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Nathan M. Becker Oral History Interview

Nathan M. Becker  

Oral History Interview with
Nathan M. Becker

Economic adviser, Coordinator of Information, Board of Economic Warfare, and US Department of State, 1941-47; and economic adviser, General Staff US-UN Forces, Korea, 1952-53.

New York, New York
January 19, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie

 

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 

 


 

NOTICE
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

As an electronic publication of the Truman Library, users should note that features of the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview, such as pagination and indexing, could not be replicated for this online version of the Nathan M. Becker transcript.

RESTRICTIONS
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened February, 1976
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]

 



Oral History Interview with
Nathan M. Becker

New York, New York
January 19, 1973
Richard D. McKinzie

[1]

MCKINZIE: Perhaps you could say something about the kind of training you had and what brought you originally into Government service? I guess that's a good place to start.

BECKER: That's a strange story itself. I'm an economist, of course, not a political scientist or historian, and I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the reform of the Chinese monetary system, of all things, and worked with one of the outstanding men in the field of Far Eastern economics, Carl [Dr. Charles Frederick] Remer, at Michigan. Even though I took my degree

[2]

at Cincinnati, I did part of my work with Remer at Michigan. That was in '38 when I got my degree. It's hard to realize it, it's the 35th anniversary of that coming up in June.

But, well, with the war starting to roll forward, the summer before Pearl Harbor I had been called to Washington on two or three occasions in a very secretive fashion. All I knew was that Carl Remer was involved in it, but when I got there there were a few other people whom I had met and knew, who had been associated with Far Eastern affairs politically, sociologically, or otherwise, and they wanted comments on various matters.

They sort of plucked my brains (or what little brains I had at the time), for what it was worth, a day or two at a time. I might say, that while I knew this had something to do with the Executive Office of the President, no organization name was used. I wasn't supposed to know with whom I was talking or anything else. Carl had mentioned

[3]

the fact that they might want me to come down for a longer period of time and asked if I could get away. I was teaching then at the University of Toledo. "Well," I said, "I presume I could if the circumstances were appropriate."

So that fall, of '4l, in early October--the semester had already started--I got a hurry-up call to come down to Washington again where they suggested that it would be nice if I could come down to help them for about six months. "Well," I said, "the semester has already started, this is a little tough on the university, but let me go back and see."

I went back and talked to Phil [Philip Curtis] Nash, who incidentally was a very active member of various international groups. Phil Nash was the president, and he said, in effect, "You've got a hell of a lot of nerve wanting to leave in October."

I said, "Well, I don't want to leave, I've

[4]

been asked to come down."

He said, "Well, who wants you?"

And I said, "I don't know."

"Now," he said, "that's kind of strange."

I said, "Well, I know it has something to do with the Executive Office of the President, but beyond that I don't know and if I did know, I wouldn't be permitted to tell you."

He said, "That's the most outlandish thing." This was the day before we became accustomed to secrecy in such activities. So finally, he said--well, this had gone on for several days and he said, "I'll tell you what." He said, "If I get a call from the White House saying that they want you down there," he said, "I'll let you go regardless of the inconvenience." He thought that he had effectively killed the idea with that.

I called Washington and told them the story and Phil Nash called me a couple of hours later and said, "I got the call." He said, "Pack your

[5]

bags." Within a day or two I got a telegram confirming the appointment and by the end of the month, October 30th, I was off.

What had been gathered there was a wholly new idea in a kind of intellectual detection, if you like, of scholarship. What this turned out to be, of course, was Bill Donovan's outfit, which was then called the Coordinator of Information, an innocuous title which included everything from what later became OSS and then the CIA, to the branches that were involved with the Office of War Information, and other things of that sort.

Well, actually what they were developing were some regional staffs and we worked for some months then trying to make up, really, for the shortage that we could obviously see in terms of our military and economic intelligence. I was in the Far Eastern group, and we had Bert Fahs and John Fairbank and Dirk Bodda, Ken (there I go, see, I've lost that last name now). Ken's

[6]

wife wrote the well-known Anna and the King of Siam, Ken [Kenneth P.] Landon.

It's funny I couldn't--see, it does come back after a while. But there were a number of outstanding scholars there and there were some others of us as well.

But well before the six months were up, of course, Pearl Harbor came along. So the question of my returning after six months became academic. The university actually kept me on leave of absence for a number of years after that, and later terminated it at my request. I stayed with that organization for some time until, as a matter of fact, it was getting ready for a reorganization in the spring.

MCKINZIE: Still called the Office of Information or something?

BECKER: The Coordinator of Information. Right before it broke up into various constituent parts, I left and joined what became the Board of Economic

[7]

Warfare.

MCKINZIE: With Henry Wallace?

BECKER: Yes. And worked in the Board of Economic Warfare. Most of my time, during the period of hostilities I was in charge of the Iberian section, part of the Blockade Division. We and our British cousins ran a joint operation in terms of the blockade of the neutral countries and in the negotiation of war trade agreements. We engaged in sub rosa activities as well as those that were not sub rosa. It involved preclusive purchasing, trying to get materials away from the enemy. And in Spain and Portugal this became a real rat race, in which we were all very much concerned (jointly with the British). I spent most of my time in Washington, but also overseas in Africa and Spain, Portugal, England, on some fieldwork and negotiations there.

In that work, of course, we also worked closely with a constituent branch of the State

[7a]

Department. And after a few years it's hard to imagine all the throes of organization and reorganization that were going on in Washington. I remember once coming back from Europe, touching neutral Ireland, and being informed by the Irish immigration officer that the name of my organization as shown on the passport was no longer valid because it had been changed yesterday. He got a great boot out of that.

Of course, the Irish were very good as neutrals, they let us do most anything that was reasonable. They let me pitch my confidential papers over the rail to the American consular officer who was waiting for me so it wouldn't have to go through inspection.

But at any rate, I left BEW and joined the State Department. At first, continuing the same work in a division which was technically--well, you know, the old State Department initial system, every division and office is known by its initials, this was "LA," Liberated Areas, or rather

[8]

it became Liberated Areas, but part of it had been the group dealing with the neutrals as well, but merged with LA.

MCKINZIE: You know the old BEW, I guess, fell apart, because it didn't have much internal cohesion some way. Were you aware of that at the time?

BECKER: Oh, yes. In the old OEW, which preceded, the Office of Economic Warfare--and there was more than just a change of name there, because it was again constantly changing functions -- -you had the Office of Exports and you had the Office of Imports, and their duties and interests were rather opposite to each other. "Imports" was primarily a matter of the rationing of transportation, or the stimulation of production in outlying regions of necessary war materials -- the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, for example, was the mother of dozens of organizations performing specific functions.

[9]

One of these organizations, called the USCC, was the sister organization to the British one called UKCC. These were the buying agencies, and when we conducted preclusive operations in Spain these were always joint activities of the two corporations, acting under directions from the policymaking committees, the operating committees which met in Washington and London.

MCKINZIE: These would be the joint boards?

BECKER: These were not "boards" actually, these were joint committees. The Blockade Committee itself met in London, as did the NAVICERT Committee; but we had an equivalent organization in Washington, which met weekly, and which consisted of the British representatives from their various interested offices and the Board of Economic Warfare, or whatever its name happened to be, and the State Department. And then we'd agree in terms of our policy and coordinate it with the British, as well, in London. On several

[10]

occasions, when I was in London, I attended the meetings of the regular parent committees in London.

Here's where you get a kind of conflict, because the policy was determined then in what was--in the Board of Economic Warfare, called the Blockade Division, which was part of the Office of Exports; whereas, the USCC functioned, really, under the administrative control of the Office of Imports, because many of its other functions were related to that office.

That in itself wasn't a great conflict, but the two offices were always sort of involved in rivalry. I know we had opposite numbers in the Office of Imports. I think they tended to think of themselves as the so-called more practical people and looked askance at some of the theoretical directives that came from the Blockade people, but I guess this was no more than the normal clash of knowledge, experience, and outlook. I don't admit for one moment that they were any

[11]

more "practical," but that was supposed to be their primary interest.

MCKINZIE: Did you think that the direction of Henry Wallace, who by that time was involved in it, had anything to do with that? Some of his critics have said that he wasn't a very good administrator.

BECKER: I guess one would have to say that. I had a few personal contacts with him, and of course, I saw him often enough. He was an "awful" nice guy. I think he was made a fool of by a number of people later, but I never really can satisfy myself whether he was naive or just disinterested in certain things. But he represented a certain point of view, and I have no doubt that his lack of attention, let's say to the details of administration, certainly contributed to the vagueness or the unclear lines of authority that sometimes existed. But then, I don't know, all the people who knew FDR used to say that he did

[12]

that on purpose, that this was a mark of his administrative genius or lack of it, whichever point of view you want to take.

There's the kind of administrator who administers by looking at every detail and the kind who delegates authority, and the other kind who doesn't really give a damn what happens as long as in some vague and general way they're moving towards whatever goals they have established. I don't know that any one kind of administration is superior to another, but--well, at the risk of something or other, I'd say that by in large I am always skeptical of an administrator who hasn't done the kind of jobs that he's supervising so that he knows what is involved, and I think that much of the conflict arises from this kind of situation.

I don't think the details of my personal policy are of too much interest here, but as the war began to reach its climax and conclusion we began to shift around. So several of us, plus

[13]

a couple of others, were drawn together then within the Department in this new staff that we spoke of before, in the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs' office. The special assistant was C. Tyler Wood, and we were his supporting staff; Dal [Dallas W.] Dort, Dave Pursinger, and myself, and--who have I left out--Fred Preu. There were others who worked with us from other divisions of the Department and we called on their research people as we didn't try to do all of the detail work.

MCKINZIE: Would you describe your function as planning for relief or just general postwar planning?

BECKER: Well, general postwar planning is too broad, because ours, in the first place, was strictly limited to the economic side and it certainly wasn't restricted to relief. Relief, rehabilitation, a lot of quibbling took place about the meaning of those words and what was or was not intended or included; but certainly we were involved in

[14]

almost any kind of economic planning that took place involving either liberated areas or the neutral countries, in their place, but primarily the areas that had been devastated in terms of the war. While our relationship was a very formal one as far as UNRRA was concerned (that is we were designated as the people who would represent the United States on the central committee and program subcommittee of UNRRA), we also functioned in a number of other respects.

I can't remember how many times I shuttled back and forth to the old World Fair grounds up here in New York from Washington when the early stages of the UN were operating, i.e. the various economic committees. Again, we were representing the American interests on many of these activities in their formative stages.

MCKINZIE: What general outlook did this group have that worked with Tyler Wood when they thought about the immediate postwar economic problems?

[15]

Did they have the same view as Will [William L.] Clayton, that those problems were going to be only temporarily material problems and would thereafter be financial problems? Or do I misread even Will Clayton's view there?

BECKER: No, I don't think that's a misreading. I'm kind of pondering it a bit. Actually I think we represented a number of diverse views. It was a very effective group, really, when you stop to think of it in those terms, and from various kinds of backgrounds. The other young man in the outfit, Dave Persinger, was a permanent civil servant, one who had always been in the Government. Fred Preu was an old Government hand with a background in accounting and auditing. I was a professional economist who was in there temporarily to do something. Dal Dort was not a permanent person. I think he originally came from Michigan, had some auto family background there.

[16]

Tyler Wood had been in the investment business and had come down to serve in various roles in the war and wound up in this particular place.

No, I'd say their views were rather diverse. That they would range over a fairly wide area, let's say, at least, of the center. I don't think there were any extreme views of the group, even though it wasn't long before Mr. McCarthy went around with his hand folded over a piece of paper that I suspect was blank. I only knew one person who had been subjected to the McCarthy harassment. He was one of the people in one of the research divisions. And incidentally, in speaking before about the Board of Economic Warfare, when that eventually became the Foreign Economic Administration, it was kind of a broad blanket thing and then began to break up with a lot of internal dissatisfaction. Many people felt that their intentions were not clear. In that reorganization, a couple of the research divisions had been moved almost bodily over to the

[17]

State Department. They became added to that group, and I think it was one of those men who had at one time been accused of being a leftist of some sort. I know, only having heard about it much later, that after several years he did win--whether legal in the courts or in private settlement, I don't know--restitution and back salary from the Government. So, whatever the circumstances were I had never thought of him as being a leftist, let's put it that way.

Another incident comes to mind, not unrelated to the McCarthy era. During the UNRRA period there were, naturally, differences of fact and opinion on the needs of the various countries receiving aid. These questions were often complicated by fundamental questions or positions regarding the method of food distribution, crop collection, etc. Czechoslovakia was no exception. The political desk office for Czechoslovakia one day discussed an agricultural report from our

[18]

Embassy in Prague with me at great length, and then asked if I would call in the Czech Commercial Attaché (who was also their UNRRA representative with whom I worked on many matters), and during the conversation I was to refer to the report, show him certain sections, and point out the major differences from the line of argument and fact being raised with our Ambassador by the Czechs.

I carried out the request and reported to the desk officer that the report had made quite an impression on my visitor (Schlesinger), who, incidentally, was thought by some of us to be more cooperative than some other Eastern representatives, and certainly not fixedly anti-American or anti-West. I was really shocked, a few days later, to see a copy of a cable from Ambassador Steinhardt to the Secretary (as all cables are addressed), which went well beyond the niceties of diplomatic language or even cablese. The message, in effect, asked what the hell did Becker mean by showing an Embassy report to the Czechs, especially one which

[19]

might undermine his efforts to win friends and influence with them. Was this, he thundered, another case of an American official becoming too friendly with the "other side"? The language and implications were enough to make me pretty angry and would also certainly have given an entirely wrong picture to one of McCarthy's people. I was especially provoked since I was carrying out a request from the political side and they had assured me that the procedure had been adequately cleared for policy. Naturally, I complained bitterly to the political desk and wanted them to join me in an explanatory cable to the Ambassador. But the political officers urged me not to make such a reply through channels since such a cable might help to undermine the position of a man they considered to be one of their best men in Central Europe. He happened to have a short temper but they assured me also had a short memory for grudges. Rather than send a formal reply that might be used against him, and assured that

[20]

he would be home for consultations in a few weeks anyway, I agreed to write a personal note to the Ambassador and then see him when he returned to Washington. After showing a copy to the desk officer, I sent off the letter.

Sure enough, a few weeks later the Ambassador was at the Department and asked me to come up to his temporary office. Obviously he had been briefed because he was very friendly, apologized for any discomfort his message had caused me, and we spent a very pleasant time discussing things of current and joint interest. He was a very able and hard-working diplomat. But the incident does illustrate in a very small way one part of the "tone" of Washington.

Steinhardt later served as our Ambassador to Canada and was unfortunately killed in an airplane crash; Schlesinger, in another small indication of times, returned to Prague when his tour of duty in Washington was over; shortly after his return the report came to us that he had committed

[21]

suicide.

MCKINZIE: Did this group have anything to do, or were they aware of the negotiations that were going on with the British, particularly the British, about the establishment of a relief administration, and was your group involved then in the setting up of the machinery for this and would you tell me something about that?

BECKER: Yes, all of this, and also very closely related to all the lend-lease settlements.

MCKINZIE: The 3C settlement and all that?

BECKER: No, you see, when Henry Spaak came over with his group and then other groups came over to try to negotiate settlements of their lend-lease offsets. This is the kind of thing that we are just settling with the Russians now, presumably, which wasn't settled then. And these discussions were very closely related, obviously, to the kinds of programs that were going to be

[22]

initiated to revive European industry and commerce. The United States was actively pushing the various joint activities, which I personally had very little to do with, the European Payments Union and that kind of thing; but these were all associated activities that had some affect on what we were doing, and obviously the proposals in terms of allocations of funds for various programs.

Then the Marshall plan began to operate. I am just trying to think of the effective date I left the Department. We finished our UNRRA role and finished a couple of other major things and as we were reorganizing to sort of function along new lines, I felt the time had come to leave. I had been offered another post, a very interesting one, as the American liaison officer with the Swedish Riksbank in Stockholm; but we had another baby coming along at the time, and we had been in Washington a long time and I felt

[23]

it was time to shake the grime and dust off and -- I didn't get to shake it for as long as I thought I would, but we did leave in '47, during the summer. I came back for 8 months to serve as an economic adviser on the general staff in Korea, at the Department of Army request, this was as a "volunteer."

That was a special kind of problem, but it raised many of the same issues in terms of the settlement of the financial arrangement between the two countries, the equivalent of lend-lease and reverse lend-lease. Much of my interest was in the problems of creating inflation in a country, which we were trying to help militarily. It foreshadowed almost all the problems we've had in Vietnam, yet no one seems to have opened the books on the records and experiences of Korea to apply them to Vietnam, which was rather strange. Maybe to you as a historian this isn't so strange.

MCKINZIE: I wonder if you could tell me something

[24]

about the planning and your activity with UNRRA, your experience with all of that?

BECKER: Yes. We had two major functions. One was, as I said before, that we represented the United States on the actual committees. That meant, for example, sitting on the program subcommittee, which I often did. This was a general operation and policy responsibility during the year, sometimes meeting once a week, sometimes meeting five times a week. If we were allocating new programs it meant the whole detail of taking the available funds and deciding how they would be used in what categories, for what countries, what kinds of goods would be permitted, etc., within the framework of what had been established as proper. It also meant handling all the day to day problems that came up. The little agreements, and disagreements, the controversies, the program difficulties, watching the progress of programs. Then we also had the second function of administering the U.S. contribution to UNRRA. Again, this is

[25]

perfectly clear to most people, but I might say it just for the record anyway, that we didn't contribute money, we allocated a certain amount of money to this program. UNRRA purchased, and it purchased against authorizations which we approved, and either purchased goods directly or it purchased through an American purchasing agency.

In other words, they used the General Services Administration, or the Department of Agriculture for some things, and on a few things they went out on the market and bought themselves.

I can also say one thing very facetiously here. In establishing our participation in UNRRA, the President was authorized to perform, in his executive function, all of the things required, which included the authorization of the use of the American contribution; and the President, by an Executive order turned this duty over to the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State,

[26]

by departmental order, turned it over to the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs, and the Under Secretary of Economic Affairs, by his order, turned it over to me, and I couldn't find anybody else to turn it over to so eventually most of the papers came across my desk.

Now this is kind of a terrible chore, because it meant--I really thought for a long time, you know, that after I left the Government I'd spend the next five years testifying before committees, "Did you sign such an authorization on February 2nd, and why?" Of all the things we've ever been questioned about this has never came up. I leave it to the fact that the Research and Procurement people had done such a good job that there weren't any questions, but I suspect that that isn't really so. But what this really meant is that UNRRA would come up with a batch of things, maybe involving a few million dollars at a time, and these papers would be carefully screened by our own technical people, and then eventually brought to the policy side for what really amounted

[27]

to a pro forma signature. So that, while we did look at things and hope that we might catch something that was improper or just through neglect had slipped through, it isn't very often that we did. Occasionally we did see something that we didn't think was quite right, but by and large a gentleman named Mr. Koontz and his staff did an effective job of screening these things out very carefully and making sure--it's the same old story that you do with everything, every use of a dollar has to be one that would be approved by the General Accounting Office as having met the requirements of the authorization.

MCKINZIE: But then, of course, you had no control over what happened to that material after it was purchased?

BECKER: Again, not quite so. This was a constant fight, and because of the insistence of the American Congress, the practice developed which was carried forward later in ECA and other aid

[28]

programs, that all goods leaving the United States, even if they were under the UNRRA program, had to be clearly marked, wherever possible, and in certain height letters, that they had come from the United States. It was the hand of friendship, but several Congressmen, for example, had once complained bitterly that they thought, "Well, here the United States is making 75 percent of the contribution to UNRRA and everybody else is getting the credit."

I remember specifically that one subcommittee coming back, in talking to us, said, "Well, you know, we were wrong. They don't think in those foreign countries that we gave 75 percent of the funds to UNRRA, they think we gave it all."

They were shocked to find that rather than the American contribution being played down that everybody just assumed that it was primarily an American program.

[29]

Nevertheless, that still didn't prevent the kind of criticism in Congress, for good or other purposes--constantly needling on the grounds that we lost control, that goods were being diverted. There were fantastic difficulties, of course, in the very limited and belated Chinese program, and this was not unrelated, of course, to the incipient, and then later actual, civil war, between the Kuomintang and the Reds. And obviously, I'm sure that if you ferreted out all reports that there were many, many instances of relief goods being diverted and misused in one form or another. There is always a lot of wastage or misapplication in such a program.

MCKINZIE: You had no real control over the staffing of the people who were determining tend use then?

BECKER: We did in this sense, that UNRRA had a mission in each country and this mission consisted of international, that is, UNRRA employees, what would be equivalent to UN today, and these included

[30]

Americans. And I think that there were a number of very able Americans as well as able non-Americans involved. I think they did a pretty good job, and certainly they labored under difficulties in many countries and they could not always accomplish everything that they wanted to, and I'm sure that supplies got diverted to unintended sources.

I would say that on the whole it accomplished its purposes as a relief and rehabilitation program, and a program, mind you, that was not meant to go into the question of rebuilding or anything of that sort. This was an emergency program primarily, and we operated under many severe restrictions both from UNRRA itself and from the U.S. Congress as to what funds could be used for. Congress has always been very jealous over the question of providing educational supplies, for example, under any program. And if you wanted to justify pencils and papers, for example, just plain paper and pencils or a simple reading

[31]

book, that's not relief and rehabilitation, and this is dangerous, because it involves the possibility of propaganda and everything else--at least in the eyes of the Congress.

When the Congress acts in this way and puts a restriction on a program, you simply have to follow it, or the General Accounting Office, which is the watchdog will simply throw out the purchase when it comes forward.

Congress required that the President submit a quarterly report on U.S. operations in UNRRA. And much of the material for this, for example, was prepared for us by UNRRA, both by Americans and non-Americans, and many of the leading people in UNRRA were Americans.

Then the draft of this came to our office. We worked on it, we polished it, we particularly drafted the covering letter from the President to Congress which submits this quarterly report, and then sent it over to the White House for approval. The President's assistant (now that

[32]

stupid name business has caught me again) Ed, do you recall which, do you recall the list of presidential assistants at that time? Ed Locke, a youngish man, he was the one particularly involved with it. This was part of his area of responsibility, so it would be communicated to the President through him. And as I said, in the first hectic days of the Truman administration right after FDR's death, when we were all very much concerned with what was going on, one of the most heartening things that I ran across, as I was telling you before we started recording, was the fact that we sent over a draft and it came back to me from the presidential assistant within a very few days, not just with his pro forma memo saying the President approves this, but "the President has read this." And there it was, on the galley proof in the President's handwriting, in his letter to Congress were several editorial and

[33]

substantive changes which represented Harry Truman's style of how he wanted to say something. This was just one of the first of many, many pieces of evidence that Harry Truman was a man who did his homework. He just didn't go into things unprepared. He worked hard, he tried hard to learn in a very quick time--all the terrible decisions he had to make in the first few months. I had no experience with it, but I was told by others that for the first three months, one of his constant questions--you may have heard this from someone else--whenever anything difficult came up, or unusual, the first thing he would say to a couple of the old-timers around was, "How would FDR have handled this?" Not that he necessarily did it FDR's way, but he wanted to know the background; how would FDR have approached it. There was no question that within a very short time his handmark was on the administration. But there wasn't the discontinuity that you might have expected with

[34]

the death of a great man such as FDR, who had been President for so long; you would think that this would be terribly disruptive.

On the whole it was not, even considering the troubled times we were in. It might have been more disruptive, let's say, if it had taken place before we could see the end of the war coming and all of that; but even so, I think that it's a remarkable tribute to Truman that he was able to grasp the reins of power, call it what you will, and to take over in a sensible matter of fact fashion and without making much fuss about it, and do the job.

MCKINZIE: What do you know about his decisions to go along with the ending of UNRRA, and how he felt about the criticisms that were leveled against that program by Congress? Fiorella LaGuardia, of course, wanted it to go on, and, as I understand it, appealed rather strongly to the President to have that happen. Was this outside

[35]

your thing?

BECKER: It was mostly outside my major interest in terms of daily activity although I heard much of what was going on and in a peripheral sense, participated in it. I don't know how to summarize it. I haven't thought of the question exactly in those terms, but let me try to think out loud for a moment. I would suspect that Truman's kind of down to earth attitude and the way in which he viewed problems, that he would by and large have taken the view that the international aspect of the allocation of American funds was neither politically nor economically desirable at that time. I don't think I could point to any one thing to prove that point, but as a general reflection of the various bits of things. Does this seem to bear out what is told by others?

MCKINZIE: Yes, it is.

BECKER: I was going to say, also, I don't know to

[36]

what extent--I hate to get involved in personalities -- Butch LaGuardia of course, has made his own mark in history, he doesn't have to worry too much about what petty bureaucrats thought of him, but I would suspect that some of the antipathy must have arisen because of the abrasiveness of LaGuardia's personality. LaGuardia was a great man for the role he played in New York. I don't think much of him as an administrator, and even though I have not too much to refer to--that's probably the kind of sharp statement I shouldn't make, but I'm kind of a blunt guy--but what I'm trying to say is that he had the reputation, people who knew him politically, that as a great friend and as great a convivial spirit as he was, that if he ever got down on you, you were dead. He would pursue you until the end of time; he never gave up on a political enemy or somebody that he felt had affronted him. Have you heard this from others?

[37]

MCKINZIE: Yes.

BECKER: Well, the little story I told you before about LaGuardia I don't know whether he would have honored me by putting me on his list, but if he had had such a list of people, I think I would have had a prominent role after that airplane incident, especially after the White House and Mr. Acheson had simply told him they would ride with my decision.

MCKINZIE: And for our record here, he had as I understand it, tried to bump people, some people who were on a regular flight.

BECKER: Yes, this was an Army flight out to the Far East, to Shanghai, at the time the UNRRA people were trying to build up their strength out there as well, and he wanted to bump half a dozen people, because he had a half a dozen people to get out there urgently. There was also the question involved that t