Stanley Hornbeck

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Stanley K. Hornbeck

Stanley Kuhl Hornbeck (May 4, 1883 – December 10, 1966)[1] was a diplomat, born in Franklin, Massachusetts. A Rhodes scholar and the author of eight books, he had a distinguished career in government service. He was chief of the State Department Division of Far Eastern Affairs (1928–1937), a special adviser to Secretary of State Cordell Hull (1937–1944), and ambassador to The Netherlands (1944–1947).

Diplomatic career[edit]

In November 1941, contemptuous of the Japanese capacity to challenge US strength, Hornbeck dismissed the fears of a young Foreign Service officer, Charles W. Yost, that Japan might initiate war out of desperation over the oil embargo imposed by the United States. Then, ten days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, after drafting with Secretary of State Cordell Hull a hardline memo laying down conditions for relaxation of the sanctions, Hornbeck wagered that Japan would relent and that war was not imminent. The note that Hull sent the Japanese on November 26, 1941, said that Japan would have to withdraw from Southeast Asia and China before the United States would resume the oil shipments. Confident that his tough approach would cause Japan to back down, Hornbeck wrote in a memorandum the following day:

For more than a decade, Hornbeck had urged the United States to pursue a policy of economic pressure on Japan. Although Hornbeck had been derided by historians for his ill-founded wager, some observers[who?] argue that he understood as well as any other US policymaker at the time the irreconcilable conflict between Japan and US interests. Some observers believe that had his recommendations been followed much earlier, Japanese power would have been significantly weakened.[3]

Hiss Case involvement[edit]

On September 2, 1948, Hornbeck wrote a letter Alger Hiss as follows:

September 2, 1948
Dear Alger:
In pursuance of what I volunteered to you when we talked last week, I want you to know that, having known you well for ten years and having had very close association with you in the Department of State during the years from 1939 to 1944–when you were my assistants and one of my "sparring partners"–I should be glad to testify in an forum that I have never known or though of your having been engaged in any doubtful or questionable activities , or of your having given indication of radical leanings or sympathies; that I at no time have suspected you of being a Communist or "fellow traveler"; that, short of conclusive proof, I would not now believe that you ever were either of these or that you ever have been knowingly a member of any "corp" chosen, favored or used by Communists in service of a Communist, subversive or disloyal purposes; that I have never in any connection found you to have been other than truthful; and that I consider you a gifted, high-principled, devoted and loyal citizen.
With cordial and all best wishes,
I am,
Yours ever,
Stanley K. Hornbeck
(Former Chief, Division of Far Eastern Affairs, Department of State;
Former Adviser on Political Relations, Department of State)[4]

William L. Marbury, Jr., Hiss's attorney in his libel suit against Whittaker Chambers, noted "Alger had been working for Hornbeck during the time when he had been meeting with General Clay on problems relating to China, and I was, therefore, especially interested in what Hornbeck had to say."[5]


  1. ^ Stanley Hornbeck at Find a Grave
  2. ^ Wohlstetter, Roberta (1962). Pearl Harber: Warning and Decision pp.264-265. Stanford University Press. 
  3. ^ Wall, John W. (1974). "Rule By Status in Tokugawa Japan". Journal of Japanese Studies. 
  4. ^ Hornbeck, Stanley (2 September 1948), (Letter to Alger Hiss), Maryland Historical Society: Alger Hiss Collection, 1934–1979, retrieved 29 September 2017 
  5. ^ Marbury, William L. (1981). "The Hiss-Chambers Libel Suit". Maryland Law Review. University of Maryland - Francis King Carey School of Law: 79. Retrieved 1 October 2017. 

External sourcess[edit]

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Stanley K Hornbeck". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
post created
United States Ambassador to the Netherlands
Succeeded by
Herman B. Baruch