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Elliott R. Thorpe
Brigadier General, United States Army
Rhode Island State Flag
A native of Westerly, Rhode Island, General Elliott R. Thorpe's (1897-1989) military career encompassed two world wars, the reconstruction of Japan, and a tour of duty in post-war Thailand.  He stood guard in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles when the World War I treaty was signed on June 28, 1919. In 1945 he was on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur. He may have been one of the last living survivors of both ceremonies.  While these were momentous and singular events, General Thorpe's unheeded warning about  the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 was arguably his most memorable moment.

Serving as a military attaché in Dutch-controlled Java (Netherlands Indies) in 1941 when the Dutch broke a Japanese diplomatic code, Thorpe was informed that intercepted messages referred to planned Japanese attacks on Hawaii, the Philippines and Thailand. He immediately cabled the information to Washington, but this warning was ignored.  A week later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

In 1943 then Colonel Thorpe was knighted in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands for his work as American Liaison in the Netherlands Indies. In 1945, Thorpe was promoted to Brigadier General. 

General Thorpe was honored in 1949 with the title of Knight Commander in the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand for his work as military attaché of the American Embassy in Bankok. 

Brigadier General Thorpe retired in 1949 after serving 32 years in the US Army.

Elliott Thorpe attended Rhode Island State College for one year as a mechanical engineering student before entering the United States Army in 1916.  Even though he did not graduate from the College, he always considered himself an alumnus and was very supportive of efforts to build an adequate campus student activity center.

The post-war campus burgeoned and extra space for the students was added for the campus by using numerous Quonset huts.  One of these huts also served as the student activity center.  He supported a fundraising effort for the construction of a War Memorial Student Union by donating his veteran's bonus check.  He also served as guest speaker at a benefit dinner held on October 27, 1950 at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel in Providence.  The War Memorial Student Union was built in 1950 largely through fund raising efforts spearheaded by General Thorpe and other alumni.

In 1946, the General presented the College with a Japanese temple gong which was meant to be displayed in the Union.  The gong disappeared shortly after its receipt.  While efforts were made to recover the gong, it was never found.  Photographs and typescript translations of the gong's inscriptions are all that remain. (see Carl Woodward Papers, MSG# 1). Thorpe also donated a ceremonial sword surrendered to him by Major General Yoshio Nasu of the Imperial Japanese Army on the occasion of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri.

In 1969, General Thorpe presented an autographed copy of his memoir East Wind Rain to the University. Both the sword and the book are presently kept in the Special Collections Reading Room.

On June 11, 1951, General Elliott Thorpe received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during the institution's first commencement as the University of Rhode Island.

In 1952,  General Thorpe was the endorsed Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.  He abruptly withdrew because of an investigation by the  U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps questioning his loyalty.  He indignantly felt that the investigation had been politically motivated. The investigation had been a misunderstanding resulting from a 1951 speech addressing the Rhode Island Turkey Growers and Poultry Growers Association in which he criticized the shortage of food growing areas in Japan and the corruption in the nationalistic Chinese regime of Chiang Kai-shek.  He also called for "a greater respect for freedom of speech in America as long as it is not subversive." (Westerly Sun, August 21, 1952).  After a public outcry,  the Army quickly cleared the General and apologized for the unwarranted investigation.

He and then President Carl Woodward (1941-1951) were close friends  (see Carl Woodward Papers, MSG# 1). They continued to maintain a close correspondence when Thorpe retired to Sarasota, Florida, in 1960. During his retirement, he served as commissioner with the Whitfield Volunteer Fire Department.  General Thorpe continued to be in demand as a speaker and was sought for interviews by historians and journalists for his first hand account of post war Japan.   Shortly before his death, Thorpe was interviewed for the 1989 BBC production of Sacrifice at Pearl Harbour.

Most recently, General Thorpe was quoted in John W. Dower's 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning book Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II.

He died in 1989 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.


EAST WIND, RAIN
The Intimate Account of an Intelligence Officer in the Pacific 1939-49
A chief of counter-intelligence remembers peace and war in the Pacific
By Brigadier General Elliott R. Thorpe
Hardcover. Approx. 6 x 7", 307 pages. Published by Gambit Inc., Boston,  1969.

From the dustjacket: "This is the unfamiliar story of the war in the Pacific, as experienced by a counter-intelligence officer, beginning in Hawaii before Pearl Harbor through the Dutch East Indies, Malaya, Australia and the Philippines to occupied Japan where he served as chief  of counter-intelligence on the staff of General Douglas MacArthur. This  book contains new insight into the causes of our present involvement in Southeast Asia and the intial errors compounded of parsimony, misinterpretation and procrastination. Thorpe reports on the problems of  censorship, the deals and double-deals of presidents and premiers, the  lost opportunities, and the authorities stateside who called the names and  the plays. He provides a new account of the background of the Japanese War  Crimes trials, adn also gives a personal appraisal, and a fair one, of  General MacArthur, a man revered and distrusted with an intensity accorded  no other great commander of his time."

Contents: Hawaii 1938-41--The Fall of the Dutch Republic 1941-42--British  Malaya 1941--Australia 1942-44--New Guinea and Papua 1944-45--Philippines 1944-45--Japan 1945-46--Thailand 1948-49.

Related: A native of Westerly, Rhode Island, General Elliott R. Thorpe's (1897-1989) military career encompassed two world wars, the reconstruction  of Japan, and a tour of duty in post-war Thailand. He stood guard in the  Hall of Mirrors in Versailles when the World War I treaty was signed on  June 28, 1919. In 1945 he was on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the  Japanese surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur. He may have been one of  the last living survivors of both ceremonies. While these were momentous  and singular events, General Thorpe's unheeded warning about the Pearl  Harbor attack of December 7, 1941 was arguably his most memorable moment.  Serving as a military attaché in Dutch-controlled Java Netherlands  Indies) in 1941 when the Dutch broke a Japanese diplomatic code, Thorpe was informed that intercepted messages referred to planned Japanese attacks on Hawaii, the Philippines and Thailand. He immediately cabled the  information to Washington, but this warning was ignored. A week later the  Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1943 then-Col. Thorpe was knighted in  the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands for his  work as American Liaison in the Netherlands Indies. In 1945, Thorpe was  promoted to Brigadier General.

General Thorpe was honored in 1949 with the  title of Knight Commander in the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand  for his work as military attaché of the American Embassy in Bankok. Brigadier General Thorpe retired in 1949 after serving 32 years in the US  Army. Elliott Thorpe attended Rhode Island State College for one year as a  mechanical engineering student before entering the U.S. Army in 1916. Even  though he did not graduate from the College, he always considered himself  an alumnus and was very supportive of efforts to build an adequate campus  student activity center. The post-war campus burgeoned and extra space for  the students was added for the campus by using numerous Quonset huts. One  of these huts also served as the student activity center. He supported a  fundraising effort for the construction of a War Memorial Student Union by  donating his veteran's bonus check. He also served as guest speaker at a  benefit dinner held on October 27, 1950 at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel in  Providence. The War Memorial Student Union was built in 1950 largely through fund raising efforts spearheaded by General Thorpe and other alumni.  In 1946, the General presented the College with a Japanese temple gong  which was meant to be displayed in the Union. The gong disappeared shortly  after its receipt. While efforts were made to recover the gong, it was never found. Photographs and typescript translations of the gong's inscriptions are all that remain. (see Carl Woodward Papers, MSG# 1) Thorpe also donated a ceremonial sword surrendered to him by Maj. Gen.  Yoshio Nasu of the Imperial Japanese Army on the occasion of the Japanese  surrender aboard the USS Missouri. In 1969, General Thorpe presented an autographed copy of his memoir East Wind Rain to the University. Both the  sword and the book are presently kept in the Special Collections Reading  Room. On June 11, 1951, General Elliott Thorpe received an honorary degree  of Doctor of Humane Letters during the institution's first commencement as  the University of Rhode Island. In 1952, Gen. Thorpe was the endorsed Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. He abruptly withdrew because of an investigation by the U.S. Army's Counter Intelligence Corps questioning his loyalty. He indignantly felt that the  investigation had been politically motivated. The investigation had been a  misunderstanding resulting from a 1951 speech addressing the Rhode Island  Turkey Growers and Poultry Growers Association in which he criticized the shortage of food growing areas in Japan and the corruption in the nationalistic Chinese regime of Chiang Kai-shek. He also called for "a  greater respect for freedom of speech in America as long as it is not subversive." (Westerly Sun, August 21, 1952). After a public outcry, the Army quickly cleared the General and apologized for the unwarranted investigation. He and then-President Carl Woodward (1941-1951) were close  friends (see Carl Woodward Papers, MSG# 1). They continued to maintain a  close correspondence when Thorpe retired to Sarasota, Florida, in 1960.  During his retirement, he served as commissioner with the Whitfield Volunteer Fire Department. Gen. Thorpe continued to be in demand as a speaker and was sought for interviews by historians and journalists for  his first hand account of post war Japan. Shortly before his death, Thorpe  was interviewed for the 1989 BBC production of Sacrifice at Pearl Harbour.  Most recently, Gen. Thorpe was quoted in John W. Dower's 1999 Pulitzer  Prize winning book Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. He  died in 1989 and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington.

ER Thorpe Gravesite PHOTO
 Photo Courtesy of Russell C. Jacobs, October 2006


Posted: 12 May 2002  Updated: 24 May 2003 Updated: 31 March 2004  Updated: 29 October 2005 Updated: 18 October 2006