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Lincoln Gordon Oral History Interview

Lincoln Gordon

Oral History Interview with
Lincoln Gordon

Program vice chairman, Requirements Committee, War Production Board, 1945; director, Bureau of Reconversion Priorities, Civilian Production Administration, 1945-46; consultant to the U.S. Representative on the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission, 1946; consultant, Army and Navy Munitions Board, 1947; consultant in the U.S. Department of State working on the Marshall plan, 1947, and with the European Cooperation Administration, 1948; director of the Program Division, Office of E.C.A. special representative in Europe, 1949-50; economic adviser to Averell Harriman, special assistant to the President, 1950 51; assistant director for Mutual Security Agency, 1951-52; and chief of M.S.A. mission to the United Kingdom and minister for economic affairs in United States Embassy, London, 1952-55. Later U.S. Ambassador to Brazil, 1961-66, and assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, 1966-67.

Washington, D.C.
July 17, 1975 and July 22, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Notice
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.

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 March, 1977
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]



Oral History Interview with
Lincoln Gordon

Washington, D.C.
July 17, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie

 

[1]

MCKINZIE: Ambassador Gordon, you were in the War Production Board at the time Mr. [Franklin D.] Roosevelt died, and shortly thereafter the war Production Board was phased into the Civilian Production Administration, in which you were the director of the Bureau of Reconversion Priorities. That process of reconversion was critical. Could we begin there?

GORDON: Yes. I had been involved in the War Production Board since Pearl Harbor -- really, since the time the Board was set up. I had done some work way back in the summer of 1940, long before

[2]

we entered the war, with the National Defense Advisory Commission, which was the precursor to all of the war mobilization agencies. I started with the Bureau of Research and Statistics of the War Production Board and then got onto the staff of what we called the Requirements Committee, which was chaired by the Program Vice Chairman and which had the responsibility for establishing a system of priorities and allocations and all of the regulations which dealt with any material or product that was scarce or threatened to become scarce.

We had to design what became famous as the Controlled Materials Plan, which allocated steel, copper and aluminum; we set priorities; we issued conservation regulations for saving copper and zinc and aluminum and other scarce materials. In the latter part of the war we became involved jointly with the War Manpower Commission even in

[3]

allocating scarce manpower, especially on the West Coast. We had a lot to do with making a success of the landing craft program, which was vital to D-Day in Normandy, and also with the atomic bomb program. We didn't know what that was; there was something called the Manhattan Project and it got an automatic AAA priority, but if anybody in the War Production Board knew what it was, it was not I.

But it was a very interesting experience. I went through a series of successive promotions. At the time of President Roosevelt's death I was the Deputy Program Vice Chairman, and chairman of what we called the Junior Requirements Committee, known as the Program Adjustment Committee.

These committees were chaired by the War Production Board man, and they had on them representatives from the three armed services; that is the Army, the Army Air Corps -- which was

[4]

treated in effect as a separate service, although the Air Force didn't yet officially exist -- the Navy, the Maritime Commission for shipbuilding, the Petroleum Administration for War -- the War Food Administration, the Foreign Economic Administration for civilian and military overseas needs -- both lend-lease and others -- and then a so-called Civilian Requirements Division of the War Production Board which was responsible for domestic civilian needs. It was headed in my day by a Harvard colleague of mine, my mentor at Harvard over many years, Professor William Y. Elliot.

In April of 1945, I was the Chairman of the Program Adjustment Committee, and in May the Program Vice Chairman resigned (shortly after President Truman took over), and, although I was very young at the time, I was asked to be Program Vice Chairman. So for the last few months of the war I chaired the Requirements Committee.

[5]

Sometime in 1944, it became evident to everybody that we were going to win the war. We didn't know just when, but it looked as if another year or two would probably do it. We began to give thought to the problem of reconversion. The problem was how to do it in an orderly way, which would avoid the kind of terrible postwar recession, or depression, which had followed World War I. That was much on everybody's mind. You must recall that all of us in those days were very conscious of the great depression, very much worried about unemployment and about sliding back into the sort of situation that we had emerged from at the beginning of the war.

MCKINZIE: Wartime opinion surveys showed that most people did expect a postwar depression.

GORDON: That's right. And in fact, there was a famous competition that was won by Herbert Stein

[6]

involving what to do in order to avoid a postwar depression. Stein also was on the War Production Board staff, later became the chief economist of the Committee for Economic Development, and then recently was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

We were also aware in 1944 that there might be a very substantial time space between the surrender of Germany and the surrender of Japan. Generally the planning in those days was that a full year might elapse. This reflected in part our ignorance about the Manhattan Project, but in 1944 nobody knew whether the Manhattan Project was going to be successful -- as we now know, even the people on the inside. The general advice that we got in the War Production Board was to plan on a one-front war in the Pacific for a full year after Germany surrendered whenever that may be.

[7]

It was clear that a one-front war would not require anything like what a two-front war required in the way of materiel. There were also a number of civilian needs which had been deferred, but which couldn't be deferred forever. Automobiles were one. We had totally stopped producing passenger automobiles, but the stock was gradually wearing down, and at least for certain purposes, such as doctors and critical public services, fire chiefs and the like, we had begun to think about trying to get one line in some automobile factory going again, just to provide for priority needs of automobiles. Other things were in a similar position. But above all, we wanted to try to work out some system in which we could have a coming back of civilian production, but in a moderate way so that it wouldn't detract from the necessary war production for the residual Japanese phase of the war,

[8]

and yet avoid a postwar depression.

We set up in July or August of '44 a little committee which we called CODCAVE. CODCAVE was the Committee on Demobilization of Controls After Victory in Europe. I still remember what it stood for. We had a very bright girl, a professional member of the Committee, who wrote a piece of verse in the style of Gray's "Elegy." The last line went: "The paths of all cod lead but to the cave.

The chairman of that group was Samuel Anderson, who was Program Vice Chairman then and whom I succeeded in May of 1945 for it. I was the rapporteur and had to write the Committee's report. We worked very hard during that summer and got our report in. It was a very complex scheme for relaxing and removing controls wherever we could, but retaining those that were necessary for this assumed one-year continuing war with Japan.

[9]

Then came the Battle of the Bulge, which shocked everybody both in Europe and in Washington. For a little period, we went back almost to full, intensive industrial mobilization because the ammunition expenditure and things of that kind during the Battle of the Bulge were very heavy, but that phase only lasted for a couple of months.

By the time of Roosevelt's death it was clear that the end in Europe was just a matter of weeks away, but we still didn't know -- at least I didn't know -- about the atomic bomb. We were still working on this 12-month one-front war idea. We reviewed our 1944 plans and they still looked pretty good.

By this time the WPB Chairman, Donald Nelson, had been sent off by Roosevelt to set up the Chinese War Production Board and to get inflation in China under control. He didn't succeed at it

[10]

very well! Cap [Julius] Krug had been made chairman of the War Production Board after a brief spell in uniform in the Navy.

The effective operating head at this time was Jack Small (Commodore Small he was by then), who was detailed to us from the Navy. He was a very able administrator.

Soon after the Germans had surrendered, one day in July, Jack called me in and said, "Look, we not only had better think about something more far-reaching than our one-year plan, we'd better think about what's going to happen if Japan suddenly surrenders." He obviously had some inside knowledge about the bomb. So, we developed a scheme for the maximum and speediest possible decontrol. There was a lot of debate about it. But then, of course, the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion was a very important cog in all of these wheels. Obviously what we

[11]

were doing was of general interest, so we had many meetings with the OWMR people and there were differences of view. Some people wanted to retain a much more elaborate system of controls. We were, on the whole, of the opinion that there wasn't very much justification for this even though there would be some cases where there clearly would be a great excess of demand over supply. We had a lot of pressure from the OPA, which was very concerned about how they could possibly maintain controls unless there were production controls to go with them, and there were some fairly vigorous debates between OPA and WPB people about this. Things that were scarce by that time were not easy to control. It wasn't so much the metals or the big industries like automobiles, but things like textiles and paper where there were hundreds of firms, and where the evasion of regulations was a serious problem, even in wartime. And we were well aware that once the moral inhibitions of wartime were off, this was going to be extraordinarily difficult to manage. So our thrust was very heavily in the direction of liberalization and removal of detailed controls. The

[12]

wartime industrial controls were extraordinarily elaborate There were volumes and volumes of regulations going into great detail as to what various scarce materials could be used for, how much, the percentages of base period, and so forth.

MCKINZIE: Mr. Ambassador, did anyone speculate about the future political environment and how that might effect the operation of the plans you were in the process of devising? I am vaguely aware that there were people in the Civilian Production Administration who believed that the WPB had worked so well during the war, that the problems of the first years of peace were going to be equally critical, and that there ought to be the same kind of orchestration during the coming peace that there had been during the war. Yet, as it turned out, the political climate of the country simply made that kind of thing unacceptable. Were there any discussions of that kind of thing?

GORDON: Well, there was a little bit. We got much

[13]

involved in my last few months on the job -- after the Japanese surrendered -- with housing. Wilson Wyatt had been brought in by President Truman as the Housing Expediter, and veterans' housing was one of the big policy objectives. We knew there was a tremendous backlog of unfulfilled demand for housing. We and the OPA were concerned about prices, and we wanted to have some sort of preference scheme for veterans. We in the CPA knew more about priority and preference schemes than anybody else in Washington. So, we worked very closely with Wilson Wyatt in trying to devise some scheme that would get the maximum number of houses built and would give veterans preferential access to any new housing. That was one of the big cases where we tried to maintain controls and we did on paper have a control scheme. When I went back to Harvard in February of '46, I maintained a consulting relationship with both the Civilian Production Administration

[14]

and the Housing Expediter, under agreement between Jack Small, who was the administrator of the CPA, and Wilson Wyatt, to help in trying to make this scheme work. I came down for three days every other week for the rest of that spring and summer. In fact, I was in Wilson Wyattts house on election night '46 when we read the returns and realized that any kind of direct economic controls had passed their political day. The time had become ripe for decontrol regardless of the effects.

So, the whole effort, including price control, was washed up very soon thereafter. But in '46, at least at my level -- the upper middle level in the hierarchy -- we were really not thinking much about political climate. We were discussing pros and cons of policies more as technocrats -- what would work, or what would not work.

[15]

We were concerned about political climate in the sense that we realized in peacetime you couldn't get voluntary cooperation for a lot of things. But this sense of being totally fed up with controls of all kinds -- which was the governing emotion in the congressional elections in '46 we did not anticipate; I mean the "Had Enough?" theme which the Republican Party used very effectively in those elections.

Indeed we were singularly apolitical. I suppose that most of the top people in the War Production Board itself and in the CPA were Republicans, since they came from the business community. I didn't regard myself as much in politics on either side in Massachusetts, where I thought both local parties were terrible and still think so. I had always registered as an Independent, but I was a New Dealer and leaned toward the Democratic Party moderately. But the whole four years that I spent in the War Production

[16]

Board and in its successor, I don't recall narrow party politics ever directly intruding on our discussions at all.

MCKINZIE: Well, politics in another sense -- the politics of the planners versus the politics of the free market advocates?

GORDON: Oh, that was very visible. That was visible particularly in the almost systematic confrontation between the Civilian Production Administration and the OPA. My own position there was somewhat in between, but leaning against controls mainly on pragmatic grounds. The OPA was full of professors, many of whom were close personal friends of mine. Galbraith had tried to get me into the OPA in 1942, but by then I was already committed to the War Production Board and felt I knew more about it, so I stayed on the other side of the fence. But we used to have many friendly arguments with the

[17]

OPA. Some of them were really quite heated, because they felt, probably correctly, that you could not maintain price ceilings unless you did something to equilibrate supply and demand. Unless you had physical controls of the type that the War Production Board or the CPA had the power to impose, the effort at price control would burst out in all the seams. You'd have black markets all over the place.

Well, in principle they were right. We were also right. We said, "Well, look, there are a lot of these things where we can't help, because we can't enforce physical controls. It was hard enough for us to do it in wartime with all the voluntary cooperation. You're just living in a dream world if you think that in the United States you can do it in peacetime."

I suppose some of those issues must have gotten to President Truman, but I was at too

[18]

junior a level to be aware of them then. I never met the President, incidentally, until later when I was on Harriman's staff in 1950, in the White House.

MCKINZIE: Did you know Bernard Baruch at this time?

GORDON: Not at that time, no. That all happened the next year. I went back to Harvard. I had been in the Government Department before the war, but Donald David was then the Dean of the Business School. He had heard about me somewhere or other, and he was very anxious to build up the Business School's work in government and business relations. He realized that we were in a new era. Don was a very farsighted Dean. Later, he did the same thing with respect to international business, and my second period in the fifties up there was the result of his foresight on how important the world would become for American business.

[19]

In 1945, I had reemployment rights in the Government Department, but Don was prepared to give me an associate professorship right away with the prospect of a full professorship in a year, which materialized. Although I had some of the usual prejudices of Harvard Arts and Sciences people against the Business School, it was impossible to maintain any such prejudice in the face of his persuasiveness. He was really a great salesman. It was understood that I would have a foot in the School of Public Administration and maintain contacts across the Charles River which he was anxious to rebuild. During the depression there had been an almost complete separation between the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the Business School. I was to be one of the rebuilders of the bridges, so this seemed very attractive. So that was where I went to. I was to develop a new course in

[20]

Government and Business, on which I began working on in the spring of '46 and got going in the fall of '47, and that was a big job.

I did maintain, by agreement, this three days every other week consultantship in Washington with the Housing Expediter and the Civilian Production Administration. On one of those trips (I think it was at LaGuardia airport, where I was changing planes going from Washington to Boston), I ran into Ferdinand Eberstadt, whom I hadn't seen for about two years, and who had been my immediate boss during his meteoric flight through the War Production Board in 1942-43, when we installed the Controlled Materials Plan. Ferd greeted me and suddenly said, "My God, why didn't I think of you before?"

I found this a mysterious question, and replied, "What about?"

"Well," he said, "you've probably read in the newspapers that I'm joining Bernard Baruch."

[21]

Then he asked, "Have you ever met the old man? He's right here." He pulled me around and introduced me, and I said it was a great privilege, but had to dash for my plane.

Ferd asked for my telephone number, which I shouted to him while running for the plane. He called up a day or two later and said, "The U.N. Atomic Energy Commission is the most important thing in the world right now." This was just about the time the UNAEC began. I guess the famous speech had been given, the great speech of early June drafted by Herbert Bayard on the theme "cosmos or chaos," but that was all, and the world was waiting for the Russian reply.

Eberstadt said, "Look, we need staff very badly. We've got this circle of advisors but we're all part-timers except for John Hancock." He had come on full time, but the rest, Eberstadt, Swope, Fred Searles and various others who were

[22]

old cronies of Eberstadt's or Baruch's were all carrying on their private businesses. He said, "We really need full-time help very badly and you're just the fellow who can fill the bill."

Since my high school and early college days I had had a very strong scientific leaning. I very nearly became a physicist or a chemist, took scientific courses through high school and as a freshman at Harvard. It was the depression which led me into social science instead. But I maintained a strong scientific interest and when the Smyth Report was published, I read it line by line and made sure I understood every line of it. I was absolutely fascinated by atomic energy and its apparent dangers and promise. To accept this invitation would mean postponing the industrial mobilization book I had started on, but the UNAEC job was originally to be just for the summer.

[23]

MCKINZIE: What were your academic plans? You said you had planned to coauthor a book on industrial development that year?

GORDON: That's right, I was to do two things: one was to develop a new course in government and business relations; the other was to do a book about the industrial mobilization experience during the war. I was to do it jointly with Vincent Barnett, who was then a professor of Government at Williams College, and who had worked directly with me in the War Production Board for a couple of years. We were close friends and colleagues. We had laid out the outline of that book together. Much to my embarrassment he later completed his half of it and I never completed mine. The book never got finished or published.

Anyway, I talked to Dean David and Stan Teele, the Associate Dean, and they felt that the

[24]

atomic energy problem was colossally important. Deans David and Teele were very sympathetic to my working on it. They said, in effect: "Look, first things first. The industrial mobilization project doesn't have a real time target on it, so, sure, you ought to do this."

So, I went to New York, arriving in early July of '46, and joined the U.S. delegation. Within a day or two of my arrival Gromyko, who was then the Soviet Ambassador to the U.N. and their member of the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission, gave his speech of reply. This was about three weeks after Baruch had given his opening speech. Gromyko's speech was very long. The substance was summed up in the last sentence, which I can still quote almost word for word in the English translation: "And for all these reasons," Gromyko said, "we cannot accept the American plan for international atomic energy control in its present

[25]

form, either as a whole or in any of its parts." This meeting was in the Henry Hudson Hotel. We went back to the Empire State Building where our offices were, and had a confabulation. Swope was all prepared to wind it up, and say, "All right, we've put our proposal; they've rejected it. To hell with it now; let's all quit." And I said, "But he said, 'In its present form,' and that suggests that there may be some openings and we ought not to leave any stone unturned."

And my argument was persuasive. We talked about tactics and decided that the next thing probably was to try to get the scientists together to see if they could agree on a common diagnosis on the nature of the atomic energy control problem. That became the main exercise for that summer. Although I wasn't a scientist, I was temperamentally very close, partly because of this early scientific interest of mine, to

[26]

our own scientific delegation.

We had some really remarkable people. We had full-time, at that time, Robert Bacher, who is now president of Cal Tech, and who left us later in the summer because he was the first scientific member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. Congress was just finishing up passing the McMahon Act at that time. It was slow in forming because Dave Lilienthal was named by President Truman as the chairman and the Senate took its time about confirming Dave in that job.

So, Bacher was with us; he was then a relatively young man. From the older generation we had Richard Tolman, America's leading cosmologist, one of the important participants in the Los Alamos part of the atomic bomb project. He was from California also, and a splendid man. On about a two-thirds time basis, although not

[27]

full-time, we had Robert Oppenheimer. And then there was a younger scientist, Paul Fine. This was a very distinguished group of men. I spent a lot of spare time in discussions with them and they invited me to the scientific committee meetings as a kind of associate member of the delegation, perhaps feeling that I could help on the political or administrative side where their background might be weaker. I also became the American member of the policy subcommittee which was drafting what became the first report of the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission to the General Assembly.

Also, before I arrived Eberstadt had drafted, and the U.S. delegation had presented, three technical memoranda which were backup documents for the Baruch speech. There were some gaps still to be filled in. For example, there was the concept of a phased transition. Assuming that

[28]

you could get agreement to internationalize control, of atomic energy and set up an international atomic authority which would have monopoly control on a world-wide basis of all fissionable material, and if all atomic weapons then existing -- and, of course, we thought that meant only ours -- were to be dismantled and the fissionable material in them turned over to this world-wide authority, when was that to be done and how was it to be done? How could you work out the transition from an American monopoly of the hardware, and what we thought was a joint British-Canadian-American monopoly of the knowledge, to its internationalization?

At the same time, the cold war was definitely setting in. We were well aware of that. I was aware of it personally from the day I arrived in New York. Even in '45 in the War Production Board, through our involvement in the lend-lease program, we had begun to have some trouble with

[29]

the Russians, noting their resistance to any conditions whatever on the postwar use of lend-lease materials.

Later, I got to know Harriman very well and heard at firsthand how he saw it from his vantage point in Moscow.

MCKINZIE: I talked to you two or three years ago, at which time you briefly mentioned this incident and you said at that time you were not yet a "hot cold warrior."

GORDON: That's true. I was not, and there was one quite important symbol of that, which came later on at the end of '46. But in mid-'46 there were a lot of jobs to do in our delegation. In addition to the scientific work, there was the business of trying to think through some of these problems of transition. There were others, such as the details of how the control scheme would work

[30]

for the raw materials at the mining end and how one could avoid surreptitious mining if somebody made a secret uranium discovery. Though we knew about it and talked about it inside the delegation, it was still at that time highly classified that you could use thorium. The Brazilians who were then on the UNARC and have lots of thorium were aware that thorium was a potential nuclear material too, and they were very much interested in its development.

We began staff projects on several of these matters, but the big project that summer was the scientific committee. In fact, they developed with the cooperation of two very distinguished Russian scientists, a unanimous report at the level of the scientists. There was a long period in August when it was unclear whether the Russian Government would give their scientists the authority to sign. They had personally

[31]

committed themselves that they would get the authority, but weeks passed and the commission went into a kind of suspense. It was August and New York was hot. Baruch was withdrawn to Long Island and Swope was in Long Island. Baruch would come in maybe one or two mornings a week, but we would go out to his house quite often to consult with him and bring him up to date.

John Hancock, who was the second in command, ran the delegation during that period. About the end of July, Baruch and Hancock felt it would be a good idea to have a personal progress report for President Truman and I was asked to draft it. We must have gone through about five drafts. I remember driving out to Baruch's house in Long Island and going over these drafts with him. He was very sharp, in spite of his deafness and his 76 years. He had ideas and suggestions, and he would reminisce occasionally, which was always interesting. He was obviously

[32]

an enormously vain man, but a very interesting person to work with during this period. Finally I produced a draft that satisfied him, and he and John Hancock made a date with the President. I asked, "How are you going to be sure the President will read this?" It was about ten pages doublespaced.

Baruch said, "I have a simple device for that. When I have anything important I want to discuss with the President I go in and say, 'Well, here it is Mr. President, I know your time is much more valuable than mine, so I'd just as soon wait while you read it, and then we can talk about it!"

Frank Lindsay, who is now the president of ITEK, had the title of secretary of our delegation. He and I drove them to the Pennsylvania Station and saw them off.

That night Henry Wallace gave his famous

[33]

Madison Square Garden speech, one of his two major speeches over a period of a month. One of these speeches contained some very caustic comments about the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission, among other things.

The next evening, Frank Lindsay and I drove out to Mitchell Field to greet Baruch and Hancock on their return by air. Baruch was met by his own car and driver, and he went off to his house. Hancock came back into town with us. "How did it go?" we asked John. He was a lovely character and we were all very fond of him. He was president of the Jewell Tea Company, but had been Assistant Secretary of the Navy. He was in love with the Navy and a very bluff naval type, a very good man to work with. We had very high morale in our delegation, which made it a very interesting and exciting summer.

I asked, "How did the President react to our report?"

[34]

And he said, "We never discussed it,"

I said, "What happened?" Their date was at 11 o'clock that morning at the White House.

He said, "Well, we got installed in the Mayflower Hotel." (Hancock was in a room a couple of floors above Baruch.) "I was awakened out of a sound sleep by the old man at 7 o'clock this morning, and he said to me, 'John, have you read the papers?"'

Hancock had replied, "No, Chief." (He always called Baruch "chief.") "No, Chief, I haven't read the papers; you just woke me up."

Baruch said, "Well, get hold of the papers and come down and have breakfast with me right away…

The papers, of course, were full of the Wallace speech. They decided that instead of talking with Truman about our report that they'd talk about Wallace, and talk in no uncertain terms of a resignation threat by Baruch. And

[35]

that's what they talked about with Truman. Baruch was requested by Truman to get hold of Wallace and see whether Wallace would not withdraw his critical comments and apologize. If he wouldn't then the President would either see that Baruch was satisfied or that something would be done about Wallace.

I was then put on the job of drawing up the necessary papers for a confrontation with Wallace, and that was very interesting. I drew up a document in double columns, putting side by side excerpts from the Wallace speech and the facts. It was absolutely damning because he hadn't done his homework, and whoever had helped him write the speech hadn't done his homework. The facts came from documents on the public record. He said we'd taken positions which in fact we hadn't taken, and he said we had failed to do some things which we had explicitly done. It was

[36]

very easy to draw up a damning comparison.

Baruch did get hold of Wallace. Wallace said he was coming to New York the following Saturday, and he'd be happy to meet with Baruch.

So we had a confrontation meeting. Baruch came to our office in the Empire State and Wallace brought along with him Clifford Houser, who was head of the Census Bureau but had not worked with him on the speech, Houser was a respected staff man and Wallace wanted somebody to be there with him, as a kind of witness.

On our side we had Baruch and Hancock, Frank Lindsay, and myself. My recollection is that there were just four of us. I don't recall that any of the other senior advisers were there, but I'm not absolutely sure of that. We sat around a big conference table and after a few polite words at first, Baruch said, "From our point of view this is an extremely serious

[37]

business. I'm afraid you were ill advised, and here's the document that sets forth the facts." And he handed over the document I had written, and Wallace looked at it.

Wallace I had met before. I didn't know him well, as Vice President but I used to see him at meetings of the full War Production Board. I couldn't quite make him out -- he gave the impression of being almost half asleep or a little drugged and one got the impression of a man who was not fully in control of his wits.

Now, this was 1946, of course, and two years later Wallace got actively interested in the Presidency. As I later realized, our confrontation was part of the background of that. He read our document through (it was about four pages of closely typed, double columns) and then he turned to Houser and said, "Is this really so?" And Houser said he certainly thought so, because I had

[38]

all the documents handy -- the U.N. official prints. There was one point where he had been particularly grossly in error, and I had cited the pertinent document chapter and verse.

He asked to look at the full document, Then his eyes kind of widened; he shook his head, and then said to Baruch, "Well, I obviously have made a mistake. I was ill-advised." That broke the ice. Then we had some discussion about several of the points. He felt that I had misunderstood what was really meant by some of his statements in the speech, and I said, "Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Secretary; we weren't trying to misinterpret you but I'm afraid this is the way the words would read to the ordinary member of the reading public." This was a long session, which had started at 10; by this time it was about 12:30.

Baruch said, "Well, what do we do? Obviously we can't leave the record like this. The President

[39]

just a few days ago instructed me to arrange this meeting and suggested that we find some way of straightening it out publicly. Obviously what we need is a public statement on your part. We should try to be as polite as possible, and embarrass you as little as possible, but there has to be a recognition that some errors were made and a withdrawal of the erroneous statements."

Wallace agreed about that. Then he said he had a luncheon appointment and thought that the best thing would be for Cliff Houser to stay behind to work together with me to develop a statement to submit to Wallace and Baruch for their approval.

So everything seemed fine. Baruch went back to Long Island; Hancock stayed; and Cliff Houser and I went off to lunch to talk and then came back and drafted something. Both of us, I think, are. quite good draftsmen and we had no

[40]

trouble together. We were searching for the least embarrassing statement by Wallace that would meet the needs. It wasn't terribly long; it could all fit on one page. Then we took it in to Hancock who read it over and made one or two rather small suggestions and said, "Let me read this to the boss." He called up Baruch and read it to him, and Baruch approved it. "All right," said Hancock, "now where's the Secretary?"

Houser said, "Well, I have a number." He called but he couldn't locate Wallace, and he said, "Well, I'll keep trying." I'm sure that Houser was absolutely innocent in this, and Wallace had really done him dirt.

It was getting to be late on a Saturday afternoon. Houser wanted to get back to Washington to his family. "Well," he said, "we'll have to do this by telephone. I'm sure I'll be able to locate the Secretary somewhere tonight or

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tomorrow, and I'll be in touch with you."

I was in touch with Houser on Sunday and on Monday, but there was no sign of Wallace. Baruch began to get impatient. Wallace finally showed up in Washington on Tuesday, called up Baruch and said, "I'm sorry, but it's unacceptable, I have a substitute statement, or substitute language for one paragraph," and he read him the substitute.

Wallace's proposal in effect was no confession of error whatsoever, and in some ways it even compounded original errors. Baruch said, "Look, I'm perfectly prepared to accept suggestions, but they mustn't depart from the spirit of our conversation, or our understanding on what to do." They were never able to come to terms. Finally Baruch set him a deadline, saying, "If this isn't done by Thursday our document goes to the New York Times.

It did. My memorandum was published in full in the Times.

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I talked to Houser later about this episode. He said he never could get the entire story straight, but his impression was that Wallace had gone off that weekend and consulted with some of his political advisers. They included some extreme leftwing people, who felt that even the face-saving memorandum that we had concocted would destroy Wallace's political pretentions. They were already thinking of him as a candidate for 1948, and they didn't want to have in the record any apology or confession of error about anything. Apparently they had persuaded Wallace in effect to withdraw his commitment to us. It was not a very nice story.

There had been a perfectly clear recognition of error at the Saturday meeting and an agreement that his man and I should work out the text of his statement. In effect he welched on it. Baruch was fit to be tied. It was the only time

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in the whole six months that I worked with him that I saw him absolutely angry, indeed furious.

MCKINZIE: The two then, I take it, were never reconciled?

GORDON: No, never. Then, a few weeks later, Wallace compounded the error with another foreign policy speech and that was when Truman fired him. He didn't fire him on account of the quarrel with Baruch. It was the second speech, when Jimmy Byrnes waded in and said, "Mr. Pr