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John J.
John J.
John Jay McCloy (March 31, 1895, Philadelphia, Pennsylvaniamarker – March 11, 1989, Stamford, Connecticutmarker) was a lawyer and banker who served as Assistant Secretary of War during World War II, president of the World Bank, and U.S. High Commissioner for Germanymarker. He later became a prominent United Statesmarker presidential advisor, served on the Warren Commission, and was a member of the foreign policy establishment group of elders called "The Wise Men." McCloy was educated at Peddie Schoolmarker, New Jerseymarker, and Amherst Collegemarker. He enrolled in Harvard Law Schoolmarker in 1916, but would have his education interrupted by World War I.

McCloy was criticized for several of his decisions as Assistant Secretary of War, including his opposition to the atomic bombing of Japanmarker, his refusal to endorse compensation to Japanese-Americans held in internment camps, his refusal to endorse USAAF bombing raids on the rail approaches to Auschwitz concentration campmarker, and for his pardoning of convicted Nazi war criminals as High Commissioner for Germany.


Army service

He was commissioned into the U.S. army as a Second Lieutenant in 1917, being promoted to Captain in 1918. He served with the American Expeditionary Force in France in 1918 and 1919. He received his LL.B. from Harvard in 1921.

Legal counselor

In 1934 McCloy found new evidence allowing him to re-open an action for damages against Germany for the destruction caused by the 1916 Black Tom explosionmarker.

He was a legal counselor to the major German chemical combine I. G. Farben, and was the Assistant Secretary of War from 1941 to 1945, during which he was noted for opposing the nuclear bombing of Japan.

Auschwitz bombing debate

During World War II, as Assistant Secretary of War, McCloy was a crucial voice in setting U.S. military priorities. The War Department was petitioned throughout late 1944 to help save Nazi prisoners by ordering the bombing of the railroad lines leading to Auschwitzmarker and the gas chambers in the camp. McCloy responded that only heavy bombers would be able to reach the sites from Englandmarker, and that those bombers would be too vulnerable and were needed elsewhere. However, only a few months earlier, Allied forces had bombed industrial centers just a few kilometers away from the extermination camp, and would continue to do so, apparently even causing some damage to buildings in Auschwitz, while sustaining very low losses. Indeed, regular US bombing raids from Foggia, Italy to nearby strategic targets routinely crossed right over Auschwitz en route.

On another occasion, when replying to another appeal to bomb the gas chambers, McCloy claimed that the final decision on the selection of bombing targets, including those attacked by American planes, lay with the British alone. This was an incorrect claim. According to Michael Beschloss, in an interview three years before the latter's death (in 1986) with Henry Morgenthau, III, McCloy claimed that the decision not to bomb Auschwitz was President Roosevelt's and that he was merely fronting for him. This appears possible, given Roosevelt's generally unsympathetic response to the Holocaust, but is otherwise unsupported. Further, McCloy also alleged to Morgenthau that Roosevelt refused to approve the Auschwitz rail bombing because he would then be accused of also killing Auschwitz prisoners.

In the early 1970s, McCloy claimed that he himself "could no more order a bombing attack on Auschwitz than order a raid on Berlin." However, while in the field with General Jacob L. Devers, advancing eastward through Germany in early 1945, a "suggestion" from McCloy resulted in Devers' Army bypassing and sparing the historic Romantic Road town of Rothenburg ob der Taubermarker. For his action, McCloy was later made an honorary citizen of the town. These and other pro-German actions by McCloy resulted in significant protests much later, when McCloy was announcing the Volkswagen Scholarship at Harvard University in 1983.

President of the World Bank and US High Commissioner in Germany

From March 1947 to June 1949, McCloy was president of the World Bank.
Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung - HfG Ulm) 1953-1968
In 1949 he replaced Lucius D. Clay who was the Military Governor for the U.S. Zone in Germany as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germanymarker and held this position until 1952, during which time he oversaw the creation of the Federal Republic of Germanymarker. At his direction, a campaign of wholesale pardoning and commutation of sentences of Nazi criminals took place, including those of the prominent industrialists Friedrich Flick and Alfried Krupp. McCloy also pardoned Ernst von Weizsäcker. (In 1978 Ernst Weizsacker's son German President Richard von Weizsäcker conferred honorary German Citizenship on McCloy). Some of the less notable figures were retried and convicted in the newly independent West Germany.

McCloy supportet the initiative of Inge Aicher-Scholl (the sister of Sophie Scholl) Otl Aicher and Max Bill to found the Ulm School of Design. .HfG Ulm is considered to be the most influential design school in the world after the Bauhaus.The founders sought and received support in the USA (via Walter Gropius) and within the American High Command in Germany. John J. McCloy saw the endeveaour as Project No. 1 and supported a college and campus combination along US examples. Scholl received 1952 from McCloy a cheque of 1 Million Deutschmark. .

His successor as High Commissioner was James B. Conant; the office was terminated in 1955.

Corporate leadership

Following this, he served as chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank from 1953 to 1960, and as chairman of the Ford Foundation from 1958 to 1965; he was also a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1946 to 1949, and then again from 1953 to 1958, before he took up the position at Ford.

From 1954 to 1970, he was chairman of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations in New York, to be succeeded by David Rockefeller, who had worked closely with him at the Chase Bank. McCloy had a long association with the Rockefeller family, going back to his early Harvard days when he taught the young Rockefeller brothers how to sail. He was also a member of the Draper Committee, formed in 1958 by Eisenhower.

He later served as advisor to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, and was the primary negotiator on the Presidential Disarmament Committee. In 1963, he was awarded the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academymarker at West Point for his service to the country.

On December 6, 1963, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Special Distinction, by President Lyndon Johnson

Mr. McCloy was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1977.

Warren Commission

He was selected by Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission in 1963. Notably, he was initially sceptical of the lone gunman theory, but a trip to Dallas with Allen Dulles, an old friend also serving on the Commission, in the spring of 1964 to visit the scene of the assassination convinced him of the case against Oswald. The only prominent lawyer among the seven commissioners, with the possible exception of U.S. Chief Justice Earl Warren, he brokered the final consensus — avoiding a minority dissenting report — and the crucial wording of the primary conclusion of the final report. He stated that any possible evidence of a conspiracy was "beyond the reach" of all of America's investigatory agencies — principally the FBImarker and the CIA — as well as the Commission itself.

From 1966 to 1968 he was Honorary Chairman of the Paris-based Atlantic Institute.

Law Firm Background

Originally a partner of the Cravath firm in New York, after the war McCloy became a name partner in the Rockefeller-associated prominent New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. In this capacity he acted for the "Seven Sisters", the leading multinational oil companies, including Exxon, in their initial confrontations with the nationalisation movement in Libyamarker—as well as negotiations with Saudi Arabiamarker and OPEC. Because of his stature in the legal world and his long association with the Rockefellers, and as a presidential adviser, he was sometimes referred to as the "Chairman of the American Establishment".

Further reading

  • The Chairman: John J. McCloy - The Making of the American Establishment, Kai Bird, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made: Acheson, Bohlen, Harriman, Kennan, Lovett, and McCloy, Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.
  • The Chase: The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 1945-85, John Donald Wilson, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1986.
  • Memoirs, David Rockefeller, New York: Random House, 2002.


  1. New York Observer article, July 2006
  2. John McCloy and the Atomic Bombing of Japan
  3. Dino Brugioni and Robert Poirier, CIA photo analysts, whose revelatory 1944 file photos of Auschwitz taken from US bombers passing directly overhead, and 1978 refutation of John McCloy's lies about bombing "feasibility", were printed in THE NEW YORK TIMES and elsewhere in 1979. President Jimmy Carter personally directed the release of these photos and their 1978 interpretation.
  4. Beschloss
  5. Letter from John J. McCloy to Donald L. Pevsner, following Pevsner's citing to McCloy of the damning allegations in "While Six Million Died", by Arthur D. Morse (1967).
  6. "The Arms of Krupp", by William Manchester, 1968.
  7. Ulm School of Design (HfG Ulm: Archive[1]
  8. Background of HFG (in German)

Additional sources

See also

External links

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