Diary of Dwight D. Eisenhower

April 5, 1939–April 17, 1939

Several days ago the President called me personally to the phone, about 6:30 P.M., asking me to come immediately to Malacañan. This was on the evening of March 28. We had a 3 hour talk; Secretary Vargas was present. Many things were troubling him, and after making it clear to him that I recognized his right to question me, since he is the only chief I have on this job, except as he delegates his functions to another, I told him I would give him my personal convictions and any information I might have –on any military subject. He warned me that the conversation was to be considered secret.

He opened the talk by asking me whether or not it was improper for the G.S. (through its chief) making to him any recommendation it might choose to make on a military subject. I, of course, said “No–that one of the functions of the G.S. was to develop policy, and where these required such action, to submit them to him for approval.” He then showed me a letter, written in the G.S. and apparently intended for his consideration. On this letter appeared an endorsement, signed by Sutherland, stating that the subject was one outside the purview of G.S. responsibility and would therefore be withdrawn from consideration by that body. I stalled a bit–and then told him, “Certain broad policies, it is assumed, have been permanently established by the highest general staff, namely the President himself in consultation with his Military Adviser. In such cases it was probably wise to prevent constant agitation of the question in the G.S. or elsewhere, as tending only to confuse, and, in any event, wasting time and effort.”

He acknowledged some force to this argument but said, “But why am I denied an opportunity even to see the arguments on another side of that question?” I replied that that was a matter between him and his Mil. Adv.

He then asked me whether the production of a good officer corps was one of our real problems. The answer to that was obvious. Then he asked, “If that is so, why did we plunge into the mass training of enlisted reservists before we had the officers, at a time when we knew we did not have them, to do the job with reasonable efficiency?” To this I shot back, “Because you directed it, in the spring of 1936. The original plan contemplated the calling of only 3000 trainees in Jan., 1937, and, so Col. Ord & I were informed, you decided to raise this to 20,000, after consultation with the Mil. Adv.” He replied that he had not made such a decision, and had been, from the start, opposed to the idea of rushing too rapidly into the training of enlisted reservists. I told him I could throw no more light on the subject,  and that if he’d examine the records of 1936 he could easily substantiate my statements. One piece of direct evidence, I told him, was that for 1936 we had asked for only 350,000 pesos for construction, a sum which could not begin to supply the shelter and so on needed for 20,000 men. I informed him, further, that the reasons given to Col. Ord and me for this change was that he, the President, believed the psychological reaction of the people would be bad if only a small number of trainees was inducted promptly after the first registration of military manpower. He just said, “I never heard of such a thing.”

Then he said, “If it is possible, I’m going to correct that mistake now! I’m going to call fewer trainees, and devote more money to officer development.”

It then came out that his distrust of our present corps of officers was based on the results of several courts-martial. He considers, properly, that these courts have condoned offenses for which dismissal, and even prison sentences, would have been appropriate. He cited several instances. I explained to the Pres,, in detail, that I no longer was concerned in any personnel or administrative matter. I explained General MacA’s famous “re-organization” order of Oct. 14, which relieved me as his C. of S., and placed in my hands planning, training, etc. The President expressed great astonishment–and wanted to know why! I replied I did not know but it developed that one of his reasons for sending for me was because he assumed that due to my experience here, and so on, I was General MacA’s chief assistant for all functions. I disabused his mind.

He speculated whether or not the decision to call 20,000 men in 1937 (total of 40,000 for the year) was based upon Gen’s desire to be Field Marshal, with the resultant idea that it would be a good thing to get some soldiers under arms so the appointment would have some basis in logic. He said he bitterly opposed the appointment, although he did not say he opposed it openly to General MacA. He did say that the incident made his government look ridiculous!! I was astounded, since General MacA’s account of the same affair was exactly the opposite already related, I think, in these notes. Somebody certainly has lied!!! The Gen. said he accepted the appointment with great reluctance, and only because refusal would have mortally offended the Pres.!! Wow!!

A dozen other related subjects were brought up and the Pres.  discussed all in a manner that I thought showed a fine, thoughtful mind,  and a much keener insight into some things of questionable validity than one would suppose if he listened only to talk in this office.

I told the Pres. I wanted to go home. The matter was not discussed in detail, but he expressed the hope I’d stay until next year.

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