When John McCloy
arrived in Germany in 1949, he came for the second time as an occupier.
The World War I veteran had first entered Germany with the American
Expeditionary Force shortly before the armistice, fought in skirmishes
around Koblenz and been attached to the regular army of occupation.
Of that time, he later said, "...a number of us in the Army who
had been in the German occupation in World War I... had experienced
the bitterness of that occupation. And it was in the minds of all of
usthe recollection of the reparations issue, and the reoccupation of
the Ruhr, and the harassments, and the agitation, and the irritations
on which Hitler so greatly capitalized later when he came into power.
The new U.S. High Commissioner envisaged that wardevastated Germany
would some day resume its role as a strong European power, and with
proper policy management this new Germany could flourish in the mainstream
of Western democratic values. Arriving in a landscape of moral and physical
ruins, McCloy was quick to begin putting his vision into action. His
was a job which, in the words of Gräfln Dönhoff "demanded
from him, on a daily basis, decisions which determined development for
McCloy instilled into the German-American relationship his keen understanding
of the tasks facing Germany in a new era of reconciliation and reconstruction,
of Germany's critical ties with France and with Western Europe, and
of the United States' opportunity to establish peaceful and prosperous
Atlantic relations. He developed good working relationships with Germany's
postwar leaders, including Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Kurt Schumacher,
leader of the Social Democratic Partythough he often disagreed with
their governing styles. More importantly, along with his close personal
friend Jean Monnet, he encouraged Germany's reintegration into the Western
state system. He initiated the Federal Republic's admission into NATO
a move that included rearming Germany only a decade after the end of
a devastating war. He also spearheaded American acceptance of the Schuman
Plan, which led to the European Coal and Steel Community, the European
Economic Community and finally to the European Union.
The son of an insurance claims officer, McCloy lost his father when
he was 6; his mother learned home nursing so that her only surviving
son might get a firstrate education. A fine athlete and student, McCloy
won a scholarship to Amherst and later attended Harvard Law School.
He was an advisor to Secretary of War Henry Stimson during World War
II, and he drafted the articles of surrender for Japan at the war's
end. As advisor to Roosevelt, he was instrumental in undermining the
proposed "Morgenthau Plan" for Germany, which would have reduced
the country to a land of forests and farms. After the war he returned
to private law practice in New York, but soon resumed public life as
president of the new World Bank.
When the Federal Republic was founded in 1949, Truman called on McCloy
to go to Germany as Military Governor, a role in which he essentially
continued the policies of his predecessor, General Lucius Clay. As the
United States began the transition from occupation to supervision a
year later, McCloy became U.S. High Commissioner, a position that demanded
the talents of a diplomat and administrator. McCloy was particularly
effective as he enjoyed the confidence of and excellent relations with
the President, the U.S. Army and Averell Harriman, the top administrator
of Marshall Plan aid. He used his almost dictatorial powers to scrupulously
promote the growth of German democracy and the rejuvenation of the German
economy, even when it meant treading on dangerous political ground,
as was the case when he overturned the Nuremberg judgements against
the Krupp family. During his tenure, he helped lay the basis for the
more "normal" relations that a sovereign German government
would one day carry on with the new U.S. Embassy in Bad Godesberg.
There was much to be done in terms of "normalization." Under
McCloy's leadership, the High Commission's main purpose was to further
the transition from military to civilian control. In May 1949, two months
before McCloy's arrival, the Federal Republic's constitution had been
adopted. In August, McCloy observed Germany's first postwar federal
elections. In September, Theodor Heuss was elected the first President
of the Federal Republic. As soon as the government was in place, thoughts
turned to economic reform and foreign relations. The very night that
Konrad Adenauer was elected Chancellor, he called on McCloy to ask his
advice on the chief priority in running the country. "Rapprochement
with France," was McCloy's answer, an idea to which Adenauer was
"very receptive." An American diplomat told of Adenauer's
first official trip to France as Chancellor: "Of course, there
was no infrastructure for the fledgling German government at that moment,
so we, in our munificence, provided him with an aging DC4 and hastily
painted out the U.S. Air Force markings and sent him to Paris."
Morgenthau Plan had been cast aside, but the operating principles of
U.S. activities in Germany (the famous JCS 1067) were not geared to
rehabilitate the country socially or economically. McCloy, ever the
pragmatist, concluded, "You could not very well carry that out
in its literal form." Quite simply, under these conditions "…
you could not function living amongst the Germans and being responsible
for their welfare and peace and the necessity of feeding them."
Consequently, the emphasis of U.S. policy changed gradually, as direct
relief and repair of war damage gave way to the goal of rebuilding the
German economy, a key factor in the recovery of Western Europe in the
spirit of the Marshall Plan. In McCloy's view, the Marshall Plan helped
to support German recovery, but the Germans themselves accomplished
the "economic miracle." As he put it, "You have to give
the accolade to Ludwig Erhard, who … insisted over our objectionwe thought
he was going too faston removing (economic) controls. But he had a good
discernment and a good touch for it, it came at the right time, and
the Germans were thereskilled workmenwho knew how to make the things
that the world was athirst for at that time."
In 1950, the most pressing economic issue was the reform of European
coal and steel, especially the relationship of French and German industry
in the Ruhr. Previous policies aimed at breaking up
industrial cartels and decentralizing banking had met with mixed success.
Meanwhile, the Schuman Plan attempted to end trusts in German coal and
steel, to coordinate French, German and Belgian interests in these industries
and to establish common European markets. German industrial interests
resisted these aims. McCloy brought U.S. government policy to bear and
worked closely with his friend Jean Monnet to encourage Bonn's acceptance
of the antitrust provisions of the plan. The result was a breakthrough
treaty, finally signed in March 1951, which laid the foundation for
the later European Economic Community.
In the face of the Soviet threat, security and defense were equally
pressing issues. When NATO was founded in 1949, few people in Europe
or America were willing to contemplate any form of German armed forces.
The situation changed dramatically in June 1950 with North Korea's invasion
of the south and German rearmament became a realistic possibility. In
McCloy's words, the use of Soviet military force "aroused Europe,
and particularly Western Germany, whose situation presented a parallel
unpleasant to contemplate." The Western powers had distinct views
on the issue of German rearmament. France was adamantly opposed to any
sort of German army, while the U.S. was unwilling to commit American
forces to the defense of Europe without some sort of German contribution.
To help assuage French fears, McCloy favored a unified European army,
still under Atlantic command, but with a European ministry and no German
defense ministry or general staff. McCloy convinced the new Eisenhower
administration of the wisdom of a European force and was its strong
advocate in Bonn, Paris and London. The argument proved exceedingly
complex and difficult to win. It was not until 1955, years after McCloy
left his post as High Commissioner, that Germany was finally admitted
to NATO. Nonetheless, his argument had won the day and France had finally
accepted the rearmament of Germany.
Culture and education were other important matters. Under McCloy's leadership,
the High Commission gave special attention to German young people and
throughout his career he encouraged their development as good citizens
of a democratic Western Europe who were knowledgeable about the United
States. German universities, having been drawn into the Nazi system
and ideology, needed a thorough housecleaning. Many of the rectors were
removed and instruction at every level was carried forward with guidance
from the United States and Great Britain. McCloy's friend and colleague,
Shepard Stone, took special interest in German educational reform and
HICOG gave special financial support to the Free University in Berlin.
After his tenure as High Commissioner, McCloy was instrumental in establishing
a wide range of education assistance and fellowships for Germans and
Americans to learn more of each other's countries and help build the
foundation for close German-American ties over many decades. These include
academic fellowship programs with Harvard and Columbia Universities
and professional grants at the American Council on Germany, an organization
which Mrs. McCloy helped establish.
In 1953, McCloy returned to private life with his interest in German-American
relations undiminished. He served as advisor to Presidents Eisenhower,
Kennedy and Johnson, among others, and was for many years on the board
of the American Council on Germany. John McCloy was personally responsible
for what may be the single most memorable moment in the German-American
relationship. In the internationally jittery summer of 1963, John Kennedy
was planning a trip to the Federal Republic and sought the advice of
the former U.S. High Commissioner. At the beginning of their talk, Kennedy
informed McCloy that he would not go to Berlinhis advisors had warned
him emphatically against traveling to the city, where tensions were
high. An angry McCloy responded that, if the President could not visit
Berlin at this critical moment, he should stay away from the Federal
Republic altogether. Kennedy changed his mind, went to Berlin and spoke
the now famous words: "All free men, wherever they may be, are
citizens of Berlin. Therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words:
'Ich bin ein Berliner."' John McCloy died in 1989, just short of
his 94th birthday and forty years after the birth of the Federal Republic.
He did not live to see the Wall come down, but he died secure in the
knowledge that Germany and America had long since achieved the "splendid
reconciliation" which he had strived for.
Garrick Utley is the Chairman of the American Council on Germany,
a premier forum for senior level German-American discussions. He is
a regular contributor to CNN.
From: A Vision Fulfilled. 50 Jahre Amerikaner am Rhein. United States
Embassy Bonn, 1949 - 1999. Edited by Christine Elder and Elizabeth G.
Sammis. Published by United States Embassy Bonn. © Department of