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Ch. 11 Pt. 1

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Admiral William Veazie Pratt

by
Gerald E. Wheeler

U. S. Government Printing Office
Washington, D. C.
1974

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Chapter 12
This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

Chapter XI

Primrose Hill

[Part 2 of 2]

 p399  Except for the frequent trips to Washington, the admiral's release from active duty caused scarcely a change in his routine. Few of his acquaintances in New York, where he continued to live between January and July 1941, even realized he was on active duty. He continued to produce his weekly column for Newsweek and he lived a pattern of existence that he was to follow until he left the city in April 1946. If there was any other emphasis in his activities during 1941, it consisted of the extra effort he made to improve Japanese-American relations. Several opportunities presented themselves during that fateful year of 1941 and Pratt did all he could to help.

About a week before the admiral reported for active duty, he was approached by the New York correspondent of the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun for his views concerning Admiral Nomura's appointment as Ambassador to the United States. Pratt used this opportunity to state his views generally on American-Japanese relations in the hope that they might have some impact on the government in Tokyo. He was pleased that Nomura was being sent to Washington; he was confident that sailormen understood international relations better than their military counterparts. Pratt expressed dismay that the Japanese were continuing to tie themselves to Germany since their interests were closer to the liberal sea powers, Britain and America. He concluded his letter to Mr. Fuwa with a theme he had stated often in the past ten years:

Japan, like Britain and America, is naturally a sea nation — the policies of the sea, not the land, should guide her. In my own mind, looking ahead and not  p400 at the immediate picture, I have thought often of Britain, America, and Japan as the three great exponents of liberal sea power, and between them all keeping the peace of the world, and each getting his fair share of the trade of the world without fighting over it.44

On the same day that he wrote to the Yomiuri reporter, Pratt expressed the same views in Newsweek. Again, he seemed to be trying to force the two nations to recognize the similarity of their interests.45

In mid‑February Admiral Nomura presented his credentials at the State Department and two days later at the White House. When meeting with the President on 14 February it was arranged that the Ambassador and Secretary of State Cordell Hull would soon commence a series of confidential discussions to be held in the Secretary's apartment at the Carlton Hotel. During the same days, Pratt wrote to the CNO and offered to help in any way he could with handling Nomura. He told Admiral Stark of his many years of contact with the Japanese admiral-diplomat and suggested that he might know a bit more about the "oriental mind" than the usual denizen of "Main Navy." The CNO accepted his friend's invitation of assistance and wrote a few questions concerning the protocol of dealing with the Japanese; Pratt fielded these easily.46 From his forum at Newsweek, the admiral decided to instruct the Japanese by spelling out United States interests in Asia — just in case Nomura might have forgotten certain fundamentals. He noted:

It is always to be remembered that the United States is still the guardian of the Philippines, has a deep interest in preserving the status quo of the Dutch and British holdings in this part of the world, and is gravely concerned over the ultimate fates of Australia and New Zealand, component parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, whose mother country America is pledged to aid. . . .47

As he knew would happen, Admiral Pratt received an invitation to meet privately with Admiral Nomura on 4 March at the latter's suite in the Plaza Hotel in New York. The Ambassador would be in town to attend a dinner in his honor, given by the Japanese residents of New York. Pratt and Louise were invited to lunch and then Louise went shopping. Most of the three-hour visit was devoted to generalities and reminiscences, but occasionally each spoke to the point about  p401 United States-Japanese relations. Pratt, according to his formal memorandum concerning the interview, emphasized again his theme that the two sea powers should be making common cause and not posturing menacingly toward one another. Nomura spoke rather candidly that the Army leadership had gotten Japan into a corner and they needed a way out that would preserve "face."48 For Pratt it was an interesting meeting; it must have been obvious to him that the Ambassador had very little maneuvering room. It is doubtful that the Japanese gained much in talking to his old friend; but it did provide him with another means of reaching the center of the American government if he cared to use indirect channels. Three days later the Pratts hosted Nomura at a dinner at the St. Regis. Louise thought it quite elegant and was deeply touched by the string of pearls that the Ambassador gave her.49

Six weeks later Ambassador Nomura again requested that Admiral Pratt dine privately with him at the Plaza Hotel. This time there was a full 2½ hours of serious conversation. The theme was simple: Japan wanted peace in Asia, did not intend to menace Malaya or the Dutch East Indies, and definitely desired improved relations with America. Pratt reported: "He [Nomura] distinctly did not want war to creep into the Pacific — and I gathered this was the general sentiment in Japan — as it would tend to disturb Japan's policy of economic rehabilitation and stability in the Orient." Pratt further interpreted Nomura's feelings to be pessimistic about Hitler's chances of defeating Britain assisted by America. The Japanese did leave one other idea with Pratt. He stated that Foreign Minister Matsuoka would like to visit America and that he was less hostile than his press notices depicted him.50 Apparently Pratt recognized that it was more important that he listen, rather than try guiding Nomura's views. His report to the dispute was much more detailed than that describing his March visit.

The two admirals were again brought together, on 4 June, when the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of New York City gave a major dinner in honor of Nomura. The theme of the after-dinner speeches was the urgency of keeping the peace in the Pacific. The Japanese  p402 Ambassador came to the point very directly when he stated: "It is quite clear that both our countries have nothing to gain and everything to lose by armed conflict. Between America and Japan, the way of peace is the only way."51 The New York Times, two days after the dinner, editorialized about the speeches:

Certainly no war would come out of that dinner. One would have to pinch himself to believe that it took place only a little while after the Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr. Matsuoka, reinforced by his visits in Moscow and Berlin, had permitted himself to be quoted as saying that Japan would go to war with the United States if the United States went to war with the Nazis. It would be unfair to suggest that there was hypocrisy in the after-dinner speeches. They were merely signs of civilization's split personality. Sensible Americans don't want to fight Japan. Sensible Japanese don't want to fight  p403 the United States. We can only hope that the sensible Japanese will prevail over those who ordered the invasion of China and who are now hitching their country to Hitler's war chariot.52

Pratt tried to give the dinner a little more impact by publishing an article paralleling a theme he, and the New York Times, had struck. Again he argued that Japan belonged with the "liberal" sea powers and should not be following the path of military aggression. He speculated: "Behind the official facade of loyalty to the Axis, many wiser and older heads know that Japan's true interests do not lie along the path mapped out by Nazi schemers, but parallel those of Britain and America."53

It is evident that Admiral Pratt influenced some important Japanese; but it is also quite evident that the Japanese government did not respond to his views, nor to those of the State Department. K. K. Kawakami, an important publicist in America, regularly forwarded Pratt's Newsweek columns to the Tokyo Nichinichi newspaper. In July he sent one to his home paper and apologized to Newsweek's Washington correspondent for altering the admiral's language a bit "to make it more palatable to the Nazi-poisoned palate."54 In August the admiral's old friend, Jiuji Kasai, came to Washington, from the Canal Zone, to assist Nomura. Pratt had known Kasai since 1932, when he allowed the journalist to interview him about the future of Japanese-American relations, and he had continued to exchange "frank letters" with the younger man. Feeling he could write candidly to the admiral, Kasai explained that he had been working diligently to get his country to end its ruinous connection with Hitler's regime. He wanted to see the Nazis defeated and he knew that conflict between America and Japan would frustrate this goal.55 In the end, of course, Pratt's efforts, and those of his Japanese friends, were in vain. On the eve of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the admiral wrote a final, and very prescient caveat to the Japanese nation. He once more urged that Japan forsake the Axis powers; in return for this action there would be trade and an improvement in relations with America. He continued:

But of more immediate importance to Japan are these matters: Britain and America have not been conquered, nor will they be; a war extending to the  p404 Pacific will be a long war; the two liberal powers can stand it, even if they dislike it; the war in China, of vital interest for Japan to see ended, will drag on; the embargo will continue its stranglehold on Japan's economic system, and affairs will go from bad to worse. To espouse the Hitler cause holds no rosy picture for Japan.56

With American declarations of war against the Axis powers, Pratt now gave full attention to his weekly articles and other public information activities. He spoke regularly over national radio networks giving short analyses of the war. He had done this before Pearl Harbor and now this work became more frequent. Because he lived in New York, the admiral was able regularly to attend Council on Foreign Relations dinners and these brought him into close contact with foreign officials and military leaders visiting America. But it was through his weekly analyses that he remained before his public. In a brief notice in October 1942, Newsweek's publisher, Malcolm Muir, summed up Pratt's contribution: "A gifted writer as well as a keen analyst and strategist, he looks upon his weekly column as a natural continuation of his naval career."57

Though the admiral's "War Tides" articles were carefully drafted and thoughtfully considered, it would be an injustice to their author to claim more than they deserved. Because he was largely limited to public data, supplemented by an occasional bit of classified information, Pratt's writing suffered from the lack of full and accurate information close in time to the battles and campaigns he analyzed. He was best at broad interpretation and analogy, weakest at dealing with specifics. In the 22 December issue he surveyed the situation after the Pearl Harbor Attack and concluded that the loss of Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma was not critical because of the probable destruction of battleships Haruna and Kongo. As now known, the damage at Pearl Harbor was much greater than Pratt realized, or could relate, and the Japanese lost no battleships in those early months to offset America's tragic losses of 7 December. On the other hand he did recognize that the Japanese attack was "a blessing in disguise, for nothing could have united America to prosecute this war to a finish as did this treacherous and stupid attack."58 In mid‑January  p405 he laid out the grand strategy of the war in the Pacific with a brief paragraph. His familiarity with war plans and the realities of the military situation, in Europe and the Pacific, made this simple analysis possible. He wrote:

If Washington conference [U. S.‑British talks] plans go through, there will soon be fairly important offensive action against Japan, perhaps involving surprises. But there will be no real campaign to knock Japan out of the war. The British and Russians have now convinced the U. S. that Hitler comes first. Their argument is that Germany's defeat and Italy's collapse would mean the end of European fighting and leave Japan relatively easy to dispose of. . . . This temporary defense strategy means there will be no broad all‑out drive soon, but there will, of course, be "limited offensives" designed to ease the pressure on vital Allied bases."59

By mid‑June 1942, following the great sea battles in the Coral Sea (4‑8 May 1942) and near Midway (3‑6 June 1942), the admiral again was sketchy and inaccurate with detail but he clearly saw the significant results. For his Newsweek readers he predicted cautiously: "The victories in the Coral Sea and around Midway may mark the turning of the tide in the Pacific, making it easier in the future for us to initiate our own brand of offensive warfare." In an article for the London News Chronicle, published the same week, he was more sanguine: "The tide has turned." He believed the Japanese carrier losses, American ability to replace carriers faster than Japan, and "the quality of aircraft and technique of operations" meant that America now had a great advantage. He concluded that "the Japanese ability to take the initiative in offensive operations has been weakened while ours has increased."60

At the end of 1942 Admiral Pratt caused a minor stir in Secretary Knox's office by predicting future naval operations a bit too specifically for a Boston citizen. Speaking on a national network "American Town Meeting of the Air," the admiral summed up the importance of the African invasion and pointed out certain future operational possibilities in the Mediterranean. His arguments for a future invasion of Sicily, Pantelleria, and Sardinia were so convincing that a member of the Boston Port Authority complained to the Secretary that important military secrets were being revealed. Pratt, of course, had  p406 no special information, but his method of presenting his views was most convincing — if not startling.61

During the course of the war the admiral's appreciation of naval aviation, in fact all air power, grew steadily. He drew obvious conclusions from the Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, and Midway battles about the importance of control of the air over a fleet. His prewar abhorrence of strategic air warfare against population centers gave way in mid‑1942 to acceptance of a bomber offensive in Europe as a reasonable temporary substitute for the second front so desired by the Russians. Following the battles around Guadalcanal and the Solomon and Bismarck Archipelagoes, he concluded that the Japanese were inept in using land-based aviation and that General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.MacArthur's Seventh Air Force, like naval aviation afloat, was destroying Japanese efforts to control the air over land or the sea.62

The great naval victories in the Philippine Sea and Leyte Gulf, during the summer and fall of 1944, were not given the intensive attention that one might have expected from Admiral Pratt. He was tired and having sinus trouble during late June and early July and spent as much time away from New York as possible. His columns dealt with such general subjects as amphibious assaults, carrier warfare, and control of strategic locations, when he could have been drawing lessons from the invasion of Saipan and Guam and the second great naval aviation victory, that of 19 June 1944 called "the Great Marianas Turkey Shoot." With the end of organized Japanese resistance on Guam, he did write a good analysis of the importance of the Marianas as naval and bomber bases for the final reduction of Japan.63 During the time that word of the climactic battles in the waters of the Philippines (Leyte Gulf, Surigao Straits, off Samar and Cape Engaño) was filtering in (23‑26 October 1944), the admiral was at the Naval Hospital Bethesda having another serious sinus operation. By 6 November he was able to publish a good critique of the Japanese strategy and why it went wrong. A week later, with most of the results available, he concluded that the Marianas and Leyte Gulf battles were very important but were essentially "local" in value. Had they been lost, the American momentum would have been slowed, but not reversed. In his judgment, Midway had been  p407 the really significant battle because it reversed the Japanese drive and allowed the Americans to begin their offensive campaigns that would lead to inevitable Japanese defeat.64

By the summer of 1945, Admiral Pratt knew the collapse of Japan was drawing near. The successful campaigns against Iwo Jima and Okinawa gave the United States a practically unimpeded approach to the Japanese home islands and invasion talk was in the air. Because of his understanding of the Japanese people, and their demonstrated willingness to use suicide methods against invading forces, the admiral disliked seeing the Allies attempt an assault of the Japanese home islands. He agreed with most of the Navy's top commanders who believed that sea and airpower, through blockade and bombing attacks, could break the Japanese will to continue.65 With war's end, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he summed up the Navy's contribution to victory:

Unless we had wrestledº control of the sea from the Japanese, never could we have made any amphibious landings, nor paved the way for the invasion of Japan. Never could our fleets have moved freely in waters that were once held by Japan. In short, the Pacific war could not have been won.66

While Japan's surrender permitted the nation to begin the demobilization of its armed forces, Admiral Pratt continued to write his weekly column for Newsweek. There was much going on that needed comment by an experienced naval analyst, of he stayed with his job. Like those on active duty, he was concerned that the new Congressional drive for unification of the Armed Services could ruin the Navy. He agreed that there should be a new department for the Air Force, but he advocated closer cooperation rather than unification under a single secretary. He also wrote regularly about the absolute necessity for the United States to take the lead in international-security affairs. He feared the people would slip back into their old isolationist ways unless the country's leaders supported the United Nations.67

Starting in October 1945, Pratt wrote a series of ten articles which  p408 dealt with the naval lessons derived from the war. They do not represent his best writing or his most cogent thought and they lack a clear focus. He didn't quite draw any meaningful lessons from the past and he joined most of the world in his inability to see what the future held. He felt that cooperation among the Allies and within the American Armed Forces had been the key to victory and would be vital for the future. He recognized that atomic bombs had made warfare extremely dangerous; thus statesmanship and juridical processes would be equally important with military power for keeping the peace in the years ahead. With one conclusion he returned to his old heretical ways — he wanted America unilaterally to outlaw atomic warfare. Those who remembered his ideas about naval disarmament probably were not surprised when he suggested that America was so powerful that it could afford to declare it would never use nuclear weapons except for retaliation for their use by others.68 In his last regular article produced for Newsweek, the Admiral again stated his views about the atomic bomb:

. . . the bombing of Hiroshima without a previous warning does lay America open to the charge of adopting a Hitler strategy. And we did miss a great opportunity for taking a leading world position when we failed to renounce the use of atomic energy as an instrument of war except in retaliation.69

As might be expected, Admiral Pratt was quick to forgive the Japanese their transgressions and urged great care in the making of plans for their future. He quickly dropped from his columns use of the opprobrious term "Japs," though the magazine's make-up editors continued to insert it in the article titles for a couple of months. His position was simply stated on 1 October when he wrote: "Japan is economically helpless now. . . . We cannot leave her to stew in her own juice and expect to live on friendly terms with her later. Any slight assistance we might give would do more to reeducate the Japanese people as to the value of liberal government than tons of literature proclaiming its virtues. . . .70

Ironically Pratt's compassion for the Japanese did not extend to those held responsible for the disaster at Pearl Harbor. On 29 August 1945 the President released the report of the naval court of inquiry  p409 which had investigated the attack. Written by Admiral Orin G. Murfin (president), Admiral Edward C. Kalbfus, and Vice Admiral Adolphus Andrews in mid‑October 1944, the report had opined that "no offenses have been committed nor serious blame incurred on the part of any person or persons in the naval service." Admiral Ernest J. King, serving as COMINCH and CNO, endorsed the report by suggesting that further testimony be sought. More importantly, he reviewed the findings and opinions and concluded that Admirals Harold R. Stark (CNO in 1941) and Husband E. Kimmel (Commander in Chief, Pacific Fleet in 1941) had demonstrated that they never should be assigned again to positions which "require the exercise of superior judgment." In the spring of 1945 Admiral H. Kent Hewitt again studied the report and at the order of Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal investigated further and added more testimony, documents, findings, and his own judgments. It was Secretary Forrestal's report to President Truman, based on the court of inquiry, and King's and Hewitt's works, that had been released to the press. In this report he followed Admiral King's line that while no offenses deserving a court martial had been committed, Admirals Stark and Kimmel were never again to be assigned important commands.71

From his desk at Newsweek, Admiral Pratt lashed into the Navy's reports. His national audience was increased by the fact that the New York Times ran a major story based on his article of 10 September 1945. The thrust of his article, "Some Plain Speaking About Pearl Harbor," was that neither Admiral Stark nor Admiral Kimmel had exercised the first-class judgment or leadership expected of their positions. He believed that Kimmel should have moved the Pacific Fleet to Lahaina Roads, off Maui, where it could have been held in a posture of instant readiness. Like the court of inquiry, he was harshest on Admiral Stark. As CNO he should have insured that the Pacific Fleet commander handled his responsibilities intelligently, or he should have removed him. In December 1945, once Congress began its fresh investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, the admiral again expressed his views in print. The early drift of the questioning began to support the idea that President Roosevelt should have accepted Admiral J. O. Richardson's demand that he be allowed to bring the fleet from Pearl Harbor to the  p410 West Coast. Pratt thought that Kimmel's predecessor was wrong and that Admiral Stark was correct in insisting that the Pacific Fleet stay where it was. Had Richardson retreated to the Coast, it might have been impossible to regain the offensive posture, since the public, as in the Spanish-American War, could have forced the Administration to keep its protection close to the coasts. In short, as Pratt saw it, the strategy was sound but the tactical dispositions were not.72

In his articles Admiral Pratt was reaffirming views he had held for more than twenty years. While he was only an observer of the investigations, he could still remind the Navy and its officer corps that leadership requires intelligent judgment and willingness to be personally responsible. Just as he had deplored the "buck-passing" that accompanied the tragedy at Point Honda in 1923, now he wanted the Navy to avoid "whitewashing" its top leaders and act responsibly before the public. In the end, he believed, the service would emerge in a strong position than if it were to accept the court of inquiry's judgment that "no offenses have been committed nor serious blame incurred. . . ."

The war years in New York had been interesting for the Pratts, but they had also taken their toll. For a man in his seventies he had reasonably good health, but in the spring of 1943 he had to seek relief, at the Bethesda Naval Hospital, from his sinus troubles. He returned for further operations in November 1944, October 1945, and March 1946. Most of these trips to Bethesda lasted at least two weeks and they normally involved difficult nasal operations that caused the admiral considerable suffering. During all of these visits Pratt's former Aide, "Jimmy" Campbell, now a captain on active duty, was able to visit him daily and provide Louise with transportation when she came to Washington. The Pratts were deeply appreciative of Campbell's assistance, and after his first stay at Bethesda he suggested to his wife that they give his friend a portrait of the admiral that had been painted when he was CINCUS.73

The Pratt's stay in New York was made more bearable by their living at the Berkshire Hotel in close proximity to Louise's dear friend Edith Lorillard Beebe. Louise, of course, normally stayed in New York  p411 from December through April and then returned to Belfast. When the summer heat became too oppressive, the Beebes regularly invited Bill to stay with them at their country estate in Pomfret, Connecticut. Quite often, when they were out of town, these generous friends made their apartment available to servicemen whom the admiral had befriended. During these same years Mabel Tod also visited New York regularly, particularly during "the season," and she and Louise took in fully the musical activities of the city. But by the spring of 1946 the pace was beginning to slow for Bill and Louise. Billy was back from his four years of overseas service with the Army and it was difficult for them to live at the Berkshire. The son was planning to return to Harvard in 1946, so a period of rest and study in Belfast for Billy was considered highly desirable. There he could readjust to civilian life and as a family they could restore Primrose Hill to its prewar beauty. On 15 March the Newsweek staff gave the admiral a farewell party and the next day he went to Washington for further work on his nose. By the end of March he was back in New York and on 1 April the Pratts began their long drive to Belfast in the family's new postwar Mercury.74

With the end of his "duty" at Newsweek, the admiral once again retired to Belfast and his beautiful rose garden. While still erect, and in reasonably good health for his seventy-seven years, he began to settle into the routines of a fully retired citizen. Gardening was his most important hobby and he and Louise took great pride in the grounds of Primrose Hill. A few days each year they would open their house and garden for neighbors and visitors to share their delight. Unfortunately for all, the admiral's eyesight began to fail in 1948 and by early 1949 he was almost totally blind. His news and information about world and national affairs, always so vital to a person accustomed to writing, now came only by the radio or from listening to Louise read aloud.

Despite his physical handicap, which increased his reluctance to travel, Pratt continued to correspond with a few public figures. Some letters he dictated, others he drafted for typing with the enlarged scrawl of one blind, or nearly so. Just before the light dimmed for him, he published his last article in Newsweek; by chance it dealt with Japan. In this piece he criticized the program of economic demobilization that had been forced on that region. He believed no other country in the Far East had the unity, stability, vigor, and know‑how to rebuild  p412 the region. He argued, despite the fact that Japan was occupied and the war had concluded less than three years before, that the Japanese could be trusted if they trusted you. He warned, in the spirit of the early Cold War years, that were America not to help this prostrate nation it would surely come under Russian guidance and dominance.75 Because Newsweek had international editions, Pratt's article was read by Admiral Kichisaburo Nomura. He reopened a correspondence with Pratt in August 1948 which was to continue until the latter's death. In this brief note, the Japanese said that the admiral's kind words about his country were deeply appreciated in Japan. "To encourage others is, in general, more effective than to blame them, especially in the occasion of being in depression."76 Nomura noted in his first letter that an American Council for Japan was being formed in Tokyo and that he had heard a similar organization would be established in New York. He expected that this type of development would be valuable for rebuilding relations. The Japanese was correct and Pratt soon became a member of the New York group. While he was unable to attend its meetings, he encouraged the Council and was happy to receive its publications.77

Both admirals shared an enthusiasm for General MacArthur and the work he was doing as Supreme Commander, Allied Powers and later as commanding general of all armed forces in the Korean War. When the general was recalled by President Truman during the Korean War, Admiral Nomura committed to Pratt in April 1951:

General MacArthur's sudden departure shocked Japanese public. Japanese in general, even chaufers [sic] and Rikishamen regretted very much his departure. You wrote me once as follows "You have a d––– good man in your country today — MacArthur. He is big and he is friendly. I can't think of a better man for the job he is doing." Indeed your words are hundred percent justified. He have done for Japan brilliant works and reconstructed this country to the present conditions. Japanese are very grateful. . . .

With sincerest respect and best wishes. All mighty confer every benevolence upon a man as you are, right, just, fair, generous and strong in justice.78

With the signing of the World War II peace treaty with Japan, on 8 September 1951, Pratt expressed the wish to Nomura that conditions between their two conditions would return to the old relationship which existed when Perry first visited Japan." He could see the new  p413 connection as "a great factor aiding to quell some of the world crisis produced by the communistic Kremlin which has you know attempted to control the thought of the entire world and politically to enforce its control over the entire world." The Japanese admiral also saw the treaty ushering in a new era in Japanese-American relations. He recognized, most clearly, the dependent relationship that had been constructed. Referring to the new treaty he concluded:

But from Japanese point of view it is, after all, the reckoning of their misguided policy and blunders. It is a very bitter pill to swallow altho we know it very generous. For instance, the final disposal of the Kurile Islands may menace Japan's security forever. Mutual security between your country and mine is utmost important. We depend upon you but we must do our best to be self helping and self supporting. . . .79

A year later, Nomura wrote an article for a "peace edition" of Contemporary Japan. Pratt read a typescript of the article and urged the admiral to send a copy to Herbert Hoover so that he would become conversant with Japan's defense problem. Nomura had called for Japan to develop an air and naval self-defense force because of the menace that could come from Korea, Communist China, and the Soviet Union. The admiral also urged the Japanese public to become more sophisticated politically so that Communists would not be allowed to penetrate the government.80

In the fall of 1953 Admiral Nomura visited America for the first time since the war. He was president of the Victor Phonograph Company of Japan and had business to conduct; but he also planned some social visits.81 In early November he visited the Pratts in Belfast and had a most pleasant stay at Primrose Hill. As might be expected, he was a curiosity to the local inhabitants; but their great respect for Pratt encouraged a display of hospitality for his distinguished Japanese guest. With Nomura's departure, his host wrote to Hoover, then in New York, and told him that he had given the Japanese his card for introduction purposes. He was sure that the ex‑President would benefit from a visit with the admiral. After calling on Hoover, Admiral Nomura thanked Pratt for making it possible. He reported in a handwritten note:

 p414  According to his [Hoover's] talk, he and you agreed generally in the world outlook. This was World War II that could have been avoided. It is not the fault of the Japanese government alone. He followed closely the proceeding before the war. There have been more to be done by U. S. government too. . . . He is indeed big man looking the world from the higher level than narrow nationalistic level. Indeed he belongs to the big statesman of the whole world.82

It was natural that Pratt would arrange for Nomura to visit Hoover. In the years after 1946 the admiral's correspondence with his friend had increased steadily until the latter probably had more difficulty answering than Pratt did writing. It becomes obvious, when reading through the admiral's many letters, that he was not content to be a retired bystander as the country he had served so long tried to master the many problems and challenges of the Cold War era. For years he had been a professional commentator, drawing on his past experiences and knowledge of international relations, and accustomed to presenting analysis and criticism. As CINCUS he had guided the naval staff at London from his knowledge of the Washington Conference. When writing for Newsweek, he drew on his First World War experience to illuminate the Battle of the Atlantic. Now his "data bank" was packed with information, and his mind was still keen, but he had no national outlet for his views. Ex‑President Hoover, still a respected power center in the Republican Party, actively sought information from all sources and the admiral's "inputs" were worth receiving.

In time Pratt's political outlook acquired that strange ambivalence that was so common to those in the Hoover-Taft wing of the Republican Party. They were dissatisfied with the commitments in Europe, particularly the expense of keeping ground forces on the continent for use by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; yet they endorsed General MacArthur's call for the establishment of a defensive ring around the People's Republic of China. On 27 January 1952 Hoover spoke by radio and television about "The Year since the Great Debate." Pratt wrote him an effusive letter stating that he agreed with all he had said. Hoover replied warmly: "I do not know when I was more cheered up than from your letter." He thought the admiral's support would save him from being branded an "armchair strategist" by President  p415 Truman and his military advisors.83 Two days later, on 7 February, Hoover issued a press release in which he listed sixteen Army, Navy, and diplomatic officers who endorsed his views. Admiral Pratt was quoted as stating, "I agree with every word you said." The admiral was now keeping company with Lieutenant General Albert C. Wedemeyer, Lieutenant General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Leslie R. Groves, Admiral William H. Standley, Hugh Gibson, William R. Castle, and Joseph P. Kennedy. Reader's Digest gave this leading Republican a little more mileage by printing his speech, and Admiral Pratt's endorsement, in the May 1952 issue.84

Throughout 1952 Hoover campaigned actively against the Administration and once General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Eisenhower was nominated he threw his influence behind him. Admiral Pratt had not been particularly pleased with the movement to draft "Ike" for President; he really believed he should have stayed with his NATO command.85 He wanted Robert Taft to be the Republican nominee, as did Hoover, but he agreed with the latter's strategic goal: "I want to see this present group out of Washington." After the Republican victory in November, the ex‑President pleased the Pratts deeply by sending Louise one of his speeches bound as a small volume. She responded:

I am honored to have your presentation copy of "The Constructive Character of the Republican Party." It will be the Treasure in this old home which is steeped in Republican tradition these past hundred years and more. The Pratts of Maine salute you with respect and admiration.86

For four more years these two gentlemen exchanged views on a variety of subjects. The topics were important, but Pratt and Hoover normally took a minority position. The nation's defense and foreign policies were being constructed under the driving direction of Secretary Dulles, Hoover and Pratt to the contrary notwithstanding. It is interesting to note that the admiral was opposed to the construction of Forrestal-class carriers. They were too big for the Panama Canal and would force the nation to divide its carrier strength. More importantly,  p416 he saw the carriers as supporting a land or air confrontation between the Soviet Union and America because Russia lacked major surface forces. "Why do this? Air battle immediately brings calamity to both countries and land battle does the same. Sea battle is the one form of battle which is least likely to be resented by our own people." He predicted the Russians would emphasize submarine forces, as Germany had done in two wars; thus he liked the idea of an American nuclear submarine fleet as a counter to the Soviets. He called attention to the article by Commander C. T. Durgin, Jr., the son of "Cal" Durgin, on this subject in the Naval Institute Proceedings of January 1956. Hoover's reply was unequivocal. "As always, I agree with you. Why keep battleships in action? Why build more Forrestals? Surely, they no longer command the sea."87

Admiral Pratt's final two years were largely spent in hospitals. In mid‑1955 he was admitted to the Waldo County General Hospital in Belfast where he could receive the care that Louise, now seventy-nine, could no longer provide. His mind was clear and the daily visit of a reader, plus the radio, kept him abreast of public affairs. He continued his correspondence with his old friends and even developed a brisk exchange with some new ones. One family friend, Mabel Tod, gave the admiral a $1,000 gift to be used for nursing care. On her part it was an expression of love for Louise and Bill. The Pratts did not need the money, so the admiral sent her a check for $1,000 with the request that she have a full-length portrait painted of herself to hang beside that of Louise in the hall of Primrose Hill.88

In January 1956 Pratt received a routine circular, sent out by the Commandant of the First Naval District, asking that retired officers serve as resource persons to help with the recruitment of enlisted personnel. The admiral wrote to Rear Admiral Snackenberg and offered to help as much as he could, but noted that he was almost eighty-seven, blind, and hospitalized. He did make some suggestions to the commandant about recruiting and recommended that the Navy put heavy stress on the word "service":

This slogan is applicable to all units who have anything to do with the defense of our country. By service I mean service to God, service to our country and to our allies that deserve our commitment. And last the willingness to be of service, whether it be in private or military life.

 p417  I feel that this is all I am at liberty to say at this time. Except, that I think enough of the Navy to say that I would choose it for my life's profession, had I my life to live over again.89

The commandant passed Pratt's letter along to the CNO, Admiral Arleigh Burke, who replied to the admiral personally. "Your final thought concerning man's willingness to serve God, country and Service is most important of all. Our people must always cherish and perpetuate the wonderful American traditions passed on to us by our forebears. A nation remains virile, powerful and respected only so long as its people maintain high principles. . . ."90

With his emphasis on forebears and tradition, Admiral Burke struck a theme that had dominated in Pratt's life. He was constantly aware of the past, his New England heritage, and the obligation he had assumed quite early to add to that inheritance. Though he had served the nation long and well, and was proud of his accomplishments, it was more important to him that he had kept faith with his New England ancestors. If we pick back through his years of correspondence certain ideas come through clearly:

Ancestors almost all seafaring men and masters of ships, both sides of the house. None of the family ever married out of New England that I know of. . . . On my father's side (paternal branch) descended from Phineas Pratt, who came to this country in 1621. . . . On my mother's side we are Maine people of the same old New England stock. . . .91

*****

They [Pratt's ancestors] played a part in the making of our Country, participated in all its wars, except the plains wars against the Indians, and lived and died Americans. One helped to frame our Constitution. One lived to be 102 years of age and was the last Revolutionary pensioner in New England. One was burned as a witch in Salem.92

*****

I like the Navy in a way, all but the being away from home part, and I am very proud to be in it. It is the service with a glorious record behind it, and when one thinks that he is in the same service that men like Hull, Decatur, Farragut, Lawrence, Preble, John Paul Jones and a hundred others made, men whose fame and deeds are world known, it is grand even if one be but a small part of it. . . .93  

*****

 p418  The unrest is in me, not in nature. . . . I am as restless as the sea. My whole nature responds to it, it is part of me and I of it. . . . My ancestors are responsible for a lot, and the sea must have been in their blood. . . .94

*****

I hope Bill [Jr.] will love his home [Primrose Hill] as much as you do. The shades of his forebears are in all the rooms and all the corners, not hostile shades, kind gentle shades telling him to carry on. Mine are not in the house but they blow in from the sea, giving him this message, telling him, too, to carry on. . . . Not only is the past here, but it is a creditable past. Love and kindness, beauty and serenity have dwelled here. . . . It is his heritage, and those that have gone before, will stand shoulder to shoulder with him helping him to win his way in the world. . . .95

In late 1956 Admiral Pratt began to tie up the loose ends of his career. He had been a Trustee of the Smithsonian Institution since his years as CNO and he now accepted the position of Trustee Emeritus. With regrets he finally resigned his membership in the Army and Navy Club of Washington, D. C. Finally, on 10 August 1957, he wrote to Rear Admiral Snackenberg and asked that he be admitted to Chelsea Naval Hospital outside Boston. He was bedridden at the Belfast hospital and now unable to feed himself. Rear Admiral C. G. Clegg, the District's Medical Officer, personally called on the admiral and made the arrangements for the dispensary personnel at Naval Air Station, Brunswick, Maine, to move him to Chelsea.

During his last months at Chelsea, Admiral Pratt received the finest professional care available, but he was now in a condition of general physical deterioration. Louise remained in Belfast. There was little she could do. Edith Beebe, then living in Boston, looked in on the admiral daily and kept her friend fully informed. Finally, in the last week of November, Admiral Pratt began to fail rapidly. The end came during the afternoon watch on 25 November 1957. Louise Pratt jotted in her diary a final poignant note:

Our Precious Admiral died at 2:35 P.M. William and I were with him up to 4 minutes before he died.

In the tradition of the Pratt and Johnson families, the admiral was cremated and a simple memorial service was held in the Boston Navy Shipyard chapel on 29 November. In the following year on 29 July, when family and friends could gather conveniently, a formal military interment service was held in Belfast. A platoon of sailors from the  p419 Brunswick Naval Air Station formed a cortege and marched from Primrose Hill to the Grove Cemetery. The Commandant of the First Naval District, Rear Admiral Carl F. Espe, who had served as an Egyptian in Texas when Admiral Pratt was CINCUS, was the Navy's official representative. Many of the admiral's former shipmates were there, including Campbell and Berkey. Lieutenant Ralph G. Caldwell read the final service. With the traditional volleys, "taps," and presentation of the national ensign to Louise Pratt, Admiral Pratt's remains were placed to rest in the Johnson-Pratt vault.


The Author's Notes:

44 WVP to Yasuo Fuwa, New York, 13 January 1941, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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45 W. V. Pratt, "America's Problem in Sea Power," Newsweek (13 January 1941), p27.

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46 WVP to ADM H. R. Stark, New York, 12 February 1941, Pratt MSS/NHD; "Betty" (ADM H. R. Stark) to WVP, Washington, 17 February 1941, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

47 W. V. Pratt, "Worldwide Pressure Plays of the Axis," Newsweek (24 February 1941), p23.

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48 Admiral Nomura, interview with ADM W. V. Pratt in New York on 4 March 1941, memorandum of 7 March 1941, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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49 Louise Pratt, Daily Diary, 7 March 1941, Pratt MSS/NWC.

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50 "Memorandum by Admiral William V. Pratt, April 30, 1941," in U. S., Department of State, Papers Relating to the Foreign Relations of the United States 1941 (Washington, GPO, 1956), Vol. IV, pp170‑72.

[decorative delimiter]

51 Newsweek, 16 June 1941, p21.

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52 "Friends at Dinner," editorial, New York Times (6 June 1941), p20.

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53 W. V. Pratt, "How Japan Missed Her Destiny on the Seas," Newsweek (9 June 1941), p25.

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54 Ernest K. Lindley to WVP (Enclosure), Washington, 21 July 1941, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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55 Jiuji Kasai to WVP, Washington, 25 August 1941, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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56 W. V. Pratt, "Two Roads for Japan," Newsweek (8 December 1941), p27.

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57 Malcolm Muir, "How Newsweek Brings You an Admiral's Viewpoint of the War," Newsweek (5 October 1942), p82.

[decorative delimiter]

58 W. V. Pratt, "Our Fleet Still Retains Its Punch," Newsweek (22 December 1941), p17; W. V. Pratt, "The Ground is Prepared for Defeat of the Axis," Newsweek (5 January 1942), p20.

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59 W. V. Pratt, "Periscope: Pacific Planning," Newsweek (12 January 1942), p7.

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60 W. V. Pratt, "The Way is Open for a U. S. Pacific Punch," Newsweek (22 June 1942), p26; W. V. Pratt, "The Tide Has Turned in the Pacific," London News Chronicle (19 June 1942).

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61 Secretary Knox Correspondence File, 7‑6‑2, RG80/NA.

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62 W. V. Pratt, "A Navy Man Speaks Up for Air Power," Newsweek (11 May 1942), p26; W. V. Pratt, "The Japs Are Slow in Catching On," Newsweek (15 March 1943), p19.

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63 W. V. Pratt, "Prize of the Marianas: Guam Important to Our Strategy," Newsweek (24 July 1944), p34.

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64 W. V. Pratt, "The Jap Plan Was Good, But . . .," Newsweek (6 November 1944), p31; W. V. Pratt, "Midway Is Still the Ranking Victory," Newsweek (13 November 1944), p50.

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65 W. V. Pratt, "Can Our War of Attrition Starve Out the Japs?" Newsweek (28 May 1945), p42; King and Whitehill, op. cit., pp262‑63.

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66 W. V. Pratt, "Victory Through Sea Power," Newsweek (20 August 1945), p25.

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67 W. V. Pratt, "Cooperation's the Way to National Safety," Newsweek (12 November 1945), p61; W. V. Pratt, "Can America Influence the World for Peace?" Newsweek (8 October 1945), p52.

[decorative delimiter]

68 W. V. Pratt, "Should We Outlaw the Atomic Bomb in War?" Newsweek (10 December 1945), p61.

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69 W. V. Pratt, "Admiral Pratt's Notes to the Editors on the Prospects of War and Peace," Newsweek (1 April 1946), p32.

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70 W. V. Pratt, "How to Educate a Jap: Bread or Pamphlets?" Newsweek (1 October 1945), p38.

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71 The court of inquiry report, Admiral Hewitt's report, Admiral King's endorsements, and Secretary Forrestal's endorsements can be found in: U. S., Congress, Joint Committee, Hearings before the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack (79th Cong., 2nd sess., 1946) (Washington: GPO, 1946), Vol. 39.

[decorative delimiter]

72 W. V. Pratt, "Why the Fleet Could Not Retreat to the West Coast," Newsweek (3 December 1945), p36.

[decorative delimiter]

73 WVP to Louise Pratt, Washington, 24‑25 May 1943, Pratt MSS/NWC. This portrait, now at the Naval Historical Museum in the Washington Navy Yard, was commissioned by Gus Kroesen of San Pedro, Mr. Kroesen, who operated enlisted "locker clubs" on both coasts, was a longtime admirer of Admiral Pratt.

[decorative delimiter]

74 Information is drawn from daily diaries of Louise Pratt in the Pratt collection, now at the Naval War College.

[decorative delimiter]

75 W. V. Pratt, "Japan and the Pacific Problem," Newsweek (7 June 1948), p32.

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76 ADM Nomura to WVP, Tokyo, 25 August 1948, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

77 Harry F. Kern to WVP, New York, 4 August 1948, Pratt MSS/NWC; James Lee Kauffman to WVP, New York, 13 August 1951, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

78 ADM Nomura to WVP, Tokyo, 25 April 1951, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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79 WVP to ADM Nomura, Belfast, Me., 9 September 1951, Pratt MSS/NHD; Nomura to WVP, Tokyo, 21 September 1951, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

80 WVP to ADM Nomura, Belfast, Me., 15 August 1952, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

81 New York Times, 19 October 1953, p3.

[decorative delimiter]

82 WVP to Herbert Hoover, Belfast, Me., 6 November 1953, Pratt MSS/NHD; ADM Nomura to WVP, New York, 8 November 1953, Pratt MSS/NWC.

[decorative delimiter]

83 Herbert Hoover to WVP, New York, 5 February 1952, Pratt MSS/NHD. The "Great Debate" concerned the recall of General MacArthur from his command of American and United Nations troops in Korea. The General's address to Congress, upon his return in April 1951, was the opening salvo in the "debate."

[decorative delimiter]

84 Herbert Hoover to WVP, New York, 7 February 1952, Pratt MSS/NHD; Herbert Hoover, "The Effective Military Policy for Us," Reader's Digest (May 1952), pp40‑44.

[decorative delimiter]

85 WVP to Herbert Hoover, Belfast, Me., 10 February 1952, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

86 Herbert Hoover, The Constructive Character of the Republican Party (New York: Privately printed, 1952), Louise Pratt to Herbert Hoover, Belfast, Me., 28 January 1953, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

87 WVP to Herbert Hoover, Belfast, Me., 10 February 1956, Pratt MSS/NHD; Herbert Hoover to WVP, New York, 1 March 1956, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

88 WVP to Mabel Tod, Belfast, Me., 11 June 1955, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

89 WVP to RADM J. A. Snackenberg, Belfast, Me., 2 January 1956, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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90 ADM Arleigh Burke to WVP, Washington, 19 January 1956, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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91 WVP to CDR Louis Gulliver, Belfast, Me., 20 August 1933, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

92 Pratt, "Autobiography,", p1.

[decorative delimiter]

93 WVP to Louise Pratt, Culebra, Puerto Rico, 9 January 1904, Pratt MSS/NHD.

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94 WVP to Louise Pratt, Ancon, Canal Zone, 9 September 1916, Pratt MSS/NHD.

[decorative delimiter]

95 WVP to Louise Pratt, Belfast, Me., 26 March 1935, Pratt MSS/NHD.


Thayer's Note:

a In the print edition, the caption is as I have it, but the photograph is reversed, which would lead the reader to misidentify Admiral Pratt and Gen. River. That the photograph was at fault rather than the caption is shown by Gen. River's decorations: I've returned the photograph to its original state, with his decorations on his left again where they belong. Note also his wedding ring.


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