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Paul H. Nitze Oral History Interviews, August 5 and August 6, 1975

Oral History Interview with
Paul H. Nitze

In the years from 1941 to 1944, Mr. Nitze served as Financial Director for the Coordinator of Inter American Affairs; Chief, Metals and Minerals Branch, Board of Economic Welfare; Director, Foreign Procurement and Development Branch, Foreign Economic Administration; and, as special consultant to the War Department. He served during the Truman administration as Vice-Chairman, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, 1944-46; Deputy Director, Office of International Trade Policy, U.S. Department of State, 1946; Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, 1948-49; and, Director, Policy Planning Staff, U.S. Department of State, 1950-53.

Northeast Harbor, Maine
August 5, and August 6, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed | Additional Nitze Oral History Transcripts]

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 July, 1990
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed | Additional Nitze Oral History Transcripts]

Oral History Interview with
Paul H. Nitze

Northeast Harbor, Maine
August 5, 1975
by Richard D. McKinzie

Summary Description:

Topics discussed include the Dillon, Read, and Company; administrative assistants to President Roosevelt in World War II; Office of Coordinator of Inter American Affairs; International Basic Economy Corporation; conscription law; Board of Economic Welfare; Combined Raw Materials Board; War Production Board; Reconstruction Finance Corporation; procurement of strategic materials in World War II; Foreign Economic Administration; foreign property disposal; Strategic Bombing Survey; Lend lease program; Quartz crystals for military radio communication; Joint Strategic Target Selection Group; the decision to use the atomic bomb on Japan; Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor; surrender of Japan; effects of atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; postwar missions of American armed forces; Office of International Trade Policy; U.S. State Department Policy Planning Staff; Marshall plan; balance of payments policy; Committee for European Economic Cooperation; origins of Point IV program; Truman Doctrine; Trieste question; NSC-68; Joint Strategic Survey Committee; nuclear war strategy; Korean War; dismissal of General MacArthur; North Atlantic Treaty Organization; German rearmament; French Indo-China; Middle East oil development; Iran oil controversy; transition to Eisenhower administration; defense budget in Eisenhower administration; and Spain and NATO.

Names mentioned include James Forrestal., Paul Shields, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Corcoran , Benjamin Cohen, James Rowe, Oscar Cox, August Belmont, Cordell Hull, Henry Wallace, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., Harry Hopkins, Leo Pasvolsky, Arthur Krock, Will Clayton, Ferdinand Eberstadt, Nelson Rockefeller, Donald Nelson, William Burden, Charles Harding, Josh Figueres, William Knox, William Draper, George C. Marshall, Henry Stimson, Jesse Jones, Carl Spaeth, Milo Perkins, Cresswell Maku, Morris Rosenthal, Monroe Oppenheimer, Temple Bridgeman, Alan Bateman, Theodore Kreps, Willard Wirtz, Pierre de Lagarde Boal, George Ball, Leo Crowley, Harold Starr, Lucius Clay, Guido Perera, Franklin D'Olier, Henry Alexander, Victor Emanuel) Henry Riley, Don Hochschild, Simon Strauss, Harry S. Truman, Leon Pearson, Charles Thornton, Henry H. Arnold, J. Fred Searls, Muir Fairchild, Orvil Anderson, Frederick Castle, Carl Spaatz, Walter Rostow, Solly Zuckerman, Philip Farley, Rensis Likert, Albert Speer, Wolfgang Sklarz, J. Kenneth Galbraith, Burton Klein, Trevor Roper, Rolf Wagenfuehr, Phyllis Nitze, James F. Byrnes, William Leahy, Joseph Alsop, Albert Wedemeyer, Douglas MacArthur, Charles Willoughby, Robert Richardson, Prince Fumimaro Konoye, Marquis Kido, Lauris Norstad, Forrest Sherman, H.V. Kaltenborn, Ralph Ofstie, Thomas Moorer, Charles McCain, Jock Whitney, William Jackson, Clair Wilcox, Otis Mulliken, Dag Hammarskjold, Joseph Jones, Dean Acheson, Charles Bohlen, George Kennan, Charles Bonesteel, George Lincoln, Robert Tufts, William Phillips, William Bray, Harold Glasser, Oliver Franks, Richard Bissell, Thomas Blaisdell, Paul Hoffman, Robert Lovett, John Taber, Ernest Gross, Thomas Connelly, William Y. Elliott, Charles Burton Marshall, Walter Judd, Sol Bloom, John Lodge, Christian Herter, Phil Watts, Robert Lovett, Arthur Vandenberg, Alben Barkley, Kenneth McKeller, Jefferson Caffery, Robert Murphy, Mauricio Hochschild, Richard Coudenhave Kalergi, Eugene Loebl, W. Averell Harriman, William Draper, Harry Dexter White. V.I. Chuikov, George Kennan, George McGhee, James Reston, Clark Clifford, Loy Henderson, Robert Joyce, Sherman Kent, Robert Le Baron, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller, David Lillienthal, Ernest Lawrence, Louis Johnson, H. Freeman Matthews, Truman Landon, Alexander Sachs, John Muccio, John Foster Dulles, John Ferguson, John Paton Davies, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Andrew Corry, Samen Tsarapkin, Jacob Malik, Forrest Sherman, Niles Bond, C. Turner Joy, Arleigh Burke, Chester Clifton, Omar Bradley, Arthur C. Davis, Joseph Collins, Frank Nash, Royden E. Beebe, John McCloy, Robert Schuman, Ernest Bevin, Herve Alphand, Charles E. Wilson, Emmett Hughes, Bedell Smith, Milton Eisenhower, Everett DeGolyer, Walter Levy, Calouste Sortis Gulbenkian, Richard Wigglesworth, Mohammed Mossadegh, John W. Snyder, William Martin, J. Howard McGrath, Leonard Emmerglick, Henry Fowler, Clement Attlee, Harold Linder, Kennett Love, Herbert Hoover, Jr., Henry Cabot Lodge, Robert Cutler, Alfred McCormack, Frank Wisner, Henry Owen, Tom Mann, and Francisco Franco.



Fourth oral history interview with Paul Nitze at Northeast Harbor, Maine, August 5, 1975. By Richard D. McKinzie, University of Missouri Kansas City.

MCKINZIE: Perhaps it would be appropriate to begin with the history of NSC-68 and the relationship between the Policy Planning Staff and the National Security Council?

NITZE: The origins of NSC-68 go back to the period that I was referring to yesterday, after the Chinese Communists had consolidated their position on the mainland and the Soviet Union had tested their first nuclear device. All of us were concerned by the acceleration of the time schedule of the Soviets having tested their nuclear device. We had thought that it would take the Soviets maybe ten or fifteen years to develop a nuclear device of their own. It was not anticipated that they would test one as early as they did. The question was how one reacted to this, how one should react to it and, as I said yesterday, my view and that of Mr. Acheson were somewhat different than George Kennan's view, as to how one should react. One of the things that influenced my view was that I found there were three colonels who were working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose sole function was to work on nuclear matters. They were called "The Three Atomic Colonels." The leader of this group came to see me one day and said, in their view after having talked to the various scientists involved,



it was, and had long been known to be, possible to make a thermo nuclear weapon. The AEC [Atomic Energy Commission] had refused to go forward with the work on that kind of a device. Such a device would be a thousand times as powerful as a fission weapon. This was the first that I'd heard of the technological possibility of such a device.

There was a man in the Pentagon then, by the name of [Robert] LeBaron who was chairman of the joint military Liaison Committee which was the liaison committee between the Pentagon and the AEC. He represented to the liaison between the Pentagon and the AEC. I talked to LeBaron about this and LeBaron agreed with the "Atomic Colonels." Then we talked to J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was consultant to the Policy Planning Staff. Oppenheimer said that (a) he did not think that such a device was technologically feasible, and (b) if it were feasible he thought the size of the device would be such that it couldn't be carried by any delivery vehicle it would be too big to fit into an aircraft or be a warhead on a missile; and, (c) that the amount of nuclear material which would be necessary to make such a device work would be less efficiently used in such a large device than in a larger number of smaller fission weapons. His main point was that if such a thing were technologically feasible, it would be easier for us to do



it with our more advanced technology in the field than for the Russians. If we demonstrated that the thing was feasible then it would be possible for the Russians to develop one. But if we did not develop it, then it would be harder for the Russians to develop it. Demonstrating its feasibility would make it more likely that the Russians would develop a fusion weapon. Therefore, he was against proceeding on a program to try out this technology.

After having talked to Oppenheimer, LeBaron suggested to me that I ought to see Ed Teller. He sent Ed Teller to see me and he came to our office