Sherman Miles

Sherman Miles (December 5, 1882[2][3] October 7, 1966[1][2]) was a General of the U.S. Army. He was Chief of the Military Intelligence Division in 1941, when the attack on Pearl Harbor happened.

Sherman Miles
Born(1882-12-05)December 5, 1882
Washington, D.C.[1]
DiedOctober 7, 1966(1966-10-07) (aged 83)
Beverly, Massachusetts
Place of burial
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service19051946
RankMajor General
Battles/warsWorld War I
World War II
AwardsDistinguished Service Medal
RelationsNelson A. Miles, father
Other workMember of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts, 19471952


Miles' parents were General Nelson A. Miles and Mary Hoyt Sherman Miles (niece to Civil War General William T. Sherman).[2] In 1901, he enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he was graduated in 1905.[4] In 1909, he married Yulee Noble; they had two children.[3][5] He was a hereditary companion of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States.

During his military career, he held various posts as military attaché in Europe. In 1940, he became the head of the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. Army in George C. Marshall's General Staff. Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he was reassigned from that position to that of Commanding General of the First Service Command in Boston.

Early military career

Miles entered West Point on June 11, 1901, from where he graduated on June 13, 1905 and was commissioned as second lieutenant, 11th Cavalry. With the 11th Cavalry, he was sent in 1906 to Cuba by then Secretary of War William Howard Taft. Upon his return, he was transferred to the 3rd Field Artillery and promoted to first lieutenant in 1907.[4]

From 1912 to 1914, he was military attaché on the Balkans. During World War I, he served as military observer in Russia until 1916. He returned to the U.S. and was detailed to the General Staff Corps. In 1918, he was as an observer at the Argonne Offensive. As a General Staff member, he was temporarily promoted first to major in 1917, then to lieutenant colonel in 1918, and in 1919 to colonel.[6]

Interwar period

Immediately after the armistice, Miles was assigned to the U.S. peace negotiation team. As a field member of the "Coolidge Mission" led by Archibald Cary Coolidge, he traveled through former Austria-Hungary to assess the situation and to make demarcation recommendations for the benefit of the U.S. negotiators at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919.[7]

On January 27, 1919 Miles led the delegation of the Coolidge Mission which, on the way to Carinthia, visited the city of Marburg (today Maribor in Slovenia). Prior to the First World War, Marburg had a population comprising 80% Austrian Germans and 20% Slovenes.[8] During Miles' visit, thousands of citizens of German ethnic origin gathered on the main city square, waving German Austria flags, many of which also decorated nearby buildings.[9] Slovenian military units commanded by Rudolf Maister killed between 11 and 13[10] German civilian protesters in a central Maribor square, during event known as Marburg's Bloody Sunday.

Regarding Carinthia, the Coolidge Mission focused on where to draw the future border between the newly formed Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes and Austria. The U.S. position before the Paris conference favored, like the British and French, a separation along ethnographic lines, i.e., a border along the river Drava (German: Drau), which would have split the economic and geographic region of the Klagenfurt basin. The Yugoslavs also favored this solution. Miles became instrumental in reversing this position.

In his field travels, he learned that many of the Slovene speakers in the region actually preferred to belong to Austria and had closer economic ties to the Klagenfurt area than to Slovenia. He proposed, instead, a border along the Karawanks further south. Through his reports, he was able to convince his superiors that the best way to settle the question was through self-determination. The U.S. team eventually convinced the British and French delegations in Paris, and finally it was decided that the area should remain undivided, and that the question of whether it should henceforth belong to Austria or to Yugoslavia was to be decided by a vote among the population of the area. In the plebiscite held on October 10, 1920, the population voted for Miles' border proposal.[11][12][13]

When these post-war assignments terminated, he returned to the U.S. and reverted to the rank of major in 1920.[7] In the 1920s, he attended various military schools (Army War College 1921-22, Coast Artillery School 1925-26, General Staff School 1926-27) and was posted to various units in the Coast Artillery and in the Field Artillery until the late 1930s.

From 1922 to 1925 he was military attaché at Constantinople in Turkey,[7] and was sent in 1924 to Teheran to investigate the murder of U.S. Vice Consul Robert Whitney Imbrie there.[14] Miles was promoted to lieutenant colonel in the Regular Army in 1929 and to colonel in 1935.

From September 1, 1938 on, he was commanding school troops at the United States Army Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.[15]

On September 1, 1939, he was promoted to brigadier general and served as military attaché in London for half a year before returning to the U.S., where he became a senior member of Army Chief of Staff General George C. Marshall's general staff in 1941. Miles was assigned as "Assistant Chief of Staff G-2", i.e., the head of the Military Intelligence Division (MID).[16]

The MID greatly expanded during his time as G-2, but, as Miles put it, "always in a piecemeal manner".[17] Qualified cryptography personnel were scarce, and Japanese-speaking personnel were also hard to come by. Miles' suggestions to set up an espionage service were ignored until June 1941,[17][18] when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed William J. Donovan as Coordinator of Information. Donovan's unit would eventually become the OSS, but it was independent from the MID and needed time to mature, which made for a difficult collaboration (if not to say a rivalry) between the MID and the OSS from the beginning and continuing throughout the war.[17]

World War II

The attack on Pearl Harbor ended Miles' career in the General Staff.[19] MID very much relied on intercepted Japanese radio messages. The decoded "Magic" messages were top-secret and circulated only in a very select circle of ten people comprising the General Staffs of the Army and the Navy, the Secretary of War, and the President.[20] No coherent analysis of these messages was done.[17] The warnings that the General Staff sent to Hawaii failed to stress the urgency because MID themselves did not consider the contents of the "Magic" intercepts received prior to the attack as particularly significant at that time.[21] In addition, communication channels in the U.S. military were convoluted due to the split commands of Army and Navy, each with their own intelligence branch,[22] and the last message to Hawaii before the attack was delayed and was decoded at Hawaii only after the attack had already begun.[20][23]

Ten days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Miles was sent on an inspection tour through South America to survey installations there and to make recommendations for military assistance to the Latin American countries;[24] Acting Assistant Chief of Staff G-2 became Brigadier General Raymond E. Lee.[25]

On January 28, 1942, Miles was promoted to major general and then reassigned as commanding general of the First Service Command (later re-designated as the First Service Corps) in Boston. The Service Commands, sub-entities of the Army Service Forces, were supporting services for the fighting forces.[26]

Miles served in this position for the duration of the war and retired from the Army on February 28, 1946. Upon his retirement, Miles received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army's highest non-combat decoration, in recognition of his wartime service.[16][27]

Later life

After his retirement from the Army, Miles served as a Republican member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1947 to 1952.[28] In 1948, he wrote the article "Pearl Harbor in Retrospect" in the July 1948 issue of The Atlantic, in which he gave his perspective on the events just prior to the attack.[29]

After the death of his wife Yulee in 1953, he married Edith Lawrence Coolidge, widow of Harold Jefferson Coolidge, Sr., in 1954.[3]

He died at the hospital in Beverly, Massachusetts after long illness[1] and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in the Miles Mausoleum on October 12, 1966.[5]


General Miles joined the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States as a Second Class Companion and, upon his father's death, became a Companion of the First Class.

Military awards

Army General Staff Identification Badge

Army Distinguished Service Medal
Army of Cuban Pacification Medal
Mexican Border Service Medal
World War I Victory Medal with three battle clasps
Army of Occupation of Germany Medal
American Defense Service Medal with Foreign Service Clasp
American Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Chevalier of the Legion of Honor


  1. The Washington Post, obituary of Sherman Miles, October 11, 1966.
  2. Find a grave: Sherman Miles, URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  3. Beer, Siegfried: "Sherman Miles vor und nach Kärnten 1919. Anmerkungen zu einer hauptsächlich nachrichtendienstlichen Karriere in der US-Armee", pp. 309317 in Valentin, H.; Haiden, S.; Maier, B. (eds.): Die Kärntner Volksabstimmung 1920 und die Geschichtsforschung, Verlag Johannes Heyn, Klagenfurt 2002. ISBN 3-85366-983-2.
  4. Cullum, George Washington: "Biographical register of the officers and graduates of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. since its establishment in 1802. Supplement vol. 5 (1900-1910) Archived 2013-03-17 at the Wayback Machine". URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  5. N.N.: Arlington National Cemetery Website: Sherman Miles, URL retrieved 2011-01-13.
  6. Cullum, George Washington: "Biographical register of the officers and graduates of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. since its establishment in 1802. Supplement vol. 6B (1910-1920) Archived 2010-05-31 at the Wayback Machine". URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  7. Cullum, George Washington: "Biographical register of the officers and graduates of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. since its establishment in 1802. Supplement vol. 7 (1920-1930) Archived 2013-03-17 at the Wayback Machine". URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  8. Osterreicheische statistik Herausgegeben von der K.K. Statistischen Zentralkommission. neue folge 1. band. Ergebnisse der volkszahlung vom 31. dezember 1910. - Wien. aus der kaiserlich-koniglichen hof und staatsdruckerel 1917. in kommission bei karl gerold's sohn
  9. Ude, Lojze (1961). "Boj za Maribor" (pdf) (in Slovenian). Slovenia: Zgodovinski časopis. p. 139. Retrieved January 11, 2011. Takoj po prihodu Američanov so se na hišah glavnih ulic, kmalu na to pa po vsem mestu, pojavile črno - rdeče - rumene trobojriice, frankfurtarce. Mariborsko nemško meščanstvo, pomešano z ljudmi, ki so prišli od dmigod, se je začelo zbirati v neprestano naraščajoče sprevode.
  10. "Jänner 1919: Der Bluttag von Marburg a. d. Drau". Die Presse (in German). January 30, 2009. Archived from the original on January 5, 2011. Retrieved January 5, 2011. Eine Salve nach der anderen feuerten die Soldaten in die nichtsahnende, wehr- und waffenlose Volksmenge, .... 13 Tote und etwa 60 Verwundete...
  11. Fräss-Ehrfeld, Claudia: "The Role of the United States of America and the Carinthian Question, 1918-1920", Slovene Studies 8/1 (1986), pp. 713. URL retrieved 2011-01-13.
  12. U.S. Department of State, Papers relating to the foreign relations of the United States, The Paris Peace Conference, 1919, vol XII. URL retrieved 2011-01-11.
  13. In Klagenfurt, a street was named after Miles in 1970. See Carinthia I: Mitteilungen des Geschichtsvereins für Kärnten, Vol. 194, 2004, p. 741. Also in the city of Völkermarkt in Carinthia, a street is named after Sherman Miles..
  14. Zirinsky, M.: "Blood, Power, and Hypocrisy: The Murder of Robert Imbrie and American Relations with Pahlavi Iran, 1924", in International Journal of Middle East Studies 18.3 (1986), pp. 275-292. URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  15. Cullum, George Washington: "Biographical register of the officers and graduates of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. since its establishment in 1802. Supplement vol. 8 (1930-1940) Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine". URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  16. Cullum, George Washington: "Biographical register of the officers and graduates of the U. S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y. since its establishment in 1802. Supplement vol. 9 (1940-1950) Archived 2011-07-20 at the Wayback Machine". URL retrieved 2011-01-12.
  17. Finnegan, John Patrick: Military Intelligence, Center for Military History, U.S. Army 1998, CMH pub 60-13, here Chapter 4: Military Intelligence in Crisis. URLs retrieved 2011-01-14.
  18. Life, Dec 2, 1940 issue, p. 94: These are U.S. Army's six foremost Generals, wrote even that "spies are considered un-American". URL retrieved 2011-01-14.
  19. Casey, Richard Gardiner: A delicate mission: the Washington diaries of R.G. Casey, 1940-42, ISBN 0-642-27662-5, p. 214: "25 December 1941 ... Amongst the various heads that have been rolled in the dust has been that of General Sherman Miles (U.S. Military Intelligence)... General Raymond Lee (late U.S. Military Attaché in London) has taken Sherman Miles' place."
  20. U.S. Congress, Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack, U.S. GPO, 1946, here "Chapter IV: Responsibilities in Washington, p. 180, "Policy with respect to dissemination of Magic". URLs retrieved 2011-01-18.
  21. Congress of the United States, 79th Congress, 1st session: Pearl Harbor attack: Hearings before the Joint Committee on the investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack, U.S. GPO 1946; testimony of Gen. Miles on November 29, 1945: p. 794ff.
  22. Congress of the United States, 79th Congress, 2nd session: Investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack: Report the Joint Committee on the investigation of the Pearl Harbor attack, U.S. GPO 1946; here in particular Part V: Conclusion and recommendations, p. 253.
  23. U.S. Army Pearl Harbor Board:Report of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, U.A. Army, 1944, here Chapter 3C: Critical Period: October 1 to December 7, 1941", p. 138ff, "December 7, 1941 Message". URLs retrieved 2011-01-18.
  24. Conn, Stetson; Fairchild, Byron: The Framework of Hemisphere Defense, Center of Military History, U.S. Army 1960, CMH pub 4-1; "Chapter VIII: General Military Relations With Latin America", p. 200ff. URL retrieved 2011-01-17.
  25. Mercado, Stephen C.: "FBIS Against the Axis, 1941-1945 (U)", Studies in Intelligence Fall/Winter 2001, issue 11, pp. 3343. CIA, 2001. Mentions on page 40 and in footnote 25 that Raymond E. Lee was Acting ACoS G-2 on December 26, 1941. URL retrieved 2011-01-17.
  26. Millet, John D.: The Organization and Role of the Army Service Forces, Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1954, CMH pub. 3-1. Here "Chapter XXIII: The Management of the Army Services Forces", p. 370. URLs retrieved 2011-01-12.
  27. After Marshall's reorganization of the General Staff, Maj. Gen. George V. Strong was G-2 from May 5, 1942 to Feb 6, 1944; then Maj. Gen. Clayton Bissell held that post until January 1946. C.f. Hewes, James E. Jr.: From Root to McNamara: Army Organization and Administration, Center of Military History, U.S. Army 1975, CMH pub 40-1; Appendix B: Principal Officials of the War Department and Department of the Army, 1900-1963, p. 389, and "Chapter III: Changes in the Marshall organization", p. 107. URLs retrieved 2011-01-13.
  28. Hayden, I.N., Grove, L.R.: Public officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (1951-1952), p. 237. URL retrieved 2011-01-13.
  29. Miles, Sherman: "Pearl Harbor in Retrospect", The Atlantic, July 1948. URL retrieved 2011-01-13.
Political offices
Preceded by
Henry L. Shattuck
Member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives from the 5th Suffolk District
1947 – 1953
Succeeded by
John Yerxa
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