John J. McCloy: American lawyer and banker (1895 - 1989) | Biography
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John J. McCloy
American lawyer and banker

John J. McCloy

John J. McCloy
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American lawyer and banker
A.K.A. John Jay McCloy
Was Financial professional Politician Jurist Lawyer Banker
From United States of America
Field Finance Law Politics
Gender male
Birth 31 March 1895, Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A.
Death 11 March 1989, Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, U.S.A. (aged 94 years)
Star sign Aries
John J. McCloy
The details (from wikipedia)


John Jay McCloy (March 31, 1895 – March 11, 1989), was an American lawyer and banker who served as Assistant Secretary of War during World War II. After the war he served as president of the World Bank, U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, and chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. He later became a prominent United States presidential adviser, served on the Warren Commission, and was a member of the foreign policy establishment group of elders called "The Wise Men."

Early years

McCloy was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of John J. McCloy (1862-1901) and Anna (née Snader) McCloy (1866-1959). His father was an insurance man who died when McCloy was five. His mother was a hairdresser in Philadelphia, with many high-society clients. McCloy's family was poor; he would later often say he grew up on the "wrong side of the tracks," and describe himself as being an outsider of the establishment circles in which he would later move. His original name was "John Snader McCloy." It was later changed to "John Jay McCloy", probably to sound more aristocratic.

McCloy was educated at the Peddie School in New Jersey, and Amherst College from which he graduated in 1916. He was an average student who excelled at tennis and moved smoothly among the sons of the nation's elite. McCloy was a brother of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity at Amherst where he was initiated as Roll No. 330.

First World War

McCloy enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1916, and he was an average student. He was profoundly influenced by his experience at the Plattsburg Preparedness camps. When the US entered the war in 1917, he joined the Army in May and was trained at Plattsburg, New York and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Artillery on August 15, 1917. He was promoted to first lieutenant on December 29. In May 1918 he was assigned as an aide to Brigadier General G. H. Preston - commander of the 160th Field Artillery Brigade of the 85th Division. He sailed for France for service with the American Expeditionary Force in France on July 29, 1918. He saw combat service in the last weeks of the war, as commander of an artillery battery during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

After the armistice of November 1918, he was transferred to General Headquarters of the AEF in Chaumont, Haute-Marne, France, on March 1, 1919. He was then sent to the Advance General Headquarters in Trier, Germany and was promoted to captain on June 29. McCloy returned to the US on July 20 and resigned from the Army on August 15, 1919. He then returned to Harvard where he received his LL.B. degree in 1921.

Wall Street lawyer

McCloy went to New York to become an associate in the firm of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, which was then one of the nation's most prestigious law firms. He moved to Cravath, Henderson, & de Gersdorff in 1924, where he worked with many wealthy clients, such as the St. Paul Railroad. 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 explosion. He did a great deal of work for corporations in Nazi Germany and advised the major German chemical combine I. G. Farben, later notorious for manufacturing Zyklon B. By the time he left for government service in 1940, McCloy earned about $45,000 a year and had savings of $106,000. His involvement in litigation over a World War I sabotage case gave him a strong interest in intelligence issues and in German affairs.

Second World War

McCloy arriving at RAF Gatow in Berlin to attend the Potsdam Conference in 1945

US Secretary of War Henry Stimson hired McCloy as a consultant in September 1940, who became immersed in war planning even though he was a Republican Party supporter and opposed Franklin Roosevelt for the upcoming November 1940 presidential election. On April 22, 1941, he was made Assistant Secretary of War but held only civilian responsibilities, especially the purchase of war materials for the Army, Lend Lease, the draft, and issues of intelligence and sabotage. l

Once the war started, McCloy was a crucial voice in setting US military priorities and played a key role in several notable decisions.

Internment of Japanese-Americans

In February 1942, his involvement in combating sabotage made McCloy heavily involved in the decision to forcibly remove Japanese-Americans from their homes on the US West Coast to inland internment camps.

Kai Bird wrote in his biography of McCloy:

"More than any individual, McCloy was responsible for the decision, since the (U.S.) President had delegated the matter to him through (U.S. Secretary of War) Stimson."

The generals on the scene had insisted on mass relocation to prevent sabotage, and the Army's G-2 (intelligence division) concluded that it was needed. A key document was a Magic-decrypted interception of a Japanese diplomat in Los Angeles, who reported, "We also have connections with our second generations working in airplane plants for intelligence purposes."

The Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), however, disagreed with the Army; in a concurrent report prepared by Commander Kenneth Ringle, ONI had argued against mass internment because most of the Japanese-American citizens suspected of espionage or sabotage were already under surveillance or in FBI custody. He was responsible for supervising the evacuations to the camps, but the camps were run by a civilian agency.

The actions were unanimously upheld by a US Supreme Court. By 1945, the judicial consensus had eroded considerably. Three justices dissented in a similar internment challenge brought by Fred Korematsu.The dissenters were led by Justice Frank Murphy's reversal of his reluctant concurrence in the earlier Hirabayashi case. Historian Roger Daniels says that McCloy was strongly opposed to reopening the judicial verdicts on the constitutionality of the internment. The dissent eventually led to judicial reversal of the criminal convictions of Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and others on the basis of government misconduct including the deliberate suppression of the ONI's Ringle report during the Supreme Court's deliberations in 1943.

Edward Ennis, a former colleague and Justice Department lawyer tasked with the preparation of the government's briefs to the Supreme Court in the Hirabayashi case, would directly accuse McCloy of personal deception in testimony before the Seattle Federal Court's 1985 coram nobis review.

That led directly to the final resolution, in 1987, of the internment cases before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which fully exonerated Gordon Hirabayashi and other Japanese-American citizens, who fought the wartime curfews and forced relocations resulting from Army orders which the three-judge panel unanimously held were "based upon racism rather than military necessity."

Bombing of Auschwitz

The War Department was petitioned throughout late 1944 to help save Nazi l-held prisoners by ordering the bombing of the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz and the gas chambers in the camp. McCloy responded in a letter dated 4 July 1944 to John W. Pehle of the War Refugee Board, "The War Department is of the opinion that the suggested air operation is impracticable. It could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support essential to the success of our forces now engaged in decisive operations and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not amount to a practical project." McCloy had no direct authority over the Army Air Forces and could not overrule its choice of targets; the Army Air Forces, led by General Hap Arnold was adamantly opposed to any outside civilian group choosing its targets. Roosevelt himself rejected any such proposals.

Army Air Forces historians point out a bombing campaign against the camp would have taken months of planning, and it would be too late to save many Jews.

Ending war with Japan

McCloy was interviewed for the British television documentary The World at War about the decision to send a peace overture to Japan in mid-1945. According to McCloy, he convinced President Truman that an invasion of Japan was not sensible, and Truman should instead offer terms of surrender but with the implied threat of using the atomic bomb against Japan.

Involvement in other key decisions

An indefatigable committee member, McCloy during the war served on the government task forces that built the Pentagon, created the Office of Strategic Services, which eventually became the Central Intelligence Agency, and he proposed both the United Nations and the war crimes tribunals. He chaired the predecessor to the National Security Council. As chairman of the Army's Advisory Committee on Negro Troop Policy, at first he opposed the civil rights spokesman who wanted the Army to end segregation.

However, he changed his mind and in late 1945, just before leaving the government to return to Wall Street, he proposed ending segregation in the military. In 1945, he and Stimson convinced President Truman to reject the Morgenthau Plan and to avoid stripping Germany of its industrial capacity.

In March 1945 he played a key role in preserving the German walled city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Recognizing its historic importance he ordered the U.S. Army to negotiate a German withdrawal to avoid its destruction by Allied artillery. In 1948 he was named Honorable Patron (German: Ehrenbürger) of Rothenburg. By tradition, he knew of Rothenburg's importance as his mother had a painting of the historic city in her living room and had told stories of her visit there.

President of World Bank

From March 1947 to June 1949, McCloy served as the second president of the World Bank.

Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung - HfG Ulm) 1953-68

On March 17, 1949, McCloy and General Alvan Cullom Gillem, Jr. testified before the President's Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services.

US High Commissioner for Germany

On September 2, 1949, McCloy replaced the previous five successive military governors for the US Zone in Germany as the first US High Commissioner for Germany and held the position until August 1, 1952. He oversaw the further creation of the Federal Republic of Germany after May 23 of 1949. At the strong urging of the German government, he approved recommendations for pardoning and commutation of sentences of Nazi criminals including those of the prominent industrialists Friedrich Flick, Alfried Krupp, and Einsatzgruppe commander Martin Sandberger. McCloy granted the restitution of Krupp's and Flick's entire property. He pardoned Ernst von Weizsäcker as well as Josef Dietrich and Joachim Peiper, convicted of mass murder for their roles in the Malmedy massacre.

Nuremberg judge William J. Wilkins wrote,

"Imagine my surprise one day in February 1951 to read in the newspaper that John J. McCloy, the high commissioner to Germany, had restored all the Krupp properties that had been ordered confiscated."

Some of the less notable figures were retried and convicted by the government of the newly independent West Germany.

McCloy supported 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. McCloy saw the endeavor as Project No. 1 and supported a college and campus combination along US examples. In 1952 Scholl received from McCloy a cheque for one million Deutschmarks.

McCloy had served as the first US High Commissioner. His final successor as commissioner was the fourth US High Commissioner, James B. Conant; the office was terminated on May 5, 1955.

Corporate leadership

Following his service in Germany, 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 adviser 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 Academy 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 B. Johnson

Warren Commission

McCloy was selected by President Lyndon Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission in late November 1963. Notably, he was initially skeptical of the lone gunman theory, but a trip to Dallas with CIA veteran Allen Dulles, an old friend also serving on the Commission, convinced him of the case against Oswald. To avoid a minority dissenting report, McCloy brokered the final consensus 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 FBI and the CIA as well as the Commission itself. In a 1975 interview with Eric Sevareid of CBS, McCloy stated, "I never saw a case that I thought was more completely proven than... the assassination."

He described writings that propagated assassination conspiracies theories as "just nonsense."

Atlantic Institute

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 City, New York, in 1924-1940, after the war, when McCloy left his job as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of War around November or December 1945, McCloy became a name partner in the Rockefeller-associated prominent New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. In that capacity, he acted for the "Seven Sisters", the leading multinational oil companies, including Exxon, in their initial confrontations with the nationalization movement in Libya as well as negotiations with Saudi Arabia 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."


McCloy was a recipient of the Association Medal of the New York City Bar Association in recognition of exceptional contributions to the honor and standing of the Bar in the community. He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wilmington College (Ohio) in 1963.

Additional sources

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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