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Lois Bernhardt Oral History Interview

Lois Bernhardt  

Oral History Interview with
Lois Bernhardt

Stenographer to James F. Byrnes , Office of War Mobilization, during World War II and from July to November, 1945 when Mr. Byrnes was Secretary of State.

September 19, 1989
Niel M. Johnson

[ Notices and Restrictions | InterviewTranscript | Appendix | 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.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 March, 1992
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | InterviewTranscript | Appendix | List of Subjects Discussed]

 



Oral History Interview with
Lois Bernhardt

Clarion Iowa
September 19, 1989
Niel M. Johnson

[1]

JOHNSON: Mrs. Bernhardt, would you give us your full name, including your maiden name, and your birthplace and the date of birth.

BERNHARDT: My maiden name is Kevan, Lois Kevan Bernhardt, and I was born at Dow City, Iowa, on November 22, 1919. My parents were Jay and Golda Kevan.

JOHNSON: Did they happen to be Irish in background?

BERNHARDT: Scotch. I've seen the name in Ireland, so it could have been. One grandfather was from Scotland, and his wife was from England.

JOHNSON: How about brothers and sisters.

BERNHARDT: I had one brother and two sisters, who are all deceased now.

[2]

JOHNSON: Are you the youngest?

BERNHARDT: No, I wasn't the youngest. I had one sister that was younger. She died just a short time ago, so they are all gone. I went to school in Dow City, but graduated from Schaller, Iowa, where I met my husband. We were high school sweethearts there, but it took us eight and a half years to finally get married, but of ourse, there was a global war in there.

JOHNSON: The only one that took longer was Harry and Bess Truman.

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: What was your father's occupation?

BERNHARDT: He was a farmer. My mother was a schoolteacher before she married him.

JOHNSON: So you were raised on a farm.

BERNHARDT: Most of the time. My father passed away when I was only seven years old, so my mother had the problem of raising four children during the Great Depression.

JOHNSON: By herself, schoolteaching.

BERNHARDT: Well, she was a nurse then.

JOHNSON: Well, I guess at least nursing was in demand so

[3]

that she was . . .

BERNHARDT: She was never without work.

JOHNSON: Then you graduated from high school.

BERNHARDT: The Depression was just slowing down, but money was very scarce, and I had a scholarship to a business school in Des Moines, the American Institute of Business. So I attended that.

JOHNSON: That would have been what year?

BERNHARDT: I graduated in '37. And after I graduated from there I was in an insurance office in Des Moines. Through my mother's insistence, I took a Civil Service test. I was not interested. In fact, I put on the Civil Service test that I did not want to go out of the state of Iowa. I did not pursue any job at that time with the Government. But by the time I got the telegram from Washington--I didn't accept the first one because I wasn't interested--but then I had advanced as far as I could in the job in Des Moines, and so the third telegram was very attractive and I went to Washington all by myself. Didn't know a soul; didn't have a place to live.

JOHNSON: What office in Washington was offering you a job?

BERNHARDT: The War Department.

[4]

JOHNSON: What year?

BERNHARDT: This was 1940.

JOHNSON: Before Pearl Harbor.

BERNHARDT: The year before Pearl Harbor.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the name of the person, or the boss, the first boss that hired you?

BERNHARDT: No. I was in the G-3 division of the War Department, which at that time had the job of troop movements and troop training. So, that job became more of a secret nature as the possibility of war became a reality. So we were highly investigated, and at the time troop movements were very, very secret. I had made a trip to Fort Dix to see a friend who was among the troops that first went to northern Ireland. No one on that base knew where they were going, but they knew that I knew where they were going. So, don't anybody ever tell you that a girl can't keep a secret.

JOHNSON: This would have been after Pearl Harbor then, in 1942.

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: And you were still single.

[5]

BERNHARDT: Oh, yes, still single until after the war. I rather skipped over Pearl Harbor a little bit there. In Washington I wanted to go to visit Congress. As we were working all day, I took advantage of an evening session to visit Congress. And that night was when Congress was voting on the extension of the draft law. The draft law had been passed for only one year.

JOHNSON: That's right. This would have been just a few weeks before . . .

BERNHARDT: They were voting on an extension. It was August, four months before Pearl Harbor. And that passed by one vote. So, the extension of the draft was voted in by one vote, four months before Pearl Harbor.

JOHNSON: Now, were you in there to see the vote taken?

BERNHARDT: Yes. That was a very interesting, timely time to be in the Congress.

JOHNSON: Where did you live when you were working at that point, '40-'41?

BERNHARDT: Close to DuPont Circle, at 1533 New Hampshire, in a boarding house. When I got to Washington, as I say, I didn't know anybody. I went to the YWCA to get a list of residences. I just happened to go to this boarding house, and the reason I took the room was

[6]

there was a girl there that was home that day that had the prettiest smile and the most sparkling brown eyes, and I thought, "Oh, I need a friend." I was never sorry, because we are still friends with that girl. Nina Nicholson was her name then; Nina Collins is her name now.

JOHNSON: She was working for the Government too?

BERNHARDT: She was working in the War Department too, and we used to walk to work together and I really enjoyed her.

JOHNSON: Where did you work exactly?

BERNHARDT: In the old Munitions Building. Remember those buildings . . .

JOHNSON: Is that on the Mall, facing the Mall?

BERNHARDT: Yes. They were temporary buildings in World War I, and were still there.

JOHNSON: I think they were there until what, ten, fifteen years ago.

BERNHARDT: I think so. I think they still used them.

JOHNSON: Yes, that was just up from the Smithsonian, I think.

[7]

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: You worked in that office for how long?

BERNHARDT: Well, at that time, if you worked for the Government and war was just starting, you were not permitted to change jobs unless you acquired a skill that you were not using, and then you could apply for another job. So, I went back to the Washington School for Secretaries to be able to use the stenotype fluently. So then I could say, "I can use a stenotype now; I'd like to have another job." So then they assigned me to the Price Adjustment Board. This was still in connection with the War Department. The Price Adjustment Board was in the new Pentagon. Now, that Pentagon was the largest office building in the world, and was built in one year.

JOHNSON: Amazing.

BERNHARDT: However, the roof was not finished, and every time it rained, water just came down the walls. You might be working at a desk, and when you came to it you might be surrounded by water.

JOHNSON: What was your job title of the first job you had?

BERNHARDT: I was a clerk, clerk-typist.

JOHNSON: Then you went back and got this additional

[8]

training for stenotype. Then what was your title?

BERNHARDT: Clerk-stenographer.

JOHNSON: Clerk-stenographer in the Pentagon.

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the room?

BERNHARDT: Oh, no. In fact, they really didn't have individual rooms yet. They had this big, long corridor and I was assigned to be a secretary to Donald Russell. He had never dictated to a stenotypist before. This was my first experience at taking dictation, so all these people in this long corridor stopped their work and watched us. I didn't do very well on that first letter, I'm sure. Mr. Russell and I talked about it a year later when I had worked for him a while, and he said, "Now that was pretty bad, wasn't it?"

But anyway, they didn't have the partitions in yet. We were only in there a short time though, because Mr. [James F.] Byrnes was on the Supreme Court, as Justice of the Supreme Court, and Roosevelt needed him as his assistant. So, he asked him to leave the Supreme Court and come to the East Wing of the White House; that was where our office was. And in turn, Mr. Byrnes asked Mr. Russell if he would come because Mr. Russell had been a law partner of Byrnes in

[9]

South Carolina. They were good friends, for a lifetime. So, Mr. Russell therefore went to the White House.

JOHNSON: Well, when did you go to the White House?

BERNHARDT: Well, shortly after, because I was pretty anxious to see if I couldn't get there too. So, Mr. Russell gave me the nod and I got there.

JOHNSON: I think that started off as the Office of Economic Stabilization.

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: Then it was changed to Office of War Mobilization, and eventually ended up as the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion toward the end of the war.

BERNHARDT: They created that office for Mr. Byrnes to be in the White House so that he could be an assistant to Roosevelt. Also, they had this myriad of ABC offices. There was a lot of bickering between the agencies, each one striving to be the most important agency. And Roosevelt had, oh, you could call it a failing or what, but he did not want to put anybody out of office and so he just created another office over them. You know how that's pyramided.

[10]

JOHNSON: Is this G-3 that you are in, in the Pentagon?

BERNHARDT: No. No, it was completely out of the G-3 Division then.

JOHNSON: And you were in the Pentagon.

BERNHARDT: The Price Adjustment Board.

JOHNSON: Oh, the Price Adjustment Board was in the Pentagon at that point?

BERNHARDT: Yes. The Price Adjustment Board was.

JOHNSON: So, it was through Russell that . . .

BERNHARDT: That I came to the White House.

JOHNSON: And that got you into contact with Jimmy Byrnes.

BERNHARDT: Jimmy Byrnes needed somebody to take his conference reporting, and also to take his official dictation. So my stenotype really served me well to do that.

JOHNSON: And what is stenotype?

BERNHARDT: Machine dictation, like court reporters use.

JOHNSON: Oh, okay.

BERNHARDT: Now, Jimmy Byrnes had been a court reporter. He had a very interesting past. You probably have all of

[11]

that in your notes. He was born after his father had passed away.

JOHNSON: That's right, he didn't have a college degree, and he studied law in a law office.

BERNHARDT: He worked for a judge and passed his bar. Of course, Truman didn't have a college degree either.

JOHNSON: He had two years of law school, evening law school. Both of them were very much self-educated.

BERNHARDT: Yes, very much so.

JOHNSON: Read an awful lot.

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: I suppose that's true of Jimmy Byrnes. Do you have any idea of his reading habits? Was he a voracious reader, Jimmy Byrnes?

BERNHARDT: At that time, he was so busy trying to keep up with things, that a lot of his reading was recreational reading. He loved mysteries and things like that, to relax him. He did do that.

JOHNSON: Sort of like Bess Truman. And now, Margaret writes them.

BERNHARDT: He was very much on top of things. One day he

[12]

was dictating to me and he made the remark about some rumor being "all over the lot." I looked puzzled at him and he said, "Lois, you don't know what I mean do you?" I said, "No," and he changed it because he said, "Well, if you don't know what that terms means, then maybe the people that are going to read this won't know it either." Well, it meant that all over Government circles that . .

JOHNSON: It shows that he was alert to his audience.

BERNHARDT: Oh yes. Oh yes.

JOHNSON: The people that were going to read or hear what he had to say.

BERNHARDT: Very much so.

JOHNSON: Would you say that that made him an effective communicator?

BERNHARDT: Yes, everybody felt at ease with him. He had that quality that he was a very kind, observing person.

JOHNSON: Do you recall anything about the relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Jimmy Byrnes? Did you ever see them together?

BERNHARDT: Oh, yes.

JOHNSON: You saw them together. In what situations?

[13]

BERNHARDT: Really not that much at the White House, because anytime in the White House that the President needed him, Jimmy Byrnes, of course, had to go to the Oval Office because the President was completely a cripple. They were together at the international conferences more visibly than anything else.

JOHNSON: Did you get into the Oval Office while Roosevelt was President?

BERNHARDT: Yes, we had the Manhattan Project file in our office in the East Wing and whenever this was under discussion at the Oval Office, I was the one that carried it over there.

JOHNSON: What kind of clearance did you have?

BERNHARDT: Well, of course, at that time, I was not aware what I was carrying. If I had known it was the atom bomb file, I still wouldn't have understood what it was because at that time I didn't know what an atom was, you know.

JOHNSON: Was this a sealed folder then, or . . .

BERNHARDT: No.

JOHNSON: You could have flipped it open and read it?

BERNHARDT: It was kept secret; it was in an office in an

[14]

unlocked file, in an ordinary file.

JOHNSON: It was?

BERNHARDT: Yes. So there was nothing to call attention to it.

JOHNSON: Did they stamp it "Secret?"

BERNHARDT: Not the outside of it. I never opened it because I thought this was none of my business.

JOHNSON: Did you have any particular clearance?

BERNHARDT: Well, we were cleared to be employed in the White House itself.

JOHNSON: And that was considered adequate clearance.

BERNHARDT: Yes, because the Secret Service went back to our home town of Schaller and went up and down the street asking people, "Does she use alcohol? Does she talk too much? Is she morally okay?"

JOHNSON: But you were sworn to secrecy.

BERNHARDT: Oh, my yes.

JOHNSON: You were told not to breathe a word of this project.

BERNHARDT: At that time, everybody in any kind of work was

[15]

very aware of keeping their mouth shut, because of the danger to our own troops and everything.

JOHNSON: Had posters up, even had them in the White House did they?

BERNHARDT: Yes. You bet.

JOHNSON: Such as "Loose lips sink ships," and that sort of thing?

BERNHARDT: "I Mean You," all these things. So we were very aware. We just forgot what was in our office when we left it. Even when we'd type a letter, they took the carbons and burned them, in case someone would see that carbon.

JOHNSON: Exactly where was the office in the White House?

BERNHARDT: In the East Wing. It's very different now. We were there several years ago.

JOHNSON: Now, the Oval Office is in the West Wing the southwest corner. In other words, you had to go a ways.

BERNHARDT: We had to go down through the middle part where the President's swimming pool was, and then go upstairs to the Oval Office then.

JOHNSON: How come he was so far away from the Oval Office?

[16]

I would think he would have had an office closer to Roosevelt himself, considering . . .

BERNHARDT: That was where there was room. We were a Government agency, with nine people.

JOHNSON: Nine people now working in this Office of Economic Stabilization, which becomes OWM?

BERNHARDT: Right. People would come in and say, "Well, where's the rest of your office?" That was it, because Mr. Byrnes did not want a large, unwieldy agency.

JOHNSON: Do you remember the names of the people?

BERNHARDT: Sure.

JOHNSON: Who were those nine.

BERNHARDT: Besides Donald Russell; there was Ben Cohen, you've heard of him. Ben Cohen was a person without personality, but a very brilliant person. He was with the atom bomb at the very beginning. He was at Dumbarton Oaks and all the way through, working with the atom bomb. And, of course, Walter Brown was the press agent, and Samuel Lubell was there for a while; he was an economist.

JOHNSON: A political scientist I think. He is noted for his book, The Future of American Politics.

[17]

BERNHARDT: Yes. A pretty dry book. Then the women: Cathy Connor was Mr. Byrnes' personal secretary, and had been for 25 years, an administrative assistant. There was a good friend, Anella Robinson, who lived in Silver Spring. She was secretary to Walter Brown. And Francis Leibel was secretary to Ben Cohen. I don't know if she is still living. I haven't heard from her for years and years. Then at different times, different people were called in, like Fred Searles. Do you know that name?

JOHNSON: I know the name.

BERNHARDT: He was there, a very fine, very fine person. He was one of those people that was very, very wealthy but hadn't lost sight of the ones that weren't.

JOHNSON: Yes. He was a dollar-a-year man too, I think, wasn't he?

BERNHARDT: Right. Yes. And General Clay.

JOHNSON: Lucius Clay was in the office there too.

BERNHARDT: Yes. He was in the office for a while, not long. He was just one of those that was in for a while.

JOHNSON: In fact, didn't he become an assistant, really sort of the assistant to Jimmy Byrnes?

[18]

BERNHARDT: For a while, and then he was commander of the forces after V-E Day in Europe.

JOHNSON: Went over to become Military Governor.

BERNHARDT: Right. Then did you ever hear of Edward Prichard?

JOHNSON: Prichard? [Edward F. Prichard, Jr. Mr. Prichard's name is sometimes misspelled in the secondary literature.]

BERNHARDT: He's still around, but there is an interesting fact on him. He was a young person with an unsatiable curiosity, and when Mr. Byrnes came back from the Yalta Conference--Mr. Byrnes took shorthand, and he put his book on his lap and took notes at these conferences--he came back and dictated them off to me. Well, this was a highly secret conference, of course, but Mr. Prichard knew I had those notes and was typing them. He stood right at my shoulder, reading it line for line, as I was typing it. I knew he shouldn't be doing this, so I went in to Mr. Byrnes and told him what was happening. He took me down the hall with my typewriter and my stenotype and locked the door. And Mr. Prichard didn't get to have his curiosity satisfied.

JOHNSON: Yes, we need to bring that up again, you know, these notes from Yalta, because they are an important

[19]

part of the story. But that comes a little bit later, so we'll work on that when we get to it. Were you on the first floor of the East Wing?

BERNHARDT: Yes, we were on the first floor.

JOHNSON: And there was a basement floor underneath?

BERNHARDT: Right. I don't know if the basement was under the whole White House or just under the middle part, I'm not sure about that. We were down in the basement, only for blackouts and drills. We were issued gas masks.

JOHNSON: There was a bomb shelter under there.

BERNHARDT: There was a bomb shelter. There was an elevator down there so the President could go down by elevator.

JOHNSON: Was the swimming pool in the basement, or was that on the first floor?

BERNHARDT: No, it was on the first floor.

JOHNSON: So, it was easy for Roosevelt to use.

BERNHARDT: Easy for Roosevelt to use.

JOHNSON: That was built for Roosevelt's use, wasn't it?

BERNHARDT: Yes. He could do that exercise.

[20]

JOHNSON: He could swim.

BERNHARDT: Yes, and that was what was good for him, for his polio. The swimming pool isn't there anymore; I understand they took it out.

JOHNSON: That was boarded over.

BERNHARDT: And one day we met Mrs. Roosevelt just coming out of the pool.

JOHNSON: Oh, is that right?

BERNHARDT: She was dripping wet and . . .

JOHNSON: So she did some swimming too?

BERNHARDT: Yes. But she stopped and I introduced my friends to her and she was very gracious.

JOHNSON: You saw Byrnes and Roosevelt together. Of course, we have Byrnes' own account of how much respect there was between the two. Did they seem to have a lot of rapport then with each other?

BERNHARDT: Oh, yes. Until after the 1944 election.

JOHNSON: Yes, that's another episode.

BERNHARDT: Another big story.

JOHNSON: You say you noticed a little chilling?

[21]

BERNHARDT: Oh, my yes, with good reason.

JOHNSON: Well, you mentioned some of these names. What are your recollections of Donald Nelson? Do you have any recollections of Donald Nelson?

BERNHARDT: Not very much. He was in the office only once in a while.

JOHNSON: Did there seem to be much interaction between Byrnes and Donald Nelson? You say they didn't visit very often, is that your recollection?

BERNHARDT: Not often. Oh, boy, that really goes back.

JOHNSON: He was chairman of the War Production Board.

BERNHARDT: Mr. Byrnes' job was to settle differences between all these other agencies, and Donald Nelson was one of them that was having difficulty. I'd have to read up on what the difficulty was anymore; I just don't remember that.

JOHNSON: Well, apparently, Donald Nelson and Charlie Wilson, Charles E. Wilson, who was chairman of the Production Executive Committee of the War Production Board, were on the outs with each other. Did you know Charlie, or did you ever see Charles E. Wilson?

BERNHARDT: No, I don't remember that I did. I could have,

[22]

but I don't remember.

JOHNSON: How about Paul McNutt.

BERNHARDT: Yes, I knew him.

JOHNSON: Chairman of the War Manpower Commission.

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: What were your impressions of him?

BERNHARDT: Oh, my, now you're going back. He was a handsome man, I remember that. Maybe I didn't look any further than that at that time.

JOHNSON: You didn't notice him visiting Byrnes very much?

BERNHARDT: I knew he was in there, but not a lot. No, not a lot.

JOHNSON: And Henry Wallace. Did he ever come over to visit?

BERNHARDT: Oh, yes, Wallace was there until after the episode when, oh, what was he doing when Byrnes was overseas, trying to make agreements, and Wallace made some . . .

JOHNSON: He made a speech on foreign policy, which was in conflict with Truman's policy. Of course, that came later on.

[23]

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: And Jesse Jones, chairman of the RFC. Did he come in to visit Byrnes?

BERNHARDT: He and Jesse Jones, and who was it that had the conflict with . . .

JOHNSON: Oh, Wallace and Jones were in a conflict with each other.

BERNHARDT: Yes, quite a feud. That was leaked out to the newsmen. The media was really on top of that.

JOHNSON: Apparently, many of the corporations under the control of the RFC, which would have been Jones' organization, were at odds with Wallace's Board of Economic Warfare.

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: There's an account of that in Byrnes' book, All in One Lifetime, of that feud.

BERNHARDT: It's been quite a while since I read that. Kevin [son of Mrs. Bernhardt] has it now, so he's probably read that.

JOHNSON: I notice that Byrnes did have the two of them meet in his office on June 30, 1943, but couldn't quite get them reconciled with each other. Do you have any

[24]

recollections of that at all?

BERNHARDT: I remember when they came, and I remember the big hub-bub about it. But I did not have anything to do with it.

JOHNSON: You didn't type up a report or anything on that?

BERNHARDT: No. That was not recorded.

JOHNSON: Well, Byrnes reacted to this by drafting an Executive Order for Roosevelt creating a new Office of Economic Warfare, and replacing both men with Leo Crowley, who was former head of the FDIC, and was Alien Property Custodian at the time. Is that typical of the way that Byrnes operated, that if there was a problem, like a personality conflict, he would simply create some new offices, or reorganize, and . . .

BERNHARDT: That was Roosevelt's way.

JOHNSON: That was Roosevelt's way.

BERNHARDT: That was Roosevelt's way. And probably Byrnes' to a certain extent therefore, too.

JOHNSON: Sort of copied that style, you think?

BERNHARDT: I wasn't aware of that very much at the time. I was aware of how Roosevelt did it. But Roosevelt was trying to get rid of conflicts, because he had all he

[25]

could do to keep track of the war.

JOHNSON: Yes, military and political things.

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: Well, in fact, Byrnes was referred to as "The Assistant President" in one of Roosevelt's letters to him. Do you recall that term?

BERNHARDT: Yes, he was referred to as Assistant to the President.

JOHNSON: That's the way the media referred to him.

BERNHARDT: That's the way they referred to him.

JOHNSON: And I suppose he didn't mind that label?

BERNHARDT: Well, the title that he preferred all through this was "Justice."

JOHNSON: Justice.

BERNHARDT: Justice Byrnes. He liked . . .

JOHNSON: Did you address him as Justice?

BERNHARDT: Lots of times.

JOHNSON: Mr. Justice, or Justice Byrnes?

BERNHARDT: Either way. Yes.

[26]

JOHNSON: Not many called him Jimmy?

BERNHARDT: Well, at my level we didn't call him Jimmy. But a lot of people did.

JOHNSON: I'm sure Roosevelt would.

BERNHARDT: Oh yes. Oh, he always did. It was always "Jimmy."

JOHNSON: Do you have any recollections about another feud between Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Under Secretary of State Sumner Welles?

BERNHARDT: No, I don't remember that at all.

JOHNSON: Apparently Hull was telephoning Byrnes rather frequently about this problem.

BERNHARDT: For a while.

JOHNSON: Welles' problem. Welles was apparently making speeches without clearing them with Hull, and there were some variations in his policies that conflicted with those of Hull.

BERNHARDT: And they were supposed to clear them absolutely before they made things public. There was supposed to be unity in any information that was put out.

JOHNSON: Yes, what kind of instructions did you have, or

[27]

did you notice on clearing speeches, communicating with the public? Everything and anything had to go through Byrnes?

BERNHARDT: It was supposed to. It was supposed to so that there was unity on the home front. Because when this office was created, there was much disunity.

JOHNSON: Now, these phone calls that came to Byrnes, like from Hull, did anybody ever take notes of phone calls?

BERNHARDT: No.

JOHNSON: There was no record of what was said in those phone calls?

BERNHARDT: No.

JOHNSON: There were no tape recorders.

BERNHARDT: Not that I knew of.

JOHNSON: No bugging going on.

BERNHARDT: No, not that I knew of.

JOHNSON: That comes later perhaps.

BERNHARDT: Right. We were pretty honest and straight-forward; we didn't have any devious ways.

JOHNSON: Cassie Connor, you mentioned her name. What was

[28]

her role, do you recall?

BERNHARDT: She was an administrative assistant to Mr. Byrnes and his personal secretary. A wonderful person.

JOHNSON: So she was in the office, in Byrnes' office.

BERNHARDT: Right.

JOHNSON: She would have been able to overhear many things.

BERNHARDT: Right. She was in on everything. She really was. She was a very diplomatic person. Oh, I remember one time when a Russian minister had an appointment with Mr. Byrnes, and he came, and right at that time the President also called Mr. Byrnes, and so he couldn't see the minister right then. Our dealings with the Russians were such that we didn't want to antagonize him. Cassie said, "I'll take care of him." She brought that guy into her office and sat him down and chatted with him. She had him eating out of her hand. He would have done anything for her. She was a wonderful person.

JOHNSON: Was she the one you reported to? Who did you report to? Who was your immediate supervisor, or superior?

BERNHARDT: Well, Mr. Byrnes had charge of all of us, but of course, he didn't have time for personnel things, so

[29]

Cassie handled that a lot. When she was gone, I was her substitute, but I didn't want her to be gone very often.

JOHNSON: Well, when you substituted for her, were you in the office then with Byrnes?

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: Okay, you took her place in the office, so you could overhear the things that were going on, the conferences, phone calls and that sort of thing?

BERNHARDT: The conferences were taken verbatim, and I took those. Phone calls, I closed the door.

JOHNSON: Okay, your notes on the conferences, where did they end up, do you know?

BERNHARDT: I didn't have to transcribe all of them. He wanted them down. Like the Yalta Conference, I took those minutes down from him, and as far as I know, they're still in the State Department untranscribed. They may have been transcribed, but he did not want those transcribed unless they may have had need for them.

JOHNSON: Are they still in shorthand form?

BERNHARDT: Stenotype form, as far as I know. Somebody may

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have transcribed them later.

JOHNSON: Okay, but he wrote in shorthand.

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: Was that Gregg shorthand?

BERNHARDT: Pittman.

JOHNSON: Pittman shorthand.

BERNHARDT: But no one else could read his scribbles.

JOHNSON: You took his shorthand and put it into a stenotype, so it's still untranslatable to most of us; a foreign language.

BERNHARDT: Right. And he didn't want that transcribed, because he didn't want anybody else to read them unless they needed it. If he felt they needed it . . .

JOHNSON: And he read those to Harry Truman, I think.

BERNHARDT: Then maybe they were transcribed later, I don't know.

JOHNSON: I think they must have been.

BERNHARDT: Because anybody that knows stenotype could transcribe those notes. But I didn't transcribe them; he didn't want it done.

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JOHNSON: So you don't know if they were put into standard English.

BERNHARDT: No. I don't know.

JOHNSON: Again, on this business with Welles, and Hull, apparently Byrnes used that occasion, or the occasion of Welles' dismissal, to merge the Lend-lease office and Director of Economic Warfare into a new agency, the Foreign Economic Administration, under Leo Crowley. And he appointed former Lend-lease director Edward Stettinius as Under Secretary of State. Did you meet or know much about Leo Crowley, or Edward Stettinius?

BERNHARDT: Ed Stettinius, I did, because he became Secretary of State during the first United Nations Conference.

JOHNSON: What were your impressions of Edward Stettinius? Another handsome fellow?

BERNHARDT: Another handsome fellow, but do you know how he became Secretary of State? At the time Cordell Hull resigned because of ill health, many people around Washington wanted Jimmy Byrnes as Secretary of State. So they were telephoning FDR and trying to get appointments with him to ask for Jimmy Byrnes. FDR wanted to be his own Secretary of State. He wanted to run the foreign office the way he wanted to, and he was

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a very powerful person, a very able person. So, he appointed Ed Stettinius and then when people objected, he said, "Oh, why didn't you let me know; I didn't know." Doesn't that sound like the way he would get around that? But Ed Stettinius was not a decisive person. In fact, he had a telephone in the bathroom in the Secretary of State's office, and when a major decision was coming forth, he would excuse himself and call the President. Now, I don't know how often he did this. But as soon as Truman became President, Truman appointed Byrnes as Secretary of State.

JOHNSON: Now, the Secretary of State had his office in. . .

BERNHARDT: The State Department.

JOHNSON: The State Department Building.

BERNHARDT: Right west of the White House, at that time. Not the new State Department Building.

JOHNSON: The one just west of the White House at that time.

BERNHARDT: The State Department was on the west side, and the Treasury on the east side. There was another person that was in our office a lot, and that was Bernard Baruch.

JOHNSON: Oh, yes.

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BERNHARDT: You know, his office was a park bench in Lafayette Park.

JOHNSON: Oh, he was offered a position, and he kind of dilly-dallied around.

BERNHARDT: He didn't want an official capacity.

JOHNSON: I wonder why?

BERNHARDT: He was doing very well the way he was; he was advising everybody.

JOHNSON: He sat on a park bench in Lafayette Park and waited for them to come to him for advice?

BERNHARDT: Well, I wouldn't think that, no. He was in our office a lot, but he was a good friend of Mr. Byrnes.

JOHNSON: What were your impressions of Baruch?

BERNHARDT: I liked him. I liked him very much. He was a very kind man.

JOHNSON: Truman didn't like him too well.

BERNHARDT: No.

JOHNSON: Do you think Roosevelt really liked him?

BERNHARDT: It was hard to tell. He called on him a lot, or had him call and come to his office a lot. He was a

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brilliant person and had things under his thumb pretty much. He was called "the adviser to Presidents;" that was his media name.

JOHNSON: In a letter to Roosevelt on January 26, 1944 Byrnes complained that Roosevelt had released a message to the Congress on a National Service Law without notifying Byrnes of an apparent change in policy from views expressed by the President the preceding August. I think this is sometimes called the "work or fight" bill. Byrnes favored an anti-strike law, but felt it inadvisable to seek a national service law. Roosevelt also had announced that the Federal subsidy program would cost about 1 percent of the annual cost of the war, and Byrnes had figured it would be 1-1/2 percent. There also had been some confusing signals from Roosevelt on appointing Will Clayton as U.S. representative to an international food conference. And it appears that Roosevelt had asked Byrnes to handle the soldier's vote bill, but then, later he dealt with Sam Rosenman on this, leaving Byrnes, I guess as we would say today, out of the loop. First, do you recall any incidents of Byrnes complaining about being left out of important decisions?

BERNHARDT: I don't recall any, no. I'm not surprised, but

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I don't recall any.

JOHNSON: In other words, who would have typed up this long letter in which he was listing all these complaints.

BERNHARDT: I probably did.

JOHNSON: In diplomatic language. That could well have been yours?

BERNHARDT: I probably did.

JOHNSON: In fact, would you recognize your typing if I showed it to you? Let's see, this one, like I say, is a rather lengthy letter, and here is a memorandum for the President. The memorandum is dated January 31, but the letter itself is January 26 of '44. You may be interested in some of this correspondence that I received from the Roosevelt Library. You might like to look at it.

You didn't have to put your initials at the bottom of the letters you typed like you do now?

BERNHARDT: Must not have.

JOHNSON: Of course, it could go on the carbon, the initials and so on.

BERNHARDT: I wish I had. When I went through the Library

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down there, there were several things I suspected I had typed, but didn't have any proof. Here's Baruch. Harry Hopkins was right down the hall from our office.

JOHNSON: Just down the hall.

BERNHARDT: Just down the hall. He was not a well man though; he was ill a lot.

JOHNSON: What corner were you in there in the east wing?

BERNHARDT: The northeast.

JOHNSON: The northeast corner.

BERNHARDT: You just went in the door and turned to the right, down that hall. It was a very small area. In fact, in order to make an office for Cassie Connor, they just took the end of the hallway.

JOHNSON: Now there's the East Room there, a kind of a ballroom.

BERNHARDT: It was upstairs.

JOHNSON: That was above you. That was the next floor up.

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: Now, there's an implication in this letter that Roosevelt was dealing directly with Rosenman on some things that Byrnes seem to feel that he should have

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been dealing with Byrnes himself. Do you recall any contention, or any controversy at all involving Roosevelt's relationship with Rosenman?

BERNHARDT: Any controversy?

JOHNSON: Any conflict between Rosenman and Byrnes at all?

BERNHARDT: I remember Judge Rosenman being in the office.

JOHNSON: Was he in very often?

BERNHARDT: No. Not any more often than anyone else. No one was in there real often.

JOHNSON: Apparently Roosevelt was making some decisions with Rosenman's advice and not informing Byrnes about it.

BERNHARDT: Yes.

JOHNSON: But you're not aware of how that worked.

BERNHARDT: That was 40 years ago, remember?

JOHNSON: In other words, there seemed to be some tendency of Roosevelt, sometimes, to work outside of channels.

BERNHARDT: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, right, and then tell what had been done after he had already done it.

JOHNSON: Fait accompli.

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BERNHARDT: Especially in his fourth term. In his fourth term, President Roosevelt was not well enough to be cognizant of what he was doing a lot, which was sad.

JOHNSON: And, of course, not able to get around on his own so that . . .

BERNHARDT: He depended on somebody else.

JOHNSON: He always had to have the person come to the Oval Office. Perhaps he would never circulate to any other offices. Did you ever see him, Mr. Roosevelt, come into your office?

BERNHARDT: Well, they had ramps all over the White House, and they had a ramp to our office.

JOHNSON: With a wheelchair?

BERNHARDT: Right, but we were not allowed to see him in his wheelchair. If we were going through the White House and the President was going through, coming down the hall or anything, a bell would ring and Secret Service men would usher us to a side room until the President had gone by. You were not allowed to see him in his wheelchair at all.

I only recall once when he actually came to the East Wing, and he didn't come right to our office then. The theater, the p