Saturday, February 26, 2011
Final Notes and Additional Information
When I started researching McNaughton, I had little intention of writing anything about my findings or sharing it other than perhaps in conversation with a few family members and hometown friends or contacts that have an interest in Cold War/Vietnam era history. As I discovered new information about McNaughton, the piece started to write itself, but it didn’t know if it wanted to be a biography, historical treatise, academic dissertation, article for a magazine or newspaper or a script for a movie, play or documentary. What finally emerged was a kind of amalgamation of many different formats, and it didn’t specifically lend itself to any particular one. Because I feel the information is important, I decided to put it out as a blog for now and leave it to others who may want to expand upon it.
I never met McNaughton, even though my parents knew him and sometimes talked about him. After working on this project, I eventually got to think of McNaughton as a friend that I knew rather well. When discussing the stories with people who knew what I was doing, I often referred to him as “John.” As for McNaughton’s friend Robert McNamara I remember that when I was nearing draft age, McNamara seemed the embodiment of the mythical god Mars. However, after reading McNamara’s book, seeing the documentary film “The Fog of War,” and having the chance to speak with him he became much more human to me.
So, why McNaughton? He risked his life to protect United States’ and an ally’s interests in World War II, helped to keep our country and the world safe with his work on nuclear disarmament and the Cuban Missile Crisis and tried to caution those more powerful than him of the pitfalls of Vietnam. Why me? Well, I grew up in the same hometown and during the 1960’s there were three key figures from Pekin who had influential positions in Washington: McNaughton, Senate Majority leader Everett Dirksen and Life Magazine’s Washington Bureau Chief Dick Stolley. But, nobody had ever attempted to tell McNaughton's life story. And living my teenage years with the threat of nuclear annihilation and the draft, it was a very formative time for me and my generation.
At times, McNaughton’s story seemed right out of a morality play. When do you speak up, when do you shut up? In an organization, are you better perceived when warning against possible hazards, even when they eventually appear and you turn out to be right? Some organizational research has suggested that those who ignore potential dangers and make aggressive mistakes fare better in organizations than those who warn and turn out to be correct but suffer from the “shoot the messenger” effect.
One of the most rewarding parts of the McNaughton discovery process for me was getting access to his personal diaries from his son Alex McNaughton. The insights in the diaries were priceless to me and it was fascinating to juxtapose the diary entries against papers McNaughton helped write on corresponding dates. However, there are potential perils of incorporating the diary entries into “Find a Way Out.” McNaughton was a very careful man, so even though I believe that he would have relied on the diaries to spark his memories when writing a book or articles about his time in the Pentagon, he certainly would have chosen his words more carefully than when writing in the stream of consciousness diary style. That is worth keeping in mind when comparing this piece to the books of McNaughton’s contemporaries.
I regret that I did not start to gather information for this piece until after the death of Adam Yarmolinsky in January 2000. Adam Yarmolinsky, who I would have loved to have interviewed, was a McNaughton friend and colleague who worked with McNaughton in the ISA until 1966 when he left government to return to Harvard Law. Yarmolinsky’s name pops up numerous times in McNaughton’s final diary and it was Yarmolinsky who gave McNaughton’s eulogy at the National Cathedral. Some of those who were interviewed for this story provided humorous anecdotes about Yarmolinsky and it seems that his story from the Cold War years would make an interesting project for another writer.
The Wiki-Leaks controversy, which became public about the time that I was readying the story to be posted to the “Find a Way Out” blog, put Daniel Ellsberg back in the public eye. It is interesting that McNaughton brought Ellsberg into the Pentagon, and put Ellsberg in a position to know about the assembly of Vietnam War documents that would become known as “The Pentagon Papers” when Ellsberg surreptitiously released them to major news outlasts. Nixon’s hatred of Ellsberg motivated him to dispatch the “White House Plumbers” to break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in the hope of finding damaging information in September 1971. A similar group of burglars was later caught in the act while breaking into the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters in Washington, DC’s Watergate complex and brought down Nixon’s presidency.
For any readers/researchers who want more on McNaughton, there is enough “out there” to go into greater detail about McNaughton’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and Nuclear Arms Control. There is also a diary from the early 1950’s that chronicles McNaughton’s years in Pekin, running for Congress and returning to Harvard. At some point I might go back and add sections into appropriate places in the blog. And, I can’t help but wonder if the “missing” diaries from the early 1960s, if they ever existed at all, will eventually surface in a release of highly classified files held in the FBI or Pentagon.
Also, based upon the fact that McNaughton did not live to tell the Cold War and Vietnam Era stories from his perspective, I think that it would be an interesting undertaking for a writer to use information from this blog and from other sources and “become McNaughton” and write a piece in the first person as John T. McNaughton explaining his role in the Vietnam saga.
If McNaughton Had Lived…
Many have asked me what I think would have happened with McNaughton had he lived a full life. It is important to remember that even though he was a Democrat and considered himself to be a liberal, McNaughton was very pragmatic and came from a family of Republicans. His choice to declare himself as a Democrat came in the early 1950s after much introspection and was finally decided because of an opening to be a candidate for Congress on the Central Illinois Democratic ticket.
On Thanksgiving Day in 1966, McNaughton’s diary recorded that a friend had “put my 'name in the hat' for presidency of the NY Stock Exchange! (He asked, “How would you characterize your economic views?” I said “Liberal, but not wild. We own 8 newspapers and make money from them.”) Additionally, the final diary recounts McNaughton's discussions with business sector contacts about potential big private sector salaries if McNaughton chose to leave government.
We know that McNaughton would have served for a while as Secretary of the Navy and after that I think that McNaughton would have run for Governor in Illinois in 1968 (I think unsuccessfully in what was a Republican year in Illinois as well as nationwide). Many of McNaughton’s contemporaries eventually served in quasi public sector positions such as universities, think tanks and foundations and I think that McNaughton would have followed a similar career path. Since his background included a better business background than many of his peers, it is likely that he would have served on corporate boards as well as some non-profit boards. He had already joined the board of his alma mater DePauw about a year before his death. It is also possible that he would have taken a position as corporate counsel for a for-profit corporation, and from there he might have eventually risen to a CEO position.
What Happened to…
McNaughton’s father F.F. McNaughton passed away in Arizona in 1981 after retiring and selling the family home in Pekin. The home and the Pekin Daily Times office still remain and look much the same as they did when John McNaughton grew up in Pekin.
McNaughton’s surviving son Alex lives on East Coast and is a successful businessman.
Some Additional Information
McNaughton’s Educational History – Class Rankings in high school, college and law school[i]
· 4th out of 199 at PCHS per registrar Louise Davis to FBI.
· DePauw University – 5/31/42 degree. Took two courses in San Diego state in summer of 1939. (According to registrar Mary Fraley, he ranked 23rd in class of 278. She told the FBI agent James Farrell that “he did not exert himself as he should while at DePauw, although, she pointed out, he undoubtedly overcame this fault later, as evidenced by his splendid work at Harvard Law School and a Rhodes scholarship award.”)
· Harvard Law – 5th in class of 336. Graduated Oct. 1948 with LLB degree.
In spite of struggles with French in which he received several grades of “C” and remarks that he was “unprepared” in physical education[ii], McNaughton graduated Phi Beta Kappa at DePauw University. A March 27, 1942 Pekin Daily Times article trumpeted McNaughton’s Phi Beta Kappa announcement listing college accomplishments including membership in Blue Key (outstanding men on campus), Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, Alpha Delta Sigma (advertising fraternity), Duzer Du dramatics club, Economics Club, Business manager of student newspaper “The DePauw” (for which he received a salary) and a Rector scholarship.
Insightful Quote from an Oral History Interview
McNaughton remembered that “Secretary McNamara, on this Sunday afternoon, made an observation which should occur to any of us. And that was that during this moment of crisis – and we’d been in it for five days then, though we hadn’t yet made any speeches – great changes in the world might be brought about. There are an inordinate number of things in the world in which we get ourselves encrusted into position, where if you can just take advantage of a horrible situation like this to make these changes – to make an initiative with the Soviet Union with respect to something quite different – maybe to run some risks you otherwise might not run…”
“...there was an approach to the brink in this crisis – this is the time when you begin to think some of the little things you’ve been arguing about just don’t seem worth it, and why don’t you get them settled? It’s like having a serious illness in the family, and you ask yourself whether this petty bickering that’s been going on…” [iii]
Some Random Anecdotes
While in the Navy, McNaughton had wired his father and asked him to go to Washington, find Sally and, as proxy for him, ask her to marry John. The bride-to-be and the senior McNaughton shopped the capital’s jewelry stores until she found the right gem, he slid it onto her ring finger and she kissed him in the store. Upon his return from sea, John and Sally McNaughton married at the First Presbyterian Church in her hometown of LaGrange, Illinois. [iv]
A story circulated during the 1954 house campaign that McNaughton had met with Paul Sommer, a conservative businessman who was CEO of Keystone Steel and Wire, one of nearby Peoria’s largest industrial employers. During the meeting the two men had a disagreement and McNaughton reacted by calling Sommer a fascist. [v]
FBI Special Agent Dougherty, quoting Dr. Harold Brown, Director of Defense Research and Engineering, in a statement for the FBI needed for McNaughton to gain “top Secret” clearance on Nov. 19, 1964: “(Brown) said that McNaughton has demonstrated his loyalty to the United States in his handling of the test ban matter and is certainly ‘not soft on Communism.’ He remarked that if McNaughton sees an opportunity to gain something from the Russians or their satellites by a concession that might in a small part be helpful to them, he does not ‘cut off the nose” of the United States and eliminate the United States’ opportunity to benefit.
McNaughton diaries outtakes
There are also a number of pieces that I think are very interesting and in some cases humorous, but were not included in the story as written in this blog. Here are a few in chronological order:
A childhood diary offered a glimpse at how his Methodist father’s life experiences led him to impart his lessons on his son. The young McNaughton wrote: “What I will probably always remember the longest is my first punishment. I will never forget it. It was the reckoning for telling some of my father’s confidential business. It didn’t hurt him any, but it didn’t do him any good, and to this day I don’t believe that it did me any good either.”
Thursday, June 19, 1952 “I’m beginning to see that patronage is a part of politics. The moral distinction is made, rather, between getting paid for no work or for some work for the gov’t. Work for the party is definitely expected in any case.”
3/20/66 Sunday. Joe Alsop asked me to lunch yesterday. I scarcely know him. His purpose was to lobby for a more vigorous bombing program against North Vietnam. Specifically, he wants their POL taken out. He says that McNamara is applying “analyses” where “rule of thumb” and intuition should apply. He says he knows something about the “pyramid” of logistics systems and that taking out the POL is “promising,” no matter what analysts say. I told him that there was no real difference in approach, that anyone would come out the way he does if the issue were confined to POL. But there is the related issue of risking enlarging the war. He poo-pooed this, saying the risk is small and, anyway, was a risk assumed overtly in February 1964. He argued that fear of escalation was tainting the analyses of POL strikes. (I told him he was simply wrong on this point—so far as the in-house analysis is concerned). He also said that if the US doesn’t take out the POL—something which is so obviously “promising”—it will be the “downfall of Bob McNamara.” (blog author’s note: I find this entry interesting because Joe Alsop was a writer who had a syndicated column that ran in newspapers throughout the United States and that he was trying to influence US actions as opposed to reporting upon what McNaughton told him.)
5/18/66/ Wed. I had a good talk with Averell Harriman tonight from 5-6:15 in his office. He thinks we should be “talking” with the VC and with the North Vietnamese. He thinks our bargaining position is not too good, but it won’t hurt to talk. He reported that Bob had told him we should offer to pull out of SVN if the DRV would. Averell pointed out that the Communists didn’t abide by the Laos deal “for one minute,” but maybe there’s something there. He said Bob said he’d go for a coalition government. Averell thinks we could get the Russians to try quietly to work out a deal. He rejected the idea of a “public” third-party appeal to which the US could with honor accede.
He thinks Ky is a total loss—ever since he went wild and dumped Thi. He refers to Dulles’ allowing us to become a prisoner of Nationalist China and of Germany! He thinks we are a prisoner of the Saigon govt. He also thinks we may be a prisoner of Lodge. (I told him the remark Lodge made to Bob: “We’d be there fighting with monkeys”!) Averell said, “I didn’t know it was that bad.
Then he sat there. “Rusk is here, Lodge is out there, Rostow is over there…” He was struggling for a way to get hold of the problem—he thinks Rusk “is no longer thinking. He has bent over, ducked down his head, and is plunging into the line.” He then added that “Dean could hardly wait to get me off the 7th floor. It was no secret. I kept coming up with ideas and making him think.” Averell said he would “deny that I know you” if I repeated his remark.
Feb 26, 1967 ◦The President yesterday said re Vietnam that he did not want to behave in an “unseemly way” (the remark by Russell smarted), but that he wanted to push along on both fronts—military and diplomatic. He said, “Write me a paragraph that says we’ll stop bombing, and that if they stop infiltrating we’ll stop augmenting, then—pick up some of the Manilla Declaration—if they pull out we’ll pull out, and then elections, and if it comes out communist we’ll abide by the results.”
[i] Educational information was collected from various FBI reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and DePauw report card in Alex McNaughton’s files.
[iii] November 4, 1964 oral history interview for JFK library, Larry McQuade interviewer, on subject of Cuban Missile Crisis.
[iv] Pekin Daily Times 125th Commemorative Edition, June 24, 2006, Page 11.
[v] James M. Unland, August 14, 2003