.
JHC: Well, he was my assistant during all this time. And a great guy. He and Mueller and I were also in World War II together. where was I?
DCJ: We were talking about your functions as Secretary.
JHC: I had three lieutenant colonels each on the FEC and SCAP sides who did the briefing of their respective deputies. Then I briefed the Chief of Staff. No one ever briefed MacArthur except the Chief of Staff. I don’t know what Whitney and Willoughby did when they got in there.
DCJ: Did you notice anything distinctive about MacArthur’s headquarters--the organizational or administrative set-up? Was there anything unique about it?
JHC: Sure. It was supposed to be a joint staff, but he ignored the JCS, as you know. There were none of them who were brave enough to challenge him. They kept--oh, once a month--ordering him to
make a joint staff, but it was an Army staff. He finally, as a concession to the JCS, organized a thing called JSPOG, Joint Strategic Plans and Operations Group.
DCJ: That’s what Pinky Wright headed, wasn’t it?
JHC: Well, it was under the G-3, who was Pinky Wright. But it was an entity. They had three old Army colonels, or one Navy captain and two old Air Force and army colonels. They had a Navy guard that guarded whatever they were doing back there, which didn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot. But that was the “Joint Staff.” And they might just as well not have had it. Of course, there were many unique things about MacArthur headquarters, but the GHQ operated on normal duty hours, as you’d expect any military or business headquarters.
DCJ: Except MacArthur himself.
JHC: MacArthur would come to work about 10:30, stay till about 2:00 or 2:30, go home and have lunch, take a nap, play with his little boy, come back about 5:30 or 6:00, and stay until he and Whitney got through talking. We never knew when he was going to go home.
DCJ: When he did entertain, that was usually at a luncheon, wasn’t it?
JHC: At a luncheon.<