Patrick J. Hurley

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Patrick J. Hurley
51st United States Secretary of War
In office
December 9, 1929 – March 4, 1933
President Herbert Hoover
Preceded by James W. Good
Succeeded by George H. Dern
Personal details
Born Patrick Jay Hurley
(1883-01-08)January 8, 1883
Indian Territory, U.S. (near present day Lehigh, Oklahoma)
Died July 30, 1963(1963-07-30) (aged 80)
Santa Fe, New Mexico, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater George Washington UniversityIn 1948 he received the Constantine Sig award, the highest honor given for service and devotion to the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
Profession Politician, Lawyer
Awards Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Military service
Allegiance  United States of America
Service/branch Emblem of the United States Department of the Army.svg United States Army
Years of service 1914-1919; 1941-1945
Rank US-O8 insignia.svg Major General
Battles/wars World War I
World War II
Hurley (second from right) being sworn in as Assistant War Secretary by John B. Randolph. Outgoing Assistant Secretary Charles B. Robbins and Secretary of War James W. Good look on.

Patrick Jay Hurley (January 8, 1883, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory — July 30, 1963, Santa Fe, New Mexico) was a highly decorated American soldier with the rank of Major General, statesman, and diplomat. He was the United States Secretary of War from 1929 to 1933.

He has since been known as 赫爾利 hè ěr lì in China, a phonetic rendering of his last name into Chinese.

Education and early career

Hurley graduated from Indian University (now Bacone College) in 1905 and received his law degree from the National University of Law, Washington, D.C. in 1908. He started a law practice in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1908.

He was admitted to the bar of the Supreme Court in 1912 and was national attorney for the Choctaw Nation from 1912 to 1917. He received a second laws degree from George Washington University, Washington, D.C., in 1913.

Military service

Hurley served in the Indian Territorial Volunteer Militia from 1902 to 1907, and in the Oklahoma National Guard, from 1914 to 1917. During World War I, Hurley served with the Judge Advocate General's Department of the 6th Army Corps, American Expeditionary Force in France. For his service in this capacity, Hurley received the Army Distinguished Service Medal.

In November 1918, Hurley was detached to the 76th Field Artillery Regiment and participated with this unit in the battles near Louppy-le-Château, France. Hurley voluntarily conducted a reconnaissance under heavy enemy fire and was subsequently awarded with Silver Star for gallantry in action.

Public service

After the war, he attended George Washington University, where he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He became active in the Republican Party and was appointed Assistant Secretary of War by President Herbert Hoover in 1929. He was promoted to Secretary of War after the death of James W. Good and served in President Hoover's cabinet until 1933.

World War II

Hurley received a promotion to brigadier general in 1941 when the United States entered World War II, and General George C. Marshall dispatched him to the Far East as a personal representative to examine the feasibility of relieving American troops besieged on the Bataan peninsula. He was successful in delivering additional food and ammunition to the soldiers on three separate occasions, but could not evacuate them.

After the conclusion of this mission, he embarked on a series of assignments as a personal representative of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He served as minister to New Zealand in 1942 and then flew to the Soviet Union, becoming the first foreigner to receive permission to visit the Eastern Front. Over the next two years, he visited the Near East, Middle East, China, Iran and Afghanistan on behalf of the president. In the course of his duties, he met with a number of local political leaders, including the nominal head of the Zionist movement in Palestine, David Ben-Gurion. The report that he sent to the president on Ben-Gurion and Zionism was quite negative.[citation needed] He was appointed US Ambassador to China in 1944.


Major General Hurley served in two World Wars and received many decorations for bravery and distinguished service. Here is the list of his decorations:

Bronze oak leaf cluster
Army Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Purple Heart
Bronze star
Bronze star
Bronze star
World War I Victory Medal with three battle clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal
American Campaign Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal with two service Stars
World War II Victory Medal


Hurley arrived in China in August 1944, as a personal envoy from President Roosevelt to Chiang Kai-shek. His written directive from the President was as follows:

Patrick Hurley at center (in bow tie) with Communist leadership in Chongqing, 1945
You are hereby designated as my personal representative with the Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, reporting directly to me. Your principal mission is to promote efficient and harmonious relations between the Generalissimo and General [Joseph] Stilwell to facilitate General Stilwell's exercise of command over the Chinese armies placed under his direction. You will be charged with additional missions.[1]

Military operations in China against the Japanese had been severely hampered by a lack of cooperation, bordering upon personal enmity, between Stilwell and Chiang. The American General had reported accurately that Chiang had not committed his best troops nor American aid to fight the Japanese, but instead held back troops and supplies for an eventual showdown with wartime Communist allies. Eventually, Stilwell’s belief in the Generalissimo's incompetence and corruption reached such proportions that Stilwell sought to cut off Lend-Lease aid to China.[2] The dogmatic anti-Communist Hurley eventually came down on the side of the Generalissimo, and instead supported the replacement of Stilwell with General Albert C. Wedemeyer.

Throughout his tenure in China, Hurley felt that his efforts were being undermined by State Department officials, principally John Stewart Service and John Paton Davies in China, and John Carter Vincent in Washington, whom he claimed were unduly sympathetic to the Communist forces led by Mao Zedong.

In early November 1944, upon the resignation of Ambassador Clarence Gauss, Hurley was officially offered the ambassadorship to China, but initially declined "with a statement that the duties he had been called upon to perform in China had been the most disagreeable that he had ever performed--and further, he felt that his support of Chiang Kai-shek and the National Government of China had increased the opposition directed toward himself by the un-American elements in the State Department." Upon receiving a telegram from the President on November 17, urging him to take the job because of the critical nature of the situation, he reluctantly accepted.[3]

Hurley's dealings with the State Department did not improve. Moreover, President Roosevelt's February 1945 Yalta Conference with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin resulted in a secret agreement in which, among other things, the Soviet Union was granted concessions in China that Russia had lost in the Russo-Japanese War early in the century. This, Hurley believed, was the beginning of the end of a non-Communist China.

He held out hope that after President Roosevelt's death, President Harry S. Truman would recognize what he regarded as the errors of Yalta and would rectify the situation, but his efforts in that direction were in vain. On November 26, 1945, he submitted a scathing letter of resignation.

"I requested the relief of the career men," he wrote, "who were opposing the American policy in the Chinese Theater of war. These professional diplomats were returned to Washington and placed in the Chinese and Far Eastern Divisions of the State Department as my supervisors. Some of these same career men whom I relieved have been assigned as supervisors to the Supreme Commander in Asia. In such positions most of them have continued to side with the Communist armed party and at times with the imperialist bloc against American policy."[4]

The Nationalists' defeat by the Communists in the Chinese Civil War in 1949 caught the US by surprise, and led to the question "Who Lost China?" as well as recriminations against the State Department officials known as the China Hands.

Both contemporary and modern assessment of Hurley's performance has not been kind. Michael Burleigh writes: "US policy was not well served by its Ambassador to China from late 1944 onwards, a former Republican secretary of war called Patrick Hurley, a drunken idiot given to Choctaw war cries. Oblivious of China's delicate protocols, he referred to Chiang as 'Mr. Shek' and Mao Zedong as 'Moose Dung' in the course of shuttle trips designed to bring the two together to convert China into a springboard for the final showdown with the Japanese. Mao's cronies called Hurley 'the Clown'; his US diplomatic colleagues dubbed him 'the Albatross.'"[5]

Aside from Hoover himself, Hurley was the last living member of the Hoover administration.

Political candidacy

Hurley was the Republican candidate for a seat in the United States Senate for the state of New Mexico in 1946, 1952 and 1958 but he lost all three attempts against the Democratic candidate Dennis Chavez.


Hurley started the United Western Minerals Corporation of Santa Fe, New Mexico. It was involved in the rush to start uranium mining in the Ambrosia Lake region of New Mexico in the 1950s. See Uranium mining in New Mexico. [6]


  1. Don Lohbeck, Patrick J. Hurley (Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1956), 280.
  2. Wesley Marvin Bagby, The Eagle-Dragon Alliance: America's Relations with China in World War II, p.96
  3. Lohbeck, 309.
  4. Lohbeck, 430.
  5. Michael Burleigh, Small Wars, Faraway Places (Viking, New York, 2013), 103.
  6. John Masters (2004). Secret Riches: Adventures of an Unreformed Oilman. Gondolier Press. ISBN 1-896209-97-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> page 81-82


  • Russel D. Buhite, Patrick J. Hurley and American Foreign Policy, Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973. ISBN 0-8014-0751-6
  • Don Lohbeck, Patrick J. Hurley, Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1956.
  • Merle Miller, "Plain Speaking: an oral biography of Harry S. Truman", New York, NY; Berkley Publishing Company, 1974. pp. 251–252.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
James W. Good
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: Herbert Hoover

Succeeded by
George H. Dern
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Clarence E. Gauss
US Ambassador to China
Succeeded by
Leighton Stuart