Oral History Interview with
Physician and missionary with experience in China, 1925-31
and 1934-38, member of Congress from Minnesota, 1943-62. United States
delegate to the 12th General Assembly of the United Nations, 1957.
Dr. Walter H. Judd
April 13, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
[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
As an electronic publication of the Truman Library, users should note
that features of the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview,
such as pagination and indexing, could not be replicated for this online
version of the Judd transcript.
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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 January, 1975
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Dr. Walter H. Judd
April 13, 1970
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Dr. Judd, we're primarily interested in your relationship with
former President Truman. Just what was that relationship and when did
JUDD: I had met Mr. Truman a few times at official functions in Washington
when I first came here as a member of Congress in January 1943. I had
no personal contacts with him, directly, until he and I traveled
together in the summer of 1943 .
A group of us in Congress were concerned that the United States not go
back into isolationism after World War II. I had been a young soldier
in World War I, and he had been a captain in the field artillery, and
when we got to know each other better, we talked about our various military
experiences. He felt, as did I, that we had made
a mistake in 1918 and '19 when we imagined that we could pull back from
the world, not recognizing our own situation in the world had changed.
We were now a creditor nation instead of a debtor nation. We had
to have dealings with other countries if they were to pay their debts
to us. We had invented the steamboat and the airplane which had
destroyed our physical separation from the rest of the world, the separation
that George Washington and others had had earlier, which allowed them
to concentrate on domestic problems and to forget pretty much the rest
of the world.
So, a group of Republican Senators, [Joseph H.] Ball of Minnesota and
[Harold H.] Burton of Ohio, and Democratic Senators, [Lister] Hill of
Alabama and [Carl A.] Hatch of New Mexico, introduced a resolution in
the Senate in 1943 which was called the Ball-Burton-Hill-Hatch, or B2H2
Resolution. As I recall, it merely declared it to be the sense of the
Congress that the United States should cooperate with other nations after
World War II to bring into being a world organization through which the
peace-loving nations could pool their strength against lawless or aggressive
actions by any nation. No one country could now run the whole world. England
with her fleet had been able to for about a hundred years, but
that day had gone. England didn't have the strength, she was too exhausted
by two wars and there were too many other powers in the world. We either
had to have such an international organization that would be effective
or the United States would have to try to do it by itself, which the United
States couldn't do indefinitely. We didn't have the resources (we're discovering
that now), and second, we didn't have the patience. If we could move into
a trouble spot quickly and get it over with, okay, but if unrest or threats
to the peace were to drag on a long time, Americans by and large don't
have the stomach for long, drawn-out struggles, as we're learning in Vietnam.
Well, this was the sentiment of many of us. By the summer of 1943 it
was reasonably clear that Hitler was not going to succeed in conquering
Europe. He had failed to get Stalingrad in 1941 and Baku oil wells in
'42 and '43. He was retreating in Europe. By that time it was also clear
that Japan was not going to win control of the Pacific. She had shot her
bolt against the United States and been defeated at Midway. In her drive
toward Australia she had been defeated in the Coral Sea. We had recovered
from Pearl Harbor, rebuilt our fleet, and were beginning our march, island
by island, back across the Pacific.
So, it was time then to think about the future. There were six or eight
in the Senate and six or eight in the House who were particularly concerned.
It was my belief that we had to have some kind of a world organization
to get order and peace in our world, the same as we had to have organization
in our own country and in our communities if we were going to have order
and peace here. This concern had been the major reason why I had given
up my profession and gone into political life. So, we gradually worked
out, that spring of 1943, a plan to have some bipartisan teams go out
through the country talking about this issue--grassroots education if
you wish. Naturally, since it was a bipartisan resolution it would be
wise to have on each team a Republican and a Democrat. If the Republican
was a Senator, the Congressman would be a Democrat and vice versa. I was
assigned first with Senator Carl Hatch, one of the authors of the resolution.
He was a Democratic Senator from New Mexico, and I was a Republican Congressman
We started in July out in Iowa, Davenport, Fort Dodge, Mason City and
so on. Something came up about the third or fourth day that required Senator
Hatch to leave, and in the emergency, they sent out Senator Truman.
He hadn't been on one of the regular teams because he wasn't very much
of a speaker and he wasn't as well-known as Senator Hatch, but he was
interested in this cause and so they sent him to take Carl Hatch's place.
He joined me at Des Moines on a Friday, as I recall. spoke in the morning
at Simpson College, a Methodist college in Indianola, twenty miles or
so south of Des Moines. We spoke at a joint luncheon of the Chamber of
Commerce, Rotary and other clubs in Des Moines at noon. The Governor of
Iowa was Bourke Hickenlooper, and he introduced us. The next year he was
elected to the Senate, where he became a very close associate of President
Then we spoke somewhere else in the afternoon, Drake University, I believe,
and in the evening at Iowa State University at Ames. From there on we
were on the circuit together.
HESS: Whit kind of an impression did Senator Truman make as a speaker?
JUDD: Well, this brings up an interesting story. He had a speech all
written out--and the first two or three times he pretty much read it.
He and I had talked a little over the phone before he
joined me and I told him the pattern that Carl Hatch and I had worked
out. Since the resolution was a Senate resolution, and dealt more specifically
with treaties which the Senate would have to approve, maybe the best thing
would be to have me speak first on why we had to have a world organization,
and then the Senator would follow with how to achieve it. President
Truman and his staff had prepared his speech along those lines. We usually
had about twenty minutes apiece for a forty minute appearance, a little
longer when we could expand it in evening meetings, and a little shorter
at luncheons. He's not a very dramatic speaker, either when he's reading
or when he's speaking ad lib. In private conversation the words just come
along, but not so well before an audience. He wasn't trained to be a speaker.
He was a businessman.
So, after about the third or fourth occasion, he always started his speech
with a story. I'd try to get them steamed up as to why we couldn't go
back to the isolationist pattern of the past. Then he'd get up and tell
this story. I bet he told it the last fifteen speeches we made together.
He said, "For me to make a speech following this stem-winder, Judd, always
makes me feel like the man
who went to the funeral of his wife and the undertaker told him he'd
have to ride to the
cemetery in the same car with his mother-in-law. He protested, but the
undertaker insisted there was no other place for him to ride." And then
Mr. Truman would always scratch his head and go on, "Well," the old fellow
said, "I can do it, but it sure is going to spoil the whole day
That story always went over with a bang and gave him a good entree. He
always had his facts well thought out and assembled, but he had no oratorical
gifts. It was straight-forward, declarative sentences, factual. After
he got them with this introduction he was very convincing. We enjoyed
that trip--I did--very greatly and I have reason to believe he did too.
In several places in those days they weren't as thoughtful about accommodations
as they generally are now. For example, I remember in the Cornhusker Hotel
in Lincoln, Nebraska, they gave us the nearest they had, I guess, to a
Presidential suite. We had twin beds in the same room. Every night on
the road he'd call up Bess. I couldn't avoid hearing him talk to her over
the telephone because I just happened to be in the same room. He never
was embarrassed, and I have the greatest admiration for the obvious devotion
and affection and trust that he had for his wife. They were a great pair.
It was certainly a most happy and successful marriage. You find out what
a fellow is like down deep, when you hear him talking to his own wife
about his family or whatever. He's not a man with inhibitions. If he felt
indignant about something he'd let you have it. He'd let her have it too,
I suppose, if he felt that way.
We would talk one place in the morning or at noon and talk at another
place that evening. We drove, for example, from Topeka, Kansas over to
Emporia where we were to be that night; and the next day, in the morning,
we drove from Emporia to Wichita where we were to be at noon and then
to Salina, Kansas in the afternoon. We visited a prison camp there with
a thousand or so Nazi prisoners that we had captured from [Field Marshal
Erwin] Rommel in North Africa. Mr. Truman was very interested as was I
in seeing those prisoners from across the fence. We couldn't talk to them
but the spectacle of them and us, persons of the same race and culture
and so on, so bitterly opposed to each other because of their having been
taken over by the fellow Hitler, made one think.
There's a story here I perhaps ought to put on the record. We were in
Omaha one night and the next day a Sunday, we were to be in Grand Island
and Hastings, Nebraska. They're cities fifty
and seventy-five miles west of my family home at Rising City, Nebraska,
which is seventy-five miles west of Omaha. We spent Saturday night in
Omaha and I asked him if he would object to having Sunday dinner, good
fried chicken or something of that sort, at my country home where my father
was still living. He said he'd be delighted. So, we drove there and had
a good home-cooked dinner at noon with homemade ice cream and so on. He
just loved it.
Because my father had been born in northwest Missouri, only the second
county away from Jackson County where Kansas City is, and lived there
until he was a teenager, he and Mr. Truman had some things in common and
they talked in a homespun way. I remember at the end of it, my father,
who was a strong Republican, and had been a great supporter of George
Norris in Republican politics in Nebraska, was very much impressed with
Truman and in his direct way he said to me, "Well whatever his views are
politically, I would trust him with my pocketbook." That was the finest
compliment my father, a pioneer out on the frontier, could pay; he would
trust Mr. Truman with his pocketbook.
After Hastings and Grand Island that afternoon and evening, we were to
speak in Kansas City the
next noon, Monday. Lo and behold, the Kansas City people objected to
Mr. Truman's speaking there: The Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary, Kiwanis
and perhaps Lions clubs wouldn't organize a luncheon if Mr. Truman was
to speak at it, even though it was his home town--or Independence is,
right outside it. The reason was this: it was right after they had had
a terrible political fight in Kansas City in which reform forces had rooted
out the Pendergast machine. That had been a pretty tough, rough machine,
such as city machines were for many, many decades in America; in New York,
Boston, Chicago, and so on. Well, Mr. Truman had been appointed judge--it
wasn't really a judicial job, it was a kind of county executive for Jackson
County--largely at the behest of the Pendergast machine. It had put Harry
Truman in to give itself respectability because he was a man who could
do it. I don't think anybody ever qu