Clare Boothe Luce
         Clare Boothe Luce is perhaps the first writer to pen a rather comprehensive biography of Homer Lea. Although she could not avoid falling prey to some misinterpreted accounts, as we see it today, she did a wonderful job! One can imagine that in her time, there were no references that could be found in the library to assist her with her research, and some materials were hard to find on Homer Lea. All things considered, Clare offered us a great introduction to this extraordinary General. Clare Boothe's two lengthy, lavishly illustrated articles, "Ever Heard of Homer Lea?", were published in two separate issues - March 7 and 14, 1942  in the Saturday Evening Post. Her friends had suggested that she submit her thirty pages literature to Life magazine. When she offered Lea's profile at her regular rate, she was rejected by the editor, saying Homer Lea was nothing more than " a footnote to history." Her determination to put Homer Lea into the spotlight and her scholarly efforts gave her more happiness than what she earned (three hundred dollars) from the Saturday Evening Post, she told her mother. She felt her writing about Homer Lea was more elevated than the fiction of Hollywood scripts.
         How did Clare Boothe encounter Homer Lea? What inspired her to write about Homer Lea?  Nothing is better than Clare's own words:
         " I first heard his name in early October, 1941, in Manila. I was dining with several officers of the Philippine Department in their quarters built on top of the ancient Spanish walls of old Fort Santiago, which also housed the headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur's "Usaffe." It is still the rainy season. A sudden tropical downpour drummed loudly on the flimsy tin roof of the mess hall. Outside, the curtains of the deluge blotted out the lights of Dewey Boulevard and the twin red stars high on the steel radio towers at near-by Cavite. It was a melancholy, stifling night, but in the bright room, one talked, as every visitor in Manila did in those days, lightly enough of possibility of Japanese invasion of the Philippines. " If it comes, where will they strike first?" I asked. Colonel Charles Willoughby drew a deft map of Luzon on the Major's tablecloth. "The main attacks will probably come here, at Lingayen Gulf," he said, making an arrow, " and then here - at Polillo Bight. Ye olde pincer movement." " You're not giving away military secrets?" The officers all laughed. Colonel Willoughby pocketed his pencil. "No," he said. "Just quoting military gospel - according to Homer Lea. " Who is Homer Lea?" ."
         " the Colonel said, " thirty three years ago, a strange young man who call himself 'General' Homer Lea, wrote a book about a war to come between America and Japan. In it he described, in minutest details the Jap campaigns against the Philippines, Hawaii, Alaska and California." "A sort of the American Nostradamus?" The Colonel said, "Not at all. Homer Lea was neither a mystic nor a prophet. He was a scientist. He studied the science of war - the fundamental laws of which are as those of any other science." Willoughby reminded Clare two things would change the present warfare, since Lea wrote that thirty three years ago. One was the genius MacArthur and the other was the new war planes. Clare asked: " Are they decisive factors?" "Well, I hope to God they are!" the Major replied.
          Two months later, Clare Boothe was in New York. " I thought no more of Homer Lea until that first newspaper map appeared, with its sinister little arrows which showed where the Japs were landing - at Lingayen. Then suddenly I remembered Colonel Willoughby's "military gospel according to Homer Lea." Clare went to check out Homer Lea's books from the public library. " As I read the description of that conquest, so accurate in broad strategic outline, my heart grew heavy."
         During my research of Homer Lea at Hoover Institution, Stanford University, I had the privilege of handling and opening Homer Lea's wallet. In it, I found his sister's photos, membership cards pertaining to the AAA, Automobile club of Southern California, the Occidental Life Insurance Company of California, Pentalpha Lodge, and most amazingly a 1912 newspaper clipping about the new German battleship Kaiser (Ersatz Hildebrand), the first with turbines, which had just been placed in commission along with four battleships. This clipping gave the dimensions as well as the specifications of this new warship. We can imagine how Homer Lea was alerted to the invention of militarily machines. Homer Lea wrote "The Aeroplane In War", in two separate issues of Harper's Weekly, on August 22 and 27, 1910. With his broad knowledge of future war machines, he then applied it to the science of war. Combined with his geopolitics, the result was his famous prophecy. Don't forget that Homer's father and uncles were all experts in survey mapping and drawing up new town maps. You can see Homer's skill of drawing beautiful war maps in his books.
         Meanwhile, the bombs were falling on Pearl Harbor. On the other side of the world, London was heavily bombarded by German aircraft. These scenarios were unfolding according to Homer Lea's script. Scene after scene played out in such a daring and precise montage. Clare Boothe found it was not too late to warn the world of further human destruction. Thus, she appealed to the book's publisher, Harper & Brother, for the reissuing of Homer Lea's two books, The Valor of Ignorance and The Day of the Saxon. She knew that Lea's prediction would not stop even if World War II ended. If Japan and Germany could be defeated, America and China would have to deal with Russia. Homer always referred to America as a Republic, and China as the Republic of China. He foretold that someday China would come back as a superpower nation and America should be friends with China. He also predicted the conflict in Middle East. On both new reissues, Clare wrote a lengthy introduction to Homer Lea's magnificent achievement and his short life, entitled " The Valor of Homer Lea."
         By now, those who do not know Clare Boothe Luce, ask about who she was. Clare Booth's father, William Franklin Boothe was a student with superb abilities in music, croquette, athletic, language and history. In 1878, he entered Cincinnati College of Music, where he was a talented violin student. He went to Europe to study violin with "The King of Violin", Eugene Ysaye. William also played the piano well. In fact, he became the greatest piano marketer and won the most innovative recognition in the piano world when piano sales was soaring. He was a pioneer distributor of the baby grand piano. With his wealth and music business, he ended up with four wives, three legal and one common-law. There were also documented affairs with the great pianist, Teresa Carreno. In early 1901, he met Clare Boothe's mother, a beautiful eighteen year old dancer, Anna Clara Schneider, who was eighteen years younger than him. William became a patent medicine salesman with Bromonia Company, when piano sales plunged.
        Henry Robinson Luce, Clare Boothe's husband was born in Dengzhow, China. His father was a Presbyterian missionary. Not until Henry was eight did he first see America. He returned to China and at fourteen he went to a London school to cure his stutter. Then he won a scholarship to Hotchkiss School in Connecticut. He edited the school's monthly magazine. Henry graduated from Yale college. With his best friend Briton Hadden, they had won control of the Yale Daily News. Luce went on to study history at Oxford and fell in love with Lila Ross Hotz from Chicago. In order to get close to Lila, he took a job on the Chicago Daily, but was soon lured by Briton Hadden to join him at the Baltimore News. Together, they began their publishing enterprise and it changed their lives. Luce married Lila. She gave him a son, Henry Luce lll, and another one, Peter Paul. Later their marriage ended in divorce. In 1929, after Hadden suddenly died of septicemia, Henry became the sole owner of Time. When he met Clare, he was running three major magazines, Time, Fortune, and Architectural Forum. They married on November 23, 1935. Henry then founded Life, House & Home, and Sport illustrated.
        Clare Boothe was born in New York on April 10, 1903. She had an elder brother, David Franklin. While William Boothe was married to another woman, Ida, Anna Schneider separated from him in 1912. Then she had a series of relationships with wealthy companions in high society. Clare went to St. Mary's School in Garden City, New York, then graduated from Miss Mason's School, "The Castle" in Tarrytown, New York in 1919. Her first ambition was to become an actress, as she admired Mary Pickford. She briefly attended Clare Tree Major's School of Theater in New York City. Her mother remarried Dr. Albert E. Austin, Connecticut, in 1919, who later became a Republican Congressman. When the three of them were traveling to Europe, she met a Women's Suffrage leader and became interested in the Suffrage movement. While Clare worked for Women's Suffrage as a secretary, she met George T. Brokaw, a millionaire with an inherited clothing fortune. They had a lavish wedding on August 10, 1923 and later, had a daughter, Ann C. Brokaw. After less than six years of marriage, Clare divorced Brokaw, claiming he was an alcoholic. In addition, two major tragedies befell her in life. One was the death of her best friend, actress Dorothy Hale, who committed suicide by leaping from her apartment. To honor the memory of her beautiful friend, she commissioned artist, Frida Kahlo to do a theatrical portrait. Instead, Kahlo painted "El Suicide de Dorothy Hale" which horrified Luce. The other was her daughter's death from a car accident on January 11, 1944, while a senior at Stanford University. She sought God and became a Catholic. Perhaps, God was testing her strength. As she always said: "No good deed goes unpunished."
         Like Homer Lea, Clare wanted us to remember her as a politician, explorer, and a dazzling writer. She became an assistant editor for a fashion magazine, Vogue, in 1930 and the managing editor of Vanity Fair, from 1931 to 1934. After her resignation from Vanity Fair, Clare pursued her goal as a playwright. From her six plays, the most recognized Broadway production, "The Women", was translated into a film in 1939, and again in 2008, staring Meg Ryan and Annette Bening. Her play "Kiss the Boys Goodbye" and "Margin for Error" were also made into film. In 1949, her short story "Come to the Stable", starring Loretta Young and Celeste Holm, received seven Academy Award nominations, including her Best Writing, Motion Picture Story. Clare later became a war journalist traveling Europe and Asia. Her assignments of the war coverage for Life were equally tough as a male reporter, encountered dangers of bombing raids, endurance, frustrations, and even faced house arrest in Trinidad, because her article proved to be too realistic, too close to comfort for the Allied. In 1940, her first non-fiction book, Europe in the Spring described the tragic human destruction so vividly, as she commented about men destroyed each other, because they cannot live together. Aside from the front lines, she interviewed many world leaders and generals, including Douglas MacArthur in the Life cover story about the first phase of Japanese attacked in the Far East. As a war correspondent, she witnessed Homer Lea's prediction in his books about World War ll. In 1942, Clare won the Republican Congressional seat formally held by her step-father. She won second term in 1944 and was very active for the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission and a outspoken person against Communism. As a result of her campaign on behalf of Republican candidate Dwight Eisenhower for 1952 presidential election, she was appointed as ambassador of Italy, first American woman to represent her country. Again in 1959, Eisenhower commissioned her ambassador to Brazil. She resigned from that appointment as a result of her controversial remark during an opposition debate, though she was confirmed by 79 to 11 votes. She also withdrew her candidacy in 1964, for the US Senate during the Republican president election of Senator Barry Goldwater.
         By 1964 after a few more years of political activities, Clare joined her husband by retiring in Phoenix, Arizona. She moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, after Henry Luce's death of a heart attack on March 7, 1967, aged 68. She started writing plays again, but maintained her political contacts. She moved again from Honolulu to an apartment in the Watergate Complex, DC where she served on the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board from 1981 to 1983, appointed by the newly elected President Reagan who would award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Unfortunately, in her apartment on October 9, 1987, at the age 84, Clare had to leave us, due to her incurable brain tumor.
         I found it very difficult to write a concise, complete biography of Clare Boothe Luce with my limited space. She had done so much for us to ponder over. The above narrative, is just the tip of the iceberg regarding Clare's copious writings, correspondences, and political career. Did Homer Lea's two books have an influence on her political profession? It certainly did! The impact was reflected in her writings as well as her political views. Contrastingly, even today, historians denounce her inaccuracy in her writing of Homer Lea's short biography, but at the time, they never gave her detailed explanations or materials, nor did they help her to polish what raw materials she did have. They never saw the full picture of Clare's main intention, which was her desire to lay the facts on the table about Homer Lea's two books and warn us. All else is of minor relevancy.
         Did Homer Lea set foot in Peking to see the prime minister Kang Yu-wei? Did he meet General Adna R. Chafee there? Did the Boxer Rebellion occur during or after Homer Lea's visit in China? Did Homer Lea personally direct an army to rescue the reformist Emperor, Kuang-hsu? All these were misinterpreted by someone who barely knew Homer Lea and created this fancy story which Clare mistakenly picked up! Kang Yu-wei was never a prime minister, he had no official authority in the Qing Dynasty. However, he did receive an honorable title, as all did, when invited to meet the Emperor, Kuang-hsu, to discuss his reform ideas. He was a well known scholar and teacher. Interestingly, few of his students who passed the Imperial Examination went on to become administrative officials. While Kang had failed. After the failed one hundred four days reform supported by the Emperor (historians refer to this period as the Hundred Days Reform), he sneaked out to Japan through Hong Kong. By then, Sun Yat-sen's small initial revolution in the South had also failed. He escaped to Japan too. Both were under heavy protection by the Japanese government. Kang was advised by the government to welcome Sun as an alliance. Kang refused, thinking his class of gentry and he always referred to Sun as a "Mad Man". He was expelled and went to South East Asia, Singapore area, leaving his follower, Liang  Chi-chao to take care of his business, Po Wong Hui, (Protect the Emperor Society - direct translation), and teaching.
        In July, 1900, General Adna R. Chafee led the US Army to Peking to join the Eight-Nation Alliance army to rescue their own people and to suppress the Boxer Rebellion. The Boxers were manipulated by the Dowager Empress, Tz'u-hsi, who was single-minded without any foreign policy experience. Meanwhile, the Imperial Family had to escape from the Forbidden City. Thus, the whole mess created an opportunity for Kang Yu-wei's small Independent Emperor's Army to rescue the Emperor, or assassinate the Empress. Sun Yat-sen also saw that opportunity. First, he expected to join Kang, thinking together they would have a bigger force to overcome Qing's army. When he was rejected again by Kang, he proceeded on his own. Homer Lea realized his chance too, with the resources and help from Po Wong Hui, Lea was able to take a long journey (almost a month by ship) to Hong Kong. In Hong Kong, Lea met Kang's agents who would take him to an unknown location (today, we know it was in the Singapore area) where he would met Kang Yu-wei. At that period, there were attempts to assassinate either Kang or Sun, direct from Qing's agents or reward seekers. With no exception, all visitors had to be escorted to see Kang. Lea was a little late for the action. Although, he met Kang and gave him his strategy, Kang's army failed because they were poorly organized, the military plans were leaked, and they had proceeded prematurely. Money that went to commanders for the army ended up in the gambling den, thus they were poorly equipped. The retired General Adna Chafee met Homer Lea when Lea stepped into the limelight, as he acted as host of the banquet for Prince Liang Chi-chao who had met President Roosevelt, Secretary of State John Hay and J.P. Morgan during his cross country trip, arriving in Los Angeles in  October, 1903. Probably Lea was introduced to Chafee  through his good friend General Otis (founder of Times-Mirror Company, Los Angeles Times), and Otis served under General Chafee in the Philippine-American War. Again, I do not know where the title "Prince" Liang Chi-chao came from. He was only Kang's student and follower.
        I hope I have shed light on the misinterpreted mystery of Clare. Though I will never have a chance to meet Clare Boothe Luce, I truly believe she is beautiful, brave, intelligent, and articulate. We will never be able to find another Clare Boothe. However, her legacy lives on! The Clare Booth Luce Program of the Henry Luce Foundation and the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute are the most significant resources for women who want to become like her. During this writing, I found Clare to be a wonderful person, not pompous. Clare never used her position to press her Homer Lea article to be printed in Life magazine. Although she was the wife of the publisher, she respected that the editor had the authority to make decisions over the publisher regarding what to print. In fact, she felt better for her article being printed in the Saturday Evening Post. She was such a scholar. I admire her and I salute her!
Reference: Clare Boothe Luce by Stephen Shadegg (1970). Rage for Fame: The Ascent of Clare Boothe Luce by Sylvia Jukes Morris (1997).
Photo: A freeze frame of the Ambassador of Italy, Clare Boothe Luce during her CBS Longines Chronoscope TV interview. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.
News: A video clip of Mr. and Mrs. Homer Lea burial ceremony in Taiwan, on April 18, 1969.
The Valor of Homer Lea
Tuesday, April 12, 2011