CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Pre-WWII Era / World War II / Cold War Oral History Interview
US Army, New Jersey National Guard
Date: March 1985
Interviewer: 1LT Glenn MacDonald
Transcript: 1LT Glenn MacDonald
The following is an interview with COL. Charles McLean, retired, by 1LT Glenn MacDonald, for the New Jersey National Guard’s Oral History Program. This interview was conducted in COL. McLean’s home in Brielle, New Jersey. Original transcript.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, you entered the guard in the year 1929, that was the same year the stock market crashed Did that have an adverse effect on financing of Guard programs?
COL. MCLEAN: I doubt very much that the stock market crash had any effect on financing any military programs because the military programs of that day were grossly under-financed from the time of the end of World War I. I enlisted two months after the stock crash; the stock market crash. I was only, I was not quite 18; these things didn’t enter our minds at the time. The stock market crash was relatively new, it had been a holocaust of a type, but it had nothing to do with the financing of the military at the time. The policy of the administrations of Coolidge and Hoover, and Harding before them, was that we didn’t need a military, and since there was no need for a military, there’s no need to spend any money them, and so everything we had were leftovers dragged out of warehouses where they had been stored since the end of World War I. This included vehicles, we were a unit that had vehicles. In 1929, these were 1917 GMC’s without self starters, without built in headlights, no electrical equipment of any sort. They were, you started the engine by cranking it, by hand, and it ran on a magnito, and this was the level of equipment up till probably 1935-1936 and were strictly leftover. We have, didn’t like the course, heavy uniforms left over from World War I. That wool stuff with the high standing collar was uncomfortable, so the unit having considerable pride in themselves, decided that they would by their own tailor made uniforms, and our paychecks went to pay for the tailor made uniforms. Pair of britches of Serge, Serge blouse, and a new cap, and these were far more comfortable. This sort of thing that obtained at the time, it wasn’t a matter of the economics at the time, it was a matter of political policy. At that time there were probably as few as active Army people as there were National Guardsmen, and this remained so until the late 30’s, probably up to 1940.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, you had a special incentive for going into the National Guard. You served as an Orderly for a gentleman very dear to your heart, who was a commanding officer of the 156th Ambulance Company of the 119th Medical Regiment, and that was located in Paterson, New Jersey. Who was that gentleman, and can you tell me how he happened to recruit you?
COL. MCLEAN: It didn’t take any effort to recruit me, I had been after him for months. The gentleman you refer to is my father, Arthur McLean, who has served in the National Guard of New York State and New Jersey from 1909 through the Mexican border incident where he went with Squadron A of the New York National Guard, which is now the home the 101st Calvary of that State, and he served there for 6 months and returned to his home in New York, and 6 months later was inducted for World War I. And, after the successation of, during the reorganization of the National Guard following World War I, he was recruited into the New Jersey National Guard in 119th Medical Regiment, and eventually became the Company Commander and a Captain in 1924. And, I was his Orderly from 1926 to 1929. I earned this by being a good student and graduating 6 months early from Elementary school. And, as a graduation present, he let me go to field training with him as his Orderly, and I learned how to shine boots and brass at a very early age. But I didn’t take any difficulties or harsh measures to interest me in the National Guard. I enlisted in, I think it was the 22nd of December, 1929, and very proudly.
1LT MACDONALD: Col, McLean, that first field training you went on in 1929, what was that like? Can you describe that for us?
COL, MCLEAN: I can still remember very vividly my arrival in Sea Girt with my father’s Company on that Saturday afternoon, probably in July of 1926. It was just out of this world. That is not a very good phrase. It hardly describes it. But, here I was, a 14 year old kid down there, not yet 14, down there with all these men, horses, vehicles, The terrain and the huge camp, to me at that time was enormous. Everything was canvas except for the cinder block buildings along Commissary Drive, at that time, which were the mess halls. And, at the end of the company streets were the big cinder block buildings that were the latrines and showers, brand new. And, this was the most exciting thing I had ever done in my life, just to be down there. To say nothing of the expanse of the ocean and the sandy beach behind the rifle pits, or the butts, and I thought I would never get enough of it.
I go back there regularly, heh, heh, walk over these grounds and think of the people who I first met there in that medical regiment, who were very fine gentlemen, I recall one, who was the regimental commander, in particular, COL John McCullough of Trenton, who had served as an Infantry Commander in World War I even though he was a medical doctor, and when he came back in the reorganization of the New Jersey National Guard, he assumed command of the 119th Medical Regiment as a Medical Officer. But, he believed that his medical troops should first be infantry soldiers, and he had them equipped with the Springfield 1903 rifle, and cartridge belts, in addition to their huge medical belts that looked like junior Mae West’s around their waists. Everything was new to me, and everything was exciting to me. And everyday you got up with and wondered “what’s going to happen today?” And, there came a sad day when you had to return to the concrete, black paved streets of Paterson, and get away from the beautiful seashore and place at Sea Girt.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, you were part of what was called the Citizens Military Training Corps. What are your recollections of that period in your life?
COL. MCLEAN: The Citizens Military Training Corps was as operation of the United States Army, to train young men with a view to their being commissioned in the Organized Reserved Corps, in the various branches of the United States Army of the time. You were entitled to apply for Citizens Military Training Corp. training in a summer camp with the United States Army upon reaching a ripe old age of 17. And, each applicant during the first year was required to attend a basic infantry training course of 30 days at a U.S. Army post. I went to be with the 26th Infantry of the 1st Division at Plattsburg barrack, New York, on Lake Champlain, a very picturesque, beautiful place. A large post with a full infantry regiment station there, plus a few others. We lived in the woods, the pine woods, just South of the main post, in an ideal setting. There were, perhaps, 200 men in the company. There was a whole regiment; I was in Company L, that means we had the longest walk to the parade ground, and the longest walk back, and the longest walk to the mess hall and the longest walk back. But, it was a very high-spirited company of young men who had never been together before in their lives, and we got basic, elementary training and infantry training in 30 days by non-commissioned officers and officer personnel of the 26th Infantry, 1st Division, stationed at Plattsburg barracks.
The day was divided largely into two parts: 1st call for drill was at 7:30 in the morning, and recall was 11:30, The last item usually on the day was a regimental parade with bayonettes fixed, and if you got through that you had it made, The afternoon was devoted to organized athletics. Competitive, organized athletics in a sport generally of your choosing: baseball, soccer, basketball, boxing, track and field, and innumerable others. And, you came away at the end of the month with some military knowledge and better physical condition than you were when you went up there.
The second year you were permitted to select a military branch of your own choosing: infantry, cavalry, artillery, signal corps, etc. I chose to go to a cavalry training post at Ft. Ethan Allen, Vermont, with 1st Squadron of the Cavalry, where we were trained as cavalry soldiers. You learned it from the ground up. Stand a heel behind the horses on the picket line and by the numbers. From there on in everything by the numbers until you became at the end of month a rather adept young horse trooper. The third and fourth year I spent with the 2nd Squadron of the 3rd Cavalry at Ft. Myer, Virginia, In each of these years you were required to assume positions of responsibility, and you were also required to do all the other housekeeping details, and I remember very vividly that the, well, at Ft. Ethan Allen we had a ceremonial day and I won the duty of KP for that day. During the ceremonies a Major General, and there were mighty few of them in those days making the awards, called for one McLean, Charles A., and nobody responded. And after several calls, somebody tipped off the unit offices that McLean was on KP. This was told to the General who said “I’m damned glad to find somebody working around here today.” HA, HA, I spent that day on KP, but it was a very good day. I was running the potato peeler, mechanical, and I had the pleasure of showing a number of women who had come to the ceremony during the day, how a potato peeler electrically operated can save a lot of work in the home.
The fourth year at Ft. Myer, Virginia, was very interesting, I had the good fortune of being selected student troop commander for the first 2 weeks, and then sometime during the second 2 weeks, there was the matter of the bonus expeditionary force in Washington, D.C. for which General MacArthur and a chap named Major Eisenhower became famous when President Hoover decided these people should be moved from within the city limits. We woke up one morning and there were no members of the squadron or the 3rd cavalry present, and there were no horses, and we wondered what the hell happened. We found out very shortly they had been alerted during the night and moved out very early in the morning into the city of Washington, where they did police duty and routed the Army Bonus Expeditionary Force out of the area. It was a very sorry moment, really, You look back on it many times. It was a sign of the times, this was getting toward the depth of the depression in 1932, Mr. Hoover was running for re-election, and these people had moved in over land, great hardship, and were living in the buildings that were being torn down along Pennsylvania Avenue between the Capital building and the White House, This is a sight of devastation beside their being out in the swamps. But, it was an exciting time, it was very interesting to had been there at the time, so you learned a little more beside, you got an inside look at some history in the Nation’s capital, beside learning how to be a cavalryman. After you finish the 4 years of training, once one month each year at an active Army post, you could apply for the correspondence courses of the, for the grade that you wanted, and the service and upon completing those, you could apply for a commission, which I did. And, I was commissioned as a 2LT of Cavalry in the Organized Reserve Corps, in April of 1934, and went on from there.
1LT MACDONALD: COL, McLean, you had a rather unique experience back in 1934 when you became a 2LT in the cavalry; a lot of memories came back to you at certain point in time, Would you recall that for us, please?
COL, MCLEAN: Yes, it was interesting that in April of 1934, I received a directive from Governor’s Island, I guess it was a headquarters first Army, to report to the Board of Officers at the Squadron A Armory, on 92nd Street and Park Avenue in New York City, for determination on whether or not I was fit to be a 2LT Calvary of those days, It so happened that in going there, I recall this is the place my father had spent so much time as a member of Squadron A of the New York Calvary, between the, somewhere in the years between 1912 and 1918, and, from once he had departed for the Mexican border for a period of 6 or 7 months, and to which he had returned, to which he left a second time for WWI, I thought looks like the old family stomping grounds here, it’s the only opportunity to visit that Armory, and it was a great pleasure. The gentleman who was president of the board, was a gentleman known, named as Hobart Brown, COL, Hobart Brown, a well known cavalryman of the day, That was quite an honor. And, I remained in the Organized Reserve Corp. as a 2LT Cavalry until 1937, when an opportunity presented itself to accept a commission in the New Jersey National Guard as 2LT Infantry, in Company D of the 113th Infantry Regiment in the Newark Armory, the Sussex Ave. Armory in Newark, which I did. And I think again April 1937 and I was inducted with the 113th Infantry into federal service in September 1940. In the interim, I had served as a 2LT in Company D, and a 2LT Company C, and was promoted to 1LT shortly before we were inducted, I thought I was a pretty old guy at that time to be a 1LT, but I was kind of shook that year 1940, we went for a months maneuver in the vicinity of Canton, New York, with whole First Army.
The first time was quite an adventure, I was on the advanced detachment for 113th Infantry Regiment. Part of that job was to go to a rail head and pick up supplies with a detail of men, and a whole slug of civilian trucks that we saw for the first time, no two of which were the same make or size or shape. I learned how to drive 21 different trucks in 24 hours. Our job was to haul freight such as cots and tentage, and other things from the rail head to the regimental camp site. When at the rail head I met a number of officers from other regiments in the First Army National Guardsmen, and I was amazed to see so many old 2LT’s who looked at me as though I were a child of some kind, and said “How did you get to be a 1LT?” I said 111 don’t know, I just got it.” Their story was that they had been 2LT for 17, 18, 19 years and they were waiting for somebody to die and leave a vacancy so they could be promoted. This was not uncommon in the Army or National Guard prior to 1940-1941. People served for long periods of time in Company grades before ever getting within reaching distance of a field grade position. It was surprising to me to see so many fellow National Guardsmen from other states who had served so long as 2LT’s. and were still 2LT’s. And, here I had been in the New Jersey National Guard 4 years and was already a 1LT. That was a very interesting encampment at Canton, New York.
The word of the day at that time was “improvisation.” You didn’t have anything, so you had to improvise. The Army had no vehicles; they leased them from civilian owners by the thousands for that military operation. Our regiment drew 21 of them. I took the men down and drew 21 trucks that we had never seen before. We had to learn how to drive them in a few hours because we had to put them to work hauling cargo, and set up a regimental camp in a place we had never been before; lay it out. We laid it out beautifully, it was laid out just according to the book in rectangle. Geometrically. it looked beautiful. But, when we went to dig the pits that are necessary. or were necessary in a field camp at that time, we found that they had all kinds of rock up there, most of which was within 2 feet of surface of the ground, And, ultimately, we had to change out whole layout of the regimental camp to suit the location of the rocks in that field, These were called “whalebacks.” You would see them above the ground for 20 or 30 feet they went beneath the ground for another 100 feet sloping off gradually so that everything had to be accommodated to the rocks in the area.
Speaking of improvisation, everything had to be improvised. We had no mortars in the mortars companies, the heavy weapons companies. We used rain pipes. We had no vehicles, we used the civilian vehicles. We had no tanks, the tank companies used civilian trucks with big signs on the side “tank”, on sides and fore and aft. You learned to do a great many things that today have to learn about because everything is presented to you from a depot somewhere. You had to feed most of time from meals that you made up yourself. That’s another story, But that was quite an experience in the 1940’s of getting up there with some men with no transportation, and then getting home, it was a good experience.
1LT MACDONALD: In September of 1940, the National Guard was federalized and there was a very well know song throughout the country “So Long Dear, I’ll Be Back In A Year” only it didn’t turn out that way, did it, Sir?
COL. MCLEAN: Things were changed. We went into, we were inducted into the service for a period of a year, during the course of which President Roosevelt saw fit to extend it to 15 months. During the period of extension, the Japanese saw fit to add their extension for an indefinite period of time. We found ourselves with a different mission and a different outlook, and a totally different view from wherever you sat. At the time, of induction, I was a 1LT in Infantry Rifle Company, and we went to what was Camp Dix, New Jersey, a barren, deserted place used only in the summertime for rifle practice by the active Army, and the training of the Citizens Military Training Corp. at that post. I found myself upon arrival at Dix, give a job of Mess Officer, to run a consolidated Mess for units of 1st Battalion, plus the Service Company in band on the 113th Infantry Regiment, about a thousand people to feed 3 times a day, with a crew, a mess crew whom I never seen before except for those out of my own unit. And, a problem of first organizing the building in which we were going to operate out of which was woefully small for anything. Second was to organize a menu, The only instruction by Battalion commander gave me was: “Mac, don’t repeat the menu more often than once in 10 days, and we’ll be alright.” Other than that, I only had to worry about the money. We, at that time, had 42¢ a man, per day. And, if you ran over that, there was a monthly accounting, and somebody had to come up with the difference. I’ll tell you, it wasn’t going to be me. But, we had to feed them 3 meals a day. The Mess Officer, the Hess Sergeant had to come up with their own menu, write their own menus, procure their own food, store it, prepare it, and serve it, and in the interim, keep everything spotlessly clean. This was a major task, and we did it. We learned a great deal.
I talked earlier about improvisation; this required improvisation. There weren’t enough stoves, ranges in the mess hall to take care of preparing food for that number of men. We were wound up digging outdoor trenches, fire trenches on which we baked, boiled, broiled, did whatever was necessary under a tentfly. Rain, snow, sleet, hail the other things, but we did it, and it was a tremendous experience. Later the Army realized everybody was competing in the same market to buy the elements of a menu, and they went into the business of mass production of menus at a centralized location so that everybody was using the same menu, and a mass purchasing of food and items for the menu, and issuing from a central point to all companies. But, this took quite a while, and in the interim, we were trying to store a week or ten days supply of eggs in a place designed for only 24 hours, and tons of potatoes in places designed for 150 pounds. This was quite a problem.
Subsequently, I got a new job, but which I knew nothing, and nobody else knew anything. I was a Personnel Officer of the 113th Infantry Regiment, a brand new invention, It was interesting during this time we got a new Regimental Commander, a finer gentleman you would never meet anywhere, Julius Ox Adler, who was one of the, probably the editor of the New York Times, I say a finer gentleman you never met anywhere else, but a real soldier, who was an infantryman, who loved the job, who worked hard at it. Anybody, who during the course of the war, which came on later, anybody who wore the crest of the 113th Infantry was always taken care of in very fine ways by COL Adler’s wife at the New York USO. She recognized the emblem and first pick of the theaters. Also, he was a very fine friend of a gentleman named Paterson, who happened to be the Secretary of War. It was not uncommon to find in our BOQ, Secretary Paterson having private conversations with Julius. They were old buddies from WWI, and before, who had gone through the Citizens Training Camp of that day. They were commissioned as 2LT’s in WWI, it was interesting. After serving as the Personnel Officer with not much to do, with a very fine gentleman, Jack Reed, who was the regimental adjutant for about a period of a month.
As a matter of fact in November, COL Adler called me and another gentleman into his office and said “there’s nothing personal in what I am about to do, some other people would be perfectly happy with the way you gentlemen do you jobs, but I am no.” I thought, oh God, I’m sacked, Huh, huh. He said “McLean, starting tomorrow you are the Company Commander of Company I” and I thought now, how in the hell did I inherit this good fortune to become a Company Commander? And, I took command of Company I on November 15 of 1940, barely 2 months after we were inducted. I commanded that company with time out to attend infantry school at Ft. Benning and a couple other things until, I think it was about the 1st of October of 1942. So, I commanded the company during the period of Pearl Harbor, into WWII. We were, when Pearl Harbor happened, we were on route by road, from Carolina maneuvers to Ft. Dix, and the Sunday it happened, being very, very, poor communications in those days we didn’t know anything about it until we pulled into a bivouac area someplace in Virginia, a cow pasture, well marked by the cows, that evening, and a few people who had battery operated radios with them, heard the message around noon time of the happening of Pearl Harbor and that we were at war. There’s an entirely different complexion.
I remember the following day we moved up through Virginia into Pennsylvania, into the battle ground at Gettysburg, where we were going to spend the night; and all along the road people were out waving flags as we went by. A totally different concept; we were on the move: they thought we were going somewhere, but we were going back to Ft. Dix after having been somewhere. We were not at Ft. Dix very long, and we were taken out of the 44th Division of the 113th Infantry Regiment was relieved from assignment from the 44th Division and assigned to Headquarters, First Army, and given the job of patrolling the coasts of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and part of Maryland.
This we did for the next 11 months until I left to go into the Inspector General’s department, where I served with the 4th Mechanized Division for a period of 6 months or more, and, then went out to a command on the West coast in Ft. Lewis, Washington who were also defending the coast of the United States from invasion by the Japanese. They had had some shells logged at them, and was totally different picture. From there I went to join Headquarters 23rd Corp, and went with them overseas into England, France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, and spent 13 months over there. I returned to the United States in 1946.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, when the war ended and 1947 came around, you were recruited back to the New Jersey National Guard, and you were recruited by your former Battalion Commander, and, its rather interesting circumstances. Would you tell us about that, please?
COL. MCLEAN: Yes, I’d like to. I was sitting home quietly one evening minding my own business when I got a call from an old friend, and my former Battalion Commander in active duty during WWII, a LT COL William E. Heardman, who was a friend of longstanding, and who was also the military editor for the Paterson Evening News, and was very much interested in the New Jersey National Guard. He had been visiting at the Headquarters 50th Armored Division with then COL Wolf, the Chief of Staff, and Major General Powell, the Division Commander. When some mention was made of the fact that he was searching for a job there, he discovered he was averaged and grey for any job they had as a LT COL, but there was a vacancy on their staff for an Inspector General, LT COL, He said “I know just the guy, Charlie McLean.” They discussed it a while, and either GEN Powell or COL Wolf asked them to give me a call to see if I was interested, which he did. In their conversation they pointed out to him there was a vacancy in that section for a Warrant Officer. that he was eligible to take the job as a Warrant Officer in the Inspector General’s section, and he thought that was a good idea.
So, he called me and asked me if I’d be interested in the job and I said “Sure, sure, I’d like to give it a chance and see what it’s about.” It was agreeable to GEN Wolf and GEN Powell, but, Bill said “there’s one catch here Charlie,” I said “what’s that?” he said “you have to take me as a Warrant Officer in your section,” and I said “Good God, Bill, you were my Battalion Commander!” He said “that’s alright, we know one another well enough to be able to get around that.” And we did, Bill served with me in the Inspector General Section for 2 or 3 years, and we roamed the state of New Jersey and doing the things GEN Powell and COL Wolf wanted and we had some interesting times and it was a great source of pleasure. Incidentally, in order to take this job, I had to begin a series of things which, I think, might be a bit unusual. It created a situation which an officer was promoted to the rank of Major, and to the rank of LT COL at 3 different times in his career, and that happened to me. GEN Powell had a policy of taking new people aboard on his staff. He would take them in one grade below the TOE grade, in this case LT COL, he said “I’d be happy to have you, Mac, if you come in and serve a period of time as Major first.”
I swallowed a great deal of pride and said I’d be happy to. I think within a period of 6 to 9 months, he and GEN Wolf decided I was good enough, and I was promoted to LT COL for a second time. Subsequently, through the good graces of GEN Donald W. McArland, and COL Wolf, who decided they must have a full time IG, I was asked to take that job as a full time IG in January of 1949. The State’s finances precluded paying a LT COL with all my years of services, they said would you do it as a Major with all your years of service, and I said I’d be happy to. I took that job which 1 held until 1965, and I went into the job again, as a Major for time number 3, and within a year and a half, the State found enough money to afford a LT COL. That was in 1951, April, I think, 1951, promoted for the third time the exhalted rank of LT COL. That’s the story of the 3 promotions to Major LT COL.
1LT MACDONALD: COL McLean, you served 19 years as the IG 50th Armored Division, later on, of course, you became Director of Personnel at Headquarters, State Headquarters in Trenton. Now during all those years, you came to know some prominent men in the National Guard, and three names particularly come to mind: GEN McGowan, GEN Wolf, and GEN Cantwell. In that particular order, would you give us your recollections and rememberances of duty with those gentlemen?
LT COL MCLEAN: Oh, I’d like to very much, We left out one officer who should not go unmentioned, and that is GEN Cliff Powell, who was the first Commander of the 50th Armored Division under whom I served. A real gentleman. Each of these four people were four totally different individuals, and each one of them contributed enormously to the development of the New Jersey National Guard, and the National Guard of the United States as a whole, GEN McGowan ultimately became the Chief of the National Guard Bureau for a period of, I think, 6 years, GEN Cantwell became, in addition to other things, the President of the Adjutant General’s Association for a number of years, and the President of the National Guard Association of the United States for 6 or 8 years; a long term.
They had a personal impact on everything that occurred, GEN Wolf had a significant impact. Working with these gentlemen was an education in itself. Each one was extraordinarily different from the other, and each complimented the others. GEN McGowan was a gregarious, outgoing individual who liked being with soldiers down on the ground, and this is where you would find him. He kept and eye on everything; he knew everybody personally, and loved to deal with them on a first name basis without regard to their rank or position. He was the political type of person, not in the sense that he achieved his ends through political dealings or machinations, but then that he wanted to be with people. He was a great trainer in developing training techniques and methods, In building. he was responsible for our very early acquisition of new armories, even though they were not big, showy places, they served the purpose. He was an innovator; he changed things. He asked why are we doing it this way? Isn’t there a better way? How can we improve this? Whether it was the organization of supply rooms, or organization of training, the development of unit messes, the training of mess personnel, the training of supply personnel, the training of training people. This we did on the ground long before National Guard Bureau supplied us with full time duty people to handle training, supply, and other things. We did it our way.
Nero Wolf was the supreme trainer, and the planner, and the executor. He was a great teacher. He planned everything in detail and it always worked right. He had a facility for being at the critical place at the critical time, and he planned to be there in advance. He developed staff officers, he developed commanders. He took great delight in being first, and we were first in many, many things. We took delight in solving insoluble problems. He and GEN Allen were primarily responsible for the methods used today in transporting troops from New Jersey to Camp Drum and elsewhere, over the high speed limited access turnpikes with the rest halts and the overnight camping places. This was worked out in detail, and what was home to fine point, we were able to move all of the New Jersey National Guard over the road in something like 48 hours, as much as 450 miles without a serious accident. This involved sometimes as many as 2000-2200 vehicles and 14,000 individuals. This took extraordinary coordination on the part of everybody involved. These are the things we learned to do under GEN Powell, McGowan, and Wolf.
GEN Cantwell was a part of it when he was the Divarty Executive Officer and Divarty Commander, and later as the Chief of Staff. I went to work for GEN Cantwell when he was Chief of Staff of the Department of Defense of New Jersey as his Military Support Plans Officer. I got to be too old, and too much rank to be the Inspector General of the New Jersey National Guard any longer. In that job we were required to plan for the employment of all military forces in the State of Ne Jersey, active and reserve. Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, etc. in developing plans in assistance to civil authorities initially limiting it to consideration of tact with employing nuclear weapons. Subsequently, this was expanded to include providing military support for civil authorities in such things as civil disturbances, and natural disasters, which became a very large responsibility of the military forces in the State of New Jersey, particularly, the National Guard. Not a pleasant task, sometimes, but essential.
After developing that section and getting it running, and initiating the plans, 2½–3 years later, GEN Cantwell called me in and said “I need you for another job, that we have to start.” Here I started again from scratch as the Technician Personnel Officer. Technician’s previously had been State employees paid out of federal funds. They had no civilian rights as federal employees. They had no rights to pensions, medical or hospital coverage, or anything else out of the federal government. In 1968, the Congress of the U.S. saw fit to change that and make our technicians federal employees in every sense of the word except they were not extended civil service recognition. They had civil service grade structures, pay structures, health provisions and retirement benefits, etc. It took a new force to administer the programs that came into being. GEN Cantwell said “I got a problem, Mac, I’d appreciate it if you’d move over and take this job.” I had to explain to him I had no idea what it was all about. He said “you’ll find out soon enough, and you’11 solves the problems.” We did, we organized from scratch a new personnel office and we had a very interesting time developing that, and becoming among other things, interested in Unions in the National Guard, in the Army, in the civilian structure. Very interesting time, and I kept that job until I retired in November of 1972.
1LT MACDONALD: Sir, in 1972, after a total of 43 years, a virtual lifetime of continuous service in the Armed Forces, you retired. What were some of the thoughts and memories going through your mind on that last day that you served as a COL in the New Jersey National Army National Guard, and also, what was the happiest moment you had in those 4 decades of service?
LT COL MCLEAN: Well, this is a matter of mixed emotions of all kinds, I guess, I had no great regrets about retiring. I had known for years that age 60 was the target date, and when you reach that age, you step aside. I had been taught very early in my career that one of my principal jobs, in any job I had, was to teach other people to take my job, This is what I used to tell the people, my subordinates in my sections, in my work. My job, one of my important jobs, is to teach you to take my job. You’re going to have a hell of a job getting from me, but I’ll teach you all I know. This is what I did. I think I left a lot of people behind who knew a great deal because I had been there, as I had known a great deal because of people I had come in contact with throughout the years: the McGowan’s, the Wolf’s, the Cantwell’s, the people I met in the act of service who filled me in about stuff, That’s the way I felt when I retired. I was glad to retire, I was going to have a lot of time to do the things I wanted to do, and I had had a most satisfying career. I never had a job I disliked. I never worked with people I disliked. As to the happiest moments, I don’t know what was the happiest moments. It depends upon where I sat.
I guess, I think one of the happiest moments was the time I completed the requirements of Command General Staff College and was granted the, was promoted to the rank of a full COL. I think everybody aspires to that, and you work your butt off to get it, and its a big moment when you do get it. There are things probably are better. I don’t know, maybe I was as happy when I was promoted to be a Mess SGT, or Supply SGT as an enlisted man, and I got a chance to change things in that mess hall, and in the mess operation. That made me very happy. There are other times. I was happy when I was made a Company Commander. That was a supreme achievement, to be a Company Commander on active duty in the US Army, with 185 men. That was a real, very happy moment. I think probably those 3 things gave me opportunities to do things, and people have said about me in the National Guard that, I at times, was a controversial figure, only because I had wanted to change some things that I thought should be changed, and I had the opportunities to change them, and I did.