The Pittsburgh Press (April 28, 1944)
NAVY SECRETARY KNOX DIES
Former ‘Rough Rider’ succumbs suddenly to heart ailment
Republican named to Cabinet in 1940
Washington (UP) –
Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, a former soldier who helped build the U.S. Fleet into the greatest floating force the world has ever known, died today as the time of his country’s greatest battles approached. He was 70.
Mr. Knox, Boston-born Republican publisher serving in a Democratic administration, died of a heart malady which struck him Sunday in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he had gone to attend the funeral of a former business partner, J. A. Muehling.
On his return to Washington, his physician ordered him to bed at his home here. On Tuesday, he suffered another and worse heart attack.
Announced by Forrestal
The Secretary’s death occurred at 1:08 p.m. EWT. The announcement was made by Acting Secretary of the Navy James V. Forrestal.
In solemn tones, Mr. Forrestal made the announcement over the department’s loudspeaker system so that all employees might know. He said that “with regret” he had to tell them the news.
Mr. Knox’s death was also announced to all naval personnel establishments ashore and afloat all over the world in a dispatch signed by Mr. Forrestal.
Mr. Forrestal directed that the colors be displayed at half-mast on all ships and at all shore establishments of the Navy until sunset on the day of burial, which will be announced later.
Memorial services ordered
He also directed that, to the extent permitted by war operations, special memorial services be conducted on “an appropriate day.”
The dispatch said:
Because the nation is at war, the firing of salutes and the wearing of mourning badges shall be dispensed with.
The loudspeaker announcement carried the news to thousands of Navy employees in their offices and at lunch in Navy cafeterias over town.
At Mr. Knox’s bedside when he died were Mrs. Knox, Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Mrs. Ralph A. Bard, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury John L. Sullivan, Dr. Fred Bushmeyer (pastor of the Mount Pleasant Congregational Church), John F. O’Keefe (vice president of The Chicago Daily News) and Capt. Lyman S. Perry (aide to the Secretary).
At the time of Mr. Knox’s death, the Navy – already capable of assembling 1,000-plane assault forces against the Japanese – was steadily building up toward the climactic battles of the Pacific and the invasion of Western Europe.
Forrestal Acting Secretary
It was believed that the man Mr. Knox selected as his Under Secretary, Mr. Forrestal, would continue as Acting Secretary, at least until after the political conventions this summer.
President Roosevelt nominated Mr. Knox as Secretary of the Navy June 20, 1940, just before the Republican National Convention. At the same time that he named another Republican, Henry L. Stimson, as Secretary of War, Mr. Knox took office July 11, 1940.
The administration called the appointments a bid for national unity. Reaction was mixed, however, and some Republicans demanded that Mr. Knox – who had been defeated as GOP vice-presidential candidate in 1936 – be read out of the party. Nothing was ever done, however, toward that end.
Mr. Knox, who was president and publisher of The Chicago Daily News, entered the administration at a time when this country was preparing to become “the arsenal of democracy.” Under his direction, the Fleet was expanded as never before.
Then came the Pearl Harbor debacle, and it was Mr. Knox’s job to nurse the stricken Navy along until repairs and new construction could make it once again superior to the Japanese fleet.
This task was accomplished in an amazingly short time – as witness the battles of the Coral Sea, Midway, and Guadalcanal, and the gigantic carrier force attacks of Truk and Palau.
Until a few weeks before his death, Mr. Knox was a man of robust health, large of frame, friendly and dynamic. Then he suffered an attack of influenza from which he was recuperating when the final illness struck.
In his younger days, Mr. Knox was almost a swashbuckling figure. He rode with “Teddy” Roosevelt’s “Rough Riders” and when the United States entered World War I, he went overseas as a captain of cavalry, a commission he received in 1917.
In France, he commanded a section of the 78th Division’s Ammunition Train. His outfit fought through some of the bloodiest battles of that war, including Saint-Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne.
Surviving Mr. Knox are his widow (the former Annie Reid) and his three sisters, Mrs. Herbert L. Fairfield of Dayton, Ohio, and Miami, Florida; Mrs. Fred Reed of Chicago, and Miss Elizabeth Knox of Grand Rapid, Michigan.
Mr. Forrestal’s dispatch to all Navy stations said that “the Navy has suffered a great loss.”
Mr. Forrestal said:
Throughout his entire career in public life, in journalism, in the armed services, and as Secretary of the Navy, he devoted himself unremittingly and without reserve to the best interests of his country and of the naval service. His active leadership during the current struggle was an inspiration which will be sorely missed.
First attack Sunday
The Navy said the first heart attack last Sunday was diagnosed as coronary occlusion. Nevertheless, Mr. Knox left Manchester for New York that evening.
That night, while in New York, he had what he thought was an attack of indigestion. He went on to Washington by train Monday, telling acquaintances he felt better.
But on Tuesday morning, about two hours after he arrived at his office in the Navy Department, he showed evidences of further illness. He returned to his home and suffered a more severe heart attack while going to bed Tuesday afternoon.
Mr. Knox was christened William Franklin, but he preferred his nickname, Frank, and used it for his official signatures.
As a disciple of Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Knox was a firm advocate of a big Navy. When he became Secretary, the Fleet numbered only 344 combat ships.
Although various programs of expansion were underway at the time, Mr. Knox felt they were not enough and he fought vigorously for more and more fighting ships. This year, the fleet is scheduled to attain a strength of about 1,000 combat ships.
Mr. Knox’s friendliness was one of his outstanding characteristics. He was an inveterate joke-trader, but was not much of a partygoer.
Impatient with quibblers
He spoke frankly and was impatient with quibblers. He was the first to disclose the heavy U.S. losses at Tarawa and the first to reveal that our forces were not fully on the alert at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack. He was one of the few Cabinet officers in Washington who met with the press as often as twice a week.
Mr. Knox was probably the most-traveled War Cabinet member of all time. He went to Pearl Harbor for a personal inspection immediately after the Japanese attack. He flew to South America, to North Africa and Italy, and to the South Pacific. He underwent bombing raids at Guadalcanal and Espiritu Santo and watched the German retreat from Naples from a small naval craft within sight of the shores.
Born in Boston
A proponent of national preparedness, Mr. Knox was one of the most active supporters of the proposed trans-Arabian pipeline. He favored compulsory military training in peacetime and a National Service Act in wartime.
Born in Boston, on Jan. 1, 1874, the son of William Edwin Knox and Sarah Barnard Knox, he moved during his boyhood to Grand Rapids. He graduated from Alma College.
Mr. Knox was formerly city editor of The Grand Rapids Herald, and owner of The Sault Ste. Marie Journal and News-Record. Subsequently he became publisher of The Manchester Leader and Union.
Became Chicago publisher
In 1927, Mr. Knox was appointed general manager of the Hearst Newspapers and publisher of the Hearst Boston papers, the American and Daily Advertiser.
He resigned in December 1930, and in August 1931, became publisher of The Chicago Daily News.
After serving in the Spanish-American War, Mr. Knox became chairman of the Michigan Republican Committee and was vice chairman of Theodore Roosevelt’s Campaign Committee in 1912. He followed “TR” into the Progressive Party and was head of the Michigan delegation to the party’s Chicago convention in August 1912.
After “TR’s” defeat by the late Woodrow Wilson, Mr. Knox returned to the Republican Party and in 1936 sought the Vice Presidency as running mate to former Kansas Governor Alf M. Landon, the Republican candidate for President. He campaigned vigorously but, with Mr. Landon, was overwhelmingly defeated.