Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened May, 1974
Oral History Interview with
January 11, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: General, for the record, will you relate a little of your personal background: Where were you born, where were you educated, and what are a few of the positions that you have held both before and since your service in the Truman administration.
DRAPER: My name is William H. Draper, Jr. I was born in New York City in Harlem, August 10, 1894. I went to school there and to NYU to college, where I got both a B.A. and a M.A. in economics.
My work first was in the Army, shortly after I got out of college, although even before that I had been a member of the Ford Peace Expedition to Europe which tried to stop the war at the end of 1915. I was chairman of the student delegation. There were sixty regular delegates and thirty student delegates. The expedition, with Mr. Ford aboard, went to all the neutral countries
and set up a peace congress at The Hague at the Peace Palace, which lasted about six months. Contrary to the public impression at the time the peace congress came fairly close to settling the war. However, it did not. Within six months or a year, I saw a number of the student delegates in the Army.
After the First World War, I went first with the National City Bank, then with the Bankers' Trust Company and then Dillon, Read and Company. I stayed in the Army Reserves. In 1939 and 1940 I was Chief of Staff of the 77th Division, a Reserve Division, and probably because of that I came in contact with General [George C.] Marshall. In 1940 he invited me to go on active duty in Washington on the general staff, G-1, where I stayed for about a year and a half before Pearl Harbor. During that period I worked largely with then Major [Lewis B.] Hershey, later General Hershey, in writing the Selective Service Act and putting together the administration of Selective Service.
After Pearl Harbor, General Marshall agreed that I should leave staff work and get a regiment. After a regimental commander's refresher course at Fort Benning, I commanded the 136th Infantry, part of the 33rd Division, a National Guard Division from Illinois. I joined them
in Tennessee, then for training near Seattle, Washington, then to the California desert, then to the Pacific Theatre. I was called back after about a year out there to head up contract termination for the War Department.
Then I was asked by the Secretary of War Mr. [Henry M.] Stimson and the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. [James V.J Forrestal at that time, along with Admiral Lewis Strauss, to try to put the purchasing arrangements for the Army and Navy together with a common purchasing policy an action which did put some of the purchasing for both services together.
Then I went to Germany, going to France first, while the war was still on, with General [Lucius] Clay, preliminary to the occupation which he was expecting to take over in Germany under General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower. I was asked by General Clay to take on the responsibility for the economic side of the occupation. Then General Eisenhower left for the United States where he became Chief of Staff of the Army. General Clay eventually became Commander in Chief for the European Theater in addition to handling occupied Germany.
After about two years in Berlin dealing with the German economy, its agriculture, industry, trade and general administration of its economy the German
government had simply disappeared, and the occupation forces of Great Britain, Russia and the United States and eventually of France, became the German government for some period -- in July of '47 I returned to the United States for a coal conference with the British about the Ruhr -- the need for more coal production. While there, Secretary of War [Robert] Patterson resigned; General Kenneth Royall was made Secretary and he asked me to become Under Secretary, which after consulting General Clay for obvious reasons, I accepted.
My duties for the next two years were primarily supervision of the three occupations: Germany, Japan and Austria, although I became Acting Secretary when Mr. Royall was away from Washington.
After I retired in early '49 and married again (my first wife had died early in the war), I returned briefly to Dillon, Read and Company and then was invited by Governor [Thomas E.] Dewey of New York State, where I was living, to take over the Trusteeship of the Long Island Railroad after several very serious rear end collisions on that railroad, as a result of which the public had lost confidence in the safety of the road and in the management. I discharged this responsibility for
about a year. We were able to find electronic safety devices that were installed over a period of about a year, and which automatically and electronically, through the rails, put the brakes on the following train if two trains got too close together. There have been no rear and collisions on the Long Island Railroad since.
About that time the Truman administration invited me to become the United States' member of the NATO Council in Paris. The Council was moving from London to Paris and being upgraded, as it became evident that it would be necessary, with the Korean war on and the threat to Western Europe from Russia, to build up the Western world's mutual defenses. The NATO Alliance had been formed on paper about a year and a half before, but it became very clear that it would be necessary to have a large and active defense force in being.
Before accepting I asked for the opportunity to visit Europe briefly and talk with General Eisenhower who was there in command of NATO's military forces, such as they were, to make sure that he and I would be working in close harmony, he being the top military man in NATO, and I to be the top civilian on the U.S. side on the NATO Council.
We met in Paris. He introduced me to Winston Churchill
who happened to be there at the time. We talked about my possible appointment and he not only agreed that I should take it but welcomed my appointment.
I returned to the United States and suggested that since I would be dealing with the defense of Europe, and since I would also be representing the Mutual Security Administration under Mr. [Averell] Harriman and dealing with the economic problems of the European countries as well at a time when France and Great Britain were practically bankrupt, and when our Mutual Security arrangements and our Marshall Plan follow up were beginning to bear fruit, but still required a great many adjustments and continued assistance, that I would need deputies with the proper authority and rank in the defense field, in the economic field, and in the political field; plus an overall deputy, since we were dealing with twenty European countries, and I would be traveling a great deal in Europe and back and forth to Washington. He would be my alter ego. These arrangements were all agreed to and the deputies appointed.
I went to Paris about the end of '51, spent a few weeks in close collaboration with Jean Monnet, and a prominent Britisher, whose name slips me, and who later became head of the British atomic energy commission.
The three of us, known correctly or not as the three wise men planned the recommendations that would be made to the Lisbon Conference, to which came Secretary of State [Dean] Acheson; Secretary of Defense, Robert Lovett; John Snyder, Secretary of the Treasury, and Averell Harriman.
The Lisbon Conference was held in February 1952. It laid the groundwork on a very constructive basis for the military buildup of NATO. The French were asked for twelve divisions, as I recall. The United States had to agree to a great deal of economic support to make that possible. There were political questions involved. The French Prime Minister, Mr. [Maurice] Faure, I believe it was at that time, at the last minute in a private conference, held in the basement of the British Embassy, in Lisbon, told us that he agreed with the principle, that he was going to agree, he thought, to what we were asking, namely twelve French divisions, for the common defense. But he said, "This is going to cost me my political head." We adjourned this private meeting, we went into the final Lisbon Conference meeting, the agreement generally was reached, and the agreement signed. Three days later M. Faure did lose his job as Prime Minister, but the agreement held.
After about a year and a half the various agreements made at Lisbon were pretty well coming into force.
General Eisenhower was elected President. He asked me to return to the United States before he took over as President to meet with him and with his future Cabinet members to acquaint them with the developments in NATO. He himself, of course, was quite familiar with what had gone on there. As was customary, I gave the incoming President my resignatio