David Frum

11.13.12

Top Ten Military Sex Scandals, Part One

In light of this week's developing sex scandal, here's a look back at history's most notorious military sex scandals.

#10: Tailhook

At the Las Vegas Hilton in 1991, a convention of naval aviators went even wilder than usual. Dozens of female naval personnel were harassed, groped, and assaulted. The navy high command at first shrugged off the incident, dismissing the women as "topless dancers and hookers." The attempted cover-up was quickly pierced. The Navy harshly cracked down on its former fighter-jock culture, mollifying critics by integrating women into nearly all naval combat operations.

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#9: Pamela and Averell Harriman

Pamela Harriman's whole life was pretty much one continuous sex scandal, but one chapter had special military relevance. Married to Winston Churchill's trouble-prone son Randolph, Pamela moved into Ten Downing Street when Randolph was posted to Egypt in early 1941. There she met and commenced an affair with President Roosevelt's personal envoy, Averell Harriman. Winston Churchill strongly appears to have connived in the affair as a contribution to strengthening the Anglo-American relationship in the difficult days before Pearl Harbor committed America to war.

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Naval Historical Center; Photo #: USA C-2413 (Color), photograph from the Army Signal Corps Collection in the U.S. National Archives.

#8: MacArthur's Eurasian Mistress

If you ever step beyond downtown Washington, you've surely passed the grand old Chastleton apartment building on Sixteenth Street. It was here that Douglas MacArthur stashed the mistress he brought home from the Philippines in 1930, a film actress named Isabel Rosario Cooper. MacArthur, legendarily fearless in battle, did not have the nerve to tell his domineering mother that there could ever be another woman in his life. The story soon leaked, and nearly wrecked MacArthur's career, not least because Isabel was a woman of mixed race. MacArthur finally detailed his aide, Dwight Eisenhower, to pay Isabel $15,000 to go away. She ended a suicide in Los Angeles in 1960.

Stay tuned for parts two and three of this series.