Oral History Interview with
Honoré M. Catudal
Economic Analyst, Department of State, 1935-42; Assistant Chief, 1942-44, Associate Chief, 1944-45, and advisor in Trade Agreements Division; Special Assistant to Director, Office of Economic Affairs, 1944; Special Assistant to Economic Counselor, American Embassy, London, 1946; special assignment in office of Assistant Secretary of State in charge of economic affairs, April-October 1946; and U.S. delegate to U.N. conferences on trade at Lake Success, Geneva, and Havana, 1946-48.
May 23, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie
See also Honore M. Catudal Papers finding aid
[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September, 1981
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Honoré M. Catudal
May 23, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Mr. Catudal, where is Plainville, Kansas?
CATUDAL: Plainville, Kansas is on a branch of the Union Pacific which no longer operates passenger trains. But anyway, it's a hundred miles west of Salina, halfway between Kansas City and Denver. You've heard about Dodge City, certainly, and it's north of Dodge City. I'd say it's about fifty or sixty miles south of the Nebraska line, but straight north of Hays and Dodge City. Actually I was born in Plainville, but my early youth I spent in Hays, where my father was a doctor. We moved from Plainville to Hays and then moved back to Plainville.
MCKINZIE: When you were a young man did you ever think you'd go into Government service?
CATUDAL: Well, let me put it this way. I graduated from high school very young, in 1918. Woodrow Wilson was President of the United States, and he was one of the great influences in my life it seemed to me. I had such a small class in high school, and I was one of the first in my class of about twenty-five people who planned to go on to college. I wanted to get four years of English and four years of Latin when they just taught about three years of each of those subjects in this high school. But I got hold of a Latin teacher and she said, "Well, we could switch one year to your credit. We can have Cicero one year, and we can have Virgil another year and you can get four years that way.
Then the English teacher said, "Well, you come and see me during study period and I'll give you something to do to get the credit for four years. Well, most of the things she'd assign me to do were in speech at the time.
Then my first year in college was in St. Louis at St. Louis University -- a very unhappy year for me I must say. I was too young in those days, but my brother was going to dental school there, and my sister wanted to take some business courses, so my father decided to send my mother along, too, and we had a house. I was almost completely lost in St. Louis. St. Louis University, as you may know, is a Jesuit-operated school, and remember one of the very kind Jesuits there, who suggested that maybe I'd be happier and better off in another school they had in St. Mary's, Kansas, which is right between Topeka and Manhattan, Kansas.
MCKINZIE: Oh, yes.
CATUDAL: I went to St. Mary's College for about three years, and I graduated from there.
The pastor in my hometown was a Frenchman by the name of Baumstimler, believe it or not. He was an Alsatian and he'd been driven out of France when they closed down the religious orders sometime around 1909. He was very, very versed on
world affairs, and he collected stamps and got me interested in stamp collecting, too. Stamp collecting was another thing that broadened my horizons.
Then my father during World War I, before we got into the war, went around and talked to a lot of the people in Plainville where there were a lot of Germans. He watched very carefully what was happening in the front lines. He had been in France but he almost never talked about his own experiences in France at that time. Later on I discovered why. His first wife and his first son had died. There had been a typhoid epidemic and then they didn't have all the vaccines and the serums they have today. As long as I can remember my father he was white-haired and he was a young man. I was determined I was going to learn French. I had the given name Honore’ and my parents always called me by my middle name Marcel -- to her dying day my mother would call me that. I have a brother now that is still alive and he and my relatives still call me Marcel. My associates and friends
here somewhere along the line called me that. One teacher had suggested to me that I drop the "el" from Marcel and just call myself Marc. I decided it was a good idea. Marcel sounds like a French hairdresser. There actually is a hairdresser in Washington called Marcel. I dropped the "el" see, although my name actually is Honore’ Marcel and my own relatives always called me Marcel.
MCKINZIE: This Jesuit priest, then, was one of those strong influences, I take it.
CATUDAL: No, he was not. As I say, I'd only known him a year in St. Louis. I liked this guy and he was a very fine human being. Actually if I had to do it over again, I wouldn't have gone to St. Mary's. St. Mary's was a boarding school in that town. In fact, it was an Indian mission back in 1840 or thereabouts in this part of the country. There was an Indian mission there and they had a small high school. Actually this was principally a high school or boarding high school, but they had an extension to the high school. They had a college,
of course, and I got my degree -- bachelor's degree -- at St. Mary's. There was a friend of mine who was at St. Mary's at the same time I was, and he was a freshman when I was a senior, and I see him once in a while. And it probably didn't hurt me a damn bit, but I didn't like it because it was a boarding school and they treated us like children -- like infants.
Anyway, one day in some Catholic paper I saw they were granting in perpetuity a number of scholarships for graduate students. Well, to show you how stupid I was in those days, I didn't really know what graduate work was.
In college, I was editor of the school paper, which came out weekly or monthly. English was always a pretty strong point with me in writing, and I looked forward to trying a course in journalism. Well, anyway I applied for a scholarship, and sent for the examination. These examination questions were sent out to you, and were submitted to teachers in high schools. I suspect they judged you more on your record than
anything else. But anyway I went to work and I earned a scholarship at Catholic University of America. They told me to get my ticket to Washington, D.C.; then get out at the station, and buy another ticket to Brookland. Really, it was a separate town. B&O has a stop there. First, I didn't know anything about the institution, and I didn't know anything about graduate work and what it entailed. I first signed up for economics. Well, I'd never had a course in economics. They didn't teach economics at St. Mary's. They didn't have a course in economics at that time. For some reason or another I decided on economics, and I still have a great feeling for economics.
Then the professor discovered I had this very French name, and so on. He gave me an assignment, After all, I was taking a course in elementary economics, just sort of auditing this, and at the same time taking supposedly a graduate course in economics. He loaded me down with work, including reading books in French on the
early economists. I thought, "Well, this is very interesting to me." When I had a chance to change I shifted from economics to the school of letters where I signed up for English, and eventually I got my masters degree in English.
During that one year somewhere along the line I saw where there was another scholarship being offered at that time by a man who had recently died. He left money to CU [Catholic University of America], and to New York University, to my recollection. Moreover he was one of our early, early diplomats. He'd been in Egypt, but before he died I think he was in Washington. Anyway, he left quite a sum of money in scholarships. I recall it was for work in international law, diplomacy, and/or belles-lettres. Well, with my English, I qualified for belles-lettres. I was always good in getting good grades; that was no problem with me. This time the scholarship paid cash. On the previous one, I had paid my board and room, and the tuition was paid. You get tired of eating in the same place, no matter where it is.
This Penfield Scholarship that I won paid $1200 a year, and in those days, 1923 or '24, that was a lot of money. The three of us who got this immediately looked around. We kept our room at the graduate hall, but we used to eat decent meals away. I must have had a little lawyer in me, and I've mentioned I did study law. I never got a degree but I was admitted to the bar.
There was an old Portuguese professor there at CU. He had gotten a doctorate degree from Oxford. He gave me the name in Paris of the Ecole Libre des Sciences Politiques. Well, it was somewhat similar to the Georgetown [University] foreign service program. In France many of their foreign service people went to this school and they served in high government positions. Some of them also were studying at the law school at the same time. He was one of the most brilliant teachers I ever heard in my life. I used to sit in on some of his courses -- not that I was taking these courses, but just to listen to him. If you are around anybody who's really first rate in
anything, you'll find he's first rate in a hell of a lot more than just his own specialty. This guy was such a guy; he w