Military Wiki
John J. McCloy
2nd President of the World Bank Group

In office
March 1947 – June 1949
Preceded by Eugene Meyer
Succeeded by Eugene R. Black, Sr.
Personal details
Born John Jay McCloy
(1895-03-31)31 March 1895
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Died 11 March 1989(1989-03-11) (aged 93)
Stamford, Connecticut
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Ellen Zinsser
Alma mater Harvard University LL.B

John Jay McCloy (March 31, 1895 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – March 11, 1989 in Stamford, Connecticut) was a lawyer and banker who served as Assistant Secretary of War during World War II, president of the World Bank, U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank, and chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations. He later became a prominent United States presidential advisor, served on the Warren Commission, and was a member of the foreign policy establishment group of elders called "The Wise Men."


Early years

McCloy was educated at Peddie School, New Jersey, and Amherst College.[1] He enrolled in Harvard Law School in 1916, but his education was interrupted by World War I.


According to U.S. historian Roger Daniels, McCoy was partly responsible for the internment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps and strongly opposed reopening the judicial verdicts on the constitutionality of the internment.[2]

In 1949,[3] John McCloy left his job as president of the World Bank to become the U.S. High Commissioner of Allied-occupied Germany. It wasn’t his first experience in that country; McCloy had been an attorney for the German chemical giant IG Farben in the 1930s. He also sat with Hitler in the Fuhrer’s box at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In a stunning amnesty, the U.S. High Commissioner commuted the life sentences of five of the worst Nazi doctors, including Dr. Herta Oberheuser, a woman who injected healthy children with oil and removed their limbs and organs without anesthesia while they were still alive and conscious. Commissioner McCloy also reduced the sentences of other Nazi criminals convicted in the Nürnberg Trials considerably. From 89 appeals of clemency he granted 79. 30 inmates were released immediately, and the sentences of the remaining 59 were drastically reduced, amongst them also the prominent industrialist Friedrich Flick and Alfred Krupp.[4]

Army service

He was commissioned into the U.S. Army as a Second Lieutenant in 1917, being promoted to Captain in 1918. He served with the American Expeditionary Force in France in 1918 and 1919. He received his LL.B. from Harvard University in 1921.[5]

Auschwitz bombing debate

During World War II, as Assistant Secretary of War, McCloy was a crucial voice in setting U.S. military priorities. The U.S. War Department was petitioned throughout late 1944 to help save Nazi prisoners by ordering the bombing of the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz. McCloy responded that only heavy bombers would be able to reach the sites from England, and that those bombers would be too vulnerable and were needed elsewhere.[citation needed]

McCloy claimed that the final decision on the selection of bombing targets, including those attacked by American planes, lay with the British alone. This was an incorrect claim. According to Michael Beschloss, in an interview three years before the latter's death (in 1986) with Henry Morgenthau, III, McCloy claimed that the decision not to bomb Auschwitz was President Roosevelt's and that he was merely fronting for him.[6] McCloy also alleged to Morgenthau that Roosevelt refused to approve the Auschwitz rail bombing because he would then be accused of also killing Auschwitz prisoners.[citation needed]

In the early 1970s, McCloy stated that he himself "could no more order a bombing attack on Auschwitz than order a raid on Berlin".[7] However, while in the field with General Jacob L. Devers, advancing eastward through Germany in early 1945, a "suggestion" from McCloy resulted in Devers' Army bypassing and sparing the historic Romantic Road town of Rothenburg an der Tauber. For his action, McCloy was later made an honorary citizen of the town.[8] These and other pro-German actions by McCloy resulted in significant protests much later, when McCloy was announcing the Volkswagen Scholarship at Harvard University in 1983.[citation needed]

President of the World Bank and US High Commissioner in Germany

From March 1947 to June 1949, McCloy was president of the World Bank.

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

On March 17, 1949, he and General Alvan Cullom Gillem, Jr. testified before the President’s Committee on Equality of Treatment and Opportunity in the Armed Services.

In 1949 he replaced Lucius D. Clay as military governor for the U.S. Zone in Germany as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany and held this position until 1952, during which time he oversaw the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany. At his direction, a campaign of wholesale pardoning and commutation of sentences of Nazi criminals took place, including those of the prominent industrialists Friedrich Flick {died 1972} and Alfried Krupp {died 1967}, and Martin Sandberger (died 2010), the son of an IG Farben industrialist. McCloy also granted the restitution of Krupp's and Flick's entire property. McCloy also pardoned Ernst von Weizsäcker {died 1951}. Some of the less notable figures were retried and convicted in the newly independent West Germany.

McCloy supported the initiative of Inge Aicher-Scholl (the sister of Sophie Scholl), Otl Aicher and Max Bill to found the Ulm School of Design.[9] HfG Ulm is considered to be the most influential design school in the world after the Bauhaus. The founders sought and received support in the USA (via Walter Gropius) and within the American High Command in Germany. McCloy saw the endeavor as Project No. 1 and supported a college and campus combination along US examples. In 1952 Scholl received from McCloy a cheque for one million Deutschmarks.[10]

His successor as High Commissioner was James B. Conant; the office was terminated in 1955.

Corporate leadership

Following this, he served as chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank from 1953 to 1960, and as chairman of the Ford Foundation from 1958 to 1965; he was also a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1946 to 1949, and then again from 1953 to 1958, before he took up the position at Ford.

From 1954 to 1970, he was chairman of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations in New York, to be succeeded by David Rockefeller, who had worked closely with him at the Chase Bank. McCloy had a long association with the Rockefeller family, going back to his early Harvard days when he taught the young Rockefeller brothers how to sail. He was also a member of the Draper Committee, formed in 1958 by Eisenhower.

He later served as advisor to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, and was the primary negotiator on the Presidential Disarmament Committee. In 1963, he was awarded the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy for his service to the country.

On December 6, 1963, he was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, with Special Distinction, by President Lyndon B. Johnson

Warren Commission

He was selected by LBJ to serve on the Warren Commission in 1963. Notably, he was initially skeptical of the lone gunman theory, but a trip to Dallas with CIA veteran Allen Dulles, an old friend also serving on the Commission, convinced him of the case against Oswald. McCoy brokered the final consensus — avoiding a minority dissenting report — and the crucial wording of the primary conclusion of the final report. He stated that any possible evidence of a conspiracy was "beyond the reach" of all of America's investigatory agencies — principally the FBI and the CIA — as well as the Commission itself.

From 1966 to 1968 he was Honorary Chairman of the Paris-based Atlantic Institute.[11]

Law firm background

Originally a partner of the Cravath firm in New York, after the war McCloy became a name partner in the Rockefeller-associated prominent New York law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy. In this capacity he acted for the "Seven Sisters", the leading multinational oil companies, including Exxon, in their initial confrontations with the nationalisation movement in Libya—as well as negotiations with Saudi Arabia and OPEC. Because of his stature in the legal world and his long association with the Rockefellers, and as a presidential adviser, he was sometimes referred to as the "Chairman of the American Establishment".


McCloy is a recipient of the Association Medal of the New York City Bar Association in recognition of exceptional contributions to the honor and standing of the Bar in the community.

He received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Wilmington College (Ohio) in 1963.

See also


  1. Staff. "MCCLOY GETS ALDRICH POST: Chase Bank Picks Successor To Ambassador-To-Be", The Baltimore Sun, December 7, 1952. Accessed February 5, 2011. "McCloy, who is 57 years old, was born in Philadelphia and educated at Peddie School."
  2. Unfinished Business: The Japanese-American Internment Cases (1986)
  4. Schwartz, Thomas Allan - Die Begnadigung Deutscher Kriegsverbrecher - John J. McCloy und die Häftlinge von Landsberg. Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte. Jahrgang 38 (1990), Heft 3 Note: The article contains a full list of all 89 persons convicted in the Nürnberg Process who were subsequently released
  5. "John J. McCloy Papers 1897-1989: Historical note". Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.;ndaids/amherst/ma35_bioghist.html. 
  6. Beschloss
  7. Letter from John J. McCloy to Donald L. Pevsner, following Pevsner's citing to McCloy of the damning allegations in "While Six Million Died", by Arthur D. Morse (1967).
  8. "The Arms of Krupp", by William Manchester, 1968.
  9. Ulm School of Design HfG Ulm: Archive
  10. Background of HFG (in German)
  11. Who Was Who. A&C Black. 2007. 

Further reading

  • The Chairman: John J. McCloy - The Making of the American Establishment, Kai Bird, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
  • The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made: Acheson, Bohlen, Harriman, Kennan, Lovett, and McCloy, Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1986.
  • The Chase: The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A., 1945-85, John Donald Wilson, Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1986.
  • Memoirs, David Rockefeller, New York: Random House, 2002.
  • "The Color of Truth: McGeorge Bundy and William Bundy-Brothers in Arms," Kai Bird, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999.

Additional sources

External links

Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Eugene Meyer
President of the World Bank
1947 – 1949
Succeeded by
Eugene R. Black, Sr.
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Lucius D. Clay
American High Commissioner for Occupied Germany
1949 - 1952
Succeeded by
James B. Conant
Business positions
Preceded by
Winthrop Aldrich
Chase CEO
Succeeded by
George Champion
Preceded by
Douglas MacArthur
Sylvanus Thayer Award recipient
Succeeded by
Robert A. Lovett

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