Patrick J. Hurley: Politician (1883 - 1963)
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Patrick J. Hurley

Patrick J. Hurley

Patrick J. Hurley
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Politician
A.K.A. Patrick Jay Hurley
Was Diplomat Politician
From United States of America
Field Politics
Gender male
Birth 8 January 1883, Indian Territory
Death 30 July 1963, Santa Fe (aged 80 years)
Patrick J. Hurley
The details (from wikipedia)


Patrick Jay Hurley (January 8, 1883, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory — July 30, 1963, Santa Fe, New Mexico) was a highly decorated American soldier with the rank of Major General, statesman, and diplomat. He was the United States Secretary of War from 1929 to 1933.

Education and early career

A self-made man born in a log cabin, Hurley had worked as a coal miner and as a cowboy who had often hunted with Choctaw Indians during his teenage years before saving enough to go to college. Patrick Jay Hurley graduated from Indian University (now Bacone College) in 1905 and received his law degree from the National University School of Law, Washington, D.C. in 1908. He started a law practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1908. He was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court in 1912 and was national attorney for the Choctaw Nation from 1912 to 1917. He received a second laws degree from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in 1913. At the same time as he was enjoying much success as a lawyer, Hurley had become active as a Republican in Oklahoma politics.

Military service

Hurley served in the Indian Territorial Volunteer Militia from 1902 to 1907, and in the Oklahoma National Guard, from 1914 to 1917. During World War I, Hurley served with the Judge Advocate General's Department of the 6th Army Corps, American Expeditionary Force in France. For his service in this capacity, Hurley received the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

In November 1918, Hurley was detached to the 76th Field Artillery Regiment and participated with this unit in the battles near Louppy-le-Château, France. Hurley voluntarily conducted a reconnaissance under heavy enemy fire and was subsequently awarded with Silver Star for gallantry in action.

Public service

After the war, he attended George Washington University, where he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He became active in the Republican Party and was appointed Assistant Secretary of War by President Herbert Hoover in 1929. He was promoted to Secretary of War after the death of James W. Good and served in President Hoover's cabinet until 1933.

World War II

Hurley received a promotion to brigadier general in 1941 when the United States entered World War II, and General George C. Marshall dispatched him to the Far East as a personal representative to examine the feasibility of relieving American troops besieged on the Bataan peninsula. He was successful in delivering additional food and ammunition to the soldiers on three separate occasions, but could not evacuate them.

After the conclusion of this mission, he embarked on a series of assignments as a personal representative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He served as minister to New Zealand in 1942 and then flew to the Soviet Union, becoming the first foreigner to receive permission to visit the Eastern Front. Over the next two years, he visited the Near East, Middle East, China, Iran and Afghanistan on behalf of the president. In the course of his duties, he met with a number of local political leaders, including the nominal head of the Zionist movement in Palestine, David Ben-Gurion. The report that he sent to the president on Ben-Gurion and Zionism was quite negative. He was appointed US Ambassador to China in 1944.


Major General Hurley served in two World Wars and received many decorations for bravery and distinguished service. Here is the list of his decorations:

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with three battle clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two service Stars
World War II Victory Medal


Despite being a Republican, Hurley had often supported the Roosevelt administration and as he was a prominent Republican with many connections in Oklahoma, President Roosevelt owed a political debt to Hurley, which he paid by appointing him his special envoy to China. In the spring of 1944, the Japanese had launched Operation Ichigo, the biggest Japanese offensive of the entire war as Tokyo decided to "liquidate the China affair" by knocking China out of the war once and for all. Committing half-million men and 800 tanks, supplied by 70 to 100, 000 horses dragging wagons and 12, 000 to 15, 000 vehicles, the Japanese overran vast areas of China. Since 1938, the Japanese had been stalemated in China by a lack of logistical infrastructure, but over six years of building roads and railroads, the Japanese now had the capacity to strike deep into China. Operation Ichigo saw the Japanese take much of Henan and Hunan provinces and finally take the city of Changsha, which they had failed to take in three previous attempts starting in 1938. The success of Operation Ichigo brought the long simmering conflict between the abrasive and arrogant General Joseph Stilwell, aka "Vinegar Joe" and the equally stubborn and proud Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek to a head. It was this crisis that brought President Franklin D. Roosevelt to send Hurley to China.

Hurley arrived in China in August 1944, as a personal envoy from President Roosevelt to Chiang Kai-shek. His written directive from the President was as follows:

Patrick Hurley at center (in bow tie) with Communist leadership in Chongqing, 1945
You are hereby designated as my personal representative with the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, reporting directly to me. Your principal mission is to promote efficient and harmonious relations between the Generalissimo and General [Joseph] Stilwell to facilitate General Stilwell's exercise of command over the Chinese armies placed under his direction. You will be charged with additional missions.

Military operations in China against the Japanese had been severely hampered by a lack of cooperation, bordering upon personal enmity, between General Joseph Stilwell and Chiang Kai-shek. General Stilwell had reported accurately that Chiang had not committed his best troops nor American aid to fight the Japanese, but instead held back troops and supplies for an eventual showdown with wartime Communist allies. On his way to Chunking, Hurley had stopped in Moscow to meet Joseph Stalin and Vyacheslav Molotov who informed that Mao and the rest of the Chinese Communists were not really Communists and that the Kremlin had no connections with them, claims that Hurley accepted at face value. Besides for getting Chiang to cede more command powers to Stilwell, Hurley was also to ensure that Chinese Communists accept Stilwell as their commander and ultimately see if were possible for U.S. Lend-Lease aid to go to Yan'an. Eventually, Stilwell’s belief in the Generalissimo's incompetence and corruption reached such proportions that Stilwell sought to cut off Lend-Lease aid to China in October 1944.

Hurley maintained that his talks with T.V Soong were going well, and that Stillwell's ultimatum had ruined everything. Hurley warned Stilwell at a meeting at the U.S. embassy in Chunking that the harsh language of the ultimatum was bound to offend the easily enraged Chiang and that Stilwell should not submit it. Despite Hurley's pleas, Stilwell insisted on having the meeting. Hurley tried to soften the blow by asking at the meeting between Stilwell and Chiang by asking if Stilwell had a Chinese text to offer Chiang, but he said he did not. Stilwell spoke fluent Mandarin and handed Chiang the ultimatum. The ultimatum caused a major crisis in Sino-American relations, but as the Americans were not prepared to either take over China or cease supplies, the ultimatum was a bluff, which Chiang called it by rejecting it. Chiang told Hurley that the Chinese people were "tired of the insults which Stilwell has seen fit to heap upon them". In a speech before the Central Executive Committee of the Kuomintang that was leaked to the Chinese press, Chiang denounced Stilwell and said that to accept the American ultimatum would be to accept a new imperialism that would make him no different from the Japanese collaborator Wang Jingwei in Nanking. Hurley spent the night of 12 October 1944, incapable of sleep and indecisive, pacing back and forth. Finally at 2 am on 12 October 1944, Hurley reported to Washington that Stilwell was a "fine man, but was incapable of understanding or co-operating with Chiang Kai-shek", going on to say that if Stilwell remained in command, all of China might be lost to the Japanese. Before sending his cable, Hurley showed it to Stilwell who accused Hurley to his face of "cutting my throat with a dull knife". Hurley eventually came down on the side of the Generalissimo, and instead supported the replacement of Stilwell with General Albert C. Wedemeyer. Throughout his tenure in China, Hurley felt that his efforts were being undermined by State Department officials, principally John Stewart Service and John Paton Davies in China, and John Carter Vincent in Washington, whom he claimed were unduly sympathetic to the Communist forces led by Mao Zedong.

On 7 November 1944, Hurley visited Yan'an to meet Mao with the aim of creating an "united front" that would unite the Communists and the Kuomintang together to fight the Japanese, which Hurley viewed as a chance for personal glory for himself. Chiang wanted Hurley to meet Mao partly to please Roosevelt and partly because he expected Hurley to fall out with the Communists. When Hurley arrived via plane at Yan'an, he was greeted by Zhou Enlai and Colonel David D. Barrett of the American "Dixie Mission" to the Communists. When Mao arrived with General Zhu De in a Chevrolet ambulance, Hurley greeted him with a Choctaw war cry "Yahoo!". During the ride back to Yan'an in the ambulance, Hurley using Colonel Barrett (who was fluent in Mandarin) as a translator exchanged stories with Mao about their rural childhoods. Colonel Barrett later recalled that translating Hurley into Mandarin was difficult: "due to the saltiness of the General's [Hurley] remarks, and the unusual language in which he expressed himself. His discourse, in addition, was by no means connected by any readily discernible pattern of thought." Later that night, a banquet was held in Yan'an by the Communist leadership in honor of the Russian Revolution of 1917, during which a drunken Hurley kept interrupting by shouting "Yahoo!" over and over again.

During his talks with Mao, Hurley was told by him that all of China's problems were the work of the Kuomintang. Mao called for a coalition government; a joint military council consisting of equal measure of Communist and Kuomintang generals; U.S military aid to the Chinese Red Army; and the freeing of all political prisoners, most notably Marshal Zhang Xueliang, the "Young Marshal", the former warlord of Manchuria who had kidnapped Chiang in 1936 during the Xian incident. Hurley informed Mao that he agreed with these demands, and during the third day of the talks, added in demands for democracy and liberty to the draft declaration written by the Communists. Colonel Barrett remembered: "The Chinese traditionally do not much show their feelings in their faces, but it was evident from their expressions that they were greatly pleased". Mao and Hurley both signed the declaration with Hurley proudly writing next to his name "Personal Representative of the President of the United States".

When Hurley returned to Chunking, Chiang was furious with the declaration that Hurley had signed without even informing him in advance. Soong told Hurley he had been "sold a bill of goods by the Communists" and Chiang would never agree to this declaration. Chiang did in fact accept the declaration, but only with the proviso that he be given complete power of command over the Red Army, a demand that Mao rejected. When Hurley tried to persuade Mao to accept the declaration with Chiang's proviso under the grounds the Communists would "get a foot in the door", Mao replied "A foot in the door means nothing if the hands are tied behind the back". Mao called Chiang a "turtle's egg" (an extremely insulting term in China) and threaten to publish the declaration he and Hurley had signed. The publication of the Mao-Hurley declaration would have been extremely embarrassing for Hurley who signed the declaration making commitments on behalf of Chiang with even informing him of what he was doing. When Barrett translated Mao's threat, Hurley looked confused and stunned before shouting at the top of his lungs "The motherfucker, he tricked meh!" over and over again. When he calmed down, Hurley then repeated an old Oklahoma folk saying, namely: "Why do the leaves turn red in the fall? Because they were so green in the spring". After Hurley had implored Mao not to publish the declaration, he held back for the moment. Hurley blamed the failure of his mission on Soong, whom he accused of turning Chiang against him.

In early November 1944, upon the resignation of Ambassador Clarence Gauss, Hurley was officially offered the ambassadorship to China, but initially declined "with a statement that the duties he had been called upon to perform in China had been the most disagreeable that he had ever performed--and further, he felt that his support of Chiang Kai-shek and the National Government of China had increased the opposition directed toward himself by the un-American elements in the State Department." Upon receiving a telegram from the President on November 17, urging him to take the job because of the critical nature of the situation, he reluctantly accepted. Hurley's appointment was greeted with dismay by professional diplomats who complained that Hurley who knew nothing of China was out of his depth. The American diplomat Graham Peck wrote of "the General" that: "His handsome aquiline head suggested a Roman burst capriciously passed up with butterflies of a huge bow tie, pinch-nose glasses, curly white moustache and coiffure". Hurley liked to be addressed as "General", always wore all of his medals at public events and used the term "we" instead of "I" when addressing people. Hurley's first acts as ambassador were to buy a new Cadillac and to have the embassy redecorated in a grandiose style that he fit fitting for an ambassador of the United States. Hurely did not speak Mandarin, knew nothing of China, pronounced Mao as "Moose Dung" and had a habit of addressing Chinag as "Mr. Shek" (in Chinese the surname comes first). One American diplomat Arthur Young called Hurley "a senile old man who couldn't keep his mind on any subject". An American journalist who went to lunch with Hurley recalled that they spent three hours drinking before they started to eat while Peck was invited to dinner with the ambassador, who forgot what his name was, and had to ask Peck who he was several times. At a dinner with senior diplomats and Chinese leaders, Hurley toasted the journalist Annalee Jacoby who was present as: "the most important person in the world, my tall, blonde goddess of a bride", going on to give a rambling, sexually explicit speech about their children, all of the joy she had given him and all the pleasures of having sex with her. Everyone else maintained a stunned silence as Jacoby was a short brunette who was not Mrs. Hurley nor did she have any children with him and she maintained most vehemently that she had never been the lover of the ambassador. Vain, pompous, arrogant, ignorant of China and of questionable mental stability, Hurley was easily manipulated by both Chiang and Mao during their meetings. As Hurley saw Chiang more than Mao, it was the former who had the most influence on him. On 2 December 1944, Hurley in a cable to Washington argued that China's recent problems were the work of the British who were the "greatest obsolete to the unification of China".

In January 1945, Hurley met the Admiral Miles and the secret police chief Dai Li who first informed of a secret visit to Yan'an by Colonel William Bird of the OSS that the ambassador was unaware of. Bird and Barret of the "Dixie Mission" had offered to have 5, 000 American paratroopers land in the Communist base area while one American division would be landed in Shandong province to link up with the Red Army. The American officers had told the T. V Soong and the War Minister General Chen Cheng of their plans and naively asked them not to tell Chiang. Chen and Soong promptly informed Chiang who reacted by having Hurley informed, who predictably enough was engaged that the OSS should make such an offer without telling him. Hurley accused Bird and Barrett in a cable to Washington of offering recognition to Mao and further accused General Wedemeyer of plotting against him. Mao and Zhou both preferred to negotiate with Wedemeyer, which further increased tensions between the ambassador and the general. As Wedemeyer was living at the embassy with Hurley, this made for unpleasant living arrangements; Jacoby later recalled that the two had "loud, noisy quarrels" lasting well into the night and Wedemeyer sent several cables to Washington questioning Hurley's sanity and mental fitness to be ambassador. Finally, Hurley refused to speak to Wedemeyer for several days before coming into his room and as Wedemeyer recalled: "He sat on the edge of my bed, clasped my right hand in both of his and said he was sorry for his behavior towards me". Hurley's dealings with the State Department did not improve. Hurley hired two press attaches to improve his image while in Nationalist China, foreign journalists were tried to report unfavorable news about Hurley had those sections of their dispatches cut by the censors. Hurley fired much of his staff, most notably John Paton Davies. When Hurley visited Washington, all of the senior diplomats at the Chunking embassy sent a joint cable to the State Department asking that Hurley be fired under the grounds that he was incompetent and not entirely sane. Hurley was furious with this cable, and through he had started out as a believer in creating a Communist-Kuomintang "united front" in 1944, by 1945 he was now a solid supporter of the Kuomintang and regarded anyone who wanted to talk to Yan'an as his "personal foe". Hurley fired the diplomats who signed the cable asking for his sacking and went on to accuse "the imperialist governments of France, Britain and the Netherlands" as being the ones responsible for all of China's problems. Moreover, President Roosevelt's February 1945 Yalta Conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin resulted in a secret agreement in which, among other things, the Soviet Union was granted concessions in China that Russia had lost in the Russo-Japanese War early in the century. This, Hurley believed, was the beginning of the end of a non-Communist China. Hurley was an Anglophobe who wanted to reduce British influence in China down to nothing. In 1945, Hurley repeatedly suggested that the United States threatened to cease Lend-Lease supplies to Britain until the British promised not to retake Hong Kong, a city that the anti-imperalist Hurley believed rightfully belonged to China. When the American military attache suggested in a cable in March 1945 that the Chinese might be willing to accept Hong Kong be liberated from the Japanese by the British, Hurley wrote to Washington that this was "British imperialist propaganda-and while supporters of this propaganda may be entitled to their own views in their premises, I know of no reason why American officers serving in China should undertake to sponsor such propaganda or to disseminate it within the American government". Hurley's relations with General Sir Adrian Carton de Wiart who was Churchill's special envoy to China were not good as Hurley saw Carton de Wiart as a sinister figure upholding the British empire, which Hurley wanted to see dismantled. Roosevelt had also sent Hurley to China to keep "an eye on European imperialism", a directive that Hurley very seriously.

He held out hope that after President Roosevelt's death, President Harry S. Truman would recognize what he regarded as the errors of Yalta and would rectify the situation, but his efforts in that direction were in vain. In September 1945, a plane landed in Chunking out of the first man to emerge was Hurley who in the words of the British journalist Jonathan Fenby had "...a broad smile on his face as he waved his fedora hat in triumph" followed by Mao. After Japan had signed an armistice with the Allies on 2 September 1945, Chiang had suggested a meeting with Mao in Chunking. The civil war was expected to resume in China and Chiang wanted to be seen by the Chinese people as having done everything to avoid the civil war before it started again. Mao said he would only fly to Chunking if Hurley was on the plane as otherwise he believed Chiang would shoot it down. Chiang wrote in his diary: "How comical this is! Never imagined that the Communists could be so chicken-hearted and shameless. Only three days ago communist newspapers and radio denounced Hurley as a reactionary imperialist. This selfsame imperialist has become Mao's guarantor of safety". The summit in Chunking was not a success. In November 1945, Hurley visited Washington to complain to President Truman that too many "China Hands" in the State Department were sympathetic towards Chinese Communism or European imperialism in Asia.

On November 26, 1945, Hurley submitted a scathing letter of resignation, two hours after his meeting with Truman. Hurley wrote in his letter of resignation that "I requested the relief of the career men who were opposing the American policy in the Chinese Theater of war. These professional diplomats were returned to Washington and placed in the Chinese and Far Eastern Divisions of the State Department as my supervisors. Some of these same career men whom I relieved have been assigned as supervisors to the Supreme Commander in Asia. In such positions most of them have continued to side with the Communist armed party and at times with the imperialist bloc against American policy." Besides for liberal diplomats, Hurley lashed out against the "imperialist" powers of France, Britain and the Netherlands whom he accused of seeking to maintain their empires in Asia at the expense of American interests. Through Hurley had attempted in 1944 to create an "united front" in China and at times had been very sympathetic towards Mao himself, all this was forgotten as Hurley reinvented himself as a hard-right Republican who promptly become to American conservatives a "martyr", an honest diplomat undercut by the "fellow travellers" and Soviet spies who supposedly infiltrated and controlled America's China policy.

The Nationalists' defeat by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 caught the US by surprise, and led to the question "Who Lost China?" as well as recriminations against the State Department officials known as the China Hands. In 1950, when Senator Joseph McCarthy accused the State Department of being ridden with Soviet spies were responsible for the United States "losing" China, Hurley publicly endorsed his claims, saying his efforts to aid Chiang had been undercut by President Roosevelt, whom Hurley portrayed as little more than the puppet of Alger Hiss. Hurley said that at his last meeting with Roosevelt in March 1945, the president was "little more than a bag of bones" who was not interested in his claim that the State Department was passing information "armed Chinese Communists", something that Hurley had not remembered until that time. Hurley argued that Stalin had not broken any agreements "Because we cowardly surrendered to him everything he wanted and we did it in secret...Yalta was the State Departments' blue for the Communist conquest of China!"

Both contemporary and modern assessment of Hurley's performance has not been kind. Michael Burleigh writes: "US policy was not well served by its Ambassador to China from late 1944 onwards, a former Republican secretary of war called Patrick Hurley, a drunken idiot given to Choctaw war cries. Oblivious of China's delicate protocols, he referred to Chiang as 'Mr. Shek' and Mao Zedong as 'Moose Dung' in the course of shuttle trips designed to bring the two together to convert China into a springboard for the final showdown with the Japanese. Mao's cronies called Hurley 'the Clown'; his US diplomatic colleagues dubbed him 'the Albatross.'"

Aside from Hoover himself, Hurley was the last living member of the Hoover administration.

Political candidacy

Hurley was the Republican candidate for a seat in the United States Senate for the state of New Mexico in 1946, 1952 and 1958 but he lost all three attempts against the Democratic candidate Dennis Chavez.


Hurley started the United Western Minerals Corporation of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was involved in the rush to start uranium mining in the Ambrosia Lake region of New Mexico in the 1950s. See Uranium mining in New Mexico.

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