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 resignation. He asked me not to insist. I pointed out that including the war years I had been about ten years in Government service, or more perhaps, and he agreed that I could retire about the middle of '53, which I did.
Shortly after that I went to Mexico for six years to head the Mexican Light and Power Company, a most enjoyable and constructive business assignment. In 1959 I decided it was time to return to the United States. I persuaded General Maxwell Taylor, who was then retiring as Chief of Staff of the Army, to take over my job in Mexico, which he did. Mrs. Draper and I moved to California, and I formed a financing firm with General [Frederick L.] Anderson who had been my general deputy in NATO. And six or seven years later I retired from that firm, moved to Washington, and became Chairman of Combustion Engineering in New York for a few years. In 1965 I retired as Chairman, and since then I have been devoting my entire time to trying to do something about finding
solutions for the population problem of the world -- the so-called population explosion.
That's very lengthy, much more so than I anticipated making it.
HESS: That's quite all right. What is the name of the particular organization that you are with now?
DRAPER: I wear several hats: I am Honorary Chairman of the Population Crisis Committee here in Washington; I'm on the Governing Body of the International Planned Parenthood Federation; and am Honorary Vice-Chairman of the Planned Parenthood movement in this country; also by President Nixon's appointment. I represent the United States each two years, or whenever meetings are held, of the United Nations Population Commission. Our last meeting was in November 1971 in Geneva, the first two weeks of November. In general, my work with the Population Crisis Committee, means dealing with our own Government, and other governments, and with private and international organizations interested and involved in the population problem. I travel a great deal.
In addition to the above, for the last few years I have been assisting Mr. Paul Hoffman, who has been in charge of the Development Program of the United Nations,
to raise the funds from governments for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, about thirty million dollars this past year from forty six governments.
HESS: What are your earliest recollections of Mr. Truman?
DRAPER: I don't believe that I had ever met Mr. Truman personally until after he became President. At the time of President Roosevelt's death I was in Washington, on the General Staff of the Army. Shortly after that I went to Europe, on General Eisenhower's staff under General Clay.
HESS: What were your impressions upon the death of President Roosevelt? You mentioned that you were here in town, but what came to mind?
DRAPER: We were still at war. President Roosevelt had been a great war President. I'm a Republican; he was a Democrat. I hadn't voted for him. I disagreed with many of his domestic policies, but I certainly recognized and do today that he foresaw our participation in the war, our necessary involvement, and that prepared for it in a way that the American people accepted. While it took some time it did help greatly to bolster the British during their year of fighting it out alone, under the lend-lease
agreements that he made with Mr. Churchill. He began building up the forces preliminary to Pearl Harbor so that when that blow struck it was, I think, very largely due to Mr. Roosevelt's forethought and foresight, that we were able to quickly mobilize and go to war effectively.
When he died, to get to your direct question, I had known that he was not in good health, but I had no idea that he was near death. It was almost -- here in Washington -- almost a physical shock to the entire community, that permeated the atmosphere in a way that I've never known before or since. Even the declaration of war didn't compare, the shock waves, that seemed to be going around us everywhere with our war leader suddenly dead.
HESS: As you know, several historians have said that President Roosevelt had prior information that Pearl Harbor was to be attacked, and he did not notify the commanders so that the Japanese would attack and get us into the war in that manner. What do you think of that?
DRAPER: I don't believe it. I don't know, but I don't believe it. I can't believe that if there was any prior knowledge of Pearl Harbor that General Marshall would have been riding horseback that Sunday morning when it happened.
HESS: What kind of a job did you think Mr. Truman would do
as President of the United States, and just what did you know about him on April 12, 1945?
DRAPER: I had a favorable picture of Mr. Truman without knowing him personally. His work as Committee Chairman in the Senate, and his investigation of war activities which had gone on for some time before he became Vice President, had favorably impressed everyone, including myself. As Vice President he was not prominent in current goings-on, so that I didn't know too much about him; and like everyone else, I wondered what kind of a President he was going to make. I was tremendously impressed with his modesty and the way in which he took over the Presidency, indicating that he thought the size of the job was such that he only hoped he could live up to its requirements.
HESS: And before moving on, as you were with Dillon, Read for a good number of years, what are your recollections of Mr. James Forrestal? When did you first meet Mr. Forrestal?
DRAPER: When I first joined Dillon Read which was in 1926. He was already one of the senior members of the firm. I guess he was the senior member of the firm, probably, next to Mr. Clarence Dillon, the top man, and a very able
financial genius, I would put it almost. He worked in a way like -- by himself to some degree, but he had tremendous influence in bringing financial arrangements to fruition. He was a very fine person in every way. I knew him well, intimately, worked under him for years, so that in 1940 I went to Washington before he did, but when he was invited to Washington he was one of the so-called nine anonymous young men in the White House. He impressed everyone that he worked with here in Washington and moved up to Under Secretary of the Navy, Secretary of the Navy, and finally the first Secretary of Defense.
The Secretary of the Navy when he came to Washington was Secretary [Frank] Knox. One of the smartest things that President Roosevelt ever did was to bring two Republicans into the Cabinet, and the timing was perfect. There had been a lot of bickering going on in the War Department between Secretary [Harry H.] Woodring and Assistant Secretary [Louis] Johnson. Nobody knew who was boss or what the policies were. When the President decided that the time had come to have the other party represented in the Cabinet in order to attract national support he appointed Mr. Stimson as Secretary of War and Mr. Knox as Secretary of the Navy. In effect he turned over our national defense to the Republicans, and so far
as the individuals he selected were concerned, he made a ten strike with each.
Mr. Forrestal had been invited to serve generally in and around the White House, but settled down in the Navy. Mr. Knox must have known him or came to know him, and pretty soon he was Under Secretary of the Navy, and then became Secretary later on.
During the period after Pearl Harbor the man who was responsible for the rebuilding of our Navy after the attack on Pearl Harbor destroyed so much of it, and who built it to levels we'd never dreamed of before, and which made it possible to fight in two oceans, and gradually to move across the Pacific, island after island, until we had conquered the Japanese, was James Forrestal.
HESS: In your opinion, what was his view of the unification of the services?
DRAPER: My impression of Jim Forrestal's views on unification are that he was resisting a great deal of pressure from the admirals who were almost all opposed to the idea, while himself believing that it was the right solution for American defense organization. His thinking was probably affected by his close association with Bob Patterson, the then Secretary of War, and probably also by President Truman's own views.
HESS: In your opinion, why was he selected to be the first Secretary of Defense?
DRAPER: Simply for that reason. I don't say it was to bribe the Navy admirals but his appointment did certainly take into account their point of view. The Navy had always been on its own. The Captain was supreme on his ship. The Navy had that overall point of view -- a good one indeed for fighting battles on the sea. I'm sure the President said to himself, "We'll just take the Navy along by putting him in charge." And it worked.
HESS: What is your general opinion of his effectiveness both as the Secretary of the Navy, which you've fairly well covered, but as Secretary of Defense, too? Just how effective was he in the job?
DRAPER: The first Secretary of Defense had a hard job, obviously. He had to bring together the War Department, which became the Department of the Army, and the new Air Force, which had been a part of the Army, and the Navy as well. For the Air Force it meant a greater degree of autonomy. But both the Navy and the Army and the War Department had been supreme and independent in their own right, and it was not an easy thing to knock their heads together and for both to have a single boss. I
think he did that job very well indeed.
I worked very closely with him for about three months. He asked Secretary Royall to let me spend a few months directly with the Secretary of Defense to build up and put forward the first defense budget for the three services. So I worked day in and day out on that job and saw a great deal of him during that period. It really meant that I was dealing back and forth and compromising with the three services to try to find a budget that the President would approve and that still took care of each of the three services to the extent possible within that limit.
HESS: In his Memoirs Mr. Truman makes the comment that in working on military budgets, sometimes the Navy was the most difficult to satisfy and to get along with. What would be your view?
DRAPER: I found that true, too.
HESS: Why would that be true? Why was that true?
DRAPER: Their tradition had always been one of independent action and the Navy considered it simply had to have what it needed. The admirals were good proponents and didn't take no for an answer easily. A lot of my good
Navy friends were in there fighting all the way. They are still good friends of mine, those that are still living. But when they're arguing the question of the Navy's rights, they're very strong protagonists.
Actually, to get back to that first budget for just a minute, I'm afraid that I would consider that first budget one of President Truman's real mistakes. At that time -- what year would that have been, 1948, I guess -- the three budgets were put together at three levels: One, if I remember the figures, the minimum budget of thirteen and a half billion dollars for the three services, which sounds picayune today; the middle budget was about seventeen billion and the third was what the three services asked for, and which was the way we first started to put the figures together, it was about twenty-one billion dollars. Mr. Forrestal felt very strongly, as did I, that while he could justify reducing the twenty-one billion, he felt strongly that the middle ground of seventeen billion was the irreducible minimum from the point of view of the national defense of this country.
I prepared these three budgets. The thirteen and a half budget was only made because the President had set that as the figure, although it wasn't supposedly the final figure. But that was the figure he hoped to reach.
So we had to make a budget there, but to get the three services to agree on the figures for that, just meant they had to be rammed down their throats. But the seventeen billion budget took care reasonably at least, of what each of the three felt their really irreducible requirements actually were, although they all three badly wanted the twenty-one billion budget.
I sat in the meeting when Mr. Forrestal presented the three budgets to the President, and Mr. Forrestal was more concerned than I had ever seen him in my life. He was very, very seriously troubled. After the presentation the President said very little except to ask a few questions. Then the President said, "I'll let you know, Jim." And a day or two later he did let him know that it was thirteen and a half billion -- the President's original budget. I think that may have helped to bring on the Korean war. I think that may have helped to bring on Jim's death. That's something I'd like to put off the record until after the President dies.
HESS: Now, a further question on this same matter: Was Frank Pace the Director of the Bureau of the Budget at this time? Harold Smith, of course, was the first director and he was replaced by James Webb. I believe at this time Frank Pace was Director of the Bureau of
the Budget. In drawing up these very important budgets, the most important -- the budgets that take most of the money -- are the military budgets. In drawing these up, did you work with the Bureau of the Budget?
DRAPER: I must have. I guess it was Frank Pace, but whoever it was I certainly must have worked with him, but not nearly as closely as I did with the three services. My job, really, was -- as outlined to me by Mr. Forrestal -- although I guess I evolved the idea of the three budgets, was to take into account the three requests from the services and then to get a reasonable budget together -- one that he could recommend. This turned out to be the seventeen billion one. And then he also asked me, against his better judgment, to prepare a budget at the lower level, set by the President, and when the lower level was approved, I know that it was a great shock. It meant to him that his country was not going to get what it needed for its defense for that period.
HESS: 1948 was a very important year, that was a political year, the year Mr. Truman ran and was elected, to many peoples' surprise. In your opinion, do you think he had political considerations in mind when he wanted a balanced budget that year? Was that his reason for the
DRAPER: I wouldn't want to express an opinion on that. He felt that a balanced budget, now that we were out of the war, was the necessity, the need for the country, I'm sure. Whether there were political overtones, too, I can't say.
HESS: All right. As you have mentioned, the cutting back of the armed forces at this time left us somewhat unprepared at the advent of the Korean war. We were unprepared to meet the situation that arose. Where should the blame lie?
DRAPER: Those decisions are a matter of judgment. The President has to make the final decisions. He doesn't have anybody to lay the blame on. I think one of the great tributes to Mr. Truman, and I would be the first to make it, was his power of decision. Throughout the time that I was Under Secretary, and sometimes acting as Secretary, I would go to the President from time to time, with particular problems of the Department of the Army that had taken us weeks or months in some cases to evaluate and decide what we should recommend or what course we thought the country should pursue. I have never been impressed by anyone more in my life than by
the way in which he would receive the problem; I would describe it briefly, for five or ten minutes; he would ask a few questions; I would give him the two or possibly three alternative decisions that could be made; he would make one of them, and that would be that. He would go on to something else. That's the way he ran the Presidency. He constantly carried out the little motto on his desk, "The Buck Stops Here."
Now, to get back to your question. He had to decide on whether a balanced budget at that time was more important to the country than a little more money from his point of view in defense, and he made the decision. I wouldn't criticize it.
HESS: How often did you meet with the President during the time that you were Under Secretary of the Army, approximately?
DRAPER: I suppose twenty times, I don't know. I was there about two years -- twenty or thirty times.
HESS: Did you work with any of the White House staff members at the time?
DRAPER: Yes, yes.
HESS: Who comes to mind? Did you work with Clark Clifford?
Clifford was Special Counsel at that time.
DRAPER: Yes, yes, very often with Clark Clifford.
HESS: Did he provide you with any particular help? Anything that you and he worked on that might help illustrate his functions in this field? Is there anything that comes to mind?
DRAPER: No, we talked about the problems as they came along and he'd give me the President's answers. As a rule, of course, Secretary Royall had these conversations. It was when either he delegated me to do something in particular or when he'd be away on a trip that I would have the direct contact.
HESS: Did you have any contact with the Military Aide, General Harry Vaughan?
DRAPER: I certainly met him a few times, but remember nothing in particular.
HESS: You have mentioned a meeting at the White House in which Mr. Forrestal presented the budget and mentioned his attitude at that time. What are the earliest signs that you can recall of the unfortunate mental breakdown that overtook Mr. Forrestal? Was this the first time
that you noticed that something might be wrong?
DRAPER: Well, I didn't notice any mental breakdown or anything of that kind. He was simply greatly shocked that the President's decision was so low. No, I think that was much later on I retired. I saw Jim several times before that. I retired, around March of '49. I had been wanting to return to private life before that but Jim had persuaded me to stay just as the President had persuaded him to stay over the election into the new year. He and Mr. Royall and the President permitted me to go in March of '49.
HESS: The same month that Mr. Forrestal left.
DRAPER: He left after I did. I saw him before I left to say goodbye, and I noticed then that he was very distraught.
I returned to Washington about ten days later, after my wedding and a short honeymoon, and had breakfast with Jim, and then I could hardly get his attention on anything. He was obviously worried, distraught . . .
HESS: Early in April.
DRAPER: No, this was still in March, I think. He was soon going to leave -- I knew then he was going to leave. He was going to leave and I ascribed his distraught condition
to the fact that he was leaving, and perhaps to not being happy about his successor going to take over.
HESS: In March Louis Johnson replaced him.
DRAPER: That's correct.
HESS: Why was that change made? You mentioned that Mr. Forrestal had wanted to leave.
DRAPER: He had wanted to leave, but this was in the fall or winter before, but the President persuaded him that he needed him and wanted him to stay, and he agreed to stay, and then apparently very suddenly the President decided to appoint Mr. Johnson. My information at the time, which was rumor largely, was that Mr. Johnson had raised the money for the election and was told that he could have any job he wanted after the election, if the President were elected, which you can understand. Then Mr. Johnson asked for the Defense job, and the President gave it to him.
I was present when Johnson was sworn in at the Pentagon. They had a full dress affair in the encircled area inside the Pentagon Square or Pentagon, and the President pinned a medal on Jim, and then swore in Johnson. Everybody from the Pentagon had been invited
to flock inside the enclosure and see the show. Jim went back to his office and a friend of his from New York took him by plane to Hobe Sound where he stayed at Douglas Dillon's house. That's where the tragedy started.
HESS: Do you think that Mr. Forrestal had changed his mind in March and would liked to have remained?
DRAPER: I don't know, but my guess is at that time he didn't like to be suddenly replaced. He perhaps would voluntarily have offered to go in another month or two, but I don't think he felt happy at all about the President, after urging him so hard to stay, deciding that somebody else should take the job. That's a personal impression only.
HESS: Some people say that Mr. Forrestal's lack of support of the President in the election might have influenced that. Would he reasonably have expected support from Mr. Forrestal?
DRAPER: It's been a pretty regular rule in our Government that people involved in defense should not get into politics. I certainly agree with that rule personally, and I think that was Jim's point of view, and I wouldn't expect that the President thought anything else. No, I think it was just because Johnson had put the President
under a real obligation and he was paying his debt.
HESS: We discussed the reduced budget, and not too long after Mr. Johnson came in, I believe one of his first actions was to stop work on the super carrier, the U.S.S. United States, and that was when Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan resigned, shortly after you left.
DRAPER: That's right, but I'm not familiar with that incident.
HESS: Back on General Marshall. You had mentioned that General Marshall asked you to come back into the Army in 1940. What were your early associations with General Marshall? When did you first meet him?
DRAPER: As Chief of Staff of the 77th Division, which was then a part-time job, that was when I was in the Reserves. We could see war looming ahead. I had for some months, maybe for a year, been working with other officers of the Division, and with General Vanderbilt who was the commanding general at that time, preparing war plans so far as the Division was concerned, and looking forward at the right time to calling in the enlisted men and also piecing out the training of the officers. We had had occasion two or three times to take some of these
plans to Washington for consultation. And General Marshall had sat in on some of these consultations. I had met with him to discuss these plans and problems with him on behalf of our Division.
One day I got a personal phone call from him asking if I'd come down and go on active duty for six months -- it turned out to be nine years -- but I can't blame General Marshall for that. I really think that he wanted to have some Reserve officer down there to give him whatever benefit there might be in the Reserve thinking, and also to reflect perhaps, through that Reserve officer, to some of the Reserve Divisions, the War Department thinking about the future of the Reserves. But it didn't turn out that way. I became almost immediately involved in the Selective Service and in the G-1 operation and was absorbed with that, working with General -- then Major -- Lewis Hershey. The President appointed me -- President Roosevelt -- to the Army and Navy Recreation Board and some of the other boards and committees that dealt with the enlargement of the strength of the Army and the Navy.
HESS: You were with General Marshall at the Moscow conference, but that was in 1947, so we have another subject before we come to that. We will come back to General Marshall.
But we should cover your experiences in Germany at the end of World War II. I believe that you were Chief of the Economics Division of the Control Council for Germany from '45 to '47. Just what were your general impressions at that time and what were your duties?
DRAPER: As I've said before, the occupation became the actual Government of Germany. When we moved up from Versailles, our offices were first in Frankfurt, and then in July of 1945 we moved to Berlin.
First the tripartite Control Council, then when the French joined us, the quadripartite Control Council was the Government of Germany. It was simply that. Each of our national army organizations in our own zones of Germany were supreme, subject only to the quadripartite policy decisions. So my job, under those general policies and in line with the Morgenthau doctrine that had been directed to us from Washington as the U.S. economic policy for Germany, was to run the economy of our zone of Germany. That meant the agriculture, the industry, and the trade (in or out of Germany although there was no trade outside of Germany at that time), and to try to keep the country from starving and from going berserk.
The crops that year were quite good, and there was
also considerable food we found that the Wehrmacht had stored, which we took over. So there was no immediate danger of starvation that particular fall or even that winter. The winter was not too cold, but there was great concern whether the crop could be gathered that summer and fall. There were some eight million Germans in prison camps. The crop had to be brought in by the old men and the boys and the women, but they did it. Industry was at a complete standstill; the coalmines in the Ruhr had been flooded before the Germans gave up that area; there was no coal production; and no coal on hand; no factory was turning a wheel hardly anywhere in Germany. The destruction of the air bombing had made all of the factories or most of them look as if they never would run again. It turned out a year later that after the debris was cleared away, there was more of the machinery and the going parts of the factories able to be revived than we had expected. But at the beginning there was no production of coal or of anything else, except food on the farms, and the factories and the industrial production of the country was practically nil. So, except for what food was being grown, Germany had to start from a standing start to again make its way.
We found after a few months that we were going to
have to import food. Western Germany, the part where we were, had not been the breadbasket; that had been Eastern Germany largely, and we were getting no supplies of food or anything else from the Russian zone, so that we had to look the situation in the face and come to a decision. General Clay first had to be persuaded and then he had to help me persuade them back in Washington that we in this country -- even though we had conquered Germany -- that we were going to have to help feed them. That was an idea that no one at that time had even envisaged. We had to get appropriations; I had to come back to appear before the Congress, and . . .
HESS: Was it difficult putting that view over?
DRAPER: Very. And I think probably it was only made possible because the crisis was delayed about a year. Actually we managed to wiggle through during the first eight or ten months because our own Army had been bringing with it a food reserve to avoid feeding troubles for our allies or our enemies during the fighting, and we had as well as the food that we found in the warehouses that the Germans had husbanded as their stock and their reserve. Those things helped that first six or eight or ten months.
our area of Germany we had to have more food, and the British concluded similarly, particularly in the Ruhr.
The one thing that saved the day, in my judgment, was the action taken by one who is now a very close friend of mine, Mr. Tracy Voorhees. He was the adviser to the President on food. I don't know at what stage that appointment was made, but that's how it turned out. He clearly saw these problems, both for Japan and Germany, and he had the great good fortune, and the imagination, to suggest to President Truman that the one man in this country who could help solve this problem and help persuade the Republican Congress that action should be taken, was former President Hoover. He first suggested this to the President, then he went to see Mr. Hoover, and the President then talked to Mr. Hoover.
As you recall, after the First World War, Mr. Hoover had made his famous journey to Belgium and to Europe. He still found alive and was able to collect, half a dozen of the top people who had gone with him in 1919 on that first relief mission, when President Truman asked him to repeat, on a much more serious scale, his visit to Belgium after the First World War that had prevented that country from starving.
So, I guess it was early in '46, or the winter of
'45-46, that General Clay and I got word from Washington that the former President was coming with Mr. Voorhees and a group of those that he had collected together, to make a survey, not only of Germany but of the food situation in our allies' territory as well; France, Belgium, and so on. So they came first to Germany, and I remember the occasion very well, when they came in by train. General Clay and I met them, Mr. Hoover and Tracy Voorhees and the others.
Mr. Hoover understood the situation very quickly because of his past experiences, and he came to realize that if the Germans weren't fed (I don't care who fed them), but if they weren't fed, we couldn't stay there even with bayonets, that that was not a tolerable situation in modern times, and that if we wanted a peaceful occupation, if we wanted to bring the Germans back into the community of nations, first they had to be fed, not too much, but they had to have enough to live. The ration in Berlin was 1560 calories a day, just about half of what you and I eat now, or then, as well. They got along on it. It wasn't a good solid three meals by any means.
One of the first steps we had to take was because we needed coal worse than anything else, except food, and
we didn't have any coal. The Ruhr mines had to be mined if we were going to get the factories started, and we found that the miners couldn't mine coal on 1560 calories or even 1800, so one of the first steps we took was to raise the calorie level for the miners to 4000 calories, against great pr