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Marx Leva Oral History Interviews

Oral History Interview
with
Marx Leva

  Marx Leva
Counsel to the fiscal director of the Navy, 1946; Special Asst. to the Secretary of the Navy, 1947; Special Asst. and Gen. Counsel to the Secretary of Defense, 1947-49; and Asst. Secretary of Defense, 1949-51.
December 9, 1969 and June 12, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
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.

As an electronic publication of the Truman Library, users should note that features of the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview, such as pagination and indexing, could not be replicated for this online version of the Leva transcript.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened January, 1972
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]



Oral History Interview with
Marx Leva

Washington, DC
December 9, 1969
by Jerry N. Hess

[1]

HESS: Mr. Leva, to begin would you tell me a little about your background?

LEVA: I was born in Selma, Alabama on April 4th, 1915. I was educated in the public schools of Selma, Alabama and I attended the University of Alabama from which I graduated in 1937. I graduated there in the school of commerce and business administration, and I then attended the Harvard Law School from which I graduated in 1940. At Harvard I was note editor of the Harvard Law Review and after my graduation I was law clerk to Mr. Justice Hugo Black of the Supreme Court. I went from there to a position on the legal staff of the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, and when the Division of Civilian Supply was transferred to what was then the Office of Production Management, I transferred with the Division and became Counsel for the Division of Civilian Supply. Later, just before

 

[2]

Pearl Harbor, the General Counsel of the Office of Production Management, which by that time I think had been changed to the War Production Board, the General Counsel, Mr. John Lord O'Brian, made me counsel for the Automotive Branch of the War Production Board with the result that immediately after Pearl Harbor, I was sent to Detroit to assist in "converting the automotive industry to war production."

I found Detroit a somewhat frustrating experience and renewed an application I had previously filed for a commission in the Navy. I was commissioned in the Navy four or five months after Pearl Harbor and went on active duty in the Navy in the middle of 1942. I had my naval training as an ensign at Tower Hall, Northwestern University, Chicago, and went directly from there to sea duty with the amphibious force. I was originally navigating officer of a landing ship, LST, and subsequently became executive officer of the same landing ship, LST 386. Our ship participated in landing operations in Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Normandy and after the Normandy operation participated in transporting ammunition and other supplies across the channel for a period of months and

 

[3]

at that stage the ship was given to the British under lend-lease and the crew came home.

When I came home I was assigned in December of 1944 or January 1945, to the Bureau of Ships of the Navy Department. I served out the remainder of my time in uniform in the Bureau of Ships, and, in the course of that service, I met the Counsel to the Fiscal Director of the Navy, who asked me to take his position when he left, and I then became Counsel to the Fiscal Director of the Navy, who was Wilfred McNeil, in early 1946, I believe.

HESS: What were some of your duties in that position?

LEVA: It's hard to remember very exactly. My predecessor as Counsel to the Fiscal Director was Frank Lincoln, who at a much subsequent stage was Assistant Secretary of Defense and Comptroller. My impression is that Frank Lincoln had built up a rather wide scope of duties in the position of Counsel to the Fiscal Director. Many of the duties had nothing to do with legal duties as I would know them. As a result, after a very short period, I was given the double designation of Counsel to the Fiscal Director, and t also served as Deputy Fiscal Director of the Navy. I really served more as

 

[4]

Deputy Fiscal Director and as McNeil's alter ego than as counsel. In the capacity of counsel, however, I was a member of the Office of the General Counsel of the Navy which was an office that Mr. [James V.] Forrestal had set up early in the war to handle procurement matters and I , therefore, came in contact with my legal hat with all of the Navy's civilian lawyers, and with my non-legal (I hope not my illegal), hat, with the various bureau chiefs because the chiefs of the various bureaus; the Bureau of Ships, Bureau of Ordnance and so on attended a meeting which Secretary Forrestal held, as best I can recall, once each week, and the Fiscal Director of the Navy, Mr. McNeil, attended that meeting also and he took to taking me with him and then when he was away I represented him at the meeting. So I was really functioning in two different circles; the legal and the naval-administrative.

I remember particularly, and I guess here we get into '46 because I don't remember the date exactly--when the atomic energy experiment was performed at Bikini Atoll, Mr. McNeil accompanied Mr. Forrestal to Bikini and I believe that the meetings in Mr. Forrestal's absence were conducted by Under Secretary [John L.]

 

[5]

Sullivan and I represented McNeil, and then Forrestal and McNeil went on around the world which took longer in those days than it does now. So that I would say that my duties were quite a hodgepodge. They included the legal duty of advising the Fiscal Director on what was proper and what was not proper within the scope of his responsibilities and how to handle various matters of a fiscal and fiscal-administrative nature but they also went far outside the legal in many other spheres.

HESS: Before we get into our questions about Mr. Forrestal I would like to ask you a couple of questions about your war experiences. You mentioned the major landings, Sicily and Anzio and Normandy. Which of the landings did you find to be the roughest, the, to use a...

LEVA: Well, there's no question about which was the roughest for our ship. Salerno, which you didn't mention...

HESS: Which I didn't mention.

LEVA: ...was far rougher than any of the others. We had a relatively quiet landing in Sicily. We landed with the combat waves at a small town, Licata, on the American beaches.

 

[6]

Our LST was fixed up in a very peculiar fashion for the Sicily landing. We had steel landing mat on the deck and we carried four Piper Cubs for artillery observation and they were to fly...

HESS: You were an aircraft carrier.

LEVA: We were an aircraft carrier at that point, and the Piper Cubs were to fly off and do artillery spotting and if they were lucky they could find a place to come down. As it happened, since the small boats were in first, the LCVPs, and since the combat was--the combat landing went very well. The first highway inland was seized very early and all the Piper Cubs got down and all of them got down safely. I think all of the pilots were later given the Silver Star, not so much for what they ran into as for what they might have run into. Licata was--the Sicilian landing at Licata was in July of '43. We went to the Sicilian landing from Lake Bizerte which is where we were based in North Africa waiting for the landing. We had had a number of air raids before the landing because the Germans still had considerable air power available at that point in mid-forty-three. But Sicily, relatively speaking, was quieter than the landings that came later. We went

 

[7]

back to Bizerte and we based on Lake Bizerte again for the landing at Salerno which was September of '43.

The announcement of the surrender of the Italian Government to the allies was made the night before the landing as we were approaching the Gulf of Salerno and I think it probably resulted in all of the crews thinking this would be a much easier landing. That may have had something to do with the difficulties at Salerno, but I think the principal difficulty at Salerno was the fact that the fighter planes that we then had could remain over the area, I think, only about ten minutes. They just didn't have the legs to fly there, fight, and go back to their bases in North Africa. And, as a result, we didn't have the air cover that we were to have in later affairs. Also the Germans apparently knew where we were coming and dumped a lot of floating mines into the Gulf of Salerno.

Also, in the Salerno operation, and in this respect it was unique in all those I participated in: The powers that be had decreed that the LSTs, which were 327 feet long, would land ahead of the small boats. So we were landing at night, in the dark, nine hundred

 

[8]

miles away from our bases, and the mine sweepers were supposed to sweep to within two and a half miles of the shore so as not to give away our position by sweeping further towards land. We were making our beaching run and we were going along all right and we got about a mile and a quarter off the beach in the unswept area, our bow lookout called out there was a floating object and just about simultaneously, the floating object detonated and we blew a hole about forty-eight feet long in the side of the ship. We couldn't beach in that condition, or rather we couldn't unload equipment. We did try to beach, we went ahead and ran into the beach, partly because we didn't know whether we were going to sink or not and that seemed about the best place to go. But when we hit the beach, the water was between nine and ten feet deep at the bow and we couldn't unload anything as it developed.

When we then tried to check on the situation, one of our engines had blown out, the other seemed to be about to go out, the gyrocompass had blown up, but we could still limp off the beach with the one engine, so we requested instructions from the flagship which told us to come out where she was in the middle of the

 

[9]

gulf. It was just coming up dawn at that point and we did go back to where the flagship was and then unloaded our equipment into smaller craft, LCTs as a matter of fact. So, that was by all odds the roughest landing we were in. Anzio, relatively was quieter and Normandy was the quietest of all because by Normandy the Germans had no air power.

HESS: When did you first meet Mr. Forrestal?

LEVA: I can't pin that down accurately. I think that I first met Mr. Forrestal at one of the meetings that I have just described; that is, one of Mr. Forrestal's weekly meetings with the chiefs of the various naval bureaus at which I either accompanied Mr. McNeil or substituted for him in his absence, and I don't have any vivid recollection. But my recollection is that I did meet Mr. Forrestal for the first time at one of those meetings and then I just sort of drifted in and out of those meetings over a period of six or eight months and got to know him progressively better.

HESS: And when did you become his special assistant?

LEVA: After I had been working as Mr. McNeil's counsel and deputy for about a year I was asked by Mr. Forrestal's

 

[10]

personal counsel, who was at that time John Connor, who had been a year ahead of me at Harvard Law School and who had been a good friend of mine since my law school days, I was asked by John Connor whom everyone refers to as Jack, if I could take his job as counsel to Mr. Forrestal so that he, Mr. Connor, would be free to leave the Navy and take a job that had been offered him as secretary and counsel of Merck and Company, the pharmaceutical house. And I told Jack Connor that that sounded interesting even though I had been already overdue in my intentions in practicing law, but I said, "You know it's one thing for you to offer me a job but does Mr. Forrestal want me in this?"

And he said, "Well, I wouldn't have taken it up with you if I hadn't already talked to Mr. Forrestal and this has his approval." So, I subsequently met with Mr. Forrestal; talked about the nature of the job, and I believe, became his counsel in about March of 1947.

HESS: What were your duties in that position?

LEVA: My principal duty when I took the job and my principal duty for the next six months was to work on

 

[11]

the legislation that became the Unification Act. Jack Connor had begun working with Mr. Forrestal and with opposite numbers at the White House and in the War Department as it then was, and I was to continue that process working with various people.

Shortly before that time Mr. Forrestal had named Mr. Ferdinand Eberstadt, a Princeton classmate, a contemporary of Mr. Forrestal's and one of his closest friends, to make a study of the unification of the armed services. Mr. Eberstadt had completed a report which had been given to Mr. Forrestal and which had also been filed with the Armed Services Committees of the House and the Senate. President Truman was actively espousing a more complete integration of the War and Navy Departments than Mr. Eberstadt, Mr. Forrestal and the Navy favored, and I suppose the task was a dual one to work on something feasible and to hold off something too extreme to be workable in the opinion of those for whom I was working.

Now, I also had the routine duties of serving as counsel to the Secretary of the Navy which meant substantially that every paper that crossed his desk crossed mine first and that I had various comments on

 

[12]

a lot of things including an awful lot of things that I didn't know very much about. But the major job at that time, perhaps clouded by the mist of twenty years, was to work on the Unification Act.

HESS: What was Mr. Forrestal's view of the unification?

LEVA: I never really thought that there was a Forrestal view as separate from a Navy view at that time. There had been a study conducted during the latter part of World War II in which some of the admirals in the Pacific had gone along with the Army's view for a really unified or integrated, or monolithic type of service. The official position of the Navy at Washington was for something less than that. I always felt that the official position of the Navy was for something less than that and the true position of the Navy was against the whole enterprise. And I suppose you might say that Forrestal's was an in between position; how to pull the reluctant naval establishment into that which the Commander in Chief wanted without undue sacrifice in the autonomy of the naval service in the process.

HESS: Why did the Navy have the opinion that they did?

LEVA: Oh. I don't know why and we can't really say or speak of the Navy having the opinion because there were

 

[13]

all kinds and degrees and graduations of Navy opinion. I would assume that a lot of the people, subconsciously or otherwise, felt that their own opportunities for advancement were greater in a service of their own and the great bugaboo was one uniform and really the elimination of the expertise of the various departments.

So, I don't know, I think there was a certain element of selfishness and I think there was also a certain element of belief that in those nations which had really gone too far in putting the whole ball of wax together, naval aviation had suffered. They frequently cited the British experience before World War II and stated the unique contribution which they felt that the Navy could make, which they felt would be lost or at least reduced under this type of setup. They particularly feared the Air Force and its belief that everything could be done with air power alone. This goes way back to the Billy Mitchell days. It goes back before my time.

HESS: What was your view on the advisability of unification of the armed forces?

LEVA: I don't think I really had a view. I was a technician, a mechanic, and I was working to achieve a modus vivendi.

 

[14]

I think we came up with a modus vivendi. Some of the things that we ended up with I would not have written just the way they were written, if only because I feared that they wouldn't work.

I think Forrestal's views, which I think was a sound view in retrospect, was that you started out with a slight degree of control at the center and perhaps you had an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary process. I think it was a sound view in the abstract, but I think it was a factor in bringing about his death, ultimately, through trying to run an unworkable mechanism while waiting for the next step and you can always overgeneralize about those things but he certainly had to work an unconscionable amount of time, in part because of the Frankenstein monster that he and I had helped to create, I guess.

HESS: What do you recall about his support of the National Military Establishment as opposed to a Department of Defense?

LEVA: The original concept of the Eberstadt report did not go as far as the 1947 act. The 1947 act created the National Military Establishment with the Secretary of Defense at the head of it but it did not create a

 

[15]

Department of Defense. Forrestal came to feel that that was too loose a structure and in his testimony before the first Hoover Commission, and in his testimony before the Congress in 1949, shortly before he left office, he recommended, and strongly supported, a Department of Defense.

I think he would have felt, even in retrospect, that you probably had to go through the National Military Establishment phase in order to get to the Department of Defense phase. And with all its pain and trauma it was better to do it that way than to do it all at one fell swoop and have all of the internal grumbling that that would have generated.

His testimony, I think, before the Senate Armed Services Committee in either late ‘48 or early '49 was a very frank avowal that the 1947 legislation did not go far enough and that it needed strengthening in several respects including the substitution of the Department of Defense for the National Military Establishment, together with the creation of the position of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in lieu of chiefs of each service with no chairman of the Joint Chiefs. I think that was probably the most glaring omission of all.

 

[16]

By the way, that omission didn't make so much difference in the early days in '47 when Admiral [William D.] Leahy was still at the White House with President Truman because you had de facto, but not de jure, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Once Admiral Leahy retired, and I don't remember the date, you had, I believe, at the outset General Eisenhower as Chief of Staff of the Army, General "Toohy" [Carl] Spaatz as Chief of Staff of the new newly created Air Force, and Admiral [Louis E.] Denfeld, I believe, as Chief of Naval Operations. You just had the three of those and three independent people reporting to the Secretary of Defense as three independent bodies of opinion to choose from and no chairman to pull it together. That was one of the great defects I think.

Now that was, in turn, largely remedied at that time by the fact that General Gruenther, Alfred Gruenther, was then a two star general and director of the Joint Staff and, as he is, was, always will be, one of the most brilliant officers of the armed services. Even though he was junior to all of the three Chiefs, he was able to pull it together for Forrestal and really rendered yeoman services in that regard.

 

[17]

But it isn't the same as having, as we had later, General Omar Bradley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking with authority and having the President and the Secretary of Defense having available to them one prime source of military advice, even though that prime source may say, "Now, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force feels very strongly that what I'm telling you is wrong," but at least you have one person to whom you can talk.

HESS: Why, in your opinion, in 1947 if Mr. Forrestal was opposed to unification, was he appointed to be the first Secretary of Defense?

LEVA: Well, I don't think I said he was opposed to unification in the first place. I said he was opposed...

HESS: That may have been something that I read into it.

LEVA: No. I said he was opposed to too rigid a degree of integration which I am not using in a black-white context. I think he was in favor...

HESS: The 1947 meaning of the word.

LEVA: He was in favor of unification but he was in favor of unification on his terms. As to why he was appointed Secretary of Defense, I can only give you my own best recollection, which may be quite wrong. My recollection

 

[18]

of the events is along these lines: Robert Patterson was Secretary of War; he was a close friend of Secretary Forrestal. One reason that it was possible to work out an agreement which was acceptable to President Truman and the War Department, and the Navy Department, and go to the Hill with it, was the close friendship that existed between Patterson and Forrestal. I was working in this area, and to the best of my recollection, I was working with General [Lauris] Norstad representing, interestingly enough, not the Air Force but the Army. He was General Eisenhower's representative and also I suppose representing, in a sense, the Air Force though it was then the Air Corps within the Army; and Admiral Forrest Sherman representing the Navy on the uniformed level, and I was working with them and I was saying that this group did work out the details of the compromise and of the legislation.

It was certainly my understanding both from the people in that group and--you might at some point want to talk with General Norstad; Admiral Sherman is dead--that Robert Patterson was supposed to be the first Secretary of Defense and that this was certainly President Truman's plan and certainly Secretary Forrestal's

 

[19]

plan, because I was supposed to practice law and I raised this issue several times with Secretary Forrestal and he said, "Let's just get this legislation through the Congress because I'm leaving and you can leave when I leave, but don't leave me in the middle."

So, we are now talking about the summer of 1947, or the spring of '47 since I say I think I started working on this in March of '47. This law firm of which I am a partner, by the way, was started in 1946 and I was supposed to have come with them at the outset, so I was continuously trying, you see. They were friends of mine from the War Production Board days and we were going to start a firm as soon as the war was over and so they ultimately started in '46, and as it developed, I didn't get to join until '51. But I know that Forrestal said he expected to be out, and I am sure that my understanding of that was that Patterson was going to be the Secretary of Defense. The legislation was enacted and I haven't looked back at any of the records as to the speculation in the press at the time, but my own recollection is that Judge Patterson, who had been a judge of the U.S. District Court in New York, was slated to be Secretary of Defense, but Mrs.

 

[20]

Patterson felt that Judge Patterson had expended most of his strength and all of his money and he ought to get back to practicing law. And so when President Truman offered him the job he declined "with thanks."

And so since this was putting the War and Navy Departments together--I suppose the politics of the situation dictated that if you didn't get the one Secretary you got the other--and, in addition, Forrestal was tremendously popular at the time, both in the nation and in the Congress. And I think that this all indicated that he should be the appointee and Mr. Truman offered him the appointment and I think, however reluctantly, he accepted it. I have a vague recollection of talking to him at that time, and I said again that I had to get out and he said, "Well, look, I've taken this. I have a clear understanding with the President and I only have to serve one year, and I want you to serve with me for one year." And so I agreed to serve with him for one year and that was what happened. He ultimately served eighteen months before his health broke and by that time he had asked me before he left to help his successor with the transition. I'm jumping way ahead. His successor

 

[21]

transitioned in and out fairly fast and we were in the Korean war and one thing led to another. In any event, it was five years before I got out.

HESS: One question on the legislation setting up the unification of the armed forces. Who worked with you on the task of working on that legislation, the development of that legislation?

LEVA: I really can't remember. I'm terribly sorry. I worked at the White House, when I worked there at all, with Clark Clifford, I think to a lesser degree at that time with Charlie Murphy. I have the sort of impression that at the beginning of the period--I may have my dates wrong--Clark was still in uniform and originally came out to see us as a captain in the Navy. He was working for Admiral Leahy at the time and for the President. As I say, Norstad and the Air Force really represented General Eisenhower for the Army when there was something to be compromised. When I had to take it back to be checked out at the Navy, Admiral Sherman was my first port of call. I am sure that there must have been dozens of people but I just really don't recall.

HESS: Just how is legislation of such major importance developed? What are the steps? What are the procedures?

 

[22]

LEVA: Well, let me put it this way without any independent recollection: Legislation of major significance can either come up from the bottom or down from the top. Let me take two illustrations that I have worked on because I think they illustrate the process. I am now skipping forward a year or so. One of the things that troubled Mr. Forrestal in particular, was the difference in the standards of justice, the severity of the sentences meted out by the Army on the one hand and the Navy on the other. One of the first groups I met when I was his counsel at Navy was a committee which he had created dealing with major military justice cases during World War II. He wanted every case reviewed.

There was a Professor Arthur Keefe from Cornell who was the chairman of that and a lawyer from New York by the name of [Felix] Larkin who was a vice chairman and I went over with them, all of these cases because whether it came from Forrestal's service as a naval aviator in World War I or what, I don't know, but he had a great interest, for a non-lawyer, he had a great interest in military justice. Maybe Patterson had the same in the War Department, I don't know. But

 

[23]

after Forrestal became Secretary of Defense he talked with me about the fact that we have all of these separate systems of justice. The Marine Corps has a system, the Navy has a system, the Army. We've got to have a uniform system. Who do we know that could really work on this? I don't recall the exact process and I'm not really answering your question very directly, but I may answer it indirectly. I said I had a professor in law school who, I understand, was a stormy petrel of Army military justice in World War I, that he really tried to do then for the Army what you have been trying to do for the Navy. And he said, "Gee, does he still have enough firepower, you know."

I said, "I think he does, haven't seen him, let me try."

So I phoned Harvard Law School and talked to Professor Edmund Morgan, Edmund Morris Morgan, one of the great figures in American law. And I told him what Secretary Forrestal wanted to do, and said that in reviewing various names Secretary Forrestal had learned of his outstanding role in World War I and da da da and would he come down. Well, he was very much flattered; he came down. Forrestal was much

[24]

taken with him and he asked him to take on the task of reviewing the systems of military justice of all the services and creating the uniform code of military justice.

In the meantime I had hired as my number two lawyer, Associate General Counsel, Felix Larkin, who had been the number two man in the Navy military justice study. So we had Morgan who had done the Army twenty years before; Larkin had just done the Navy, so we gave them the job. And then we designated an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force; it happened to be Gene [Eugene M.] Zuckert who was later Secretary, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy John Kenney, and Assistant Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray. And they were to pull together their services.

Anyway, this was legislation funneling up from the bottom. We created this. There weren't any politics and I mean this is just how do you create a better system. We devised a system over a period of many months with much blood, sweat and tears.

We went before the Congress; we got it before the Senate and the House. We did something I'd never seen done before, we got permission for Felix Larkin

 

[25]

to operate on the floor of the Senate so that he could help answer questions from Senators; highly technical, you know. And he did a magnificent job and I think with all its defects--and like anything else it needs improvement now twenty years later--but with all its defects that was an example of legislation to meet a need which came up in an orderly fashion coordinating it among the services by bringing in the assistant secretaries and military advisers.

Now, the antithesis of this is the unification act. That started out with an edict from Mr. Truman that he wanted it done. So, I'm trying to answer your question, how does legislation get handled?

Mr. Truman, from his field artillery days on forward had thought that this was a lot of nonsense and a bunch of blithering idiots were screwing up the works, if your stenotypist will forgive me. And he was quite right, they were. Therefore he laid down certain edicts, and I haven't looked back to see on what date he sent over a memo saying I want you, Forrestal, to get together with you, Patterson, I don't give a damn how you do it, but do it. But I know there were documents and I know there were oral discussions.

 

[26]

But this was the opposite of the process I've just described. Mr. Truman wanted the armed forces put together. The Navy was dragging its feet, the Army was very enthusiastically endorsing it. General Collins, who I've omitted earlier, was a very ardent--one of my very good friends--was a very ardent proponent. The Collins plan, named for Joe Collins, "Lightning Joe," the hero of Cherbourg. Well, he was trying to get this put together on a lightning basis but it couldn't be put together on that basis--you could take Cherbourg easier. Whether or not Truman deliberately followed a tactic of shock treatment of saying, "I want one Secretary of Defense; he's going to be the boss of the whole thing. I want one Chief of Staff and he's going to be the boss of the whole thing, I want you to work towards a common uniform, etc." I don't know. He gave them impossible goals, in a sense, which forced them to compromise on the possible.

So this legislation came down from the top. And then there were a lot of negotiations based on "Can you live with this," and "Can you live with that." There were always residual problems. I'm sure that there are plenty of residual problems now.

 

[27]

I remember the day that Forrestal was sworn in. I think the statute was passed in July '47, finally, that it provided that it should take effect sixty days after it was passed or when the first Secretary of Defense shall have qualified, which we worked out to coincide with something like the middle of September, or the latter part of September '47. Forrestal had a meeting of all the secretaries and all the Chiefs of Staff immediately after he was sworn in, and I was there. I had obtained Patterson's special assistant, John Ohly, whose name I have mentioned to you before, to participate because I didn't like the excessively Navy flavor, because the Secretary of Defense under the legislation had no Under Secretary and no Assistant Secretary. But he had three Special Assistants. Capital "S," capital "A." In the Government hierarchy that's more than if you have little "s", little "a".

He had three Special Assistants really in lieu of assistant secretaries. And those three were Jack Ohly, Wilfred McNeil and Marx Leva. And Jack Ohly was serving as the secretary and the recording secretary for this first meeting of what was then called the Armed Forces Policy Council--or the War Council actually--under the

 

[28]

1947 act. We had a very extensive agenda.

If you don't have that agenda you ought to get it somewhere from the records for your files, that agenda.

But Forrestal raised with General Eisenhower--the only thing I remember about the meeting he said, "Ike, are you sure that you really want to transfer tactical aviation to the Air Force?"

You know that was really like waving a red flag to a bull. Stuart Symington who was the Secretary of the Air Force said, "I'm not going to sit here and talk about anything like that. We've already made those deals." And so the subject was dropped for the time being; Forrestal kept coming back to it.

But there were hot issues and this is in part the answer to your question about the compromise that involved leaving naval aviation with the Navy but transferring ultimately transport, the naval air transport command, or the naval air transport service, to what we ultimately set up as the military air transport command, of which General Lawrence Kuter was the first head. It was a whole series, a rolling series of compromises I suppose. But that's how

 

[29]

that legislation evolved and more importantly how the implementation of the legislation evolved; which is something that you can't really separate from legislation itself.

HESS: During the period of time when you were Special Assistant and General Counsel to the Secretary of Defense which we have been discussing, '47 to '49, what other major duties or events come to mind?

LEVA: I sponsored a program of pulling together a unified legislative program for all of the armed forces. At the outset of unification it seemed to me that there were two things that you had to pull together very quickly: One was