Oral History Interview with
Assistant to the Chairman of the War Production Board, 1942-44; Executive Assistant to the Personal Representative of the President, 1944-45; Personal Representative of the President to China, 1945-46; Special Assistant to the President, 1946; Special Representative of the Secretary of State to the Near East (with personal rank of ambassador) and United States Member of the Advisory Commission of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, 1951-53.
Edwin A. Locke
April 5, 1967
by J. R. Fuchs
[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. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
See also Edwin A. Locke Files
and Edwin A. Locke Papers
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 October 1967
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
Edwin A. Locke
April 5, 1967
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Locke, would you start with a brief sketch of your life, when and where you were born, your education, and your jobs leading up to your entrance into the Government?
LOCKE: I was born and brought up in Boston by a Yankee father and a Southern mother. I went to primary and secondary day schools in the Boston area, and then attended Phillips Exeter Academy, New Hampshire, for a year before going to Harvard from which I graduated in 1932 with a major in Germanic languages and literatures and an A.B. degree cum laude. I then went to work for the Chase National Bank in New York in a training class they had for training men
for service in their overseas branches. And in June of 1933 I was sent to the bank's Paris office where I remained for two and a half years, and then in the fall of 1935 to the London office for six months. In April 1936 I was transferred back to New York City where I worked in various departments of the bank until the war came along.
During 1940 I tried to get into the Naval Air Force, but the Navy decided that unless things got terribly desperate they could get along without an old man like me. I was 29 or 30 at the time. So I got myself a job in Washington in the Advisory Commission of the Council of National Defense, working for a friend of mine named Cliff Hill, who was an assistant, in fact the right hand man of Donald Nelson, then Director of Purchases.
FUCHS: Was this friend of yours in the Government
at the time?
LOCKE: Yes, he was, though on a temporary basis. He had been working for the Guaranty Trust Company in New York. We had certain friends in common and I had met him in that way.
FUCHS: You went in as a compensated employee?
LOCKE: No. For the first three months I believe I was without compensation. Then I went on a salary basis and severed all my connections with the Chase. The Advisory Council on National Defense later became the Office of Production Management, and later still was partially superseded by the Supply, Priorities and Allocations Board, which in turn was succeeded by the War Production Board. At that point I became a direct assistant to Donald Nelson.
FUCHS: What were your principal duties in the National Advisory Council and the Supply,
Priorities and Allocations Board?
LOCKE: In the beginning, in the Advisory Commission, it was mainly a problem of dividing up short items among a number of claimants. I remember the first job I had was to divide up three very large milling machines among four very important claimants, one of which was the Phelps Dodge Copper Corporation. Copper was of course very vital to the then defense effort, and I remember allocating one of the machines to Phelps Dodge. Sometimes we simply established priorities among competing claims and at other times actually allocated supplies when there were not enough to meet all needs.
FUCHS: I see. Was there much in your experience in France or England that helped you?
LOCKE: Not really except for the general training and development of the mind and analytical
In the War Production Board, I got something of everything. Anything that was a problem came to the Chairman's office, and would be mainly turned over to one of his three assistants of whom I was one. So I had a tremendous variety of assignments. And it was through that work that I first became acquainted with Mr. Truman, who was, by that time, head of the special Senate Investigating Committee. I remember very vividly being called into Donald Nelson's office one day. This was very early in the history of the War Production Board. I think it must have been in January or February of 1942 Mr. Nelson said, "Eddie, I've just come back from a meeting with the Truman Committee, and I've agreed that you will be the liaison man between the War Production Board and the Committee."
And I looked at him, staggered by this
statement, because I knew that the relations between the Board and the Committee had been very difficult and tense. I thought for a moment that Mr. Nelson was angry at me for one reason or another. So, I immediately said, "But Boss, I'm not a lawyer."
He said, "Eddie, that's exactly why I'm giving you this job. The lawyers have made such a mess of our relationship up there on the Hill that I don't want them to have anything to do with it at all. You go up there and when we're right, you stand your ground and I'll back you up. But if we're wrong, you admit it, and we'll change our plans accordingly."
FUCHS: Now, had lawyers been principally representing...
LOCKE: Yes, the War Production Board had as a general counsel a very fine man, a very top
notch lawyer by the name of John Lord O'Brian; but as so often happens in human relations, he and the Truman Committee didn't hit it off together at all. I suppose that perhaps Judge O'Brian was taking somewhat the legalistic approach, defending his client to the death, so to speak, whereas my instructions and thus my approach were quite different. The essence of our approach to the Truman Committee was that we were both interested in the success of the war effort; we were both to work on it together, and to try to arrive at the right answer regardless of whether either of us had taken the correct position in the first place.
FUCHS: Well, now, had the general counsel, O'Brian, appeared before committee hearings or was this done backstage, so to speak?
LOCKE: Some of both. And then, of course, the atmosphere in those days was hectic and charged,
and it was easier for tensions to build up than in more ordinary times.
FUCHS: Did you go before the Committee in hearings?
LOCKE: In the beginning I had a rather difficult few weeks, and my relations, although I'd see Senator Truman occasionally, were mainly with Hugh Fulton, the Committee's counsel, and with such assistant counsels and staff members as Rudolph Halley and George Meader. I had a difficult first few weeks because they were obviously aggravated by the War Production Board, and didn't feel confident that we would play it straight with them. But after those first few weeks, they began to see that we were sincere, that we were giving them the facts, that we were interested only in the success of the war effort. Our relations greatly improved and became very, very close, so that we were collaborating most intimately together on many,
many, war problems, We always took pains never to try to embarrass the committee, and the committee wasn't always right. They sometimes took hasty positions but we wouldn't immediately stand up in public and denounce them or try to belittle them; instead we would explain to them why they were wrong. I remember the case of high tenacity rayon tire cord versus cotton tire cord. The committee had taken a rather impulsive position against rayon. Instead of demolishing them with a statement as to the facts of the situation, we went up to the committee and explained why we had taken a different position than they had, and provided the facts to support that position. The committee then called a special public hearing at which we presented this material and subsequently came out with a report to the public presenting these facts and coming to a different conclusion than the one with which they had
started. So, we worked this way together and they never tried to embarrass us either. It was a fine relationship. The Truman Committee was a Senatorial body which, I think, made a very significant contribution to the war.
FUCHS: A letter in your papers, which Mr. Nelson wrote to Senator Truman, said that before a certain report was issued that they would like an opportunity to come to his office and speak with him about it. Now was that the customary thing? Had other agencies been doing that prior to that time?
LOCKE: I don't know what other agencies had been doing, but we evolved a system of collaboration with the committee, whereby they gave us 1p draft any report which they were going to publish, so that at least we could assure that their facts would be correct. And sometimes the correction of facts lead to somewhat
different conclusions. Now, we felt we had every right to present facts and to correct misstatements of fact in the committee's report. As to conclusions, they, of course, had every right to come to any conclusion they wished. We felt free to disagree, and we had some interesting discussions. But by and large we never had any serious difference of opinion regarding the Truman Committee's reports. They were a real help to the War Production Board, and, therefore, to the whole war effort.
FUCHS: To go back to your first couple of weeks, is there anyone who stands out in your memory who was especially critical or "short" with you?
LOCKE: This wasn't a personal thing with me, but they made it very plain -- and my contact was primarily with Hugh Fulton -- that they were very displeased with the War Production Board, and
had very little confidence in it based on their recent experience. So, my first job was to establish their confidence in us as individuals, in us as people of integrity, and in us as men who were interested in getting on with the war effort. Once they accepted that, then we began to work very effectively together.
FUCHS: It has been written by a young scholar that Mr. Nelson didn't really assume the power that they allowed him by the law and that the Committee was concerned about this. Do you have any reflections on that? In other words, that he didn't exercise the full scope of his power in handling the war production effort in dealing with the various agencies?
LOCKE: The Committee always had a feeling of this sort regarding Nelson, that he was not sufficiently a decisive man, and that he could, to use your phrase, use more of his powers more often. And
I think to a considerable degree, this was justified. I used to hear in business circles the same criticism about Mr. Nelson, that he took much too long to reach a decision and that he was this way not because the situation required a delayed decision, but because he was procrastinating. And some of this, I think, certainly came through in his direction of the War Production Board. Now, to a degree, this quality of procrastination stood him in good stead at times in Washington in those days because as you know, in public life, if you get out too far ahead of public opinion you can get into serious trouble. Nelson, however, was inclined to lag behind public opinion, and it was only a crisis situation that would serve to bring him abreast of or up to date with or in pace with public opinion. We had a series of these crises. And because of this lag, so to speak, in Nelson's willingness to act, the
Truman Committee found a number of causes for criticism.
FUCHS: Do you recall anything specific that they felt was a major shortcoming in WPB at the time you were assigned as liaison?
LOCKE: Well, when I was assigned as liaison, the War Production Board was brand new. It hadn't been in operation for more than a few weeks.
FUCHS: Do you recall your first meeting with Senator Truman?
LOCKE: No, I don't. My first meeting was with Mr. Fulton and then at some early point he introduced me to Senator Truman.
FUCHS: Were you particularly impressed with Mr. Fulton's capabilities?
LOCKE: Hugh Fulton had an extraordinary mind. Although he was a rather rotund, definitely
overweight person who looked something like a hayseed from the country, he had an amazingly capable mind, and a good ability to express himself, particularly on paper.
FUCHS: How about Charles Patrick Clark?
LOCKE: I knew Charlie Clark, but Charlie was sort of the natural politician. He was something of a wheeler-dealer, and certainly an amiable fellow, but he didn't have the intellect that Fulton and Halley and some of the other staff members had.
FUCHS: Halley is another one I am wondering about.
LOCKE: Halley was another good man. Both he and Fulton, as you know, are now dead.
FUCHS: Roger Willson, who wrote a doctoral dissertation at Harvard, said, "The correlation between Truman's influence and policy development
is much clearer in the case of WPB. Without Truman’s influence, it is unlikely that agency would have long endured or remained as it was. The same might be said of Nelson. Truman's great influence on Nelson and WPB may simply evidence the ability of a strong chairman of a powerful committee to work his will with the weak head of an unstable agency, but through that means Truman played an important role in the policy-making structure of the defense program." Do you have any comment about that?
LOCKE: To be fair about it, I must say, I think that statement both exaggerates the strength of Mr. Truman's influence on the Board and the weakness of Mr. Nelson. Both factors definitely existed and both were important in the situation, but Nelson was not as weak, especially in 1942, and 1943, as this statement implies. His was an incredibly great responsibility and a very
vital responsibility, It was the very heart, really, of a successful war effort, and inherent in it were enormous problems, not only of war production, but of handling, and to a large degree, directing the entire economy. I think that, by and large, Nelson did a remarkably good job in the first two years of the war. I, of course, working intimately with him saw more of his weaknesses than outsiders would, but with all due recognition of those weaknesses, the man still had some unusual strengths. One of those strengths, was an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the American economy, very wide friendships in American business, and considerable good sense and sound judgment about the economy. His weaknesses were more in the realm of his personal life, his inclination to overindulge himself, and also in his indecisiveness and procrastination, which I may say are not necessarily as harmful or as much to be criticized
in public life as they might be in business. When you’re dealing with public sentiment and political developments, it is as I said a few minutes ago, very dangerous to get out too far ahead of public opinion. Nelson was an excellent expositor and an excellent salesman. He had a physical stature which was imposing and impressive. He was, I think, in the time and the circumstance, a good choice for the job. In fact, probably the best choice that was then available.
Now, Mr. Truman never tried to impose his will, as this scholar expresses it, on the War Production Board. Mr. Truman, on occasion, had a different opinion as to what ought to be done but he was clearly simply after the best answer in the light of the war effort. I don't know whether this man implies that Mr. Truman willfully tried to impose his opinion arbitrarily on the War Production Board. If he
does imply that, he couldn't be more wrong. Truman was motivated, and I worked with him very closely, by the desire to have us win the war as quickly and as economically in lives as we could, Naturally, being of strong mind and dealing as he was with great affairs, he would not always agree with Nelson, and he made it plain when he didn't agree; and I looked upon it all, not as a matter of his imposing his will, but of his helping the War Production Board to get some things done, and to get some programs across and accepted, which would have been much more difficult or even impossible to put across without his help. That is why I keep referring to what was initially a partnership between the War Production Board and the Truman Committee. They worked exceedingly well together, more so as the war went on.
FUCHS: There was some press notice at the time that there was a feud between the military and
the WPB, and apparently it was vehement enough and prevalent enough that Mr. Nelson, as early as September 16, 1942, in a memo in your files, addressed to all the executive staff members of WPB, mentioned this alleged controversy between WPB and the War and Navy Departments. At that time he said that the relations were of the best, both official and personal; but he was expressing his desire to the staff that they don't make thoughtless remarks and get into public polemics about this. Do you have any reflections on that, sir?
LOCKE: Yes, I think Nelson's official and personal relationships with the Army and the Navy were good. In those days, Patterson was Under Secretary of the Army and Forrestal was Under Secretary of the Navy, both of them being in charge of supply and production for the two services, It was their job to get as much as they could as quickly as they could from
the economy for their services. Nelson's job, however, was somewhat different. It was to get maximum performance from the entire economy, giving due consideration to military as well as civilian needs, and to effect the optimum balance among them. Naturally, his function, his point of view, his conclusions often weren't in all respects the same as those of the Navy and the Army, so there was many a conflict as to how tight materials, components, equipment and production facilities should be divided. But Nelson developed what I found then and in later years was a very excellent technique. He set up a committee or a sub-committee of experts from each of the claimant agencies and put them to work developing a factual report. It was very interesting to see how, once the facts were established, there usually was very little left to argue about. The fiercest arguments were in those situations where the people
around the table had the least information.
FUCHS: What do you think occasioned the press reports of differences between WPA and War and Navy?
LOCKE: Well, I think it was perfectly natural because, among other things, we were in a world war and the man in uniform had very strong pressures on them. They were suffering defeats in the fields; they were absorbing heavy casualties; they were seeing what they thought to be the whole strategic position of the United States threatened, and in the circumstances they had no sympathy, for example, with repair parts for the civilian economy. We, on the other hand, in the War Production Board, knew perfectly well that if you didn't keep spare parts moving to the civilian economy, you wouldn't get as much war production and thus our effectiveness in the field would steadily decrease. So, feelings were very, very strong, as well they might be in
such a situation of grave national peril. Opinions were expressed strongly and with deep emotion and at times to the press. The press likes to make something out of high level disagreements anyway, it is news. So it was logical for articles to report that the War Production Board, the Army and the Navy were fighting with each other. But, as I say, although there were strong, very strong, differences of opinion, I never knew a time when it was impossible for them to work together, personally as well as officially.
FUCHS: Do you think there was more squabbling over which military department should get the most or whether it was civilians versus the military?
LOCKE: There was some of the first, but it was more than anything else, the second -- how much the civilian economy should get against the military economy.
FUCHS: Were you acquainted with Bruce Catton?
LOCKE: Yes, very well. He was Director of Information in the War Production Board.
FUCHS: Do you recall discussing any of the problems, particularly this one about relations between WPB and the military, War and Navy?
LOCKE: Not particularly. Bruce Catton was a fine man whom we all liked and respected very much. But I must confess it was a pleasant surprise to me, and I think to many others that he turned out to be such an exceptionally gifted and successful writer.
FUCHS: Civil War period, primarily.
FUCHS: He did write this book, of course, War Lords of Washington, which was quite critical of the Army’s relation with WPB. Do you recall anything
LOCKE: No, though of course he was in the middle of a lot of this, particularly when it got out into the press. He was a man of fine character and did his job well, and wrote fine letters and press releases and so forth; but I never suspected that he had this extraordinary talent for telling a tale so well.
FUCHS: Alfred Steinberg, who wrote the book The Man From Missouri, which is more or less a popular history of Mr. Truman's life and times, said that (in regard to the military versus the civilian agencies), "The situation had grown so bad that Truman privately rebuked Donald Nelson in his Doghouse and urged him to insist that civilians run the war production program."
Were you aware at the time that Nelson had been rebuked by Truman privately?
LOCKE: Not specifically; of course Mr. Nelson wouldn’t have told us this, even if he had been. But it wouldn't surprise me at all if Truman had given him such a lecture, and I think to a degree Nelson deserved it; and certainly Truman was the kind of man who wouldn't hesitate to give it to him if he felt it was warranted.
FUCHS: A letter from Donald Nelson to Senator Truman on January 4, 1943, which your papers show was written by you, has been referred to by a scholar as rather an out of the ordinary letter for a head of a board to address to a chairman of a Senate committee that was investigating his board.
LOCKE: I think that David Noyes and Albert Carr and conceived that letter and put it together. As I remember it, our thinking was that Nelson had been working with the Truman Committee for
nearly a year at that point, and there was close cooperation and mutual confidence between us. We felt, and I know Mr. Nelson shared in this, that the Truman Committee was making a very real contribution to the progress of the war effort, and that Senator Truman was of great help to the War Production Board in many ways, including backing us up in some of our differences with the military services. In the circumstances we felt the man deserved a pat on the back from the agency which Congress had set him up to oversee, and that's why we sent that letter.
FUCHS: It was only out of the ordinary in that a lot of people wouldn't take the time to do something like that,
LOCKE: And wouldn't think of it, wouldn't realize the importance of doing it. I think it was not only a nice thing to do, but a wise thing to do under the circumstances. Human relations
are important regardless of the situation. This was a human relations move to a man that richly deserved what was said about him.
FUCHS: There was a considerable hullabaloo, so to speak, about the dollar-a-year men around 1943. Do you have recollections of that?
LOCKE: Yes, I was right in the middle of that one. That was one of the assignments to which I referred a while ago when I said that the chairman's office got all the trouble. If things went well you never heard anything about it, but if things got into difficulty you were pulled into the problem immediately. And this dollar-a-year controversy was one of them. As a matter of fact, it was the first important problem I had to handle as liaison man between the War Production Board and the Truman Committee. Nelson turned it over to me one day, simply told me to handle it and get it straightened
out. I found that the trouble, more than anything else, was coming from poor administration of dollar-a-year appointments, poor handling of dollar-a-year appointments within the War Production Board. Now, the Truman Committee had certain reservations about the soundness of bringing key businessmen into the WPB and paying them on a dollar-a-year basis, but we felt it was absolutely vital, that it would be impossible for us to run the war production effort without men of business background, experience and talent. After all, who could possibly know as much about running an economy as the men who had been successful in business in that economy. So, the Truman Committee became willing to defer to our judgment in this. It is a case in point with reference to that scholar's remark. Truman didn't by any means always impose his will on the War Production Board, This was an issue on which we
stood our ground because it was absolutely vital, and Truman adjusted to it very gracefully, He felt that our judgment in such a field should prevail. What we found was, that when these War Production Board appointments were being considered, the information we were getting was inadequate, either because we weren't asking the right questions on our application forms or because we weren't seeing to it that the applicant was giving us complete answers. I remember sitting down with a 'man in the chairman's office and going through probably fourteen or fifteen separate printer's proofs of an application form for dollar-a-year men that would in the first place, ask questions that could not possibly be misunderstood; and second, would elicit answers that were complete and accurate. It was about the fifteenth draft that we finally put into effect, and the purpose of the application was, more than anything else, to point up
possible conflicts of interest so that we wouldn't put the president of U.S. Steel Corporation in charge of the steel division. We would, in all likelihood, put in charge of this a steel man who knew the steel business, but not one who was preeminent or dominating in the field. Then, having devised the proper form, we took great pains to review each application very carefully in order to spot immediately conflicts of interest and eliminate the trouble right then and there. Of course, we checked these people very carefully through the FBI, and occasionally there were problems of morality or whatnot involved. But the new system eliminated, literally, ninety-five percent of the trouble. With a good application form and good use of the knowledge on that form and careful checking by the FBI, the dollar-a-year problem virtually disappeared.
FUCHS: Do you think Mr. Truman retained second thoughts about the dollar-a-year men even though
he did defer to you?
LOCKE: Well, I can't really say. I think it was some thing that he never was enthusiastic about, but considered possibly as a necessary evil, or at least unavoidable.
FUCHS: You've indicated you worked closely with David Noyes and A. Z. "Bob" Carr in WPB. Were you with them before?
LOCKE: No, I never knew either of them before. David Noyes came into the War Production Board after I did -- I don't remember through whom -- and he knew Bob Carr. David Noyes was sort of the idea man, the man of inspiration, the man of articulation and concept. I was the fact-gatherer and analyzer and administrator. And we needed a man who, more than anything else, was a good writer and thinker. David Noyes knew Bob Carr and thought very highly of him. So we got him to join us and we had a very, if
I do say so, wonderful triumvirate that worked exceedingly closely with Nelson all through the war.
FUCHS: Is it fair to say that Noyes brought Bob Carr into the picture?
LOCKE: Yes, very definitely, and then the three of us worked extremely closely together.
FUCHS: You at that time were the executive assistant to Nelson?
LOCKE: We were all assistants to Nelson.
FUCHS: What was Dave Noyes title, if he had one?
LOCKE: I think he was an assistant. We were all on Nelson's immediate staff. It was only after I went over to the White House that I became special assistant; first, executive assistant to Mr. Nelson and then when he left, I had his job as special representative to the President and then became a special assistant.
FUCHS: Would you know when Noyes and Carr became acquainted with Mr. Truman?
LOCKE: Not with any precision, no. I think they must have gotten acquainted with him by degrees as the war went on, being as close as they were to Nelson and the Truman Committee playing as important a part as it did. But I would guess that their main intimacy with him developed after the war.
FUCHS: After he was President?
LOCKE: After he was President.
FUCHS: Noyes, in particular, wasn't assistant liaison man for the Truman Committee?
FUCHS: Noyes never had, as far as I know, an official position or title in the White House. Do you know why that was?
LOCKE: He preferred it that way. He preferred to work behind the scenes, and I don't want to be misunderstood in using that phrase. He prefers not to be in the limelight himself, but to serve important causes through people whom he deeply respects and has a real affection for. In the White House I believe he was classified as a consultant without compensation.
FUCHS: It wouldn't have been through him that you eventually were asked to participate in the White House Office?
LOCKE: No, you see, I was there when Truman was sworn in. As a matter of fact, I was in the Cabinet Room. Nelson used to sit with the Cabinet as a special representative for President Roosevelt. He used to attend Cabinet meetings. The day Roosevelt died Nelson was out of town. It was some time late in the afternoon that the news came through the White
House, I believe. I was out getting a little exercise riding a bicycle around Georgetown. I came home and my wife said, "Where have you been, the White House is trying to get hold of you, urgently. They want you to call them at once."
So, I called and they said, "Would you please come down to the Cabinet Room right away."
So, I put on a clean shirt and went rushing down there and got the news that Roosevelt had died and Mr. Truman was going to be sworn in very shortly as President. I was there on that very day.
FUCHS: You were in the room when he was sworn in? A picture was taken with the clock in the background. I guess you were on the other side of the room?
LOCKE: Yes, that's right. This was a very sober,
almost frightened man.
FUCHS: Did you exchange any words at that time with Mr. Truman?
LOCKE: Just to shake hands and congratulate him.
FUCHS: Then Noyes actually became associated with the White House after you?
LOCKE: Yes, sometime after. I don't know exactly how that developed. But David Noyes has many extraordinary talents, and one of them is as a kind of a therapist for men with big problems to deal with. He is very sympathetic, helpful, and at times, inspired friend.
FUCHS: Did you work with "Cap" Krug prior to this?
LOCKE: Yes, some during the War Production Board days.
FUCHS: What was his capacity there before he succeeded Nelson?
LOCKE: Well, I don't remember what his titles were but he came up through the hierarchy to steadily more important positions. He, too, had great physical stature, just as Nelson did, and a certain calmness about him and a certain imperturbability. And I think he had a fair amount of ability, but I don't think that he was really in a class with Nelson, despite Nelson's faults.
FUCHS: How do you think Charles Wilson would have worked out if he had stayed on, as was originally planned, to take Mr. Nelson's place?
LOCKE: Well, Charlie Wilson was not regarded around the War Production Board as having an exceptional amount of ability. He was a rather simple man in terms of personality. His thought processes were somewhat on the slow side, and the contrast between him and Dave Noyes in that respect was particularly striking. To be present when Noyes, with his quick, penetrating and articulate mind,
was debating questions of the day with Charlie Wilson was a real treat Charlie also at times had difficulty in controlling his emotions. I remember the most favorite epithet I’ve ever had thrown at me in public was when Charlie Wilson resigned in a huff from the War Production Board. He resigned calling Cliff Hill, another assistant of Donald Nelson, and me "insubordinate subordinates." Our sin in Charlie Wilson's eyes was that we were loyal to Donald Nelson. In public life, as you know, it's often difficult to attack the top man, but it's very inviting to attack the people around him, especially his assistants; that's what happened in our case. Charlie resigned claiming among other things that Nelson couldn't control his assistants.
FUCHS: I believe he charged that certain things had been leaked to the press at the time and he got quite exercised. Nelson seemed to have some faith in him. Was this on the basis of his past
LOCKE: I suppose so, yes, the fact that he'd been head of General Electric, and the fact that Nelson never willingly tackled a disagreeable problem, you see, if there was any other way of doing it. Now Nelson did fire Ferdinand Eberstadt but only after a good deal of pressure had been brought on him, and a great deal of support had been lined up by his staff, including his several assistants.
FUCHS: Eberstadt was in charge of what?
LOCKE: He was, I think, Vice Chairman of the War Production Board. He had a very high post.
FUCHS: What was the crux of the difficulty between them?
LOCKE: Between Wilson and...
FUCHS: Between Nelson and Eberstadt.
LOCKE: Well, I never fully understood it except Eberstadt had an extraordinary quality of making people feel that he was engaged in intrigue. Now the difficulty between Nelson and Wilson was a very simple one. Nelson believed that the war economy should start making some quiet preparation for peace, making prototypes and so forth, as long as there was no interference with the war effort. Well, Charlie Wilson, backed by the military, took the position that nothing should be done to prepare for peace, everything should be a hundred percent devoted to the war effort and that the making of a prototype would not only divert scarce materials and skilled labor, but be damaging psychologically because it would get people thinking about peace instead of about war. We felt on the contrary that if people in the plants, and in the economy could not see that some preparations were being made for peacetime, the effect on their morale would be very, very
damaging, and it would be a very natural thing for them to think "What's going to happen to me and to this company and to this plant? When peace comes it's just all going to collapse." And it would be quite destructive to his morale and thus to the effort he put into war production.
FUCHS: When you were working on priorities and purchases, did you come in touch with what the Russians were requesting?
LOCKE: Yes, very much so, because Roosevelt turned over to Nelson, who turned over to me, the meeting of these commitments which we made to the Russians for supplying various weapons as well as machinery, equipment, and raw materials. And so I worked quite closely with the Russians for a couple of years. It was a very interesting experience. At first it was particularly difficult, because everybody hated the Russians and to try to get the Russian needs recognized was
quite an exercise. But then as we got into the war and got working with them as allies that part of the problem pretty well disappeared. But then we had other problems with the Russians. They were very insistent that the absolute letter of our agreements be lived up to. That is the Russian mentality. You have a terrible time negotiating with them, but once you reach an agreement, especially in business matters, they are very apt to insist you abide by it in a literal way. I don't mean at all that you can trust a Russian or that he would hesitate to tear up a contract if it was in his interest to do so; but once you got a contract with him he was disposed to live up to all that was in it in a most exact way. I suppose this is part of their over-centralized bureaucracy. If a bureaucrat is given a document to see that it is carried out and if he deviates in the slightest from it, he's in very serious trouble. So we
used to have a lot of difficulties with the Russians on the details, because if you promised something on January 14, then the Russians wanted it on January 14 and not on the 16th or the 18th and they raised a terrible fuss if it wasn't there on the 14th. And, of course, in wartime you have all sorts of dislocations and changes of plans and so forth, and these tight schedules often couldn't be lived up to exactly. I knew that the Russian representatives here were under terrible pressure personally. They were, I'm sure, usually blamed personally if things didn't come through on time. So they used to make it rather difficult, but not impossible, for us. Some of them I got to know fairly well personally, but you always, at least I always had my guard up in any contacts with them.
To some extent they abused or misused the equipment that we sent them, especially industrial equipment. I was with Mr. Nelson in 1943 and 1944
on his trips to Russia and we saw refineries under construction, where the most terrible treatment was given to our pieces of equipment, There were long delays in construction and meanwhile the key pieces of equipment would be left out in the open and mistreated, unbelievably mistreated. On the other hand, it was obvious throughout Russia that the Russians had the deepest respect for American production and American ability to provide all these materials and pieces of equipment. Many's the toast I've had to drink to American production in Russia.
FUCHS: In vodka?
LOCKE: In vodka -- bottoms up.
FUCHS: Were you acquainted with Ralph K. Davies of PAW?
LOCKE: Yes, yes, I didn't know him well. The petroleum was quite well run, again in considerable part because it was staffed by industry people
who knew what they were doing. There were some conflicts, inevitably, but I would say that by and large, the Petroleum Administration for War was one of our lesser problems.
FUCHS: Touching on procurement, I understood that there was a China Defense Supplies, Incorporated and a Universal Trading Corporation which were the Chinese procurement agencies. I wonder if you recall anything about that, and was there any feeling that they might have been involved with Communists at that time?
LOCKE: I had no impression of their being involved with Communists, no, and their supply needs were relatively minor in the overall picture, so that, although I handled for a long time in the War Production Board the needs of foreign countries, I don't recollect China ever presenting any particular problem, mainly because their needs were so simple and so small.
FUCHS: In regard to the trip you took with Nelson in '43 to the United Kingdom, North Africa, the Middle East and Russia, is there anything that stands out in your memory that might not be documented in your papers?
LOCKE: All the contacts of any significance were fully reported either by Nelson himself or by the State Department people who were present. The only item that I think possibly was not fully covered in any report was an interview which Nelson had with Stalin, I think it was in the summer of 1944. I think we were over there in August in ‘44. Nelson had a long session with Stalin. I was not present but sat outside the office door with Stalin's bodyguard. Stalin was rather cool, in fact, almost cold at the beginning of the conference. Only when Nelson got talking about p