Readers of books on World War II usually are connoisseurs of bibliographies. They pick up a likely purchase in a book store, check the bibliography, and if they do not see certain titles, they put the book down. One of those litmus-test titles that must appear in the bibliography of any serious book on the Pacific aspect of the war is The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II: The War Against Japan, by Grace Person Hayes.
This work is the basic source book for writing about U.S. strategy in the war against Japan. As Dr. Dean C. Allard, former Director of U.S. Naval History, said, the author’s “extensive research into the records of this organization [the Joint Chiefs of Staff] remains unmatched by other historians of the Pacific war.”'
Conceived as a classified history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), it remained for decades a forbidden book, lost in the jungle of secret World War II documents. It emerged from that jungle because its author, who has a talent for getting answers, wanted to know why it was still classified a quarter of a century after the war ended.
The saga of the book began in summer 1943, when Grace Person left her studies at Columbia University to become an ensign in the WAVES. Trained in communications, she was assigned to a Navy blimp base in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. She and three other WAVES decrypted classified messages—“mostly, ‘no submarine sighted’ ”—until the war ended in Europe. In September 1945, while on leave in Provincetown, Massachusetts, Person was awaiting transfer when she received orders for duty in Washington as a historian. She accepted and became the assistant to Dr. Robert G. Albion, who was working on a history of naval administration in World War II.
A year later, she was back in Province- town, this time on terminal leave and vaguely planning to return to Columbia and finish her doctorate in classical archaeology. Before entering the Navy, Person had received a bachelor of arts from Wellesley College and a master’s degree in archaeology from Columbia. “But archaeology was not drawing me as much as it had before,” she remembered, “and I didn’t know quite what to do.”2 Her musing was interrupted by an offer to stay in the Navy and work in the Historical Section of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Person reported for duty in October 1946.
When Lieutenant (junior grade) Person joined the JCS historical section, it consisted of a Navy captain, an Army Air Forces colonel, an Army lieutenant colonel, a Navy commander, a part-time civilian historian, and three civilian research assistants. She was the junior officer, the only woman in uniform, and one of only two women in what she calls the “Joint Chiefs of Staff reservation.” “I wasn’t getting any harassment, and I was accepted as an equal as far as the work was concerned,” she recalled. “But I never got to attend any discussions on policy.”
Lieutenant Person was assigned to work for Captain Tracy Kittredge, who was supposed to be writing the history of the JCS strategy in the war against Japan. Kittredge had served with Admiral Harold Stark who became Commander, Naval Forces, Europe, in March 1942. Because Captain Kittredge was concentrating on writing a history of Stark’s organization, he gradually handed the entire Pacific war over to his assistant.
The historical section planned to complete a classified, multi-volume history of the JCS. This history, which was to guide future members of the JCS, was not to be made public. The JCS began during the war, and records of its earliest days were still in the files when the historical section was established. The classified JCS archives, however, were available only to official historians with security clearances. Lieutenant Person was cleared for Top Secret during the war and had no trouble getting to see such documents as the minutes of JCS meetings, but she could not examine the still highly classified documents on the atomic bomb or the breaking of codes.
To her frustration, she soon discovered that the thousands of JCS records were not enough. “There were lots of things one had to go to the Army and the Navy to get, mostly to the Navy,” she said. “The Army records were not only more available but also in better shape for research.” Lieutenant Person also gained access to the men who had made the decisions. Several of her source notes include cryptic references to interviews with wartime military leaders.
Discussing why the Joint Chiefs held to a “Germany first” policy after the Pearl Harbor attack, for instance, she wrote, “They remained convinced that the decisive theater was Europe and the first enemy to be defeated had to be Germany.” Her source note says, “This position was emphatically stated to the author by Admiral Harold R. Stark. . .
Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King, Chief of Naval Operations and a man of notorious temper, graciously cooperated with the lieutenant, reviewing every chapter and sending her answers to her questions through an aide. Sources for her account of the Yalta Conference included many of King’s personal recollections.4 “One time he was at his desk when I delivered a chapter,” she recalled. “He said he wanted to meet me. We had a nice little chat.”
Surprisingly, the book, which is meticulously organized and documented, does not have a Navy bias. “I would think that this probably results from the records,” she said, “because the Joint Chiefs records tended not to have any bias. And I got much more information from the Army side than I did from the Navy, so maybe that’s why the bias doesn’t show. Naturally, I had some bias toward the Navy.”
“I did have a definite opinion, which I could not state in the book. I believe that Admiral King had a much better grasp of the whole world situation than General [George C.] Marshall or anyone else. Marshall gets all the credit for being such a great strategist, and goodness knows he deserves a lot of it. But from the record, it appears to me that King had a much better view of what had to be done in both the European and Pacific theaters.”
When Lieutenant Person started working on the book, she had no guidelines about structure or content. She was, in fact, almost entirely on her own in planning how to organize the book. She decided on a chronological narrative based as entirely as possible on documents. “I forget now how many drawers of index cards I produced,” she said. “But there were lots of them. I wanted a chronological presentation with some comment. I was, of course, not a trained historian, and in archaeology you do things a little bit differently.” The official attitude toward the history, as contained in a kind of imprimatur, states, “It is published with the understanding that the work is a product of the best minds which could be made available for the task, but that the Joint Chiefs of Staff have not passed upon it for either accuracy or substance.”5
Others in the historical section similarly followed their own approaches. They were given only the vaguest instructions for researching and writing. “We just worked along from day to day,” Hayes remembered. “A year-and-a-half went by, and we kept on going. Nobody else had gotten very far, and finally we got to the point where people were starting to do some writing and we set up a system of reviewing chapters in-house with the staff there. At that point there was some discussion as to what kind of history we were going to write.”
While working on the history, Lieutenant Person was introduced to Robert Hayes, the man whom Lieutenant Person married in 1950. Sometime later, when Hayes was working on records of summit conferences during World War II, she asked him about a specific document. “Oh yes,” he said. “It’s in my safe.” When she asked to see it, he replied, “If you weren’t my wife, I’d probably do so. But you’d better go through channels.” She did, and after the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff wrote a letter to the Secretary of State, she received permission to see what her husband had in his safe.
In 1953, she finished the manuscript and turned it in to her superior, an Army colonel assigned to the JCS Historical Section. “It was never reviewed by anyone,” she says. “I don’t know if anybody ever read it, except the people who were working there.”
Originally, the project was seen as a two- or three-year task that would produce several volumes, including one on the JCS strategy in Europe and another on how the JCS shaped Air Force policy. Neither of those books was ever completed. Two classified volumes on the origin and organization of the JCS were started by one man and finished by another. Grace Person Hayes wrote the only book on World War II strategy produced by the section.
Her 32-chapter manuscript was divided into two parts. The first part took the war to May 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill held their Trident Conference in Washington. Grace Hayes completed part one of the manuscript in July 1953. Her manuscript was classified, and 50 copies of it were printed and circulated to the Department of Defense and other cleared agencies. She completed the second part in October, but by then she was not in the Navy. On 31 July, Hayes had to resign her commission. “They had a whole list of things for resigning,” she said. “You have to have a reason for doing it.” Her reason was that she was pregnant, but that was not on the list. She was told to pick service-incurred disability. “So that is what my poor little daughter was, a disability.”
Martha Hayes was born in November. “I went back some time in January or February 1954 to show her off,” Hayes recalled, “and at that point, the second volume had been printed.” The director of the history project took her into his office, closed the door, and showed her a copy. But she could not open it because she was no longer cleared to read classified documents.
Samuel Eliot Morison and other historians with proper clearance used Hayes’s history in their own works. It is cited as a source in Morison’s Volume XIII, The Liberation of the Philippines,6 which was first published in 1959, while Hayes’s book was still classified.
Hayes went on to a new phase of her career, working for the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO), founded by Trevor N. Dupuy, a retired Army colonel. She describes HERO as “concerned with making the government aware of the military experience of the past and applying it in planning for the future.” During her time with HERO, Hayes wrote World War 1: A Compact History, with Dupuy she wrote Military History of Revolutionary War Naval Battles and two volumes in The Military History of World War I series. Her other books include: The American Revolution: A Global War, with Gay M. Hammerman and R. Ernest Dupuy; World Military Leaders, with Paul Martell; The Almanac of World Military Power, 4th edition, with Trevor N. Dupuy and John A. C. Andrews; and Dictionary of Military Terms, with Trevor N. Dupuy and Curt Johnson.
Hayes often wondered whether her JCS book would ever be declassified. Then, in June 1971, The New York Times published a mass of classified documents about the Vietnam War. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the right of The Times and The Washington Post to publish the documents, which became known as the Pentagon Papers.
“I had always thought it would be nice to have a copy of the book,” she recalled. “And when the Pentagon Papers came out, I took the occasion to write to the Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff requesting a copy of the book on the grounds that most of it had been published elsewhere by this time, and if the Pentagon Papers would come out with something that was practically current, surely World War II was far enough back so that they could declassify this and send me a copy.”
“It hadn’t occurred to anybody that someone might do anything like this. It was long before the Freedom of Information Act, and so it threw them into a kind of tizzy, but they agreed that it could be declassified.” She was also finally given a copy of her work.
Her copy “just sort of sat around for a while.” Then, encouraged by her husband and friends, Hayes set out to get it published. She eventually took it to the Naval Institute Press, which published the two 1953 volumes as one 964-page book in 1982. Dr. Allard added a bibliographic essay that describes the voluminous sources now available to scholars of World War II, including revelations about U.S. intercepts of Japanese communications. As more of these intercepts are released, he wrote, new information about strategic decisions may come to light. “It seems unlikely, however,” he concluded, “that the broad outline of American grand strategy depicted with so much skill by Grace Hayes will see basic revision in years to come.”7
1. Grace Hayes, “Bibliographic Essay,” The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in World War II: The War Against Japan (Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1982), p. 899.
2. Interview with author. All of Mrs. Hayes’s quotations are from interviews unless otherwise stated.
3. Hayes, pp. 38, 743.
4. Hayes, p. 889.
5. AUTHORITY” note, unpaged, preceding the table of contents. It bears the name of Col. Edwin H. J. Cams, U.S. Army, Secretary of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
6. A footnote on page 214 in that volume cites as a source for a Joint Chiefs’ decision: “Lt. Grace P. Hayes History of the J.C.S. II 365-7.”
7. “Bibliographic Essay,” p. 909.