After Hours

Geek Trivia: The Quibble of the Week for January 29

This week's quibble comes from the January 15 edition of Geek Trivia, "Failure or success(ion)." TechRepublic member and blogger <strong>Justin James</strong> nailed me for failing to mention a couple of posts that were once part of the U.S. presidential line of succession.

If you uncover a questionable fact or debatable aspect of this week's Geek Trivia, "The Mac and the myth," just post it in the discussion area. Every week, yours truly will choose the best quibble from the assembled masses and discuss it in a future edition of Geek Trivia.

This week's quibble comes from the January 15 edition of Geek Trivia, "Failure or success(ion)." TechRepublic member and blogger Justin James nailed me for failing to mention a couple of posts that were once part of the U.S. presidential line of succession.

"There used to be a secretary of war and a secretary of the navy. In 1947, those two positions were placed under the newly created secretary of defense position. However, the Presidential Succession Act, which puts the Cabinet in line, also was put into place in 1947 (July 18). However, the secretary of defense position was established on Sept. 17, 1947, giving about two months in which the secretary of war and secretary of navy were in the newly successionable Cabinet."

Actually, that's not quite accurate. The National Security Act of 1947 created the Secretary of Defense position, signed into law on July 26, 1947. This left just eight days of gap between the reigns of the respective Secretaries of the Army and Navy and that of the newly minted Secretary of Defense. The Department of Defense didn't begin formal operations until Sept. 18, 1947, one day after the sitting Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, was confirmed into the position of Secretary of Defense.

The intervening period was one of reorganization. However, for almost two years, the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and newly formed Air Force acted as almost de facto Cabinet members, forcing an amendment to the National Security Act in 1949 that formally (and retroactively) designated them as subordinate undersecretaries of the Secretary of Defense. Thus, by law, those posts aren't and weren't in the line of presidential succession.

Now, as to what would have actually happened if someone had simultaneously assassinated President Harry Truman, House Speaker Sam Rayburn, Senate President Pro Tempore Arthur Vandenberg, Secretary of State George Marshall, and Treasury Secretary John Snyder in 1948...well, I'll leave that to historians and legal scholars. Great quibble though, so keep them coming.

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About Jay Garmon

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger — amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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