Charles Andrew Willoughby – Major General, United States Army

Major General Charles A. Willoughby was born at Heidelberg, Germany on 8 March 1892 to Baron T. Scheppe-Weidenbach and his wife Emma Willoughby Scheppe-Weidenbach of Baltimore, Maryland. The baby was named Karl (or Adolph Charles) Weidenbach.

In about 1910, 18 year old Karl Weidenbach moved to America and became an American citizen. He changed his name to Charles Andrew Willoughby.

He enlisted in the Regular Army, and served as a Private, Corporal and then Sergeant of Company O, of the Fifth United States Infantry, from 1910 to 1913. He entered Gettysburg College as a senior in 1913, graduating in 1914 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

In his earlier career he had served as a military attache in Ecuador. He received the Order of Saints Maurizio and Lazzaro a from Mussolini's government. Willoughby was an ardent admirer of General Franco. Willoughby once delivered a speech to Spanish dictator Generalissimo Francisco Franco at a lunch in Madrid. He was toasted by the Secretary General of the Falangist Party.

Major General Charles A. Willoughby became Douglas MacArthur's Chief of Intelligence G-2 in the South West Pacific area during World War II. He wore a custom-tailored General's uniform and wore a monocle. Behind his back he was known as “Sir Charles” by those who worked with him.

Willoughby accompanied Douglas MacArthur to Tokyo for the occupation of Japan. On one occasion when military police searched his hotel looking for a fugitive, they found Willoughby at dinner with the stranded Italian fascist ambassador to Japan and members of his staff.

Willoughby was a heavy-handed censor. He would often suppress unfavorable news to the United States. He delighted in falsely labeling correspondents who defied him, as “Communists”. Willoughby's dressed-up history of the Pacific War labelled MacArthur as the towering hero.

Willoughby down-played the Japanese war crimes, possibly so that they could be protected for use against the Soviets at a later time.

In August, 1952 Willoughby lobbied the U.S. Congress to authorize $100 million for Franco's needs.

Campbell, Kenneth J. “Major General Charles A. Willoughby: A Mixed Performance.” Text of unpublished paper.

This article covers the long career of Major General Charles A Willoughby in the US Army, where he was G-2 for General Douglas MacArthur in both the Pacific and Korean Wars. His performance as an intelligence officer was characterized by both success and failure, but the latter showed up chiefly in estimation of enemy capabilities and intentions, which is so crucial to a military commander. General Willoughby's record indicates the necessity of appointing military intelligence chiefs who have long experience in this area, not simply those officers who may be good administrators.


General Willoughby was born as Karl Weidenbach in Heidelberg, Germany, on 8 March 1892, to Baron Freiherr T. Tscheppe-Weidenbach and his wife Emma from Baltimore, Maryland, whose maiden name was Willoughby. The father's family was Junker in origin, according to Willoughby. An article in the Reporter in 1951, however, claimed that he was the “bastard son of a ropemaker,” though the truth of the matter is difficult to ascertain.(1) [Frank Kluckhorn, “From Heidelberg to Madrid – The Story of General Willoughby,” The Reporter, August 19, 1952.] At eighteen years of age, in 1910, Karl came to the United States, where he had relatives. At some time around 1910, Weidenbach became an American citizen and changed his name to Charles Andrew Willoughby, thus selecting his mother's surname. He enlisted in the Regular Army, serving as a private, corporal and sergeant of Company “O,” Fifth US Infantry, from 1910 to 1913. In 1913 Willoughby entered Gettysburg College as a senior, graduating in 1914 with a Bachelor of Arts degree.

His college career raises a curious problem. According to the Department of Defense, Office of Public Information Press Branch, Willoughby had taken courses at Heidelberg University in Germany and the Sorbonne in Paris before he came to the United States at the age of eighteen. Most young German are, and have been, age nineteen when they pass the Abitur, which is necessary to get into a German university, such as Heidelberg. Either Willoughby was extremely intelligent, which his later career does not suggest, and passed this very demanding test at perhaps seventeen years of age, or something is amiss.

After graduation from Gettysburg College, Willoughby was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Officers' Volunteer Corps of the US Army in 1914. Prior to the time that he entered the Regular Army as an officer, Willoughby taught in the Howe School, a private institution in Indiana, and Racine College in Wisconsin in the Modern Languages departments. Willoughby, commissioned a Second Lieutenant on 27 November 1916, was also promoted to First Lieutenant on this same day. He was part of the American Expeditionary Force in World War I from 1917-18, leaving the United States for France in June 1917 and being promoted to Captain (permanent) on 30 June 1917. Serving initially with the 16th Infantry, First Division, he transferred to the US Army Air Corps, where he was trained as a pilot by the French military. He was next executive to Major (later General) Carl Spaatz who was then commander of the Aviation Training Center at Issoudun, France. Willoughby later took command of the Aviation Branch School at Chateroux, this posting lasting until May 1918. Major Willoughby was then sent back to America to develop the first Aerial Mail Service, but left that position in December 1918 to return to the Infantry where he assumed command of demonstration machine gun units at Ft. Benning (Georgia).

In the early 1920s, Willoughby visited Morocco, where the Spanish were fighting guerrillas in the Rif, at which time he met General Francisco Franco of the Spanish Army, whom he strongly admired.  Having served in several US Army posts in this period, Willoughby was assigned in 1923 to the Military Intelligence Division on a temporary basis to prepare himself for assignment as military attache in an American embassy abroad. He served successfully with the American Embassies or Legations in Venezuela, Columbia, and Ecuador, receiving decorations from the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador. While serving as an attache, he published his first book, House of Bolivar, a study of the Latin American soldier-statesman Simon Bolivar. In May 1927 Willoughby was assigned to Ft. D.A. Russell, Wyoming, once again serving in the Infantry and being promoted to Major (permanent) on 6 March 1928. In September 1928 he was sent to Ft. Benning to attend the advanced course of the Infantry School, graduating in June 1929. His military education was enhanced by graduation from Command and General Staff School at Ft. Leavenworth in June of 1931, a two-year course, after which he became an instructor in intelligence and military history at this institution.

In his 1931 book, The Economic and Military Participation of the United States in the World War, Willoughby carefully covered the American involvement in various battles of this conflict, supplemented by useful maps, along with such topics as mobilization, clothing and equipment of the army, and other supply problems. Despite the richness of his detail and statistics in all of these areas, Willoughby failed to come to any firm conclusions at the end of the book, which reflects the fact he had not mastered the art of the historian. However, he did enter a graduate program at the University of Kansas in 1933, though he did not obtain a graduate degree from the university. Major Willoughby entered the US Army War College in Washington, DC, in 1935, graduating in June 1936. At the end of the Spanish Civil war, probably in 1938, he visited Spain and later referred to its dictator, Francisco Franco, as the “second greatest general in the world,” General Douglas MacArthur being the greatest in his pantheon. In 1936, Charles Willoughby was assigned back to Ft. Benning where he served as an instructor in the Infantry School.

Willoughby was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (permanent) on 1 June 1938, and his book, Maneuver in Warfare, appeared in 1939. Willoughby had been thorough in his preparation for the writing of this book, even reading German regimental histories. Lt. Col. Willoughby showed himself capable of thinking in broad strategic terms. For example, he believed that an embargo placed upon Japan would induce the Japanese military to attempt to seize the Dutch East Indies, Indo-China, the Philippines, and Malaya in the quest for oil, iron ore, tin, and rubber. This is exactly what happened in 1941 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt limited the amount of gas and oil exported to Japan. However, Willoughby's lack of scholarly sophistication comes through in this volume. For example, he wrote of the German Chief of the General Staff, Count Alfred von Schlieffen in these terms:

There is no doubt that in the evolution of this plan one is in the presence of a superior mind — perhaps a genius.

In his 1939 book, Lt. Col. Willoughby tended to write in areas where he was no competent, such as economics, which diminished his generally excellent analysis of maneuver warfare. For example, he wrote of Japan:

…it may as well be acknowledged that under this heading Japan assumes the role of champion of the capitalistic and monetary economy.

This statement is nonsense, written by a man deficient in economics, yet willing to discuss it. (9) [The author of this article taught economics at the college level for thirty years, which id thirty years more than Charles A. Willoughby taught this subject.] In June 1940 he was reassigned to Headquarters, Philippine Department, Manila, as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-4 (logistics). This assignment was based partly on his fluency in Spanish, a result of Willoughby's prior experience as a military attache in South America. In Manila he became friends with General MacArthur, then Chief of Staff of the Philippine Army, who appreciated Willoughby's use of military history at Ft. Leavenworth. Willoughby transferred to MacArthur's command in mid-1941, after the latter became commander of the new United States Far Eastern Command. Willoughby at the time was named Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence of the US Army Forces in the Far East and was promoted to Colonel (temporary) on 14 October 1941. When war with Japan broke out on December 7, 1941, Willoughby fought under General MacArthur and was with him on Corregidor, when the Japanese were closing in on the American forces. Colonel Willoughby was fortunate enough to come out of the Philippines with MacArthur's group in March 1942 on a PT boat to Australia, where the latter set up a new command.

Willoughby Faces A New Challenge

On 19 April 1942 MacArthur announced that Colonel Charles A. Willoughby was G-2, Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, of the General Headquarters, Southwest Pacific Area (SPA). He was promoted to Brigadier General (temporary) on 20 June 1942. This new responsibility was a huge challenge, because Willoughby was severely hampered not only by his own weak background in intelligence, but also by limited means for collecting intelligence in this part of the world. The informational base for the establishment of an intelligence system was simply lacking, which required General Willoughby to “begin from scratch.” For example, geographic, topographic, and hydrographic data on New Guinea and adjacent areas were obsolete, false, or didn't exist. Further, there was little, if any, organizational base on which an intelligence chief could expand to meet his new tasks, which only added to Willoughby's problems.

Organizations Established. Most importantly, General Willoughby set up the Central Bureau, a cryptological unit in his intelligence system which engaged in code-breaking and “reading the enemy's mail.” This group added considerably to various Allied victories in the Southwest Pacific by indicating to field commanders both Japanese capabilities and intentions. This organization was under Lt. Col. Spencer B. Akin, who had extensive experience before the war as a signals officer with the US Army in Panama. The new material from the Central Bureau went to Willoughby, who analyzed it, but it was Brigadier General (later Major General) Richard K. Sutherland, MacArthur's Chief of Staff, who decided whether General MacArthur would see these results. In July 1942 Willoughby set up the Allied Geographical Section to collect, evaluate, and disseminate geographical information. This section eventually distributed 200,000 copies of its 110 terrain studies, sixty-two terrain handbooks, and 101 special reports on all phases of SPA geography.

In June 1942 General MacArthur ordered Willoughby to form an apparatus to work underground in the Philippines, stressing operations to destroy Japanese facilities. This organization, the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) set up in July 1942, was also to conduct propaganda with the object of demoralizing Japanese troops and to give courage to the people under their brutal control. AIB has coastwatchers, including those from the Royal Australian Navy system, who were inserted behind enemy lines with radio transmitters for communications with the American and Australian military. Their information frequently aided Allied planes to be off the ground to meet attacking Japanese aircraft and also passed on information on Japanese ship movements. The AIB also collected information in occupied territories and encouraged guerrilla resistance movements. Though General Willoughby was ultimately responsible for resistance in the Philippines, daily operations were under the control of Colonel Allison Ind.

General Willoughby created the Allied Translator and Interpreter Section (ATIS) in September 1942 which, under the leadership of Col. Sidney F. Mashbir who was fluent in Japanese, made significant contributions to the Allied war effort. By the end of the war, Mashbir's unit, which included over 4,000 Nisei (Japanese-Americans as interpreters and translators, would have interviewed …over 14,000 prisoners and published more than twenty million pages of enemy documents.

Although most of the families of these Nisei had been interned in the United States at the beginning of the war, these young men gave invaluable services to the United States Army units fight against the Japanese. Willoughby also organized an Order of Battle Section in August 1942, whose purpose was to locate various Japanese units, assess their leadership and morale, weapons, effectiveness, and mission. Willoughby's organizational accomplishments were most impressive, when one realizes that, despite his limited experience in intelligence, he created a vast intelligence organization from nothing in a relatively short period of time.

Willoughby's Estimates

When we consider Willoughby's difficulties in estimation in various campaigns in New Guinea and the Philippines, it becomes clear that his total performance in World War II was indeed a mixed one, reflecting considerable accomplishment in organizational matters, but serious flaws in the estimation of enemy capabilities and intentions.

New Guinea. MacArthur's strategy in New Guinea was to capture a Japanese weak point with minimal losses, construct an airfield at this site, and then to use air power to cut off supplies to Japanese troops who had been bypassed. Willoughby's basic task in estimation was to identify these weak spots and to clarify their capabilities.

On 21 April 1942 Commander Edwin T. Layton predicted a Japanese offensive in New Guinea, pointing to the possibility of an attack on Port Moresby with the objective of cutting off Australia from American troops and supplies. General Willoughby received basically the same information as Layton, but came to a different assessment. Willoughby believed the Japanese planned to occupy the northeast coast of Australia, but shortly thereafter, reversing himself, predicted a Japanese landing at Port Moresby which is near Australia. On 7 May 1942, when the Japanese Combined Fleet was moving toward Port Moresby, an American carrier force intercepted it, and the Coral Sea battle commenced. Although this battle was largely a draw, it was the first time the American fleet had been able to withstand a Japanese naval attack and to force it back.

On 13 July 1942 Willoughby predicted that the Japanese would engage in large-scale troop movements near Buna or Milne Bay, but within three days, he again reversed himself, now claiming that the Japanese merely wished to reinforce present concentrations of troops. In 1942 US Naval Intelligence deciphered a message which revealed that Japanese troops would land at Buna on 21 July 1942 with the goal of moving over the Owen Stanley mountain range to Port Moresby, since their naval approach to this objective had been frustrated in the Battle of the Coral Sea. On 18 July Willoughby reported to General MacArthur that a convoy of Japanese troop ships was headed toward Lea or Buna in New Guinea, or Guadalcanal, not a very precise warning. When Japanese troops landed at Buna on 22 July 1942, General Willoughby doubted the possibility of a Japanese advance over the Owen Stanley mountains in view of the dense jungle in this area [Ibid., p. 43] and believed that the Japanese leadership had seized Buna simply to get an air base in this strategically important area. However, in his 1954 book on General MacArthur, Willoughby implied that he, not US Naval Intelligence, had assessed the situation correctly, writing:

There remained the overland threat to Moresby: intelligence reports soon made it plain to MacArthur that the Japanese planned to cross the 14,000 foot Owen Stanleys along the Kokoda Trail.

General Willoughby also believed that Japanese reconnaissance flights over the Milne Bay region were aprelude to an amphibious operation against this new Allied air base, which turned out to be correct. As a result, MacArthur reinforced the Milne Bay base to nearly 10,000 troops. On the night of 24-25 August 1942, the Japanese landed their troops at Milne Bay, but, due to the severe American response, they later had to evacuate thier troops from this area.

Having blunted the Japanese attack across the Owen Stanley mountains towards Port Moresby, General MacArthur planned an attack on their launcing point, Buna, in order to cut off their retreat, as Australian troops punched the Japanese back. Willoughby estimated that the Japanese defenders at Buna numbered somewhere between 1,500-2,000 troops, believing their only capability was that of a delaying action. When Allied troops landed at Buna on 19 November 1942, they found something entirely different from what Willoughby had foreseen. They faced reinforcements, altogether about 3,500 rested Japanese troops with orders to fight fanatically to their death. Once again, Willoughby was wrong in his estimates.

However, General Willoughby and his organization did make several important estimates which were important contributions to Allied victories in SWPA. For example, Allied aerial reconnaissance of Rabaul Harbor on 22 February 1943 identified 59 Japanese merchant vessels at anchor at Rabaul.  In assessing this material, Willoughby decided that in consideration of the inactivity in the Soloman Islands, these ships could be used by the Japanese to reinforce their strongholds in New Guinea. Willoughby narrowed down his estimation to assert that the destination of these ships was Lae, which enabled Major General Joseph C. Kenney, commander of the US Army Air Force in SWPA (Fifth Air Force) to set in motion the destruction of the convoy from Rabaul Harbor. Kenney's forces destroyed the main body of this convoy, killing approximately 3,000 enemy troops, sinking seven out of eight transports and four destroyers, and knocking out 25 Japanese planes. American losses in this attack were only “two bombers and three fighters.”

Before the Finschafen invasion, Willoughby declared in early September 1943 that the base [was] lightly defended, having only about 350 men. By October 1943, Gen. Eizo Yamada's defenses had been increased to approximately 5,400 troops, who fiercely fought the Allied invasion. In his book on MacArthur, Willoughby glided over his error, not even discussing the matter.

As MacArthur's forces prepared for the invasion of the Admiralties on 29 February 1944, Willoughby reported 4,000 Japanese troops in this area, although General Kenney maintained there were very few enemy soldiers on this target area. Because of the speed of World War II planes, air reconnaissance did not produce an accurate  estimate of enemy troops, a difficult job under the best of circumstances, and in this instance the Japanese commander had taken care to hide his troops from American planes. The Japanese actually had 3,646 troops in the Admiralties, though such a precise calculation might be difficult to defend. General Willoughby did produce a reasonably correct estimate in this particular situation.

Willoughby's Central Bureau had broken various Japanese codes, thereby learning that Hollandia was not adequately defended. Allied codebreakers also learned that Japanese military leaders expected an invasion off the Madang-Hansa Bay area, which they could capably defend, though by now Japanese military leaders should have known that General MacArthur tended to avoid such garrisons. Willoughby suggested in February 1944 that the Allied invade Hollandia, thereby bypassing the Madang-Hansa Bay stronghold, a possibility which MacArthur and his staff accepted. General Willoughby also recommended that the Allies reinforce Japanese expectations of an Allied invasion of the Madang-Hansa Bay area through various means of deception. Among the deception techniques utilized, for example, were the placing of rubber boats on the beaches of the Madang-Hansa Bay region, which suggested pre-invasion intelligence forays, and having B-25s bomb this area more heavily. The Allied landing at Hollandia occurred on 22 April 1944, which attained relatively complete surprise. Just before the assault, the Central Bureau estimated the Hollandia to be defended by roughly 22,000 Japanese troops, but there were actually 16,000. This was not a crucial mistake on the part of G-2, because General Willoughby had correctly estimated these defenders to be mainly service, base construction, base defense, and air service units.

In April 1944 MacArthur sent the 41st Army Division to invade the Wakde-Sarmi region, another step in his mission to liberate the Philippines. On 28 April 1944 General Willoughby estimated that the Japanese had 6,050-6,750 troops at Wakde-Sarmi, of which 3,950-6,650 were combat troops. There were actually 11,000 Japanese soldiers defending the area, including 6,000 combat troops, indicating that G-2's error was probably not grossly destabilizing for the Allied invaders.

General MacArthur decided to invade Biak island on 27 May 1944, although Willoughby had been against this move because of the danger that the relatively small American fleet nearby might be defeated by a potentially larger Japanese naval contingent in the vicinity. Although Willoughby estimated in May 1944 that there were 5,000-7,000 Japanese troops on Biak, there were actually 12,350 troops there, and many of these were in caves where they were especially difficult to kill. Willoughby had been aware of Biak's topography and the advantage it gave to the defense. The American seizure if Biak encountered a stern Japanese defense. This inaccurate estimate was a major factor accounting for General MacArthur's expectation of a quick victory and consequent pressure on General Walter Krueger and Lt. General Robert Eichelberger to speed up conquest of the island. In his 1954 book on MacArthur, Willoughby skipped over this intelligence failure, in this way attempting to hide his blunder.

Although the landing at Hollandia had gone relatively smoothly, complications from this action arose in July 1944 because of the tenacity and skill of the Japanese commander, Lt. General Adachi Hatazo, Commander of the 18th Army. MacArthur had outflanked Lt. General Adachi, who was then in the Wewak region where the next major American blow was expected. Not to be defeated, Adachi moved his troops towards Aitape, which id approximately between Wewak and Hollandia. General Willoughby believed that it made better sense for Adachi to bypass Aitape and strike directly at Hollandia, which, in Western war colleges, might have been recommended by many strategists. This is also an excellent example of mirror-imaging, the belief that one;s enemy has the same basic thought processes, values, and military intelligence as oneself, despite the fact that Adachi was clearly from a different culture. Willoughby was convinced that because Adachi's 18th Army was in all likelihood exhausted, lacking in supplies, and having to cope with the jungle, they could nor present a major threat to either Aitape or Hollandia. Nevertheless, ULTRA, air reconnaissance, POW interrogation — all indicated that Adachi was preparing an attack on Aitape.

However, in June 1944 Willoughby began to warn of a Japanese attack on Aitape, predicting it would occur in late June or July. On 10 July 1944 Willoughby reported that Adachi had possibly delayed his attack so that he could get additional supplies from submarines, but on that night, 10,000 raging Japanese attacked the American stronghold at Aitape. One result of this Japanese surprise was that a month-long battle followed along the Driniumor river where the American suffered approximately 3,000 casualties, with 400 kill-in-action. Although Willoughby claimed that Adachi's attack had not been a surprise, he had made a serious mistake and then tried to cover it up, stating in a Daily Summary of 12/13 July 1944:

From the accumulated intelligence, it can be seen how logically the attack was built up and reported, giving us a very clear picture of the enemy's plan of attack prior to it actually being scheduled.

Campaign in the Philippines. The Allied invasion of the island of Leyte began on 20 October 1944. On 31 October-1 November Willoughby declared that it was unlikely that the Japanese would send any “sizable” merchant ships into the area in view of American air bases now on Leyte. However, at roughly the time this intelligence was being distributed, the Japanese Army was unloading 11,000 soldiers at Ormoc on Leyte, it leadership persuaded by exaggerated Japanese naval reports of alleged victories at Leyte Gulf and the consequent likelihood of MacArthur's force being wiped out in this campaign. Once again, Willoughby was mirror-imaging, assuming that the enemy had the same thought patterns and intelligence as himself.

In December 1944 as General MacArthur prepared for the invasion of Luzon, General Willoughby estimated that there were 137,000 Japanese troops on Luzon, a gross underestimate since the true statistic was more likely 276,000. Both MacArthur and Willoughby discounted the possibility of a fanatical Japanese defense of Manila, though it is not clear on what basis this mistaken assumption was made. On 1 January 1945 the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) instructed Filipino guerrillas on Luzon to destroy infrastructure and blow up Japanese military facilities, a prelude to a general uprising to coincide with the approaching Allied invasion of this island. On 9 January 1945 American troops invaded Luzon.

On 17 March 1945 Willoughby was promoted to Major General (temporary), though with the coming of peace in August 1945, he moved back to Brigadier General (temporary) on 31 May 1946, but this latter rank was made permanent on 24 January 1948. On the same day, Willoughby moved up to Major General (temporary) again.

Occupation of Japan: A Detour into Counterintelligence

Upon the surrender of Japan in 1945 and General MacArthur's having become Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) in this defeated nation, Willoughby remained as his G-2. At this time, General Willoughby was required by circumstances to focus his efforts into another aspect of intelligence for which he was not well prepared — counterintelligence. His had to concentrate his investigations into the activities of Japanese repatriates from Soviet POW camps, some 95,000 of whom were probably Communists sent back by Soviet authorities to form the nucleus of a Japanese Communist Party. To counter this threat, Willoughby, creative in an organizational sense, set up a new Civil Intelligence Section and relied upon the 441st Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) to collect information on subversive activity.

From various sources of information, General Willoughby suspected Herbert Norman, representing Canada's Ministry of External Affairs and attached to the US Army CIC unit of the Office of General Headquarters in Tokyo, of being a Communist or even a Soviet agent. Norman was at this post from only October 1945 to January 1946, when General Willoughby was able to remove him. Although the arguments for and against Norman as a Communist agent are numerous, a book by James Barros gives perhaps the strongest grounds for believing that Norman was a likely Soviet intelligence agent and should have been removed from his sensitive position at the Office of General Headquarters.

With the Gouzenko revelations in 1945, [Igor Gouzenko was a cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, before he defected in 1945 to the West. He brought considerable material to Western intelligence officers about Soviet penetration in Canada, the United States, and Great Britain.] Willoughby sent a report on the Richard Sorge spy ring to the FBI in October 1947, claiming that an American, Agnes Smedley, had been a member of the Sorge ring. In April 1948, J. Edgar Hoover, longtime Director of the FBI, saw this 64-page report about the Sorge espionage cell and Smedley's role in it, and stated: It is readily apparent that the author of the report was involved with motives to the detriment of facts regarding the operations of the Sorge group.

Despite the rebuff and warning that this evidence would not likely be accepted in a legal context, the US Army on 10 February 1949 used Willoughby's report to accuse Agnes Smedley of having been a member of the Sorge spy ring. Nevertheless, on 18 February 1949, the Army publicly apologized to Smedley and withdrew its charges. This humiliation impelled Willoughby to spend considerable time in 1949 tracking down information on her association with the Sorge group, which he presented to the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1951 (bee below). However, Willoughby's attack on Agnes Smedley's espionage activity did have one beneficial effect — it brought the Sorge case, and therefore the menace of Communist espionage, to the attention of the American media. Recently published Comintern documents indicate that Smedley was part of that organization's work in China. She was …so close to many figures in the Sorge ring: She had a love affair with Sorge himself while he was in Shanghai.

Further, when she was in China, the American Communist leader, Earl Browder, urged the Comintern to assist Smedley so that she could publish an “anti-imperialist” newspaper, stating:

The CPUSA [Communist Party of the USA] can provide her with helpers, politically and technically qualified. The Chinese comrades agree….

General Willoughby may not have had the evidence to satisfy US Army authorities in Washington, DC in 1949, but he was on the right track.

Because Richard Sorge had admitted that Agnes Smedley was in his espionage group (see below), Willoughby insisted in 1950 that the Japanese had not used torture to gain confessions from either Sorge or his agents. He attempted to prove this contention by persuading former Japanese police officers and prosecutors to deny in written affidavits that they had tortured suspects. However, six former members of this ring did die in prison. These included Branko Voukelitch, Miyagi Yotoku, Kawamura Yoshio, Funakoshi Hisao, Mizuno Shigeru and Richard Sorge. See Chalmers Johnson, An Instance of Treason (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1990), p. 182.] If anyone did torture members of the Sorge ring, it would have been these Japanese police officers. Willoughby's evidence was very “thin.”

In 1950 General MacArthur ordered Willoughby to be Editor-in-Chief of a history of his Pacific campaign, which was published in 1966 in four volumes, The Reports of General MacArthur. It was also during this period that General Willoughby directed the writing of a General Intelligence Series, which focused on the Pacific War. In both these works, there was no mention of his numerous errors in estimation in the Pacific conflict, and because these publications were under his direction, we can only conclude that Willoughby was responsible for these distortions. This is hardly commendable in a military officer, who, as a leader of soldiers, is required by his profession to function by the concept of honor.

Estimates Again: The Korean War

The United States Military Advisory Group to the Republic of Korea [KMAG], not General MacArthur's headquarters, was responsible for obtaining intelligence on Korea in the postwar era. Nonetheless, Willoughby set up a small intelligence unit in Korea, called the Korean Liaison Office. There were other American intelligence groups at work in the Korean peninsula from 1948-50. For example, in 1950 the newly created Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had its agents in Korea and so did the Office of Special Investigations (OSI), the counterintelligence sector of the United States Air Force. One OSI intelligence officer, Special Agent Donald Nichols, had his own agents throughout Korea who, among other tasks, were to give warning of any possible North Korean attack on South Korea. In February or March of 1950 Nichols reported that the North's invasion of South Korea was likely to occur very soon, also identifying the routes to be taken by invading forces, a coup for which General Willoughby “unofficially” reprimanded Nichols' commanding officer for passing on such, in his eyes, questionable information.

On 10 March 1950 General Willoughby reported the possibility of North Korean invasion of South Korea in June of that year. However, he also reported in late March 1950 that war would not occur in Korea that spring or summer, though his “Daily Intelligence Summaries” from this period do suggest the possibility of a North Korean invasion. For example, Willoughby reported in May 1950 that there was a “rapid buildup of North Korean tank units close to the frontier,”  which many analysts would describe as strongly indicative of hostile intentions in Pyongyang. This information was expanded in late May 1950 to specify that there were approximately 180 medium and light tanks in this force, backed by 10,000 officers and men. This should have been sufficient to alert both General Willoughby and the G-2 in Washington that a North Korean invasion was a distinct possibility, unless there officers believed that the tanks were part of a planned good-will tour by the North Koreans leadership in the South. After the invasion occurred, General Willoughby maintained that his warnings of a North Korean invasion were adequate, but were ignored by the G-2 in Washington, though his reversal in prediction in early 1950 could not have enhanced his credibility. Do. Clayton James has speculated that Willoughby's estimates on the Korean situation did not receive much interest in Washington, because in June 1949, South Korea had been declared outside of MacArthur's Far East Command. James pointed out further that Willoughby's obstreperous behavior in dealing with the World War II Office of Strategic Services and its successor CIA, as well as State Department intelligence units, had not endeared him to these people, thus implying their propensity to ignore someone whom they thoroughly disliked.

When the North Korean invasion did occur, American troops were rushed to the aid of South Korea, but the performance of the US Eighth Army was anything but satisfactory, as they and South Korean troops were quickly pushed back by the North Korean army. MacArthur was shocked by his troops' poor showing in the early part of this war. His staff, which included Willoughby, had shielded him before the outbreak of hostilities from evidence suggesting that Eighth Army's combat readiness was not adequate. Why didn't General MacArthur observe the performance of his troops in various exercises in Japan? Perhaps to maintain his remoteness from the Japanese, as their emperors had done, MacArthur had seldom ventured outside of his apartment in Tokyo, except to go to his General Headquarters. Once the North's attack had occurred, Willoughby provided specialists to the Eighth Army, who could interrogate POWs, translate documents, and perform cryptanalysis. He also established a Joint Special Operations staff to collate and integrate information from all of the American intelligence agencies concerned, including the CIA, to produce military intelligence.

When the United Nations (UN) forces which Eighth Army had become part of, were cornered by the North Koreans in the Pusan Perimeter, General MacArthur conceived of an amphibious landing at Inchon behind the enemy to cut off their supply lines and to envelope them. In planning this highly successful operation from the intelligence perspective, Willoughby predicted quite accurately that the enemy had about 2,000 troops in and around Inchon. Lt. General Edward M. Almond insisted that Lt. Col. (later Lt. General) William W. Quinn, an assistant operations officer, be the G-2 for this venture, since he had experience in the intelligence requirements for amphibious warfare. Having a list of other colonels whom he thought could do the job, Willoughby went into a tirade and tried to prevent Quinn's selection, an example of the outbursts which often alienated Willoughby from other officers.

Before the Chinese Communists came into the Korean War in late 1950, Willoughby's Far East Command intelligence, the CIA, and State Department intelligence, along with Chinese Nationalist intelligence, had all been reporting since approximately April 1950 that the Red Chinese were moving large numbers of troops from south China towards the north, probably to Manchuria. A CIA report of 12 October 1950 ended by saying that Chinese Communist entry into the Korean War, although a “possibility,” was “not probable in 1950.” Willoughby's report of 14 October 1950 took an entirely reasonable view of the assessment of potential enemy intentions at a national level:

The decision is beyond the purview of combat intelligence; it is a decision for war on the highest level, i.e., by the Kremlin and Peiping.

Although Willoughby thus recognized that the responsibility for determining the political intentions of the Chinese government rested with the CIA and State Department, he nevertheless did try to predict Chinese intentions. On 28 October 1950 Willoughby stated:

From a tactical standpoint, with victorious United States divisions in full deployment, it would appear that the auspicious time for intervention has long since passed; it is difficult to believe that such a move, if planned would have been postponed to a time when remnant North Korean forces have been reduced to a low point of effectiveness.

This is mirror-imaging, a weakness that Willoughby had demonstrated in his estimates in the Pacific War, as when, for example, he tried to guess General Adachi's intentions from what seemed to him, General Willoughby, to be rational. He had repeated a serious error, failing to learn from experience, which can be highly dangerous in an intelligence officer.

In early November 1950, roughly forty Chinese soldiers had been captured during several weeks of combat. During interrogation, many of these troops correctly identified their units and gave reasonably accurate information on the large number of Chinese Communist soldiers who had already crossed the Yalu. On 2 November 1950 General Willoughby estimated that 16,500 Chinese soldiers were in North Korea, and about 516,000 regulars and 274,000 irregular troops were in Manchuria. The CIA was not concerned with the above information, rating these reports in the F-6 category, which meant that neither the content nor the source was taken very seriously by their analysts. On 5 November 1950 General Willoughby warned that theChinese Communist forces had the capability of launching an attack at any time.  On 10 November 1950 Willoughby's intelligence summary, a reversal of his 28 October report, predicted an “all out” Chinese attack on UN forces.  On 15 November Willoughby reported: Information received from Chinese Nationalist military sources … gives strong support to an assumption that the Chinese Communists intend to “throw the book” at United Nations forces in Korea…. It is fast becoming apparent that an excessive number of troops are entering Northeast China.

Willoughby's interrogations of Chinese troops continued right up until 26 November 1950, when Chinese forces under Lin Piao struck UN forces. General MacArthur had ignored Willoughby's latest warnings, much to the peril of UN forces, a failure for which large segments of the media unfairly blamed Willoughby.

On 10 April 1951 President Harry S. Truman dismissed General MacArthur, essentially for exceeding his authority as a military commander and becoming insubordinate to his Commander-in-Chief. Lt. General (later General) Matthew B. Ridgeway, MacArthur's replacement, saw Willoughby as a “very fine Chief of Intelligence,” but Willoughby was tired, having been MacArthur's G-2 during the war in the Pacific, fighting Japanese Communists immediately after the war in the occupation of that country, and then being thrust again into military intelligence in the Korean War. Furthermore, he had been roughly treated in the media for his alleged failure to predict the North Korean invasion of South Korea and the entry of Chinese forces into this conflict. By his own choice, he returned to America in 1951, ending a career in the US Army which began in 1910. He had served 41 years in the military, the last 10 under great stress, when he was no longer a young man.


On 9 August 1951, General Willoughby testified before a Senate Committee in reference to the investigation of the Institute of Pacific Relations, whose scope of operations had included Japan. At this hearing, Willoughby repeated his espionage charges against Agnes Smedley, maintaining that she had been a member of the Sorge spy ring. This could nor result in legal action against him, since she had died on 6 May 1950. However, he did not present evidence to support this allegation, but simply quoted the opinion of the attorneys who had examined the evidence against Smedley.

On 22 August 1951 General Willoughby appeared before a House Committee, where his testimony focused on Agnes Smedley and the Sorge espionage organization. His testimony unfortunately included some “purple” language, phrases such as “traveling dupes and befuddled liberals,” which enables left-wing academics today to describe Willoughby as a right-wing fanatic. On the other hand, General Willoughby presented publicly serious evidence of Agnes Smedley's involvement in both the Richard Sorge espionage ring and Chinese Communist activities. He quoted the following from Sorge's confession to Japanese authorities:

…I felt most at ease when we met at Smedley's home…. and She was an American and a correspondent of the German newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung. She was used in Shanghai by me as a direct member of my group.

The December 1951 issue of Cosmopolitan published Willoughby's incendiary article criticizing much of the media reports on the Korean War for allegedly revealing important United Nations military information and unjustly criticizing its forces. General MacArthur wrote a foreword to the article, claiming that it exposed “one of the most scandalous propaganda efforts to pervert the truth in recent times.” In 1954 General Willoughby's book, MacArthur: 1941-1951, was published. It was characterized by a clear presentation of General MacArthur's strategy in the Pacific campaign, but marred by his adulation of MacArthur. For example, he described General MacArthur in such terms as these:

The incomparable virtue of the MacArthur strategy…. and This master craftsman…. and made such claims as: General Douglas MacArthur held the name of Bataan as a shining beacon star in his mind. and stated that Douglas MacArthur was …a character whose nobility and modesty have at times been so wantonly misrepresented.

General MacArthur was, without doubt, a very fine general, but to describe him in the above terms requires much more evidence than Willoughby presented in this book.

In his later years, General Willoughby was editor of the Foreign Intelligence Digest. Willoughby died in Naples, Florida, in October 1972 at the age of 80. Willoughby received the Silver Star in April 1942 for “gallantry in action” on Bataan, the Distinguished Cross in 1943 for heroism in the fighting in New Guinea, the Distiguished Service Medal in 1944 for his organizational work in setting up the intelligence service in SWPA and received an Oak Leaf Cluster to the Distinguished Service Medal in 1946 for javing directed Allied intelligence activity in SWPA during World War II. He had also been decorated by several foreign governments.

Evaluation of Willoughby as an Intelligence Chief


In a very short time period, General Willoughby created a coordinated and effective intelligence system from nothing. He began with very little information, especially geographical, on the South West Pacific, and had to train officers and men in intelligence, an area largely neglected by the US Army during the Interwar Period, This task, which he accomplished in a competent manner, was a daunting challenge for anyone.

Estimates in World War II:

In 1942, at the beginning of World War II, General Willoughby reversed himself twice, something not unexpected in a person new on the job. However, Willoughby made nine badly flawed estimates in the Pacific War, which he later tried to cover up, whereas he was correct in only four key estimates. His mistakes were the result, in part, of mirror-imaging. So why did General MacArthur keep him as intelligence chief for SWPA? First, MacArthur, never a modest man despite General Willoughby's protests to the contrary, seemed to need adulators such as Willoughby on his staff. Second, who was to replace him? In the Interwar Period, the US Army was so notoriously weak in intelligence that General Dwight D. Eisenhower chose a British officer, Major General Kenneth Strong, as his J-2 rather than an American officer. Third, General MacArthur probably realized that because he utilized maneuver warfare, attacking the Japanese in their weak spots as he moved from one objective to the other, accurate estimates were very difficult to make. For example, German intelligence in the static warfare of World War I had a much better opportunity to estimate Allied capabilities and intentions than German intelligence officers in the Blitzkrieg into France in May 1940.

Counterintelligence in Japan:

There is not enough information available in open sources to evaluate General Willoughby's total performance in Japan in counterintelligence. He was probably correct in spotting Herbert Norman and Agnes Smedley as Soviet agents.

Estimates on the North Korean attack and Chinese Entry into the War:

His estimates in this War were perhaps more correct than those of the CIA and State Department intelligence, which is indeed faint praise for an intelligence officer.

Emotional Stability and Character:

From 1941 to 1951, General Willoughby withstood enormous strain, going from a relatively sudden immersion in military intelligence in World War II to the demands of counterintelligence in Japan from 1945 to 1950, and back to military intelligence in the Korean War. Although the ability to withstand considerable stress is a necessary quality in an intelligence chief, it is not sufficient to justify his appointment to and retention in such a crucial post. Willoughby's attempts to conceal his mistaken estimates during World War II suggests a narcissistic personality, someone of low self-esteem who cannot admit to having made mistakes, because his self-esteem is so dependent on his colleagues' or friends' opinion of himself. [For a concise discussion of narcissism, see Philip Mansfield, Split Self/Self Object (Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1992).] From a purely military viewpoint, his attempts to conceal his mistakes are a violation of honor, which strongly suggests that he should never have been placed in this position.

His range of emotions was wide. For example, he sometimes became enraged with another staff officer, whom he felt had interfered with his intelligence section, or was depressed when one of estimates was wrong. His dislike for the US Navy appeared to be boundless. For example, he wrote:

The curious thing about it is that the Navy high command in Washington never recognized the relationship between the (MacArthur's) decision to hold this Owen Stanley Line and the decision to retake the Philippines.

Whether it was General Francisco Franco or General Douglas MacArthur, Willoughby needed heroes, particularly of the conservative variety, people upon whom he could project his own narcissistic feelings of grandeur and at the same time not feel guilty of egotism. Showing narcissistic traits, Willoughby could have suffered from both low self-esteem and feelings of grandeur at the same time. At times he also displayed a sense of bitterness. When Vice Admiral Lord Louis Mountbattan, Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, asked MacArthur to send some of his limited fleet to attack Japanese shipping in Singapore harbor, Willoughby's reaction was:

As usual, the “buck was passed” to G-2 (himself), the whipping boy of the staff, the garbage can for all spurious or half-baked ideas.

General Willoughby could have laughed at Mountbattan's ridiculous request, but he chose to take it seriously, falling into bitterness.

Career as a Whole:

General Willoughby's tendency was to cover topics in his books, such as economics, for which he had only minimal knowledge, or to publish in areas, such as military history, for which he did not have adequate graduate training. During his whole career, Willoughby was often placed by circumstances in areas for which he was not remotely prepared. For example, in 1942 he suddenly became chief of intelligence for SWPA, a gigantic task requiring him to create a multifunctional apparatus in a short time. His prior experience in intelligence was minimal at best. Consequently, General Willoughby made many serious mistakes in intelligence, chiefly in estimation, which is perhaps the most important function of a military intelligence officer. Moreover, he tried to cover up these mistakes in his book on General MacArthur and the two summaries of the War in the Pacific, which he directed, a totally undesirable characteristic in a military officer.

Lessons Learned:

There is something to be learned from General Willoughby's career. The best chiefs in military intelligence — such as Admiral Bobby Ray Inman, Major General Kenneth Strong, and Lt. General Daniel Graham — have had long experience in this field before assuming major positions of responsibility. The failures of General Willoughby in contrast to the successful performance of the latter officers suggests that general and flag officers should not be placed as heads of intelligence agencies on the basis of their administrative abilities, mastery of military history, or strategic vision with the comfortable assurance that they will do a good job in intelligence work. Before an officer is posted in this sensitive post, he should have learned this complicated art from the bottom up through the decision-making level.

Headquarters, South West Pacific Area, General Orders No. 5 (January 11, 1943)

The President of the United States takes pleasure in presenting the Distinguished Service Cross to Charles Andrew Willoughby, Brigadier General (General Staff Corps), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy, in action against enemy forces from 23 July 1942 through 8 January 1943.

Brigadier General Willoughby's intrepid actions, personal bravery and zealous devotion to duty exemplify the highest traditions of the military forces of the United States and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.


  • DATE OF BIRTH: 03/08/1892
  • DATE OF DEATH: 10/25/1972


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