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Frank Pace Jr. Oral History Interview, February 25, 1972

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.

Washington D. C.
February 25, 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 word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
Independence, Missouri

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Oral History Interview with
Frank Pace Jr.

Washington D. C.
February 25, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: All right, Mr. Secretary, we are up to and through the dismissal of General MacArthur, and in September of 1951, General Marshall retired, but just a couple of questions on him. You mentioned that you met with him before the trip to Wake Island. What did he say at that time; did he make any comments about General MacArthur that we should record?

PACE: No. No, really my more significant meeting with General Marshall--I did meet with him before I left--but my more significant meeting was after we came back.

HESS: Tell me about that.

PACE: Well, I came into his office and I said, "General Marshall, General MacArthur says the war will be over by Thanksgiving and the troops home by Christmas."

Well, he said, "Pace, that's troublesome."

Well, I said, "Sir, you must not have heard me, I said, the war would be over by Thanksgiving and the troops home by Christmas."

He said, "I heard you, but," he said, "too precipitate an end to the war would not permit us to have a full understanding of the problems that we face ahead of us."


And I said, "But General Marshall, do you mean by that that the American People would not have fully had an opportunity to grasp the implications of the cold war?"

He said, "I certainly do."

But I said, "General Marshall this has been a very, very difficult and extensive war from the American People's point of view."

"Yes," he said, "I know, Pace, but you didn't live through the end of World War II the way I did, and watch people rush back to their civilian jobs and leave the tanks to rot in the Pacific and the military strength that was built up to fade away."

I said, "I know, General Marshall, but a great deal of water has passed under the bridge since then." I said, "Would you say I was naive if I said that the American people had learned their lesson?" And he looked at me with those cold blue eyes and he said, "No, Pace, I wouldn't say you were naive, I'd say you were incredibly naive."

HESS: So he thought we should keep up our guard longer even if the war did end at that time.

PACE: That is correct, I think he felt that there was an inherent disposition on the part of the American people to assume that


all would go well. We were an optimistic people and that once a war was over, we wanted to get back to peaceful pursuit, and it was not a natural tendency on our part to keep our guard up.

HESS: Did he seem to accept General Mac Arthur' s appraisal of the situation that the war might be over by Thanksgiving, and the troops might come back? Or was he skeptical about that?

PACE: No, if he was skeptical about that he did not indicate that he was skeptical about it. I believe that he had a high respect for General MacArthur as a military commander. I think their differences were differences in personal attitudes and approaches. And I believe that he felt that General MacArthur was on the ground, close to the situation and able to evaluate it. I don't think that he challenged that decision.

HESS: Did you ever hear General Marshall articulate any of those differences that he may have had with General MacArthur?

PACE: Not in specific terms. In general conversation it was clear that he had concerns about General Mac Arthur' s inner drive, his egocentricity. But General Marshall was not a man to talk about other men; he just didn't do it. What I'm


saying to you is the kind of impression one would gain, but to specifically say this or that about a General--he just wasn't that kind of a man.

HESS: What seemed to be his views in March and April when it looked like serious difficulties were going to arise between the President and General MacArthur? What seemed to be Marshall's views then?

PACE: Well, I am reasonably sure that General Marshall played a very compelling part in the President's determination to relieve General MacArthur.

HESS: I have read, and I believe Mr. Truman has written along these lines, that when he asked his advisers if he should dismiss General MacArthur, General Marshall was the only one who hesitated, and he took some papers home and looked over them and came in the next morning and agreed with the President that that had to be done. Have you heard that story?

PACE: I have and I can believe that it would be accurate. I believe that General Marshall, because he honestly did not basically, himself, like General MacArthur as a person, would be doubly careful about making any recommendation for his dismissal.

Over and beyond that I think General Marshall, of all


advisers, would have been peculiarly aware of the danger to the nation as a whole of the dismissal of an extremely popular American commander, almost a legendary figure. So I can understand, and would believe, although I do not know this to be true, that General Marshall would have acted exactly like that, but I am also quite sure that when he came in after that consideration, and agreed that the President could move without hesitation and without personal concern.

HESS: General Marshall retired, again, in September of 1951 and was replaced by Mr. Robert A. Lovett, who had been his deputy.

PACE: Right.

HESS: What is your evaluation of the manner in which Mr. Lovett handled the position as Secretary of Defense.

PACE: Oh, Mr. Lovett was an enormously broad-gauged man. He had many of the qualities of General Marshall, a sense of history, a sense of perspective, an overall top man.

If I were to differentiate I would say that General Marshall tended to be more incisive, that the course to be taken was much clearer to General Marshall than to Mr. Lovett and that the decision-making process moved much more quickly and cleanly. I don't want to say this in derogation of


Mr. Lovett, because I've made clear before that I thought General Marshall was possibly the most remarkable person that I had a close association with in my life. And quite obviously if you feel that way, nobody is going to quite come up to it.

I want to say that I think Mr. Lovett was an exceptionally fine Secretary of Defense, but I believe that General Marshall had an incisiveness, and a sense of how to manage an administrative process, that was greater than Mr. Lovett's. Also historically, Mr. Lovett had been a number two man to General Marshall, both in the State Department and in the Department of Defense, whereas General Marshall had for many years been a number one man accustomed to making hard decisions after careful consideration.

HESS: The truce that was established in Korea, was established of course, after the Republicans came in. Do you think that it would have been possible for Mr. Truman to have reached somewhat the same agreements with the Communists before the election? Could he have ended the war on the same terms, or as favorable of terms, as General Eisenhower did?

PACE: I remember that there was a great deal of belief on the part of people who had served in the Defense Establishment that that was true, that Mr. Eisenhower had merely used the circumstance to achieve a settlement that Mr. Truman was


not prepared to accept. I can't honestly say that that was true. Mr. Eisenhower came in with great prestige, he was the newly elected President, he was a new figure in old and unsatisfactory discussion of...

HESS: And during the campaign, he had used the phrase "If elected I will go to Korea."

PACE: That's right. That is correct. So, you're asking me a highly speculative question, I answer it in the vein that it is speculative, but my instinct is I doubt Mr. Truman could have achieved the same settlement. I would say to you that I am not sure that if the same settlement could have been achieved Mr. Truman would have accepted it.

HESS: Were there negotiations going on in the background that the general public did not know about with the Communists, to try to reach a settlement?

PACE: If there were I was not aware of it.

HESS: Your counterparts in the other services who served in the same period of time that you did, were Francis P. Matthews, and Dan Kimball at the Navy Department, and Thomas K. Finletter who served as Secretary of the Air Force for the entire period that you were Secretary of the Army.


PACE: That is correct.

HESS: Just what is your general evaluation of those men and how effective were they in their positions? First, Mr. Matthews.

PACE: Frank Matthews I do not believe ever fully mastered the whole requirements of the Navy or the military process. I don't remember, but I believe that he was not there for a very long period of time, and I would have to say that during the period he was there I did not feel that he made a basic impact on the Navy.

HESS: He took over at the time that Secretary Sullivan...