1. Home
  2. Library Collections
  3. Oral History Interviews
  4. E. H. van der Beugel Oral History Interview, June 17, 1970

E. H. van der Beugel Oral History Interview, June 17, 1970

Oral History Interview with
E. H. van der Beugel

Director, Bureau for the Marshall Plan, Foreign Affairs Office, the Netherlands, 1947-52

The Hague, Netherlands
June 17, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson, University of Kansas

See also: E. H. van der Beugel Oral History, by Philip C. Brooks of the Harry S. Truman Library.

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


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.

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 May, 1997
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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


Oral History Interview with
E. H. van der Beugel

The Hague, Netherlands
June 17, 1970
by Theodore A. Wilson, University of Kansas


VAN DER BEUGEL: The organization in Europe was very good at the beginning of the Marshall plan, in its creation of separate agencies. But later the old agencies began to demand more responsibility and this caused difficulties. Yes, that certainly is true, and that's very natural, of course--this creation of ECA [Economic Cooperation Administration]. It was so revolutionary and so new, that when the first very adventurous, and new and constructive years passed, the old bureaucracy stepped in. There was, of course, a very important other element, and that was at the level--of course there were many exceptions--but the level of the first harvest of ECA


people was much higher than what came afterwards.

We have been very lucky in Holland to have Clarence Hunter, for example. Well, we started with Alan Valentine who was absolutely tops; then came Clarence Hunter, who was absolutely tops. And he stayed for the full four years, but that was an exception. The President of the university, of course, gave Valentine time to do it for a year, and then he went back to his university. All the brokers in New York and all the lawyers from Philadelphia would do it for one or two years, and then they went back to their old jobs. Then the old bureaucrats moved in.

WILSON: But you were struck by the quality of these amateurs?

VAN DER BEUGEL: The quality was absolutely exceptional. There is no precedent in history for that kind of role, all over the place.

WILSON: Would you say they were remarkably open-minded?

VAN DER BEUGEL: Oh, yes, remarkably open-minded, remarkably motivated, and remarkably devoted. Well, it was great fun for them too.


WILSON: Yes. How about the problems that would arise because of these very attributes of working in harness? Was it the sort of problem wherein a man coming from a brokerage firm, or coming from a university, and then having to follow or establish certain rules . . .

VAN DER BEUGEL: Yes, but their advantage was that the whole administration was brand new. They practically made their own rules, and I suppose that they had some very great administrative and bureaucratic difficulties--reporting, and that kind of thing. But as far as I can judge, it worked remarkably well. One of the nicest things about the Marshall plan is this group which moved in within three months, all over the place.

WILSON: What about the Dutch side? You set up a comparable agency to handle this.

VAN DER BEUGEL: We set it up as a separate agency, and it was very young, too. Old [H. M.] Hirschfeld was in charge. He was the "grand man" of the Dutch bureaucracy, and I was his deputy. But I was very young at that time, and I hired forty brand new young people, which was unprecedented also in the Dutch administration.


WILSON: From . . .

VAN DER BEUGEL: Universities. I started out with thirty people, or forty people, under thirty years of age.

WILSON: What happened to this group subsequently? Did they go back to academic life?

VAN DER BEUGEL: No; it varied. Some stayed in the foreign office; others went to private business. They dispersed. Quite a few stayed in foreign service.

WILSON: And reintegrated with . . .

VAN DER BEUGEL: With the rest of the bureaucracy.

WILSON: Might you say that the experience of working with the special Marshall plan agency helped or hindered their careers when they . . .

VAN DER BEUGEL: Oh, it helped. Yes. We were not popular, because we were rather tough towards the bureaucracy. But we had to run it. We had the money. And we used that position.

WILSON: This is a subjective question, but several persons


with whom I've talked have suggested that the experience encouraged the growth of internationalism, an internationalist attitude. This is certainly borne out by your statements.

VAN DER BEUGEL: There's no question about that, and certainly from what happened in Paris. I mean, after all these years--it was practically 25 years ago--I still have a very close friendship with many of my first colleagues from 1947 in Paris. Eric Roll, [Robert] Marjolin and Jean Snoy--we see each other all the time.

WILSON: I shall see all three of those.

VAN DER BEUGEL: Eric is one of my partners in Walberg; Jean Snoy, I see many times. Marjolin, I see all the time. The moment people see that you went through these first years together, there is something very special, very special.

Now what was the relation between the Embassy, OSR [Office of the Special Representative in Europe], and ECA? The relation between OSR and ECA is a little difficult for me to judge. It depended a little bit


on the persons, on the relations you had. Well, the bilateral thing was primarily done, in the countries, between the ECA mission and the government. The division of aid: there you got a line=up between the country mission, the government, against OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] and OSR, from time to time. I mean, the man here pleaded the Dutch cause in Washington and at OSR. The relation between the Embassy and ECA: Intrinsically, it was a terribly difficult position. After all, there was this American ambassador sitting here with a man in another house, and he could give away five hundred million dollars. It was not very easy, because that was the central problem.

WILSON: Well, it had arisen very early in American relations with Great Britain, with the lend-lease.

VAN DER BEUGEL: Yes, with the lend-lease. And here, for instance, there was the whole Indonesian question, and the ECA. It was that kind of incident in which the State Department wanted to block our ECA funds in order to put pressure on the Indonesian thing, and the ECA raised hell. But essentially it was very much a matter of


personal relations between the ECA chief and the ambassador. We have had experience here that was very good, and we have had experience where it was very bad.

WILSON: Was there criticism on the part of the Embassy that the ECA people did not pay attention to political realities?

VAN DER BEUGEL: No. That was the rationalization, but the fact was, of course, that the ECA people came into every department. They knew everybody. Every minister fell from his chair, when the ECA chief wanted to see him. When the Ambassador wanted to see him, he looked in his book, and said, "Well, I have no time this week." That was the relation.

WILSON: Fair enough; that's very helpful. That's particularly the Dutch case, and also obviously the case in Paris, with [Ambassador Jefferson] Caffery.


WILSON: In your view, was there perhaps another rationalization in attitude that the State Department had the professionals, and the ECA people were temporary, and


that really State should be deferred to?

VAN DER BEUGEL: I don't know. I'm not terribly impressed by the professional side of any ministry of foreign affairs, with a few exceptions. I would never go for this easy step. American interests are by nature better represented by the established State Department bureaucracy than they are by a rather adventurous setup. I recognize the dangers of the adventurous setup. I would be very reluctant to pleas the case against nonprofessional ambassadors. You have had a few unbelievable fools as career diplomats, and you have had superb people in both categories.

WILSON: Just a matter of accident?


But on this whole thesis of how can a man who has never been in diplomacy, such as Lew Douglas, Jack [John J.] McCloy, and [James B.] Conant, to mention a few, they belong to the very best ambassadors we have ever had.

WILSON: That's certainly true.


VAN DER BEUGEL: Let's not be obsessed by [Walter H.] Annenberg in London. Now it's very bad. The whole crop is weak, with a few exceptions. But it has nothing to do with
being professional or non-professional.

WILSON: What about the lower levels? Did some of the people in the Embassy at the lower levels recognize the facts of life?

VAN DER BEUGEL: Oh, yes; there was no warfare. I mean, there was very good cooperation, too. We have had periods here, for instance, where the relations between the two were superb.

WILSON: But, of course, as you point out in your book, there was almost no possibility at the beginning that the ECA could have been under State Department control. It was not considered.


WILSON: In Congress, or really in the executive. And that's some kind of comment, I think.

VAN DER BEUGEL: Neither, with a few exceptions, could it be


different in the European countries. You had to make a new setup, whether you did it in Treasury or in t