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John J. McCloy

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John J. McCloy

John J. McCloy
2nd President of the World Bank Group
In office
March 1947 – June 1949
Preceded by Eugene Meyer
Succeeded by Eugene R. Black, Sr.
Personal details
Born John Jay McCloy
(1895-03-31)31 March 1895
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died 11 March 1989(1989-03-11) (aged 93)
Stamford, Connecticut
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Ellen Zinsser (m. 1930-1986; her death); 2 children)[1]
Alma mater Amherst College, Harvard Law School

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, where he made many major decisions. 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."


  • Career 1
    • Early years 1.1
    • First World War 1.2
    • Wall Street lawyer 1.3
    • World War II 1.4
    • President of the World Bank and US High Commissioner in Germany 1.5
    • Corporate leadership 1.6
    • Warren Commission 1.7
    • Law firm background 1.8
    • Awards 1.9
  • See also 2
  • References 3
  • Further reading 4
  • Additional sources 5
  • External links 6


Early years

McCloy was the son of John J. McCloy (1862-1901) and Anna (née Snader) McCloy (1866-1959). His father was a successful insurance man who died when the son was five. His mother was a hairdresser in Philadelphia with many high society clients. His original name was "John Snader McCloy" but this was later changed to "John Jay McCloy" (probably to sound more aristocratic).[2] 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.[3]

First World War

McCloy enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1916, where he was an average student. He was profoundly influenced by his experience at the Plattsburg Preparedness camps. When the U.S. entered the war in 1917 he enlisted in 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 1st 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.[2]

After the armistice of November 1918 he was transferred to General Headquarters of the AEF in Chaumont, 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 United States 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.[2]

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.[4] 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.[5]

World War II

The then 54th U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson hired McCloy as a consultant in September 1940, and he became immersed in war planning, even though he was a Republican Party supporter and voted against Franklin D. Roosevelt in the upcoming November 1940 presidential election.[6] On April 22 of 1941, he was moved from consultant and was made Assistant Secretary of War, reporting to Secretary of War Henry Stimson. He had only civilian responsibilities, especially the purchase of war materials for the Army, Lend Lease, the draft, and issues of intelligence and sabotage.[7]

During World War II, as Assistant Secretary of War, McCloy was a crucial voice in setting U.S. military priorities. In February 1942, McCloy was heavily involved in the decision to move Japanese ancestry Americans from their homes on the U.S.A. west coast inland into internment camps; indeed, Kai Bird wrote in his biography on 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 War Department was petitioned throughout late 1944 to help save Nazi held prisoners by ordering the bombing of the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz and the gas chambers in the camp. McCloy responded that only heavy bombers would be able to reach the sites from England, and that those bombers would be too vulnerable and were needed elsewhere. 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. Franklin D. Roosevelt himself rejected any such proposals.[8]

Army Air Forces historians point out a bombing campaign against the camp would have taken months of planning by which time it would be too late to save many Jews.[9]

In his role in fighting sabotage, McCloy became largely responsible for Roosevelt's decision to intern Japanese-American citizens in relocation camps in 1942 - an historical and constitutional controversy that would forever tarnish the legacies of both men. 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."[10] 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 based on the fact that most of the Japanese-American citizens suspected of espionage or sabotage were already under surveillance or in FBI custody.[11] He was responsible for supervising the evacuations to the camps, but the camps were run by a civilian agency.[12]

The actions were initially upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court,.[13] 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.[14] Historian Roger Daniels says McCloy was strongly opposed to reopening the judicial verdicts on the constitutionality of the internment,.[15] But 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.[16] 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.[17]

This led directly to the final resolution, in 1987, of the World War II 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."[18]

An indefatigable committee member, McCloy during the war served on the government task forces that built the Pentagon, created the

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Eugene Meyer
President of the World Bank
1947 – 1949
Succeeded by
Eugene R. Black, Sr.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lucius D. Clay
American High Commissioner for Occupied Germany
1949 - 1952
Succeeded by
James B. Conant
Business positions
Preceded by
Winthrop Aldrich
Chase CEO
Succeeded by
George Champion
Preceded by
Douglas MacArthur
Sylvanus Thayer Award recipient
Succeeded by
Robert A. Lovett
  • American policy and the reconstruction of West Germany 1945-1955
  • Annotated Bibliography for John J. McCloy from the Alsos Digital Library for Nuclear Issues
  • Biography of John McCloy (website)
  • Could The Allies Have Bombed Auschwitz-Birkenau?
  • article on McCloy's role in Japanese American internmentDensho Encyclopedia
  • Foreign Affairs article on John McCloy
  • John J. McCloy, a biography on
  • A letter to John W. Pehle
  • "The Splendid Reconciliation"

External links

  • Martin Gilbert - Auschwitz And The Allies.
  • Stuart Erdheim - "Could The Allies Have Bombed Auschwitz-Birkenau?" - Holocaust and Genocide Studies (fall 97) pp 129–170.
  • John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

Additional sources

  • Bird, Kai. The Chairman: John J. McCloy - The Making of the American Establishment, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992)
  • Irons, Peter. The Courage of Their Convictions: Sixteen Americans Who Fought Their Way to the Supreme Court, (New York: The Free Press, 1988, ISBN 0-02-915670-X)
  • Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made: Acheson, Bohlen, Harriman, Kennan, Lovett, and McCloy, (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986)
  • Roberts, Priscilla. "‘All the Right People’: The Historiography of the American Foreign Policy Establishment." Journal of American Studies (1992) 26#3 pp 409-434.
  • Rockefeller, David. Memoirs, New York: Random House, 2002.
  • Schwartz, Thomas Alan. America's Germany: John J. McCloy and the Federal Republic of Germany (Harvard University Press, 1991)
  • Wilson, John Donald. The Chase: The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 1945-85, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1986.
  • Wolf, Thomas P. "McCloy, John Jay, Jr."; Feb. 2000American National Biography Online Access Date: Jan 29, 2014

Further reading

  1. ^ Ellen Zinsser McCloy obituary,, April 8, 1986; accessed September 1, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Frederick S. Mead. Harvard's Military Record in the World War, Harvard Alumni Association (1921). pg. 606.
  3. ^ Bird (1992), pp 24-41
  4. ^ New York Observer article, July 2006
  5. ^ Kai Bird, The Chairman (1992), chapters 5-6.
  6. ^ Bird. The Chairman (1992), p. 113.
  7. ^ Bird. The Chairman (1992), pp. 117-268.
  8. ^ Beschloss, Michael R. (2003). The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945. Simon and Schuster. p. 66. 
  9. ^ Miller, Donald L. (2007). Masters of the Air: America's Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany. Simon and Schuster. p. 324. 
  10. ^ Bird, Kai. The Chairman (1992), pp. 155-56.
  11. ^ Irons. The Courage of Their Convictions (1988), p. 44
  12. ^ Bird. The Chairman (1992) pp 147-74
  13. ^ Gordon Hirabayashi v. United States 320 U.S. 81 (1943)
  14. ^ Irons. The Courage of Their Convictions (1988), pp 45-46.
  15. ^ Roger Daniels, Unfinished Business: The Japanese-American Internment Cases (1986)[2]
  16. ^ Irons. The Courage of Their Convictions (1988) pp 44; 47-48.
  17. ^ Irons. The Courage of Their Convictions (1988) p 48
  18. ^ Irons. The Courage of Their Convictions (1988) p 49; quoting 46 F. Supp. 657 (9th Cir. 1987) (per Schroeder, J.)
  19. ^ Wolf, 2000
  20. ^ a b Martin A. Lee (23 October 2013). The Beast Reawakens: Fascism's Resurgence from Hitler's Spymasters to Today's Neo-Nazi Groups and Right-Wing Extremists. Routledge. pp. 69–71.  
  21. ^ See Ulm School of Design HfG Ulm: Archive
  22. ^ Background of HFG (in German)
  23. ^ Bird, The Chairman p 565
  24. ^ a b Staff (July 21, 1975). "McCloy Still Feels Oswald Acted Alone". Observer-Reporter (Washington, Pennsylvania). AP. p. D3. Retrieved April 11, 2015. 
  25. ^ Who Was Who. A&C Black. 2007. 


See also

McCloy is 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.


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 at approximately November–December 1945, 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 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".

Law firm background

From 1966 to 1968 he was Honorary Chairman of the Paris-based Atlantic Institute.[25]

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. McCloy 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 FBI and the CIA — as well as the Commission itself.[23] 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."[24] He described writings that propagated assassination conspiracies theories as "just nonsense".[24]

Warren Commission

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

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.

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.

Corporate leadership

McCloy had served as the 1st U.S. High Commissioner. His final successor as commissioner was the 4th U.S. High Commissioner, James B. Conant; the office was terminated on May 5, 1955.

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.[21] 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.[22]

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. On September 2 of 1949, McCloy replaced the previous five successive military governors for the U.S. Zone in Germany as the 1st U.S. High Commissioner for Germany and held this position until August 1 of 1952, during which time 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 Martin Sandberger.[20] 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.[20] Some of the less notable figures were retried and convicted by the government of the newly independent West Germany.

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

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

President of the World Bank and US High Commissioner in Germany


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