Oral History Interview with
Frank Pace Jr.
Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney
General, Taxation Division, 1946; Executive Assistant to the U.S. Postmaster
General, 1946-48; Assistant Director, Bureau of the Budget, 1948-49; Director,
Bureau of the Budget, 1949-50; and Secretary of the Army, 1950-53.
New York, N. Y.
February 17, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Pace Oral History Transcripts]
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
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 It may not be published in full except by permission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.
Opened June, 1974
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Pace Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Frank Pace Jr.
New York, N. Y.
February 17, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Secretary, to begin today, we have discussed the meeting at
the Blair House on the night that Mr. Truman came back from Independence
and they were discussing what to do about the situation in Korea; but
at that time and in the meetings in the next couple of days, what was
Mr. Truman's attitude?
PACE: Well, Mr. Truman was an excellent administrator, and as I said
to you, he asked the opinion of everyone in the room without expressing
any opinion himself at all. After it was over, he summed up what was the
consensus of the group, asking if there was any disagreement with that
consensus. We said, "No." He said that fortunately this coincided with
his point of view, so there was no problem; but as I've said to you before,
Mr. Truman has always been thought of as a great politician; but what
few people understood was that he was a natural administrator. He was
a natural user of staff; he selected them with care, and then he relied
on them completely. This was again a perfect example of how Mr. Truman
operated. Now, if we had all reached a conclusion that was contrary to
his, he would have stated then his position and the reason why and asked
us to challenge it. But since they coincided, there was no need for it
HESS: Do you think that one of the reasons that he did not present his
views was that if he had done so, it might have inhibited others who felt
contrary to those views?
PACE: Oh, very clearly. Anyone who has been a top administrator knows
that if the boss speaks in advance
HESS: You'd better agree with the boss.
PACE: Not necessarily, but it does put a very major damper on the enthusiasm
with which you speak about a point.
HESS: During those meetings, do you recall if it was discussed whether
or not the Soviets might come in if we did take this move, if we went
PACE: Oh, yes, that was thoroughly discussed, and it was the conclusion
of most people involved that the Soviets would not come in. It
was the conclusion of all people involved that the Soviets would
not come in, but there were different shadings of concern about it. However,
it was agreed that if the Soviets did come in this really was something
that had to be faced and dealt with, because otherwise the impression
would be left with the Soviets that they could undertake any kind of initiative
anywhere in the world and we'd be afraid to counter it.
HESS: Do you recall if it was discussed at this early date whether or
not the Chinese Communists would come in?
PACE: No, that was not discussed. As a matter of fact, at least it was
not in my mind, and it was not a matter that was raised at all.
HESS: Some historians are of the opinion that the Soviets instigated
matters in Korea as a diversionary matter to get our attention away from
events in Europe?
PACE: No, I don't believe that's true. I believe that the Soviets did
not think that we would react to this action. They had come to the conclusion
that this was an isolated part of the world, that our basic interests
were not there, and that they were in a position, using North Koreans,
to go ahead and take over that whole area. I think there's a tendency
often to ascribe to your opponents either an intelligence or a quality
of planning that often isn't there. I think this was a very simple mistake
on their part as to how we would react.
HESS In your opinion, should the President have tried to get a joint
- congressional resolution to support this decision, to share the load
with Congress, in other words, such as was done in the Tonkin Gulf matter?
PACE: Yes, and I frankly said that to him.
HESS: What were the counter arguments, why wasn't that done?
PACE: I said this to him not at this meeting, but at a later time. He
said, "Frank, it's not necessary. They are all with me."
I said, "Yes, Mr. President, but we can't be sure that they'll be with
you over any period of time."
The matter never was raised as a matter of discussion at this larger
meeting. It just so happened that I had a very strong feeling that here
was a chance to very clearly get the support of the Congress at a time
when it was very necessary.
HESS: Did any others of the President's advisers also feel that same way?
PACE: I have no idea. It was not brought up...
HESS: In the main meeting. All right.
Jumping back just a little bit to Secretary Louis Johnson, what is your
opinion of the manner in which Louis Johnson acted to meet the problems
that arose at this time? How effective was he?
PACE: I did not feel that Louis Johnson was an effective Secretary of
Defense. I don't believe he paid attention to
the details of the Defense
operation. I don't believe he knew them deeply. I believe he overstated
our capabilities and our strengths prior to this. I don't believe he had
the breadth to grasp the totality of the problem that we faced.
HESS: He had been in the position since March of 1949, a little over
a year. Why was he appointed to this high post?
PACE: Well, obviously I don't know. That was not a matter to which I was privy.
HESS: Any opinions?
PACE: Well, Mr. Johnson was a top political figure in the Democratic
Party. He was a very persuasive man. I liked him personally.
HESS: He accepted the position as chairman of the finance committee in 1948 also.
PACE: That's right. I'm sure that in this regard Mr. Truman would never
give that important a position to a man just because he served in the
Democratic Party. I think he probably was personally over-impressed with
Mr. Johnson's capabilities.
HESS: Moving on to a dual subject of the landing at Inchon. This took
place on September 15. As you know, much has been
written about this.
There was a breakout of the Pusan perimeter from the column moving up
to the north, took a little while to break out. There were good, valid
reasons why good military men thought that an invasion at Inchon was ill
advised: The mud flats, the island that's out in front of Inchon, the
fact that there were other cities or other places where an invasion could
have been made; but nevertheless, General Mac Arthur's position did win
out, and it won out in glorious fashion. It's well-known that that's one
of the things he will be known for, the success at Inchon. What were your
views on that? Did you think that movement was a good idea?
PACE: Well, remember I came to the Defense Department in April of 1950.
The Korean war broke out in June and this was quite early on. I was not
a military expert in that sense, and therefore my views were really not
important on that phase of it. I do recall that the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
uniformly, thought it was a bad idea, and I think that they advised General
MacArthur of that feeling. I think that all I can say is that after it
was achieved, it made a very deep impression on me as to General Mac Arthur's
capability as a commanding general.
HESS: Just in general, what was your opinion of his capabilities?
PACE: Well, again, I knew nothing of him other than through what I had
read. His reputation, of course, was unique, and I accepted that. I must
say that whatever I thought about him was enhanced by Inchon.
HESS: One thing had come up about General MacArthur the previous month:
That deals with the letter that he wrote to the commander of the Veterans
of Foreign Wars in August. The letter really states his views of why Formosa
was so important, and as he called it, "the unsinkable aircraft tender,"
but it was in disagreement with Mr. Truman. Mr. Truman wanted the people
on Formosa to stay there. He sent the 7th Fleet down and said, you know,
"You fellows don't come over here; and you fellows don't go over there."
But at that time, the letter was contradictory to what Mr. Truman had
wanted to do for Formosa, and he said later that he should have fired
MacArthur then. He said that he was talked out of firing MacArthur at
that time. Do you recall anything--this is in August, this is before Inchon--do
you recall anything about Mr. Truman being talked out of firing MacArthur
during the month of August over a VFW letter?
PACE: No, no, I don't, although I would assume that if Mr. Truman was
talking about firing MacArthur, that people he probably talked to would
be General Marshall and Dean Acheson.
I don't think he would have called
us in. Certainly the matter was never one that I was aware of even.
HESS: In what I have read about it, he did not identify who he spoke
with. He said, "They talked me out of it." So, I didn't know who
PACE: I wasn't the "they."
HESS: You weren't that high up to be the "they."
PACE: No, I wasn't high enough to be the "they."
HESS: About this same time, Secretary Johnson resigned. He submitted
his resignation on September 12th. It was made effective on the 19th.
I understand that he had an address that he wanted to make, and so he
was left in the position until the 19th, the invasion coming on the 15th.
What is your opinion about the resignation of Louis Johnson? Why did that
PACE: Well, remember Mr. Johnson was under considerable attack for some
of the statements he had made about our readiness. The Korean war had
HESS: "Cutting the fat out of the Armed Forces."
PACE: "Cutting the fat out of the Armed Forces," and the Korean
not moved to the satisfaction of the public or the press or the Congress
at that particular juncture. And I believe--my own assumption, and this
I do not know, I'm giving you purely my assumption--is that Mr. Truman
felt he had to have somebody heavier in there running it, and I think
he sat down with Mr. Johnson and said that he felt with the war on he
needed someone who had had experience in this matter, and that he was
going to undertake to get General Marshall to take this over.
HESS: In your opinion, do you think Secretary Johnson had ambitions for
higher office? In other words, would he have liked to run for President?
PACE: I think this was not out of his mind.
HESS: Did you hear talk like that around the Pentagon, was it fairly
PACE: No, no, no, I wouldn't say that. I rather doubt that Mr. Johnson
talked about it, and I think that if anybody asked him about it, he would
have denied it. I knew Louis Johnson reasonably well. He was a proud man.
He was a West Virginian. A high-level political type. His background had
been law and politics and it would not be unusual that he might have thought
one day the lightning might strike. I don't think he thought
it was a very likely occurrence.
HESS: How good an administrator was he? If you had something to take
up with him, was he difficult to see, would things move if you went into
see him with a plan?
PACE: Well, no, I had no problem ever seeing Louis Johnson. He was very
kind where I was concerned. I don't think he had the confidence of the
military, and I think he was inclined to be a little erratic in his decision
making, and therefore I don't think the system worked very well. I don't
think he was a good administrator. A good administrator first wins the
confidence of the people who've got to administer for him. He did quite
the contrary. He was inclined to be arbitrary.
HESS: I also understand there was a good deal of conflict between him
and the Secretary of State, Mr. Acheson?
PACE: Yes, that's correct.
HESS: That may have played a part in his resignation.