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Roger Martin Kyes (March 6, 1906 - February 14, 1971) was a General Motors executive who served as United States Deputy Secretary of Defense in 1953.


Roger M. Kyes was a native of Cleveland.[1] Kyes got his start in farm implements, running a Cleveland firm that supplied implements to the Ferguson Company.[1] In 1940, Harry Ferguson persuaded Kyes to join the Ferguson Company and Kyes relocated from Cleveland to Dearborn, Michigan.[1] As Ferguson's Executive Vice President, Kyes was responsible for overseeing the firm's day-to-day business operations.[1]

Kyes left the Ferguson Company in the 1940s, joining General Motors. There, he was responsible for the transit bus division of General Motors Diesel Division. Kyes was responsible for GM's bus division in the period in which transit buses overtook streetcars as the primary form of public transport in most large American cities; as such, Kyes features prominently in the well known conspiracy theory known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy.[2]

In 1953, President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower named GM president Charles Erwin Wilson as United States Secretary of Defense. Wilson asked to be allowed to bring Kyes along, so, at Wilson's request, Eisenhower nominated Kyes as United States Deputy Secretary of Defense.[3] Kyes was sworn in on February 2, 1953, and served as Deputy Secretary of Defense until May 1, 1954.[4] Upon becoming Deputy Secretary of Defense, Kyes criticized the United States military-defense establishment as dominated by "unrealistic requirements, poor planning and inefficient execution . . . waste of money, poor utilization of manpower, unnecessary drain of materials from the civilian economy, and the inefficient use of tools, equipment and facilities."[3] He slashed the defense budget in an attempt to improve efficiencies, in the process gaining himself the nickname of "Jolly Roger" because of his piratical ruthlessness.[3] As Deputy Secretary, Kyes was a member of the Committee on International Information Activities.

Kyes agreed to come to Washington, D. C. for only a year, although Defense Secretary Wilson convinced Kyes to stay a few months longer to help explain the administration's "New Look" defense concept to the United States Congress.[5] When some editors speculated that Kyes was leaving because he was afraid of being called before the McCarthy hearings, the tough minded Kyes said he was not afraid of a fight.[5] President Eisenhower awarded Kyes the Medal of Freedom for his service to the country.[3]

Upon leaving government, Kyes returned to General Motors. In the 1960s, he clashed with John DeLorean.[6]

In 1969, Kyes left General Motors to become chief executive officer of the American Steamship Company.[7]

Kyes died of a heart attack in 1971 in Columbus, Ohio.[3]

An American Steamship Company vessel was christened the Roger M. Kyes in his honor on July 28, 1973 at Toledo, Ohio.[7] This boat was renamed the Adam E. Cornelius in 1989.[7]


Political offices
Preceded by
Robert A. Lovett
United States Deputy Secretary of Defense
February 2, 1953 – May 1, 1954
Succeeded by
Robert B. Anderson

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