The Secretary of War was a member of the United States President's Cabinet, beginning with George Washington's administration. A similar position, called either "Secretary at War" or "Secretary of War", had been appointed to serve the Congress of the Confederation under the Articles of Confederation between 1781 and 1789.
The Secretary of War was the head of the War Department. At first, he was responsible for all military affairs, including naval affairs. In 1798, the Secretary of the Navy was created by statute, and the scope of responsibility for the War Department was reduced to the affairs of the United States Army. From 1886 onward, the Secretary of War was in the line of succession to the presidency, after the Vice President of the United States and other intermediate offices.
In 1947, with the passing of a National Security Act, the Secretary of War was replaced by the Secretary of the Army and the Secretary of the Air Force, which, along with the Secretary of the Navy, have since 1949 been non-Cabinet subordinates under the Secretary of Defense (SecDef). The Secretary of the Army's office is generally considered the direct successor to the Secretary of War's office although the Secretary of Defense took the Secretary of War's position in the Cabinet, and the line of succession to the presidency.
The Secretary of Defense is the leader and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense, the executive department of the Armed Forces of the United States of America. The Secretary of Defense's position of authority over the United States' military is second only to that of the President and Congress. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in many other countries. The Secretary of Defense is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate, and is by custom a member of the Cabinet and by law a member of the National Security Council.
Several Secretaries of War, the Navy, and Defense appear in the fiction of Harry Turtledove. In addition to the alternate history stories and speculative future stories listed below, there are stories which reference Secretaries who either died before the point of divergence or did not do anything relevant after it. Stories set in OTL may reference past Secretaries, or the sitting office-holders, but unless the individual's role is specifically fictionalized, these do not belong here.
In some timelines with a POD before 1947, the merger did not take place, so the split between the War and Navy departments continues, and there is no Secretary of Defense.
The Secretary of Defense was one of the leading American prosecutors of World War III. Like so much of the United States Government, the Defense Department suffered greatly when the Soviet Air Force dropped atomic bombs in and around Washington in May 1952. Incumbent SecDef George Marshall, caught in his Pentagon office, was among the many casualties.
| №||Secretary of Defense||Term||Party||President|
|3||George Marshall||1950-1952||Democrat||Harry Truman|
|4||Omar Bradley|| 1952-|
Incumbent at series' end, 1953
Only two Secretaries of War are identified:
Benjamin Harrison, Republican, served under President James Blaine. His tenure included the Second Mexican War (1881-1882).
Franklin Roosevelt served under President Herbert Hoover, who was in office 1933-1937. Roosevelt's secretarial tenure is noteworthy, as he was a rare Socialist in this Democratic administration. Ironically, when his own party came to power in the next election, he accepted a demotion in rank to Assistant Secretary of War, and served two terms in that position.
Only one Secretary of the Navy is identified:
Josephus Daniels, Democrat, served under President Theodore Roosevelt, and his tenure included the Great War (1914-1917).
Jefferson Davis is President of the Confederate States during the points of divergence for The Guns of the South, "Must and Shall" and Southern Victory, having previously been the United States Secretary of War.
In The Man With the Iron Heart, Robert Patterson is Secretary of War while James Forrestal is Secretary of the Navy in 1946, under Harry Truman, as in OTL. Whether the 1947 merger (which resulted in Forrestal becoming the first OTL SecDef) occurs later in the novel, is not revealed.
In addition to the above, George Marshall appears in Joe Steele as Secretary of War, serving under Presidents Joe Steele and John Nance Garner from sometime in the 1940s until March or April 1953. He dies in office, and the vacancy stands for the rest of the novel.
Historical Secretaries in Non-Secretarial Roles
George Marshall appears in Worldwar in his OTL role of Chief of Staff of the Army. He eventually becomes Secretary of State under President Cordell Hull, but there is no indication that he was ever Secretary of War/Defense.