Diary of Dwight D. Eisenhower

November 15, 1939

The typewriter is too intricate for me.

The date of our going has been definitely fixed as Dec. 13, sailing on the SS Pres. Cleveland. Our freight will go on the S.S. “Capillo”, direct to Seattle. We should reach Ft. Lewis about Jan. 7.

I have been trying to turn over all work to others in the office, especially since the arrival of two new assistants from the States; Lt. Col. Richard Marshall, Q.M.C., and Maj. Tom Dunckel, F.A. Both seem to be very able, and I believe that Dunckel is outstanding! My efforts to free myself of official tasks, in order that I can take care of personal affairs, have been futile. The Gen. seems to find more and more things he wants me to do personally. While at Malacañan there have been a hundred odd jobs to complete. General MacA. has been particularly pleasant. I’ve written several statements for him, including a 13-minute speech that was recorded for possible future use, by the NBC, and he’s been lavish in his praise of them. Actually they are the same old platitudes on Phil. defense, dressed up in only slightly new language. But so long as any sentence puts a good face on his “plan,” or uses resounding language in support of his views, it is perfect, so far as he is concerned. His consuming desire for favorable publicity is going to give him a hard bump  some day–or I miss my guess.

The President, and his Malacañan assistants appear to be genuinely sorry that I am going. I hope they are sincere, but the Malay mind is still a sealed book to me. They may be secretly delighted. However, I’m tempted to believe them, if for no other reason than the number of times my advice has been sought lately–often on subjects that are not connected with the Army.

Recently a Department of National Defense was established. There were certain ridiculous aspects, or at least amusing,  to this incident. I’m not sure I’ve ever entered in these sketchy notes anything at all on this subject so I’ll outline the development.

A couple of years ago the President first expressed an intention of establishing such a department. Upon hearing of this the Gen. was greatly disturbed, because he feared that a Sec. of Nat. Defense would tend to supplant him as the Chief Military Official in the govt. and so lessen his prestige and endanger his job. In fact, when the rumor first made its appearance the General flatly stated to the office gang, “If a Sec. of Nat. Def. is appointed, I will immediately resign.” He sought an interview with the President and, at that time, succeeded in having the matter dropped.

However, in the summer sessions of the Assembly in 1938 (I was in the States) (or possibly the actual passing of the law was in the fall of 1938) the President authorized the enactment of a law establishing two Departments–Public Health and Defense. It was provided that both should be set up before the end of the President’s term, in 1941. The General felt temporarily safe, since he said he had the promise of Malacañan that no action would be taken on the Defense Dept. until the summer of 1941.

When I returned from the States I heard immediately that the President’s mind was made up and that he was soon going to select a Secretary and appoint him. I reported this to the General and advised him that if he still felt so strongly about the matter he should exert himself without delay before further publicity was given to the matter, and especially before any individual was notified as to his impending selection. He pooh-poohed the accuracy of my information saying he had the situation under full control.

When I resumed my former duties at Malacañan, about May 1, 1939, I constantly ran into evidence that something was going to be done along this line. I brought it again and again to the Gen.’s attention, but for the first time he refused to show fright in the face of unpleasant news. He just didn’t believe it.

Suddenly the Pres. made a public announcement of what he had in mind, and the Gen. raged to us in the office. He said he’d dissolve the mission and didn’t like it at all when I reminded him there was no mission; that he was a retired officer working for Manuel Quezon, and the rest of us were officers to the Dept. Commander’s staff, and loaned by the U.S. Govt. to the Pres. of the Commonwealth. He then pointedly requested me (and later Sutherland) to go with him to the Pres. to protest against the announced intention. I told him that, of course, I’d go with him, but that my comments (if called upon) would be confined to expressing a conviction as to the usefulness of the office,  but that personally, I had nothing otherwise against it. Certainly, I told him, it doesn’t affect the work that I do for the Commonwealth,  one way or another. I further advised him that since his objections were personal, based upon his prestige, face and desires,  that he should seek a personal, confidential conference with the Pres., to have the matter out. This he decided to do.

He immediately called up for a date with the Pres. but received a very evasive reply from the aide. That afternoon he couldn’t stand it longer so he took poor old Hutter and went to Malacañan. He went at an hour when he could find no one on the job, but he sent Hutter, who is an habitué of the Palace, on a detailed search. Hutter found the Pres. asleep and when this invasion of his privacy was later reported to Q. by underlings he got furious.

However, the Gen. hung around until finally he got an appointment and, according to him, had a most satisfactory talk.

We heard no more about the matter for some little time, but suddenly, another definite, and public, announcement was made by Q. in which he even named the man he was going to make Sec. of Nat. Defense (Sison).

Seeing he was licked the General now executed another of his amazing “about faces.” He simply sat down and wrote a memo to the Pres., a long memo, urging the setting up of the Dept. of Nat. Defense. Soon the appointment was made, and on the surface, all was lovely. The moral is–they can’t make him give up that job, no matter what they do!!

Dozens of entertainments in the nature of despedidas have been arranged for Mamie and me. It’s all very gratifying but is likely to be hard on Mamie, who cannot stand much running around.

More gratifying is a message from Mr. Vargas, to the effect that, with the authority of the President, he is arranging a bonus for me upon departure, equal to two months pay (not including my hotel allowances). That is most pleasing, not only to the pocketbook, but as evidence that the govt. really regrets my departure. In this connection the Gen., in spite of our many dirty fights, has expressed the same views. But when I remember his parting conversation just before I went to the States in ’38, and what he tried to do to me while I was gone, I simply cannot believe him.

I’m leaving in a day or two for a last inspection trip to the south. And and I are going in the Beechcraft.

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