BRIAN LAMB, HOST: John Toland, author of "Captured by History," near the end of your book you
say, `When I became a Communist I chose to -join the American peace
mobilization. I picketed for peace in front of the White House and yet, like
so many of my comrades in APM, I tried to enlist the day after Pearl Harbor.'
Mr. JOHN TOLAND (Author, "Captured by History: One Man's Vision of Our
Tumultuous Century"): Mm-hmm.
LAMB: `Later I opposed the Korean War and publicly decried the Vietnam and Gulf wars.'
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah.
LAMB: Explain all that.
Mr. TOLAND: Well, I had learned in my life that the worst thing we had to
face was war; that nobody won. And I have come to believe that this was the
worst century of mankind because of it--the war--the wars that solved no
problems, only developed new ones. And if this continues and we have another
war, I think it's the end of the world because we have got now a gas, for
example, that can wipe out other countries in a few days. I don't want that
gas, and I have an idea it's already been sold to several countries.
LAMB: Go back to your statement about being a Communist. When were you a Communist?
Mr. TOLAND: Let's see, I was--I think I was about--I was out of Williams
about four--four years, something like that, and I'd been traveling. I spent
four summers riding freight trains and so forth and finding America at her
best. I just loved riding freight trains and meeting all these wonderful
people on the trains. There were no fights there. I'd heard about all the
fights they had in the jungles, which were not called jungles by them.
Everybody was helping everybody else. And these--most of them are young men
that had left their farms because they wanted their sisters and mothers to
have just enough money to eat, and they were out--and I was following them.
We were working at--a week or so on--picking --one crop, then to
another crop, and I followed them around. And I'll tell you, if you've ever
tried to pick lettuce, believe me, that's a tough job.
And--but I found out they helped each other. There were--no animosity
among them. The only people that they hated were the yard bulls that were in
the yards. Now on the freight trains, the head of the freight train was
called a conductor, by the way, and he had about five or six men. They were
friends to these riders. They let them ride. Now there's certain--they'd
have to lock up certain cars. Sometimes you'd have to ride on top in various
places, but they were not brutal like the yard bulls. Once you got off,
they'd start hitting you with clubs.
LAMB: But you had graduated from Williams College.
Mr. TOLAND: At the--I was still at Williams when I was riding.
LAMB: Riding the rails?
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah.
LAMB: But what was it about the Communist Party at that time? What was it like?
Mr. TOLAND: The Communist--well, when I got into the Communist Party, most of
my friends in New York were Jewish and we were primarily against war. And we
thought the Communists wanted really peace. We were taken in. And--for
example, like most people don't realize is we had to stand in front of an
American flag when we were made Communists and recite the oath to the United
States. We were Americans and that was it. And then we found out this was a
fake, that we had been taken in. But at this time we fought for peace, and
that's why I was chosen as one of the two people to go down to Washington
to picket the White House, which we had a marvelous time, by the way.
And would you like me to go on to what that meeting was like?
Mr. TOLAND: Well, I was known for the--my ability to work with anyone, so I
traveled with blacks. And we got down there and I roomed in the same hotels
as about 30 blacks were. And on the second--and what we were doing--we were
just marching peaceably up and down, occasionally chanting a bit about
peace and so forth, but nothing rowdy. And--but on the second day we were
kicked out of our hotel because there were blacks. And we just didn't know
what to do. We were there--unfortunately, our leader was from Hollywood, and
we had no faith in him. And he was pompousing around. And all of a sudden I
saw--you know where Blair House is? Right next to Blair House is an identical
house--came this woman--stately woman, marching right up the avenue, ignoring
the traffic as if she owned the whole place, came over to us and said, `I
understand there were certain of you people that were not allowed in your
hotels. Is that right?' And as--I told her, `Yes, there are about 30 of us.'
And she said, `Are there people--Negroes, too?' I said, `Yes, most of us are
Negroes.' She said, `Would you like to stay in my house for the next two days?
I can only give you blankets to sleep on and so forth and have--we will
have very slight stuff to eat.' And I said, `We would accept graciously.' And
then she turned around. I've never seen a more noble woman. And this is a
woman, if I'd seen her, I would say she was a reactionary and so forth and so
on. Here she was offering her home to 30 blacks and one white.
LAMB: Who was it, did you know?
Mr. TOLAND: What?
LAMB: Who was the woman?
Mr. TOLAND: I don't know.
LAMB: And you stayed there.
Mr. TOLAND: I--we stayed there for the next two nights and she came
down to see us and we had--we were sleeping on floors and things like that.
But she was only there to greet us and not to inspect us.
LAMB: You left the Communist Party what year?
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, I left the--within two years I left the Communist Party because I saw I'd been had.
LAMB: Has that followed you through your life in any way? Does it ever pop up where it gives you trouble?
Mr. TOLAND: It would have--do you remember a character called the Ugly
American. This man, Ugly American--I forget what his real name is--I
had first met him when I was researching in the Philippines, and as usual,
I was set up at Clark Fields and so forth, in a barracks there. And then
the commanding officer there was quite upset because I had met some local
people of--and getting great material from them, and I was told that we were
to be writing about Americans in this war. And I said, `Sir, I'm writing a
book about the war.' And they cut off my transportation.
I had to take a bus to the capital, and next--the capital--they usually
treated me nicely. They kicked me right off--out. And I was standing there
wondering what to do next and this man came up. It turned to be the Ugly
American. And he said, `Are you the one that they won't give any
transportation?' And I says, `Yes.' He said, `Would you like to meet the
president of the Philippines tomorrow?' I said, `I sure would.'
He brought me to the--this big hall where the president was talking to the
four military forces. Afterwards, he introduced me to the president who
asked, `What are you here for?' And I said, `I've come to find out what
really happened in the Philippines.' And he said, `I understand you have
trouble,' and he pointed to this major, a very--who had gone to West Point,
and said, `This man will be your guide.' This man found two people to take
me--I was taken to all the islands. I saw everything I wanted to.
For example, when I was in the island that the second president of the
Philippines was, I had been there 15 minutes and I got a call to go up and see
him. And he has a Chinese name. I forget what his name was. But
he said he heard I was there, and he wanted me to reveal something that he had
been holding back all these years: that he had been second in command when
the president of the Philippines we--went to America, and he was put in
charge. And he was ordered by the president to pretend with four other of the
top people in the country to work with the Japanese. And this would be to
save the public from a--lots of problems and so forth. But he said --he
was--he knew he was going to die within a year, and he wanted the truth told
so that these people who had never talked would not be regarded as--they had
been regarded as traitors to their country.
And I said--I promised I wouldn't publish this until after his death. And he
said that--and as I was going out the door, about a half a dozen reporters
were there and I--they were yabbering away and I said, `What's the matter?'
They said, `Oh, haven't you heard? The--some dozen American senators and
congressmen arrived in the capital yesterday and they were--were telling
everybody what was wrong with the with the-- country,' and so forth and so on. And I said, `What do you think of that?' And I said, `Well, they might have waited a day.' And I left. And I didn't return to Clark
Fields until two days.
I had somebody--and as I walked into the office, everybody stared at me coldly
except--I had one friend, this girl, and I went up to her and she said, `John,
why did you do that?' And I said, `Do what?' She said, `What you told the
Communist Party and I'--she showed me the Communist newspaper and the
headlines: American senators--something, something--cause of riots
or something. And I said, `I didn't say--that at all.' And he said, `Do
you realize that you're now being sent back to America? The commanding
officer there--he's coming up--he's going to tell you have no--you're--you won't be able to'--I wouldn't be able to write my book.
Just as in a movie, who should walk in but the--the commanding general of
the--of all the Air Force -- and the--in that area of the world and four
people. And I had interviewed him in Hawaii before and he had given me a
couple of great stories. And he looked and he saw me and he says, `Hi, John.
What are you--how are they treating you over here?' And he said, `Would you
like--we're going on to the next town, Hong Kong. We're on leave. And would
you like to go with us?' And I said, `I sure would.'
When I got into the plane I told him the real story, and he--all he did was
laugh, and he said, `May I give you some advice, John? Whenever you're asked
a question by a newspaperman, say, "No comment."'
But I was always pulled out of these things at the last minute. I
could--my career as a writer probably would have ended if he hadn't walked
through the door.
LAMB: How many books have you written in your life that have been published?
Mr. TOLAND: I've--14. Two of them--two of them were we--novels, the rest
were histories. And I'm...
LAMB: And what year in your life did you start writing?
Mr. TOLAND: Twelve. I started writing when I was 12. They say my father
was--I thought everybody was either a painter or a writer. My mother was a
painter; my father was a singer. And I was brought up like that and--but when
I was 12 years old--see, my father was a big Irishman and he looked at my
hands and he says, `My God, you have the hands of a--of a girl.' And I
said, `Well, who made me?' And--and he didn't like that. But he loved me,
but he-- saw me as a product of the Scotch part of the family, my mother's part.
Now the Scotch part, they were crazy about me. My--my mother had three
sisters. None of them had children and, of course, I was their idol. And
then their father--their grandfather--he was the one that really changed
my life and he told me one thing. He says--he says, `John, I don't--you may
hear a lot of things about religion, but there's only one thing I want you to
do.' And I said, `What is that?' He says, `Always do the right thing.' And I
says, `But, Dadda, how will I know whether it's the right thing?' He says,
`Usually, it's what you don't want to do. But you'll find out.'
And this has become my religion and it still is. It's a very simple
thing and it has led me through life. And, as I say, I've had a wonderful
life and--some people notice that I was a failure until I was 45 years old,
when I sold my first story. I had written 25 plays, none of them ever put on,
but those plays became the reason I wrote a different kind of history because
my great hero was Shakespeare and he said, `Unto thyself be true.'
Now this seemed very simple to me. And if you'll notice, Shakespeare had no
point of view when he was writing his stories, and as this--Porter Emerson
Brown, the great …told me--he said, `And the Greeks, also.'
And so I was--I brought into history a non-ideological history, which means no
point of view. And that's why a number of people are very unhappy with me
because I treat all people the same. I don't care whether they're colored, I
don't care whether they're Irish or Chinese or--I want to hear all sides and
LAMB: Where do you live today?
Mr. TOLAND: What? Beg pardon?
LAMB: Where do you live today?
Mr. TOLAND: I live in Danbury, Connecticut.
LAMB: Are you married?
Mr. TOLAND: My--this is my second wife. My first wife, I divorced after 10
years. And I--you'll notice her picture there, a beautiful girl. She's a
dancer. Believe me, dancers live by their feet.
LAMB: Your first wife was a dancer.
Mr. TOLAND: My first--but I have two wonderful children from her,
two daughters. And my second wife and I have a daughter and I have three...
LAMB: This your first wife right here?
Mr. TOLAND: That's my first wife. As I say, she was a beautiful woman and so
forth. But I will say nothing about her bad in the book. I only tell how she
was the one that--when I brought a black officer into the officers club at
Kaiser Field when I was a second lieutenant, I was kicked out of my job, I was
threatened, I was almo--beaten up and I--almost killed. She stuck by me. And
so I--as I say, I will only say good things about her. My...
LAMB: And then your second...
Mr. TOLAND: My second wife, Toshiko, we married in 1960. I went to Japan
to--I was doing a book, my first book on the East, hating all Japanese. And
one day I found out I was beginning to like the Japanese. On the third day
there I met Toshiko. I needed an interpreter. And when I saw her, I knew I
was going to marry her. But first I had to tell her it was a rough life, you
know, that we'd live, and that I was on the road about eight months of the
year. And I think I'd been there--she became my interpreter in her--in
the evenings, and on the ninth day I knew her I said, `Would you marry
me?' And she instantly said yes.
And her father, who was a very noted man in that he spoke English with an
Oxford accent, and he was a top samurai type and then he has been
trying to marry her for 11 years and she was turning down everybody. And
the--he and his wife were horrified to learn she was marrying an
American writer. And a writer's the lowest form of life in Japan. And they
couldn't see me for a long time. Finally, two days before our marriage,
she--they finally agreed to see me. And he was asking me--he spoke this
marvelous language and he's a rather big man for a Japanese and he says,
`You've got a divorce,' and we went through all that. And after about five
questions, the wife--who was very small--she looked like a little Buddha, and
she said, `John, you will make Toshiko very happy.'
And then we breathed a sigh of relief. I gave him a dozen American golf
balls, which are bigger than the others, and he became my greatest
assistant. I could not have written the "Rising Sun" without him. He got
me to the (Japanese spoken), who was the emperor's chief adviser. He knew
everybody in Japan, and they all--people that refused to talk to me before and
to talk to any American came right in. I was--I had-- allowed--I even
had arranged an--a meeting with the emperor himself. and then at that
point--you may have remembered that an Englishman wrote a book about the
emperor just beating him to hell. He had come over for a week and then
And so I was--they called--the Embassy called me and said, `I'm sorry.
You cannot meet the--His Majesty.' And they said, `What--can we do
anything else to help you?' And I said, `Yes, you can. I will forget this if
you will allow me to interview the six gentlemen that serve the emperor.'
These were people of high class, worked around--I got more about the emperor
from these six men, all with these wonderful stories, personal stories of
his quirks and queries. I've got about three pages of it in the "Rising Sun."
So I had always found out never go down defeated. There are some times you
must retreat. Try to make a deal where you can get something out of it.
LAMB: Which one of your 12 non-fiction books sold the most?
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, the--"Adolf Hitler." That became a big best--it's still a
best-seller. Guess who just bought it? Now the Chinese just bought it.
Now it's been published in 25 countries. And this was a book that was turned
down by my publishers of the "Rising Sun" who didn't particularly like the book.
LAMB: This is 1976, "Adolf Hitler"?
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah. And that's still a big best-seller. It's made a
fortune and my--the publishers of the "Rising Sun" did not like it because
I was making heroes, they said, of the Japanese. And they had
complained--they published my book, "The Last Hundred Days," which was
a--quite a good best-seller. And I had retreated a little because they
objected to the way I made some Germans heroes and so forth.
But when I wrote the "Rising Sun," I saw that I had the truth because my
wife and her whole family had brought me in, and now I felt I knew
the whole truth and that-- I could not change a single thing. I had to go to New York something like 90 times and they kept yapping at me and I refused.
Well, I went off now, starting research on "Adolf Hitler" and passed them
the contract on--you know, they turned it down. They said, `You have taken
too much time of the editors; therefore, you must go down from 12 percent
on the book to 8 percent.' And I'm half-Irish and you know what I told them,
LAMB: So "Adolf Hitler" is the best-seller.
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah.
LAMB: In time, since '76, how many copies has it sold?
Mr. TOLAND: Millions.
LAMB: A million copies.
Mr. TOLAND: Well, it--it's more--I don't know how many copies. All I know is
that it's made $2 million. They lost $2 million...
LAMB: For you.
Mr. TOLAND: I think...
LAMB: You mean that $2 million came to you.
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah. I made--the first year I made $1 million and it
kept--I don't know all the fig--I don't think about money, really. I can't
see what it is. All I know is it made a hell of a lot of money.
LAMB: Well, let me ask you this. Have you ever totaled up the--of all
the books you sold, how many books you've sold?
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, God, no. Once I finish a book--I'm not--like most
authors. When I--the first book I finished, I may have--went to the Library
of Congress, and I turned over all my material--my interviews and so forth and
all the things I'd found out because I wanted this to be open for other
people. Now this doesn't seem to make sense to some people. Now then when my
books got better, the nation--they said they couldn't handle all
the people that were coming in. And I had been working with the National
Archives. They had always believed in me. And the people down there were
marvelous to me.
And they'd heard about the fact that I was giving books away and they said,
`We'd like you to send all your material now to the FDR library--presidential
library.' And I said, `The presidential library? I tell you, I thought he
was a bum, you know.' That has nothing to do with it. He goes, `Do you know
we run those ourselves?' I didn't know that the National Archives--they
see--they send down the people who run it and it's just known as that library.
Since then I have sent all my tapes of every--whenever I finish a book and
at--there was a time when I was offered money and some of my family said, `Why
don't you take it?' And I said, `How can I take it?' I didn't think it
was--see, I had been helped by so many people, and I think what--I think good
writers want other people to follow them because I--no matter how good my
books are, I think new information w--should come up and we want to keep the
LAMB: Is all of your--are all of your tapes at the FDR library?
Mr. TOLAND: Not all of them. I gave all of them that F--I also
did--made copies of all of them and sent them to the Library of Congress
because some of my people still thought I was--so I want the Library
of Congress--so--and--now they're told--there are certain people--I say that,
`You cannot use these --I promised they cannot be used until the man is
dead, see?' But outside of that they're open to everybody, and I don't care
LAMB: Did you say you think that FDR was a bum?
Mr. TOLAND: I think he was worse than that.
Mr. TOLAND: Yes.
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, well, when--I got to know his wife. She's a wonderful
person. And you know, she saved my life. And I admired her greatly.
Now her own family treated her miserably, but he treated her--he had three
mistresses at a time and things like this. And I heard stories from around
that--see, at first, he was my great hero. I thought he was a great hero.
LAMB: You first saw him when?
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, when I was in college, we used to come down through--from
Williamstown down through the--in his town, you know.
LAMB: Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah. And so we used to come down that road which goes right
through his town. And, of course, I had seen him when he first ran for
president, and I was in--a freshman at--at Williams College and
he was driving through with the president of New York--with the...
Mr. TOLAND: ...governor of New York and the governor of Massachusetts. They
were both Williams men. And they stopped there to talk, and the Williams
students around there were 95 percent wealthy, you know. And they were booing
the president, you know? And--well, at any rate, I was called I--my--I
was naturally not in any fraternity. I was at the Commons Club where already
I had changed their whole way of carrying trays. I have gone to Exeter, where
we had to carry two--we had two tables of eight. Here we had only one table
of eight and they were carrying the trays like this.
LAMB: You were a waiter.
Mr. TOLAND: I was a waiter. See, I was offered the--when I went to
Exeter, I graduated and I was offered--because of my grades, I was offered
free at--four years free at Yale, Harvard, Dartmouth and so forth. And our
president of Exeter called me and he'd never spoken to me in my
two years there. See, after I graduated from Norwalk High School, I realized
that I could never make it at college unless I went to a place like Phillips
Exeter Academy to learn how to really study.
And so I had loved my two years there. And when I graduated, as--I had offers
from four of these places, and the--our president called me in
and says, `Toland,' he said, `I hear you have all these offers. I'd
like you to make one for my college. It's a little college called Williams
College.' And he says, `You're going to love it because it's a rich man's
college and you'll be the poorest boy that ever went there.' And he says, `I
don't know how you did it, but I know you made more money here at Exeter than
anyone ever made.'
I was--had three jobs and I was selling things. And I knew how to
make money. And so I said, `Fine. I accept.' And I went there and he--and
also he said, `They also have a wonderful system, better than they have at
Harvard. I know you want to be a writer. Do you know that when you become a
junior, if you're getting very high marks, you can have what we call honors
work. You can work with any professor you want in the school yourself.
You're the only one in the class. Now if you really get high grades, you'd
have double honors work.'
So I knew I could--I went there. I knew I had to make money to
because after I was going to Williams, the college, I had heard that
this famous George Pierce Baker--remember, he was--he started Harvard and he
trained some of the best playwrights in the country. And then he
had been lured down to open up the Yale Drama School and he was running this
thing, which--it was a three-year course. And they wouldn't have any--I
could--I'd have to pay--it'd cost me something like $20,000. So I had to not
only make all my stuff, but I had to make $20,000 in the meantime so I could
go there. And he said, `Knowing you, you're going to make it.' And I accepted
on the spot. It was true.
As I say, when I first went down there, they sent me over to the--I had a job
working with--at the Commons Club and I couldn't stand, seeing people riding
through--and when they'd go out in the kitchen, they'd have to bump
past--their way through the door and ma--and I said, `Why don't you learn
how'--and I sho--that's where I got my nickname of Shifty. I could shift
around. And, unfortunately, I was a hated man among the fraternities because
they heard all these stories about me and so forth and so on. Not
only that but, see, there were about 20--I had to have about 20 extra waiters
which worked in the fraternities during the seasons. And what happened is
that at this --they suddenly cut the fees in half, and these 20 men came to
me and said, `What will we do?' And I said, `We strike.' And I told them to
just cut it out.
Well, we beat them to it, and they had--and then they came--and I
said, `But you must all stick together,' and they all agreed to stick
together. And then--so the fraternities said, `All right. You can have the
same.' And I says, `No, we want half more, see?' Well, I made the damn
fraternities pay and they never forgave me for it.
LAMB: Let me go back to FDR. You said that FDR was a bum. May...
Mr. TOLAND: Well, I wouldn't--`bum' is not the word. Unsavory.
LAMB: Unsavory. Well, let me ask you about the book "Infamy."
Mr. TOLAND: "Infamy," yes.
LAMB: When did you write "Infamy," and why did you get such criticism?
Mr. TOLAND: Well, in the first place, I made a terrible mistake when I wrote
the "Rising Sun." I stated from all the--everybody said Roosevelt did
not know that the Japanese task force was coming, you know. And within...
LAMB: At Pearl Harbor.
Mr. TOLAND: At Pearl Harbor. Well, within a year, I began to get letters
from top people in the US Navy saying, `That's nonsense. We knew.' Well, I
went on for about 10 years with this and getting more and more. And, like,
the relatives of those--you know, those people who headed the Navy that
their lives were ruined by all this--I forget the names of them, but that
Mr. TOLAND: N...
LAMB: Five Sullivan boys?
Mr. TOLAND: No--no, not them. It was this other--it was a higher-class
family, and the whole family's been ruined by this and they became my best
friends. And--so, as I say, I told Toshiko, who's very smart--I says, `I've
got to write this because I've made a terrible mistake.' And she said, `John,
if you do, it's the biggest mistake you've ever made. They're going to kill
you on it,' and she was right. They just--I found out the facts not only from
these people in the US Navy but, for example, the man in the--Dutch--the
Dutchman whom--I had heard a Dutchman was conc...
LAMB: Dutch admiral?
Mr. TOLAND: He--he was not an admiral.
LAMB: At the time, but he went on to be an admiral.
Mr. TOLAND: He became an admiral finally--that I heard about him, but
nobody knew where he was. And I advertised around, then I got a letter; it
was from the admiral. He was living in Texas at the time. I was down there
the next day.
LAMB: Retired in Texas.
Mr. TOLAND: He was retired. He had me at his hotel and he--he was not--he
had to be helped around. He was not senile, he was just a
--had a hard time getting around, and his son was always with us. Also, I
had him taped. I was called a liar. I was--for example, this guy that
got killed in an airplane crash recently, his main theme in life was to
try to ruin me, and he claimed that I lied about all these things and so
forth and so on. I just don't understand these people that come up with
these things trying to ruin you.
LAMB: But you said, though, in "Infamy" that FDR knew about the Pearl
Harbor thing in advance.
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, yes, absolutely. And I--then I told my wife I had to--I
had to delve into this. I delved not only into the--these top families,
the naval families that knew all this, but I got this Dutchman told
me the inside story. He was the one that secretly brought the Bofors
anti-aircraft gun to the US Navy. So he was an--I don't know--what
do you call these peo--they don't fight, they're--they just
work in various cities. They're not fighters as much as planners,
and he was the planner down in Washington. And therefore...
LAMB: Planners for the Dutch?
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah. And see, he had friends in the American Navy and
he heard that we needed the Bofors guns, the--so they came to him and he
secretly--he got the--he knew were there were-the plates and everything
that you could design the gun for--he got it through his own plans. And, of
course, this raised hell with the--this--the reason that we were not defeated
afterwards at--you know, in the great battle out there. And this man
told me the inside story and I got--they knew all about the fact
that--Roosevelt knew that the Japanese...
LAMB: Why would a Dutch military man know the inside story?
Mr. TOLAND: Because he was working with--he was the one that brought that to
the US Navy, see, and so he was--they regarded him as their best fri-we later made him an honorary...
Mr. TOLAND: ...ad--admiral or whatever it is they give this. He later got
the highest award you can give to a foreigner.
LAMB: Go back--go back to the--one of the themes in your book are that every
time you--you'd write a new book, the Book of the Month Club would pick the
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah.
LAMB: ...but then the judges would overrule them.
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, yeah.
LAMB: Tell--how often did that happen and why did they overrule them? How'd that work?
Mr. TOLAND: Well, the--this happened, I think, five times. They didn't like me personally.
Mr. TOLAND: Because I was writing things that they didn't --you know, I'm
very outspoken and I say exactly what I think and so forth. And I'd say, `I
have facts behind me, too,' and this irritates them. But for some reason,
they disliked me. I could not understand this. But I was turned down five times by them.
LAMB: But how did that work? The -- who would select it and who would turn you down?
Mr. TOLAND: Well, see, they would select so many people and then they
would vote on it, but that's why I never got Book of the Month Club. I was
always one--but as soon as they dumped me, some other book club would
pick it up, you know, so...
LAMB: But if you sold a million copies of the Adolf Hitler book...
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah.
LAMB: ...were there any other books that sold lots like that?
Mr. TOLAND: Well, I know "The Last One Hundred Days" sold a lot of books.
LAMB: How many?
Mr. TOLAND: Gee, I don't know. I never co...
LAMB: Hundreds of thousands or--you know, they...
Mr. TOLAND: Oh--oh...
LAMB: Has this all made you a wealthy man?
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah, but you see, what people didn't realize--like, I made a lot
of money on the--"The Last Hundred Days," but then my next book was going to
be on the Japanese war and I needed money, and so I spent
all the money I made on that to--see, I don't work like other people. I spend
about two years researching, going all over the world, and, you know, it
costs money to go around the world. And then "The Last Hundred
Day"--the book on Japan, you know...
Mr. TOLAND: No. You know, I have a problem...
LAMB: "Rising Sun"?
Mr. TOLAND: The "Rising Sun," yeah. The "Rising Sun" won all the prizes
and--but I spent all the money I made on the "Rising Sun" to do this--I had
this terrific idea about Hitler, I said--I had, by this time, got to know
the--all the intimate groups within Germany that would talk to me, but it--you
know, it costs a lot of money. And I put all I had also saved $100,000
and many of my friends in Washington had been making money through a man that
was investing for them, and they said, `Please put your money there.' I put
$100,000 in. Three months later I got a report. You know how much of my
$100,000 was left? Zero.
So I had some very wealthy friends in the town and they sent me to
their lawyers, who--these lawyers only work with the richest people in the
world and, you know, this famous place refused to take a cent from me for
the next five years, handling me, and I was getting help and they finally,
this young man got this loan for me, which he never wanted repaid,
which I did, but he--they finally--we got enough money so I could start and go
back into work, and I threw all that money into--this is my big book--on
And by the time I finish it--you see, I didn't have any money, see. But when
"Hitler" came out, it came out with a bang, and within a month, you know, I
had everything back. From then on I've had--so as I say, I made a lot of
money on these other books, but I would throw it all in on the next book to
come, see. But at the same time, you see, I was also helping--I've--I have
children, I was helping them build their houses and so forth and so on. So
when it came down to how much I had, it was zero.
LAMB: Let's recap, though. Born in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: Live now in Danbury, Connecticut.
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah.
LAMB: Went to Exeter?
Mr. TOLAND: Exeter.
LAMB: Where's that located?
Mr. TOLAND: In Exeter, New Hampshire.
LAMB: Williams College graduate in 1932.
Mr. TOLAND: Uh-huh.
LAMB: Spent time in the Army for how long?
Mr. TOLAND: I was three and a half years during the war, and that was a time
I had----originally, I wanted to be a glider pilot because I was
too old to be a pilot. So I went down there and I was accepted by the gliders
and I was in Texas for about five months, and then all of a sudden came the
report that--the first report of what happened in Asia, something like 90
percent of them sent over were killed. There's no place to land there. And
so there were about 30 of us there and we were--all said, `We're not taking
any more glider pilots.' So I said to hell with it and I went to Fargo,
South--North Dakota, to become an officer, and I became an officer
LAMB: But you didn't serve overseas during the military?
Mr. TOLAND: No. And this--I wanted--I felt guilty that I had never been
over there and that's one reason I write my books.
LAMB: Dorothy, your first wife, you married in what year?
Mr. TOLAND: That was--must have been...
LAMB: 1943, I believe.
Mr. TOLAND: I believe it was '43, yes. Uh-huh.
LAMB: And you had two daughters.
Mr. TOLAND: Two daughters.
LAMB: Are they still alive?
Mr. TOLAND: They're still alive and they--the oldest daughter has a son
and a daughter, and the youngest daughter has a daughter.
LAMB: And you married Toshiko in 1960?
Mr. TOLAND: 1960.
LAMB: Had a daughter by her in 1968?
Mr. TOLAND: Yes, right.
LAMB: And her name?
Mr. TOLAND: Is Tamico.
LAMB: And where does she live?
Mr. TOLAND: She lives in New York, and I'd like to explain that Tamico in
Japanese means `daughter of God,' and she is a very self-made person. And
she knew that I love Russian literature, and I have many friends in
Russia and so forth, and, you know, she got--she went to a school--she learned
Russian, she got to speak it fluently. She went to a university
that majored in it, Cornell. She spent a whole semester in-- Russia and
so forth and so on. And then my friends in Russia, when she was out, she was
going to go there, they told me, `Please get her out,' because they were
having problems there. So she never did work in--there, but--and she's now in
in--Oh, what the devil is this?--they make this stuff in--around New
York state--you know, I can't think of what it was they make.
LAMB: Well, let me go on...
Mr. TOLAND: An--anyway, she's in this--she's in this business now which
rather--her mother was shocked to hear she's working in this kind of
work. But what I did--I went up to meet her boss and so forth, and I found
out she was doing well and so forth, but I warned her. I said, `He's a
cheapskate,' and he still is. But she's on her own now and doing very well, I
LAMB: You won your Pulitzer when you were fifty-f--nine years old...
Mr. TOLAND: I don't--I guess so.
LAMB: ...and you're now how old?
Mr. TOLAND: I'm 85. Eigh--ei...
LAMB: Will you write another book?
Mr. TOLAND: No.
LAMB: Why not?
Mr. TOLAND: I have nothing more to say. I think--this book--you see,
I''m working with a dozen younger writers that are--they're--I was
helped by older writers. Well, what most people don't realize is that in our
business, if you're really good, you want somebody following you. And I have
many famous people reading my plays and so forth and trying to get me--I
almost sold two of my plays, but they didn't work. But I realized my--in
the 25 plays I'd written, I'd learned something about --a play has a
beginning, a middle and an end, and this is something that history doesn't
have. I brought to history my knowledge of what should be life, and also,
that you should have no point of view. See, Shakespeare told me that. He
said, `Unto thyself be true.'
And so I actually believed what Shakespeare told me, and then when I was only
about 12 years old, this drunken playwright came to live with us and he taught
me playwriting. And he'd been a famous playwright and he'd written--his most
famous play was called "The Bad Man."
LAMB: Porter Emerson Brown...
Mr. TOLAND: Porter Emerson Brown.
LAMB: ...who you say is kind of your mentor, hero?
Mr. TOLAND: He was my hero. And see, he was a little guy. He just
adored my father, who was a big, handsome man --and when his wife died, he
took to liquor and my father saw him drunk downtown and brought him home and
he says, `I'm going to dry him out.' It took almost three years, but he did,
and during that time, Porter became my best friend. And I heard all about
this wonderful play--his most famous play was called "The Bad Man," in
which--this was about Pancho Villa, but as he told me, he said, `The bad man,
actually, in the play turns out to be a good man.' And he said, `If that were
straight, it never would have been successful.' As a comedy, this was the
biggest hit on Broadway in three years. And then I says, `Well, why did you
write about Pancho Villa?' He says, `I rode with him for three years.' He
says, `Maybe--you say he was a terrible person.' He says, `Maybe
he was a terrible American, but he certainly was a good Mexican.' And he
says, `I rode with him and he was an honorable man.' And he said, `That's why
the play was good.'
LAMB: One of the things I noticed in your book is that you often write how
The Washington Post was...
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, they hate me.
Mr. TOLAND: I bet they gave me a lousy review of...
LAMB: Have you seen the review they gave you yesterday?
Mr. TOLAND: No. I understand it was the usual. This--you know, that guy's
been after me for years.
LAMB: The guy that wrote it--and I'll have to get his name here--he's a guy
that's also written a book on Hitler. His name is Clay Blair.
Mr. TOLAND: Clay Blair, Jesus...
LAMB: Second volume of Hitler's U-boat war will be published next spring. Here's what he said about your book.
Mr. TOLAND: Oh.
LAMB: He said, `Toland's autobiography is a candid but pedestrian recounting
of his long struggle to reach the top--odd job by odd job, wife by wife, agent
by agent, publisher by publisher, editor by editor, book by book, including
several failures. It teems with lunches, trips, dates, interviews and
summaries of his books. Toland and his editors, collaborators produce some
fine and some not-so-fine popular military history, but regrettably, he is
apparently unable to summon up the drama of his own life.'
Mr. TOLAND: Well, I expected it.
Mr. TOLAND: Because they hate my guts.
Mr. TOLAND: Well, you see, I used to review for The Washington Post, and when
my book "Infamy" came out, the two girls that ran it called me up and
said, `John, they've taken your book away from us. It's being reviewed by the
editorial department.' Now since when does the editorial department--and they
gave it a terrible review. Of course, that was the end of my--of my life as a
you couldn't have written a rottener one, but it--I expected it from them.
And did you read The Washington Times review?
LAMB: Haven't seen it. When was it in? Yesterday?
Mr. TOLAND: They ga--terrific. Of course, ...
LAMB: But why would they--in your opinion, why would they give you a terrific
review over The Washington Post?
Mr. TOLAND: Because they liked it. I review for them, too, by the way. But
you see, I don't take The Washington Post seriously. I knew they'd say
something like that or worse. I thought it'd be worse than that.
LAMB: Where do you end up today politically?
Mr. TOLAND: Politically? I work up with myself. You know, I'm--I'm
supposedly a Republican, but I've always I--the last times
I've ever voted, I've voted Democratic because it was a little better. But...
LAMB: How long ago was that?
Mr. TOLAND: Oh, I don't know, maybe four years ago. But and you see, I've
worked so long in Washington that I've realized this is one of the worst
cities in the United States so much crookedness going on there. And I've
tried to reveal some of those things they won't publish. For example, I wrote
a whole series on the fact of--we run our government on a false basis which is
called `the rider basis.' You know what a rider is. You go to somebody
and say, `Look, I will vote for this bill if you will do something--this.'
That's a rider.
Now some of these things have 10 pages of riders on it, has nothing to do with
the poor thing you're trying to bring into organization. How--that's a hell
of a way to run a country. And I--there are some honest people down
there, yes, but they're having a tough time. And look at our presidents. You
know, the one president I liked was Truman, and when I first went out to
meet him, we started by hating each other's guts because I had just discovered
from the US Navy and other people that there was no need to drop the atomic
The so-called fear of this huge amount of--this--the
greatest fighting force had been in China, and they were supposed to go
to--back to Japan and--and raise hell for us. The US Navy informed me this is
not true. We sank them--they all were sent not there, they had been
sent to the Philippines, and we sank three-quarters of their ships. I got
this from the US Navy. And so I just let things out like that and it--then it
starts--and eventually, the truth comes out that there was no need to drop
LAMB: Your--one of your techniques you write about in here is that every time
you interviewed someone and you were going to quote them, you allowed them to
see the quote...
Mr. TOLAND: Of course.
LAMB: ...in advance...
Mr. TOLAND: Yes.
LAMB: ...and correct it?
Mr. TOLAND: They can delete it, correct it.
LAMB: And you never worried about them taking a story out that you wanted to
tell just because they didn't like the way it came out?
Mr. TOLAND: No, I don't care. If they did--look, I gave my word and I never
broke it. And you see, when I went over--this started in Germany and I
started meeting people who knew Hitler, and I found a new Hitler and so forth,
and I found out all these things. I've--for example, I found Eva
Braun's best friend. And a friend of mine had written a book about this
woman--I forget what her name is--and t...
Mr. TOLAND: Schneider, yes. And...
LAMB: Herta Schneider?
Mr. TOLAND: Yeah, Hert--that's exactly it. How'd you know that?
LAMB: I read your book.
Mr. TOLAND: Oh. You know, unfortunately, I've forgotten the book. What
happened was--so I wrote to Ms. Schneider and she was being polite, says, `You
should come up to see me,' but she was planning to tell me to go to hell. Now
I got into my German car and I started out--it was early winter, cold as hell,
and the windshield--it started to snow and rain at the same time, and the
windshield wiper stopped. I had to--this was a trip that would take about 45
minutes, it took me three hours. I had to get out of the car about 50 times
to wipe it off.
When I got to their door, I was soaking wet. Her husband came and--a very
fine man, by the way--he looked at me and I was just so heated, `Better come
in quickly.' And then he brought his wife out and she was stern, and then she
saw me and then she became motherly. And --I was treated like--like the boy
that--and they got me clean clothes. They made me wear their clothes and so
forth and so on. And then he said to me, `Get her to show you the pictures,'
and I didn't know what he meant.
And I says, `Your husband mentioned something about pictures.' `Oh, you mean
the pictures that I have of Eva Braun and so forth?' she said. `Would you
like those?' I said, `I certainly would.' If you've read the--seen my
book on Hitler, you'll see a number of the pictures there that had never been
seen before that--she just gave me all these pictures, these marvelous
pictures. One I particularly like--I don't know if I published it or
not. Anyway, it's a--a beautiful picture of Eva--she's naked, but it's--you
don't see anything. It's a very artistic picture.
And she let me have that, and I have it--I had all these pictures and so forth
and I didn't do a thing. And I believed that somebody's helping me. There
must be. So many things have happened to me like--you remember--I tell
about--I had to go to Exeter and so--I had to make money so I worked in the
Norwalk Tire and Rubber Company as the boy running around--and I was thinking
of my stories, and I fell down an elevator shaft because a guy had forgotten
to pull the fence.
And all I--I remember is, boy, I was stunned, and then I heard this grinding
noise and I looked up and it was coming down. I am notoriously slow. I am
notoriously--look at my hands. The young man that had--coming down when
he was shocked. He saw me standing in this one place I could have leaped
into. In my ordinary days, I couldn't have climbed into there. I don't know
how I got there. What did it?
But this has happened to me--I've had about five or six clashes with--I
walked into Lake Okeechobee when I was two years old, went over my head, and
my uncle had to jump down from his room and pull me out. I was always
climbing out on roofs when I was a baby and I was--and once I cli--when I
was a year old, I was in my diaper and I had gotten my father's
hat, which came over my nose, and I was walking up to the railroad--the
trolley tracks, and my mother said that this trolley almost ran me down.
Their conductor came out and went up to the--my mother and said, `Mrs. Toland,
does this belong to you?' But somebody was always saving me.
LAMB: What are you going to do now that you've decided not to write anymore?
Mr. TOLAND: I want to help my children, naturally. I just--have you ever
been to Block Island? It's a wonderful place because there automobiles come
in last and the first...
LAMB: Where is it?
Mr. TOLAND: What?
LAMB: Where is it?
Mr. TOLAND: Block Island is off Providence. You--it takes about 90 minutes
to go by ferry boat over there and it's not a big place, but I tell you, it's
a wonderful place. While I was over there, I met about six people I've known
for years just out of the blue meeting these people. But I liked it because
everybody is polite. And, like, in cars, if--they're--they have one
policeman, I think, in the whole place or something like that, and he drives
But the first people think of are the pedestrians and then the bicyclists and
so forth, and then cars come in last. And I've noticed with cars, when you
come up to a four-way place, there'll be about four cars, every car is waiting
for the next one politely. You've never seen--and this--there's no signs.
They have stop signs and that's about all, but no traffic lights or anything.
Nobody--nobody was hurt and so forth.
And I just like the whole idea of people thinking of other people and
I--that's what I think -and then--now they say, `Oh, John, you know,
there are a lot of millionaires on there and they're making it'--I
don't care who's doing it. Whatever it is, it's a--I recommend it highly
for people that want to spend a quiet holiday.
LAMB: How well do you think this will sell and how many books did they print, first printing?
Mr. TOLAND: I have no idea. I'm getting a lot of letters from people that--so many people write me about it and I hope it sells well.
LAMB: Our guest has been John Toland and the book is called "Captured By
History." We thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. TOLAND: Thank you.
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