From Chapter One:
The harsh words of the interoffice memo confounded him. If there was one thing young Capt. Edward C. Harwood had never feared it was authority, but this missive was the latest in a long series of menacing harangues that came from the brass hats in Washington. They did not agree with his interpretation of the Army officer’s mission.
Upon graduating from West Point at the end of World War I, he had sworn as an officer to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” The wording of this oath implied a conscientious and primary allegiance to the principles embodied in the founding document, and only secondarily to any superior officers or the sitting president, who were themselves subservient to the U.S. Constitution.
In 1933 after President Roosevelt’s first few months, Harwood had concluded that some of the administration’s policy recommendations were damaging to basic constitutional principles. In deference to his sworn oath, and in spite of his professional military duty of allegiance to the commander in chief, Harwood chose to step outside his role as an Army officer by speaking in public about his opinions (dressed in civilian clothes) and even publishing articles.
The Washington hierarchy did not approve. As expressed by one of their representatives, Brig. Gen. G.B. Pillsbury, chief of engineers, the young captain had a “complete misconception of the duties and responsibilities of an officer of the Army of the United States.” Harwood was a commissioned soldier and therefore must place himself at the mercy of his superior officers and of the president of the United States no matter what the inconvenience or dangers involved. He must not attempt to split himself into “two personalities” in an effort to skirt this military obligation.
He must abstain from political discussions of any kind. Since economics and politics are closely interwoven, his writings on economics, so long as he remains an officer, must be strictly curtailed.
Almost from the start of Harwood’s outspokenness, Army agents had begun investigating this embarrassing exercise of free speech on the part of one of their own. Some held him in contempt, but others were surprisingly sympathetic. On one occasion an inspector came to Harwood’s MIT office and sat down opposite him at the desk. The fellow took out one of Harwood’s articles and placed it in such a way that Harwood could read the marginal notes. Portions of printed text were underlined and the handwriting read: “Investigate and stop this—Lauchlin Currie, The White House.” Currie was a former Harvard professor of economics who had become one of Roosevelt’s close economic advisors. Obviously, at least some of the War Department’s prodding was initiated from higher up....