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Sylvanus Thayer


Jim Root
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Some of you may recall that I have posted two letters, one from General Walker to the Association of Graduates of West Point and the other from John J. McCloy to Edwin Walker. By coincidnce these two men shared written communications some five months before the assassination of JFK.

The spark for these two letters was the fact that John J. McCloy was presented the Sylvanus Thayer Award by the Association of Graduates on May 25, 1963.

Sylvanus Thayer was the Superintendent of West Point from 1818 - 1833. When assigned to the Superintendency the students mutinied when Thayer replaced the previous superintendent. This mutiny led to the placing of West Point under strict military disipline and the cadets from this point forward were considered soldiers subject to military law and discipline.

This mutiny occurred on Nov. 22, 1818 exactly 145 years before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In some ways this mutiny led to the assendency of a professional military elite within the United States. It was this event that began Sylvanus Thayer's march to becomming the "Father of West Point."

Thayer would later resign as superintendent of West Point in a dispute with the President of the United States in 1833. At that time Andrew Jackson was fearful of the rise of a military class within the United States and was constantly overrulling Thayer's positions that delt with the corp of cadets at West point.

Thayer was adament that the professional soldier served at the will of Civilian Authority in American but Thayer was also quick to point out that the President, although the Commander and Chief, was only a temporary custodian of the powers he controlled. Walker alluded to this same position in his letter dealing with McCloy.

I have always found it interesting that John J. McCloy and Edwin Walker exchanged letters five months before the assassination of JFK. I now find it interesting that the subject of their letters center around Sylvanus Thayer whose own history with "Civilian Authority" would seem to suggest that he believed that the power of the President is only temporary. The fact that Thayer's assendency in West Point leadership lore began with a mutiny on November 22 is perhaps only a coincidence but one that I find interesting when dealing with events that surround McCloy, Walker and Maxwell Taylor.

Another in this series of coincidences then occured on June 5, 1963, the same day that Edwin Walker penned his letter dealing with McCloy to the Association of Graduates.

Maxwell Taylor would talk about the ascendency of the professional military man and Sylvanus Thayer at the graduation commencement at West Point. Taylor spoke about the "emancipation" and "independence of the American Soldier" making the statements "If recognized and respected abroad, at home the achievements of the American Soldier are often ignored...We must perhaps progress further before there will be wholehearted acceptance at home of the continuing need for a large and respected military profession in the United States...you are about to become an American Soldier, one of the band who, having emancipated themselves from foreign authority, now set the dominant tone in matters of national defense, stategy, tactics, and advanced weaponry...He (the American Soldier) must have a just appreciation of our national objectives and of the role of military power in attaining them...He must understand the proper relation of the military in support of civil policy, and comport himself in accord with the code which has always guided the American Soldier in the past - loyal support of the Commander-in-Chief and the civil authority which he represents...the voice of the American Soldier is entitled to a serious hearing in our national councils...But when civil autority makes the decision, it then becomes his own decision - therafter to support loyally and to execute fathfully in the tradition of the American Soldier."

Knowing that at the time of this speech Taylor was in a serious dispute with Kennedy over the Limited Test Ban Treaty I find the speech to be enlightening. Taylor, the linguist, uses the word "COMPORT" when speaking of "loyal support of the Commander-in-Chief and the civil authority which he represents." These two groups, the Commander in Chief (Kennedy) and the Civil Authority (others in government including John J. McCloy) were not alligned on this important issue dealing with the proliferation of nuclear weapons, there development and the testing of these weapons. Yet Taylor speaks of comporting himself or bringing these two distinct groups together or into alignment. On the issue of Limited versus Comprehensive Test Ban Treaties the two would only be brought into allignment after the assassination of JFK when once again John J. McCloy would find himself in a leadership role in this effort.

At the end of his speech Taylor points out that "when civil autority makes the decision, it then becomes his own decision - therafter to support loyally and to execute fathfully in the tradition of the American Soldier."

I believe that it may be of importance to understand that at that exact time in history, while Taylor was in a dispute with his Commander and Chief, that he (Taylor) would choose the words that suggest that the American Soldier must follow the directives of "civil authority" and to "execute faithfully in the tradition of the American Soldier" rather than the using the wording "Commander in Chief."

Just five days after Taylor's speech was spoken at West Point, Kennedy would announce his new position on nuclear talks with the Soviets. This to the dismay of both Maxwell Taylor and John J. McCloy!

Jim Root

Edited by Jim Root
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Jim,

You have stated in the past that Walker's "Pro Blue" program, which led to his resignation from the Army, began right after the State Department decided to allow Oswald to return to the U.S. If I've understood you correctly, you think that the Pro Blue program (referring, I assume, to his indoctrination of troops with John Birch Society propaganda) may have been a ruse, with Walker posing as a right-wing radical for intelligence purposes.

David Boylan, in his article "A League of Their Own: A Look Inside the Christian Defense League," refers to Colonel Arch Roberts as "the architect of General Edwin Walker's 'Pro Blue' program in the military." Are you familiar with Roberts, was it Roberts who put Walker up to the "ruse," and could this implicate Roberts in the plot or chain of events that led to the assassination?

Ron

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Ron

I believe that Walker had helped to insert Oswald into the Soviet Union in October of 1959. When Oswald began his attempts to return (after the U-2 affair) any chance that Oswald could identify Walker would create an unbearable embarrasment for the US Military. It is my belief that Walker was a sacrificial lamb, perhaps unaware of why he was being handled in this manner.

At this time Major Roberts was an information officer with the American 24th Infantry Division in West Germany where he was involved in creating a program to train the troops about the goals and dangers of communism. That assignment would end shortly after Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker was reassigned from the command of the 24th by his superiors for the implementation of this "Pro Blue" Program.

I do not doubt that Roberts was a loyal supporter of Walker's but do not subscribe to the belief that the Major was in charge of the General in this matter.

Jim Root

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If you guys haven't done so, I would suggest reading 'Victory Denied' by Arch Roberts. Obviously from the perspective of the right-wing but fascinating for historical context.

The book contains a glowing introduction by Charles Willoughby.

If I remember correctly, Roberts found himself in hot water when he said that Sam Yorty, Mayor of Los Angeles had a 'Communist background' and that Assistant Secretary of State, G. Mennen Williams had 'leftest leanings'. Yorty's response was to call Roberts a 'crackpot'.

Roberts below.

James

Edited by James Richards
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