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Chapter V
Establishment of the Historical Division, War Department Special Staff

 

The circumstances that led to the change of status of the historical organization from a branch of G-2 headed by a colonel to a War Department Special Staff headed by a major general involved more than a threatened cut of personnel. It will be recalled that the original decision to place the historical activity under G-2 was based largely on expediency. G-2 had accepted the historical responsibility reluctantly, since the preparation of history seemed far removed from the agency's primary task of collecting, collating and evaluating intelligence. In 1944 serious consideration had been

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given to transferring the Branch to the Operations Division (OPD), to permit access to OPD records.1

As a result of G-2's lack of interest in the historical program, the Branch had to get along as best it could with a minimum of assistance. Its status, so aptly described by Colonel [Allen F.] Clark, was that of "a weak struggling subordinate agency appended to the colossus which was G-2 [it was] too far down the hierarchy."2 What the Branch needed from G-2 was vigorous, positive help in fighting its battle for recognition as an important part of the war effort. What it got was considerably less. Indeed, there were times when reactions of G-2 to requests of the Historical Branch for assistance seemed to reflect an attitude occasionally

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encountered in outside agencies: "Don't bother us. We have a war to win."3

While the war lasted the Historical Branch had no occasion to make an issue of its submerged position. But when peace came, the situation changed. Now that the war was won, the vast organization that had been built up to win it would have to be contracted. But the coming of peace required an increase of historical activities. Records had to be assembled and analyzed. Historians had to be found to pre-pare studies of essential phases of the war effort not previously provided for. Narratives in progress had to be completed, reviewed, edited, and published or otherwise disposed of. To meet its enlarged responsibilities the Historical Branch needed to be expanded, no cut. But those charged with reducing the size of the War Department organization were slow to realize the exceptional nature of the

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historical activity, and G-2, instead of helping to win them over, worked in the opposite direction.

When the War Department Manpower Board in June 1945 made recommendations for a cut in the Military Intelligence Division, the proposed reduction was sent to G-2 for comment. Ten of the eleven positions recommended for elimination from the division were in the Historical Branch. G-2, though arguing against reductions in all other parts of its organization, wrote not a word of protest against the heavy cut proposed for the Historical Branch. Nor did it give the Historical Branch an opportunity to comment on the recommendation of the Manpower Board. Not until August did Colonel Clark learn how the recommendation had been handled. When apprised of what had happened his reaction was immediate. "From that moment," he wrote later, "it was clear that we would have to get out from under G-2 as soon as possible, or the decrease in strength would put the Historical Division completely out of commission."4

Colonel Clark's first step, after talking over the crisis with Dr. Wright, Colonel Taylor, and other members of the Branch, was to call on James Phinney Baxter, Chairman of the Advisory Committee, for advice and assistance. Dr. Baxter in turn invoked the aid of the Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy, who suggested to the Deputy Chief of Staff on 18 August that representatives of the Manpower Board and the Historical Branch review the Branch's personnel needs and that

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recommendations based on these discussions be submitted through G-2 to the Deputy Chief of Staff.5

Mr. McCloy's suggestion was adopted and the G-2 memorandum, prepared in the Historical Branch, that went to the Deputy Chief of Staff later in the month stated that the demands on the Branch were growing and recommended an increase of the personnel allotment to fifty-eight. This was twelve more than the strength authorized before the Manpower Board's proposed cut.6

This move put the personnel problem on the road to solution.7 To

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consider the question of relocating the Army's historical activities, a meeting of the Advisory Committee was held on 20 August. Two days later Dr. Baxter, the chairman, submitted a report to the Assistant Secretary of War urging the continuance and expansion of the historical program and recommending the transfer of the historical agency from the Military Intelligence Division. Reasons given for the proposed transfer were the dissimilarity of historical and intelligence activities and the need of higher position in the War Department hierarchy for the historical organization. Enhanced status was desirable, the committee stated, not only for prestige but also in the interest of a frank and unbiased history. The committee recommended making the historical organization a separate branch of the General Staff Secretariat, or, if this should be impracticable, creating a historical division in the War Department Special Staff.8

Mr. McCloy, passing the committee's report on to General Marshall, endorsed its personnel proposals but made no comment on the recommended transfer of the Historical Branch from G-2.9

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Colonel Clark now went at the problem from another angle. Since V-J Day he had been at work on a comprehensive staff study for submission to G-2. This study reviewed the current state of the historical program and outlined action that was needed to assure its successful completion. It also suggested that the time had come to consider the peacetime mission of the Historical Branch and its eventual position in the War Department organization. The Advisory Committee's recommendation of 22 August gave Colonel Clark a convenient means of emphasizing the relocation of the Historical Branch. He suggested that thought be given to consolidating the Historical Branch and the Historical Section of the Army War College into a single historical agency in the War Department and appended to his study a copy of the Advisory Committee's report. The appended document apparently gave the Assistant Chief of Staff, G-2, Maj. Gen. Clayton Bissell, his first knowledge of the move to transfer the historical organization from the Military Intelligence Division.10

In 1948, looking back on his efforts three years before to pry the Historical Branch out of G-2, Colonel Clark remarked: "I had naively assumed that General Bissell would be delighted to get rid of us. Such was far from the case. On the 10th of September he called me down to his office. He made it exceedingly uncomfortable for me,

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making it plain that he felt that I had not been loyal to him . I was amazed at his reaction."11

General Bissell subsequently had a conference with Dr. Baxter at which he protested so vehemently against the Advisory Committee's recommendation to transfer the Historical Branch from G-2 that Baxter withdrew the proposal.12

Colonel Clark was now convinced that there was no hope of obtaining approval for transfer of the Branch through military channels. After a conference with Dr. Baxter and the Chief Historian he decided, reluctantly, that in order to neutralize G-2's opposition and accomplish the end desired it would be necessary to utilize the direct access that the Advisory Committee had to Mr. McCloy's office.13

The Advisory Committee held another meeting on 24 October. In the report that it submitted to the Assistant Secretary of War, the committee registered strong approval of the work that had been done

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by the Historical Branch and discussed in detail the organization and location of the historical activity in the peacetime military establishment.14

In this report the committee restated the view that the Army's historical and intelligence missions were too diverse to be effectively combined in the same staff organization. After defining in broad terms and at considerable length the character of the historical mission, the committee added:

The historical function should be exercised by an agency which possesses position and personnel commensurate with its responsibility. Such an agency cannot wisely be attached to any existing division of the General or Special Staff because this location would inevitably restrict the angle of vision of the historian. Since existing staff divisions already have their established and normal functions, the commanding officer of any division would have to divide his attention between these functions and history.15 The committee went on to point out the danger that history would become a stepchild if placed in any of the existing staff divisions and thus forced to assume the major portion of any cuts in funds or personnel. Owing to these considerations the committee stated as its
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inevitable conclusion that "the historical agency should be entirely independent of any other and should be located at the highest possible level."16

Instead of renewing its proposal of 22 August to place the historical agency in the Secretariat of the General Staff, the Advisory Committee now recommended the Office of the Secretary of War as the most desirable location. (Judge Patterson had in late September replaced Stimson as Secretary of War.) This revision of attitude was caused by the belief that the Secretary's office would provide conditions most likely to produce broadly conceived and impartial narratives of both the military and the civilian agencies of the War Department. Location in the Secretary's office would also be conducive to effective supervision of the historical program throughout the Army. The committee indicated the Office of the Assistant Secretary of War as an acceptable second choice for location of the historical organization. If neither of these offices should be deemed suitable, the committee suggested creation of a separate division in the General Staff for the historical activity. The committee added the recommendation that, wherever located, the historical organization should be headed by "a distinguished general officer to assure harmonious co-operation with all Army agencies."17

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Colonel Clark, when given a copy of the committee's report, did not follow the usual procedure of sending it to G-2. On the very day that the committee drew up its report, Mr. Baxter took it to Mr. McCloy's office. The Assistant Secretary was absent from Washington, but before his departure he had been informed by Baxter of what was going on and had left instructions with Colonel Ammi Cutter, one of his assistants, as to the disposition of the report if it should come in while he was away. On receipt of the report from Dr. Baxter, Colonel Cutter forwarded it to Brig. Gen. Edward S. Greenbaum, Mr. Patterson's executive, with the notation that he was acting in accordance with "our recent conversations on the subject," that he personally regarded the committee's proposal as sound, and that Mr. McCloy would "be even more sympathetic with the two alternative proposals now advanced by Dr. Baxter in whom I know he places great confidence."18

General Greenbaum promptly sent the report to Dr. Troyer Anderson, historian for the Under Secretary's office, for comment. It seems reasonable to assume that Dr. Anderson had already been informed of the report and the developments that had led to it. Be that as it may, he strongly endorsed the committee's proposal that the historical

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organization be given a high position in the War Department organization.19

The committee's report, strengthened by the comments of Colonel Cutter and Dr. Anderson, was now presented by General Greenbaum to Secretary of War Patterson. The Secretary told General Greenbaum that, while he approved removal of the historical organization from G-2, he considered a separate section in the War Department Special Staff to be the best location for it. He also suggested postponement of action in the matter until the Assistant Secretary came back to Washington.20

When Mr. McCloy returned to his office in late October, he promptly considered the Advisory Committee's report and the various comments that had been made on it. On 7 November he recommended to the Secretary of War the establishment of a War Department Special Staff division to take over the Army's historical activity. Mr. Patterson approved the recommendation on 9 November 1945, directed the Chief of Staff to issue the necessary instructions, and requested him, after consultation with the Offices of the Secretary and Assistant Secretary of War, to select a suitable general officer to head the new organization.

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In anticipation of favorable action on the Advisory Committee's report Colonel Clark and Dr. Wright had already taken steps to find a suitable chief for the Historical Division.21 The officer on whom they decided, after mutually agreeable conversations with him, was Maj. Gen. Edwin F. Harding, a respected veteran of the war in the Pacific who recently had been made chief of the Historical Section of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.22 Wright and Clark told Dr. Baxter of their favorable impressions of Harding and through Baxter their views were conveyed to Mr. McCloy.23 On 7 November McCloy recommended Harding to Mr. Patterson and two days later the Secretary of War suggested Harding's appointment to the Chief of Staff. General Harding became Chief of the Historical Division on 17 November 1945.24

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While action leading to the establishment of the Historical Division was pending, Colonel Clark had been walking a tight rope in his relations with G-2. As he saw it, his own future in the army was seriously imperiled. General Bissell, after giving unmistakable evidence of his displeasure with Clark, had informed him, in a manner that precluded his passing the information on to Wright or Baxter, that Colonel Kemper was being ordered back from Italy for assignment to the Historical Branch. Kemper's recall was explained on the basis of Clark needing his help. But Clark was certain that Kemper, whose prospective assistance he welcomed, actually was being brought back to replace him.25

General Bissell left on a trip to South America shortly after the Advisory Committee's meeting of 24 October 1945. Clark knew that the best hope of accomplishing the removal of the Historical Branch from G-2 depended on completion of arrangements for the transfer before Bissell's return. The diary that Clark kept during his connection with the historical organization reveals that he was in a state of considerable anxiety and suspense while awaiting final word on the fate of the historical organization. On the morning of 13 November General [John] Weckerling, General Bissell's executive, who was acting G-2 during his chief's absence, called Clark to his office

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to talk over the Advisory Committee's report, which Baxter had sent to G-2 after Bissell's departure from Washington. Weckerling asked Clark to see what he could find out by informal means about the status of the committee's recommendation. When Colonel Taylor, at Clark's request, telephoned Colonel Cutter for the information desired by Weckerling, he was asked to come to Cutter's office. There he was given a copy of the Secretary of War's directive establishing the Historical Division, but at the same time he was advised that existence of the directive should be kept in confidence. This admonition, of course, prevented Colonel Clark from reporting back to Weckerling as requested. Official knowledge of the directive, removing the injunction to secrecy, was not received in the Branch until about 16 November. Thus, as Clark later recorded the incident, "the Historical Division of the Special Staff became a fait accompli just in time to save my neck on Bissell's return from South America."26

The Chief of Staff's directive, formally promulgated on 17 November 1945, stated: "Effective immediately, there is established a Historical Division, War Department Special Staff. The functions, records, personnel, office space, and equipment previously assigned to the

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Historical Branch, Military Intelligence Division, G-2 are transferred to the Historical Division."27 Thus the historical organization had won its first great fight for survival and the authority needed to carry out its mission. Shortly afterward Colonel Clark departed on a long-postponed inspection of historical activities in Europe.

 

NOTES

1. Memo for Record, Kemper, 7 Apr 44, sub: Transfer of Historical Branch, 020 CMH (30 Aug 43) (Establishment, Organization, and Function of Historical Branch, G-2), OCMH file.
2. Clark Report, p. 9.
3. This statement is based mainly on a study of the Clark Diary and the Clark Report. The latter source, p. 10, states: "General Bissell, who was G-2 paid little attention to what we were doing, except on rare occasions when he happened to notice a cable coming or going from our office. Brigadier General Weckerling, his Deputy was interested in our program. [He] was not too bad. We got along and managed to achieve something with his help and in spite of him."
4. Clark Diary, 11 Aug 45; Clark Report, p. 17.
5. Louis Morton, The Establishment of the Historical Division, WDSS: The Struggle for Survival, pp. 4-5, OCMH files. This is a manuscript study prepared by Dr. Morton in August 1952, cited hereafter as Morton Study.
6. Morton Study, p. 5.
7. Approval of the committee's recommendation for a personnel increase was obtained by Dr. Baxter with General Bissell on 14 September 1945. Morton Study, p. 8.
8. Ibid., p. 7.
9. Ibid., p. 13.
10. Clark Report, pp. 24-25; Morton Study, pp. 9-10.
11. Clark Report, p. 25.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Ibid., p. 27; Morton Study.
15. Memo, Baxter for Asst Secy of War, 24 Oct 45, quoted in Morton Study, pp. 23-24.
16. Ibid.
17. Morton Study, p. 24.
18. Ibid., p. 25.
19. Morton Study, p. 26.
20. Ibid., p. 27.
21. Clark Diary, 30 and 31 Oct 45.
22. Ibid.; Morton Study, p. 28.
23. Morton Study, p. 29; Memo, Secy of War for CofS, U.S. Army, 9 Nov 45, HIS 020 O/C Mil His (9 Nov 45).
24. WD Chief of Staff Memo, WDCSA 314.8 (17 Nov 45) for WDGS and others, 17 Nov 45, sub: Establishment of Hist Div, WDSS, His 020 O/C Mil His (9 Nov 45).
25. Clark Diary, various entries in September 1945, but especially those of 10 and 26 September.
26. Clark Diary, 13 Nov 45; Clark Report, p. 28; Morton Study, pp. 29-30.
27. WD Chief of Staff Memo, WDCSA 314.8 (17 Nov 45), for WDGS and others, 17 Nov 45, sub: Establishment of Hist Div, WDSS, His 020 O/C Mil His (9 Nov 45).

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