Ira T. Wyche oral history interview, August 23, 1972


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Major General Ira T. Wyche
U.S. Army, Retired
Donald R. Lennon
August 23, 1972

Ira T. Wyche - IW
Donald R. Lennon - DL

DL: Let's go right ahead. [Pause] You were mentioning an encounter with Mr. Warren.

IW: Yes. When I was in command of III Corps in February of '46, I was designated to represent the Army in the resuscitation of the Desert Cavalcade. It had been suspended during the war and they wanted to reactivate it. I went down to Calexico. The two towns, border towns, Calexico and Mexicali, were resuscitating the Desert Cavalcade, which depicted the trek of [Juan Bautista] de Anza from old Fort Tubac in Arizona to San Francisco. While there, I was associated with the governors of California and Lower [Baja] California. Earl Warren was the governor of California and a very impressive person at that time, to me particularly, because he had been nominated by both parties in his last election as governor of California. He and the governor of Lower California were associated in the event. (2:30)

We went over with my staff and the governor's staff to call on the governor of Lower California, and arrangements were made for the governor of Lower California to return the call that afternoon. When Gov. Warren returned to the hotel, he left word that he had a very important call and didn't want to be disturbed before 7:00. The governor of Lower California arrived before 7:00 and the operator at the desk wouldn't disturb Gov. Warren, so the [Laughs] governor of Lower California got into high dudgeon and went back to Mexico. (3:57)

DL: Oh, no. [Laughs]

IW: We had arranged for the crowning of the queen of the Cavalcade that evening. When we arrived at the scene, fortunately my chief of artillery was quite a Spanish linguist and sensed something was wrong and got in touch with the commander of troops, of the Mexican troops, and said, "Here, what's the matter?" and they told him what had happened. He said, "Well, you can't imagine the governor of California intending to offend the governor of Lower California." So they finally got together and ironed out the trouble and the governor of Lower California came up and we had the successful crowning of the queen. The next morning Gov. Warren and I had a sunrise breakfast sitting on opposite ends of a bale of hay out in the desert, and I was quite impressed with him. (5:47)

DL: Well, he made quite a radical departure after he got to the Supreme Court.

IW: Well, after that, I heard rumblings of his socialistic trends and was quite shocked, and the thing that shocked me most of all was, when he was nominated to be with [Thomas E.] Dewey, to be the vice president, the person who put him in nomination was my ex-inspector general of the 79th Division.

DL: [Laughs] What do you know?

[Break in recording]

IW: .or the structure.

DL: Yes, sir.

IW: So I sensed. And in connection with those activities we had some kind of field maneuver almost every year, and I got impressed with the attitude of the young officer. He wanted to be the operations man, the great planner and so forth and so forth, and I found out he wasn't a hundred percent informed about the-or gave very much consideration to-the logistics of the operation. So I decided that if I ever were in command and lost my G3-that was the operations man-I would reach down and get the best G4 I could find and make him G3, and that's happened to me in the [unclear 07:47].

DL: Really? Hmm. (7:50)


IW: Well, you can. That will give you. [Laughs]

[Break in recording]

IW: Well the situation had developed that we didn't enough trained men to fill our obligations abroad, or anywhere else, so we sent untrained men over to the Mediterranean to fill the vacancies that occurred in the units over there. Naturally, they were not only untrained but they were very young, and some of them were homesick. [Robert C.] Ruark [Jr.] would find one on the street and get his reaction, and of course he was homesick and everything was wrong, and Ruark did not check up his information. He simply.

DL: Went on and published it.

IW: .published it far and wide. That was the general-.

DL: A muckraking type of-.

IW: Yes. Absolutely. So [Pause] when we got through, we. You'll find in the record of the investigation the conclusions and so on. (9:42)

DL: Were most of-?

IW: He. In his. After I made the investigation he got a little bit of satisfaction from the endorsements that went on it from the Chief of Staff [of the Army] and the Secretary [of the Army]. He put in a little article in the paper about it and he referred to me as "deaf as a post," and the Charlotte News published that. So I asked them [Laughs] what good would it do, what good was accomplished, by having my picture with that title in the paper when they had neither a picture of Gen. [John C.H.] Lee or Ruark, and I got a weaseling answer saying I was prominent in the investigation. [Laughs] Perfectly terrible press business.

DL: Oh, yes. That was very poor journalism all the way around.

IW: Very poor journalism.

DL: Well, were these primarily young officers, or were these veterans? The offices there, that Ruark had talked with, were they primarily young officers, or-?

IW: No, these were the enlisted men, mostly. (11:36)

DL: Oh, they were the enlisted men.

IW: The recruits were where he got his scandal, that he called it. Then when the thing subsided, of course, and when. Then he got out a classic, Ruark did. The Old Man and the Boy is a real American classic.

DL: Yes, sir.

IW: I was on the point of writing him a letter congratulating him on the ability to produce a literary classic in American literature, and then I had in my mind to wonder how one who stooped as low as he did in the Mediterranean could have done it. But about that time Gen. Lee died and a reiteration of some of Ruark's stuff came out, so I didn't write him.

DL: I have always enjoyed his African novels.

IW: Well he was a very clever writer. I didn't read the. He had a novel that came out about the time he was getting out these allegations against the Mediterranean.

DL: That was his first major, was it not?

IW: Yes. Some woman's name, I think. (13:28)

[Interruption; end of interview]

Ira T. Wyche oral history interview, August 23, 1972
Interview with Major General Ira Thomas Wyche, commander of the 79th Infantry Division (1942-1945) and Inspector General of the Army (1947-1948). General Wyche comments briefly on World War II but concentrates primarily on his investigation of the charges brought by newspaper columnist Robert C. Ruark against General John C. H. Lee. Ruark claimed that General Lee misused enlisted men under his command in occupied Italy. Other comments are of a random nature concerning various aspects of his career. For related material see Collection #210. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. Length: 13:40.
August 23, 1972
Original Format
oral histories
10cm x 6cm
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Location of Original
East Carolina Manuscript Collection
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