Johnson, Louis Arthur
(1891-1966)
   Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Louis Johnson graduated with a law degree from the University of Virginia in 1912 and established a law practice in Clarksburg, West Virginia. A Democrat, he was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1916 and served until 1924 with a break while he was in the army during World War I. Johnson was in the infantry in France during the war and afterward was one of the founders of the American Legion. He was national commander of the organization from 1932 to 1933. During the interwar years, he continued his legal practice in West Virginia and Washington, D.C. He was chair of the Veterans Advisory Committee for the Democratic National Committee from 1936 to 1940 and also assistant secretary of war. During World War II, he was briefly President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal representative in India.
   In 1948, Johnson was the Democratic Party’s fundraiser, and it was widely assumed that his appointment as secretary of defense in 1949 was an acknowledgement of his contribution. His term in office was highly controversial, as it involved the unification and streamlining of the armed services. Johnson implemented President Harry S. Truman’s policies on tight budgets somewhat heavy-handedly, immediately cancelling the construction of a super aircraft carrier. His cuts seemed to target the navy and marines, and the secretary of the navy, John L. Sullivan, resigned. In June 1949, in what was known as the “revolt of the admirals,” Johnson faced charges of malfeasance before the House Committee on Armed Services as a consequence of these policies. He was cleared but criticized for his methods.
   In 1950, Johnson was also involved in a conflict with Secretary of State Dean Acheson over the National Security Council policy proposal National Security Council Report 68 that recommended increased military expenditure. However, in the light of early military setbacks in the Korean War, he was criticized for leaving the armed forces ill-prepared. Furthermore, he seemed reluctant to control or discipline Douglas MacArthur when the general publicly flouted the president’s orders. On 12 September 1950, Johnson was forced to resign and was replaced by General George C. Marshall. He resumed his legal practice in Washington.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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