Attended the General Assembly, U.N., as advisor, 1947; member, survey mission to Germany, 1948; member, U.S. delegation to Intergovernmental Conference to draft agreement establishing International Authority for the Ruhr, 1948; vice chairman, U.S. delegation to U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, 1964.
Called to active duty as Reserve officer, 1941; served, military government Italy, Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces, in England, France, and Germany; deputy chief, acting chief, legal branch, Office of Military Government (U.S. Zone), Germany, 1945-46; inactive duty as Lieutenant Colonel, Judge Advocate General's Department, 1946.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened July, 1979
Oral History Interview with
May 24, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Ambassador Brown, a lot of historians are interested to know why people go into Government service in the first place. You got a law degree, but did you expect at that time that you would have a career in Government?
BROWN: No, I did not. As a matter of fact, after I got my degree I took the South Carolina bar and
started practicing in South Carolina. I practiced until October 1 of 1941, when I was called to active duty, and I never got back to the private practice of law.
MCKINZIE: How did you get involved in the military government?
BROWN: I had a Reserve commission in the infantry and when I was called to active duty, I took three months training at Fort Benning; the Basic Rifle and Heavy Weapons Course. There was every indication that I was going to be an infantry officer for the duration of the war.
Then I was assigned to Camp Croft after leaving Benning, and Camp Croft happened to be in my own town. The Military policy detachment there was having a little trouble with troops in town and in getting along with the local police force. So, they found out that I was both a lawyer and a resident of Spartanburg and
shifted me into the Military Police to have charge of the patrolling in the town and also to act as liaison with the local police.
Then so many things just happened that changed the whole course of my life. The Occupation Police School at Fort Custer, Michigan, had a course to train people for occupational police work, and Camp Croft drew one slot to send someone there. It required a college degree and I was the only officer in the Military Police detachment with a college degree, so I was sent to the Occupational Police School at Fort Custer.
About six weeks after that course was over, I was ordered overseas for Occupational Police duty. I was sent to North Africa, where they were staging for the invasion of Sicily, and later Italy.
When I got there I talked my way out of the police and into the legal side, and I spent almost
a year in North Africa and Italy. Then, with a group of other officers, I was switched out of there and up into England to prepare for the Northern European invasion. I was assigned to the legal branch of G-5 SHAEF. [Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces] G-5 was the military government branch of SHAEF. From then on the future course of my life was pretty well laid out.
After the war I stayed on for almost a year, because I had no children and very few points for getting out. During that time I became deputy to Charles Fahy, who is now a justice on the Federal appellate court. He was asked by Secretary [James F.] Byrnes to come into the State Department as his legal adviser. I was getting out of the service about that time and he asked me to come in for one year, said he hated to go into a job like that with nobody whom he knew on his staff.
So, I went in for one year and about 25
years later I retired.
MCKINZIE: There have been a few people who said that military government suffered because everybody wanted to get out and go home and they got a lot of people who were not terribly qualified that came in right after the end of the war and stayed on during the occupation period. Is there any validity to that?
BROWN: Yes, to some extent there is validity in that. There was a tremendous rush to get out. I remember seeing a letter from Eisenhower to McNarney in which he said, "You cannot imagine what the sentiment is here in the United States for bringing troops back from Europe. We've got to cut down on the staff there just as far as we possibly can." Well, at that point I could have gotten out and come home, but I've gotten interested in it and decided I would stay on. Still, a lot of people did come home, and as a
result they shifted people in who had no experience whatsoever in military government. The ones who knew the most about it had served three to four years before they actually got into the operational side of it, and they went home. But we still had a fairly competent staff in most of the key positions. I think where it suffered most was out in the small areas, in the Kreis [roughly equivalent to a township] areas in Germany, for example. I was in Frankfort at the headquarters of USFET as it was then called, U.S. Forces, European Theater, and I headed the Government Affairs Branch of the Office of Military Government for the U.S. Zone. I was responsible for legal problems, public safety, and four or five other operations. The staffs we had at the headquarters, Munich, Stuttgart and Weisbaden, were pretty competent people. Those who were under them, out in the field, sometimes didn't really measure up, but I still think the military government did a first-class job on the whole.
MCKINZIE: Is it safe to say that everyone in those positions that you classify as competent clearly understood what they were supposed to do in military government?
MCKINZIE: How did you feel about the Morgenthau plan?
BROWN: There was always some question as to how far you would go, but we certainly had the feeling that the Morgenthau plan was definitely out at this point, after the end of the war. We were beginning to assist in building things back to normal within a month after the surrender. Then we set up various LAND [State] headquarters in Munich, Weisbaden, and Stuttgart, where we got German participation at a level higher than the Kreis level, which had been the original top level of German participation. The people who passed the denazification test and had experience in public
life were given a certain amount of authority and certainly were consulted. It wasn't very long before some Germans were coming into the picture, and I don't think anybody ever felt that we were going too fast in this. Later I think the sentiment was that we hadn't gone fast enough, but that would have been after I left. I left in May of 1946.
MCKINZIE: Did you hear, at the time you were involved in these legal matters, any criticism that the denazification program you had was depriving Germany of leaders which it required for the restructuring of the...
BROWN: There was some of that, but I think it was probably more than countered by the feeling that if we were going to rebuild Germany, we'd have to do it with people who were as clean as we could possibly get. We could not put the same people back in.
MCKINZIE: You recall now your own feelings about how Germany was going to be in the future? Did you have any feelings about the future?
BROWN: If you are asking whether I foresaw what finally happened in Germany, the answer is no. I had no idea that an economic miracle would take place, and that Germany would become such a staunch friend of the United States. I thought they'd come back as an industrial nation, rather than a pastoral one, as Morgenthau proposed, but I never foresaw the rate at which they would come back and the levels that they would achieve.
I began to see it later when I was in the State Department, because my first three years in State were spent in the legal adviser's office and I was responsible for legal matters in the occupied areas. That is Germany, Austria, Japan, and Korea.
MCKINZIE: In that capacity, did you have to deal at all with the questions of the reparations, the tax problems that came up, on the patents?
BROWN: No. The German's patent problem was handled more by the Department of Justice than by State. I did get involved in both reparations and the reparations in kind, which was the principal form of reparations at that time. I'm trying to remember what the program was called where they pulled the machinery out of the factories in Germany and turned it over to the Russians, the British, and the French. At that time pressure was beginning to build up in Congress to cut back on that program, and that gave us a great deal of trouble with the British and the French, who did not want to cut back, who wanted the machinery themselves by way of reparations. We even had, I think, riders to various and sundry aid bills that came along, about the time of the
beginning of the Marshall plan, which would require that we cut back on the program of moving machinery from Germany. So, reparations died out a lot more quickly then the British and the French wished. You could understand the theory of the people in Congress. We were voting money to go into Germany to help to build it up, and at the same time we were taking machinery out of Germany that would ultimately have to be replaced by American money. In effect we were paying reparations to France and England.
MCKINZIE: I understand that the French were particularly adamant about getting their...
BROWN: More so than the British, but the British were pretty strong on it too.
MCKINZIE: How did that work at the legal office for you? Did you feel that you had an input on the policy decisions that were made, or was it more
of an executed fact which was passed down?
BROWN: I think we had some input, but not a great deal. Mostly the policy was decided elsewhere, but frequently we would have to give a legal basis for the policy and give them the limits within which, as a legal proposition, they could make decisions. That did affect policy decisions to some extent, but more from a standpoint of saying, "You can do this and you can't do that."
MCKINZIE: When you got back to the State Department in 1946, what did you do which ultimately led you to become adviser to the U.S. delegation to the General Assembly at the U.N. the next year?
BROWN: Frankly, I don't know why I got that job; I really don't. They wanted somebody from the legal adviser's office, and somebody put the
finger on me. By that time, the German work had cut down a certain amount, but it was still fairly heavy. I think part of the reason was that John Hilldring was at the United Nations working on the Palestine question. I had known him when he was Assistant Secretary of State for Occupied Areas, since I was the legal adviser for Occupied Areas, and I've got a sneaking suspicion that John Hilldring asked for me. I've never known for sure whether that happened. All I know is that I was told to pack up and be up there on about two day's notice.
MCKINZIE: Did you happen to find a particular problem in...
BROWN: I was with the group that was working on the ad hoc committee on Palestine. That was the only assignment, but within that it was a pretty broad responsibility. General Hilldring headed it up, and there were three junior officers.
I was one; Fraser Wilkins, who later was Ambassador to Cyprus, was another; and Bill Cargo, who is now the Ambassador to Afghanistan, I believe, was the third. We pretty well divided up the duties among ourselves. I didn't do as much legal work there as I did just general policy on the question of Palestine. How were we going to get through a plan that would conform with United States policy and keep the Russians from sabotaging it?
MCKINZIE: Did you feel at that time there was clear U.S. policy on that question?
BROWN: Yes, I think there was. First [Thomas E.] Dewey came out with a statement supporting an independent nation, or a Jewish state in Palestine, and then Truman came out for it. Certainly there was a definite policy that there had to be a Jewish state; within that there was a lot of leeway as to how it would be brought about,
because we also felt that there should be an Arab state in Palestine.
So, there was top level agreement; there was a policy, but that doesn't mean that there weren't a lot of people in State Department who disagreed with that policy. They were mainly the Arabists, the Near Easterners, who had dealt with that area for years and who felt that it was a mistake to impose a Jewish state on the Arabs in Palestine. There was a certain amount of backbiting going on and undercutting, which you had to be careful about. When you got instructions from Washington to the delegation, you had to be sure one way or another that these had not just come out of the Near Eastern area, that they had also been considered in other areas of the Department.
MCKINZIE: What about people who were zealous for the creation of an Israeli state? Some people have
written that there were strong lobbyist groups who managed somehow to infiltrate their corridors and had easy access to the delegations at that time.
BROWN: There were a number of representatives of the Jewish Agency, which was, you might say, "accredited" to the U.N. The Agency had some kind of a status as observers at the U.N., and its representatives were all over the place. There were a lot of U.S. zealots there too, but at that time (and it seems rather strange today with Kissinger handling so much of the Middle Eastern problem), the Department was very careful that only Gentiles were working on this question in any public way, to avoid the public appearance of a Jewish lobby, or whatever you would call it at that time, running things in the State Department -- or in the administration more than just in the State Department.
MCKINZIE: Did you yourself have to deal with the British?
BROWN: Yes, I did. We had a committee of, I think, 13 nations which was drawing up the plan that was ultimately proposed. The British did not serve on that committee because they had said that they washed their hands of it; it was up to the U.N. Still, they had people sitting with us as advisers, and I'd say for the most part, except for the fact they wouldn't take any responsibility, they were helpful to us in furnishing information that we needed as we went along. On a personal basis I got along quite well with the Britishers who were working within that group.
MCKINZIE: So policy differences need not result in antagonistic feelings?
BROWN: No. If they did you would probably never get anything done. I've been to a number of conferences where we had strong policy differences with other nations, but it didn't mean that
we were at sword's point all the time or didn't speak to each other out of committee meetings in a very friendly way.
MCKINZIE: Did they have regular meetings of the delegation?
BROWN: Yes. We had a delegation meeting each morning under General Marshall when he was there in New York, and under Warren Austin, who was at the moment chairing the entire U.S. delegation. Every morning we'd have a delegation meeting, but I didn't go to all of them. I only went along with Hilldring to those where the Palestine question was to come up in one way or another. I was very thankful for not having to go, because I usually got to bed about 2 o'clock the previous evening. We had many, many night sessions in the Ad Hoc Committee where we would get back into New York from Lake Success at maybe 10, 11, or 12 o'clock at night. Then we had to go back to the office
and write up what happened during the day, send out telegrams to Washington, and come up with a report that Hilldring could make the next morning at the staff meeting. So, when I didn't have to go to that staff meeting I was just as happy.
MCKINZIE: Were there any unusual legal problems involved?
BROWN: There was one problem, which was the basic problem of whether the U.N. had any authority to set up a Jewish state in Palestine. I don't think there was any definitive answer to that. Of course, what the General Assembly did was to recommend the setting up of a state. I suppose they had authority to recommend anything, but it was hard to find any legal basis for the U.N. to set up a state in Palestine, either an Arab state or an Israeli state, or both.
MCKINZIE: In doing that kind of work were you looking
simply at the U.N. Charter or were you looking on other precedents?
BROWN: We were looking at the whole gamut of international law to try to find precedents. We came up with a long memorandum, but I did not participate in its preparation because it required more research than there were facilities for in New York and certainly more than there was time for. The legal adviser's office back in State, under the legal adviser for International Organization Affairs, prepared a brief on it, which I worked over and made into the form of a speech.
That was the biggest legal problem, and then there were other legal problems as to what form this state should take, and so forth. There was also the effort -- and this was recommended -- to have an economic union between the Jewish state and the Arab state. There were certain legal problems involved in that, but we never got
deeply enough into it for it to be a serious obstacle.
MCKINZIE: That response has been made that you feel that the United Nations really had clout to carry on something quite as full as this whole Palestine precedent was, the U.N. had evolved from 1945 in a way that was a little different than people thought it might evolve, and it didn't have much economic -- you mentioned economic -- didn't have much economic function.
BROWN: That's true. Maybe we deluded ourselves, but I think we felt that whatever the U.N. recommended would probably happen. We may have been too close to see all the other factors that would have an effect. I certainly developed doubts after it was all over, but at the time I think we all more or less felt that whatever the U.N. came up with would do it. The U.N. came up with partition, as it was then called, and I think we
expected it to take place. It didn't until a pretty bloody war had been fought.
MCKINZIE: When you were working in the Office of the Legal Adviser, how were assignments made? You went from this business in 1947 to the mission on Germany again in 1948. Was this kind of ad hoc as problems arose?
BROWN: No. The one at the U.N. was ad hoc, because I had had no connection with Palestine or with the United Nations, but the mission to Germany and the conference on the industrialization of the Ruhr were within my phase of responsibility as legal adviser for Occupied Areas. Another thing I did was that I went to London for about a month to serve as a substitute on the United Nations War Crimes Commission. There again, that was connected with occupied areas, because of the trials going on in Nuremberg.
MCKINZIE: Could I go back and ask you about this conference on creating the international authority for the Ruhr? Good idea quite aside from the policy decisions that were taken?
BROWN: Yes, I think it was a good idea and we had a great deal of hope. As a matter of fact, it really got the Ruhr started again, although it didn't last any great length of time under international control because of political developments in Europe. I think that what we came up with, the statute for the Ruhr, was a good document. It settled relationships between the British, the French, and the Germans on what was to be done on the Ruhr, whereas up to that time there was a great deal of controversy. You had General Clay wanting to develop the Ruhr because he was interested in building Germany back up economically. The French and the British were more strongly opposed to it than we were. I might
say more accurately that they were more lukewarm about the idea than we were; they had certain reservations. (Incidentally, just about this same time, that big question of the reparations by the removal of equipment was very hot.) I think that the conference we had on the Ruhr came up with something that was workable as long as the situation then existing from a political standpoint went on, but as the situation changed and Germany got more and more authority, there was no longer any need for the international authority.
My responsibility at that conference was the drafting of the agreement. We went over with a draft and then, of course, it was modified from time to time because there were six countries participating; England, France and the Benelux countries.
MCKINZIE: I keep coming across people who write
about the kind of attitude that existed in part of the State Department at that time. I guess its chief spokesman was then Will [William C.] Clayton, who had a strong commitment to the idea of European integration. Did that have influence in those discussions?
BROWN: Well, to some extent it did. Getting the Ruhr going again was certainly a prerequisite to any form of economic integration in Europe. Those who were in favor of that were certainly in favor of getting the Ruhr going again. We, from an occupation standpoint, were in favor of getting it going again in order to try to reduce the burden we were carrying under the GARIOA program, which was Government and Relief in Occupied Areas. That, incidentally, was a legal problem, because we didn't have any direct congressional authority for it. We were pouring money into Germany, and the only legal basis
we had was the Geneva Convention. Every time that appropriation came up it would have been subject to a point of order, and it would have been quite a discussion as to whether or not the Geneva Convention was sufficient authorization.
MCKINZIE: Do you think that GARIOA funds constituted General [Lucius D.] Clay's slush fund? There were some unusual expenditures made under the GARIOA program.
BROWN: Well, I guess there was probably less restriction placed on the use of GARIOA funds than on any fund that has been developed since for aid to other countries. There being no authorizing legislation wherein the restrictions are usually contained; it was just pretty much left up to the executives to spend it as was needed to -- in the words of the Geneva Convention -- "prevent disease and unrest."
It was sort of a nebulous authority. As a result
the restrictions on it were pretty much only those that the executive put on itself, although I think from time to time the appropriation bill would have certain riders. That was one of the bills on which they used to try to put on the rider about removal of equipment from German factories.
MCKINZIE: There was, as I understand it, a desire on the part of the military, in 1946 or so, to get out of Germany. The Army at first didn't appear to want to continue as the administrators of, particularly, Germany, but I got the impression from various documents that it was the State Department that dragged its feet, that it didn't feel that it should become an operating agency.
BROWN: I think that's true. For a long time we didn't feel we were equipped to do the job. The military had always had an operating function
where our function had not been operating. We were reluctant to take it over, but I think we all saw that ultimately it had to be done. We couldn't keep it in a military situation all the time and we couldn't, all of a sudden, swing it over from the military directly to the Germans. There had to be a period where there was civilian control and Germans were brought into it on a gradual basis, with the ultimate aim of our getting out altogether. That's when the question of a high commissioner came up.
MCKINZIE: How about the timing of that? Do you think that that was appropriate, or could it have occurred earlier?
BROWN: I think it probably should have occurred earlier than it did, but it was delayed considerably by the Berlin blockade. The mission to Germany which I went on was to prepare the way for a turnover to civilian control and a
MCKINZIE: Can you talk about that mission?
BROWN: Yes. It was a mission of about 30 officers all from the State Department and the Bureau of the Budget; I think there were only about three from the Bureau of the Budget. Each of us had a field of responsibility to look into. Mine was the legal field, the court system. I remember that my report was to the effect that there shouldn't be any problem at all in that particular field. Most of the people who were at the operating level were already civilians. They had been in many cases military officers; in fact there were some who were still there who had served under me when I was in the headquarters in Frankfort. But almost all had converted from military status to civilian status. I didn't see any problem on that, and my report was to the effect that the transition could be made without
any difficulty whatsoever.
MCKINZIE: Were you aware at the time that there were Germans who were anxious for this to occur?
BROWN: Oh, yes. The Germans naturally wanted to get away from the stigma of a military government. Even though it would still be an occupation, they preferred it under civilian control. But immediately thereafter the Berlin blockade came up, which I think everybody agreed required that the final authority in Germany continue to be military as long as they were having to support Berlin by military airlift. So, it was delayed. I can't remember when the turnover finally took place. The mission to Germany, as I recall, was in '48. I guess the turnover was in 1950, maybe '49.
MCKINZIE: Were you in any position to observe the relationship between General Clay and Robert
Murphy? These people represented two powerful entities in Government and both had considerable responsibility for what was going on.
BROWN: I think the answer to that would have to be no. I know that when we were in London the previous December on the Ruhr Authority, we had a great deal of difficulty in trying to reconcile Clay's views with those of the British, the French, and the Benelux countries. Clay was a strong supporter of Germany, as I suppose anybody gets to be when in that type of a job; they are fighting for what they are trying to do. He caused considerable trouble to the State Department, because we had to smooth the ruffled feathers of the other countries that he was continually offending.
MCKINZIE: Do you think he pushed too hard?
BROWN: No, I think he probably was right. I think
he pushed too soon, shall we say, but not necessarily too hard.
MCKINZIE: When the Marshall plan was announced in June, 1947, it immediately created a problem for occupied areas because in planning for that European recovery program they expected that Germany would become economically integrated into the Western European economy and that changed dramatically, very quickly, did that create waves in the legal...
BROWN: By that time I had had a shift of responsibility. I was one of the four lawyers from the legal adviser's office who were assigned to work on the legislation for the Marshall plan. My relationship with it was purely one of getting the statutory authority and not wondering how it would affect the legal situation with respect to Germany. Shortly after that I left the legal adviser's office altogether and went to Congressional
Relations. So, I didn't really get in on that part of it.
MCKINZIE: When you were working on this legislation for the Marshall plan at that early stage of it, was there any contact with the Hill?
BROWN: Oh, yes, there was a great deal. Actually, the Herter Committee was appointed on the Hill to go over to Europe and make a study of the situation, the requirements, and to make recommendations as to how to go about it. They came up with a recommendation which was unacceptable to the administration, and that was to have a Government corporation do the job. They wanted to take it away from any existing agency, particularly the State Department, which they didn't really trust at that point.
MCKINZIE: Did you have any contacts with those people?
BROWN: Some. Mostly our contact was with the Foreign Relations and Foreign Affairs Committees and, more than with the committees themselves, with their staffs. We were not in the policy side of this. We had to come up with the drafts for everything proposed and try to get agreement with the Hill on the legal technicalities.
MCKINZIE: Did you anticipate, in doing that drafting, that there would be considerable pressure from various economic groups in this country regarding the implementation of this aid program? I'm thinking particularly about wheat and the Senators from the wheat area, use of U.S. wheat, shipped in U.S. boxcars.
BROWN: I think we saw all along that that was a problem. One of the particular problems that came up again and again was fuel oil. By fuel oil I mean industrial fuel oil, heating oil, and so forth. New England at that time was having
very cold weather and was short on oil. The question would come up as to whether or not, by financing oil for Europe, we were going to deprive ourselves when we were already having shortages. I suppose that same thing happened in a number of fields. I think steel was something of a problem then too.
MCKINZIE: What prompted you to move from the Office of the Legal Adviser into positions -- did you go directly to deputy director...
BROWN: Yes. That was purely personalities. The legal adviser became the Assistant Secretary for Congressional Relations, and he asked me to go with him. I had had a lot of legislative experience at that time. I had worked on the Marshall plan legislation; the pre-Marshall plan legislation, interim aid; and the Displaced Persons Bill, which came under my responsibilities on Occupied Areas. I had enough legislative experience along with my
legal background that he decided he could use me, and that's where I stayed for the next six years.
MCKINZIE: I take it you had some good contacts then with the staff of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee?
BROWN: Yes. I had contacts with Francis Wilcox, who was then the Chief of Staff of Foreign Relations; Boyd Crawford of Foreign Affairs; and a number of others.
MCKINZIE: Did your particular duties deal directly with members of those committees?
BROWN: Yes. I dealt with the members as well as with the staff, and more with the members in that job than I had done on the Marshall plan legislation, where the drafting part of it was my responsibility. In the Congressional Relations part the whole idea of selling the legislation
became my responsibility, and my contacts with the members themselves increased considerably.
MCKINZIE: You went in at various -- twice in 1949. And what I'm wondering is, did it take long to learn where your friends were and where they weren't? And I also want to ask you something about bi-partisanship. Dean Acheson said some