Assisting the Victors: The Story of Robert Balfour, Staffer to Admiral Halsey and General Eisenhower
by Tim Holbert
On September 2, 1945, Lt. Commander Robert Balfour stood on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, awaiting the formal surrender of Japan to the American forces, led by Douglas MacArthur. Idealistically thinking that this could be the end of wars on earth between civilized men, Balfour, a newspaperman by trade, could not help but think about how great of a story this would make, and how he wished he could cover it. It is not that he hadnâ€™t attempted to write it. In the days leading up to the surrender ceremony, Balfour, who was on the communications staff of Admiral William F. â€œBullâ€ Halsey, asked his commander for permission to write the story that would be wired back to the states for distribution to the newspapers. After all, he figured, every story that was going to be sent out had to come through communications anyway, so why shouldnâ€™t he be allowed to write his story?
Though Admiral Halsey would give Lt. Commander Balfour permission to write his story, at the last second Admiral Chester A. Nimitz, Fleet Admiral of the U.S. Navy, intervened, believing that as a Navy man, he should refrain from covering the story. â€œI had to file all the stories for all the damn newspapermen, but none for myself!â€ Balfour would remember years later.
Though he was disappointed about not being able to write his story, Robert Balfour still could not believe all that he had seen and gone through over the previous few years. Not many years before he had been the son of a minister making $15 a week. Now, after working his way through college to pursue a career in journalism, he found himself on the staff of Admiral Halsey, at the final surrender ceremony of the greatest and most horrific war yet seen by mankind.
Hard work, with a little luck thrown in, can get you far in life, Balfour believed. It was this attitude that led to his becoming one of the few men in history to have the distinct honor of not only serving on the staff of a five-star Admiral in Admiral Halsey, but also a five-star General by the name of Dwight D. Eisenhower. In fact, with the recent death of his friend and mentor Gov. Harold E. Stassen, Robert Balfour is the only living person who can lay claim to that honor.