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MIlton Katz Oral History Interview


Oral History Interview with
Milton Katz

United States special representative in Europe with rank of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, 1950-51; Chief U.S. delegation, Economic Commission for Europe, 1950-51; Chairman, Defense Financial and Economic Committee, North Atlantic Treaty, 1950-51.

Cambridge, Massachusetts
July 25, 1975
By Richard D. McKinzie

See also Milton Katz Papers

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Appendix | 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 November, 1978
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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


Oral History Interview with
Milton Katz


Cambridge, Massachusetts
July 25, 1975
By Richard D. McKinzie

MCKINZIE: Ambassador Katz, I understand that you would like to have included in your oral history an offprint of an article which you wrote for the Foreign Service Journal on the 20th anniversary of the Marshall plan [See Appendix] .

KATZ: I would indeed, and let me explain why. The editors of the Foreign Service Journal, in presenting this article along with shorter pieces by Paul Hoffman and Averell Harriman, stated to their readers that they recommended that my article be classified as a work of


reference and stowed away for quick access. "It will always remain," they said, "a standard treatise on the Marshall plan."

This is relatively short, but I put a great deal of thought into it, because I was anxious to bring out something that has never been adequately understood and is even less understood today than it was before. There is a wide-spread tendency to treat the Marshall plan as part of "the foreign aid program," as if it were just one more piece of the foreign aid program.

I think this is erroneous, because the Marshall plan was a great many additional things. In particular, I want to show how much of the striking success of the Marshall plan can be traced to the way in which the Marshall plan was enacted under the brilliant leadership of President Truman.


I also want to stress how much of its success is attributable to the rather remarkable organization which it represented and the theory of that organization. These things, in my opinion, are still hardly understood in the State Department or in any of the foreign aid agencies. They think that the relative success of the Marshall plan was due to some special luck or a concatenation of circumstances of the time. I don't think so. I think it was due to the factors I've mentioned as well as the special quality of the personnel from top to bottom who manned the Marshall plan organization when it was in force.

So, let me hand you an offprint of that article. I'll come back to a discussion of some of those features in this oral history.

Well, when you and your colleague first


wrote to me, and again after you phoned me this time, I did do some thinking about Mr. Truman and his administration, not only in relation to the part of it I saw as a public servant under him, but in relation to my reflections about him in my capacity as an American citizen.

I think of Mr. Truman's administration in two parts: the internal and the external. Internally, it has always seemed to me essential to put Harry Truman's Fair Deal in a historical context that goes back to the regulatory movements -- the movements for control of the American economy -- that have their roots in the 1870s and the 1880s. A little bit more recently than that, it goes back to a series of programs whose very names, I think, are significant in relation to the name Harry Truman chose for his internal program -- the Fair Deal.


You have Theodore Roosevelt's "Square Deal." That's followed by Woodrow Wilson's "New Freedom." In the course of time, that's followed by Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal." Then you come to Harry Truman's "Fair Deal." Lyndon Johnson, who in a different way was in that tradition, had "the Great Society." And Jack Kennedy, before Lyndon Johnson, had "the New Frontier."

I think these names have more than a superficial resemblance. They represent the continuation of a trend in American political and social life which begins a decade or two after the Civil War. You will recall that the Granger movement arose in what was then the Middlewest, the Indiana-Ohio area, and that it represented the reaction of angry farmers to the big business of the day, the railroads and the oil companies.


It's no accident that the Interstate Commerce Act, which became law in 1887, and the Sherman Anti-Trust law, which became law in 1890, became law within three years of one another. To the modern lawyer, they are very different things. To the modern economist, one goes on a theory of enforcing competition and the other goes on a theory of regulating monopoly. If you go back to the time, both were the product of the same political movement. There were two forms of big business in those days, the railroads and the oil companies; they were playing footsy, and a political movement, of which the Granger movement was one illustration, developed in an effort to get control of both.

In 1894, you get the first income tax statute, subsequently held unconstitutional but eventually reinstated by the income tax amendment of 1913. There was a steady push to


take control, in behalf of American society, of the American economy, while at the same time preserving the structure and the values of private property and private initiative. Remember Woodrow Wilson's great speeches during his first term, the "New Freedom:" "Step by step" -- this is a rough paraphrase -- "we will make America over; step by step we will adjust these great processes to serve the interests of the American people." Roosevelt's "New Deal," Johnson's "Great Society" are expressions of the same approach.

Now, in Wilson's second term he got drawn into foreign policy, set out to "make the world safe for democracy." There is a corresponding foreign policy aspect of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson. It's interesting to note that the "Square Deal," the


first of these programs which I've mentioned, was launched in a Republican administration, Theodore Roosevelt's; Republican although a "Bullmoose" Republican; and much of what we're talking about may be taken as having been launched or re-launched at that point. It was in the New Deal that I cut my own eye teeth as a public servant. [Franklin] Roosevelt was my first President, so to speak. The Democratic Party, when Roosevelt ran for office in 1932, consisted, in terms of political force, of two components, the big city machines of the North and the old South. Those were the core of the Party. To that, Roosevelt added the following components: the labor movement, a large part of the farm movement, and something that I can only describe as the intellectual-professional community. In that respect, he was also repeating what Woodrow Wilson had done before in his day. And it was that


aggregation of the big city machines of the North, the old South, the labor group, the farm group, and the general intellectual group which represented the heart of Roosevelt's New Deal. In that connection, we must remember that, particularly with reference to his agricultural programs, Roosevelt pulled into his New Deal a great many people who prior to Roosevelt had called themselves Republicans, but who were Republicans out of Theodore Roosevelt's Bullmoose tradition.

Example: Harold Ickes, one of the prominent figures in Roosevelt's administration. Example: Henry Wallace, the head of the agricultural program. Example: Senator [George W.] Norris. Example: Senator La Follette. All of them rallied behind Roosevelt, either as parts of his actual administration or as major supporters in Congress. Much of the spiritual


and intellectual heart of the first part of the New Deal came from this group who had been described, if you will recall, by Senator George Moses -- who was a very different type of Republican -- as "the sons of the wild jackass." And they proudly called themselves the "sons of the wild jackass," and moved in with Roosevelt. This is a critically important thing to remember when you try to understand Harry Truman's Fair Deal and the whole domestic part of the Truman program.

On the foreign side, Harry Truman, to my mind, is the main architect of the postwar foreign policy of the United States as it has been until the last year or two, when changes are beginning to make themselves felt. From Truman on, there was an approach to foreign policy for a quarter of a century or more -- from 1945, let us say, till it turned with the opposition


to the Vietnam war -- around which there was a deeply held and durable national consensus, a consensus which served as a platform on which successive Presidents and administrations could freely pivot as they dealt with external situations. It was during the latter part of the Johnson administration that this consensus was shattered.

When that happened, not only Johnson -- who was, I think, more understanding of what had taken place than some of his appointees -- but a large number of the brilliant people who had come into the administration with Kennedy and stayed with Johnson, who had taken this platform for granted as if it were something God-given instead of a product of relatively recent American history which had to be understood and nurtured, looked down and were a little bit


like the fox or the coyote in Walt Disney cartoons. You know, the coyote is crossing between two mountains on a wire, and at one point he looks down and sees there's no longer any wire. For a little while he stays there in the air in the cartoon, and then he goes down. That's what happened when Mr. Johnson saw he had no longer any platform under him: "I'm not running for re-election." And ever since, there's been discussion about what happened to the consensus.

That consensus and the Truman pattern -- including the cold war, the containment policy, the development of policy after policy designed to inhibit, to curb, or to control the spread of communism and (on the affirmative side) to galvanize, revitalize, strengthen, rebuild, and enable parts of the free world to rebuild themselves -- has been the hallmark of our foreign policy since World War II. It was


carried on with Eisenhower, with Kennedy, with Johnson. That's the policy of which Harry Truman was the primary architect -- in the Truman Doctrine, in the Greek-Turkish plan, in the Marshall plan, and in NATO.

Now, my own direct experience as a public servant under Truman was on the foreign side, and it was essentially with the Marshall plan and with NATO, in my capacities first as Harriman's Deputy and then the U.S. Special Representative in Europe in charge of the Marshall plan and also as the chairman of the Finance and Economic Committee of NATO. Collaterally, I served concurrently as the U.S. Representative to the Economic Commission for Europe, a part of the United Nations structure. It's of these aspects of Truman's administration that I can speak most intimately and concretely. Part of it is covered by the


article which I've handed to you.

I got into the Truman administration in '48. I'd been in World War II, I'd come home in '46, I wanted to reestablish myself with my family and in my profession. I had just come to Harvard as a teacher in September '39; by the summer of '40 I was commuting to Washington; by the fall of '41 I had taken leave from Harvard. So, I'd had a very brief career as a teacher, and when I came back to Harvard in January of '46 I came back with the idea of building the next phase of my career here. With this end in view, I was going about my business when Secretary of State George Marshall came to Cambridge in June of '47 and made the famous address which eventually became the underpinning of the Marshall plan. I was in Harvard Yard, under the trees listening to him; I had very little sense of its


eventual significance, and still less did I have a notion that it was going to make any direct difference in my life. Thereafter, when the process began (which I've described in this article) I got drawn into it.

I refer in this article to the political process in the United States which underpinned the Marshall plan, and I take Dean Acheson's speech of May 8, 1947, in Cleveland, Mississippi, as a pre-beginning that ante-dated the great beginning in Secretary Marshall's Marshall Plan address at Harvard.

I go on to discuss the political process which originated with those addresses, and I point out this:

Sensitive alike to the need for external action and the need for internal understanding and support, President Truman exhibited the relationship between the mastery of politics and the mastery of high policy at its very best.

You know, quite different people like George Kennan and Hen