John Jay McCloy (March 31, 1895, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – March 11, 1989, Stamford, Connecticut) was a lawyer and banker who later became a prominent United States presidential advisor. He was known for his opposition to the World War II atomic bombing of Japan, his refusal to endorse compensation to the 110,000 Japanese-Americans who were held in internment camps within the USA, and his refusal as Assistant Secretary of War to endorse USAAF bombing raids on the rail approaches to Auschwitz concentration camp that would have saved countless Nazi Holocaust victims.
He was a legal counselor to the major German chemical combine I. G. Farben, and was the Assistant Secretary of War from 1941 to 1945, during which he was noted for opposing the nuclear bombing of Japan. McCloy was notably supportive of the Third Reich at least until 1939 and was photographed sitting with Hitler at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
During World War II, as Assistant Secretary of War, McCloy was a crucial voice in setting U.S. military priorities. The War Department was petitioned throughout late 1944 to help save Nazi prisoners by ordering the bombing of the railroad lines leading to Auschwitz and the gas chambers in the camp. McCloy responded that only heavy bombers would be able to reach the sites from England, and that those bombers would be too vulnerable and were needed elsewhere. However, only a few months earlier, Allied forces had bombed industrial centers just a few kilometers away from the extermination camp, and would continue to do so, apparently even causing some damage to buildings in Auschwitz, while sustaining very low losses. Indeed, regular US bombing raids from Foggia, Italy to nearby strategic targets routinely crossed right over Auschwitz en route. On another occasion, when replying to another appeal to bomb the gas chambers, McCloy claimed that the final decision on the selection of bombing targets, including those attacked by American planes, lay with the British alone. This was an incorrect claim. According to Michael Beschloss, in an interview three years before the latter's death (in 1986) with Henry Morgenthau, III, McCloy claimed that the decision not to bomb Auschwitz was President Roosevelt's and that he was merely fronting for him. This appears possible, given Roosevelt's generally unsympathetic response to the Holocaust, but is otherwise unsupported. Further, McCloy also alleged to Morgenthau that Roosevelt refused to approve the Auschwitz rail bombing because he would then be accused of also killing Auschwitz prisoners. As they were about to be gassed en masse anyway, this allegation by McCloy is highly suspect and self-serving. In the early 1970s, McCloy claimed that he himself "could no more order a bombing attack on Auschwitz than order a raid on Berlin." However, while in the field with General Jacob L. Devers, advancing eastward through Germany in early 1945, a "suggestion" from McCloy resulted in Devers' Army bypassing and sparing the historic Romantic Road town of Rothenberg o.d. Tauber. For his action, McCloy was later made an honorary citizen of the town. These and other pro-German actions by McCloy resulted in significant protests much later, when McCloy was announcing the Volkswagen Scholarship at Harvard University in 1983.
From March 1947 to June 1949, McCloy was president of the World Bank. In 1949 he replaced Lucius D. Clay who was the Military Governor for the U.S. Zone in Germany as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany and held this position until 1952, during which time he oversaw the creation of the Federal Republic of Germany. At his direction, a campaign of wholesale pardoning and commutation of sentences of Nazi criminals took place, including those of the prominent industrialists Friedrich Flick and Alfried Krupp. McCloy also pardoned Ernst von Weizsäcker. (In 1978 Ernst Weizsacker's son German President Richard von Weizsäcker conferred honorary German Citizenship on McCloy). Some of the less notable figures were retried and convicted in the newly independent West Germany. His successor as High Commissioner was James B. Conant; the office was terminated in 1955.
Following this, he served as chairman of the Chase Manhattan Bank from 1953 to 1960, and as chairman of the Ford Foundation from 1958 to 1965; he was also a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1946 to 1949, and then again from 1953 to 1958, before he took up the position at Ford.
From 1954 to 1970, he was chairman of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations in New York, to be succeeded by David Rockefeller, who had worked closely with him at the Chase Bank. McCloy had a long association with the Rockefeller family, going back to his early Harvard days when he taught the young Rockefeller brothers how to sail. He was also a member of the Draper Committee, formed in 1958 by Eisenhower.
He later served as advisor to John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan, and was the primary negotiator on the Presidential Disarmament Committee. In 1963, he was awarded the prestigious Sylvanus Thayer Award by the United States Military Academy at West Point for his service to the country.
He was selected by Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission in 1963. Notably, he was initially sceptical of the lone gunman theory, but a trip to Dallas with Allen Dulles, an old friend also serving on the Commission, in the spring of 1964 to visit the scene of the assassination convinced him of the case against Oswald. The only prominent lawyer among the seven commissioners, he brokered the final consensus — avoiding a minority dissenting report — and the crucial wording of the primary conclusion of the final report. He stated that any possible evidence of a conspiracy was "beyond the reach" of all of America's investigatory agencies — principally the FBI and the CIA — as well as the Commission itself.
From 1966 to 1968 he was Honorary Chairman of the Paris-based Atlantic Institute.
Stuart Erdheim - "Could The Allies Have Bombed Auschwitz-Birkenau?" - Holocaust and Genocide Studies (fall 97) pp 129-170.