Original Source Documents: January 1, 1981 - Interview with with General Robert W. Porter, Jr.
Contributor: Robert A. Notman
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Document: RWP-04-280709 Fileroom Folder: CAREER HISTORIES/OFFICER CAREER HISTORIES/PORTER, ROBERT W. JR, GEN - INTERVIEW BY COL JOHN N. SLOAN/MHI > TRANSCRIPTS > 06, PART V > 19810101/ Title: MHI > TRANSCRIPTS > 06, PART V > 19810101 Page Name: 2
[Begin Tape P-98, Side 1]
INTERVIEWER: General, you were speaking of Terry Allen and his relationship with Gilbreath.
GEN PORTER: Yes, Pot Gilbreath, Colonel Gilbreath, they called him Pot and he had that sort of a figure. He liked to ride, his legs were short and he had a good big butt and he bounced around on his horse. He seldom fell off because he had good balance but he really wasn't much of a horseman. Students didn't really think too much of him. He became Director in Instruction at the Cavalry School when Patton left. Patton went out to Hawaii to take a staff job. I can remember the farewell. Patton was going to sail a boat from Los Angeles to Hawaii. I think he had a 30 foot sailboat, and he had been studying navigation and he was going to navigate that boat all the way to Hawaii. He had a sweet wife and she decided to go with him. I asked her, "Why are you taking this trip?" She said, "Well, if I die, I'd rather die with George than to go through the misery of trying to have him located and find that his sailboat had capsized on the way to Hawaii." Well, they made it. They got out there all right.
INTERVIEWER: You say Gilbreath was one of those responsible at West Point for Terry Allen's dismissal and then later Terry Allen worked for him at Fort Riley?
GEN PORTER: Apparently Gilbreath had just been brought in as a young instructor at West Point -- Terry was found in mineralogy. He was the only first classman turned out and Gilbreath wrote the examination. Had he given him an easier examination, Terry wouldn't have been found. But anyway, the feud started there at West Point and it continued. After Patton left, Terry was very much on his good behavior. With Patton he could argue and they'd fight, but Terry would just say, "Yes, sir," to Gilbreath and never would expose himself as far as Gilbreath was concerned. Terry had been bitten pretty badly. When he was found at West Point his father had retired and was living in Washington. Terry went home and I believe he went to Georgetown University to finish his education. He was a young boxer and became a very fine boxer. He took law courses at Georgetown after he got his degree. Of course, he was so close to graduation at West Point that he didn't have much to do until he got his degree. Then he went ahead and passed the bar exam in Washington. Then the war came and he immediately enlisted and actually was commissioned. He got a commission then because he had come within, I think it was, three weeks of being graduated. He was turned out his first class year. He went into the Army with a rank ahead of his classmates. I liked Allen a great deal. He was a colorful character. I tried to keep him at arms length because I had my own interests and I had my family. If you didn't watch out Terry would be using you almost 24 hours a day to do something. He was always organizing people to help him get things done. He went down to the cavalry division in 1939. I went to the Horsemanship Department at that time, so I dropped as many of my activities as I could as an instructor in the Weapons Department. I was kept as communications officer of the Cavalry School Brigade working with communications, but just with the 9th Cavalry and concentrated on my work there as an instructor in the Department of Equitation. I also was the commandant of the Horseshoeing School. I drew that. Every instructor had some extra duty; he either had control of some of the pastures, and had to ride the fences and see that the details were all right there, or look after the polo stables in addition to your own stable. There was plenty of work to go around. I ran the spring horse show in addition to running the Cavalry School Horseshoeing School. Then I was ordered, in 1940, to the cavalry division, to the 7th Cavalry, where Terry was assigned and the regimental commander there was Pot Gilbreath, Colonel Gilbreath. Terry was the regimental exec.
INTERVIEWER: Where was this, general?
GEN PORTER: Fort Bliss, Texas. Kenyon Joyce was the division commander at the time. When I arrived at Bliss and signed in at division headquarters, the chief of staff had put a note in the sign-in book which said, "When Porter arrives he's to call me at once." So, I called the chief of staff who was Colonel Fred Boye, his son was a cavalry officer too, Fred Boye. Colonel Boye said, "Look, we're changing your orders from the 7th to the 8th Cavalry, so don't report in at the 7th Cavalry, go and report in at the 8th." I didn't know what this was all about, but Terry had gone to Kenyon Joyce and pointed out his stormy relationship over the years with Gilbreath and that I'd worked for him up at Fort Riley. And he didn't want me to get involved in any unpleasantness that might come between Gilbreath and Allen. It so happened at Riley the year that I was teaching equitation there and Gilbreath was the director of instruction. He had a way of coming down to ride with my platoon in the winter in the riding hall. By happenstance, during most of the winter, I had the heated riding hall for my students. The other riding hall had very faulty heating; it had been built earlier. So he would ride where it was warmer. He watched me instructing my platoon, and at break periods he'd come ride with me and talk to me. I had no problems with him whatsoever. He treated me very nicely and I appreciated Allen keeping me out of anything because he had Allen in arrest soon. In 1941 Allen was in arrest for a violation of orders Gilbreath had given, and he was promoted BG -- from lieutenant colonel -- and moved out of the division while he was facing court-martial charges from Gilbreath.
INTERVIEWER: Do you recall what the specific orders were that he violated?
GEN PORTER: I can't remember exactly. It had something to do with when Gilbreath went on leave, and there were things that Allen was to do for the regiment while he was away, and Allen hadn't done all of them. They got into a big argument about why he hadn't, and Gilbreath preferred charges against him for insubordination. So it was a personal matter. It was quite the gossip among the senior echelon of the Army at that time. Allen went off to the 36th Division in Florida. I had almost the same situation happen to me during my tour at Bliss. Well, I better not go into it right now. When I arrived at Bliss, I took two horses down there with me. One of them, a wonderful animal, I was training as a three-day horse for the Olympics. I had picked her when I went down to the Horsemanship Department. The Chief of the Department of Horsemanship said, "I will give you your choice of remounts here if you want to buy a horse from the government. You ought to begin thinking of training a three-day horse." Earl Thompson, who was the Director of Instruction, had done very well in the 1936 Olympic games and was going to ride in the 1940 games in the three-day event. And, my weight and my interest in crosscountry riding, steeplechasing, and racing, he thought that I would make a good Olympic three-day rider. So, I tried out the remounts and I finally picked one. Thompson had gone over them, but he hadn't told me which one he thought I should take. When I picked this particular mare he chuckled and he handed me his list. On the top of his list was the same animal. He said, "There's just one problem. Bradford's wife has been riding this animal some and she's a pleasant hack right now because we haven't been feeding her any oats -- a wonderful gait but I think there's too much mare -- to much horse for Mrs Bradford to ride. But leave it to me and I'll get Kay Bradford off that horse one way or another. I've spoken to Bill Bradford," that's Mrs. Bradford's husband who was head of the Army horse show team. He was training a team for the Olympics. Thompson said, "He agrees this is too much horse for his wife, but he's not in any position to cross her on this." She was a fine horsewoman. I had a good month of leave and I went off to the Black Hills for the summer, for August, and when I got back I found that Mrs. Bradford had been riding the horse but they were off on leave at that time. Thompson said, "Just leave," -- Bugola was the horse's name -- "Just leave Bugola, don't touch Bugola -- she's in the stable right now, and I'm feeding her some oats and we're exercising her according to Mrs. Bradford's instructions. When she comes back, she's going to buck higher than a kite. Now, I'm just predicting that because this mare needs a lot more work than she said she should have. The oats that I'm feeding her will settle that one, and the horse will probably be yours without any difficulty." Well, when the Bradfords got back - - they were only going to be gone two weeks -- she rushed down to get back on this mare, which was a charming animal -- girth of Man O'War but only stood 15 hands. Her normal gallop was about 25 miles an hour -- a big jumper, had foaled but was very sensitive and nervous. Sure enough, Kay Bradford was policed about four times in the first two days she rode the mare. Her husband then spoke to her and she decided she had better give the too excitable animal up because the mare had just been on grass and hay after just coming in from the remount station in Virginia. I can't think of the name of it right now.
INTERVIEWER: Eustis or . . .
GEN PORTER: No, no. It was up near Front Royal. Remount station at Front Royal. So I got Bugola. I had a stable of my own, of course, and I cut back her oats ration and I rode her at least two hours a day. My horse orderly led her out for another hour and worked her during that hour along the river where the trails had about six inches of sand. So, she got that hour in the sand every day and her muscular condition kept improving; and her disposition improved so that I could use her out on a crosscountry ride with the students and she would gallop right along with them on a loose rein, or a very light rein. I could put her over the jumps out on the reservation, check her with a snaffle bit, and turn around and drop the reins and she'd stand while the other men in the platoon came over this jump. Her gaits were such that I could put her right up at the head of my platoon without any difficulty, check her and she'd quietly go right along, a wonderful animal that way. But, she took a terrific amount of exercise and very careful handling. I never did use a curb bit on her. I kept her in a snaffle even for her schooling. Her mouth was so tender that she would respond to a snaffle. She'd throw her head some with a curb bit in her mouth. Anyway, Bill Bradford was a very quiet, methodical man and had a fine stable disposition -- knew how to handle his riders well and in the study of horse flesh, knew more about veterinary medicine than most veterinarians. His wife was a handful for him to manage. She was a very energetic person, very likable, but she had an awful lot of energy and their dispositions weren't quite the same. As a matter of fact, I think they finally were divorced. I enjoyed him a great deal. I didn't see too much of him because I was busy with my platoon. One of his riders "Rags" Raguse, Carl Raguse, became G-3 of the cavalry division in the Pacific, and then had a regiment there. When I had an equitation problem with one of my students, I'd always go to Raguse. They rode a great deal during the winter in my riding hall. They would exercise horses while I was doing my instruction. If I had a man and a horse where something was going wrong and I just couldn't quite figure it out, I'd ask "Rags" Raguse to watch him. He would always put his finger on the problem. Generally, it was balance, and it came from the rider and not the horse. It would be a matter of the balance of the man, some little quirk in the way he put his legs on the horse or something similar. He would be able to stand back and look at the horse and rider analyze it and help me a great deal that way.
INTERVIEWER: What became of your ambition to ride in the Olympics?
GEN PORTER: Well, the war came on, you see, and then I took this mare to Bliss with me and I used her there. I was a member of the hunt staff and I used her out on hunting; but being my own private mount and a valuable animal, I was careful what I did with her. I promptly got in trouble with the brigade commander, who was Innis P. Swift, "Bull" Swift, because he had an instruction out that every horse would be in a bit and bridoon. In other words, there would be a snaffle and curb bit in the horse's mouth. I had found from experience that this particular horse of mine wasn't up to that, so I couldn't ride her in a mounted drill or any formal instruction in the brigade because of his order. He knew that this was a fine horse. He would ask when I was going to start her with a bit and bridoon. I would say, "Well, she's not ready for it." That would be my stock answer to him. Finally, we had a Division Review in which the Army commander, General Krueger, came in from San Antonio. A lot of Reserve officers had joined -- this was after the expansion of the Army had started to take place. I had a heavy weapons troop at that time in the 8th Cavalry. I had the machine gun troop and then when they broke them in two, I got the heavy weapons. We needed every horse that could stay on the review field for the big review in which they brought the whole division together. The troops that were down on the border were brought up, and the troops of the whole division were together. Because of the cost of assembling the division, they had not brought spare horses from Brownsville or from Laredo. We mounted the officers from our polo stable and the extra horses. So my regimental commander, who was a wonderful horseman, came to me and said, "Bob, we're going to have to ask you to ride your private mount. I've been checking over the horses and the horse you normally ride is needed for one of the staff officers of General Krueger. It's a good animal, well trained, and it'll give this officer no problems. He doesn't ride a great deal and we don't want to embarrass him in this mounted review." I said, "Well, what about General Swift? I don't want to cross him." He was a BG at the time. He said, "Well, that will be my problem. I've talked to the division commander, Kenyon Joyce, who is going to leave and General Richardson who will be the new division commander, I've talked to both of them and there will be no problem." Well, it turned out there wasn't any problem because "Bull" Swift, who was in command of troops during two rehearsals for this big division mounted review, didn't notice me. I rode my horse that the staff officer of General Krueger was going to ride for the day, you see, and then when the whole division assembled, there were so many horses it was hard to distinguish one from another unless there was some problem. Furthermore, General Swift had a big remount, called Reno Hawk that stood 17 hands high, that was a handful to ride and we had a charge at the end and "Bull" Swift's horse ran away. He was leading this whole division, you see, and normally he would circle around and come back and join the reviewing party. Well, Reno Hawk took him out through the boondocks, and it took him 15 minutes to get his horse under control. The last regiment was coming by the charge just as he got back, and I happened to be in the 8th Cavalry which was leading the division that day. So, my horse had gone by while he was out in the boondocks someplace and he never saw that I had a snaffle bit on my horse. But, I ran into him in other ways. I was trying to train my machine gun troop. He had put out instructions in the brigade that every horse had to have 10 miles of exercise every day. Well, we had a lot of remounts in that we were trying to train and we had a lot of recruits but they didn't know anything about field firing machine guns. There was a lot of technical instruction that I had to get across, so I just couldn't do it with the time allotted if I was going to exercise every horse. We had a lot of recruits that had difficulty staying on the horse that they were riding, let alone trying to lead a horse. To lead two was an impossibility and my solution to it -- I had big three-story barracks that they called the palaces. They were built with WPA funds, beautiful big rooms with waxed floors and wonderful facilities, but the maintenance of them, in that desert where they had these windstorms, would take a whole troop an hour or two to clean up the barracks after a windstorm. Sometimes it would take a half a day if it was a bad storm. My solution was to close up my barracks, leave a room orderly and two or three people, supply people, there and take my troop out on the desert and we would biouvac. Then I could get my exercise done, and I could do field firing and all the things you had to do making range cards, and so on, and get my equitation instruction in and we would eat from the field mess. We didn't have to have a big detail of KP's, and all the things that you had to do normally in the post. Under one of the ground rules of the division, if you are out on maneuvers you didn't have to provide details to help keep the post clean, you see. Well, General Richardson discovered me out there and he thought it was a great idea because here I was, I could see war coming, and I told him that was the reason I was doing it. I was getting my machine gun troop so they could really fight if it was necessary. I thought it was important. I also had Reserve officers to train. So, he was encouraging me in this. Well, Richardson had a lot of quirks about him and one of them was he was a very spoony person. His boots, field boots, you could just see your face in them all the time. His uniforms were meticulous. He was very proper, very precise. He was inspecting the third floor of my barracks which had been turned over to recruit training. There were recruits up on the third floor, and I had just two floors. I was understrength as far as people were concerned. We were out on one of these threeday overnight exercises, and he went up to check on the rooms of the recruits. I had a room orderly I had left behind for this particular three-day affair, who had been a drunk. He had been over in Juarez, and we got him back and just got him about half-sober before I left. He was a chronic deserter, AWOL type. Anyway, he drank quite a bit, an older man. The first sergeant had talked me into not taking him saying, "I think we might be able to keep him. Really, when he's sober, he's a fine person and could be of value to us." We were short of noncoms. But, we left him back as room orderly until he could get over this hangover. Lo and behold, when Richardson came into the barracks, this man was mopping the floor right at the front door, and he splashed lye water on Richardson's boots. Richardson then went into the orderly room and the supply sergeant who I had left back was working on his books and didn't see Richardson come in. Until Richardson snapped his heels together the second time this supply sergeant didn't realize there was anybody in the room with him. So Richardson was angry because this man hadn't snapped to attention when he came into the room. Richardson was angry also because of his boots so he went through and inspected my barracks, the whole thing. The squadron commander, who later was chief of staff to Lucian Truscott during World War II, had told me I was going to get in trouble because of this thing I was doing. Major Carlton was also the S-3 of the brigade, and he didn't really approve of the way I was circumventing the establishment -- going out on these little exercises. Of course, he was working directly for "Bull" Swift and he had to be loyal to him in addition to being the commander of what we called the Chinese Squadron. In other words, a machine gun troop and headquarters troop. He was the squadron commander. I saw this man galloping through the boondocks, his head would just appear above the mesquite and I knew who was coming. I came up and he pulled in his horse and he said, "Bob, you're in trouble." I'd just been out overnight. He said, "Call in your instructions, assemble the troop, you're coming back to the barracks. Until you get your barracks straightened out your troop is in confinement and you're to report to General Swift after you get this organized." We'd had a windstorm that night and there was about an inch of sand all over everything in the barracks. So, I went in and reported to Swift and he put me in confinement, or he confined me to Fort Bliss. He said, "I have talked to the division commander. I'm not quite certain what I'm going to do with you in this, but you're not obeying the spirit of what I expect as far as an officer in my brigade is concerned." Well, I went back to my outfit. I just didn't know what to do. I was completely floored by this whole thing. The phone rang and it was General Richardson's aide, his name was Ruffner, Clark Ruffner, and later he went on and ended up four stars, a very capable person, VMI graduate. He called me and said, "Bob, I know what's been going on. Richardson, our division commander, doesn't know this yet, but he's going to be told about it today because orders have just come in. You're a student in the second special course at Leavenworth. General Richardson put your name in some time ago, and the orders are through now. So the chief of staff is going to tell what's going on between you and General Swift. It's important to get this straightened out because your regimental commander is involved in this too. He's been supporting you, I know, with Swift because he's talked to me about it." Ruffner was a senior major and a very wise person. The chief of staff was a wise person too and they were dealing with Richardson, who was just the opposite of this brigade commander, "Bull" Swift. So I said, "What should I do?" Well, you'd better obey the instructions you got from "Bull" Swift. This will come to a head above your level. You'll probably find out about it tomorrow. Don't tell anybody that I called you." So, I went back and we were working on getting the general police of the barracks and then getting our saddle equipment in shape, because we had been out in the desert and leather equipment deteriorates very rapidly out in the desert. Sure enough the next day I was called into "Bull" Swift's office. He looked at me and said, "I don't know how you engineered this, but you must have. How did you get your name on this list to go to Fort Leavenworth to school?" I looked at him in amazement and said, "I didn't do anything about it. I've been busy trying to train my troop." And he said, "Well, I've got orders that you are to report to General Richardson right away. You are on the list to go to Fort Leavenworth to school. You have to turn over your troop and your property, and so on. I'll work that out with Colonel Brown. I don't know where we're going to find an officer to take your place." They were very short of regular officers there. He was furious, and furthermore, his face was involved here, if you know what I mean. So, I went on up and General Richardson apparently had been told about it, but he didn't mention it at all to me. He said, "Get your property turned over and when you come back from Leavenworth, I expect you to go into the G-4 section to become the G-4, because I know my G-4 is going to be ordered to the general staff in Washington." He had been a logistician, and he was going to take a big job there. He said, "I want you to be my G-4." Well, I had known Richardson as a cadet at West Point, and then at the Cavalry School. When he'd taken over there he had been very pleasant and good to me. So, this whole thing just exploded right there. The charges were withdrawn, and I went off to Leavenworth to come back to find that Richardson had been ordered to Washington to be chief of public information, and General Swift was the division commander. I didn't go back to the 8th Cavalry. I was put in the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron to help get it organized because of my communications and motors experience at Riley. My new commander was a man who had been aide to Mr. Stimson, Secretary of the Army. His name was Regnier, Eugene Regnier, who later became a BG and had a port command out in the Pacific. Because Regnier had come from being Stimson's senior aide, this was in a way a great protection to me because "Bull" Swift didn't know what to do with Regnier or how to deal with me. Regnier was a very sensitive individual and very suspicious, and Swift realized that here was somebody that Stimson was still calling on the phone about a number of things that Regnier had been working on with him. Swift was ambitious and he was looking after himself as best he could, you see. So, I could sort of hide behind Regnier. Because we were on the promotion list under West Point rank, I was a senior captain. When jobs would come up out of the division where there would be a promotion involved, Swift would never put my name in and Regnier knew this. I said, "I'm happy here and I'm not worried about promotion. My interest is trying to help get things ready for war, which I'm certain is coming." Well, finally we went through maneuvers then with the 91st Reconnaissance Squadron, and "Bull" Swift got captured by the enemy in this two-sided Louisiana maneuver and the Recon Squadron, while I had a task force -- rescued "Bull" Swift. Well, that didn't help matters either, you see, because he felt there was no place for motorized equipment in a cavalry division.
INTERVIEWER: The 91st Squadron was motorized then?
GEN PORTER: Oh yes. We had light tanks and some 40 motorcycles. Of course, nobody liked them except the people who were riding them. We also had a lot of jeeps. It was a big outfit. We had about 1200 men in this squadron and an awful lot of equipment.
INTERVIEWER: The general resented being rescued by the motorized squadron?
GEN PORTER: Yes. He would get people from the Rotary Club at Bliss out. He belonged to the Rotary, and he would have people out and try to get groups organized through the Public Information Officer there at Bliss to show them the superior mobility of horse cavalry over armor and wheeled stuff. He had a place where we would go through the boondocks. Well, you know how deep the sand is down there. I think we called them the sand dunes, but it was where wind was gradually bringing more sand in toward Fort Bliss -- or El Paso and along the Valley Road going down the valley. He would pick out this course and he would ride a horse alongside our scout cars. Well, a horse in that sand for a short distance could move along at a good fast pace and the scout car would, if it didn't get stuck, be bogged down every once in awhile. We also had mesquite which would puncture tires and it was just impossible. He'd sit there and say to these men, "Hurry up, hurry up." They'd be watching, you see, these business men, and he'd say, "You see, this is an example of the mobility of the horse over motorized equipment." A couple of times requests had come in from the Chief of Cavalry's office asking if I was available for an assignment and he'd just go right back and say, "No." So, suddenly out of the blue after Pearl Harbor, I was ordered to the general staff in Washington. He got Regnier in first and said, "What did you have to do with Porter leaving the division?" And Regnier said, "Well, I didn't know about it." Regnier didn't even know about it at the time. I hadn't heard it either. Then he said, "Send Porter up here." So I went up and he said, "You're just too smart for us. I haven't let you out of the division because I wanted to keep you here and teach you a lesson because you cut corners with your machine gun troop, and now here I have orders and there's nothing I can do about them. You are ordered to the general staff. I wondered how you engineered that one." I said, "Well, general, I didn't have anything to do with it. I didn't know anything about it." Well, to finish that sequel, when I was in DCSPER, I guess it was in 1958, I went up to West Point for an inspection and I ran into General Swift, who was babysitting and exercising one of his grandchildren. I saw him and I went up to him and told him who I was. He looked up, he was getting to be quite an old man then, and when the light came into his eyes, he said, "You still look like that same damn whippersnapper in the cavalry division." (Laughter)
INTERVIEWER: Did you continue your association throughout your service in the 91st Recon Squadron with Terry Allen?
GEN PORTER: No, you see within three months after I was ordered to Bliss, Terry left for Fort Blanding, or Camp Blanding, Florida. And Gilbreath stayed and commanded the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Colonel Brown, they called him "Horseface" Brown, he had the 8th. When I went off to Leavenworth, Gilbreath was then ordered to Washington. He had been in logistics and was a fine logistician. He finally was sent out to help get things organized on the west coast. Gilbreath had gone then too, so there was quite a change of officers. Kenyon Joyce had gone up to take the IX Corps and taken a number of officers, whom I knew, with him. Richardson also had gone. They had a whole new ball game going when I got back at the end of three months. Then I left right after Pearl Harbor. I left the 1st of January in 1942, and went to the general staff. I think the important thing that I got out of my service at Bliss was the confusion that comes in expansion of the Army and when noncoms drop down so that you really don't have noncoms, and the difficulty of maintaining motorized or sophisticated equipment with recruits or people who really don't know what they are doing. Some of them can't even read the manual. And how easy it is to cut corners and not go through the SOP's, particularly for maintenance. The problem of using officers who are called to active duty who have their mind on their family at home, and affairs at home, and can't give their full energy and thought to the basic problems that they have on a daily basis because their mind is in two places at the same time. The fact that on the modern battlefield, the horse really has no place; so apparent to me after going on maneuvers with the cavalry division with my armored car squadron. I had command of an Army car squadron when I first went down there. The commander of that squadron got sick and had to have an operation. Because I had motors and communications experience, I was put over there to be the temporary commander until this officer came back from the hospital. He was out for two months. So, I took them on maneuvers to Louisiana right away. It was quite obvious on those early maneuvers in 1940 that if it wasn't for the armored car squadron doing a lot of reconnaissance, which theoretically would be done by horse elements, we could never keep up with an armored or a motorized column or force -- keep track of it. The noncoms had been in this outfit a long time and they had good communications, and these M-10 armored cars were very good as long as you could keep them out of the sand. They performed well on maneuvers in Louisiana.
INTERVIEWER: Where they wheeled vehicles?
GEN PORTER: Yes. But, I realized then that this really wasn't going to work if we got into trouble in Europe. For example, I just brought my little headquarters into a nightly bivouac. We were out on maneuvers and suddenly out of the blue, here comes a tank outfit supported by armored infantry through the swamp. I thought we had a place that was pretty well tank proof to put our CP. I thought we were safe and had no idea that armor and infantry were that close to us from the intelligence that I had gotten from our division G-2. We didn't think there was anything within 50 miles. We were going to protect the flank of the cavalry division, and suddenly, wading through the water, came these infantrymen from a motorized company; and I could hear tanks in the background. They knew there was somebody on the other side of the bayou from the radio traffic that they heard. So they screened out with a reconnaissance in force to find out who it was. Well, I was just sitting down to eat my rations. I had to gulp my food and get back and get the outfit out of there because here we were with two companies of infantry wading through the swamp, coming in on us, and I could hear these tanks in the background. They couldn't get to us because of the bayou. The water was on three sides and the only way out was the way we had come in. It was about a quarter of a mile down to a road, and they were on the other side of the thing. It was impassable except for them to get across on foot. I realized then that horse elements just couldn't deal with anything like that. We needed much better reconnaissance than you could get from horse elements. I never said anything to anybody about that because I thought it was so obvious that nobody in his right mind would think about it. Most of the officers in the cavalry division agreed with my point of view. But there were some old-timer who did not. The Chief of Cavalry at that time was very much opposed. General Herr was Chief of Cavalry, and he was not interested in getting armored elements in the cavalry or motorizing the cavalry. He thought it should be horse cavalry, pure and simple, and of course, General Swift felt that way too.
INTERVIEWER: It's been said that that reluctance to look forward was the main reason General Marshall decided, eventually, to do away with the branch chiefs and to get younger and more futuristic views into the Army. Would you agree with that General Porter?
GEN PORTER: Well, from where I was it seemed quite obvious. When I was ordered to the general staff, one of the men, quite a senior officer in the old Weapons Department of Riley was the personnel officer in the Chief of Cavalry's office. He told me then that the chiefs days were numbered because Herr was giving the general staff and the Chief of Staff so many problems as far as accepting new ideas, the concept of armor and that the cavalry was the logical group of people to take over the armored role in the Army because of their mobility -- training in mobility and their reconnaissance capabilities, and the shock effect of maneuver and charging from a base of fire. And, it came to pass.
INTERVIEWER: Well, the Louisiana maneuvers that you mentioned, of course, are very famous as pre-World War II maneuvers. What else do you think you and your unit gained from those?
GEN PORTER: Well, of course, the armored car squadron of which we only had "A" Troop. That's all there was when I went down to Bliss. As quickly as Major Maddox, who was the permanent commander assigned to the squadron, got well enough I took over this machine gun troop and worked in the 8th Cavalry. It wasn't until I came back from Leavenworth that the 91st Recon Squadron was being organized. About the time I went off to school orders came in for that change. I knew nothing about that, of course. I was involved with my own little machine gun troop. I seldom had time to read a paper let alone the Army-Navy Journal, or any document like that; and the Cavalry Journal only came out once a month. So, I read about these things that were happening in the library at Leavenworth, but our course was so full. They really were training Reserve officers and they were bringing in some young Regular officers too. But it was a rehash of field manuals and regulations and then a lot of original problems. There was no time to read more than the headlines of the Kansas City Star there. I'd get a letter from my wife, but they were filled with activities of our two children and her life which had nothing to do much with military activities on the post. She was a busy mother looking after children and helping other people. So, when I got back, I found an entirely new world attitude in the cavalry division. They were building a lot of additional temporary motor sheds, temporary barracks, and messes. It was a completely new world, and we got our own recruits, and trained our recruits in the Recon Squadron. I was made the exec, Ham (Hamilton) Howze, had the tank company and was busy doing a lot of training of recruits, teaching machine gun training, and so on. Everybody was completely occupied. We had a lot of Reserve officers and I had a lot of administrative things, reports and things like that, and the troop funds and recreational activities, overwatching the messes. You started in at six in the morning, and you'd get through about nine or ten o'clock at night trying to get this recon outfit ready to go out on maneuvers in Louisiana to get the basic training done and prepare them so that they could get through their motors instruction. Jeeps had been issued and they hadn't been through the boards. We did the testing of them. We had three or four different kinds of jeeps -- four-wheel steer, and various makes that were in competition to try to be selected as our standard jeep. Reports had to be put in on those.
INTERVIEWER: How long did the maneuvers last, General Porter?
GEN PORTER: Well, see, we had to go all the way from Bliss down to Texas.
INTERVIEWER: You mean to Louisiana?
GEN PORTER: Louisiana, and we had to go all the way across Texas. I had been pulled out the first year I was there to take the serial that had all the odds and sods -- the ordnance company, the signal company and all of these wheeled vehicles; and it worked out so well the first year, that the second year I was given the same job. So Regnier had to take the G-3 to be his exec, and move it to the maneuvers. We were away about a month. It was about 1,200 miles, as I recall, to get down there and 25 miles an hour was really top speed with our convoys. So there were long days and then there was a lot of maintenance at night to keep the vehicles running. Then, we'd be in the maneuver area for about three or four days before the maneuver would start. The maneuvers would last a week -- five days to a week. Then you'd have this long trip back. So it took a month to get down there and get back. Very interesting, these were exciting times.
INTERVIEWER: Of course, there were many famous folks who participated in those maneuvers from Bliss, and some of them I'm sure you ran across -- General Jimmy Polk, Bruce Palmer, Ralph Haines, and perhaps even Jim Alger as a youngster. I'm not sure.
GEN PORTER: Alger was at Knox at that time, and Polk, was at Riley. He was taking the regular course so I didn't run into Polk there. Yes, he had been at Riley while I was there as an instructor. Of course Palmer had been there while I was an instructor. But, they went from West Point to the cavalry division. They had been there before and then had gone up to Riley from the cavalry division.
INTERVIEWER: I see.
GEN PORTER: I had stayed at Riley for six years and people were coming back to Riley that had taken their school courses and then were coming back. I went to Bliss and then directly to the general staff. So I didn't really see much of Jim Polk until we were together in the 3d Armored Division. But, he was great, very famous -- he did a great job in World War II. Looking at my service in the cavalry division, I had no familiarity with the desert, except to know that it was a forbidding place with lots of sand, until I went down to Bliss. It was a new life, and there were a lot of adjustments that had to be made after Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota where I had been stationed and where I had lived most of my life except for my years at West Point and then at the Signal School. I found that communications were terribly important there because of the boondocks, the sand, the big wide open spaces of the desert. It was so easy to get lost out in the back country. You had to know a whole lot more about the weather than I ever thought you had to know, because of the flash floods which would come during the rainy season. I took my recon squadron out just after I got there and gave them a map exercise. I had each of the platoons make a reconnaissance from the Texas boundary across to the mountains, over the Guadalupes, through an open area. They took great interest in this exercise and we were going to assemble at a certain place. Everything worked fine until the rain came and I had scout cars stuck in the mud over a 40 or 50 mile area. It took me three days to get some of them out. Communications of course were very complicated then because of the atmospherics and the effects of the mountains. I realized then that maintenance was terribly important, although we'd been teaching that at Riley. You had to depend on the driver and the small unit commander. Also, I learned that if you were going to work horses and motors together, there had to be a very careful division of responsibilities and that the motor units ought to be used as much as possible to conserve horse flesh. Otherwise you just ran the horses off their feet and when you needed them, they were worn out. There was a problem of organizing combat commands and task forces in a motorized or mechanized elements. I had watched this going on at Knox when we'd go down there from the Cavalry School. I was down there quite a lot, but it seemed to me that this broke down the chain of command; and unless you had the same troops together all the time, you couldn't decentralize responsibility the way you could if you held these elements together. This was the thing that I had been working on in the 4th Cavalry and also in the jobs I'd had in the 9th Cavalry with Negroes. You'd drill them so they could do a certain job, and then you could pretty well give them a lot of responsibility. But the commander had to hold things much more tightly if he was going to have elements come in or go out since he might get a different commander every time -- engineers, for example, or a recon element that would come to him or some other attachment. It was very difficult for me to adjust to this need to watch over everybody's operation and check, check, check all the time. It took me awhile to get my staff so that they would do that for me when I got into a command job. I think this is something that a lot of people in the cavalry had difficulty with. I suppose the infantry had the same problem in this marrying up of combat units into combat forces rather than just having their own straight unit to deal with, particularly when they got to the squadron level. Our personalities and changes which came as expansion of the Army made some people have difficulty adjusting. I think I had difficulty with that a lot. You just about get one job organized and then you'd have a completely new set of problems to deal with. It took a lot of flexibility and imagination to deal with them with the people you had. The big problem was that most of us didn't have enough information of what was going on at the national level to keep abreast of what was going on. The newspapers were bad and the radio reports were not good. It was hard to realize what was happening, and Pearl Harbor broke on us and just changed our world completely. We'd been out on a fox hunt. I came in and turned on the radio and found out that bombs were falling on Pearl Harbor, and to us, from what we'd read, Pearl Harbor was a sanctuary. It was invulnerable. Nobody could get to it. Here it was -- the fleet was going down in flames.
[End Tape P-98, Side 1]
[Begin Tape P-98, Side 2]
INTERVIEWER: General Porter, you earlier referred to having been called into General Swift's office to explain the sudden arrival of your orders to the War Department. Could you explain to me what your duties were upon being assigned to Washington in January of 1942?
GEN PORTER: I got these orders just before Christmas, and we promptly got in the packers and got under way. I had a house guest. A friend of my wife was there at the time. We had two children and a very nice dog. We decided that our guest should go with us to Washington. So we loaded up our little Ford car with everyone and took off right after Christmas. We arrived in Washington on the 2nd of January. My instructions were to report to the Secretary of the General Staff for assignment. I got there and found that I was to go into the G-4 of the General Staff. I'd graduated from Leavenworth from the G-4 group that was there. Interestingly enough I found that the Secretary of the General Staff and his deputy were an infantryman and an artilleryman and both had been in my class at the combat communications course at Fort Monmouth. So I knew those officers. Actually, my assignment was to the motor's section of G-4. It was just being beefed up -- currently it was a very small section. They had called in the director of motor instruction of the Field Artillery School, Colonel Shug, to head it up. He had brought most of his staff from the Artillery School with him. I was the only cavalry officer who was ordered in. And here I was a horse cavalryman by reputation, but I'd been to Signal School and I'd helped revise the field manuals for motor maintenance working with the Artillery School. I was sent down from the Cavalry School to work with them, so I knew this group at Sill. I reported to Colonel Shug. I liked him a great deal. He was a very fine Irish type, happygo-lucky and cheerful. He apologized for pulling me out of the Cavalry Division and said, "What do you think about it?" I said, "I think the general staff is the wrong place for a young officer at this stage of our mobilization." He said, "I'll tell you what, we've got a special job in mind for you and when you finish that job. I'll sign your release and you can go back to troops." I said, "Well, would you put that in writing?" Of course, he was furious. He said, "Don't you take my word for it?" I was a captain and he was a full colonel. I said, "Yes, I do. But, you won't be here when I get this job done. There will be somebody else here. You'll be out with an artillery outfit, either as assistant division commander or as a corps artillery commander, you won't be here." He said, "Well, how do you know?" I said, "Well, our expansion has got to be very rapid if we're going to do anything in this big war that's going on in Europe." He was so angry that he threw me out of his office. After about an hour the phone rang and it was Colonel Shug, he said, "I want to see you." So, I went back in and he said, "Will this do?" He handed me a letter addressed to the G-4 personnel office saying, "Captain Porter is being called in for a special assignment. I have told him that he would be released from the general staff when he gets this job done. I think it will take about two years," and signed his name. He added a note to the letter: "I urgently recommend that we keep this commitment." So, I tucked that in my pocket and I said, "I apologize for being so tactless." He said, "No, frankly I have been so busy here, I really hadn't realized what problems we faced. But I should have because your job is to help get motor maintenance organized in the Army. The President is not happy with the North Carolina maneuvers -- the Carolina maneuvers. The handling of the equipment was bad. Kettering was down and watched. The President had sent him down to watch this and Kettering came back and said, "Look, the Army just isn't competent enough to run the maintenance of the motor vehicles, but General Motors could do it. Why don't you turn the maintenance over to us? We'll take care of it." Then he said General Marshall was called in by the president and told of Kettering's idea. Marshall promptly said, "Mr. President, that won't work. I feel that it would be very unwise to mix civilians and military people. We've got to have discipline in our units. It's going to give us problems that we can't solve, and we've got to have everybody who is going to be in the Army in uniform. We don't have time for Congress to try to pass legislation bringing these people under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. It would go into the courts and we never would get finished with it. I recommend against it very strongly." According to what Shug told me the president said, "All right, I'll give you one year to try to teach the Army how to maintain their own vehicles. If you can't get it done, then I'm going to ask General Motors to take over the maintenance of your fleet in the Army." Of course, expansion was coming very rapidly. We were beginning to make Tables of Organization and to buy equipment for the new divisions which were to come, and so on. Shug said, "Your job is to organize on-the-job training in units. Do whatever is necessary to train mechanics, drivers, and particularly the mechanics and the supply people who will have to maintain our fleet of vehicles, and our combat vehicles. "Well," he said, "I think from what we've been talking about the last week, the thing we need to do is to draft -- go into the bus and truck industry, and get them to give us some of their key people who can go right out into the new division. Put them under Civil Service regulations, and put them in the new divisions to train on the job in the shops. We need to break them down to battalion level, or lower, and to train them through on-the-job training while these men are working there. What we need are the personnel regulations and so on to do this and recruiting of people to fill these jobs, and we've got to do it as fast as we can. That's your job and I'm not going to put it in writing. You think about it. The big thing first is to figure out how the hell we get these instructors under Civil Service. These are senior people who will be 40 or 50 years old, very wise, and they'll come from industry where they've probably been brought up through the ranks. They know nothing about military life, unless they were in World War I. It's going to be a tricky situation, particularly to see if we can get them under Civil Service." Well, being new to Washington, I'd never been in Washington except to visit my congressman when I was a cadet at West Point; everything was very interesting. In the old Munitions Building they had nameplates outside of each person's door. Instead of charging down the hall, I'd stop and read every nameplate in every hall and so try to keep oriented to what was going on, particularly in the G-4 element and then in G-1. I tried to figure out how I was going to get the job done. I had two friends who were in the Secretary of General Staff's office and I'd go up to see them every once in awhile. Up in the secretariat level, General Marshall and those two men who were working for him in the Secretary of the General Staff's office, was about the only element that wasn't being moved around. Everything was expanding, or moving around, or being reorganized. I went by an office very close to the Secretary's office one day in early January and here was a new man. His office sign read: Director of Personnel. There was a civilian in there and he had a telephone. The man was looking out the window from an empty desk. So I just walked in his office and introduced myself. This man had just been appointed by the President. He had in writing his duties to work at the secretariat level on manpower problems. He had no staff. He had a secretary that he'd brought with him from Bloomingdales in New York, and that was it. So, I stopped to talk to him for a minute. He asked me what I was doing. He'd never been in the military service, a very nice man. I told him what I was doing and I said, "The reason I'm here is I saw you were interested in personnel, I've got a job which I'm going to need a lot of help with and possibly some of your people can help me." I told him what it was. It was to recruit civilians to teach on-the-job. To teach mechanics, to organize a supply for the expanding Army, and to get these people under Civil Service. Well, his eyes lit up and he said, "I've got a young fellow who is coming over tomorrow from the Civil Service Commission to work with me. His name is Macy, John Macy. If you'll come back tomorrow, we'll give him his first assignment; to help you with this project because we are feeling our way along. Mr. Stimson told me not to disrupt what was already in progress, to gather up the reins as I could and this seems like a good way for us to get started." Well, I was back the next day and met Macy, a very young, brilliant fellow. He headed the Civil Service before he retired. I forget what his job is now, but I think he later helped organize the PBS. He organized the Public Broadcasting System and he's got some job now, partially governmental. I forget what it is. He was a very fine person and a doer. So, he began working the Civil Service side of this thing to see just what the ground rules would be to draw these people into Civil Service. I was fortunate to get a young Reserve officer into the shop who had specialized in business management at George Washington University. He just graduated the year before and was sort of at loose ends. He was an automobile salesman at that time and he was very happy to get out of that job and be ordered to active duty with the war coming on. We were able to write out the regulations working with Macy and this young officer, the three of us working together. Within three months we had the regulations for the civilian service formulated, approved by the Civil Service Commission, and at the government printers. We used two teams of typists and secretaries. I would go to work at 7:00 in the morning. With no air conditioning in late spring in that Munitions Building, one girl would be completely exhausted by noon, and so a girl would come on at 10:00 o'clock, or 11:00, and then she'd work until we quit at night. The other girl, after she got her eight hours in would leave in the afternoon. So we were working two shifts of secretaries. Macy was clearing these regulations with the Civil Service Commission. The thing that kept worrying me from my instruction out at Leavenworth, and my limited knowledge on how the general staff should work, was the financial side of this trying to get the proper concurrences so that the money was available for all of these things we were trying to do. I kept going to the finance office; the senior finance officer was a man named Colonel Foster, and I would explain what I was doing. He'd listen very patiently, smile, and he'd say, "We've got the money for it. Go ahead, I'll concur." Well, it turned out that General Marshall and the president had said, "Anything dealing with this project, there will be no restrictions on financing." He never told me that but always within three minutes after he received my request I would have his concurrence. So, I got the feeling that the sky was the limit. As a general staff officer, you could get anything done if you just put your mind to it. Of course, it was important to be at the right place at the right time. For example, I'd been there about two weeks and Shug called me in and said, "We've got all this office space assigned and I've got officers coming in. But I have no desks, no secretaries and no chairs. I've got five senior artillery colonels coming in here next week and I've no place for them except an empty room." He had an administrative officer who was a man who had been special assistant to the president of Greyhound Bus Lines. He was a high-powered operator and was working his head off. I liked this man a great deal, and Shug said to me, "If you've got any ideas, let us know about them." I said, "Well, I don't know anything about this. I'm just trying to get my own little shop organized." I happened to go down to the head of personnel in G-4, a very fine woman, to talk to her about getting some more typewriters for my little shop. I had three officers working there with me and two secretaries. Somebody from the Civil Service came in while I was talking to our personnel officer, a civilian woman, saying that she had a lot of secretaries. Some of them could take shorthand, but they could all punch a typewriter and they had no place for them. She had interrupted us and I was off to the side. While Mrs. Kerr was talking to this women. I interrupted and I said, "Mrs. Kerr, we could take 12 of those secretaries tomorrow." And, her eyes lit up and I said, "We might even take 15, but I know we could take 12." So she turned to this woman and said, "We'll take 15 of your people tomorrow morning if you can have them here around 9:00 o'clock." Well, this was just after lunch and so this woman said, "Fine. That will help us to take the pressure off. I think I can get some from some other places, and if you can use any more, let me know." But, she said, "I've got 15 on hand now and I just started out on this 20 minutes ago. I'm making progress," and she disappeared. So I turned to Mrs. Kerr and said, "Do you realize that now we've got to get typewriters, desks, and begin to get telephones hooked up?" She pushed a button and one of her assistants came in and she said, "I want to have 15 typing desks, and how many desks do you need for officers?" I told her I knew that there were these five coming in, and I said, "I know that we need at least 10 desks." I just went ahead and improvised. Then I went back to this young Lieutenant Carl Gohrs, and I said, "Look, I've got 15 secretaries, complete with typewriters, and with typing desks and desks for 10 officers coming, for these rooms. Now, is that okay?" He said, "Well, this is manna from heaven. Shug has just been beating on me and I haven't been able to break the log jam." So I just happened to be there, you see, and this opportunity came. Gohrs was going up through channels, writing letters and papers, and so on. But it all fell into place. The next morning at 9:00 o'clock there was a rumbling in the hall. I happened to be in Shug's office on another project of my own. He said, "What's that?" He could hear the noise coming down the hall in the Munitions Building. And I said, "Well, I think it's going to be sooner than that." So, he went to the door and looked out and here came a bunch of black men pushing desks and girls carrying typewriters. There was quite an army coming down the hall. By noon, we were in business. Gohrs had been working and he told them just where to put them, and this Mrs. Kerr had gotten the communications people in and they were busy installing telephones. Within two days this expansion was completed. That was the way things happened. If you could keep abreast of things, you could get a lot of things quite rapidly.
INTERVIEWER: How long was it, General Porter, before you were able to implement your new regulations and get the civilians on board then in Civil Service?
GEN PORTER: Well, I think my project became part of a cover operation. The planners were all busy planning "Bolero," which was a cross channel operation from the UK into France. We needed small boats and small boat operators and all sorts of things. And, I knew that this was going on. I was on the periphery of this because the head logistics planners were right next to us, and they were friends of Shug. They were artillerymen and the artillery sort of hung together. So, I knew that this was going on, but I didn't know any of the details except that there was going to be a big personnel problem. The high priority was to get this regulation out so they could get some of these people up at Camp Edwards where these amphibious units were to be formed. So we began right away working on this, but I began to realize that I never would get out of the general staff as long as I was the head of this shop. I was a captain and I would gradually be getting promotions there, but that wasn't the point. The point was I wanted to get back to troops. So I went to Shug; and he had a man named Vandenberg, who was a cousin to Senator Vandenberg, who had been with him as his exec at the Artillery School. Vandenberg was sort of the mastermind in putting this expansion together. I went to them and I said, "You know, we need to get somebody in that really has been in the management echelons of the maintenance of some big motor bus, or transportation shop. I'd like to have permission to go and begin working with the personnel people to see what we can find in the way of Reserve officers who might fit this bill. They would be the grade of lieutenant colonel or colonel, and they need to stay with this operation all the way through. Colonel Shug has agreed to let me get this thing organized so that I could go back to troops and he'll release me." So, they agreed to it. I promptly went down to the Adjutant General and got them screening records and I found a man named Harley Swift who was with the Cincinnati Street Railway. He had been a young Engineer lieutenant and then a captain in World War I, and had been in Europe. He was head of maintenance for the Cincinnati Street Railway and he'd kept up his Reserve activities. He sounded if he was really just what we wanted. So, I took his personnel record out and went up to the G-1, the head of assignments. He was a very wonderful fellow who was a BG, and I gave him this card and I said, "We would very much like to have this man come to our automotive shop." He smiled and said, "It isn't often that I get something in this form. You get them all cluttered up with so many papers that you have to read, and here I have this man's card. I'll see if I can't get him for you." So, he picked up the phone and said, "Get me the president of the Cincinnati Street Railway Company in Cincinnati," and he got this fellow on the phone and said he'd like permission to speak to Harley Swift. He said, "I need to get some advice from him about maintenance problems." This man said, "Oh, fine," so he gave him the telephone number. Swift was a lieutenant colonel in the Reserves, and he said, "Colonel Swift, what is your family situation?" I was listening in on another line and Swift said, "What do you mean?" He said, "Well, how many children do you have, how old are they?" Swift told him and he said, "Fine, I see no reason why you shouldn't be in Washington next week at this time." Swift said, "Wait a minute! I'm in charge of transportation for the Cincinnati Street Railways and I've got problems of my own here. I'm not my own boss and I haven't talked to anybody on this." He began weaseling right away, you see. So, General Reynolds said, "Well I talked to the president of your company and he gave me your telephone number. I think he'll be expecting you. I didn't tell him what I wanted except I wanted to talk to you about maintenance problems. But from looking at your record, you're just the man we need here in G-4 to help us get the Army on wheels and keep it there." Then he gave him a little pep talk and said, "Would it be all right if I called you back at this time tomorrow?" Swift said, "Yes, sir." So, Reynolds turned around to his secretary and said, "Draft orders ordering Swift to active duty, but don't put them in the mail until tomorrow after you check with me." And then he turned to me and he said, "You come back here at 9:00 o'clock tomorrow morning and we'll finish this one up." So, I was there at 9:00 o'clock the next morning, and we called up the president of the Cincinnati Street Railway Company. He said Swift had been in and, "We're going to have a hell of a time replacing him. If this is really going to be an important job he's going to do I'll release him." So then Reynolds got Swift on the phone and asked him what he could do. Swift said he needed time to get his affairs in shape. Reynolds said, "Well, I've got orders cut. I haven't given them to the Adjutant General yet, but these tell you to report here in seven days." Well, Swift being a good soldier, he was a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, said, "Yes, sir." In seven days he was there. It developed then that Eastman had been considering him to be on the president's staff as a railroad and transportation advisor. But when they got around to trying to get him he was already on active duty in Sommerville's shop in the Munitions Building at that time. So he came in and reported for duty and I shook hands with him and said, "I'm your deputy." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "Well, you're senior to me. You're in charge of this section and I'm your exec. The thing to do, as quickly as we get this thing launched, is to see that it's implemented because they promised me that when we got this organized, I could go back to troops." So, Swift sort of gulped and said, "I don't know anything about it." I said, "Well, you have all the qualifications and we've got a good little shop here. There's nothing for you to worry about. Our big problem was to get the necessary people to go ahead and carry out this program -- that's what we're working on now with Civil Service." Well, within two days he was right up on the bit. He was ready to go and was a great help. We worked well together, and I immediately set up a secretarial committee board to oversee this operation. Secretarial committees were not too difficult to organize but they were hard as the devil to disband once you got them organized. It was quite obvious that this operation needed to be watched for some time, particularly when you've got a lot of high powered civilian technicians involved. You had to watch them until they went back to their home shops and got out of the Civil Service. Colonel Swift began working very quickly on the recruiting of people. I kept working on the regulations. He had wide contacts. He'd been president of the American Transportation Association, which had headquarters in New York City, and knew on a first name basis the key people in most of the big bus operations in the city transportation business. He was able to get together a very fine group of technicians, and they were handpicked for each of the divisions. We tried to get people who were fairly close to where the division was to be activated. We developed a uniform for them, and an arm band so that they could be properly identified in the shops. It wasn't long before we began having some of these key people located in places where these operations were being set up in some of the new divisions that were being activated. One of the places that was particularly sensitive was Camp Edwards where the development of the amphibious operations in battalions was to take place. To check this out, I went up to Camp Edwards after the man had been there for one month -- actually I guess he had been there six weeks -- to see how he was getting along. He was one of our guinea pig projects and the man was personally known to Harley Swift as an outstanding shop foremen. He came from the New England area. We found when we got up there that things were going along pretty well, but he hadn't been paid. His morale was good and he was working 12 to 14 hours a day; but he was living off of his resources and his wife was trying to keep his checkbook in balance without any input into it. It was not an easy operation for him. So I said, "I'll see what I can do for you." I went to the finance officer but he said, "We have no authorization to pay these people." There were only two of them at Camp Edwards at the time; this operation was just beginning. I said, "Well, I can take care of that." He said, "What are you going to do? I need something in my hand. I can't write checks and spend government money without an authorization." I said, "I'll give you an authorization." So I called up our office in Washington and asked them to give me the finance number under which this pay would fall. They called me back with the number and said, "Well now that's gone down to the Adjutant General for publication, but they say it will be next week before they can get it into the system, and it will probably be 10 days before it gets up to Camp Edwards." I said, "Well, I'm going to do something about it right now." With the finance number, which is really all the finance officer wanted, he was covered as quickly as he had the finance number. I dictated an order to the CG's secretary up at Camp Edwards, and when it was typed out, I signed it and kept a copy, and gave the original to the finance officer. He promptly worked up a pay voucher and paid this man, which improved the image of this particular group of civilian advisors of great deal. Word soon got through the system that they were being watched pretty closely. Harley Swift said, "I didn't realize that a general staff officer had that much authority." I said, "Well, I think as long as you sign the secretary's name and don't get him in hot water, I don't see what's wrong with it." When I got back to Washington, I told Shug about it and gave him a copy of this order and said, "Do you want me to take this up to General Sommerville's office, or what?" He said, "I'll take it." So, I forgot all about it until I was called to the front office. General Sommerville was having a meeting, and he said, "I just wanted to see this young captain who's showing initiative." General Gross was in the chain-of-command. Shug had gone to Gross who was his boss, and Gross had brought this up at the daily staff meeting and they were all chuckling about it. I was sent for for that reason. But, I never heard anything more about it. We made a number of trips after we got this regulation done. By late April I had finished this job. We worked long hours and things fell in place. The Civil Service Commission didn't stand on protocol or anything else. They bent the regulations as much as they could, and we got the proper language into our regulations so they could keep it within the Civil Service Act. We bullied the printers into getting our pamphlets, and in April we had the regulations and the manuals on dealing with the relationship between Civil Service and our civilian automotive advisor program all in place. So I went to General Shug, who at that time had orders to go out to be the artillery commander of the new division, but he hadn't left yet. I took it to him and I said, "You realize I told you that you would be out of here before this project was done? I've had good luck and probably you could go ahead and sign my release before you leave," which he promptly did. Then I got orders to the 6th Motorized Cavalry Regiment that was being organized at Fort Oglethorpe. I started work on those orders, to get my things packed. We'd decided that my wife shouldn't stay in the Washington area. We'd decided that soon after I got there. We were going to get quarters at Oglethorpe, so our furniture was being packed as we were going to Oglethorpe. I was loaned by the SOS to the Adjutant General as a troubleshooter to get other personnel projects under way. Harley Swift, as the chief of our section, continued on his merry way. I went with him on several trips where we began recruiting small boat operators. I went to work on this as a project to try to recruit from the power boating clubs and the power boat association men who had speed boats and could be the operators for all these amphibious craft that were to cross the English Channel to France. If you looked at the operation, to me it was a phony because we were going to have to get 50,000 small boat operators. The British were going to build these boats and nobody was really up to putting 50,000 boats together in the time span in which this was going to take place. There was only one single line railroad into Camp Edwards. Just to get 5,000 boat operators in there for training would tax the railroad's capacity if you were going to bring them in by rail. We were going to have to get buses to get them in. We talked to groups of power boat people around the US who were assembled, and got recruiting started with local people doing the recruiting, sending their names in with the qualifications. These local people began getting volunteers together for these amphibious engineer units that were going to be developed. That was one of my projects, and another was to get the Adjutant General so organized that he could answer all the letters from people who volunteered to work various projects and specialties. Some had written in right after Pearl Harbor offering their services for a dollar a year, or a very small pay. In May 1942 there were two rooms filled with letters, clear to the ceiling. In the Munitions Building, there was mail that hadn't been opened. And Ulio, who was the Adjutant General, was at his wits end on how to deal with these people. The congress was beginning to get into this because they were getting letters from their constitutents. They hadn't gotten an answer from the Army and there had been six or eight weeks gone by and some of them didn't know whether their letters had gotten there because they hadn't been acknowledged. Really, it was a mess. But, we were able to find some additional space that was being given up by an outfit that was being phased out. They hauled this mail over and got clerks opening it and answering the letters. It took about a week or ten days to get the necessary people together to do it and develop sort of broader-type answers saying, "Your letter had been received and has been referred to Mrs. So-and-so, and then we'd have to figure out what area of responsibility they might be in. Most of these people would be in logistics or supply area. That occupied six weeks until my orders were to take effect on 1 July 1942. In late June, I got a call from General Mark Clark, who was Chief of Staff to General McNair at Army Field Forces. They had taken over facilities to the War College down at what is now called Fort Leslie J. McNair. He said, "Porter, you're the best G-2 in the United States Army." I replied, "Sir, I don't know anything about G-2 work." I didn't know General Clark. I had just been promoted to major. He said, "Well, don't tell anybody about it because we took the G-2 that Terry Allen had in the 1st Division. He agreed to this with the understanding that he could have you to be his G-2." Well, there's a background to that. Soon after I reached Washington in January, I got a call one evening from General Terry Allen. He was in Washington to see his mother, and he wanted me to have breakfast with him at the Army-Navy Club the next morning at 7:00 o'clock. I lived in Alexandria and there were very few bridges across the river then. The 14th Street Bridge, the Memorial Bridge, and Key Bridge, and the roads were just two lanes and tie-ups occurred very often. I was about 10 minutes late for this appointment. Terry Allen was pacing up and down Vermont Avenue in front of his mother's house. He really laid me out when I stopped to pick him up. He said, "You have the reputation of being on time, but here you are 10 minutes late." Well, Terry Allen was a man who was always late. In the 1930's when I was working with him, if he got to a party within an hour of the appointed time that was pretty good. And we had great difficulty getting him to a class he'd have on time. It took his exec and his secretary both, because he was so busy on projects that he'd forget all about what he was supposed to be doing. We had breakfast, and during the breakfast he said, "I'd like to have you come to the 1st Division to be my G-2." He was just taking command. He had been given the division by General Marshall. Marshall had called him into his office and told him he was having him assigned commanding general of the 1st Division, and gave him a pep talk. He was, at the time, assistant division commander of the 36th Division. I knew the 1st Division from the reading I'd done over the years on World War I, and the reputation of the so-called "Big Red One." So I said, "Sir, you can't do that." He said, "What do you mean I can't do that?" I said, "You can't bring outside people into the 1st Division. You've got to take what you find there and make it work." He looked at me as if I'd slapped him in the face. He said, "Who are you to tell me how to run my division?" I said, "I'm not telling you how to run your division, but I'm telling you that it won't do you any good to take me down there. You've probably got a very competent G-2, and you haven't even seen the people yet. You shouldn't begin making promises or asking people to come on board until you look the place over." He was as angry as he could be. Our breakfast was finished without anymore conversation. He had to catch a plane back to Florida and I wanted to go to work. So as we got up from the table, he picked up the check, going over to the cashier he turned to me and said, "If I lost my G-2, would you come?" I said, "Of course I would but you ought to really go down there and look over what you've got, because I'm certain the 1st Division is still in good shape." Then, the next I heard of this was when I got this call from Mark Clark. Well, my furniture was being crated at the time, right behind then Colonel Eisenhower's furniture which was being handled at the quartermaster's place in Roslyn. That was where our packing and crating for the Army General Staff was located. Apparently, Eisenhower's furniture was there and they were shipping it out, and then I was next on the list. I didn't realize what really was in store when I was ordered to the 1st Division. They changed the markings on the creates and sent that furniture to South Dakota where we decided my wife should go. Then in late June I went to Indiantown Gap, the staging area. I talked to Colonel Harley Swift in case my orders were changed. He knew the president of the Harrisburg Street Railway, and he called him. He said, "Get Porter a furnished apartment with three bedrooms so he can commute to Indiantown Gap from Harrisburg till he goes overseas." This man called back in two hours and said, "We've got it. He's going to have to pay for it." Harley said, "He'll pay for it." I think it cost me $150 a month for a furnished apartment there, and as soon as we got our furniture under way, we went on up to Harrisburg. Then my father came east to drive my wife to South Dakota, and I went out and reported in at Indiantown Gap without taking any leave for fear that my orders might be changed. I had just gotten out of the general staff and I didn't want to have things interrupted. We were disappointed not to go to Oglethorpe, which would have meant at least another year of family life, but my wife was quite resigned to this because at least she knew what her future was going to be, rather than going down to Oglethorpe and then wondering how things were going to work out. We owned a house in Sturgis, South Dakota, which was being rented. She called and told the people that she was going to have to take it. She had enough furniture in storage out there to equip it pretty much and with our furniture that came she was in good shape. Well, I reported to Terry Allen then up at Indiantown Gap on a Sunday afternoon in late June. There was another officer from Washington sitting in this pullman parlor car and I sat down beside him. I liked his looks. He was an older man, crew cut, smoking a pipe, looking out the window philosophically. I introduced myself, and said I was going up to join the 1st Division. His eyes lit up and he said, "I'm going too. I'm going to be the artillery commander." It turned out to be General Cliff Andress, so we went up together. We had a very wonderful association from then on. We arrived and Terry wasn't there. He was in Harrisburg. Teddy Roosevelt was there. Allen had been in Harrisburg for a couple of days. His wife was there and he had had no leave. He had gone over there for the weekend. So Teddy Roosevelt promptly said, "The advanced detachment is leaving for England day after tomorrow and I'm going to take you along with me." I said, "Well, that's all very interesting. I didn't know that. I'm just reporting in." About that time, Allen arrived and Teddy told Allen that he'd like to have me go with him. And Allen said, "No, Porter is going to stay here. We've got to get reacquainted and get the general staff organized, and I have no G-2. There is just nothing here. I want to make it clear to him what the ground rules will be." General Roosevelt was listening. Terry Allen said, "Your job is to keep me abreast of the enemy situation. As long as you give me good advice and good recommendations I'll do anything I can to help you in any way as far as personnel resources, or the use of reconnaissance elements of the division, artillery, anything you want. But the first time you give me bum advice and we lose a battle, I'm going to cut your head off. Is that clear?" And I said, "Yes, I'd like to play on that relationship." So that was the way we started out. I stayed there instead of going with the advanced detachment, which would really have scrambled my personal plans. I had to get a G-2 section together and then he put me in charge of reconnaissance training. He said that he felt that the 1st Division didn't know anything about reconnaissance; they didn't know anything about map reading; and they didn't understand intelligence at all. They were gung ho to go in and close with the enemy and get them, and that was it. They did not understand, you've got to have a base of fire, and then you've got to maneuver and hold back your reserve elements till you know that when they go in they can win. In other words he was using cavalry tactics right from the very beginning, but translating it into infantry terms.
INTERVIEWER: Well, it is unusual that a cavalryman would get command of the country's most famous division. Do you know how that came about, General Porter?
GEN PORTER: The story as I heard it from others -- this is sort of piecing together various bits of information. Allen was ordered to the Command and Staff School at Leavenworth based on his tactical experience and the fact that he had been decorated for valor in World War I as a young lieutenant. He'd made a reputation after World War I as a playboy. He drank considerably, he played a lot of polo and had a good time. When the academic board at Leavenworth worked up his efficiency report they said, "Allen has a brilliant mind, but I would not give him a command in time of war. He will not make a good staff officer." Terry had a lot of friends and when that hit the Chief of Cavalry's office, he was called by a friend who saw the efficiency report and said, "What the hell have you been doing out there? You got a bad efficiency report and the assignment that had been projected for you was back with troops, the Chief of Cavalry has decided that you shouldn't have it based on this efficiency report that's come in. Where would you like to go?" Terry said, "I don't know. I'll call you back." So next day he called Terry back and said, "There's an opening to be the cavalry instructor at the Infantry School. Do you think that might interest you?" He said, "Oh, sure. Any port in a storm." So he went down to Benning. George Marshall was assistant commandant in command of this school at the time. Terry was in the Tactics Department there, of course as the cavalry representative, and was again teaching combat firing and small unit tactics. Typical of Terry when you gave him a job he bore right in. When he left that assignment Marshall wrote on his efficiency report, "This is an outstanding soldier and he should have command of a division in time of war." General Marshall remembered Terry. So you can see, Allen was a series of contradictions. I loved the fellow a great deal. He had his weaknesses, but you gave him a job and he'd get it done. Later on in the division, if he was given his assignments in a way that he really felt that he had the responsibility to do something, he'd always produce. Very interesting, when General Patton took over the II Corps in Tunisia from Fredendall, the way Patton handled Terry -- I never heard them have any words whatsoever. General Patton would always say, "Terry, do you think you could do this?" And Terry would say, "Oh, sure I can do that and some more," and the first thing you would know, we would be given a more difficult assignment and a mission that the Op's people in corps had originally assigned to the 1st Division.
INTERVIEWER: Well General Porter, with that then, perhaps we could look to the 1st Division's deployment and, of course, the invasion of North Africa if you'd like to pick up there.
GEN PORTER: The 1st Division had been held together doing amphibious training with the Navy and the Marines in the Caribbean for a couple of years before Pearl Harbor. I think they started this amphibious work in 1937, and the manuals were being written from their experience in amphibious warfare based on the 1st Division working with the Navy. So this really was a crack outfit. They had experienced officers, most of them West Pointers, down to include platoon leaders. They had old heads as regimental commanders. They knew exactly how to load out for an amphibious maneuver and had SOP's developed, which made that sort of work relatively simple to do in spite of the fact you'd have all sizes of vessels and so on. It really was a going concern that I went to, and the G3 had been in my company at West Point. He was Class of 1928 and I was '30. The G-4 had been working for the city of New York in logistics and supply management, a very fine logistician.
INTERVIEWER: Who were these two gentlemen?
GEN PORTER: Clarence Eymer was the G-4 and Stanhope Mason the G-3. Eymer, I believe, is dead and Stanhope Mason retired as a major general. He lives down in Alabama. They had very competent sections and the technical staff was fine except for the signal. The signal officer had gotten sick and they had a young Class of 1939 captain who was the signal officer. So, the first thing that happened to me after joining was that Terry Allen called me in and said, "Bob, we've got to have a signal officer, and in addition to your duties as G-2, you have to be the signal officer." I said, "I can't do that, but I'd be very happy to help George Pickett," who was this young captain. I said, "I can help him some but I can't take the responsibility for being signal officer and doing G-2 work also." He said, "When I try something that isn't in the book, you always object." I said, "No, it's just a question of priorities and who you must hold responsible for these things." He said, "If anything goes wrong with our signal communications, you're going to be on the carpet." I said, "All right, but you remember that you said you wouldn't cut my head off unless we lost a battle." (Laughter) He said, "Okay," so I "mother-henned" the signal company. Later he gave me the recon company to look after too. But that was good, because the recon people were really working pretty much in my area and I began using them more. We stayed at Indiantown Gap, I arrived there the end of June and the advanced detachment went off to the UK early in July, as I recall. I can't remember the exact date because I don't have my papers here. The rest of the division went over on the Queen Mary in early August, all at one time. We had a great deal of difficulty trying to keep secret where we were going. Finally the story was developed in Washington that we were on our way out to Australia. One of the things of interest that had happened while I was a staff officer in Washington -- I hadn't really thought too much about the war in the Pacific because my work was oriented on Germany. But when I was in G-4 I was duty officer one night in February for G-4. That meant you had to sleep in General Sommerville's outer office, and manage the war room, and take calls, and if anything looked urgent, alert the necessary people. There was a call from the comm center that an urgent message was coming in from MacArthur. So I went down to the communications center to pick it up rather than have somebody get lost in the Munitions Building trying to find me. It was an urgent call requesting medicine. The Bataan battle was in progress at that time. I promptly called General Lutes, who was the deputy to Sommerville, he said, "I'll get Sommerville and you call these numbers and tell them to be in the G-4 war room in one hour." Well, they all showed and Sommerville read this message outloud to the group and they talked about it. I've never seen a more despondent group of people because the things that MacArthur was asking for weren't within our capabilities to deliver. Finally, Sommerville said, "Well, we can't do this with Army resources." In the transportation side of the War Department, we had an awful lot of shipping. As you know, we ran our own fleet of freight vessels in those days. Sommerville said, "I've got to take this to Marshall and we'll have to get the Navy involved." I'd never seen Sommerville anything but very confident, and showing an aggressive posture until that night when he was emotionally upset. He actually was holding back tears when he pictured how MacArthur was feeling from the way he had phrased this message. [End Tape P-98, Side 2]
doc_security_classification: U document restriction: 999
file room: MILITARY HISTORY INSTITUTE SAMPLER file cabinet: CAREER HISTORIES
file drawer: OFFICER CAREER HISTORIES file folder: PORTER, ROBERT W. JR, GEN -
INTERVIEW BY COL JOHN N. SLOAN subject: 06, PART V document-creation-date:
19810101 author or originator: PORTER, ROBERT W. JR abstract: DISCUSSES CAREER
HIGHLIGHTS, CHIEFLY WWII document type: TRANSCRIPTS originating organization:
MHI total-pages: 56 location-of-record: USAMHI, CARLISLE BARRACKS, PA keywords:
USMA, 1 INF DIV, BRAZIL EXPEDITIONARY FORCE, KOREA, TURKEY, CENTO
historically-significant: Y media type: PAPER record format: WPD/TIF/PDF
vital-record-code: Y file-code-current: 870-5d acquired from: USAMHI, CARLISLE
BARRACKS, PA provenance: ARCHIVES, ROBERT PORTER PAPERS, ORAL HISTORY mhi unique
record identifier: 1998D0000080