Heidelberg to Madrid —
The Story of General Willoughby
Willoughby had served as General of the Army Douglas MacArthur's chief of intelligence from 1941 throughout the Pacific war, the occupation of Japan, and the first stages of the Korean War, until MacArthur's removal in April, 1951. He had retired from the Army in August, 1951, and since then had played no important part in MacArthur's New York headquarters.
Early in April of this year an American military mission arrived in Spain to discuss with Franco and his Ministers the question of establishing U.S. air and naval bases there. Before the negotiations started, the members of the mission knew how delicate their job would be made by the touchiness of the Spaniards. But the Americans had little warning of the way their task would be complicated by Willoughby. The latter, by casting himself as a sort of unofficial spokesman and go-between with Franco, succeeded in building up considerably the Caudillo's confidence at the bargaining table.
The Pentagon had—and still has—a modest notion of Franco's military worth. The U.S. Navy wants only the use of anchorages rather than shore installations in Spain; the Air Force does not consider the Iberian Peninsula the hub of its global strategy; and the U.S. Army has little inclination to try to replace the decrepit equipment of the Spanish Army while its North Atlantic Treaty partners are howling for matériel.
Franco and his advisers feel that Spain has a very great deal to offer. The Americans, they believe, should be prepared to accept and pay well for their country's anti-Communist sentiments, the barrier of its towering Pyrenees, and its 450,000-man army. The $100 million set aside by Congress in August, 1950, for economic aid to Spain Franco considered simply a token. The first job the Americans faced, then, was to make it clear that they had not come to Spain to build a Maginot Line along the Pyrenees or to refloat the Spanish Armada.
It was Willoughby who took it upon himself to encourage, rather than help dispel, such illusions on the part of the Caudillo. At a moment when American negotiators felt particularly depressed by the stiff Spanish demands, Willoughby said in a speech to the Spaniards, "You can count on the friendship of U.S. naval and air circles." When he was asked in a press conference, "Do you think it is the military people of America who best understand Spain?" he answered, according to the story in the Madrid newspaper Ya, "Yes, especially the naval people, who are very sensible."
Although Willoughby described his stay in Spain as being "without official character," his initial audience with Franco lasted an hour and three quarters—extremely long for Franco audiences. From that time until his departure from Spain in July, Willoughby remained in constant contact with Franco's Ministers. During Willoughby's stay at the Velásquez Hotel, the Generalissimo was at great pains to provide him with government limousines and similar official amenities.
During a lecture, in the course of which Willoughby described Spain as "a cradle of supermen," he said, "I have come to Spain behind the Pyrenees than in Paris behind the Rhine." He neglected to explain why he wouldn't have felt even safer staying in New York behind the Atlantic, but the slur on NATO was obvious enough.
Those who knew something of Willoughby's background were not greatly surprised at his paying these sudden attentions to Generalissimo Franco. John Gunther has reported that while he was gathering material for his book The Riddle of MacArthur, he was at dinner one evening with Willoughby when the General suddenly proposed a toast to "The second greatest military commander in the world, Francisco Franco" (MacArthur obviously being the greatest). Willoughby told one Madrid audience that at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff School he had lectured in favor of Franco as early as 1936. After he had given an impassioned account of his pro-Franco sentiments at a Falangist luncheon in Madrid, Willoughby was toasted by Fernández Cuesta, Secretary General of the Falangist Party, in these words: "I am happy to know a fellow Falangist and reactionary."
General Willoughby has been described by an exceptionally candid Japanese who once worked with him in Tokyo as
In the biographies Willoughby has provided to the Army and to Who's Who in America, he is described as having been born in Heidelberg, Germany, on March 8, 1892, the son of Fricher (Baron) T. von Tscheppe-Weidenbach and of Emma von Tscheppe-Weidenbach, née Emma Willoughby, of Baltimore, Maryland.
The mystery which has so often surrounded Willoughby apparently goes back as far as the moment of his birth. Last year a German news magazine, Der Spiegel, which had become interested in tracing the General's noble ancestry, came up with the following item:
"In Who's Who in America, 1950-1951 edition, Willoughby is given as the son of Freiherr T. von Tscheppe und Weidenbach and of Emma von Tscheppe und Weidenbach, née Willoughby; born in Heidelberg on March 8, 1892. However, in the Heidelberg registry under the date March 8, 1892, only the birth of one Adolf August Weidenbach is entered, with ropemaker August Weidenbach as father and Emma, née Langhäuser, as mother . . ."
The Gothaisches Genealogisches Taschenbuch der Briefadeligen, a standard catalogue of the German gentry, does nothing to help clear up the confusion about Willoughby's origin. According to it, General Franz Erich Theodor Tülff von Tschepe (with one "p") und Weidenbach not only lacked the title "Freiherr" but did not receive letters patent from Wilhelm II entitling him to use the surname "von Tschepe und Weidenbach" until 1913. He had five children, none of them born in 1892.One of Willoughby's friends from his early days in the U.S. has stated that both the General's parents were German and that the name Willoughby was a rough translation of Weidenbach, which means "willow brook."
When queried by the writer of this article about his birth, Willoughby said he was and orphan and had never known his father, and finally said the Who's Who version of his biography was correct as far as he was concerned.
The details of Willoughby's career after his arrival in this country are less ambiguous. He came here in 1910, at the age of eighteen, and enlisted in the Army as Adolf Charles Weidenbach. Three years later, having reached the rank of sergeant, he left the service to enter the senior class of Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Graduated from Gettysburg, he studied for an M.A. at the University of Kansas at Lawrence and then taught languages at the Howe School for girls, in Howe, Indiana, and at Racine College in Wisconsin. Then in 1916 he re-entered the Army and was commissioned a second lieutenant of infantry. He served on the Mexican border and later was sent to France, where he took aviation training, flew as a pursuit pilot, and helped train Allied fliers.
After the First World War Willoughby reverted to his old branch, the infantry, and was presently sent as military attaché in turn to Venezuela, Colombia, and Ecuador. In the 1920's he was later assigned to various staff schools as an instructor and lecturer, and began building a brilliant reputation as a military historian and expert on military intelligence.
Most of those who have known Willoughby agree on his distinctly Prussian quality. "But," a fellow officer has said, "there's probably more of von Stroheim than von Rundstedt about him." He has always favored natty custom-tailored uniforms, and has at times sported a monocle. He possesses a strong sense of drama, which is often reflected in his mode of expression. He is remembered at the Army Command and General Staff School as one of the most gifted thespians ever to play romantic leads in the dramatic club. His literary style is well typified by his description of MacArthur's journey from Corregidor to Australia on orders from Washington as a "dramatic breakthrough" and in the characterization of a military history written while he was at Fort Benning as "monumental."
General MacArthur met Willoughby when the latter was a captain teaching at Fort Leavenworth in the mid-1930's, and was, according to legend, greatly impressed by him. In 1940 MacArthur, then serving as Field Marshal of the Philippine Commonwealth, sent for Willoughby and made him his supply officer, and then his Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence.
In Manila, Willoughby, who had shown a great affinity for genteel Hispanic atmosphere while an attaché in Latin America, began spending more and more time around the Spanish Club. Its members were mostly Spaniards who had been born in the Philippines but had chosen to maintain their allegiance to the motherland rather than to the new Commonwealth. The families that dominated the club controlled most of the wealth of the islands; moreover, fully eighty per cent of them were ardent Fracoists and active Falangists. The most formidable names were those of the Sorianos, Elizaldes, Brias-Roxases, and Zobels, who among them held most of the strings of Philippine business and banking. Before long Willoughby became known as the close friend of Andres Soriano, the Spanish Club's most influential member and one of the richest men in the Philippines.
Soriano was not only Willoughby's friend; he was also the good friend of General MacArthur and of another principal MacArthur assistant, Major General Courtney Whitney, who before the war was a lawyer and promoter in Manila. Soriano had—and still has—mining interests, breweries, airlinges, shipping, radio stations, textiles, jute plants, and the Philippine concessions for the products of many freat American firms. During the Spanish Civil War, Soriano was the principal Franco supporter in the Philippines, making large contributions to the Falangist cause, serving as Franco's honorary consul general in Manila, and receiving the highest Franco decorations.
Just before Pearl Harbor, it was felt in Manila not only that war was imminent between Japan and the United States but that Franco would be in it, too, on the side of the Axis. In that event, Spanish holdings in the Philippines would certainly be impounded. Soriano rushed to divest himself of the Spanish citizenship he had hung on to so long and so proudly. The Civil Liberties Union of the Philippines contested in court his application for Philippine naturalization, holding that because of his previous political activities Soriano did not meet the requirements. Soriano, however, was quickly and quietly granted his papers.
When the Japanese attacked, Soriano volunteered and became a captain in the Philippine Army. He was at Bataat and Corregidor, and left the Philippines by plane with President Quezon shortly after MacArthur and Willoughby made their memorable dash to Australia by PT boast and plane.
Although he had been a Philippine citizen for only a few months, Soriano, who shortly thereafter arrived in Washington with Quezon, was named by the latter to serve as Secretary of Finance in the Philippine government-in-exile. There was criticism on the floor of Congress from Democratic Representative John Coffee of Washington about such a pronounced Francoist and Fascist being a member of a U.S.-supported Allied government while the United States was at war with the Fascist powers, and there were calls for Soriano's resignation. At this point Soriano received an invitation from MacArthur's headquarters in Australia to join the staff immediately as a colonel. Although Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes protested to Secretary of War Henry Stimson about the appointment, Soriano took the post, was with MacArthur and Willoughby in the triumphant return to the Philippines, and presently found himself serving the Supreme Commander as one of his two principal advisers on Philippine politics and business. According to one of his American fellow officers in Manila who was responsible for investigating collaborationist charges, Soriano was able on occasion to use his position to protect some of the old friends in the Spanish Club who had survived the Japanese occupation remarkably well.
Of Willoughby's bravery there is no doubt. On Bataan, while on detached reconnaissance, he rallied a company whose captain had been badly wounded under heavy mortar and machine-gun fire and led it back into action. For his heroism at Buna, that ghastly early jungle battle of the Second World War, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
But Willoughby's real job was, after all, intelligence, not command of troops. During the war, the writer observed at first hand the results of much intelligence work by Willoughby that was sound and effective. Many correspondents and military historians, however, have pointed to a number of striking miscalculations.
In early 1944, in the largest landing of the Pacific war to that date, four infantry divisions were employed in connection with taking Hallandia, Dutch New Guinea. Willoughby had reported sizable Japanese forces there. The entire Pacific Fleet stood out to sea screening the landing. Surrendering to this mighty force, there appeared some two thousand frightened Japanese warehouse and supply troops. Because of wartime censorship and the fact that the operation was theoretically in line with MacArthur's policy of "hitting them where they ain't," the intelligence misappraisal was conveniently filed and forgotten.
The inadequacy of U.S. counterintelligence operations at the beginning of the occupation of Japan, although not primarily Willoughby's responsibility, has been directly attributed to his influence. Before the occupation began, Willoughby told this reporter,
The "battle-formation" plan had been worked out because of the likelihood of last-ditch kamikaze attacks by young Japanese fanatics. But counterintelligence was not under Willoughby's command, although he had often tried to get control of it, and for this reason, among others, it was generally believed that he had used his top-echelon influence to ensure that it received a low priority for transportation to Japan.
As a result of this decision, the writer and others who were in Tokyo when the occupation began watched the Japanese Foreign Office, Radio Tokyo, and the military openly burning in the streets documents and records they did not want our authorities to see, with no counterintelligence men there to stop them.
General Robert Eichelberger, then commanding our Eighth Army, lacked the benefit of counterintelligence advice when he welcomed as a "nice fellow" the commander of the Japanese First Army in Yokohama, General Doihara, who, as Japan's top army intelligence officer, had engineered the 1931 "incident" leading to Japan's taking over Manchuria. It was only the next day, after Eichelberger's action had been reported in the States, that MacArthur personally ordered Doihara's arrest.
One evening not long after the occupation began, there was a raid on the Hotel Marunuchi by American M.P.s looking for a ring of black-market operators. Unfortunately, the M.P.s disturbed the occupants of a suite where General Willoughby was having dinner with the stranded Italian Fascist Ambassador to Japan and members of his staff. While serving as military attaché in Ecuador,
Willoughby had received a decoration from Mussolini's government—the Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro. The General was furious at being disturbed in his entertainment, and gave the M.P.s a good piece of his mind.
What was probably intended to be Willoughby's most "monumental" achievement—but turned out to be his least publicized venture—was the great Tokyo historical project. This was to be a three- or four-volume glorification of the war in the Pacific as conducted by MacArthur. Originally begun by G-3 in 1943 as a routine record, it was reassigned to G-2 in the fall of 1946 by order of MacArthur who was dissatisfied with the progress being made.
Willoughby took over with his usual flair for the dramatic. He not only assigned much of the G-2 staff to work on it, but added to SCAP's payroll an impressive group of fifteen or more former Japanese admirals, generals, and colonels to contribute their testimony to the story of MacArthur's triumphs. Presently the mushrooming historical unit occupied an entire floor of the Nippon Yusen Kaisha Building, one of the largest in Tokyo. Its work was shrouded in particularly dense secrecy. Everyone was required to destroy his notes and other papers when finished with them and to sign out for any material taken from the unit. At the printing plant, manuscripts were given special security handling, and after every press run the waste paper was collected and burned.
Ultimately the project was reduced to three volumes, entitled Campaigns of MacArthur in the Pacific, Japanese Operations Against MacArthur, and MacArthur in Japan: Military Phases. Willoughby devoted most of his personal attention to the second volume, Japanese Operations, since he had conceived the idea and had hired the Japanese specialists to help him. He intended it to be the finest literary and artistic creation of its kind. Several who saw page proofs in Tokyo report that it is indeed a magnificent job, ornamented by fine maps and fifteen or twenty color plates—many of the latter from specially commissioned paintings by prominent Japanese artists.
Up to the fall of 1949, progress reports on the history were occasionally sent to the Pentagon. After that date they were abruptly discontinued. The reason, according to employees of the unit, was very simple: The Pentagon had reserved the right to review and edit the history before publication. Since MacArthur intended the work to be the basis of his personal memoirs, such interference could not be tolerated.
That was the last the Pentagon hear of the project—at least officially. By the end of 1950 the three volumes (numbering well over 3,000 pages together) were completed, assembled in four sets of bound page proof, and were packed off to the U.S. in MacArthur's luggage when he made his farewell to Tokyo a few months later. All other records of the project were ordered destroyed.
On the basis of physical cost per volume, it was probably the most expensive publishing venture of our time. It was certainly the most mysterious.
This account of the historical project is based on the testimony of a number of people who worked on it. When asked about it recently, however, General Willoughby refused to concede that such a history existed at all. The General brushed the matter aside, saying that the only historical work his G-2 staff had undertaken in Tokyo was the preparation of twelve or more volumes of routine monographs on various aspects of the Pacific war, all of which had been sent to Washington and were in current use.
It is definitely known, however, that the Pentagon has been trying for a long time to get hold of a set of the three "master" volumes, perhaps to discover how the Pacific war came out. To date it has had no success. The Office of Military History, Department of the Army, showed a certain embarrassment when queried about the matter.
"We have no copies," they said. "We have never seen them." What has happened to the four sets is known presumably only to General MacArthur and perhaps to General Willoughby.
In Tokyo General Willoughby also devoted himself to the study of materials from the Japanese secret-service files on the case of Richard Sorge, a German Communist who had established a successful Soviet spy apparatus in Tokyo during the war. Sorge had gained the confidence of the Nazi Ambassador to Japan, had become the Embassy's press attaché, and had then fed to Moscow an enormous stream of information about the military plans of the Rome-Berlin-Tokyo Axis. He had been apprehended and executed by the Japanese just before Pearl Harbor.
Willoughby's research on the Sorge case resulted in his book Shanghai Conspiracy, which gave a detailed account of Red espionage in Japan, and revealed the parts played by various American Communists.
No account of Willoughby's activities in Tokyo if fully illuminating unless it includes something about his vendettas with critics, non-admirers, and those guilty of lèse-majesté against MacArthur. It is said that Willoughby sometimes devoted as much energy to his dossiers on newspaper infidels and heretics as he did to his reports on enemy troop dispositions.
One of the most interesting cases was that of William Costello of the Columbia Broadcasting System, who decided early in the game that he preferred digging up his own material about Japanese conditions rather than using the MacArthur handouts. He was complimented by his home office, but in Tokyo he began to hear subtle hints and suggestions that the Supreme Commander was distressed. The erring reporter was subjected to a war of nerves. A friend called and casually dropped the information that Costello had better watch himself, because counterintelligence agents had informed them that G-2 had in its possession his old "Communist card" from California. Costello had never been a Communist, a sympathizer, an innocent fronter, or a Californian, and he was not impressed. The same kind of reports and gossip cropped out at other levels in occupation circles. Costello fought back. At dinners, cocktail parties, and official interviews, he spoke his mind openly and vigorously about General Willoughby. The showdown came in the spring and summer of 1948, when General MacArthur's chief of staff repeated at a dinner party the unsupported assertion that Costello was a Communist. The latter, knowing that Willoughby's agents monitored all outgoing press cables, promptly wired his home office that he had traced the slander directly to its source and was preparing to take action. The feud ended officially some weeks later when General Willoughby's secretary telephoned and invited Costello to an elaborate stag dinner that the General was giving.
There has been much evidence that the Bataan Boys were not among themselves a happy family, and that Willoughby and Whitney were constantly feuding for MacArthur's favor, with Whitney generally winning out. In Tokyo, Willoughby tried to wrest the main role in military government away from Whitney, but failed. Earlier, in the second Manila chapter, he had tried to get counterintelligence away from Brigadier General Elliot Thorpe (not a Bataan Boy) and had failed there too. This has been given as a reason for his apparent obstructionism toward counterintelligence during the entry into Japan. He was particularly annoyed with Thorpe because in Manila the counterintelligence chief insisted on investigating Soriano's Falangist friends.
Soriano became a United States citizen in 1945, again with the recommendation of General MacArthur and again over the protest of Harold Ickes. Said Ickes:
In Tokyo in 1949, Willoughby boasted to this writer about how he had kept General William J. Donovan's O.S.S. operatives out of MacArthur's theater during the Second World War and had done "a better job far cheaper" with his own organization. In 1950, after Admiral Joy, then ranking naval commander in Korea, and the Air Force brass had praised the Central Intelligence Agency, the successor of O.S.S., for doing the job behind the lines before the Inchon landings in September, General Willoughby took public exception, and continued to make life somewhat less than easy for the C.I.A. in Korea.
In the months before the Korean War began, Willoughby was filing regular reports with the Pentagon. In these reports Willoughby actually called the turn in Korea with surprising accuracy. In January, 1950, he predicted a North Korean invasion for April. In March he revised his estimate and said the attack would come in June—as it did. The difficulty was that Willoughby had acquired a reputation, justly or unjustly, for doctoring his reports to cover all contingencies, and for crying "Wolf!" about once a month.
One correspondent explained,
But it is also a fact that when John Foster Dulles was briefed by General Willoughby a day or two before the outbreak of the Korean War, the G-2 chief made no predictions about Korea. Instead, he warned of dangers in Hong Kong, Indo-China, and the Philippines.
The weeks of the Yalu River debacle at the end of 1950 were exceedingly trying ones for Willoughby. He wanted to make everyone feel that he had reported that the Chinese were massing at the Yalu and had warned that they would attack, and at the same time he found it embarrassing to explain why MacArthur had not heeded his warnings and had gone ahead with his "home-by-Christmas" offensive with an inadequate force. Willoughby revealed in a Madrid speech this year that he did not know when the Chinese crossed into Korea.
Many American correspondents recall Willoughby's famous "profile conference" in connection with the Yalu disaster. In an extraordinary session with the press, during which Willoughby mopped his brow a good deal, the General offered the newspapermen the following explanation:
That when MacArthur ordered the "end of the war" and "home-by-Christmas" offensive, he did know that his troops faced an enemy potential of 300,000 men on both sides of the Yalu.
That there were thirty Chinese divisions—about 200,000 men—massed on the north side of the Yalu within marching distance of the front:
That the Chinese began crossing the Yalu "piecemeal" in mid-October, 1950.
When asked why MacArthur ordered his offensive in the face of information that he was outnumbered three to one, Willoughby replied,
"Finding a profile," according to some military men, is purely a reconnaissance task, for which a commander can use a large force, but not generally his whole army, as seems to have been the case in the Yalu defeat. In any event, General Willoughby was furious with correspondents who questioned the logic of the operation.
Speculation about Willoughby's exact responsibility in the matter will probably not end until all of the SCAP records are gone over by some conscientious and impartial historian. There is, of course, the possibility that Willoughby served as the whipping boy, but his loyalty to his old chief would probably prevent him from ever divulging what really happened.
After his retirement Willoughby launched a broadside in Cosmopolitan against certain correspondents and commentators who had rapped MacArthur's strategy. His targets included Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, one of the most able war correspondents and a Pulitzer Prize winner; Hal Boyle, front-line correspondent for the Associated Press; Hanson Baldwin, military specialist of the New York Times; Joseph Alsop, syndicated columnist; and Drew Pearson, columnist and radio commentator. There was nothing diplomatic in Willoughby's handling of these MacArthur critics; to him they were "rag-pickers of American literature," addicted to "yellow journalism" and "sensational exaggeration," whose reporting furnished "aid and comfort to the enemy."
The men under attack, a notably vocal group, all replied with vigor. The mildest reply was that of Hanson Baldwin, who said:
When Willoughby got back to the United States from Spain last month, his plans seemed highly indefinite. He emphasized to this writer that he had returned not aboard a Spanish liner, as he had gone over, but on a T.W.A. plane. He spoke wistfully of General Albert Wedemeyer's Taftist organization, which he had joined a few weeks before the Eisenhower deluge at the Republican Convention. Despite his remark last year,
People who know both Whitney and Willoughby say that in any struggle between them that in any struggle between them for MacArthur's favor, Whitney was bound to win. Willoughby, they say, was always flattering and ornamental, but Whitney, with his background as a corporation lawyer, his business connections in the Philippines, and his utility as a general mouthpiece, could always be of more value to MacArthur. One proof of this seems to be that Whitney has remained at the Waldorf Towers taking care of the world's greatest military commander's public and private relations, while Willoughby has recently had to content himself with the world's second greatest military commander, Francisco Franco.