04/26/07 - keeping an ally in office

In today's encore excerpt - the task of managing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a constant challenge for President Franklin Roosevelt, General George Marshall and others, among the United States military policy leaders during World War II. They needed Churchill's support, but he was given to proposing unsound and distracting strategies. The United States was helped though by the calming reasonable presence of Sir John Dill, Churchill's liaison to the United States. There inevitably came a time when Churchill became frustrated with Dill and wanted to replace him, which created great concern for General Marshall, who feared the negative effects a less capable replacement. He therefore came up with an artful way of keeping Dill in office:

"Marshall suggested [to Secretary of War Stimson's special assistant Harvey Bundy] that 'an honorary degree from your old friends at Harvard would impress the old man in England.'

"Bundy tried but failed; Harvard would grant no quickie degrees nor call a special convocation to present an honorary doctorate.

" 'Try Yale,' Marshall ordered.

"As an old Eli, Bundy felt more secure. But even his alumnus status could not circumvent the problem of granting a degree without a ceremony. Instead, the university's president, Charles Seymour, proposed Dill be named the first winner of the Charles P. Howland Award for contributions to international relations. Seymour offered to lay on a full-dress academic parade for the ceremony, and the Army's public relations staff arranged extensive press coverage. ...Marshall went on to line up other degrees for his friend, always making sure that the publicity crossed the Atlantic.

"Six weeks later, a smiling Marshall informed Bundy, 'My underground tells me that the Prime Minister said, 'You know, that fellow must be doing quite a job.' The honors-laden Dill would stay on."


Ed Cray


General of the Army: George C. Marshall Soldier and Stateman


First Cooper Square Press


Copyright 1990 by Ed Cray


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