Johnson, Louis Arthur, 1891-1966

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Louis Arthur Johnson (January 10, 1891 – April 24, 1966) was an American politician and attorney who served as the second United States Secretary of Defense from 1949 to 1950. He was the Assistant Secretary of War from 1937 to 1940 and the 15th national commander of the American Legion from 1932 to 1933.

Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Johnson earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. After graduation he practiced law in Clarksburg, West Virginia; his firm, Steptoe and Johnson, eventually opened offices in Charleston, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1916, he served as majority floor leader and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

In World War I, Johnson saw action as an Army officer in France. After the war ended, he resumed his law practice and was active in veterans' affairs, helping to found the American Legion and serving as its national commander in 1932–33. As assistant secretary of war between 1937 and 1940, Johnson advocated universal military training, rearmament, and expansion of military aviation. He practiced law from 1940 to 1949, except for several months in 1942 when he served as the president's personal representative in India.

In 1949, President Harry S. Truman chose Johnson to succeed James Forrestal as United States Secretary of Defense. During 1948, Johnson had acted as chief fund-raiser for President Truman's election campaign. There were allegations that his appointment was a political payoff, but his experience in veterans' affairs and as assistant secretary of war strengthened his credentials. Johnson entered office sharing the president's commitment to achieve further military unification and to control costs while maintaining adequate defense forces.

Johnson was considered controversial as secretary of defense. Thought to be a purely political appointee by some, trying to follow in the footsteps of a highly respected predecessor, Johnson became embroiled in debate and contention almost immediately. When Johnson halted continuation of work on the Navy’s USS United States aircraft carrier trying to cut military spending and allowed the Air Force to utilize their newest strategic bomber the B-36, a bitter disagreement between the Navy and the Air Force resulted in the so-called "Revolt of the Admirals." After a House Armed Services Committee investigation, Johnson’s reputation was mostly intact, but he had a weakened position with the president and the military services. Inter-service quarrelling continued to be an issue and it damaged his potential for achieving his original goals of military unification. Additionally, conflict with the State Department and the Department of Defense through disagreements between Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Acheson and having receiving some of the blame for setbacks in Korea contributed to Johnson’s time in office being cut short. At the time of his appointment Johnson met the president's needs; by September 1950, with the Korean conflict in full swing, he had become a liability. In his last speech as secretary of defense the day before he left office, Johnson observed: "When the hurly burly's done and the battle is won I trust the historian will find my record of performance creditable, my services honest and faithful commensurate with the trust that was placed in me and in the best interests of peace and our national defense."

Johnson returned to his law practice, which he pursued until his death in Washington at the age of 75 on 24 April 1966. Even though his time as secretary of defense was turbulent, after his death, he was still recognized officially for his service to his country. As a mark of respect to his memory, the National Flag was ordered to be displayed at half-staff on all installations under the control of the Department of the Army from the day of death, until retreat on the day of interment, 26 April 1966.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
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creatorOf Johnson, Louis Arthur, 1891-1966. Louis Johnson, Assistant Secretary of War, addresses. U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center
creatorOf Jaffe, Louis I. (Louis Isaac), 1888-1950. Editorial correspondence files, H-L, of the Virginian-Pilot [manuscript], 1917-1950. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn "March of Time" Collection. 1934 - 1951. March of Time Documentary/Newsreel Films Relating to U.S. History, Government, Politics, Culture, and International Affairs. 1935 - 1953. MID-CENTURY: HALF WAY TO WHERE? National Archives at College Park
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referencedIn Hanson Weightman Baldwin papers, 1900-1988 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn Alsop, Joseph, 1910-1989. Papers of Joseph and Stewart Alsop, 1699-1989 (bulk 1937-1989). Library of Congress
referencedIn Blair Moody Papers, 1928-1954, 1934-1952 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Paramount Pictures, Inc., Collection. 1951 - 1951. Motion Picture Newsreel Films. 10/1941 - 3/1957. PARAMOUNT NEWS [OCT. 19] National Archives at College Park
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referencedIn Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994,. Oral history interview with Dean Rusk, 1986 Jan. University of Georgia, University of Georgia, Main Library
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referencedIn Hassett, William D., 1880-1965. William D. Hassett papers, 1930-1956. Library of Congress
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Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. May 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 5/5/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1960. Longhand Notes Files, 1945 - 1953. Longhand Notes - Presidential, 1944 - 1953: September 11, 1950. Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, 9/11/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Harry S. Truman Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs, 1280 - 1975. Family Correspondence Files, 1910 - 1964. Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, 1921-1959: September 7, 1950. Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess W. Truman, 9/7/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Harry S. Truman Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs, 1280 - 1975. Family Correspondence Files, 1910 - 1964. Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, 1921-1959: October 1, 1947. Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess W. Truman, 10/1/1947. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. April 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 4/29/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. January 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 1/6/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. July 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 7/14/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. August 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 8/1/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. March 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 3/10/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. April 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 4/22/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1960. Longhand Notes Files, 1945 - 1953. Longhand Notes - Presidential, 1944 - 1953: Undated, ca. 1952 [2 of 11]. Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman, ca. 1952. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Records of the Army Staff, 1903 - 2009. Official Military Personnel Files, 1912 - 1998. Official Military Personnel File for Louis A. Johnson. National Archives at St. Louis
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. July 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 7/22/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Harry S. Truman Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs, 1280 - 1975. Family Correspondence Files, 1910 - 1964. Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, 1921-1959: June 11, 1950. Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess W. Truman, 6/11/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. July 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 7/1/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. June 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 6/3/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. January 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 1/27/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1960. Longhand Notes Files, 1945 - 1953. Longhand Notes - Undated: Undated [17 of 31]. Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. July 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 7/25/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. August 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 8/4/1950 Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. June 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 6/10/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. June 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 6/17/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Records of the Naval Aide to the President (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1953. State Department Briefs Files, 1945 - 1953. May - July, 1950. Memorandum, State Department Summary of Telegrams, 6/22/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. July 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 7/15/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. August 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 8/12/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945-1953; Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946-1953; August 1950, 1946-1953. Cabinet Meeting Minutes. August 8, 1950. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Official Files (Truman Administration). 1945 - 1953. Official Files . 1945 - 1953. Korean Military Action, OF 471b. 1945 - 1953. Letter from Eleanor Roosevelt to Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration), 1945-1960. Longhand Notes Files, 1945-1953. Longhand Notes - Presidential, 1944-1953: August 27, 1950, 1945-1953. Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman. 8/27/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
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referencedIn President's Secretary's Files (Truman Administration), 1945 - 1960. Longhand Notes Files, 1945 - 1953. Longhand Notes - Presidential, 1944 - 1953: June 25, 1952, 1945 - 1953. Longhand Note of President Harry S. Truman. 6/25/1952. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Harry S. Truman Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs, 1280 - 1975. Family Correspondence Files, 1910 - 1964. Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, 1921-1959: August 18, 1944 [2 of 2]. Letter from Harry S. Truman to Bess W. Truman, 8/18/1944. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 - 1985. Documentary Films, ca. 1914 - ca. 1944. WASHINGTON, D.C. [WAR RESOURCES BOARD]. National Archives at College Park
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. May 1949. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 5/20/1949. Harry S. Truman Library
referencedIn Matthew J. Connelly Papers, 1945 - 1953. Notes on Cabinet Meetings Files, 1946 - 1953. September 1950. Cabinet Meeting Minutes, 9/15/1950. Harry S. Truman Library
Relation Name
associatedWith Alsop, Joseph, 1910-1989. person
associatedWith Alsop, Joseph W. (Joseph Wright), 1876-1953 person
associatedWith Alsop, Stewart. Joseph Alsop and Stewart Alsop papers. 1699-1989 person
associatedWith American Legion. corporateBody
correspondedWith Andrews, Frank Maxwell, 1884-1943. person
associatedWith Arnold, Henry Harley, 1896-1951. person
associatedWith Association of American Railroads. corporateBody
associatedWith Baldwin, Hanson Weightman, 1903-1991. person
associatedWith Bane, Frank, 1893- person
associatedWith Barkley, Alben Williams, 1877-1956, person
associatedWith Baruch, Bernard M. (Bernard Mannes), 1870-1965, person
associatedWith Biṛalā, Ghanaśyāmadāsa, 1894-1983, person
associatedWith Bohemian Club (San Francisco, Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Bradley, Omar Nelson, 1893-1981 person
associatedWith Bruce, James, 1892-1980, person
associatedWith Chennault, Claire Lee, 1893-1958, person
associatedWith Clark, Tom C. (Tom Campbell), 1899-1977, person
associatedWith Collingwood, Charles Cummings, 1917- person
associatedWith Connelly, Matthew J., 1907-1976 person
associatedWith Cowan, Myron, person
associatedWith Craig, Malin, 1875-1945, person
associatedWith Cummings, Homer S. (Homer Stillé), 1870-1956, person
associatedWith Davis, John W. (John William), 1873-1955, person
associatedWith Democratic National Committee (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Dewey, Thomas E. (Thomas Edmund), 1902-1971, person
associatedWith Dillard, Hardy Cross, 1902-1982, person
associatedWith Dill, James H. person
associatedWith Dixon, Frank M. (Frank Murray), 1892-1965, person
associatedWith Douglas, William O. (William Orville), 1898-1980, person
associatedWith Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969, person
associatedWith Farley, James A. (James Aloysius), 1888-1976, person
associatedWith Ford, John, 1895-1973 person
associatedWith Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. person
associatedWith Gandhi, Mahatma, 1869-1948. person
associatedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
associatedWith Harriman, W. Averell (William Averell), 1891-1986, person
correspondedWith Hassett, William D., 1880-1965. person
associatedWith Hoover, Herbert, 1874-1964, person
associatedWith Hoover, J. Edgar (John Edgar), 1895-1972, person
associatedWith Hopkins, Harry L. (Harry Lloyd), 1890-1946, person
associatedWith Hull, Cordell, 1871-1955, person
associatedWith Ickes, Harold L. (Harold LeClair), 1874-1952 person
associatedWith Jaffe, Louis I. (Louis Isaac), 1888-1950. person
associatedWith Kennedy, Joseph P. (Joseph Patrick), 1888-1969, person
associatedWith Leva, Marx, 1915-1997 person
associatedWith Lewis, John Llewellyn, 1880-1969, person
associatedWith Lodge, Henry Cabot, 1902-1985, person
associatedWith MacArthur, Douglas, 1880-1964. person
associatedWith Marshall, George C. (George Catlett), 1880-1959, person
associatedWith Moody, Blair, 1902-1954 person
associatedWith Morse, Wayne L. (Wayne Lyman), 1900-1974, person
associatedWith Nation (New York, N.Y. : 1865). corporateBody
associatedWith Nehru, Jawaharlal, 1889-1964 person
associatedWith New York Times Company corporateBody
associatedWith Nimitz, Chester W. (Chester William), 1885-1966 person
associatedWith Pearson, Drew, 1897-1969, person
associatedWith Pershing, John J. (John Joseph), 1860-1948, person
associatedWith Randolph, A. Philip (Asa Philip), 1889-1979, person
associatedWith Randolph, Jennings, 1902-1998, person
associatedWith Rickenbacker, Eddie, 1890-1973, person
associatedWith Rivers, L. Mendel (Lucius Mendel), 1905-1970, person
associatedWith Robertson, A. Willis (Absalom Willis), 1887-1971 person
associatedWith Rogers, William P. (William Pierce), 1913-2001 person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 person
associatedWith Rusk, Dean, 1909-1994, person
associatedWith Sherrod, Robert Lee, 1909- person
associatedWith Stettinius, Edward Reilly, 1865-1925, person
associatedWith Stimson, Henry L. (Henry Lewis), 1867-1950, person
associatedWith Strauss, Lewis L., person
associatedWith Sulzberger, Arthur Hays, 1891-1968, person
associatedWith Symington, Stuart, 1901-1988, person
associatedWith Taft, Robert A. (Robert Alphonso), 1889-1953, person
associatedWith Truman, Bess Wallace, 1885-1982 person
associatedWith Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972 person
associatedWith Tydings, Millard E. (Millard Evelyn), 1890-1961, person
associatedWith United States. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Air Force. corporateBody
memberOf United States. Army corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Defense. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. War Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith Vandenberg, Arthur H. (Arthur Hendrick), 1884-1951, person
associatedWith Vardaman, James Kimble, 1861-1930, person
associatedWith Voorhees, Tracy S. (Tracy Stebbins), 1890-1974, person
associatedWith Welles, Sumner, 1892-1961, person
associatedWith Winchell, Walter, 1897-1972, person
associatedWith Wranek, William H. (William Hillman), 1895-1971. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Washington, D. C. DC US
Roanoke VA US
Subject
Neutrality--History--20th century
Military administration
American Legion. National Convention
Aeronautics, Military
Korean War, 1950-1953
World War, 1939-1945--Technology
Patronage, Political
Military affairs
American Legion
Military
Military--Army
World War, 1939-1945--Economic aspects
Military administration--Political aspects
Industrial mobilization
Military readiness
Occupation
Politician
Secretary of War
Presidential Appointee
Army officers
Lawyer
Activity

Person

Birth 1891-01-10

Death 1966-04-24

Male

Americans

English

Information

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