Oral History Interview with
John M. Cabot
Counselor of Embassy Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1945-46, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, 1947; appointed career minister, 1948; Consul General, Shanghai, China, 1948-49; Minister to Finland, 1950-52, Ambassador to Pakistan, 1952-53.
July 18, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie
[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. ) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 July 1977
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
John M. Cabot
July 18, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Ambassador Cabot, how did you decide upon a career in Foreign Service? Were there any particular individuals or ideas that in your younger days moved you to become a Foreign Service officer?
CABOT: I hadn't decided anything when I was sent by my father to Oxford , as a reward for getting a magna cum laude at Harvard. While I was in Oxford I went to Hungary and Rumania in
connection with the thesis I was writing. I came into contact with our embassies, or our legations rather, and with a certain number of our diplomats. It seemed a rather interesting life and one for which I had inadvertently prepared myself fairly well by majoring in history.
The idea gradually grew on me and I decided to take the exams, which I did. I came out number one in my class, and so made the Service.
MCKINZIE: Did you especially choose the Latin-American service in the beginning, or did that just fall to you as a result of being a junior officer?
CABOT: It completely fell to me. I offered French and German as my foreign languages when I went into the Service, though I was sent to a Spanish
speaking country, and spent most of my life in Spanish speaking countries. I have never gone into either a French or German-speaking country.
MCKINZIE: Could you talk a little about the political orientation you took with you into that? Very many people who went into the Foreign Service had been affected by someone else's ideas; Woodrow Wilson's ideas or, in the economic field, Manley O. Hudson at Harvard.
CABOT: I wouldn't say I had. My father was a rock-ribbed Republican, and I always used to argue with him about the League of Nations , which he did not support. To that extent I was a Wilsonian. I think that I went in without any particular preconceived notions, other
than ones derived from our history. I mean, I did believe in the Monroe Doctrine. I did believe in a strong Navy, things like that. But for the most part, I went into it realizing that I would have to subordinate my views to those which I was supposed to uphold in the foreign government service.
MCKINZIE: You became the Chief of the Division of Caribbean and Central American Affairs in 1944. Could you talk about your work, particularly about any contacts that you had with Central Americans or planners in the State Department about the postwar period?
CABOT: Well, I can divide that into two compartments, I think. The first was carrying out the policies which were necessary in the persecution of the war. My principal job as the
officer primarily responsible for Central America (it was only later that the Caribbean got included, and that was Cuba , Haiti and Santo Domingo ), was the question of procurement. We were getting sisal, hemp, rubber, mahogany, and various other things from Central America . Of course, later when Cuba got into it there was sugar from Cuba , Haiti , and Santo Domingo , and nickel from Cuba .
Mainly, we were constructing highways. We had all the arrangements made to construct a highway transversing lower California. There was a great to-do about it because the Mexicans are very sensitive on the subject, quite understandably. We'd just been able to complete arrangements when the War Department announced that the danger of a Japanese landing in Southern California no longer existed. Therefore,
they didn't want to build the highway. We had to get out as gracefully as we could.
Then we did build, more or less, the Inter-American Highway . That was quite an undertaking. A lot of money was wasted on it, and it was stopped in mid-career. Then we had a quinine project, the development of a synthetic (atrabin), to treat malaria, and then suddenly they announced that they were going to stop that program. In the meantime, we were issuing floods of apologies, and not a very substantial return for all the trouble that the Central American countries had gone through to help us.
MCKINZIE: I spoke with Jose Figueres, President of Costa Rica, and asked him if he thought that the Central American effort during the war to provide these supplies entitled Central
American countries to special consideration after the war. His response was that Costa Rica had supplied three coffee crops to the United States at OPA prices, and had not sold that coffee on the world market. The difference between the OPA price and the world price was the Costa Rican contribution. His view was that the United States had an obligation at the end of the war to make some kind of gesture in the way of development aid to Costa Rica .
CABOT: That, with due respect to Figueres, is a lot of malarky. In the first place, there were no foreign markets for coffee. Most of the markets for coffee in Europe and other parts of the world were cut off for the war, so the only place they had to sell was in the United States .
In the second place, the OPA price was put
deliberately high in order to sustain the economy of the coffee producing countries. This is the fact, but you do hear a lot of that sort of talk; that just isn't true.
Of course, by the end of the war it was quite possible that coffee prices would, through natural causes, have risen to more than the OPA prices. I cannot answer that. When I was Assistant Secretary in '53-'54, the result of raising the control price on coffee was to let coffee rise very substantially, but I don't think that was particularly true in '41-'45.
MCKINZIE: Could you comment upon the state of the "economic art" in Central America as you knew it during the war? Some people in the State Department voiced the opinion that Central American economists really were not very
sophisticated, or at least not very much in tune with U.S. thinking about the problem of development in their countries.
CABOT: Well, the question of development hadn't arisen at that time particularly. They were thinking in practical terms of attracting industry and one thing or another, but it was only toward the end of the war that the more advanced countries like Mexico and Brazil began to think that United States should help them develop. It was at that time that we did make large loans to a number of countries; for example the Volta Redonda Steel Mill in Brazil . Similar loans were made to Mexico , for similar purposes, and to other countries.
May I mention another thing. A lot of people in Latin America complain that we kept our prices down by our controls, which
was in some cases emphatically true. Most of the basic materials were kept down in price, but they overlooked the fact that we were supplying them with goods, at our officially low price, in return. They were sending us more than we were sending to them, so it wasn't altogether an equal exchange, but we were sending steel and finished products, which were short enough in the United States , at prices which we controlled and were very much lower than world prices.
I remember, for instance, that we used to send automobile tires to them and it caused an awful row. They would get in the blackmarket and then there would be a lot of trouble. We'd say, "Oh, we won't send any more," but we'd end up sending some more; perhaps a few less than we would send otherwise.
I can remember, for example, being in
Mexico during the war. We went down to see Elizabeth 's mother a couple of times. You could get things like gasoline and Kodak film, which you couldn't get in the United States . They were uncontrolled.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall having to deal with Latin-American diplomats who wanted larger shipments of capital machinery? Some records indicate that very many of the Central and South American countries wanted this and believed somehow that they had been promised it, perhaps through Nelson Rockefeller's office, Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs.
CABOT: That is undeniably true. The Latin-Americans did want a great many things. You see, they were piling up surpluses of dollars, precisely because we didn't have as much to sell them as
they had to sell us. One of their complaints is that we took off controls after the war, and the result was that they sold to us at controlled prices while we sold to them at uncontrolled prices. Of course, part of the answer to that is that they didn't control what they were bringing in. They were bringing in Cadillacs, silks and things like that; not buying the machinery they needed.
MCKINZIE: Do you think it would have been a good idea for the United States to have kept controlled prices on exports after the war, so that the dollars that the Latin-Americans had accumulated would not have been so quickly dissipated?
CABOT: No, I don't. I don't think we can control the economy very effectively in peacetime,
as we have been discovering the last two or three years. That, of course, is a matter of opinion; I'm not a noted economist and you can see that.
MCKINZIE: Would you talk about the relationship that you had with the Office of Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs?
CABOT: Nelson Rockefeller and his associates were a bunch of rather eager beavers, which had both advantages and disadvantages.
For example, they devised a blacklist which was, I think, as a whole, a good thing. Of course, there were mistakes made in carrying out this; embarrassing cases arose where people were put on the blacklist that never should have been on it. On the other hand, the whole conception was an effective means of waging economic
warfare. Of course, they did encourage relations between Latin America and the United States , and they did a lot of good.
Sometimes, there were various controversial things. I remember a meeting when Nelson Rockefeller wanted, in effect, to take over the whole educational system of El Salvador . We didn't think that was a very good idea. We were afraid that it would cause quite a row sooner or later when the El Salvadorans discovered that their little children were being educated by Americans or people picked by Americans. That was the sort of thing which had very fine possibilities, but which correspondingly had possibilities of a row.
They did a lot of their work in health. They had these servicios which established regions and all on how to wipe out malaria or to do
something else or produce rubber for example. I think those did quite a lot of good. Of course, some of their ideas were utterly wild. I've forgotten what some of them were, but they were completely crazy. Others were very sound and worked out very well.
I think it's only fair to say that Rockefeller was the real leader of the Point IV program. He's done so much good around the world on the whole.
MCKINZIE: Was Rockefeller's organization effectively controlled by the Department, from your point of view?
CABOT: No, it wasn't. You never knew what was going to turn up next. Sometimes you'd find out about it in the papers and go through the roof, but the fat would be in the fire.
That's a lightly mixed metaphor, isn't it?
MCKINZIE: It's effective.
Could you talk about how you came to attend the Dumbarton Oaks Conference? I assume this was in connection with Latin America .
CABOT: That was the other compartment of my work during the war. About 1943, Cordell Hull ordered that an organization be set up to study postwar problems. I was appointed to the committee by Larry [Laurence] Duggan to sit in and work on these things, particularly for Latin America . One of the major things was the question of an international organization to replace the League of Nations , and second, of strengthening the inter-American system.
MCKINZIE: There were many people who thought that the inter-American system was a regional arrangement
which might mitigate against the effectiveness of international organization.
CABOT: The whole question of how they meshed in was very much before us, because the inter-American system was a more or less functioning system at that time. The later United Nations was something which existed at most as ideas in people's minds. The United States wanted an international organization but did not want either to destroy the inter-American system or so hobble it that it could not work effectively if the international organization was not effective.
From early 1943 until the end of the San Francisco Conference in 1945, I was very busy with those studies, in addition to my duties in Central America and the Caribbean . I was involved particularly with Latin-American questions. I wasn't so much involved in the Dumbarton Oaks
proposals, although I sat in on a good many of the meetings and I was on the delegation.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall particular discussions you had with Latin Americans about the Dumbarton Oaks proposals?
CABOT: The Latin Americans, as usual, felt themselves slighted, and they expressed themselves rather vociferously. There was no particular reason why they should have felt slighted. I think that the great question was whether the Americans, Russians and British could agree on any proposals which would be acceptable to the great majority of nations of the world; that was a pretty grave question. For example, the veto caused an awful row, particularly in Latin America .
MCKINZIE: The feeling was that this was undue power for the big five?
CABOT: Exactly. Cordell Hull had been talking about sovereign equality of nations, and the Latin-American position was that this is a hell of a sovereign equality. "The United States can say, 'No,' and we can't make them say, 'Yes,' or agree to say 'Yes."'
MCKINZIE: At the time of the Dumbarton Oaks Conference did you think Latin-American countries were going to demand a modification of the inter-American system? Henry Wallace had recently said that it's going to be the privilege of the developed nations to help the underdeveloped nations.
CABOT: Well, I don't think Henry Wallace had much influence in the situation, but the Latin-American nations wanted to proceed with the inter-American organization and they had some
rather grandiose and nebulous ideas about international concessions. You must remember that the Latin Americans were not in the Dumbarton Oaks conversations, and they were mad about it. They felt that they should be in on everything because they were our allies.
MCKINZIE: What response did you make to them?
CABOT: Well, the answer was these things were all going to be resolved in a conference to be held. They would be present, and have their say in court at that time.
MCKINZIE: The Chapultepec Conference immediately preceded the San Francisco Conference.
CABOT: At the Chapultepec Conference, the agenda was divided into about five parts, of which the most important was the inter-American section. I was in charge of the World Organization Section
and there the American republics got up a lovely resolution which pertained to all sorts of noble ideas and didn't have very much substance. I, for instance, remember the Latin-American nations insisting on the idea of universality. In other words, they wanted everybody including the neutrals of the world and eventually the enemy powers to be included in the international organization. This was, I think, a very good idea, but one that we couldn't meet or cram down the Russian's throats. A lot of noble phrases came out, which is the trouble with most inter-American meetings; lots of noble phrases.
MCKINZIE: Of course, hanging over all of that was the question of Argentina 's participation.
CABOT: The United States wanted to deal on an equal
basis with all the American republics. Of course, Argentina had different ideas; Bolivia also did at one time. Hull was anxious to keep Argentina out of the system since she hadn't cooperated during war. [Sumner] Welles wanted to have the idea of universality in the American hemisphere. Welles got booted out, I believe, for a number of reasons. I think this Storny note played a big part. Storny was the admiral in charge of foreign affairs in Argentina . He wrote a rather appealing note to the United States , and Hull insisted on sending a very cold reply. This ended Storny's career rather abruptly and caused the coldness between Argentina and the United States .
There were two years of trouble and then came the Chapultapec Conference. At that time was clear that the great majority of the other
American republics were anxious to have solidarity in the hemisphere. "Solidarity" was the key word. Nelson Rockefeller, who was then in charge of Latin-American affairs, would listen to this almost unanimous appeal and started to patch relations with Argentina .
Hull was furious and caused quite a split; it caused quite a split in other respects, too. For example, Charles Bohlen in his book says that Roosevelt was so feeble that he signed a note in defiance of the Russians and agreed to support Argentine application to get into the United Nations.
What actually happened was that the other American republics supported the idea, Nelson agreed to go along, and he sent Avra Warren to Buenos Aires to see if they could work out a deal. At Yalta it had been decided that only
those nations which had actually declared war on an Axis Power could go to the San Francisco Conference. That was contrary to our agreements with the other American republics, who had been told at the beginning of the war that if they broke relations with the Axis Powers that they would be entitled to participate in any postwar arrangements. A number of countries, Chile , Paraguay , Venezuela , and three or four others had broken relations but had not declared war. Yalta confronted them with this decision.
Eventually all did declare war and then Argentina was left alone as the one American republic that could not participate. The other republics, as I say, wanted them to participate. So, Avra Warren worked out a deal with Argentina , by which they agreed to
declare war, and then got into the Conference. They were not among the original invitees, and they did come a little late. Hull was furious and I think a good many Russian experts thought that we'd crammed it down their throats.
MCKINZIE: What was your own position in all of that? Did you support Warren 's efforts?
CABOT: I think I was in favor of it. I was immediately subordinate to Nelson Rockefeller, and, of course, I supported him.
MCKINZIE: At the Chapultepec Conference, which was an obvious effort to strengthen the inter-American system, do you recall any discussions about military alliance?
CABOT: Oh, yes. There was the Act of Chapultepec, which was the basis for the later treaty at
Rio . The Act of Chapultepec carried the inter-American agreement to defend, multilaterally, any republic attacked by an external power, and a general agreement that any American republic attacked would be defended by all of the other American powers. That was the definite understanding, but I forget exactly how it was worded. Of course, in the later Treaty of Rio we agreed to carry the matter to the extent of anything short of military sanctions by 2/3 vote of the American republics; no veto.
MCKINZIE: Do you have any personal knowledge of why it took so long from the time of the Act of Chapultepec to the Rio Treaty; a two-year period? There is some implication that the reason was that the Latin Americans insisted on tying military and economic developments together and it was difficult to get those separated.
CABOT: That's wrong. What happened was that they had already more or less agreed to meet in the fall of 1945 for the final conference, and, all of a sudden, Spru [Spruille] Braden was appointed Assistant Secretary for Latin-American Affairs. He said, "I won't have anything to do with a treaty including the present Argentine Government," and that was that. The conference had to be called off. It was only when Spruille had been booted out that they were able to hold a conference. I know that very well, because I was in BA then too.
MCKINZIE: Perhaps you could talk a little bit about San Francisco , where you did deal directly with Latin Americans on the delegation in charge of various committees.
CABOT: I was liaison officer under Nelson Rockefeller.
He was head of the people who tried to ride herd over Latin-American votes to find enough votes to overcome possible oppositions. Nelson was very effective out there. We had to go to these Latin Americans on innumerable matters; first, to find out what they were thinking so as not to let our thinking get too far out of line with theirs, and second, to try to line them up in favor of the agreed position when an agreed position had been reached. We knew the Latin-American delegates very well and we had good relations with them. I think if you record the votes at the San Francisco Conference you find that the Latin Americans for the most part lined up with us even on the veto question. There were only two Latin-American votes cast against it.
MCKINZIE: Did Latin Americans voice much interest
on some of the other controversial decisions, mainly the amendment of provisions to the U.N. Charter, whereby the whole system could be changed?
CABOT: Well, they naturally jibbed a bit at the fact that the five big powers were going to have such overwhelming position of strength in the organization, but they came to accept it, eventually. I never thought they would, but in the outcome they did.
MCKINZIE: Could you narrate your experience in Argentina ?
CABOT: Why, yes. I went down there almost immediately after the San Francisco Conference and, already on the way down, I heard rumblings of a row between Braden and [Colonel Juan] Peron. I sort of wondered whether I was going
to land there and find Braden thrown out because of his dogmatic and belligerent positions. I got down there, and I remember just a few days after I arrived Braden had gone up country to some sort of a meeting at some university, and he came back to Buenos Aires one evening.
I went down, naturally, to see him, and there was a mob of "gente bien"; everybody that was anybody that you know socially was there, and it was a wild scene with great applause and one thing and another.
While this had been going on Peron had issued this inflammatory series of posters denouncing Braden Copper Company for some horrible mine accident which occurred years before that. Braden didn't even hold a share of stock in the Braden Copper Company at that time, so he didn't have anything to do with it. It
was pure propaganda from Peron.
Well, there was this scene at the railway station, and I was appalled, because I saw exactly what was happening here; Braden was getting thoroughly mixed up in internal politics. I remember a junior secretary came up to me, said, "Isn't this wonderful?"
I said, "No, it's terrible," and just walked away.
In the meantime this row grew worse. Braden was making more and more speeches indirectly attacking Peron, otherwise antagonizing him and going around to all the gente bien, who were all opposed to Peron. It was sort of a touchy situation.
MCKINZIE: Did he make a speech at some point where he advised people to vote against the Peron candidates?
CABOT: No, he never did that.
MCKINZIE: Peron, as I recall, mounted some kind of campaign slogan which was "Braden or Peron."
CABOT: Yes, that's true, but Braden never went so far as to advise to vote against Peron.
The situation got worse and worse, with the gente bien egging Braden on. Braden has tremendous charisma; was really a high personality down there. Most of the old-line papers were for Braden and supporting this thing with undisguised glee.
My first reaction was that Braden was attacking the wrong target. He'd been sent down to attack the German interests in Argentina and see that they had gotten cleaned out, whereas he was attacking Peron in respect to internal affairs. The more the thing went on and
the stronger Braden's attack grew, the more I began to think, "Well, Jack is out of step with everybody else."
About that point came a telegram from the Department saying that the President wished to appoint Spruille Assistant Secretary for American Affairs, because he had so well represented United States ' views in Argentina .
Well, I worked that one over and said, "Obviously I've been on the wrong track. I'll go even further than I have in supporting the Braden line, which obviously is to get Peron out rather than get the Germans out."
Then came the famous Plaza speech. By that time that Braden was leaving, and he got up and delivered this speech. He started out by saying, "And this all happened in a country
far away from Argentina ." Then he proceeded to tell the story of practically everything that had happened in Argentina by putting it in this far country. The essence of the story was that the dictator had sent a lot of students to raid the British Embassy, and they had broken a lot of windows, etc. The Ambassador called the Foreign Office and said, "Please do something about this."
The Foreign Office just said, "Oh certainly, we'll send more police."
The British Ambassador's reply to that was, "Don't send more police, send less students.
It was the most extraordinary thing that could be; you could never imagine the scene that this caused. All these sedate people were deliberately getting up and dancing on the
tables to hear their own government denounced.
MCKINZIE: This was even more than the gente bien?
CABOT: This was the gente bien; there were about 800 of them congregated in the various ballrooms of the Plaza Hotel. I also may mention the Argentine Government could do very little; in ten days Braden would be gone. They couldn't very well call him "persona non grate" when he was going to be in charge of the Department from Washington, as you can imagine. That was the high point of Braden's career in Argentina.
Then he left and he continued his attacks from Washington. In the meantime, the Senate was getting upset at all of this ruckus, and when Braden came up before the Foreign Affairs Committee for confirmation they cross-questioned him and criticized his interference in the matter
of internal affairs. They extracted from him a promise he wouldn't interfere in any internal affairs. Nevertheless, he continued to denounce Argentina and supported the Uruguayan move. I think they had an investigation on the conduct of Argentina; something like that. This was in September, and in October Peron was booted out by the Army. However, those who opposed Peron couldn't get together, and finally about ten days later they got the most insignificant cabinet that was ever chosen for office of any American republic, in my memory. And the next day before they had even been sworn in, Peron came back in a tremendous riot and Peron returned to power and the Army had to acquiesce in that.
Then, Braden continued his attacks on Peron. It wasn't long before I began to get
reports from the anti-Peronist Argentines that these attacks from Washington were doing no good to the anti-Peronista cause. The Argentines were just getting mad at this business. This was about November of 1945. I wrote a long letter saying in the plainest language I could, "For Christ's sake, lay off." That went up like a lead balloon, and the attacks continued.
MCKINZIE: Did you get a response from anyone?
CABOT: I got response from Ellis Briggs, just thanking me for the letter, so forth and so on. I wrote the letter to Ellis Briggs because I was afraid that Braden was a "bull in the china shop," and he wouldn't pay any attention to it, or maybe get mad. The attacks continued and Peron put in some changes, some
called them socio-oriented measures, by the time the elections were held. For some weeks before the election the Peronistas had been attacking anti-Peronistas and really intimidating them. There were a great many instances of that around the country.
About two weeks before the elections the Army announced that it was going to preside over fair elections, and there was going to be no more rough stuff. Everything calmed down, so for two weeks before there was relative peace. The elections finally came, and I sent out officers to polling places all over the country, just to keep a gentle eye on them and see whether there was any intimidation at the polls. There was a unanimous report that they hadn't seen anything that looked like intimidation.
The count of the votes was very slow in
those days; it was a month, I think, before they finished it. Immediately after the elections the opposition leaders sent a message to the Army thanking them for having presided over such fair elections. The very first return favored the anti-Peronistas, but from there on they were overwhelmingly pro-Peron, and the opposition leaders were stuck with their own words. At this point, I began to do some drastic rethinking of my own ideas. To make a long story short, I decided that I was damn well either going to see that the policy was changed or that I was thrown out. I expected the latter.
MCKINZIE: Did you talk to the Argentines in this rethinking? Did you have a confidant, particularly?
CABOT: No, I was sort of isolated in the Embassy. So,
I sent a series of strongly worded cables saying, "Peron has been elected in fair elections. Whether we like it or not, we've got to deal with him and make the best peace we can with him. That was the general tenor of my comments.
I sort of waited for the axe to fall on my neck when, all of a sudden, something happened which I hadn't appreciated: The Senate was getting on its tin ear. Senators Connally and Vandenberg went to see Byrnes in Blair House and said, "You have damn well got to stop this business. There's to be no more interference in Argentine internal affairs."
Truman finally agreed and got Byrnes to assign [George S.] Messersmith to take over as Ambassador. I'd been in charge of the Embassy for about eight months.
Messersmith arrived on the eve of Peron's
inauguration. I remember his clothes hadn't arrived and we had an awful time getting some clothes fitted on him in 24 hours.
I was there for about two months longer. In the meantime, there had been an awful row between the State Department (which of course was acting under Braden's order), and the Embassy (which I headed) about the question of the Germans. We had done an awful lot to clean out Nazi influence in Argentina. Of course, there was not a bottom to the well, but we'd gotten a lot of water out of it. The Department said, "Oh, you've actually done nothing. We'd reported these 3,000 German schools and you've only closed 340." Of course, the 3,000 must have been perfectly ridiculous. There weren't any 3,000 German schools in Argentina. We also had fairly well turned out German business interests and other German activities.
I've forgotten to mention one thing which made me change my mind. Just before the election, the Department issued this Blue Book, which you've doubtless heard about. There are not too many factual mistakes in it, but the whole thing was completely dishonest. I hate to say it, because I consider Spruille Braden a friend, but what the Blue Book said was terribly distorted. I can give you some illustrations.
The Blue Book strongly intimated that Argentina had sought German arms in order to attack Brazil . The fact is, as shown by the German telegrams which the Department had captured, that they were scared to death that Brazil, with our assistance, was going to attack them. That's just one illustration of the distortions which went on. Also the Blue Book accused Argentina of helping German spies.
The telegrams and other letters which we had showed that German spies, as the war gradually shifted to the allied side, were scared to death of the Argentines; constantly being harrassed and driven underground.
When Messersmith arrived, I gave an account of my stewardship; how we had worked out the deportation of Germans, the closing of German businesses, the closing of German schools and so forth and so on. Messersmith was usually the sort of man that said nothing, but the next thing I knew he had gone the other extreme and was loudly defending Peron against everything. He was completely in Peron's corner. Well, that wasn't my idea of the way of handling the thing I thought that we should handle it cooly, and not take a strongly partisan view one way or the other. I didn't have much to do with the last
two months. Messersmith was busying himself releasing Argentine assets and things like that.
MCKINZIE: Did you recall having any discussions with Messersmith in which you made your position rather clear, that he had perhaps gone too far?
CABOT: I don't think I did particularly, because it was a gradual process. There were things which I approved of, such as the release of the Argentine pro-Nazis to the United States . It hadn't gone far enough by the time we left for me to take any particular position. After I left, of course, Messersmith and Braden got embroiled in a horrible row. Messersmith was writing these 77-page letters he was famous for to everybody in Washington , and Braden was getting madder and madder. Everybody was waiting with baited breath to see what would
happen. Finally, after about a year, Truman fired them both and that was that.
MCKINZIE: Somehow, Braden has managed to say that he resigned. He doesn't acknowledge his release by President Truman.
CABOT: It may be true that he resigned, but I think he did it on request.
MCKINZIE: Were you aware of what all of this was doing to U.S. relations with other Latin-American countries?
CABOT: Well, I was vaguely aware of it. You must remember that Peron was a pretty thorough demogogue, and the result is that most of my diplomatic colleagues in BA, for example, were not too impressed by him. On the other hand, I remember that the Brazilian Ambassador, strange
to say, was rather pro-Peron.
MCKINZIE: Did you have any dealings with American investors who were anxious to get into the Argentine market?
CABOT: No. The only thing of this nature, as I remember, was IT&T getting out of Argentina . They sold their holdings for at least 80 million dollars to the Argentine Government. And, of course, the British all got out. They sold all their railways to Peron. There was quite a process of disinvestment at that time.
MCKINZIE: You've mentioned the circumstances under which you left Argentina. Was this a request you made, or was it the normal rotation by that time?
CABOT: I didn't make a request. I had a letter from
Ellis Briggs in which he said that they discussed it in ARA, and they thought it was best that I be withdrawn soon after Messersmith got there. This was perfectly all right by me, because I was in an impossible position. Here I was, strongly recommending the end of this anti-Peron policy, while upholding it in Argentina . Granted, I upheld it until it was obvious that it was a failure. At the same time, it was a hell of a note to be saying things in public that I wasn't saying in private. I had no idea what Messersmith was being sent down there to do. I supposed that he was being sent down to continue the Braden policy.
MCKINZIE: Did you brief Ambassador Braden when you returned?
MCKINZIE: Did you manage through all of that to maintain a friendly relationship with him?
CABOT: I did. I still consider him a friend, and I hope he does consider me a friend, although I violently disagreed on that and numerous other things since.
MCKINZIE: How did you get assigned to Yugoslavia?
CABOT: Well, that is a rather amusing story. I received an assignment to Yugoslavia like a bolt out of the blue. Almost simultaneously I got a letter from Selden Chapin, Director General of the Foreign Service, saying, "Don't worry about this, you aren't going there. It's just simply to get you out of BA."
So, I came home in all innocence and was sent to the War College for three months; quite an interesting experience. My predecessor in
Yugoslavia came home and said, "You had better get my house there. The houses are very scarce in Belgrade and you had better pick the house while the picking's good."
I said, "Oh, don't worry, I'm not going there. They told me they wanted me to go there to get me out of BA."
He said, "All right."
About a month later I saw another officer, I've forgotten who it was now, who said, "Well, sure, you're going to go there."
I said, "My God, I've given up this house. What are you doing to me?"
He said, "You are going to go, period." I was pretty mad actually, but that's the story of why I went to Belgrade.
MCKINZIE: Did you think that they really intended to send you there from the very beginning?
CABOT: I don't know. I don't think they had any real intentions, but there was an empty slot and I was a handy person to put in it.
MCKINZIE: Why do you say that the War College is an interesting experience? Many Foreign Service officers get attached to the War College in one way or the other.
CABOT: It was my first close dealings with the military; a chance to exchange viewpoints and realize that when th