John Jay McCloy

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McCLOY, John Jay

(b. 31 March 1895 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; d. 11 March 1989 in Stamford, Connecticut), prominent Wall Street attorney and civil servant who during the 1960s was a leading presidential adviser and negotiator in disarmament matters and other foreign-policy issues.

McCloy was born John Snader McCloy, the second of two sons of John Jay McCloy, an actuarial clerk with Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company, and Anna May Snader, a homemaker. He attended Amherst College, Massachusetts, graduating cum laude in 1916, and then attended Harvard University, graduating in 1921 and passing the New York bar examination. In New York City he worked at several law firms until, after World War II, Nelson Rockefeller suggested that McCloy join Milbank, Tweed, Hope and Hadley, the firm representing the Rockefellers. McCloy was accepted as partner into the firm (renamed Milbank, Tweed, Hadley and McCloy in January 1946), becoming a full-time senior partner in 1963. The dominant international banking and oil interests of his practice required overseas travel, knowledge of U.S. foreign policy, and negotiating skills. McCloy married Ellen Scharmann Zinsser on 25 April 1930; they had two children.

When the 1960s began, McCloy assisted President Dwight D. Eisenhower on disarmament matters and advocated a U.S.–Soviet Union test-ban treaty, summit meeting, and disarmament talks. President-elect John F. Kennedy named McCloy his special adviser on disarmament and in 1961 appointed McCloy head of the United States Disarmament Administration. McCloy soon drafted legislation to establish the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, testifying before Congress to ensure passage of the bill. When the Soviets conducted open-air nuclear testing, McCloy advised Kennedy likewise to break the three-year American moratorium on such tests. The McCloy-Zorin "Joint Statement of Agreed Principles for Disarmament Negotiations," which furnished the first American-Russian foundation for future nuclear disarmament talks, was adopted by the United Nations. McCloy had achieved two of Kennedy's three objectives—the establishment of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and a skeletal base for future disarmament discussions—but no test-ban treaty. In April 1962 McCloy was sworn in as part-time chairman of the General Advisory Committee to the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.

McCloy was one of the handful of personal advisers to the Kennedy administration who was summoned to Washington during the Cuban Missile Crisis (October–November 1962) to analyze whether to invade Cuba and, if so, how to avert nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. As chairman of the three-man committee communicating with the Soviets, McCloy negotiated with Vasily Kuznetsov, the Soviet deputy foreign minister, a face-saving compromise to avoid the immediate threat of nuclear conflict. The compromise agreed to the U.S. withdrawal of Jupiter missiles in Turkey and Soviet "disengagement" of its bombers from Cuba.

While traveling on legal business in the Middle East, McCloy learned that he would receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Kennedy; but it was President Lyndon B. Johnson who presented the award on 6 December 1963. Johnson also appointed McCloy to the Warren Commission, which soon began its investigation of Kennedy's assassination. McCloy did not attend all of the commission hearings, but he and the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Allen Dulles, traveled in the spring of 1964 to Dallas, the site of the assassination, for an on-site inspection. In its final report of September 1964, the commission concluded that there had been no conspiracy to assassinate the president. (Later, between 1976 and 1978, McCloy testified before the House of Representatives Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated concerns that the Warren Commission had failed to investigate all of the evidence.) Concerning the growing unrest and military action in Vietnam during the mid-1960s, McCloy cautioned Johnson against becoming militarily involved in Southeast Asia, but as long as U.S. troops remained in harm's way, McCloy publicly supported the president's policies.

During the 1960s McCloy worried about the viability of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which he perceived as a permanent commitment of the United States to lead a definitive military strike back against any Soviet bloc threat in Europe. He believed that crises within NATO and on the European continent were potentially more threatening to U.S. security and international peace than any other problem at the time, including Vietnam and the uncertain worldwide economy. At his own urging, in April 1966 he became the president's special consultant on NATO. He was troubled by the rise of nationalism in Europe, especially French president Charles de Gaulle's efforts to erode U.S. influence in Europe; de Gaulle carried out his threat to withdraw French troops from NATO and cautioned that France would assist NATO only in the event of an unprovoked attack.

Since McCloy considered the Federal Republic of Germany as pivotal for East-West balance, one of his priorities was to convince the British not to withdraw their troops from the Federal Republic of Germany. The British worried about the strategic shift in U.S. war-planning from "massive retaliation" (nuclear attack at the start of hostilities) to "flexible response" (use of conventional NATO troops prior to any nuclear strike against the enemy), and the West Germans themselves did not appreciate this change of strategy, which seemed to offer less assurance of their survival in case of a Soviet bloc attack. The Americans, who at the time were committing more troops and economic resources to Vietnam, complained about the cost of keeping troops in West Germany, especially as the arrangement whereby the West German government compensated for the millions of dollars paid by U.S. soldiers to German businesses by purchasing U.S. arms was being challenged by a growing number of nationalistic Germans. Even Erhard's pro-NATO and pro-American stance was insufficient to prevent the challenges within his own country that forced an end to this arrangement. In December 1966 Erhard was defeated by Kurt Kiesinger, who developed a somewhat more relaxed attitude toward East Germany.

All of this signaled a surprising change in direction to McCloy, who successfully labored on trilateral agreements among the Americans, British, and Germans. The United States offered extensive bond sales to the British in order to assure the maintenance of British troops in West Germany and also offered bonds to the Germans to replace the German purchase of arms. In order to maintain a top-level troop strength committed to the defense of NATO (i.e., West Germany), the United States enacted "dual-basing," or keeping two brigades of a division in the United States (where soldiers would make purchases on U.S. bases) and one brigade in West Germany; the United States periodically rotated these brigades that were intended for NATO defense in West Germany. McCloy's determination and flexibility helped to assure NATO's survival.

By the end of 1967 McCloy had become more cautious about his public support of the Vietnam conflict. Although he did not join those criticizing the Johnson administration's war effort, McCloy realized that the military campaign was not progressing as it should toward a decisive U.S. victory. Many felt that when the Council on Foreign Relations (of which McCloy was chairman, from 1953 to 1970) and its quarterly, Foreign Affairs, began debating Vietnam during 1967 and 1968 the role of the establishment began to diminish rapidly. This was especially true after the January 1968 Tet Offensive, an assault launched by the North Vietnamese against cities in South Vietnam, the short-term success of which undermined American popular support for the war effort. Other negotiating activities, especially from 1965 to 1968, included McCloy's efforts as New York State's chairman of the Modern Courts Committee to work on judge-selection reform.

When Richard M. Nixon was elected president in 1968, he included McCloy on his foreign policy transition team. After the inauguration, McCloy was consulted less frequently; even his authority as chairman of the president's General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament declined. The administrations of Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald W. Reagan, however, actively sought McCloy's advice. In March 1985 President Reagan honored him on his ninetieth birthday in the Rose Garden of the White House, and Richard von Weizsächer, president of the Federal Republic of Germany, there conferred upon McCloy honorary German citizenship. McCloy, who in 1982 suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure in the mid-1980s, died of pulmonary edema at home. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.

McCloy's impact on the 1960s was somewhat more subtle than his influence upon the previous two decades, perhaps because much of his public service then was carried out behind closed doors. During the 1960s he worked with certain sets of priorities, such as placing the economic well being of the nation over sectional conflict (especially in regard to oil and the Middle East) or patiently working out delicate treaty-type negotiations sensitive to the pride of both sides (such as disarmament discussions and his advice during the Cuban missile crisis). Sometimes he veered away from his initial instincts, such as his attitude toward Vietnam, in order to support apparently superior presidential insight; at other times he convinced the executive branch of the need for action, such as his role in NATO and his concern for the Federal Republic of Germany.

McCloy's knowledge, capabilities, energy, and longevity enabled him to serve his country, the legal profession, and banking interests throughout almost seven decades; hold numerous official or consulting positions; secure seats on commercial and philanthropic boards; and receive American and foreign accolades and honorary degrees. Although he identified himself as a Republican, his unique legal and business sense, realistic and flexible negotiating capabilities, and honorable ethical standards, reflecting his Presbyterian heritage, made him a meaningful asset to all administrations—Republican and Democrat—from World War II up until shortly before his death.

McCloy's papers are housed at Amherst College. Biographies include Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made—Acheson, Bohlen, Harriman, Kennan, Lovett, McCloy (1986), and Kai Bird, The Chairman: John J. McCloy—The Making of the American Establishment (1992). Short biographical pieces on McCloy include Benjamin Frankel, ed., The Cold War, 1945–1991: Leaders and Other Important Figures in the United States and Western Europe, vol. 1 (1992); Dieter K. Buse and Juergen C. Doerr, eds., Modern Germany: An Encyclopedia of History, People, and Culture, 1871–1990, vol. 2 (1998). An obituary is in the New York Times (12 Mar. 1989). There are numerous oral history collections, including those at Princeton University (1965), the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas (1969), and Columbia University (1973). "Conversation with John McCloy" (13 July 1957) is in Eric Sevareid, Conversations with Eric Sevareid: Interviews with Notable Americans (1976).

Madeline Sapienza

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McCloy, John J. (1895–1989), advocate of national security in the Cold War era.Born in Philadelphia, McCloy was educated at Amherst College and Harvard Law School. After attending the Plattsburgh military training camps for civilians in 1915–16, McCloy developed a lifelong interest in the military. He joined the American Expeditionary Force in World War I, and later became a Wall Street lawyer, best known for his success in pursuing the “Black Tom” sabotage case against Germany in the 1930s. During World War II, McCloy was assistant secretary of war, handling the political dimension of military problems. He advocated the racial integration of the U.S. military on grounds of increased “efficiency.” However, McCloy also was a central figure in the controversial decisions to intern Japanese Americans and not to bomb the Nazi extermination camp at Auschwitz. Along with Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, McCloy helped defeat the Morgenthau Plan to deindustrialize Germany, and he advocated an international tribunal to investigate German war crimes. His willingness to countenance a significant increase in the power and secrecy of the national government places him as one of the founders of the so‐called national security state. After the war, McCloy served as president of the World Bank (1947–49) and as high commissioner to Germany (1949–52), strongly supporting the rearmament of West Germany and its entry into the NATO alliance.

Although his position as high commissioner was his most significant public office, McCloy played a continuing role in formation of U.S. policy on national security in the nuclear age. He was John F. Kennedy's adviser on disarmament, and served Lyndon B. Johnson in the Trilateral Negotiations of 1966–67, which readjusted NATO's financial burdens after the withdrawal of France. An unapologetic advocate of a Pax Americana, McCloy never wavered in his view of America's international responsibilities and the need for a strong military to exercise global leadership.
[See also Germany, U.S. Military Involvement in; Holocaust, U.S. War Effort and the; Japanese‐American Internment Cases; Morgenthau, Henry.]


Thomas Alan Schwartz , America's Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany, 1991.
Kai Bird , The Chairman: John J. McCloy, 1992.

Thomas A. Schwartz

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John Jay McCloy, 1895–1989, U.S. government official, b. Philadelphia. A lawyer, he gained an international reputation when after a long investigation he fixed responsibility on the German government for the Black Tom munitions explosion in Hoboken, N.J., in 1917. He was Assistant Secretary of War in World War II and in 1947 became president of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (the World Bank). He resigned in 1949 and was U.S. military governor and high commissioner for Germany (1949–52). He returned (1961–63) to government service to act as President Kennedy's principal disarmament adviser. He is the author of The Challenge of American Foreign Policy (1953) and The Atlantic Alliance (1969).

See K. Bird, The Chairman (1992).