Charles Burton Marshall Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
Charles Burton Marshall

Executive Officer to Chief of Operations, Office of the Chief of Transportation, U.S. Army, and Deputy Commander of the Port of Manila, during World War II; Consultant, Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, 1946-47; staff consultant on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, 1947-50; member of the Policy Planning Staff, U.S. 'State Department, 1950-53. Since 1953 Dr. Marshall has served in various capacities as an adviser, professor and author specializing in international studies and policy-making.

Washington, D.C.
June 21, 1989 and June 23, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson

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

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

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

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.

Opened February, 1992
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

Oral History Interview with
Charles Burton Marshall


Washington, D.C.
June 21, 1989
by Niel M. Johnson

Summary Description:

Topics discussed include the Truman Committee (Senate Special Committee to Investigate the National Defense Program); logistics of war; Army transportation policy in World War II; policies and procedures of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs in the postwar period; Point IV program; Marshall plan; theories and policies regarding foreign aid; Mutual Defense Assistance program; Statement of the Managers regarding military assistance legislation; the "China lobby;" Korean aid bill of 1949; U.S. intervention in the Korean War; theories concerning foreign policy; U.S. communication with the Peoples Republic of China during the Korean war; U.S.-Chinese relations; dismissal of General MacArthur; cooperative planning by Joint Chiefs of Staff and State Department during Korean war; prisoner-of-war issue during the Korean war; personality of General Douglas MacArthur; NSC-68; U.S. strategic plans, 1950-54; theories of deterrence; Psychological Strategy Board; critique of "psychological warfare;" Operations Coordinating Board; loyalty controversy involving Jesse McKnight; Herter Committee; report of the Foreign Affairs Committee recommending the European Recovery Program to the Congress; and war aims in a nuclear age.

Names mentioned include S.L.A. ("Slam") Marshall, Charles Timm, William Y. Elliot, Charles McIlwain, Robert H. Wylie, George Pettee, Thomas Jefferson Davis, General Douglas MacArthur, Paul Nitze, Charles Eaton, Sol Bloom, John Kee, Abraham Ribicoff, John Vorys, Robert Chiperfield, James Webb, Thurman Chatham, Walter Rostow, James P. Richards, Homer Ferguson, Lawrence Smith, John Davis Lodge, Karl E. Mundt, George C. Marshall, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Joe Martin, Charles Halleck, Leslie Arends, Helen Gahagan Douglas, Andrei Vyshinsky, George Kennan, Herbert Feis, Dean Acheson, Phil Watts, Jack Everett, Felix Frankfurter, George Taylor, Saben Chase, Charles Bohlen, John Foster Dulles, E. Saquez de Breuvery, Louis Johnson, Omar Bradley, Robert Tufts, John Hull, Joe Collins, Forrest Sherman, William Fechteler, Ted Clifton, Geoffrey Blainey, L.C. Stevens, Charles D. Jackson,
Roger Hilsman, Arnold Wolfers, Kilbourne Johnston, Andrei Gromyko, Jesse McKnight, George Jaeger, John Lord O'Brien, Bethel Webster, George Ball, Ernest Gross, Boyd Crawford, Howard Piquet, Doris Leone, and Jim Cooley .

Donor: Charles Burton Marshall

Copyright: Donated to the Government of the United States


JOHNSON: Dr. Marshall, first of all I'd like to ask you where you were born, when you were born and what your parents' names were.

MARSHALL: I was born in Catskill, New York, on March 25, 1908. That makes me 81 years old now. My father was Caleb C. Marshall, born in Shropshire, England. He emigrated to the United States at the age of 16. My mother was Alice Medora Beeman; she was born in Shiloh
Valley, Illinois.

JOHNSON: Shiloh Valley.

MARSHALL: Yes, which is in the neighborhood of East St. Louis.

JOHNSON: What was your father's occupation?

MARSHALL: My father wound up as a brick manufacturer.


Actually he was from a working class background in England. He had left school after four years and gone to work as a day laborer at the age of 11. My mother had finished grammar school. Her father was a country school teacher, principally.

JOHNSON: Your father emigrated from England at the age of 16.

MARSHALL: Yes, the whole family. The family was working class, non-conformist, and republican. They just had a natural preference for the idea of the United States, and they moved here to the United States. Curious to recall, I was the only member of my family ever to finish high school. My late brother dropped out of high school at the end of his third year and went into the Army in World War I. He became a rather notable military historian, S.L.A. Marshall.

JOHNSON: Is he your brother?

MARSHALL: Yes. Rather, he was.

JOHNSON: "Slam" Marshall.

MARSHALL: The home life was a simple one. My parents were meticulous about the use of the English language, and they were people rather rigorously Christian and . . .

JOHNSON: What denomination were they?


MARSHALL: Baptists.

JOHNSON: How many brothers and sisters did you have?

MARSHALL: There were two sisters and three brothers. Three of us survived childhood. My brother Sam (that was S.L.A. Marshall), died in 1977 at age 77. My sister is 90 years old and is still living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So I was the fifth of six children.

I was stricken at about age four with what was diagnosed as rheumatism of the heart. I had what they called a sickly childhood; I spent a lot of time in bed and couldn't run and couldn't walk upstairs fast, and all that sort of thing, and didn't attend public school. I was instructed at home by my elder sister, the one that still survives at age 90.

My health cleared up completely at age 12. I coached hard for a couple of years and entered school for the first time at high school. That is an important detail there in my own life. Getting ready to enter high school, I studied very, very industriously. I read Whitney and Lockwood's English Grammar and studied it in detail, and [I studied] Scott and Wooley's College Rhetoric. I learned how to write so that I didn't have to re-draft. I entered high school with great trepidation, thinking I was going to be handicapped. That turned out not to be the case at


all. High school was just a real breeze for me. At the end of my first year of high school, my older brother was working on newspapers at that time and he got me a job as a cub reporter. I worked my way through high school then and through college and graduate school, working on newspapers. I learned to write at one draft.

JOHNSON: Where was it you got educated, then; where did you go to high school and college?

MARSHALL: At El Paso High School.


MARSHALL: And then three years at Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy, but I was not studying mining. I just went there because that was the economical thing to do. I finished college at the University of Texas. The Depression had overtaken the country and it was impossible to find a job of any sort in the newspaper business. So I stayed on and did graduate work at the University of Texas and worked for a professor named Charles Timm, who had some research money; I became his research assistant.

I want to mention one other circumstance from those early years. Having had a very protective childhood, I was very innocent. I didn't even know any


bad words when I started school. At the end of that first year of high school, I went to work as a cub reporter covering the police station in El Paso. I spent the summer getting acquainted with prostitutes and pimps and dope pushers and dope addicts and child molesters and wife beaters, and every kind of person you could imagine. That was a great educational experience for such an innocent child and it completely cured me of any idea I might have had that human nature is naturally good. That's about the silliest idea I can think of.

JOHNSON: Of course, the Baptists weren't exactly preaching the inherent goodness of human nature either were they? You were raised in a Baptist household, sort of like Harry Truman?

MARSHALL: Yes, that's correct.

In my second year of college, though, which was at the Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy in El Paso, I was trying to broaden out a little bit. I played a lot of poker and did a lot of visiting to Juarez and tried to be one of the boys. The result was a little bit of scholastic deficiency that I had to make up in my last year of college, which I spent in Austin at the University of Texas. I was working at night on the Austin American, working on the copy desk from about 9


p.m. to 2 in the morning. It occurred to me that it was a good idea--I should interrupt myself to say I was having to take six subjects to make up for my neglect of studies in my second year--and it occurred to me that it was a good idea to schedule my six classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday so I could sleep as late as I wanted to on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The only way I could round out my schedule was to take a course in international relations. That was of determinative importance because the professor and I hit it off in a kind of an interesting interaction. He was the one who took me on as a research assistant.

JOHNSON: What was his name?

MARSHALL: Charles Timm. Timm really did not know how to do his work on this research project and he really didn't know how to get ahead and get things done, and so I was more of an entrepreneur, if I can use that term here, than he was in these things. He felt much obligated to me, and he wrote letters and made telephone calls that got me a grant to do graduate study further, a grant from the Carnegie Endowment.

Well, the Depression was on, and I couldn't find a job. So, for the lack of something else to do, I went up to Harvard and did graduate work and eventually took a Ph.D. at Harvard.


JOHNSON: In international relations?

MARSHALL: International law is what I wrote my thesis in, but it was in the field of government.

JOHNSON: Who was the most influential instructor you had up there at Harvard, or did anyone in particular have that much influence on you?

MARSHALL: Well, one that had very great influence on me was W. Y. Elliot, but I never had a course from him. I gave two courses with him when I became an instructor at Harvard and at Radcliffe. Bill Elliot was a true friend and took a very great interest in me and in helping me along. Bill Elliot was the greatest influence, but not from the standpoint of classwork.
It is hard to say who was the most influential among my teachers at Harvard. I suppose [it would have been] probably Charles McIlwain, who was a very distinguished professor of political theory. I never really got acquainted with McIlwain, but he was a marvelous source as a professor.

JOHNSON: What year are we talking about?

MARSHALL: I was a graduate student at Harvard from 1934 to 1936. I returned to Harvard as an instructor and wrote my Ph.D. thesis. I returned in 1938. I stayed on at Harvard until 1942, the end of the summer in 1942.


I had a very heavy schedule of obligations at Harvard that last year. I might interrupt here to say I had married in 1937 in the interval when I was not attending Harvard, not instructing there. When Pearl Harbor came along, without any question in my mind, I was going to go into the military service as soon as I had finished my obligations at Harvard, which carried me through the summer session. That was a very heavy year of work for me, because so many people had gone off into Washington activities from Harvard. So I found myself with an extraordinary number of tutorial students and doctoral examinations to sit on, theses to direct, and I was one of the two examiners for the whole Government Department. I was also the examiner in French and German for graduate students in that department. I was just very, very busy but I finished my obligations at the end of the summer session, and I wrote off to the Army and the Navy. I was married and had a child by that time, and I was interested in doing the best for myself as I could. The Navy responded to my request immediately, and I was set up to become a lieutenant junior grade in the Navy. The only thing that got in the way was that I had a degree of temperature when they gave me the physical examination, and I was told to come back a week later.

During that week, W.Y. Elliot came back to


Cambridge from his Washington activities. He called me up, talked to my then wife, found out that I was about to go into the Navy, and told her, "For God's sake tell him not to do anything of the sort. If he goes into the Navy he'll just be carrying a briefcase for an Admiral. He must go into the Army." He fixed up some appointments for me in Washington when I got in touch with him. I went down to Washington, and I talked to people, and here was Brigadier General Wylie, who was Director of Operations in Army Transportation. He received me and talked to me about two hours, and he cordially invited me into the Army. I said, "Well, where will I be serving?" He said, "At this next desk; I want you for my executive officer." So I thought if I could go into the Army as Executive Officer to a man who had a general's grade and so on, that would beat lounging around in the replacement depot. So I went into the Army with Wylie, and spent most of the war with him. I served in the Pentagon, but wound up in the Southwest Pacific where I eventually became the Deputy Commander of the port at Manila.

JOHNSON: Where were you on April 12, 1945 when Roosevelt died?

MARSHALL: I was still in the Pentagon. I remember that very well. Colonel Heiskell, who had heard the news by


radio, came into the room and said the President is dead, and we were all much touched by that. I was in the E-ring of the Pentagon at that time. It was a very short time later that I then went over to the Southwest Pacific.

JOHNSON: Had you paid much attention to the Truman Committee in '41, '42, well, up to '44?

MARSHALL: Oh, a good deal of attention. Here I may disappoint you. I thought it was kind of a nuisance, and that was the general view around the office where I was in the Pentagon. Yet, I must say in retrospect that I think it was a very useful committee, but sometimes you have a very great difficulty explaining the problems of logistics to such a committee.