Diary of Dwight D. Eisenhower

July 16, 1939

Have brought home a typewriter with the idea of using it hereafter in letter writing and in making these notes. Dictation to Filipino stenographers is not only frequently irritating and patience trying; it often prevents free expression of opinions because so many subjects seem to involve evaluation of racial characteristics. For a long time I’ve been trying to jot down an occasional note in longhand, but when I found the other day that in certain cases I could not decipher my own writing I decided the time had come to do something about it.

During May so many difficulties arose involving misunderstandings with, or at least, lack of effective contacts with Malacañan, that Secretary Vargas finally took the bull by the horns and insisted that I undertake my old liaison job. So now I go there every day.

While I doubt we can ever again get things running in their old time smoothness, we are at least spared many embarrassments and irritations that were habitual when our contacts with that office consisted only in seeing the papers that were sent to our office daily through a junior clerk.

A couple of weeks ago the General published a statement setting forth his views with respect to the “Jap” menace to the Philippines. So far as anyone could see there was no excuse for the outbreak except that Gov. McNutt had said, in support of his contention that the U.S. should hold on [to] the Islands, that upon independence they would immediately fall prey to the military might of the Japs. The General not only argued that the defenses of the islands would be effective; he rather pooh-poohed the possibility of a Japanese aggression in this region. TJ and I, as usual, recommended against breaking into print; as, as usual, to no effect. Locally, we have seen but one American newspaper comment on the statement. The N.Y. Tribune ridiculed it. When he was insisting that his statement HAD to be published the General discounted the idea that the possibility of antagonizing Mr. McNutt would have any effect on his acknowledged political ambitions because he had decided that the High Commissioner was not going anywhere, and, he concluded, the statement would be acclaimed locally among the politicians; renewing his own popularity and cementing his hold upon his job.

A week after the above incident the news came out that Gov. McNutt had accepted an important political job at home under the auspices of the New Deal. This act, in the General’s opinion, immeasurably strengthened the Gov’s political standing, so, post-haste he got off a flowery letter of congratulations, hoping desperately the Gov. would not read anything personal in his argumentative statement of a week earlier.

Two days ago the evening broadcast contained an item to the effect that Congressman Kennedy was recommending to Pres. Roosevelt the appointment of the Gen. as High Commissioner. Burning to secure some political job that would restore the power, prestige and face that he has lost during the past four years through ego, laziness and stupidity the Gen. immediately undertook, characteristically, some of the machinations that he conceives to be clever. He wired Steve Early, Congressman Van Zandt, and Simpson, a newspaper man, asking their support.

Since the wires went through the department (by no chance would he spend the money for commercial dispatch) every officer of the Dept. Staff will immediately know that he is in the position of importuning for a job. Assuming that he will not get it, although it is perfectly true that four years ago the Pres. announced to him an intention of making the appointment at that time, there will be an additional number of people here who will feel entitled to sneer at his connivings, and will read, between the lines, that he is getting fearful and discontented in his present job. It’s his business, exclusively, but I get exceedingly tired of defending him in front of personal critics for words and deeds that I consider as stupid as they do. Ho-hum.

One reason that the Military Adviser’s post has lost for him some of its former attractiveness is continued proof that he is losing influence and prestige, that no longer may he announce an arbitrary decision and see it accepted as the law of the Medes and Persians by the President and the Army. Almost four years ago poor old Jim and I tried to make him see that the price of staying at the top of the heap was eternal watchfulness and, above all, so conducting himself and his job as to inspire confidence and a dependence upon him for important information and decisions. We begged him to arrange a weekly meeting with the President, so that there would not grow up a tendency on the part of the President to depend upon others. He ridiculed us. He was then riding so high that his favorite description of himself was the “Elder Statesman”. He informed us that it was not in keeping with the dignity of his position for him to report once a week to Malacañan.

While I was home last summer the Scout question came to the fore once more, and the General’s decisions and attitude were so unsatisfactory to the Scouts that many of them left us and went back to the American Army. At that time he succeeded in working up the President to the point where the latter believed in a “scout cabal seeking the eventual seizure of the government a la Cuba!” So–with a supposedly decisive victory, one that clearly re-established his power and prestige, the General felt that all was clear on his horizon. But the Scouts did not quit… As time went on they kept dinning away until the Pres. got another slant on the whole affair. Finally in a public speech, that is, it was public so far as the officers of the Army were concerned, the Pres. announced that he was misinformed as to the fact at the time he expressed a desire to get rid of the Scouts, that he had acted hastily, that he regretted his statements and decisions of that time and he would seek to correct them. The General was present when all this was said, and I think it was really the first time that he clearly realized how far we had come from the days when the merest expression of his “professional opinion” served to enlist enthusiastic and universal support for any and all of his schemes.

Of course, to those of us that were close to events, and not concerned with our own future fortunes, nor blinded by illusions of glittering grandeur the trend had been plainly visible for months. But such indications as had come to the Gen. previously had, in his opinion, been discernable to no one else, consequently he had, he thought, lost no FACE. For a man of his type, the answer was to ignore them. This he did… but now, under the lash of practically public repudiation on a particular incident, he writhes. Just as, in his own mind, he was formerly higher in public prestige and official position than he was in reality (although lord knows he was high enough) so now he really believes himself to be closer to disaster than he is. Mr. Q. is not going to let him go… he cannot afford to except as a voluntary act on the part of the Gen. or as a result of almost open insubordination. He, the Pres., has too often tied his administration and his govt. to the PLANS and ADVICE of the Gen., and done this publicly and emphatically, to cut him suddenly adrift.

And that is enough of all that.

A few weeks ago I received WD orders to go to Ft. Lewis upon expiration of my tour. The question of the official terminating date was taken directly to the CoS by the AG, according to personal advices from Jim Ulio,  and it was decided to shorten my tour to November at the latest. I was further authorized, if I could arrange with local officials, to come home in August. All this came about as a result of letters I wrote to Jim Ulio, because for many reasons Mamie and I were looking with longing eyes to our return date. It turned out to be impracticable to get away in August, but we are going in November.

John’s schooling presented a problem, but we finally agreed to keep him right here and bring him home with us in the fall.

We are delighted with the Ft. Lewis prospect. We believe we’ll like the place thoroughly. Be a little tough to give up 500 dollars a month… but that had to end soon anyway.

 

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