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Perry Laukhuff Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Perry Laukhuff

Vice consul, Windsor Ontario, 1937, Milan, Italy, 1938-39; third secretary, American Embassy, Berlin, 1940-41; officer, Department of State, 1942-43; third secretary and second secretary, American Legation, Stockholm, 1944; staff, U.S. Political Adviser on German Affairs S.H.A.E.F., 1945; secretary of mission with U.S. Political Adviser for Germany, Berlin, 1945-49; director, Office of German Political Affairs, Department of State, 1949-52; special assistant to director, Bureau of German Affairs, Department of State, 1952.

Norwalk, Connecticut
July 23, 1974
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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



Oral History Interview with
Perry Laukhuff

Norwalk, Connecticut
July 23, 1974
by Richard D. McKinzie

 

[1]

MCKINZIE: Mr. Laukhuff, a lot of people are interested in knowing why people went into Government service in the first place. It appears from your credentials that you might have been headed for something academic.

LAUKHUFF: Well yes, it appears that way, but it wasn't necessarily that way. I was interested in the Foreign Service from, well, sometime during my college career and that was especially reinforced when I did my graduate work. I had international law under George Grafton Wilson

 

[2]

at Harvard and he had prepared a lot of people for the Foreign Service and he was always talking about it and telling about it and my interest very definitely began to turn to that direction.

But I got out of -- I never finished my Ph.D. but I got out of my graduate work right at the time of the depression and I had to have a job, and I had originally thought of an academic career as a possibility, so that's where I went. At that moment a post opened up at Sweet Briar College and I went there and took it and was there for six years.

Then in '36 the Foreign Service exams opened up again for the first time after the depression; they didn't take anybody in during the depression, so I seized the opportunity to take the exams and get in.

I had some encouragement at the time from various people. The uncle of one of my students was Judge Walton Moore who was then counselor

 

[3]

to the State Department and took quite an interest in me, and Stanley Hornbeck, who was later an ambassador, but then the expert in Far Eastern affairs, with whom I was acquainted for various reason, and he encouraged me to go ahead. And so I took the exams and got in, and in a way this was a sort of pursuing what had been my original intention anyway.

MCKINZIE: How would you describe yourself in those days? Did you have an outlook on international events, would you describe yourself as a Wilsonian or...

LAUKHUFF: Oh, yes, very much so, which you've perhaps guessed from some of my background. That's exactly what I would have described myself as, and it often amuses me, of course, as I get older (this has happened time and again to people); I started out thinking of myself as a Wilsonian liberal, and I still think of myself that way,

 

[4]

but what was a Wilsonian liberal has become something of a conservative now!

But that was my definite slant, a bit starry-eyed I would say -- you know, my knowledge of foreign affairs was purely academic and hypothetical and I was starry-eyed and idealistic, and hoping that the world was a lot better than a lot of people seemed to think it was.

So, that was the angle from which I approached the thing. I certainly gradually got brought down to earth in the course of my experiences because of an awful lot of hard facts in foreign affairs.

MCKINZIE: Might I get you to talk about your experiences in some more detail beginning with your assignment in Berlin in 1940 and 1941.

LAUKHUFF: Yes, I went up there from Milan. Up to that time my experience had been wholly on the consular side of things, and I was very happy to be there (in Berlin). I had an interest in Germany

 

[5]

which I suppose was both semi-academic and emotional if you like, or sentimental, simply because my -- well, not simply because -- but my grandparents were born in Germany and I found it an interesting country. I had only been there once before I entered the Foreign Service, and so I had expressed an interest -- in fact when we got through with our Foreign Service Institute training we had a chance to express desires as to what kind of post we wanted, and I said Germany or a neighboring country, and of course, what I got was Italy, which was neighboring enough and closely enough tied with Germany and that was very, very interesting from that point of view.

But I was delighted to be able to go to Germany. I looked upon it, my assignment there, with some foreboding because I think it was perfectly clear to most of us where the world

 

[6]

was headed at that time. In fact, most of us were, I think, most of us in the Foreign Service who were concerned at all with political affairs, were just terribly impatient with the slow progress of public opinion in this country toward what eventually became our involvement in a war, because we saw the thing with great clarity and thought it was inevitable that we had to play our part.

Well, anyway, I went there and welcomed the chance to be there. My first work there was (although to be sure it had nothing to do with Germany exactly) it was in the foreign representation section of the Embassy that handled the affairs of the British, the French, and the other allied countries whose representatives had been driven out of Germany, and it involved tremendous correspondence. We were in charge of administering funds for the relief of the nationals of those countries. We were responsible for inspecting

 

[7]

the civilian internment camps. I had to go every three months to a civilian internment camp down in Bavaria where there were, well, at the beginning, I suppose, several thousand, I don't remember the exact figure anymore, nationals of all these countries, including Poles and Norwegians and all sorts of people, and inspect the camp and this was a terribly depressing experience to me. I'd never been involved in anything like this before and to see the conditions under which they were held, not that there was any outright cruelty, the camp was run by the army theoretically, actually the Gestapo exercised a good deal of control over it. Then I'd go back to Berlin and fight with the Foreign Office for the next three months to try to improve certain conditions there, and we did gradually succeed in...

MCKINZIE: Were there Jews there, as you recall...

 

[8]

LAUKHUFF: There may well have been; I have no memory of that particular aspect of the problem. There must have been some, it seems to me, but I have no recollection of any particular problem in that area in that camp. The Jewish policy of Germany was terribly starkly etched on our minds, because we saw it on every hand.

My secretary in the Embassy was a German woman who was a Jewess and whose bitterness and despair day-by-day grew deeper and were terribly, you know, sad. She disappeared during the war (after we left). I'm sure she and her husband were taken off to be liquidated. No one ever knew what happened to them. I think without exception, at the Embassy, we were tremendously anti-Germany and pro-Allied, but of course, we didn't show that in our official dealings so much.

MCKINZIE: Was it difficult to deal with Germans?

 

[9]

LAUKHUFF: Yes, quite. Well, one would have to say yes and no. It was very hard to have any contacts with the ordinary run of people. They were afraid to have any contacts with us, or they were so indoctrinated with Nazi doctrine that they really disliked us, like, for example, my neighbor across the hall in my apartment house who would scarcely greet me. I could hardly force him to greet me except with a little "Heil Hitler," which I of course never responded to in kind. I always said, "Good morning."

But as far as officials went, there were many officials who really, we felt, were very friendly toward us, underneath, but they didn't dare show that too much. And the Foreign Office was not bad to deal with. Still I'm talking about 1940, even well into '41, but they weren't really in control of things, that was the trouble. We would deal with the Foreign Office, and they would go to the Army and the

 

[10]

Army would be helpless because they couldn't get the Gestapo to cooperate with us in regard to the camps.

Now, I'm speaking in a very limited sense, because my contacts were all on this side of things, through my whole, well, yes, through that whole period of my assignment in Berlin I didn't deal with anything but foreign representation matters.

We had allied real estate all over Europe from Norway to Greece, to try to handle by mail and see that there were caretakers and the property was taken care of and the bills were paid and all that sort of thing, and it was a hopeless job; we had a very small staff to deal with this. And we couldn't go to these places and do it ourselves, we had to just do it through the Foreign Office and through correspondence, but this was the very narrow focus of my interest. I was there as an observer, in a sense.

 

[11]

I don't know what, how far you want to go into anecdotes that might shed some light on the feelings and emotions of the people at that time, whether you want to bother with that or not. I mean one amusing, but still sort of revealing incident, was at the end of the war in France. The Germans suddenly began to decorate the Unterden Linden, and the word quickly got around that they were going to have a victory parade after the fall of Paris. This was 1940. And so they put banners up everywhere, they all but put them on our Embassy there at the Brandenburg Gate, and they put loudspeakers up and they erected reviewing stands and so forth. And so the great day came and this victory parade went right past us and the Goebbels gave a speech right out in the platz in front of us and we all were at the windows, and it was a bitter, bitter, bitter day for us, you know, we felt extremely

 

[12]

bitter.

It's very hard to recapture that now, even for me, the sense of defeat. Never hopelessness, but still it was very hard in those days to have any hope. We weren't in the war, the Allies were obviously reeling and so we were extraordinarily glum that day as we watched this parade and all the saluting and the heils and the flowers tossed to the troops and all this business. Any other time it would have been a very picturesque and memorable event. Well, it was memorable, but it didn't seem very picturesque.

Well, at any rate, when it was over the parade went by and I wanted to get out of there and get home, so I went down and got in my car in the courtyard behind the Embassy and went charging out of the side gate into -- I can't remember the name of the street now at the side of the Embassy -- and here was the parade. It had

 

[13]

gone around the block and was coming back, just to go back to its starting point -- it wasn't supposed to be a parade any longer. And I got out into the street before I realized what was happening and I had half of the army behind me and half of it in front of me, and I was right in it. And then there were, of course, hundreds of thousands of people on the streets and they had started to disperse but suddenly they all flowed back together again to watch them go back, and I was trapped in the parade. And I went down the Charlottenburger Chaussee, let us say to the Victory Column, in this parade, with people yelling on both sides and throwing roses in my car. I never felt more out of place and I thought, "What if an American photographer gets a picture of this?"

Well, at any rate, a policeman ordered me to get out, but there was no way to get out. So I had to go on about a mile before I was

 

[14]

able to extricate myself. This I found amusing, but the day itself left a bitter taste that none of us ever forgot.

I was there in December 1941, and, in fact, I was the duty officer at the Embassy on the night Pearl Harbor was attacked and we got the news. I remember telephoning various people, George Kennan and various people at the Embassy, at their homes, to tell them about it, so we knew that the axe would fall very, very shortly after that, or felt certain that it would, and indeed it did within a few days, on the 11th.. We saw Hitler go over to the Reichstag and that was -- the declaration of war came immediately, and we then were told to be ready to be taken away on a Saturday, I guess it was, Pearl Harbor was on a Sunday and the following Saturday we were able to assemble at the Embassy with our luggage, and nobody knew where we were going to go or what they were going to do with us.

 

[15]

There was a good deal of anxiety, but we all assembled and were taken away, put in a train with our luggage -- we had mountains of luggage which the Germans hadn't somehow quite foreseen and they were terribly annoyed with it, because it was holding up the schedule of the train's departure, but they loaded it all on and off we went into the night not knowing where we were going.

We ended up, of course, at Bad Nauheim, outside Frankfurt, and had to be kept on the train, living on the train for another three or four days, I don't remember exactly, because the hotel was not quite prepared for us. This all happened so suddenly that they weren't ready.

And then we were held at this hotel in Bad Nauheim from December until May, when we were exchanged against the Germans held in this country, and it was a time of -- it was an interesting period. We were about a hundred

 

[16]

people, a little more, because there were families, and there were some journalists, American journalists with us, interned with us, and we of course, had all sorts of problems with morale and misbehavior and one thing and another, and we set up a little office there, headed by George Kennan, and we exchanged notes in the best diplomatic fashion with the German Foreign Office about things, carrying on a little diplomatic mission right there. And we were not mistreated in any any way, but we were deprived of our freedom and the food was very, very poor. Well, it was poor in comparison with what we had been used to in Berlin where we could import things weekly from Denmark and that sort of thing. And some people suffered fairly severely, physically, from it.

MCKINZIE: Were you given any outside liberty?

LAUKHUFF: No. Well, at first we were taken across

 

[17]

the street each morning to walk for an hour in the Trinkhalle, which was, of course, a watering place in Bad Nauheim and they had these elaborate places where you go to drink the waters, and everybody else was kept out and we were allowed to walk there under guard. That didn't last very long, I don't know why, and then for quite a long time we were not allowed out at all, except in the garden of the hotel which was about a quarter of the size of this yard [which you see from this porch], and a very small space indeed, or to church on Sundays. I was not religious in those days and I never went to church; some of them went to church, not because they were religious but to get out of the hotel.

At any rate, in the spring, then, we were taken on little walks up and down the banks of the little stream which flowed behind the hotel and which, curiously enough, bore the name Usa;

 

[18]

this brought its amusements too. Because of the exuberance of spring and the deprivation of diet, some of our people dug some dandelions along the walks, along the banks of the stream. Well, this brought us strong protest from the German Foreign Office that we were destroying public property!

One of the journalists also fashioned a kite and flew it on one of these occasions and this brought a real threat from the German Foreign Office because they said we were perhaps signaling to the enemy airplanes, and this was the childish, but I suppose inevitable atmosphere of suspicion in which we lived and they functioned, and so we really didn't have much freedom.

MCKINZIE: While you were interned, did you have any apprehension for your own safety and did you have any knowledge of how the war was going?

 

[19]

LAUKHUFF: On the first question, to the best of my recollection I would say no, no real apprehension, great anxiety as to when we would ever get out or under what conditions or how conditions might deteriorate, all that sort of thing, but I don't think any of us ever had any real anxiety about our personal fate. As to how the war was going, a variety of answers could be given to that.

We, of course, had access to nothing but German, some German, newspapers. Now, most of us, practically all of us, were pretty adept at reading German newspapers by that time. We were journalists or diplomats and we had been doing that right along, and we knew pretty well how to interpret things, or to read between the lines, and we knew, of course, what a very distorted and propaganda type of news we were getting.

 

[20]

That's really the only outside information we had except that sometime during this period a "glee club" began to practice among us. I was not ever involved in this, but some of the journalists and a few other people, formed a small group which would withdraw to a room to "practice."

Well, it finally leaked out that actually one of the correspondents had smuggled in a small radio and they were listening to the BBC broadcasts, and then the word would filter out through the rest of us gradually, but they had to be careful so that the Germans wouldn't find this out, because they would have torn the place apart.

This, however, I have to confess, didn't do much to lighten the gloom, because that was a terribly bad period of the war, and there really was no good news. But at any rate, we did get something of the British view of things

 

[21]

(it was a small radio and it didn't always function), and receive the broadcasts and so forth.

But other than that we were totally cut off, and we really didn't even know, except in very small detail and at very rare intervals, whether anything was moving forward toward our release. The Swiss were in charge of our affairs and I think a member of the Swiss legation from Berlin came down once or twice, of course never met with all of us, they met with Mr. Leland Morris, who was our Charge' d'Affaires then and George Kennan who was the first secretary (and really Mr. Morris, I think, was highly depressed by this whole thing and sort of withdrew upon himself both physically and emotionally and kept to his room so that George Kennan really took over the effective running of the group).

But we only knew that negotiations were going

 

[22]

forward through the Swiss between the Germans and the Americans, but, you know, had no reason to be hopeful about it, we just didn't know any of the details. So it came as a surprise, a very happy one, when we were told in May that negotiations had been completed and we were to be exchanged. I don't remember exactly how long in advance we learned that.

So, we packed up and we were forced to (I think this was deliberate, but maybe one tended to judge the Germans with great harshness in those days, and it may have been due to all sorts of things, shortage of transport, shortage of gasoline, I don't know what) anyway we had to walk through the streets carrying our luggage all the way from the hotel to the station, which was a quite a long distance, with people looking at us. We thought that the Germans put us on as a show, really. Whether they did or not I don't know; they did take our trunks in

 

[23]

trucks.

And we were loaded on this train and again went off into the night not knowing where we were going exactly, at least I didn't; if George Kennan knew he didn't ever tell. And we went across France, we went around Paris, we did not go through Paris. Several little incidents which you may have been told about by other people, but which were revealing, happened enroute.

Incidentally, there was only one sleeping car, for the women, the rest of us had to sit up. No, that was on the train in Spain; on this train I think we did have sleeping cars.

MCKINZIE: The group, I take it, was mostly men?

LAUKHUFF: Well, no, some of them had been but we had a few teenage children, only two or three I think, but we had quite a few wives and female secretaries of the Embassy and so forth.

 

[24]

Well, so, once going through the fields in France somewhere in mid-France, I was looking out the window along with some others, and out of the crop, whatever it was, wheat or whatever, suddenly rose a man, a peasant, and waved an American flag at us. Word had gone ahead about this train. This was a curious thing how word had traveled ahead and he was waiting for us, to show his sympathies. Of course, he might have suffered very severely I should think for that. But apparently he was not caught.

Another time the French crew of a train coming in the other direction had passed us, leaned out and given the victory signal, which we took as a sympathetic gesture toward us; conceivably it might not have been, but that was the way it was understood at the time.

We were taken as far as Biarritz where we were unloaded and put up in the Palace Hotel, I guess it was, and in luxurious surroundings,

 

[25]

crystal chandeliers and marble columns and all sorts of things, and we had a bowl of the thinnest kind of soup and a piece of terrible bread and that's about all we had for supper there in this great dining room.

We were to leave the next morning and, at about 5 o'clock in the morning, we were all awakened by a tremendous sound of battle all around us, airplanes, machineguns chattering all up and down the beach (the hotel was right on the beach) and smoke pouring over everything, artillery going off.

Well, at first we thought, you know, the Allies had landed, but it was a German exercise at repelling invasion, and our military people, attaches, were convinced they did it just to show us how ready they were and so forth and so on. And this went on, this was still going on when we were taken through the streets to the station at about 8 o'clock or so, just a tremendous battle

 

[26]

raging. And we found that rather amusing and interesting after our first alarm.

MCKINZIE: But they asked you to walk through the streets again, carrying your luggage.

LAUKHUFF: Yes, yes. So then we were taken just a short distance to the border, Spanish border, and had to walk across the border and get on a Spanish train that was provided, which did have only one sleeping car for the women and children, and the rest sat up. It was a first-class train and the food was beautiful on it. Oh my, how we appreciated that. All that day and through the night (and we didn't get to Lisbon until the next afternoon sometime) we were locked in the train, we could not get out any place, all across Spain until we got into Portugal.

MCKINZIE: There were no Germans with you?

LAUKHUFF: No Germans, no. There were Spanish guards

 

[27]

on the train. No, the Germans left us at the border and I dare say in spite of what I said earlier about feeling no anxiety, we really all did heave a kind of involuntary sigh of relief.

MCKINZIE: Did the State Department give you leave when you got back?

LAUKHUFF: Well, they tried not to give me any, to tell the truth; when I got to Lisbon I found that I was assigned to Lisbon to stay there, not come home, and I protested. I think I was not the only case of the sort. They heeded my protest and brought me home and gave me home leave. I don't remember what I got, certainly a month, and I needed it, I was in very -- I was very nervous and rundown and thin and it took me sometime to get my equilibrium back, you know, although after all it hadn't been all that bad an experience. It made us realize what it would be to really be a prisoner of war or civilian

 

[28]

internee, or far worse, in a Jewish internment camp, or anything of that sort. If we suffered under this, mentally and physically, what other people went through is almost unimaginable, because we were so much better treated, and in so little real danger.

We all realized that we were dealing with a regime which really had no respect for tradition, or custom or law and, therefore, there was always the outside chance that, you know, anything could happen to us, I suppose. I suppose we realized that.

But it's rather interesting and sad to see the deterioration that went on in international law, from the time of World War I through this world war. Traditionally, of course, Embassies were sacrosanct, and were exchanged immediately with full honors and no restrictions on their freedom at all, sent out in style. I don't remember the British and French ambassadors, of

 

[29]

course, I wasn't there when they left Germany, I hadn't come yet, but I think they went out with maybe 48 hours delay, something like that.. Then the Dutch and Belgians, I've forgotten exactly, but I think it was a couple of weeks that they were held up, and the Russians, when their turn came, they took five weeks to arrange for them to get out, so we knew that things were getting progressively worse, and in our case it was five months, and there were worse cases where people were held longer. The British ambassador to Belgium, who was captured in Belgium, Sir Lancelot Oliphant, wrote a book about his experiences later, which I have in my library.

He was held for over two years, we had the care of him, that was one of our chores. And we visited him at his various places of internment, poor man, he was horribly lonely. He was an elderly man who had just married for the first time about five weeks before he was captured and

 

[30]

who was in a dither about everything, he saw his life slipping away from him. He was a very unhappy person, but an interesting man. He wrote daily to his wife who was in England and among the ridiculous and unpleasant chores which fell to my lot was to censor his mail. He sent his mail through the American pouch by arrangement with the Germans, but only on condition that we would read it (he wasn't the only case, there were others too) that we would read it to make sure that there was no military or other information of any sort.

Well, this, I felt, this was extremely repugnant to me to read this man's letters to his wife. I'm frank to say I made a pretense of it at the beginning and then I just let it go. I think the man had no access to military information, and was not sending any anyway, and I was just simply not about to read his extremely private correspondence with his wife. We also

 

[31]

had to censor the mail of the -- when the French left they left behind a French national as caretaker of their Embassy across the street from us in Berlin, a Monsieur Fraysse. Though I forget so many things, as I told you, I remember his name through all these years, and he was from, oh, I don't know, Auvergne or someplace in France with which I had no personal acquaintance, and wrote his letters in the dialect of some Southern province. It was incredibly difficult, couldn't make head or tails of it. Whether he was passing on information I don't know, but he gave his wife minute instructions about everything to do with his farm; when it should be fertilized, when the trees should be pruned, everything. For all I knew there could be all sorts of code words in there, but at any rate we had to send his mail off too.

MCKINZIE: When you got back then to Washington, got

 

[32]

a little leave, you were assigned to Portugal. I would have imagined that they would have wanted you to stay in German affairs through the war.

LAUKHUFF: Ha, you don't know the State Department! The State Department never, never has operated on quite that logical a basis. And anyway, I don't mean to be unfair about it, but it may be that they saw this as a temporary assignment or perhaps -- I don't remember what they had in mind if I ever knew -- or perhaps reporting on Germany from within Portugal as I did later in Sweden. But at any rate, they did bring me back and let me have some vacation, and then I was assigned to the Department itself to handle the German desk, which was not a very meaningful desk at that point, obviously, but it brought me into the Division of European Affairs and into contact with all that was going on in that whole area.

 

[33]

MCKINZIE: Well, when you were on the German desk were there plans, by say 1943, for dealing with Germany in the future? There was a lot of postwar planning...

LAUKHUFF: Yes, and we weren't very much involved in it. I say this very flatly, and my memory of details of that period really is very -- quite vague at this point, but I have no memory of feeling that I was in the middle of planning. I do think I got involved in some meetings perhaps, oh, I seem to remember a meeting with Isaiah Bowman who was one of the planners. Perhaps there were other meetings, but I was relatively young still and my post was certainly a relatively minor one. I was right at the bottom of the hierarchy in the Division of European Affairs. I had good relations and good access to the Chief of the Division, Jack Hickerson, but I was not really involved in planning.

 

[34]

If there was planning going on it was going on under the White House’s aegis, in my opinion, chiefly, rather than the State Department's, and I had no sense that any really important plans were being laid, and I would just have to put it that way. I can't throw any light on what was going forward in the way of planning.

In hindsight, with the benefit of memory only, and with such memories as I have, my impression would be that it was pretty ragged, and floating pretty high up in the air.

Well, of course, nobody could foresee exactly how things were going and they certainly weren't going well at that time, though everyone had, I think, pretty supreme confidence about the ultimate outcome, but exactly how the ultimate outcome would turn out, or how it would come, in what circumstances, whether we would be dealing with a German government or a collapsed Germany, none of that could be foreseen.

 

[35]

I'm afraid a good deal was improvised. I remember at the time, and I can no longer give you a date, or exact circumstances, but sometime when Italian affairs seemed to be propitious for some kind of initiative, I got the idea of some kind of a joint propaganda appeal by [Franklin] Roosevelt and [Winston] Churchill. How I got involved, don't ask me, because this was Italy and not Germany, except indirectly, but at any rate, I wrote up a statement which I thought would be of the sort that they ought to launch to the Italian people at that juncture, and I took it to Jack Hickerson and to the man above him, [James C.] Dunn. And they thought very well of it and took it to the White House and really submitted it to the President, but he never picked it up. Of course, I think we all had the feeling of what is perfectly clear historically to everybody, that Roosevelt did not lean heavily on the State Department. And

 

[36]

we had a feeling often that we were spinning the wheels and not really affecting the course of events.

MCKINZIE: He didn't lean on the State Department, and he didn't want the State Department really to rock his boat either. Did you sense that?

LAUKHUFF: Yes, I did, I think everybody did. Incidentally, if we may skip ahead, of course when we came to the Truman-Acheson relationship there was a totally different sense of our place in the scheme of things. Whatever one might say of the Foreign Service, its morale was not too high when Mr. Hull was Secretary of State, with Hopkins, and so forth, but -- so, you often had the feeling that no matter how hard you tried, what you proposed would probably not be very seriously considered at the White House, if it ever got to the White House.

MCKINZIE: Why Stockholm after the German desk?

 

[37]

LAUKHUFF: Well, I was sent there specifically to report on Germany. It was, after all, a listening post, a window inside Germany, almost, because it was surrounded by Norway and Finland. I mean you were there, you know, it was a center of intrigue and of visitors. Of course, the Swedes were back and forth to Germany and that sort of thing. So, well, I guess it did come as something of a surprise to me. I have no recollection of ever trying to arrange this or having any post in mind particularly, but as a matter of fact during that year and a half period at least two other abortive assignments were given to me, neither one of which I welcomed, frankly, and both of which I fought, frankly, and both of which I was successful in evading. One was to open a consulate in Iskenderun in Turkey, I don't know why, and the other was to open a consulate in Luanda, in Portuguese Angola.

 

[38]

Well, these were of peripheral importance, I don't say they didn't have their own importance, but they were pretty far divorced from any direct contact with Germany, and in both cases, for one reason or another, the assignments were cancelled and I was kept on with the Department, and then suddenly this Stockholm thing opened up and I was very pleased at that because I thought it to be interesting and it was as close to Germany as I could get and so I went there, quite a place to get to in those days.

At that point this was my first occasion to fly, I had never flown until that moment. I flew across the Atlantic, and with many adventures, and got to England and was told to simply hold myself in readiness, that I would be told when and where to go when the time came. And so at a given point I was handed tickets to St. Andrews in Scotland and went up there by train and stayed

 

[39]

at a hotel there, and was told to hold myself in readiness, that the British would let me know when I was to go to Stockholm.

And so one night a British WAC, or an equivalent thereof, came to get me in a jeep of sorts, and had a terrible time getting it started, I remember. And she said, "Don't worry, I think the plane will do better than this." She took me out to Lukars Airfield, where I was bundled up in all sorts of flying equipment, a warm flying suit (this was in the middle of January '44), and bundled me up in all sorts of stuff and a Mae West life jacket put on me. I was given instructions about the whistle that hung from it to blow it if we came down in the waters of the North Sea, and a red flare that I could set off, and one thing and another. I was taken onto the plane and fastened into my seat, with an oxygen mask over my face, the windows were blacked out,

 

[40]

it was the only seat in the plane, all of the rest had been removed, and the crew said, "We'll see you later," and departed.

And I never saw a human face thereafter until we landed in Stockholm six hours later, and it was extremely cold. It was an old "Dakota" plane. This was some sort of clandestine operation, I never knew the story behind it, never did know who really was running it. They were Americans, the crew were Americans.

At any rate we had to go very far north in order to cross Norway (which was German-occupied) at the narrowest point, so we were far above the Arctic Circle, and it made the trip a rather long one, but it was uneventful. We were a sitting duck if any German plane had risen to challenge us, but they didn't, and we got there, so there I was.

And this was an interesting period, but not all that productive, frankly. I was not

 

[41]

engaged in clandestine operations of any sort, I was not with the CIA. I did not, you know, have secret meetings with Germans, except in one case, through the intermediary of a Norwegian employee of the legation, a very capable person about whom I always felt some reserve. I never felt I knew him, I don't know precisely what game, if any, he was playing, or whether he was wholly aboveboard; he was reputed to be a loyal Norwegian, and as far as I know, he was.

But at any rate, I never quite let myself go with him but he arranged for me to meet somebody and I would just have to simply confess that though I should remember this person, he was a young German, I think in the German Foreign Office, the memory is very dim now. I remember spending an evening with him, in which we sort of verbally sparred at some distance across the room and it all came to absolutely nothing. Whether he ever had anything definite in mind or

 

[42]

was just sounding me out, which is certainly all I was doing, I don't know. Anyway, nothing came of it.

There was very little of that so far as I was concerned; there was a good deal of that going on by other people in the Embassy who did not, were not -- with whom I had no active connections. Most of my time was just spent picking up some information as one could from the newspapers, and particularly the German press. We got a vast array of German papers of all sorts which I and some assistants tried to cull, any direct or very indirect, usually indirect, information, statistics, and such political information as one could pick up and interpret. Of course, rumors were a dime a dozen in Stockholm. We didn't put too much credence in most of them, and I'm sure the State Department didn't either.

So, as I look back on it, I feel it was

 

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somehow not a very profitable period. Oh, profitable to me maybe, but not to the State Department or the war effort. I don't know that anything very sensational ever came out of the Embassy there.

MCKINZIE: Were listening post assignments generally considered to be boring assignments?

LAUKHUFF: Oh, I don't think that I can give you any answer. I don't have any recollection of how they might have generally been considered. No, I don't think so. Sweden was a country with which I fell in love, I was happy to be there even though at that time we were restricted, we couldn't go to many parts of Sweden, for military reasons, but no, it wasn't boring, it was somewhat exciting because Sweden's position was quite insecure and one didn't know what might happen. I remember this as activity which was really of no political significance

 

[44]

of any sort or even -- no significance in regard to the State Department. I remember on D-Day, the day of the Allied landings in Europe, there was a special service of intercession at the Anglican Church in Stockholm which I attended and all of us went to, and the British -- yes the British people were there -- and, shortly after it began, a slight figure came down the middle aisle, very quietly, modestly, and went into a very front pew. It was the Crown Princess Louise of Sweden, later the Queen, who was British-born of course, and who just couldn't refrain from showing her concern and sentiments that way, but she did it very quietly with no fanfare.

So, after all, it was only a year that I was there, exactly a year. I'm sorry, it's a pretty thin story of Stockholm, but I really-it was an interesting period, we had a fine group there, and we had a fine chief, Herschel Johnson,

 

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who was the Ambassador there at that time, the "Minister" at that time he was called, was a very fine chief, but he didn't have much to do with my work, I was left pretty much on my own.

MCKINZIE: When you were assigned to SHAPE, did you feel you had as much knowledge about Germany as you could or should have had?

LAUKHUFF: Well, I didn't know too much of what had been going on back home, I certainly had not been part of any planning such as had gone on at home, but I felt, you know, I felt it was reasonable and logical and that I was competent to take part in whatever was about to be unrolled, and I was very, very happy about this because this was going to take me right into the center of things, I thought, as indeed it did.

So, I flew out of Stockholm, the same way I came in, only under worse circumstances. I mean

 

[46]

in the sense that I was given no equipment this time. It was again in the middle of January, bitter cold, and I sat up