1. Home
  2. Library Collections
  3. Oral History Interviews
  4. Sir Edmund Hall-Patch Oral History Interview

Sir Edmund Hall-Patch Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Sir Edmund Hall-Patch

Chairman of the Executive Committee, Organization for European Economic Cooperation, 1948

London, England
June 8, 1964
By Philip C. Brooks

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


This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.

Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened September 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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


Oral History Interview with
Sir Edmund Hall-Patch


London, England
June 8, 1964
By Philip C. Brooks

In England I have run into the problem of both reticence to talk and what is known as the Official Secrets Act, and some difficulties with tape recording. When I was here in April, I talked to A. D. Marris, who talked about his experiences with the Marshall Plan for three hours but would not go on tape. I later wrote and asked him if he would do so on my visit in June, but have not had a chance to get in touch with him yet.

Today, I talked with Sir Edmund Hall-Patch, formerly chairman of the executive committee on the OEEC, and met the same difficulty. He said that he had talked about my inquiry with Sir Harold Caccia, whom I talked to in April and who was the man that referred me to Hall-Patch (though many others have done so). Hall-Patch said he would

be glad to help me but that he could not go on tape, largely because of the Official Secrets Act. Mr. D. C. Watt, who was at our conference in March, told me today that this was largely a matter of individual reaction, that despite the Act or in relation to it, some people would interpret it strictly as applying to such comments as they might make to me, and some would not. In any event, I was able only to listen to Hall-Patch talk without the tape recorder and to take extensive notes on which I shall dictate a summary.

The fact that Sir Edmund said Alphand would be a mirror of any current opinion of French government, and thus would not be a good person to talk to as a representative has given me the French government's opinion as of 1947. He indicated that Alphand is not very strong in his own convictions. This concurs with what Governor Harriman said about Alphand, and is reminiscent of what Charles


In discussing the fact that he did not want to go on tape, Hall-Patch did say that I could take notes and write them up and let scholars see them, but I got the impression that he would like to give permission before any of this was quoted by a given scholar. That is something I think we had better work out in later correspondence when I write him to thank him for the interview. We can arrive at any necessary agreements by a form of letter.


London, 6/8/64


On Monday afternoon, June 8, 1964, I conferred with Sir Edmund Hall-Patch at his office in St. Alban's House, on Goldsmith Street, EC2, London.

Sir Edmund was chairman of the executive committee of OEEC in 1948, and had been mentioned to me by a number of people as an important person to talk to. Before that he was in charge of the Economics Activities of the Foreign Office. Although Sir Edmund did not feel that he could go on tape, he did give me an extensive account of his experiences and impressions of the European Recovery Program on which I took fairly full notes. He followed rather closely a set of questions I had sent to him in advance by mail.


Before commenting on my questions, Sir Edmund said he thought there was one point that ought to be added to the discussion. That was the effect of the Korean War on the Marshall Plan organization. He emphasized that up until that time all the activities and policy decisions of the OEEC had been unanimous, since it was required in the basic organization of the OEEC that every decision had to have unanimous approval. Sir Edmund confirmed my understanding that this was on the insistence of the Dutch in the preparatory work of 1947. He said that the Greeks or the Turks, especially, (some country) might hold things up and debate a point at length, but that eventually it was always possible to reach a unanimous decision. This was in line with the very high degree of international cooperation that was effected, and was possible because everyone was working for the international organization, and putting its interests ahead of


individual nations.

Sir Edmund said that when the Korean crisis arose, the United States and the United Kingdom were going to have to carry the burden and had to have raw materials available, especially England. For that reason, the British representative went to Washington, talked to Mr. Truman, and insisted that the United Kingdom had to have access to raw materials and therefore that the interests of other members of the OEEC had to be side-tracked in that emergency.

Ernest Bevin wanted Hall-Patch to go to Washington at the time of Korea to negotiate with the United States, but Hall-Patch said that he could not do so and maintain his position with the OEEC, inasmuch as he would also be representing the United Kingdom, and at that stage its interests had to come first. Bevin thought it was important to continue the international cooperation as long as


possible and therefore let Hall-Patch go to Washington representing the OEEC. He appointed another delegate to represent the United Kingdom.

From that point on, he said, the same degree of cooperation and of deference to international interests has never been achieved. Sir Edmund said that the first great test of the OEEC came in 1948 in the first division of aid; that sometimes that there were great difficulties in working out agreements, and that this was done sometimes on faith. He mentioned one occasion when a small country was dissatisfied with its share and was brought around to agreement by the statement of Hall-Patch and Hammerskjold that the small country's interests would be better taken care of in the next year. He said that that statement was made only on faith with no written commitment, but that it made possible an agreement at that time, and that the commitment later was carried out with Bevin's


full concurrence. In the second go 'round in the division of aid, agreements were much easier. The executive committee simply sent a working group to a country hotel to meet, and they worked out the agreements there.

As to my question on the initiation of the Marshall Plan, Hall-Patch said that it really began right after D-Day. He said that the Allies were very much concerned about what was going to happen to prevent chaos, because while they were beginning to mobilize for re-construction before the end of the war, they could only mobilize what they had and there was a big gap in international financing. There were essential matters that had to be dealt with overnight and for this reason the Emergency Economic Committee for Europe was established. He said that Isador Lubin just happened to be in Europe at that time (this was shortly after the end of the war), and that he


was very effective in organizing this new committee. The United Kingdom representative was A. D. Marris. Lubin not only assisted in the organization of the committee over here, but stimulated higher-ups in the Administration in Washington to understand how critical was the need.

He said there were two remarkable men in the Labour government after the war, Ernest Bevin and Stafford Cripps. He said that Cripps had the education and the intellectual background that Bevin lacked, but that Bevin had vast experience of international negotiation in trade union affairs and was very effective in getting things done, although he knew nothing of international law. Hall-Patch said (as Mr. Marris had told me once earlier) that the great degree of wartime cooperation among the allies was a background for the effective administration of the OEEC program. He was in a position to see this as head of the


Economic Section on the Foreign Office.

Sir Edmund cited some background to indicate that there was a good deal of development before the actual Marshall Plan. The first indication, he said, of the United States crystallizing its policy was in Dean Acheson's speech at Cleveland, Mississippi, in May of 1947. He emphasized the importance of Acheson's role, and of this speech as a signal. Hall-Patch emphasized the importance of the great public debate that is characteristic of any major decision in the United States. He did say that once the great debate is concluded and the United States' policy has been determined, that country can move faster than anybody else. He said the great debate and the effort to mobilize public opinion on economic recovery went back to the days of UNRRA, and that it really had come to a head at the time of the Acheson speech. He said that Bevin was frightfully conscious that the heart


was knocked out of Europe, and that something was needed to provide a stimulus to get the Europeans to help themselves. Bevin had told Hall-Patch in 1947 that this would have to be done with France as the leader. He explained that France was the only country that could serve in that capacity as all the others were too small or too wrapped up in current war like the Greeks, or were still former enemies like the Italians and the Germans.

Bevin was encouraged by the Acheson speech and from then on really expected some action such as the Marshall speech, although nobody knew specifically that Marshall was going to make that speech. He said, incidentally, that he did not know who wrote the Marshall speech, but he thought that Acheson and Clayton both had important parts in at least developing the thinking. Speaking of Bevin's rapid action after the Marshall speech, Hall-Patch said that at a farewell dinner when


Marshall retired as Secretary of State, Marshall said that he never expected that "Ernie" (as Hall-Patch consistently refers to him) would move so fast. Bevin's quick action is well known. He told Hall-Patch the day after Marshall's speech to go to Paris and to ask Bidault if he would sponsor a conference in Paris on this subject. Bevin gave this instruction to Hall-Patch before he consulted Attlee, but later that day talked to Attlee and Cripps, and gave further instructions to Hall-Patch when he got to Paris.

Sir Edmund said that the Truman Doctrine was looked on as a great and generous act by the United States to relieve Great Britain in the crisis, and that Britain was the main beneficiary. This was looked upon primarily as a military action, although it was an early phase of and a part of the same policy as that that was crowned in the Marshall Plan. But in general he seemed to


think of the two programs as quite separate.

In discussing Britain's biggest need from the Marshall Plan, he said that really it was the chance to resuscitate a prostrate Europe. He said that Marshall was quizzed at a party right after the speech as to the development of the Marshall Plan (Hall-Patch was not there but said he was told this by somebody who was there) and when asked about the development of the Plan, Marshall said, "Speaking as a soldier, what I want is for Europe to be able to get up and kick us in the teeth if it feels like it." When Bevin heard that he said, "Thank God we have an ally."

In the discussion of need, Sir Edmund digressed to comment that the transition of Great Britain from the greatest creditor nation in the world to the greatest debtor nation in the world was entirely too much of an adjustment for the general public, and that the general public has never been


able to accept it and still looks back to 1890.

As to Russia, Sir Edmund said that in Paris at the end of June, 1947, Molotov told Bevin he would agree to cooperate in the Marshall Plan if there would be no strings attached and if each country could tell what it wanted and simply have the United States give it without any controls. Bevin told Molotov that no sovereign state could be expected to issue a blank check and that there could be no cooperation on that basis. Sir Edmund said that Bevin really hoped that the Russians would join in. He believed that the time would come for some yielding of sovereignty, and really felt that it was worth a try. Sir Edmund did say that Bevin didn't really expect the Russians to come in, but he felt that the confrontation with Russia was necessary before the cooperating nations could get down to brass tacks on the Marshall Plan.


As to Germany, Sir Edmund did not say anything specific about the "level of industry" controversy, though he did say that while Churchill was at Yalta, the Morgenthau paper came in proposing restricting Germany to an agricultural nation. His superiors were away and he, Hall-Patch, discussed this proposal with Cripps. They thought it complete folly and noted that it was contrary to the Geneva convention for occupation of a defeated power, for the application of which the United States and the United Kingdom as the chief occupying powers were responsible. He said that none of the oth