Thorpe, Elliot Raymond

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Thorpe, Elliot Raymond, born 26-12-1897 in Westerly, Rhode Islands, military career encompassed two World Wars, the reconstruction of Japan and a tour of duty in post-war Thailand. He stood guard in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, when the World War I treaty was signed on 28-06-1919. In 1945 he was on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur. He may have been one of the last living survivors of both ceremonies. While these were momentous and singular events, General Thorpe’s unheeded warning about the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941  was arguably his most memorable moment. Serving as a military attaché in Dutch-controlled Java in 1941 when the Dutch broke a Japanese diplomatic code, Thorpe was informed that intercepted messages referred to planned Japanese attacks on Hawaii, the Philippines and Thailand. He immediately cabled the information to Washington, but this warning was ignored. A week later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. In 1943 then Colonel Thorpe was knighted in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Wilhelmina

   of the Netherlands for his work as American Liaison in the Netherlands Indies. In 1945, Thorpe was promoted to Brigadier General. General Thorpe was honored in 1949 with the title of Knight Commander in the Most Noble Order of the Crown of Thailand for his work as military attaché of the American Embassy in Bangkok. Brigadier General Thorpe retired in 1949 after serving 32 years in the US Army.Elliott Thorpe attended Rhode Island State College for one year as a mechanical engineering student before entering the United States Army in 1916. Even though he did not graduate from the College, he always considered himself an alumnus and was very supportive of efforts to build an adequate campus student activity centre. The post-war campus burgeoned and extra space for the students was added for the campus by using numerous Quonset huts. One of these huts also served as the student activity centre. He supported a fundraising effort for the construction of a War Memorial Student Union by donating his veteran’s bonus check. He also served as guest speaker at a benefit dinner held on 27-10-1950 at the Sheraton-Biltmore Hotel in Providence.  The War Memorial Student Union was built in 1950 largely through fund raising efforts spearheaded by General Thorpe and other alumni.In 1946, the General presented the College with a Japanese temple gong which was meant to be displayed in the Union. The gong disappeared shortly after its receipt. While efforts were made to recover the gong, it was never found. Photographs and typescript translations of the gong’s inscriptions are all that remain. Thorpe also donated a ceremonial sword surrendered to him by Major General Yoshio Nasu of the Imperial Japanese Army  on the occasion of the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri. In 1969, General Thorpe presented an autographed copy of his memoir East Wind Rain to the University. Both the sword and the book are presently kept in the Special Collections Reading Room. On 11-06-1951, General Elliott Thorpe received an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during the institution’s first commencement as the University of Rhode Island. In 1952, General Thorpe was the endorsed Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. He abruptly withdrew because of an investigation by the U.S. Army’s Counter Intelligence Corps questioning his loyalty. He indignantly felt that the investigation had been politically motivated. The investigation had been a misunderstanding resulting from a 1951 speech addressing the Rhode Island Turkey Growers and Poultry Growers Association in which he criticized the shortage of food growing areas in Japan and the corruption in the nationalistic Chinese regime of Chiang Kai Shek. He also called for “a greater respect for freedom of speech in America as long as it is not subversive.” After a public outcry, the Army quickly cleared the General and apologized for the unwarranted investigation. He and then President Carl Woodward were close friends.They continued to maintain a close correspondence when Thorpe retired to Sarasota, Florida, in 1960. During his retirement, he served as commissioner with the Whitfield Volunteer Fire Department. General Thorpe continued to be in demand as a speaker and was sought for interviews by historians and journalists for his first hand account of post war Japan. Shortly before his death, Thorpe was interviewed for the 1989 BBC production of Sacrifice at Pearl Harbour.

Death and burial ground of Thorpe, Elliot Raymond.

Eliott Thorpe died very old age 91, on 27-06-1989 and was buried with his wife Emilie, who died age 84, on 19-09-1978, on Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C, in Section 11. Also buried in Section 11, the Lieutenant General, Commanding General, Normandy, Henry Aurand ,Air Force Brigadier General, Chief of Staff Second Air Force, Nathan Forrest III General Lieutenant, Commander of the 10th Mountain Division, Georg Hays, Lieutenant Colonel and Fighter ace, “The Boise Bee”, Duane Beeson, the Flyer Ace, Marine Corps Brigade General, Carlson’s Raiders, “Gung Ho”, Evans Carlson and General, Vogues Forests, 36th Infantry Division, he arrested Reichsmarshal, Herman Goering, John Dahlquist.

   

Cemetery location of Thorpe, Elliot Raymond.

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