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J. ARNOLD, S. SINTON, illustrated by DARKO PAVLOVIC
Leahy now held a powerful position, greatly enhanced by his close relationship with Roosevelt. He met with Roosevelt daily, vetted which military men saw the president and which military issues received the president's attention, and attended most of the major wartime conferences with the various Allies. He was a central figure at the highest level of the military chain of command. Because he invariably sided with Roosevelt, the JCS members came to think of him as "one of them" as opposed to "one of us." Still, they retained their admiration for Leahy. Leahy, in turn, supported the "Germany first" strategy, while also sharing in the desire to put more effort into the Pacific War. This was typical of his altitude of compromise in order to get divergent interests acting in harmony. Leahy opposed the invasion of Japan at the war's end because he believed it would be very costly and that the blockade and strategic bombing would compel Japan's surrender. Leahy labeled the Japanese as barbaric "savages" but was one of very few senior leaders among the high command to oppose the use of the atomic bomb, partially on moral grounds.
Roosevelt successfully urged Congress to create a new rank of five-star admiral and then promoted Leahy to this post. President Truman retained Leahy as chief of staff until 1949, but the two never enjoyed the same warm relationship that characterized Leahy's service to Roosevelt. Leahy died in 1959.
Although Leahy never served at sea or even in the navy during World War Two, his position as senior military adviser to the president made him one of the most, if not the most, influential American military men in the entire war. He seldom contributed original insights into wartime strategy but, rather, harmonized civil-military relations at the highest level so that the war could be effectively pursued.
Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1880, Harold Stark graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1903. He served as an aide to Admiral Sims during World War One and an aide to the Secretary of the Navy from 1930 to 1933. Promoted to rear admiral in 1934, Stark was Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance from 1934 to 1937. He rose steadily from commander of a cruiser division to commander of all the cruisers in the Battle Force, and became a vice admiral in 1938, and full admiral in August 1939. At that time, President Roosevelt chose Stark, over more than 50 senior flag officers, for duty as Chief of Naval Operations.
Admiral Harold Stark (center) is shown during an invasion of France inspection tour. To his right is Admiral Kirk and to his left, Admiral John Hall, the commander of the naval forces assigned to Omaha Beach. Stark was the Commander US Naval Forces Europe. Known as London's "oldest American resident," Stark actively participated in all planning for the invasion of France, from early 1942 on. (National Archives)
In November 1940, Stark wrote a memo to President Roosevelt that became one of the most important documents of World War Two. Stark identified four strategic alternatives for the United States: a) to concentrate mainly on hemispheric defense; b) to prepare for an all-out offensive in the Pacific while remaining on the defensive in the Atlantic; c) to make an equal effort in both areas; d) to prepare for a strong offensive in the Atlantic while remaining on the defensive in the Pacific. Stark strongly preferred d, or "dog," in the military alphabet. Stark noted that Great Britain was making a desperate, lonely effort to defeat Germany and that the United States was already strongly supporting the British. Furthermore, Germany was a more deadly military threat to the United States, being both stronger and nearer. His advocacy led to the adoption of "Plan Dog." It was a sharp reversal of the navy's traditional preoccupation with Japan, as described in Plan Orange. Stark's memo led to secret formal talks between American and British service chiefs in January 1941. The chiefs quickly agreed that Germany and Italy must be defeated first. As Chief of Naval Operations, Stark was instrumental in preparing for the expansion of the US Navy into a force capable of fighting in both the Atlantic and the Pacific, a "two-ocean" navy.
Like many naval officers, Stark anticipated that Japanese expansion in the Pacific would lead to war. He did not anticipate the strike against Pearl Harbor. His late November 1941 "war warning" to Pacific commanders proved inadequate in alerting leaders in Hawaii and the Philippines. It later became a source of enormous controversy, with Stark receiving much blame for not sharing intelligence with Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor. Within days after Pearl Harbor, to forestall public and congressional criticism, Roosevelt authorized a major change in the navy's senior leadership. He named Admiral Ernest King Commander-in-Chief of the US Fleet. This decision effectively removed Stark from authority. In March 1942, Stark transferred to London as Commander, US Naval Forces Europe. He held this position until 1945. Stark's duties in London were administrative, rather than operational. His most notable work involved planning for the invasion of France. Stark exhibited good diplomatic skill and was well regarded by the British.
Both the navy and Congress held investigations into Pearl Harbor, compelling Stark to testify' at various times between 1944 and 1946. The initial naval investigation criticized Stark for failing to issue a clear warning. The subsequent congressional investigation was more lenient. In the end, Admiral King changed his negative assessment of Stark's performance. The Secretary of the Navy supported King, and so Stark received formal exoneration. Stark retired in 1946 and died in 1972.
Well-liked and kind, Stark contributed importantly to the key strategic decision to defeat Germany first. His subsequent work in London as a sailor-diplomat also received praise. However, his colossal failure to adequately warn American leaders about the Japanese threat has been roundly criticized by many modern historians. The words of an American lieutenant, who served in the Philippine Air Force, are worth remembering: "Our generals and leaders committed one of the greatest errors possible to military men - that of letting themselves be taken by surprise."
Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1888, Alan Kirk graduated from Annapolis in 1909 and received his commission two years later. During World War One, Kirk held a rear area assignment at the Naval Proving Grounds in Dahlgren, Virginia. He served as a naval aide to the president in 1920-21. Kirk graduated from the Naval War College in 1929 and staved on as an instructor until 1931. He was a naval attache in London from 1939 to 1941 and then returned to the United States to become director of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) in March 1941. Captain Kirk tried to make the ONI responsible for both collecting and interpreting intelligence. The Head of the Navy's War Plans, Admiral Richmond Turner, opposed Kirk's notion and succeeded in keeping naval intelligence from becoming centralized. Some historians who specialize in intelligence argue that if Kirk s consolidation had taken place, the navy would have been able to interpret properly the signs of the pending Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In the event, Kirk escaped blame for Pearl Harbor.