Clark M. Clifford Oral History Interview, February 14, 1973

Oral History Interview with

Assistant to White House Naval Aide, 1945-46; Special Counsel to the President, 1946-50.

Washington, D. C.
February 14, 1973
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Clifford Oral History Transcripts | 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 April, 1977
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Clifford Oral History Transcripts | List of Subjects Discussed | Top of the Page]


HESS: To get underway this afternoon Mr. Clifford, let's discuss Key West for just a few moments. What was the general routine in Key West? How were the functions of the White House staff office carried on while you were down there?

CLIFFORD: I believe the outstanding characteristic of the Key West visits was their complete informality. A house had been prepared there for President Truman. We all lived in the same house. We had our meals together there.

After breakfast in the morning the President would have what might appear to be an informal staff meeting, at which time he might make assignments of some sort and receive comments or observations from teh group. We had complete communication facilities there that had been set up. The President made it a point to do


as little work as possible in Key West, so as not to interfere with the benefit of the rest and relaxation.

You will recall we went there for perhaps as much as two weeks after the election in 1948. It was by far our best vacation.

After the informal conversation following breakfast in the morning, usually there was the visit to the beach, and the morning volleyball game, which President Truman enjoyed watching. Members of the staff and the Secret Service had volleyball teams. He would get a good deal of enjoyment out of the competition and the humorous exchanges that went on. Most of the morning would be spent on the beach. We would return and have luncheon together. Then the afternoon belonged to teh individual. Mr. Truman usually napped in teh afternoon and read some. The rest of us were ordinarily available in the event that he needed to go


into anything with us. The group would gather together in the late afternoon for a cocktail hour. Mr. Truman would ordinarily have a drink or two before dinner.

After dinner almost invarialby we'd settle down and play poker, which was one of his great relazations. I might say about the poker games that they offered a medium first for the interest in and excitement of the contest, but to a great extent they offered a convenient way for the group to sit around the table and relax together. The stakes were not large enough to be engrossing, and it was more an opportunity for the good fellowship that comes from it. There was a great deal of humor in the different exchanges that went on. And I've always had the feeling that that was one of the major interests that Mr. Truman had in these games. It got the group together and kept them together all


evening. It provided for the opportunities of the good fellowship that came from it.

HESS: Was Mr. Truman a very good poker player technically?

CLIFFORD: He understood the game well, but he was too optimistic a poker player.

HESS: Trying to fill inside straights and things like that.

CLIFFORD: He would stay in too many hands in the hope that he might make a lucky draw. You can get a lot of enjoyment out of it, but you can't win playing that kind of poker. He didn't win too much, but as a matter of fact, it was not his basic purpose to win.

HESS: Over the years I have often asked the question who was the best poker player, and almost invariably people will say, "Well, Clark Clifford


was." What do you think about that? Do you think you were the best poker player there?

CLIFFORD: I'm not sure that I was the best poker player in the group. I think that possibly I was the most careful poker player in the group. I was operating on a very limited budget at the time, and I possibly paid more attention to it. As a result, I would say, I probably came out about as well as anybody else.

HESS: In the logs for the President's trips to Key West I noticed for the first trip, trip number one of November 17th to the 23rd of 1946 that you were along, and that was the time the President's party boarded the captured German submarine the U-2513 and the sub was submerged, and as you know there were reports in the press, some criticism of the captain of the submarine for submerging the submarine


with the President aboard. Also in the press at the time was the indication that's also mentioned in the log there that Admiral Leahy didn't care much for the submerging of the vessel. Do you recall anything about that incident?

CLIFFORD: Not the detials, but I do remember that there was quite a lot of publicity about it at the time. I remember quite a well-known picture that was published all over the country of a group of us standing on the superstructure of the submarine. My recollection is that obviously we would not have submerged had not President Truman's acquescence been obtained. And, althought I don't remember the detail, it would be completely typical of Mr. Truman to take the position that, well, now we were on the submarine let's see what it was like to go down in a submarine. There wasn't much


point in riding around on the surface.

HESS: Airplanes fly and submarines submerge.

CLIFFORD: It was interesting to go through with the routine and see the efficiency with which the men handled their various assignments. I think the Navy personnel involved were delighted to have that opportunity of demonstrating their competence to the President. It did not involve any particular danger of any sort--that submarine must have submerged and come up hundreds of times, and it did it on a routine basis again.

HESS: According to the log for the eleventh Key West trip--this was March the 7th tot he 27th of 1952--this was a little over two years after you left the White House, but you were along on that particular trip, and also listed as guests were Roy Harper, Frank E. McKinney, and


Charles E. Wilson. This was at the time of the 1952 steel strike--steel trouble--difficulties and Wilson was down to talk about the steel trouble. Now in some of the logs it would give the duration of the stay of people. In this particular log it did not. Do you recall being along in March of 1952?

CLIFFORD: My recollection would be really quite indistinct about it. I recall being asked to come over at the time to discuss the steel seizure problem. I happen also to remember that, although it obviously did not have any real impact on President Truman, I was opposed to that particular action at the time, and felt that there was some better course that should have been taken.

HESS: What course did you advise? Do you recall?

CLIFFORD: I do not recall at the time what the


alternative was.

HESS: Well there were several, one was the Selective Service Act; one was I believe Taft-Hartley. There were several--the one that the President was operating on was the "inherent powers of the President to take such actions in times of trouble."

CLIFFORD: My recollection is too indistinct. I do recall being definite about the position. That I thought it was unwise to test the "inherent power" issue under those circumstances and . . .

HESS: Did you articulate that to the President?

CLIFFORD: Yes, I did at the time.

HESS: What did he say?

CLIFFORD: I do not remember. I have a recollection


of attending more than one meeting on-it, and I'm sure we discussed a number of other alternatives, but I'm not clear now on just what took place. I had known Mr. Charles Wilson for a long time. It's entirely possible that as you suggest that we were down there for a number of other alternatives, but I'm not clear now on just what took place. I had known Mr. Charles Wilson for a long time. It's entirely possible that as you suggest that we were down there for a day or two for this kind of discussion. There were other occasions I remember going down there.

One time I know Chief Justice Vinson and I were guests for maybe four or five days. I know we were there for quite a while, as guests, and sat in the games and generally were relaxing.

HESS: I believe that was the previous trip in


November of 1951, I think.

CLIFFORD: It might well have been.

HESS: Two days after the President returned from that particular trip he announced at the Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner at the National Guard Armory that he did not intend to run for reelection. The announcement was March the 29th, very shortly after his return from Key West. While you were in Key West was the subject broached? Do you recall him saying anything about his having made up his mind whether or not to run in that next election?

CLIFFORD: My memory on that is quite good. I would say with considerable positiveness that he did not discuss it with me nor did I hear it discussed with anybody at all. I think that was a private decision of his, and that he must have been in the process of arriving at it over a


very considerable period of time.

HESS: On the subject of Mr. Truman's Cabinet, what did Mr. Truman see as the proper role of his Cabinet? Were they his principal advisers on all matters, or on some matters, or just what was their role?

CLIFFORD: Different Presidents use Cabinets in different ways. I believe that President Truman used his Cabinet in two ways: one, they were his specific representatives in the various departments, which it was their administrative responsibility to conduct. And then from time to time matters of broad general interest would be presented for discussion so that he might get, if possible, some thrust of agreement in general areas. He did not use his Cabinet as a board of directors.

I understand that to a certain extent President Eisenhower used his Cabinet as part of


the policymaking machinery. President Truman did not use his Cabinet that way. He understood that that was not the function of the Cabinet under our governmental system. The Cabinet as a group has no power. It does not even have any existence in our law. It is just a term that's been applied to a group of men who happen to be appointed to specific positions.

President Truman was very much aware of the lack of power of the Cabinet. He, on occasion, would refer to the incidents that occurred in the administration of President Lincoln. I believe it had to do with the Emancipation Proclamation, when Mr. Lincoln submitted the Proclamation to the Cabinet. Lincoln received quite a negative vote from the Cabinet, and in effect said, "Well, I'm glad to get the opinions of all, but inasmuch as this is a presidential responsibility I shall exercise that authority and responsibility and I herewith sign the


Proclamation." He would not call the Cabinet to discuss important specific problems. At Cabinet meetings he oftentimes would start discussions which would give him a general feeling of their attitude toward matters; but he did not depend on them as a policymaking body, nor did he assign any responsibility in that regard to his Cabinet.

HESS: We hear today of occasions when White House staff members interpose themselves between the President and his Cabinet members. Were there similar actions attempted by any staff members during the Truman administration?

CLIFFORD: I doubt that one could say that staff members would interpose themselves. President Truman used his staff a great deal. He developed a good feel for the kind of contribution that his staff could make. He was closer to his staff


than any President that I know.

As an illustration, I believe President Truman was the only President who took his vacation with his staff. Other Presidents would take their personal friends and might even prefer as part of the relaxation to get away from their staff. President Truman was comfortable with the staff, he used them well.

A system developed to some extent whereby Cabinet members would use staff members as contacts with the President. There grew up in my operation as counsel, a relationship with the State Department and the Defense Department that I think became an important part of the operation. For quite a while Robert Lovett was Under Secretary of State. He and I were friends and he used me as his contact in the White House. Dean Acheson was Under Secretary and then Secretary, and he would use me as his contact. I'd had


from early days of my coming to Washington in the spring of ‘45 a relationship that developed with James Forrestal, who at that time was Secretary of the Navy. We went through those long and arduous difficulties that led ultimately to the unification of the services. So there developed informally an exceedingly effective system of cooperation between State and Defense and my office. At times when they would like information, and they couldn't call the President, they would call me. Often the President would say to me, "Pass the message on to Acheson or to Forrestal." And in that way we developed a closely coordinated operation that I think served the President well and served the Government well.

There would be times when staff members would differ with Cabinet members. It is good for a President to hear different views. Maybe


we touched one time earlier on a dramatic meeting that I remember when Secretary of State George Marshall came over with Lovett and we had a conference on whether or not our Government should recognize Israel. We had very sharp differences of opinion.

There is one comment also that I think has value: the President learned so much as his Presidency progressed. At the very beginning, I believe he accepted as carte blanche representations or recommendations from his Cabinet members, and sometimes got into trouble by doing so. You remember the Henry Wallace incident, and the speech in Madison Square Garden which must have been back in . . .

HESS: September of '46.

CLIFFORD: . . . September of '46.

After some experiences of that kind President Truman would many times have Cabinet officers


submit recommendations in the form of a memorandum. Then he would have the staff go over the memorandum almost from the standpoint of presenting the other side of the issue. So, there began, I think in the Truman administration, a system whereby certain staff members developed relationships with certain departments which made the machinery operate more smoothly.

HESS: You have mentioned several departments that you worked with; the State Department, the Defense Department. Did you ever hear of any Cabinet members who thought that you might have been interposing yourself with the President--not working--trying to put your views in front of theirs?

CLIFFORD: I do not recall any. I'm sure there must have been times that they felt that maybe I did not agree with them as much as I should


have. I'm not sure I would be the one to hear about it. I think others would be more likely to hear about it than I.

HESS: Did any of the members of the White House staff sit in on the meetings of the President's Cabinet?

CLIFFORD: I know I sat in on a number. I know that John Steelman sat in on a number. I believe it would depend on whatever the subject might be. John Steelman was in the economic phase of the White House operation, and I know he would sit in on Cabinet meetings when they were discussing economic phases. I was more likely to sit in on them in those areas of my major interests which were State and Defense. Sometimes I would sit in at meetings if there was likely to be the discussion of a presidential speech, so that I would be exposed to different ideas, because as you know . . .


HESS: To help you in your speechwriting.

CLIFFORD: . . . help me with my speechwriting. I'm not conscious of the fact that certain staff members were part of the Cabinet apparatus. Ordinarily the President would indicate there was a Cabinet meeting he thought that I might attend, and I think he would have done that with other staff members on a selective basis.

HESS: And so there was no one who was assigned to go in and take notes--take minutes of the meeting so to speak?

CLIFFORD: I'm not conscious of that fact.

HESS: I understand that Secretary Forrestal may have had an interest in establishing something more formal. Something such as a secretariat to the Cabinet, is that correct?

CLIFFORD: Yes. I developed an early relationship


with Secretary Forrestal when I came into the Naval Aide's Office in the spring of 1945. He was Secretary of the Navy. Later I became Naval Aide to President Truman and I saw a lot of Secretary Forrestal at that time. The Navy used the Naval Aide as a conduit to the President, and we developed a close personal friendship. On any Wednesday morning that we were both in town and both free, I would have breakfast with him, and it would give us an opportunity to exchange ideas and discuss Navy matters. Later those discussions concerned all of the controversy over the unification of the services.

He discussed with me a good deal two theories of government that he had that I think would be interesting to refer to: one, he thought that more could be done with the Cabinet than was done. He thought the Cabinet should be institutionalized. He was much impressed by


the British system, and he from time to time did discuss it with me and possibly with President Truman. I do not recall President Truman mentioning it specifically.

Secretary Forrestal suggested that there be a Cabinet secretariat, that an individual be named to that position, and that one of his functions be to prepare an agenda for Cabinet meetings, and send that agenda out ahead of time to the Cabinet members with supporting data. In this manner the Cabinet members woul be prepared to discuss the major questions and issues of the day. Forrestal felt that this would allow the Cabinet to serve a more useful purpose. President Truman never accepted that plan. I thought that the form of it sounded attractive and efficient, but fundamentally it was inimical to our system of government, because the Cabinet is not a policymaking body; the British


Cabinet operates in such a different manner.

After a while I think as Secretary Forrestal himself became more experienced in Government, that is going from the Secretary of the Navy to the Secretary of Defense, I believe the idea began to lose appeal to him. He found that, for instance, as Secretary of Defense it made very little difference to him what the rest of the Cabinet members thought about important problems that he had. I think the idea lost much of its appeal as time went on.

The second concept he had was really quite a valuable one. He had been a businessman himself, and he said that the large corporations in this country gave a great deal of attention to the selection of the best men they could get. That the corporation that succeeded was the corporation that had the best brains. "Here," he said, "it seems to be an absurdity that we were engaged in a struggle with the Soviet Union (at the time) that might


determine whether our Nation survived, and yet we had no real system whereby we could go out and find the best brains the country had and bring them into Government." He felt that what we should do as a Nation was develop a pool of the most competent men in our country. That a man could come in and serve in Government for whatever period of time two, three, four years. He then would need rest and need possibly to look after his private affairs. He would then be available sometime later for a second call.

His experience in that regard was very similar to mine. The first time a man serves in Government he has a certain value. The second time he serves that value has increased substantially. And then if by chance you can later on get him back a third time then that man makes an outstanding public servant. There's a lot in Government to learn, and if a man comes into Government and serves in a position let's say four years,


possibly the first two years he spends a lot of that period learning and it cuts short his major productiveness. With our political system I suppose that the concept offers problems, but it has great merit to it, and to some extent it's done in an informal way. Mr. Acheson maybe had three separate tours in Government. I know Mr. Lovett did and Mr. McCloy did. Many of our outstanding servants have come in and out of Government. It's an enormously valuable asset. More attention should be given to it, and persons should be encouraged better to engage in Government service. There are a good many disadvantages in Government service, as you may know, and we lose good men as a result of that.

HESS: Do you recall if Secretary Forrestal asked some of the other Cabinet members what they thought about setting up a Cabinet secretariat


and what their views were?

CLIFFORD: I don't have any personal information in that regard, but I'm sure that he did. And Iknow that he was one of the motivators in having the Cabinet meet in between regular Cabinet meetings.

HESS: For Cabinet luncheons.

CLIFFORD: For Cabinet luncheons. They used to do that a good deal. I think he felt that it developed a certain camaraderie that was valuable, and in addition to that it enabled the Cabinet to discuss matters together. It was part of his plan to make the Cabinet a more important force in the operation of our Government. The reason he did not succeed is that it just isn't part of our system of operating the executive branch of our Nation.

HESS: Your resignation from the White House staff


became effective on January the 31st of 1950. Why did you leave the Government at that time? Wanted to make some money?

CLIFFORD: In important decisions of this kind there probably are more than one motivating factor. I have a theory about Government. I developed it during this period, and all that I've seen helps corroborate it. There is a limit to the effective period in which a man can serve in an administration. I think some men come in and stay too long in Government. I had come in the spring of ‘45; I'd now reached the spring of ‘50. I'd been there practically five years.

One, I was worn out physically.

Second, the freshness goes. I found that everything that I would write for the President would begin to sound like something else that I had written for him. It had a stale sound to


it and feel to it.

Third, perhaps even more important if you're in a position around the President where you do participate in the policymaking process, then you become known in a certain capacity and to a certain extent you become a target. I do not mean target from outside the Government; I mean target from inside the Government.

You develop areas of resistance from those with whom you have competed for so long. I think it has a tendency to some extent to diminish the effectiveness of an individual. There were some men in the administration whom I had opposed so consistently that I would know that if I were for an issue or proposition they'd be against it.

HESS: Irregardless of what it was?

CLIFFORD: Irregardless almost of the merit of the issue. Those are factors that operate around


a President. Then there was a personal issue. I had left my law practice by going into the Navy for a while; then I had these five years in the White House. I had a growing family with increasing responsibilities.

You take all of those factors, put them together, and it led me to a series of conversations that I had with President Truman toward the end of 1949. (Forty-nine was an interesting year following the election. We worked very well together.) I had discussed it with him during that year. I had a man working with me, Charles Murphy, whom the President liked and who was a very able, conscientious fellow. He could very easily step in and take over the position that I had. It seemed the right course to me, and in talks that I had with President Truman he came to see it as I did. He recognized that we could make the change with practically no interruption in the smoothness


of the staff operation. And I must say I will always be deeply appreciative of the wonderful letter that he wrote for me. It's one of my most prized possessions.

HESS: Now according to a memo dated December the 15th, 1952, from PPF-4269 in the Library's file, you had been working on a matter for the President and requested to come in and see him. Do you recall what that matter was?

CLIFFORD: No, I don't know. From time to time in the three years that he was in office after I left he would call me. We had worked so closely together that in some areas I think his mind naturally would turn to me when a problem of that sort came up. I do not know how many times it occurred, but in that three years I may have had ten assignments, or fourteen, or eighteen, something of that kind. I continued to see him steadily through the period.


Often he would call and I would come down. We would talk together as we had in the past. Our relationship continued on in a manner that I might say was most gratifying to me.

Sometimes issues would come up that we might have had come up before and he would not remember the details. Held call and I'd go over and I'd give him the details of a certain situation. It might have involved a dispute that we had with the Mineworkers or some issue on unification, or something of that kind.

I was close and he used me. I think it is possible that he even said something in the letter that he finally wrote me, that he was glad that I would be available so that he could make use of my services in any way that he saw fit.

HESS: Did Mr. Murphy ever call you up and ask for advice, or ask for your assistance?


CLIFFORD: At the beginning he did, which is only natural.

HESS: During the transition period.

CLIFFORD: During the transition which I was going out, and he was coming in, we had a good deal of contact in those early weeks. Then as it progressed that pretty well terminated. In the first place he didn't need me, and in the second place he organized the job differently. I had done it more on a personal basis and he gathered a staff around him. He made it work that way really very well. It was just a different type of work habit that he had, than I had had. So I would say that during the three years President Truman continued to serve, each year he would have less occasion to call on me. I was out and he would look, ultimately almost exclusively, to those around him.


I might say one function I continued to have through the full three years was to organize the poker games.

HESS: And according to Mr. Dean Acheson in his book Present at the Creation, you attended a small dinner party he held for Mr. Truman near the end of the administration. Do you recall being in attendance there and perhaps what the President's attitude was--was he reflective--did he talk about what he wished he had done? Recall anything about that?

CLIFFORD: I recall the occasion. The main reason I recall it was because of the warmness of the atmosphere. I recall the obvious pleasure that President Truman had being there with men with whom held been so close during his term.

In the course of the dinner conversation I detailed an incident that had come up in one of the poker games that involved President


Truman and Chief Justice Vinson. It amused the President greatly, and was a matter of some minor embarrassment to the Chief Justice. In front of the dinner party the President had me tell the story, and it was really a very amusing story. I remember that as one of the highlights of the evening.

The President retired from the Presidency with unique grace. He had no regrets, really, about it. He did not want to go on in the position as some Presidents do.

I think we all know now that when President Coolidge said in 1928, "I do not choose to run," he really wanted the party to persuade him to be its candidate again. There was none of that feeling on the part of President Truman at all. He had served well. He'd won on his own in the famous election of ‘48. He had matured in the job. He had been a good and faithful servant,


and he was ready to step out and let others take over.

As you know, and I'm sure you've gone through it with many, he had attempted to some extent to guide his party in the selection of a man whom he hoped would be his successor, and that had not worked out. But, those closing days were exceedingly satisfying to him and to all those around him. It was, "Well done my good and faithful servant. You have well earned, now, years of retirement."

Often a man leaves office (and we've seen some other Presidents leave office) with regret, with hopes unfulfilled. This was rather remarkable in that regard. The atmosphere was one of acceptance, it was one of grace. It was one of tranquility; and you could sense it and you could feel it. Also, by the time that he left there was developing already a much greater appreciation for his accomplishments.


People now forget the depth, extent and bitterness of the criticism Mr. Truman received while in office. Now people say, "Well, there's just no doubt about it. He was one of our great Presidents." That's come about to a great extent since he left office. The amount of criticism he endured, the amount of vilification was very substantial. But by the time he left there was a sense of appreciation, and I shall always be thankful that he lived during the period in which each year saw an increase in the peoples' appraisal of his accomplishments in office.

I remember a rather touching incident; held been out of office maybe ten years and he came back to Washington, D.C. I went by the Mayflower Hotel and walked with him from the Mayflower over to the Statler where we were to have the poker game. He told me about going out to some place like Phoenix or Tucson


to make a speech. He'd been out of the Presidency maybe ten years, and there was something wonderfully appealing and rewarding in his saying, "Do you know there were three thousand people there at the airport." And he said, "You know what?"

I said, "What, Mr. President?"

He said, "They just came down there to see me." He had a wonderfully continuing modesty. He knew when he was President that people came out to see a President. But here held been out a number of years, and people had still come out to see him. And, as I've mentioned before, the continuing simplicity of the man was one of the most appealing facets of his nature and onethat made him perhaps most endearing to those of us who had the privilege of being close to him.

HESS I understand that the Lashly law firm of St.


Louis (that was the firm that you used to be associated with), defended Matthew J. Connelly in his case that arose after Mr. Truman left office. Just what are your views on that particular difficulty, and why that particular difficulty arose, and the outcome of the case?

CLIFFORD: It is my recollection that President Truman had a very real regard and respect for Mr. Jacob M. Lashly who was the senior member of that firm with which I had been associated. When Matt Connelly became involved in that particular difficulty I believe it was Mr. Truman who asked Mr. Lashly to look out for the matter in Connelly's behalf. Mr. Lashly was too old to handle the matter himself, but he had one of his partners handle it. I deplore that whole affair. I think it was unjust in a most aggravated form.

When President Eisenhower came into office


he brought in a group with him that were very political minded. I'm not being critical of President Eisenhower in this regard, but he brought a group in whose concept of politics, as far as I could tell, was to start in and see what they could get on their predecessors. They made a great effort to see if there wouldn't be something they could find that had been done wrong.

I know they went through my record with great care. I knew I was being investigated from every standpoint. I know they investigated John Snyder; they investigated Edward Foley; and they investigated Matt Connelly. I've never known the details of the charge. I've known that it was, but as I can remember, insignificant and inconsequential. I think Mr. Connelly assisted some taxpayer who was old and ill in getting out of a tax charge by the Government. He had him pay the amount that was owed, including


all the taxes and all the penalties, but the man was actually not sent to prison. It was something of that kind.

Some charge was brought against Mr. Connelly that I'd never heard before. Something along the line of conspiracy to refrain from giving his full services to the Government. It was some curious charge of that kind, and I never thought there was any substance to it.

I don't know how good a defense he had. I think it was a real misfortune that he had to be penalized. Nothing was accomplished by it. I don't think there'd been any moral turpitude involved. I suppose, even if there had been some technical violation, that it was a crushing blow to Mr. Connelly. I would have to say to you, that he and I were not particularly close, as friends. We were in entirely different parts of the operation with the staff, and I wasn't intimate with him. At the same time


I deplored what happened to him just as I would with anybody whether he was a close personal friend or not, because of the injustice of it.

HESS: In your opinion what were Mr. Truman's major accomplishments and what were his major failings?

CLIFFORD: His accomplishments are so clear. I would synthesize it by saying: After World War I the United States did not meet the responsibility of world leadership. It was presented to us. We had never had world leadership up to that time. We were an emerging country. And the manner in which we handled the problem of the League of Nations, and our refusal to exert the kind of influence that we could in the world, to a very considerable extent was one of the contributing factors to all the problems that later crystalized when World War II came.

I believe historians will look back at


the period of Mr. Truman's administration and take the position that for the first time the United States did step up and meet the responsibility of world leadership, and that is the brightest star in President Truman's crown. He led this country into the recognition of our responsibility; he was able to persuade the Congress and our people to face up that responsibility. He convinced them that there would be no peace in the world if we did not take the leadership that was thrust upon us. It is my feeling that all over the world at that time the grave question existed, "Will the United States now accept its responsibility?" And as historians in other countries write their accounts of the period, it is my opinion that this will be the outstanding accomplishment of Mr. Truman.

Now, the manner in which he met that responsibility was enormously effective. I


remember his first approach when the problem came up regarding Trieste. After study, he took a sound firm position on Trieste. That was important. Then along came the Truman Doctrine, which was in March of 1947, in which he in effect told the Soviet Union that we were not going to permit the Soviet Union to engage in this all out period of aggressive expansionism without having to take us into consideration. I think that this action in 1947 saved those two important anchors in the Mediterranean, Greece and Turkey.