Clark Clifford was more than just an aide to a US President. Of course, this position was incredibly commendable in and of itself, but vis-à-vis Israel, Zionism and the Jewish people, the man had a great influence. And to those back in the day who recognized his efforts, he was thanked.
On November 29, 1947, President Chaim Weizmann wrote a letter of thanks – the original of which is housed by The Shapell Manuscript Foundation in its ‘Between the Lines’ collection. He said: “Our mutual friend… has kept me informed of doings in Washington, and especially of your magnificent cooperation in many critical situations. In these days of struggle and readjustment we are desperately in need of understanding friendships, and it is good to know that we have in you a genuine friend of our cause. I assure you, and I wish you would in turn assure your great Chief, that we desire nothing but peace and amity with our neighbours, and that we have no aggressive designs on any of them. We shall always be mindful of the Biblical injunction: ‘Zion will be rebuilt in Justice’.”
Clearly Clifford’s efforts were gratefully received by the Jews.
Clark Clifford achieved a lot – in many spheres – in his life. Born in 1906, he graduated law school from Washington University and worked in his field in Missouri for 15 years. It was during the Second World War that he became an assistant naval aide and was thereafter promoted to naval aide to the president of America, in the Navy. Two years after the war, he was appointed as general counsel and it was through this position that Clifford participated in the drafting of the National Security Act. Other political positions he held included adviser to John F. Kennedy and Stuart Symington, as well as later on, sitting on (and becoming chairman of ) the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.
Aside from his political career, Clifford was a successful lawyer in Washington. In this capacity he represented various large corporations, facilitating their work with various government regulations. One of his largest clients was Howard Hughes, owner of the Hughes Tool Company.
Together with General Maxwell Taylor, in the late 1960s, Clark Clifford went to Vietnam on a fact-finding tour and advised Lyndon B. Johnson to send more troops there if he wanted America to win the war. A year later he took over as Secretary Defense from Robert McNamara who had been pushing the President to go the other way vis-à-vis the war and the troops.
Clearly Clark Clifford did a lot in his life, both politically and in the world of business. But what he will be most remembered for by the Jews and the people of Israel is the influence he had on President Truman and America’s support for the State of Israel.