Gene La Rocque, Decorated Veteran Who Condemned Waste of War, Dies at 98
By ANITA GATES NOV. 4, 2016
Rear Adm. Gene La Rocque, a decorated Navy veteran who spoke out against the wastes of war, was labeled a traitor by some and went on to found the Center for Defense Information, a private think tank that was described as both pro-peace and pro-military, died on Monday in Washington. He was 98.
His death was confirmed by his son John.
Admiral La Rocque attracted particular attention when he gave an interview to Studs Terkel for his 1984 book, “The Good War: An Oral History of World War Two .”
“I hate it when they say, ‘He gave his life for his country,’ ” Admiral La Rocque told Mr. Terkel. “Nobody gives their life for anything. We steal the lives of these kids. We take it away from them.
“They don’t die for the honor and glory of their country. We kill them.”
In the same conversation, Admiral La Rocque described the State Department as having become “the lackey of the Pentagon” and lamented the loss of civilian control.
After retiring from the Navy in the early 1970s, he founded the Center for Defense Information with Rear Adm. Eugene Carroll (who died in 2003). The new organization, positioned as an informed second opinion to the Pentagon, began with three primary goals: to avert a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, to end the Vietnam War and to monitor the influence of the military-industrial complex.
As the center’s director, Admiral La Rocque continued his battle long after the first two goals had been achieved. In 1990 he was calling for the nation’s military budget to be reduced by one-third, to $200 billion, and troop strength to be reduced from three million to two million. And he was working to take the profit out of weapons manufacture, although he doubted that the military would ever produce its own weapons again.
Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald Reagan, met Admiral La Rocque when Mr. Korb was asked to brief him for a debate in 1972. Admiral La Rocque and his new organization “understood what the issues were,” Mr. Korb, now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington, said in an interview Friday. “You need this submarine, and not this one. He presented reasonable alternatives that people would consider.”
“This was a career military officer, which made him stand out,” Mr. Korb added.
Eugene Robert La Rocque was born on June 29, 1918, in Kankakee, Ill., the third of five children of Edward La Rocque, who ran and lived above a furniture store during the Depression, and the former Lucille Eddy.
One of Gene’s first jobs, at the age of 12 or so, was delivering newspapers. But he was fired, his daughter, Annette La Rocque Fitzsimmons, said on Friday, when the publisher, a Republican, learned that the boy’s father was a local Democratic committeeman.
As Admiral La Rocque recounted the story, that day his mother told him he could marry anyone he liked when he grew up, as long as she wasn’t a Republican.
Gene enlisted in the Navy in 1940. “In the summer of ’41, I asked to be sent to Pearl Harbor,” he told Mr. Terkel. “The Pacific fleet was there, and it sounded romantic.”
The request was granted, and the young sailor escaped harm in the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941. He and the rest of the crew of the destroyer Macdonough were sent in pursuit of the Japanese fleet.
He spent four years in the Pacific, participated in more than a dozen battles, was awarded the Bronze Star and was the first man ashore in the landing at Roi-Namur in the Battle of Kwajalein(1944), part of the Marshall Islands campaign.
Admiral La Rocque was widowed twice. He met Sarah Madeline Fox (not a Republican) during the war, when she was a stewardess on a flight from Seattle to Anchorage. They married in April 1945 and had three children. She died in 1978. The following year, he married Lillian Danchik. They were together until her death in 1994.
In addition to his son John and his daughter, his survivors include another son, James; two stepsons, Howard Danchik and Roger Danchik; six grandchildren; and one great-grandson.
In 2012 the C.D.I. merged with the Project on Government Oversight, which continues to publish The Defense Monitor, the organization’s quarterly newsletter. Recent headlines have included “The Fight to Save the A-10 Warthog,” “F-35 May Never Be Ready for Combat” and “Pentagon’s 2017 Budget Was Mardi Gras for Defense Contractors.”
Admiral La Rocque contributed a note to The Defense Monitor as recently as last year, expressing concern that the influence of the military-industrial complex was still “growing in power,” more than half a century after President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned of it.
In continuing to be heard on defense issues well into his 90s, Admiral La Rocque had plainly abandoned a plan he had outlined for himself in 1990, in an interview with The Los Angeles Times, when he was 71.
“I’ll give it to about 75,” he said then. “That’s time enough to bring in more young people. Then I’ll give it up and go sailing.”
Heroes at the gates of hell: It’s a haunting picture – a proud British regiment pose in the May sunshine in 1915. Weeks later, one in three was named dead. Now their colonel’s great grandson has pieced together ALL their inspiring stories
Stark contrast: The 8th Berkshire Regiment posed in the May sun in 1915. By the end of the war, 19 of the brother officers had been killed, nine seriously wounded and the group had been scattered
Waste of War