Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened February, 1976
Oral History Interview with
June 18, 1973
Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Mr. Gray, might we start by asking you to explain how you came to be appointed Assistant Secretary of the Army in 1947? Could you talk a bit about your relationship with Mr. [Kenneth] Royall and how that came about?
GRAY: All right. Well, I'll have to begin a little earlier, because I suppose this really all starts with my entrance into public life in the first place.
GRAY: And let me suggest at the outset that we're talking about people and events of many years ago, and I'll have to say that my recollection is not as sharp as I'd like it to be; but I'll give it to you the best I can.
I first got interested in politics in North Carolina. Although born in Baltimore, I grew up in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and I had practiced law in New York for a couple of years. I worked for a large law firm there when I first got out of law school in 1933.
I was there for a couple of years, and in 1935 my father died, rather suddenly and unexpectedly, and, after considerable wrestling with my conscience and responsibilities, I decided that I should return to North Carolina to be with my mother, primarily.
So, when I was able to wind up my affairs in New York, I came back to North Carolina, either late '35 or early '36, and I took the
North Carolina bar exam after a period of cramming for it, passed, and became associated with a law firm which was then known as Manly, Hendren, & Womble, then, I guess, the largest firm in the community, and perhaps the best.
The thing that really got me interested in politics was that in 1936 we had a very spirited Democratic primary contest (this was for Governor) between Clyde Hoey, who later became United States Senator, and a man named Ralph McDonald, who was then on the faculty at Salem College, and who later became--and may still be, I don't know--president of Bowling Green State University, or whatever it's called, out in Ohio.
I think that if he should ever read this transcript he would agree with me that he was not considered exactly a burning conservative; and indeed in those days, whatever his later views--and I think they began to ameliorate--he was really quite liberal. A part of his campaign,
which is normal, in politics, was attacking the big interests. I was sitting at home one night with my brother, reading, or listening to the radio, or something, anyway the radio was on, I'm sure, because this is the real beginning of my getting into politics.
I heard a voice (Ralph McDonald) saying something like this: "Now, they ask me how I'm going to pay for all of these new programs." He said, "I'm going to tell you where I'm going to get the money, I'm going to get the money where the money is. Now," he said, "for example, a prominent and wealthy citizen of this community died recently. His will is probated in the very courthouse in which I'm speaking, and my friends, do you know, that man died and paid not a penny of taxes," He said, "That's the kind of source."
It was clear to me that he was talking about my father, and the next day I went down and offered my services to the Hoey campaign, because
I resented this attack on a man who had never been in politics, had never taken any part, who was a decent, honorable citizen, successful, and who was in no position to answer the charge, you see.
Well, I was 27 years old or so, and I didn't get a very big job with the Hoey campaign headquarters. I think I swept floors or something like that, but Hoey won the primary and went on to become Governor. As a result of this exposure and interest, I worked later in the Roosevelt campaign. His candidacy for a second term would have been in 1936. I actually went to the Hotel Biltmore in New York and spent several weeks there as a very minor functionary, but doing what I was told to do and never knowing whether I made any kind of contribution or not.
MCKINZIE: This kind of life, though, was appealing
GRAY: Well it did appeal to me, public service then was very appealing. I was in the law firm for a couple of years before I got into the newspaper business in about 1937, and then ran for the state senate in 1938 and was elected. I served a two-year term in the senate, continuing to be in the newspaper business as publisher of the two daily newspapers in the community, and the operator of a radio station; and I ran again in 1940 (these were two-year terms), and was elected.
Then, of course, Pearl Harbor came along in December of '41. At that time I was, I suppose draft proof, or draft exempt. I was holding state office, I was publisher of a newspaper, I had three children. There was just no way I would get into the military services unless I volunteered.
Living in a small community like that, of course, the members of the draft board were all friends of mine, and when I sought in early
'42 to enlist in the services, having if I may say, somewhat immodestly, been sought after by both the Army and the Navy for direct commission...
MCKINZIE: May I ask why you did not choose the commission?
GRAY: Well, as best I can reconstruct my feelings at the time, in our community there was a strong America First sentiment and the young men, many young men, younger than I--you see by this time I had gotten to be, I think, 32 years old--there was little enthusiasm for the war among many of the potential leaders in the community, for one thing.. People who read this later on will just have to take my word for it as to what my thoughts were at the time, but one thing I wanted to do was to set an example for the community. Another thing was, I didn't believe in accepting a commission and possibly being put into a position later on in some capacity without ever knowing to what kind of assignment I'd go, of being responsible for people without having
trained for this responsibility, and especially in the Army.
And so after a very considerable tussle with the draft board I was allowed to volunteer for the Army--I can't remember the exact date, but in the spring of 1942. This necessitated my resigning from the state senate, which I did in order to go into the Army.
I did go into the Army; was inducted at Fort Bragg. After a week or two there I was sent to Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia, for my basic training. I remember that I had reached my 33rd birthday just about two weeks after I had been in the Army. I was basically trained at Camp Wheeler in the summer, which was quite an experience, that being not exactly a Maine climate, and physically, of course, very difficult, because I was a senior of my peers by 12, 13, 14 years, I guess. But I successfully completed the basic training course. It was
discovered during the last week of my basic training that I had developed a double hernia and they put me on light duty for the last week of training. I thought the authorities were very compassionate, to allow me to wait for another week, complete the training, and then go into the hospital, which I did; and then Uncle gave me a free double hernia operation. And after a short period of convalescent leave I returned to Camp Wheeler, and temporarily was a member of the cadre there until I was sent to OCS at Fort Benning, infantry OCS, from which I graduated in February of 1943 as a second lieutenant.
To my regret I was kept on the staff at the infantry school, because I wanted to be more a part of the Army, as it were. I stayed there--again the dates are not clear in my mind, but for quite a period--and got the automatic promotions every six months, which you do in a headquarters of that sort. Finally I applied
for admission to the Battalion Commander and Advance Staff Officers' course at Fort Benning, because this was the only way I could get released from the staff of the school. They had no choice but to release me to enter this course, which I completed successfully, and then I was put in the officers' pool for overseas assignment.
I had known General Leven Allen's two aides well, General Allen having been the commandant of the infantry school. He had left and had joined [General Omar] Bradley and ultimately, as you know, General Bradley commanded the 12th Army Group and Leven Allen was his deputy. And unbeknownst to me, one of these aides had had a request put in for me to be assigned to General Bradley's headquarters, or he had asked General Allen to put in the request--I'm not sure what the mechanics were. But I was shipped overseas, I went through the Armed Forces Replacement system, spending, once I remember, about eight days on a
"forty and eight" because things were confused; we were shipped here to there and other places. But in any event, I finally ended up in Luxembourg in early December 1944, first assigned (again to my regret) to the broadcast section of the 12th Army Group, which was back at Versailles. Then I was sent to Luxembourg to help establish a shortwave radio communications system back to this country for military purposes. And on the street I ran into a man named William Harding Jackson, in the little city of Luxembourg. I didn't know he was even in the Army and he didn't know I was in the Army. He was the man who was the hiring partner when I went to work at Carter, Ledyard & Milburn in New York.
I'm going into this kind of detail because it affects some of the other things I'm going to get to later on. He asked me what I was doing and I told him. He said, "Well, we'd like to have you at the advanced headquarters,--which
was known as EAGLE TAC--and there had been some consideration (again background that I knew nothing about) of my being sent up there anyway as a part of operations. But Jackson was General [Edwin L.] Sibert's deputy, General Sibert being General Bradley's chief intelligence officer, his G-2. And as Bill Jackson had told me at the time, "I'm swiping you away from operations and putting you in the intelligence section." And that's where I was until I left the Army.
MCKINZIE: Was that duty more pleasant to you? Was it more in keeping with what you wanted to do?
GRAY: Than the broadcast thing? Oh, yes, it was very interesting duty. Still it can hardly be said that it was hazardous duty, except for the fact that the Ardennes counteroffensive started--the Battle of the Bulge as it's more popularly known--on the 16th of December, as I recall it, and the Germans got right to the city
limits of Luxembourg. We had little action there, even though three large headquarters were there; Bradley's and [General Hoyt S.] Vandenberg's and [General George S., Jr.] Patton's.
Well, in any event, when I was separated from the Army as a captain, I returned to Winston-Salem and resumed my duties, including running again for the North Carolina state senate, to which I was elected in 1946.
In the summer of 1946 Kenneth Royall, who then, I think, had a title of Special Assistant to Secretary [Robert P.] Patterson called me and asked me to come to Washington to join the Army Department, having in mind that I would do public relations and congressional relations work, from a background which was pretty well-suited for this.
It didn't appeal to me to come to Washington. I was just getting reestablished, and I didn't feel that the kind of position I was being offered was even commensurate with what
I was doing for my state and my community.
So I said, "No, I won't come to Washington."
A year later, the National Security Act of 1947 was passed. You will recall that it established what was then known as the National Military Establishment; but it established a separate Air Force, and it created new assistant secretaries for each of the services. There was to be a secretary, an under secretary, and two assistant secretaries. By this time Bob Patterson, who had been Secretary of War and who succeeded Stimson, had resigned and Kenneth Royall became the last Secretary of War and first Secretary of the Army, under the new act. He asked me to come up as one of the assistant secretaries and I accepted this offer. He recommended to the President that I be appointed, and I came up.
Now, we'll answer a question you put earlier. I'd known Kenneth Royall all of my life. He was
from Goldsboro, North Carolina; he was a very successful lawyer there, and North Carolina is a state (or was a state), where everybody knows everybody else, and he had been a member of the same fraternity that I had belonged to in Chapel Hill when I was a student. Well, I just knew him, you know, and I came up to take that job. As a matter of fact, I first said to him I didn't want to come and he said, "Well, if I send a plane down, will you come up and have lunch with me?" I thought I couldn't refuse that, and he talked me into taking the job, which was supposed to be in the field of the occupied areas. At that time we were still occupying Germany and Japan and I was to be in that area of the work. I explained to him that I didn't know anything about these kinds of responsibilities, and he said, "Well, don't worry about that, you will be able to do whatever we ask you to do."
I don't want to make this too detailed and complicated, but General [William H.]Dr