William Franklin Knox (January 1, 1874 – April 28, 1944) was an American politician, newspaper
editor and publisher. He was also the Republican vice presidential
candidate in 1936, and Secretary of the Navy
under Franklin D. Roosevelt
during most of World War II
. On December 7, 1941, Knox flanked by his assistant John O’Keefe walked into Roosevelt's White House study at approximately 1:30 p.m. EST announcing that Japan had attacked Pearl Harbor. Knox was mentioned by name in Adolf Hitler
's speech of December 11, 1941, in which Hitler asked for a German declaration of war against the United States
Born in Boston
, he attended Alma College
and served with the Rough Riders
during the Spanish–American War
. After the war, he became a newspaper editor in Grand Rapids, Michigan
and a prominent supporter of the Republican Party. He advocated U.S. entrance into World War I
and served as an artillery officer in France. The 1936 Republican National Convention
nominated a ticket of Alf Landon
and Knox, and they were defeated by Roosevelt and John Nance Garner
in the 1936 election.
After World War II
broke out, Knox supported aid to the Allies
. In 1940, Roosevelt appointed him as Secretary of the Navy in hopes of building bipartisan support. He presided over a naval buildup and pushed for the internment of Japanese Americans
. Knox served as Secretary of the Navy until his death in 1944.
William Franklin Knox was born in Boston, Massachusetts
. His parents were both Canadian
: his mother, Sarah C. (Barnard), was from Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island
, and his father, William Edwin Knox, was from New Brunswick
. When he was nine, his family moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan
, where his father ran a grocery store. He attended Alma College
in Michigan, where he was a member of the Zeta Sigma fraternity. He left in his senior year to join the US Army
for the Spanish–American War
. He later supplemented his studies with additional readings and coursework, and the college's board of trustees awarded him a bachelor of arts
degree as a member of the class of 1898.
He served in Cuba
with Theodore Roosevelt
's famous Rough Riders
, the First Volunteer Cavalry Regiment.
["Who is Frank Knox?", Harvard University.]
He was a member of Troop D commanded by Captain Robert Huston. As a member of D Troop, Knox fought in Cuba
at the Battle of Las Guasimas
, and the Battle of San Juan Hill
Newspapers and politics
After the war, Knox became a newspaper reporter in Grand Rapids, which was the beginning of a career that included ownership of several papers.
He changed his first name to Frank around 1900. In 1912, as founding editor of New Hampshire's ''Manchester Leader'', one forerunner to the ''New Hampshire Union Leader
'', he supported Theodore Roosevelt
ticket. However, with that exception, he adhered to the Republican Party
During World War I
, Knox was an advocate of U.S military preparedness and then of participation in the war. When the U.S. declared war on Germany
, he rejoined the Army. He reached the rank of Major
and served as an artillery officer in France. After the war he returned to the newspaper business.
In 1930, Frank Knox became publisher and part owner of the ''Chicago Daily News
''. In the 1936 election
, he was the Republican nominee for vice president
under Alf Landon
. Landon, Knox and former President Herbert Hoover
were the only supporters of Theodore Roosevelt in 1912 who were later named to a Republican ticket. They lost in a landslide, winning just Maine
against the Democratic
ticket of President Franklin D. Roosevelt
and Vice President John Nance Garner
World War II
During World War II
, Knox again was an advocate of preparedness. As an internationalist, he supported aid to the Allies
and opposed isolationism
. In July 1940, he became Secretary of the Navy
under Roosevelt, part of the Democratic president's effort to build bipartisan support for his foreign and defense policies following the defeat of France
. Knox carried out Roosevelt's plan to expand the US Navy
into a force capable of fighting in both the Atlantic
and the Pacific
When a new naval officer on Knox's staff told him, "I'm no New Dealer
," Knox replied, "I fought the President with every resource at my command. But now I've squared my politics with my conscience and I'm proud to serve under such a great man. At that," Knox added, "it's a good thing to have a couple of fellows around here who ''aren't'' New Dealers!"
He traveled extensively to Navy installations worldwide.
Internment of Japanese Americans
Knox had called for the internment of Japanese Americans
as early as 1933, and he continued to do so in his new position. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor
, he visited Hawaii
to investigate the sabotage that he believed to have taken place there. Upon his return, he issued a public statement that "the most effective Fifth Column
work of the entire war was done in Hawaii with the exception of Norway," and he accused Japanese Hawaiians of impeding US defense efforts in a report to the President. Although the FBI and military intelligence later disproved those claims, Knox continued to push for the internment of Japanese Americans and barred them from service in the Navy during the war.
Following a brief series of heart attacks, Secretary Knox died in Washington, D.C.
on April 28, 1944 while still in office. He was buried on May 1, 1944 at Arlington National Cemetery
, in Arlington, Virginia
Posthumous honors and memorials
The , commissioned in December 1944, was named in his honor.
["Frank Knox (1874–1944)", ''Online Library of Selected Images'', NHC.] ["USS ''Frank Knox''", ''USN Ships'', NHC.]
On May 31, 1945 he received posthumously the Medal for Merit
from President Harry S. Truman
[Sec. of War Henry Stimson's diary and papers May 31, 1945 – June 6, 1945]
He also received the Spanish Campaign Medal
and the World War I Victory Medal
for his previous military service.
In 1948 his widow, Annie Reid Knox endowed the Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships
, which allow scholars from Australia
, New Zealand
, the Union of South Africa
, and the United Kingdom
to pursue graduate study at Harvard University
, or by recent graduates of Harvard University
to travel and research in the countries of the British Commonwealth of Nations
Frank Knox School on the grounds of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station
was named for him.
After the German massacre of civilians
in the Czech
village of Lidice
in June 1942 in reprisal for the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich
, Knox said
If future generations ask us what we are fighting for n World War Two we shall tell them the story of Lidice.
* List of members of the American Legion
* List of U.S. political appointments that crossed party lines
* Frank Knox Memorial Fellowships
* Ed J. Davenport
, handled public relations for Frank Knox, 1929–32
:''This article incorporates text in the public domain
from the United States Department of the Navy
* Jordan, Jonathan W., ''American Warlords: How Roosevelt's High Command Led America to Victory in World War II'' (NAL/Caliber 2015).
* ''Frank Knox: Roughrider in FDR's War Cabinet'', by Christopher D. O'Sullivan (forthcoming, 2015).
Category:1936 United States vice-presidential candidates
Category:20th-century American politicians
Category:Alma College alumni
Category:American military personnel of the Spanish–American War
Category:American military personnel of World War I
Category:American people of World War II
Category:Burials at Arlington National Cemetery
Category:Businesspeople from Boston
Category:Businesspeople from Grand Rapids, Michigan
Category:Candidates in the 1936 United States presidential election
Category:Franklin D. Roosevelt administration cabinet members
Category:Infectious disease deaths in Washington, D.C.
Category:Medal for Merit recipients
Category:Members of the American Legion
Category:New Hampshire Republicans
Category:Politicians from Grand Rapids, Michigan
Category:Republican Party (United States) vice presidential nominees
Category:United States Army officers
Category:United States Secretaries of the Navy