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Biographies: Frank Pace Jr.

Frank Pace Jr., lawyer and secretary of the Army, 1950-1953, was born July 5, 1912, the son of prominent Little Rock, Arkansas, lawyer Frank Pace and his wife, Flora Layton Pace. The junior Pace graduated from Princeton University in 1933, and went on to Harvard Law School where he was a student of Felix Frankfurter. Following graduation in 1936, he returned to Arkansas where he practiced tax law until the outbreak of World War II. In 1942, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Air Corps and for the next four years served in a variety of administrative assignments in the Air Transport Command. He was discharged in 1946, with the rank of major. It was then on to Washington, D.C., where he joined the staff of Attorney General Tom Clark as a tax specialist. He then served as executive assistant to the postmaster general before becoming the assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget (BOB).

In 1949, at the age of 36, he was named by President Harry S. Truman to be director of the BOB. In that position he quickly emerged as one of the rising stars of the Truman administration, being hailed as a top-notch efficiency expert and first-rate administrator. As budget director, he instituted a performance-based budget for most federal agencies, established a management appraisal system, prepared organizational plans for simplifying more than two dozen government agencies, and produced the first "budget in brief." It was, however, his preparation, presentation and defense of Truman's lean 1950 budget that won the president's admiration.

As an organizer and administrator, he was without equal, but his glibness, seeming irreverence for the Washington establishment, and unwillingness to play politics kept him from gaining the power base needed to be a major player on the Washington scene. It was probably those characteristics that led Truman to tell Pace that he was a great budget director but a "lousy politician."

In April 1950, when Gordon Gray resigned as secretary of the Army, Truman, without hesitation, named Pace as his successor. The president was hopeful that the Arkansasan could help Secretary of Defense Louis A. Johnson institute major cuts which could take the "fat" out of the military budget. Pace's appointment was greeted with skepticism by military leaders and supporters because of his youth (37 years old), reputation for cost cutting, and his lack of experience on defense issues. Although he was a very quick learner, even Pace later admitted that upon entering the post, his knowledge of the Army was rather limited.

Pace was in his post as civilian head of the U.S. Army less than nine weeks when the Korean War broke out, and while he was involved in virtually all the top strategy meetings which ultimately resulted in the commitment of U.S. combat forces, his impact on the course of events was minimal. When the North Korean attack came, the secretary initially questioned the use of U.S. ground troops before joining the chorus of military and civilian advisors in supporting intervention. In the next two and a half years, Pace was generally a strong supporter of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) on key military decisions, including reservations about the Inchon invasion, pursuit of the North Korean Army north of the 38th Parallel, rotation of troops, and desegregation of Army units. He would, however, occasionally go against his chief Army advisors as he did when he favored removal of Gen. Walton H. Walker early in the conflict. In April 1951, Pace was scheduled to personally inform Gen. Douglas MacArthur that he was being relieved, but a premature leak to the press forestalled that plan.

Although included in most key wartime meetings with the president (including the Wake Island Conference), the Joint Chiefs of Staff and State Department officials, Pace felt that Army Chief of Staff Gen. J. Lawton Collins frequently did not keep him adequately informed about Army operations in Korea. The secretary also believed that in strategic planning he had responsibility without adequate authority. Consequently, he advocated, albeit unsuccessfully, full Cabinet status and the right to attend National Security Council meetings. 

Pace's impact as an able administrator was significant. The rapid expansion of the Army created ample opportunity for managerial leadership to meet problems of raising, training and supplying troops. He was responsible for implementing the popular "point system" for troops in Korea. His commitment to and implementation of new procurement methods helped to overcome major supply problems, particularly of new ammunition, but not before major shortages had occurred. Even though it was wartime, he continually pressed for cost-cutting measures, thereby winning support of fiscal conservatives but angering military supporters.

In January 1953, a week before the Eisenhower administration prepared to assume control of the government, Pace resigned his Army post. For the next 10 years, he was with General Dynamics Corporation, serving as executive vice-president, president, and chairman of the board. From the time he left office until his death January 8, 1988, he served on various commissions and task forces, including appointment as the first chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Keith D. McFarland

Blair, Clay. The Forgotten War: America in Korea, 1950-1953 (1987). 
Bradley, Omar with Clay Blair. A General's Life (1983). 
Collins, J. Lawton. Lightning Joe: An Autobiography (1979). 
Condit, Doris M. History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: Vol. II, The Test of War, 1950-52 (Washington, 1988).
Schnabel, James F., and Robert J. Watson. The History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. III, The Korean War (1979).

Reprinted with permission from The Korean War: An Encyclopedia, edited by Stanley Sandler and published by Garland Publishing, Inc.