Oral History Interview with
President Truman's personal White House physician, 1945-53; Truman family doctor, 1945-82.
Oral History Interview with
President Truman's personal White House physician, 1945-53; Truman family doctor, 1945-82.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Oral History Interview with
JOHNSON: Dr. Graham, I'm going to start by asking you when and where you were born, and the names of your parents. Would you give me that?
GRAHAM: Yes. I was born in Highland, Kansas, that's in Doniphan County, on October 9, 1910. My mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Marie Venneman. My father's name was James Walter Graham, M.D. He was born in Tarentum, Pennsylvania. He and his family then settled in Almena, Kansas, which was homesteaded land. (My father, Dr. James W. Graham, was a baby at the time.) They moved again and established a place at Long Island, Kansas. They were in the last Indian raid in that area. The year, I do not recall. The Sioux Indians migrated north near the Cheyennes. The Sac and Fox Indians remained in mid and western Kansas.
JOHNSON: Are you talking about the 1860s?
GRAHAM: Yes. Then my father's family returned to Tarentum, Pennsylvania, which is just to the outskirts of Pittsburgh. My father was in school at the University of Pittsburgh. Then he entered medical school and graduated with a M.D. degree. He came out west to establish the ground that his mother had homesteaded near Almena, Kansas. He came out to Almena, in western Kansas, and began raising corn and wheat to make enough money to continue his medical studies. My mother and father later moved to St. Joseph, Missouri, where my older brother, John James, was born in January 1901, nine years prior to my birth on October 9, 1910. My father was associated with Ensworth Hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri at that time. I believe it's called The Sisters Hospital at the present time. My father James W. Graham then did night duty for extra income at the St. Joseph Hospital Number 2.
When World War I began, my father left Highland, Kansas for active army service. He enlisted as a First Lieutenant in the Medical Corps, and later returned to Ft. Riley, Kansas, in 1919. From there he was sent for a short time to Camp Funston, Kansas. After World War I he returned and immediately gathered the family--brother John, my mother, and me--and moved us from Highland, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri, which was in his words, "more progressive" and a better place to grow.
JOHNSON: Again, what was your older brother's name?
GRAHAM: His name was John James Graham, and he was attending the Wentworth Military Academy at the time in 1917. After serving on active duty in World War I my father came back to the Midwest and practiced medicine and surgery for a short time with Dr. McGill and Dr. Breifogel in Kansas City, Kansas. Then my father moved to Kansas City, Missouri, because he thought it was more progressive. He established himself there. We had a home at 5731 Troost Avenue, from 1919 to 1928.
JOHNSON: Did you have just the one brother?
GRAHAM: Yes. I had a sister who died as a baby, with pneumonia, in 1908.
JOHNSON: I see. When your father was practicing in St. Joseph, Missouri, that was before World War I.
GRAHAM: Yes, that was quite a long time back, prior to my birth in October, 1910. My father practiced with a Doctor McGill in St. Joseph, Missouri and there he performed surgery along with the general practice of medicine.
JOHNSON: He might have become acquainted with the Cronkites; you know, Walter Cronkite's father was a dentist, and I think his grandfather was a dentist in St. Joe.
JOHNSON: So your father served in the military in World War I.
GRAHAM: As a matter of interest, my paternal grandfather enlisted in the Union Army during the Civil War at Ft. Leavenworth. He was in Company D, Kansas Volunteers--8th Regiment, Infantry, under Captain D.W. Williams. Colonel Robert Graham organized for service along the border.
JOHNSON: Do you know when Truman first became acquainted with your father?
GRAHAM: It was through the Army, probably in 1919 or near that time.
JOHNSON: Was it during the war, or in the Reserves after the war?
GRAHAM: I think it was in the Reserve Officers Association.
JOHNSON: Your father was not in the 129th?
JOHNSON: He was probably in the 35th Division though?
GRAHAM: I do not believe so. I do not know.
JOHNSON: Your father then was an officer in the Army Reserve after the war?
GRAHAM: Yes, and my father was on the Army pistol team. Harry Truman could not make the pistol team because his sight was poor.
JOHNSON: And your father attended yearly summer training camps?
GRAHAM: Yes, that's right. He went to Camp McCoy, Wisconsin, during the early part of World War II.
JOHNSON: Was it sometime in the 1920s that he became acquainted with Harry Truman?
GRAHAM: Yes. I think so.
JOHNSON: I am trying to establish Harry Truman's relationship with your father. Was your father a family doctor to the Trumans?
GRAHAM: No. Dr. Charles Allen was Truman's doctor at the time. My father and Truman became friends through the Reserve Officers Association.
JOHNSON: Did he ever have any of the Trumans as patients, perhaps in the 1930s?
GRAHAM: Not to my knowledge.
JOHNSON: But Harry Truman talks as if he knew your father pretty well.
GRAHAM: Yes, they knew each other very well as good friends.
JOHNSON: Are we talking about the '20s and '30s?
JOHNSON: Your father then was living in Kansas City, Missouri and having a private medical and surgical practice in Kansas City, Missouri?
GRAHAM: Yes. That is correct.
JOHNSON: But you're not sure whether the Trumans were patients of his?
GRAHAM: No, they were not.
JOHNSON: Did your father ever say anything to you about the Trumans, or did he ever have any stories or anecdotes about the Trumans that he ever told you?
GRAHAM: On several occasions. One in which Truman was standing in the back of a motor boat when it started up suddenly. Truman was thrown out of the boat. He climbed back in, soaking wet. Also President Truman wanted to get on the pistol team, and my father was captain of the pistol team at the time. He wanted Truman on the team, but Truman's eyesight was not good enough; the president was told he had "a flat eyeball" which caused defective vision. Truman
would drive around at night in the dark thinking that it might help his sight some; however, that had no beneficial effect.
JOHNSON: This would have been at Fort Riley, for instance, this pistol team?
GRAHAM: No. This was in Kansas City, Missouri, in the Reserve Officers Association. Those who won went to Camp Perry. My father was an expert marksman; he would practice by the hour, just bringing that .45 caliber pistol down and holding it straight out many minutes at arms length. He made his own ammunition which he would use for target practice in the field.
JOHNSON: He still had the frontier spirit.
GRAHAM: Yes. He had the will and the powder. I can remember that little granular powder he put together. He would use old shell casings. He would pick them up from the firing range in the Armory, where they fell, and fill them with powder and his own lead by hand, after melting the lead to fit.
JOHNSON: So he said that Harry Truman wanted to be on the pistol team, but his eyesight was not adequate to be a good marksman.
GRAHAM: Right. Yes, he was not a good marksman; consequently he could not hold a place on the team.
JOHNSON: Yes, I guess Harry Truman had other talents.
GRAHAM: Yes, obviously.
JOHNSON: That brings us up to World War II. You entered the Army before Pearl Harbor, didn't you?
GRAHAM: Yes, I entered the Army through Ft. Leavenworth as a Reserve Officer. I was in advanced ROTC while at the University of Missouri. Every summer, from age 17, I was in the CMTC (Citizens Military Training Camp) in Ft. Snelling, Minnesota.
JOHNSON: When did you go into the Reserve Officers program?
GRAHAM: I was a Reserve Officer--first Lieutenant--immediately upon graduation from the Creighton University School of Medicine in 1936.
JOHNSON: Did you meet Harry Truman as a Reserve Officer?
JOHNSON: You didn't meet him before . . .
GRAHAM: No, and purposely I didn't. Now, that sounds rather harsh. I did not want to go with my father, at all, when he
wanted me to meet Senator Truman. I felt like, well, it was like a father taking "little stinky" to meet the Senator, you understand; I just felt that way. I said, "No, he didn't have any interest in me except as a friend of my father's and you understand that, Dad." He said, "Oh, you're a good boy." I remember that. "I want you to know him." I said, "If we happen to meet in our various roads of life, fine; but it's just like taking little stinky up to meet the Senator."
JOHNSON: Was that a nickname?
GRAHAM: Oh, no, no. I just said that to myself, that it would be analogous. "This is my young son, you know, and I want you to meet friend, Senator Truman."
JOHNSON: This was Senator Truman at the time.
GRAHAM: Yes, that's right.
JOHNSON: But your father's opinions of Senator Truman were very favorable?
GRAHAM: Extremely high as an honest, straight-forward Army officer and gentleman; a splendid leader, the best, and very personable--but not a good marksman.
JOHNSON: He was a real New Deal Democrat?
GRAHAM: Absolutely, all the way. Very strong. My father was a Republican when he came to the Midwest from Pennsylvania, but he said later, "The Democratic Party is the only party for the general populace." I remember him saying that. He said, "It's the party for the majority of the people; we're Democrats now."
JOHNSON: Do you think the Depression is what converted him?
GRAHAM: Well, actually this was before the Depression, in 1928 and '29.
JOHNSON: Oh, this was before the Depression.
JOHNSON: Maybe it could be traced to Woodrow Wilson or even to [William Jennings] Bryan. Would it go back to Bryan?
GRAHAM: The "Cross of Gold" speech was a winner which cinched the victory. Dad thought that was great. My Dad was quite strictly religious. I do not mean he was a fanatic, but he was the kind of man that would be on his knees to pray every morning and every night, asking for proper guidance, wisdom, and power to follow the correct path and help his family and patients ease the suffering of the sick and afflicted.
JOHNSON: What denomination did he belong to?
GRAHAM: Well, out in Kansas we were Presbyterians. But then when we moved, my father made a study of religious precepts. After we left Highland, Kansas we went to several of the churches in Kansas City, Missouri. He thought the Baptist Church had more to offer. He liked the minister, Dr. Abernathy, at that time, who later was sent to Washington. Dr. Abernathy, who was followed by Dr. A. Ray Petty, and later by Dr. D. J. Evans. Dr. Abernathy was transferred to Washington, D.C. Then there was A. Ray Petty, who was sincere and articulate. When any young fellow, ten and twelve years of age, enjoys going to church rather than going to Sunday School, that speaks well of the minister. I went to Sunday School as long as I thought was necessary, but I wanted to get to church. In adult church, the lectures were more intellectual; they were superb and enjoyable. The minister would always relate his sermon to everyday life.
JOHNSON: What Baptist Church was that?
GRAHAM: That was the First Baptist.
JOHNSON: In Kansas City, Missouri?
GRAHAM: Yes. On Linwood Boulevard and Park Avenue.
JOHNSON: So your father was a Baptist like Harry Truman?
JOHNSON: Very strong for the New Deal?
GRAHAM: Yes, all the way.
JOHNSON: New Deal legislation, and liberalism?
GRAHAM: Yes, absolutely. My father took time and explained it to me very well.
JOHNSON: So they had that in common.
GRAHAM: They had very much in common. My father was a Federal doctor, who would talk to and treat the prisoners. He would go to the Courthouse prisons at least once or twice a week on stipulated days. He would minister to the prisoners; he helped many and financed several to get started--one in a grocery store, and for others he obtained permanent work elsewhere.
JOHNSON: They did not have a Veterans Hospital before World War II?
JOHNSON: Did your father have a special practice with veterans?
GRAHAM: No, not just for veterans; he just took care of all he possibly could.
JOHNSON: Just general . . .
GRAHAM: Yes, general care and surgery if and when needed. And he took care and treated the prisoners, both in the city and county jails.
JOHNSON: Your father had a strong social conscience it sounds like.
GRAHAM: Yes, very much so. As a matter of fact, they didn't know whether he was a doctor or a minister, because he was always preaching the gospel to them and giving welcome and sound advice.
JOHNSON: But he practiced what he preached?
GRAHAM: Yes absolutely; he certainly did. Dad was the one that was on his knees every morning and every evening in prayer. I heard so many patients' names by hearing dad praying, "Oh, Lord, give us strength so we know how to treat poor old Johnny Crump," or this or that one.
JOHNSON: I'll bet he had some tough cases too.
GRAHAM: Certainly, he did, because they did not have much to work with. There were no antibiotics in those days. They had morphine, aspirin, and quinine. It was difficult not having our present choices of medication. The majority of pulmonary diseases were classified as consumption.
JOHNSON: Okay, about World War II, we could have a separate interview, just on that I'm sure. I notice that you were in that "Operation Market-Garden" where paratroopers were dropped on Nijmegen and other places in Holland.
GRAHAM: Yes, Nijmegen, Hertogenbosch, Eindhoven, and Vechel, Holland.
JOHNSON: Did you parachute with the troops there?
GRAHAM: Yes. I was attached to the 101st Airborne. Our unit was divided between the 101st and the 82nd Airborne.
JOHNSON: And you were wounded there?
GRAHAM: Yes. I was shot in the left thigh and later in the left hand.
JOHNSON: Was that shrapnel?
GRAHAM: The thigh wound was. I was hit in the right leg with a high explosive shell fragment. I was hit by the same gun which struck General Maxwell Taylor. I operated on General Taylor, removing a piece of explosive shell. I was hit the following day by the same gun. Later, I had a frightening experience when I was under constant, heavy fire, and I ran into a pillbox. There was a German forward observer standing on a parapet. Hearing the shells whine and the snap of bullets overhead, you could name every size and
JOHNSON: This was a German pillbox?
JOHNSON: There were still Germans in there?
GRAHAM: Yes. The German observer was there and I ran in on him in the bunker. I recall that I couldn't see very well coming in front the light because it was a little dim underground, a bit dark. He was looking around. Then I saw him reach up on the parapet and he got this small officer's pistol, a small Walther model. I had the pistol until an employee robbed our house and took it. I grasped the hand and arm of the German and flipped him over. I was shot in the left hand in the encounter. The bullet went down through my left hand and came out the lower part of my hand. I knocked him down with a straight left jab on the chin. Then I sat on him. I didn't know what to do with him. I saw he was an SS trooper by the uniform and tattoo on his upper arm, so they'd shoot him anyway when our troops came through. I talked to him in German, and he said, "Sind sie ein Deutcher?" (Are you a German?) I said, "Nein, ich bin nicht ein Deutscher." "Aber" (But) I told him I had learned the German language in the U.S. school and had been in school in Germany. I studied there. The fact is, I knew
German before I was sent to Germany, because I studied it and used it in the university.
I sat on him and talked to him. I said, "If I allow you to get up, will you try to kill me?" He said, "Ja wohl" ("Certainly I will"). He said in German, "That is my duty." I replied, "Well, you'd better stay very quiet because I'm the officer that will have to sew your head up that I split open." I said, "I'm a doctor, and I have to close the wound in your head." He replied, "Yes, I understand that too." I said, "Yet you'd try to kill me?" He said, "Ja, Ich muz" ("I must"). (It beats the devil out of me.) I said, "Look, I'm trying to save your miserable life; yet I have no reason not to kill you. If you give me any trouble, I will kill you."
JOHNSON: Well, you're lucky to be alive. He had no scruples.
GRAHAM: You are right; he had no compunction about killing. You can see the healed scars in the palm and first finger in my left hand.
JOHNSON: Did he survive?
GRAHAM: No. When the GIs came by, I heard them and I shouted at them. I said, "I'm an American officer and I have a Deutcher here with me." So they came in and they took him out, and he was killed, because he was an SS trooper as seen
by the lightning tattoo on his upper left arm; they took no prisoners, only killed them as we were advancing.
JOHNSON: The young Germans were thoroughly brainwashed.
GRAHAM: Yes. I have seen them with so much hatred. One wounded German I saw asked for a drink of water; and we'd give them a drink, then he would spit the water in the face of the one who gave it to him. Then he died, following the kindness, just like that. Oh, yes, I've seen so many occurrences similar to that. I know of a German who was rather scared on at least one occasion. His name was Dahl; I'll never forget him. He was in his foxhole; the Americans were coming through and a G.I. stuck his bayonet through his back, and it protruded through the chest. It was right over his heart, and came out the upper left chest. They couldn't get the bayonet out as it stuck on his ribs and scapula bone. So they left the bayonet in and they brought him in as we were moving forward to advance. He was brought in to me and I took care of him. I put him on the table, and laid him on his right side with the bayonet protruding. I was afraid that it was right in his heart. I pulled it out very slowly and didn't lose over a few drops of blood. It was amazing but true.
JOHNSON: He survived then.
GRAHAM: Yes, he did and was evacuated back to the P.O.W. enclosure. I later heard he was sent to the U.S. and worked on a farm there in Iowa.
JOHNSON: Yes, that's something. So you got your purple heart.
GRAHAM: I should have received three purple hearts; however, my commanding officer, Colonel Karl Rylander, said "You already have one and that is enough for you." The War Department did issue the purple heart with three palms, from my C.O. During the war I was shot several times. I was shot in the right leg, left thigh, and left hand at different times. They couldn't give me any more purple hearts. My C.O., Colonel Rylander, said, "No, you've got one purple heart; that's all you deserve." He was an odd fellow, envious and opinionated. Colonel Rylander, our C.O., was a Nazi in many of his beliefs; he hated Jews and thought the Germans were only fighting to stay alive.
JOHNSON: You mean after this incident with the SS you were shot again?
GRAHAM: When I was first shot, then I got my purple heart recommendation. But I was shot two other times, and I had my leg wounded, and he said, "No, you don't get any more. You've got one; that's enough." So he wouldn't put in for two more.
While standing on a dike in Holland shouting to a British group in the valley below to move, I was hit with a small fragment in the left thigh that day after Colonel Maxwell Taylor was hit in the left leg by the same gun which struck me.
JOHNSON: You came into Normandy, on Omaha beach, shortly after D-Day, and then you were in combat until about the middle of May?
GRAHAM: I landed on Easy Red, Omaha Beach; we went in from a landing barge, wading through water, while the enemy was still engaged in crossfire. I know the engineers had to cut the barbed wire which were big round rolls of entanglements on the beach and at the edge of the water. Also, there were railroad spikes. They prevented our initial landing boats from getting far on the beach. We went a limited distance on a Liberty ship, and then we transferred into a landing barge. We went in on Easy Red at Omaha Beach, on D plus 2. Some others in our unit were with the airborne, and landed in a swamp. They were given noise clickers to denote their position; however the Germans found them quickly, to our sorrow.
JOHNSON: Was this what we think of now as a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit, or like a MASH unit?
GRAHAM: To some extent it was a similar operation, but we did not call it a "MASH" unit.
JOHNSON: You were right near the front lines?
GRAHAM: Yes. After getting over the beach we would send two, or three, or at times six medics as needed to the fighting divisions. They were immediately behind and with the fighting division. We were underneath the artillery fire which would go three to five miles back, and we were just beyond the small arms fire, 150 to 200 yards. We were right in that zone where the missiles were generally over our heads, and some of our officers and men were shot by short fire. For example, Captain Guy Meyers from Atlanta, Georgia, was killed while sitting in his foxhole.
It was a miserable occurrence. I had gone to check on my men and officers, and Captain Meyers, our eye surgeon, was in his foxhole. I said, Captain Meyers, you're the eye man, and I've got three who have eye wounds and one man who has been hit and his eyeballs are both out." I said, "They're just hanging here, and I don't know if they can be saved or not. You've got to see him." He says, "Major Graham, I'm the most yellow sonofabitch in the whole United States Army, but," he says, "Sir, I think you're kind of crazy. Don't you hear those things snapping and swishing going over your head?" I said, "Sure, but they're all going
over us." He says, "I can't move out of here." He says, "Look at my knees; I'm not faking or putting this on." His knees were just shaking grossly, like that. "I can't stop them," he said. I replied, "Look, Captain Meyers, I've got to have these eyes taken care of. You are better off being active and getting the wounded treated." He says, "Do the best you can, but I can't crawl out of here." I said, "You will be okay as soon as you are out and active."
JOHNSON: Were these 88 millimeter shells that he was hearing, or small arms?
GRAHAM: Both 88s and small arms. The small fire would snap. He said, "Pardon me, sir, but I think you're kind of crazy." I said, "We have a duty to do." "Yes, but it isn't to get killed. We ain't no good dead." Guy Meyers was from Atlanta, Georgia. You know, he got hit a little later that afternoon; he never knew what hit him.
JOHNSON: While he was in the tent?
GRAHAM: We never saw a tent and could not use it if we had one; we were dug in and the air was filled with exploding shells. We had no tents; we were on our bellies and digging in while lying flat. I am reminded of a cartoon. One G.I. said to the other, "Get down flat Willy." Willy answered, "Hell, I can't; my buttons are in the way."
No, he was in a foxhole, but I guess he crawled out and a short burst hit him, killing him instantly. He was an excellent soldier and gentleman, loved by the entire unit.
JOHNSON: As I mentioned before, of course, we have an interview done by William Jewell College students, William Stilley and Jerald Hill, in which you describe in some detail how you were called up to Potsdam.
GRAHAM: Oh, yes; this was after the war was actually over.
GRAHAM: I had volunteered for duty in Japan, because I wanted to stay in active service as long as I believed it was my duty to do so--not to be heroic or a martyr or anything of that type, but I felt compelled to stay with the Army until the war ended. However, I was called to report to Potsdam, to the "Little White House." I didn't even know the President was over there, and so I thought I was being sent to another war zone (possibly to Japan). I picked up my things and went into Potsdam. I don't recall now how we got there.
JOHNSON: Yes, I think that's in the other interview, so I won't go into detail on that. It was quite an experience; you went through Berlin and saw all the devastated buildings and rubble. One of your soldiers went down into the bunker and came out with the last will and testament of Adolph Hitler.
GRAHAM: Last will and testament . . .
JOHNSON: Of Adolph Hitler?
GRAHAM: Yes, that's right; that was my sergeant who retrieved it.
JOHNSON: And that was the first manuscript, so to speak, or the first record that we got out of the bunker, that the American Army retrieved.
GRAHAM: Well, four people got copies. One went later to the President; the others went to the Secretary of Defense, to General [Harry] Vaughan and to me.
JOHNSON: Didn't Eisenhower get one?
GRAHAM: I don't recall Eisenhower being in the picture at that particular point in time.
JOHNSON: These are photostats you're talking about, aren't they? The original went to the National Archives.
GRAHAM: Yes. Four of them were taken. I received one, and General Vaughan got one also.
JOHNSON: And you still have your photostat?
GRAHAM: Yes--with the Nazi insignia, the swastika, on the cover. It has Hitler's marriage certificate to Eva Braun. I think
you have a copy.
JOHNSON: We may have. Yes, apparently you saw Hitler earlier.
GRAHAM: Oh, I saw Hitler many times, before the war. You see, I had a scholarship at the University of Vienna. I was there at the plebiscite, and the anschluss, on April 10, 1938 when he said, "Now we're taking in all of Austria and upper Czechoslovakia as Southern Germany."
JOHNSON: Of course, Freud was living in Vienna, and I think he emigrated to England about that time. Do you recall Freud being there?
GRAHAM: Professor Dr. Freud, yes, absolutely. That was later. I saw Dr. Freud. He was in Vienna. I saw him the day before he left. He left for London; we waved as I called, "Aufwiedersehen."
JOHNSON: You saw him.
GRAHAM: He had a little beard. He seemed to be a very pleasant man. He wanted to know why I was there to meet him, and I said it was because of his writings and my admiration. He wanted to know if I was a psychiatrist. I said, "No more than any doctor should be." And he liked that.
JOHNSON: So you got to talk to him.
GRAHAM: Oh yes. He liked that. He left either the next day or two days later from Vienna for London.
JOHNSON: These doctors that you were working with there in Vienna and so on, did they tend to be pro-Nazi or did they think, "Well, this is political and we're apolitical?"
GRAHAM: Well, that is difficult to say. I think most of them were probably leaning towards Nazism to a degree. Of course, Professor Dr. Fuchs was Jewish. He committed suicide. And there were several there in the "Allgemeine Krankenhaus" which is the general hospital where I was one of the chief "hospitants" at the time. Some committed suicide. I can remember; one of the German Nazis came over to the Allgemeine Krankenhaus and he said, "We are conscripting so many of you." He said, "All the Jews and dogs line up on this wall, and the white people on that wall." You know, I'm getting things a little mixed up, because it was the time of the Spanish revolution too, and they were going to send some of us down to Spain. I was chosen to go there.
JOHNSON: You didn't go to Spain did you?
GRAHAM: Yes, I went to Barcelona for a short time--two or three days; then I was pulled back. I don't know why I was pulled back.
Now, in my talking here I can't figure out how I got into concentration camps. But I . . .
JOHNSON: You mean during the war, toward the end?
JOHNSON: I read that you were at Bergen-Belsen.
GRAHAM: Bergen-Belsen, that's right. At Godeslagen, and later, at Auschwitz.
JOHNSON: Did you foresee the possibilities of that sort of thing?
GRAHAM: The war?
JOHNSON: I mean the death camps. I mean the way the Jews were being treated, even before the war.
GRAHAM: No. I knew that many were crowded and jammed together in boxcars on the train tracks. When I saw this, I asked a German officer and he said they were being sent to "work camps."
JOHNSON: You mean you saw this, even before the war, when you were in Austria?
GRAHAM: Yes. I don't think anyone totally realized what was going on. Even if we had been told the truth, I doubt it
would have been believed because it was so horrible!
JOHNSON: When you were in Austria, in 1937-38, they were already deporting Jews?
GRAHAM: Absolutely. Yes, they were. I don't think anything is written about that, but I've seen entire boxcars of Jews.
JOHNSON: And you didn't see any people objecting to this, or did anybody object?
GRAHAM: No, not in particular. I asked about it. They said, "Well, they're just being transferred for labor battalions."
JOHNSON: But these Jewish doctors who were committing suicide.
JOHNSON: And the rest of the profession didn't come to their defense?
GRAHAM: Well, some didn't believe they were just being transported, and they would kill themselves or try to escape and they were shot then.
JOHNSON: Does that mean the Aryan doctors didn't come to the defense of their colleagues, their Jewish colleagues, as far as you could tell?
GRAHAM: Not that I can recall. The fact is I think they would
really be afraid to oppose. I mean you were either Nazi or, you know, you got killed.
JOHNSON: That didn't make you feel very comfortable did it?
GRAHAM: No. No. I brought three of them (Jewish people) over here and I don't remember what circumstance it was. Dr. Kurt Tauber, Dr. Kaufman and Dr. Messinger came. I had one who refused to leave, and I understood he was thrown into a fire.
JOHNSON: Oh, you brought three of the Jewish doctors back?
GRAHAM: Oh yes. They were specialists.
JOHNSON: Before the war? You brought them over here when you came back from Vienna?
GRAHAM: Yes, you see, the war was starting. I tried to persuade others to come with me to the U.S. but they did not believe they were in that great a danger.
JOHNSON: September '39 is when it officially started.
GRAHAM: I had a chance to get into the German army. I mean they asked me if I wanted to be in the army of the Duetsches Reich, and I said, "No." They tried to impress me, saying that I had Deutsche blood in my veins.
JOHNSON: Well, Graham, isn't that English or Irish?
GRAHAM: Scotch. On my mother's side, though, her name was Venneman.
JOHNSON: That was German?
GRAHAM: Yes, German heritage, yes. I believe her maiden name was Elizabeth Marie Reiser and her grandparents I think were from eastern Germany (maybe Magdeburg).
JOHNSON: So you decided it was time to come back to the United States then, from Austria? You came back when, 1940-41?
GRAHAM: We returned to the States in June or July, 1939. Well, I went first to Scotland, because I had the scholarship and I wanted to take advantage of it at the University of Edinburgh. So I stayed there at the Royal College of Surgeons and took classes with Dr. Ian Aird and Dr. John Bruce.
JOHNSON: And then from there you came back to the United States?
GRAHAM: From Scotland. The war was getting quite vigorous and so then I came back over here. A funny thing--I guess they weren't too convinced here that we would really be getting into it, even at that time. I said, "Well, sure we're going to be in the war. And the Germans will tell you that right openly." They had been keeping butter and lard and things like that. They had been storing it for, oh, for a long,
long time. We all knew that. They wouldn't let the girls wear lipstick. They had cartoons showing it was bad because they needed the oil, the grease and all of that. They said it was disloyalty.
JOHNSON: They were headed for war. That was part of their philosophy?
GRAHAM: Oh yes. And they said they were prepared for eight years of war. It was common knowledge in Germany.
JOHNSON: They didn't know war is hell yet, did they?
GRAHAM: Oh, they hadn't been shot at yet. I can remember. I was up in the second floor of the Allgemeine Krankenhaus and you could see these young people, young people all of them, or teens, just hysterically all of sudden, "Sieg Heil! Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuehrer." There was nobody around, nobody to see them, and they were so imbued with this. "One state, one people, one leader"--[that was the slogan].
JOHNSON: I did my dissertation, by the way, on George Sylvester Viereck, who was a pro-German propagandist. Did you ever hear that name, George Sylvester Viereck?
GRAHAM: At the time of Dollfus. I associate him with the time of Dollfus, and Schussnig.
JOHNSON: He was writing articles for the Munich newspaper. He
ended up in jail.
Well, sometime we should focus just on your prewar and wartime experiences, but for now I suppose we will have to move on.
GRAHAM: Even as a youngster, as soon as I could get into the Army, I did. First I went into the CMTC, Citizen's Military Training Corps. I was in Fort Schnelling, Minnesota. I was to go there every summer from the age of 17 on. Then, when I went there [Austria] to study, you know, then I knew we were going to have war, and they did too, the Deutchers did too. But they were afraid of America. They didn't know, and they always asked me, "Do you think America will ...?" I said, "I don't know." I said, "I can't tell what the United States will do, but I will say this: if England gets into it, we're very close to England and I certainly wouldn't bet that they [the United States] wouldn't."
JOHNSON: So you already saw that there was going to be a hard time to stay out of war?
GRAHAM: Oh, yes, the Germans saw it coming on too. And they didn't want America in it. They wanted to know how high up I was. Well, I said, "I'm just a peon, just an American citizen." Actually, I was a first lieutenant in June 1936 and a captain in 1939.
JOHNSON: Well, the Nazis had the idea that the United States was run by Jews, I guess.
GRAHAM: Oh, yes. Oh, yes, absolutely.
JOHNSON: And they were fed all kinds of propaganda.
GRAHAM: Oh yes, sure. Somebody would say that Roosevelt was actually a Jew.
JOHNSON: They felt that that meant that we wouldn't rise up against them, I guess.
GRAHAM: I know they would ask me, as a peon, and I'd say, "Hell, I don't know what's going on. But I will venture this, just as my personal opinion, that if England gets into it, we will not see her sink."
JOHNSON: You're right about that. Okay, you reported to the White House in September of 1945.
GRAHAM: That's right, September 5, wasn't it?
JOHNSON: Or the 15th?
GRAHAM: The 15th, yes that's right. That was straight out of
Germany I think. Actually, I went to Kansas City to gather the family, and then we moved to Washington, D.C. where I was to be the medical doctor for the President of the United States and at the same time to be Chief of Section in surgery at Walter Reed Army Hospital. My family and I lived in a home on the post