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Frank Pace Jr. Oral History Interview, June 26, 1972

Oral History Interview with
Frank Pace Jr.

Special Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, Taxation Division, 1946; Executive Assistant to the U.S. Postmaster General, 1946-48; Assistant Director, Bureau of the Budget, 1948-49; Director, Bureau of the Budget, 1949-50; and Secretary of the Army, 1950-53.

Washington D. C.
June 26, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Pace 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 June, 1974
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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Oral History Interview with
Frank Pace Jr.

Washington D. C.
June 26, 1972
by Jerry N. Hess


HESS: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of the Korean conflict and the possible use of atomic weapons therein, do you recall if the likelihood of using the atomic bomb in Korea was discussed at any of the meetings?

PACE: Indeed it was. It was discussed really quite continuously over the latter period of the Korean war. It was always discarded on two grounds: The first, that it would not be productive, that this was not the kind of war in which the use of the atomic bomb would be effective--I say three reasons--and I don't put them in order of priorities. Second, was the concern about the moral use of weapons of this nature against a smaller country in this kind of war, and the third was that if it proved ineffective then its function as a shield for Europe would be either minimized or lost. So, you had really three quite compelling reasons against its use.

HESS: As you may recall, after the Chinese Communists had entered the fray in November of 1950, Mr. Truman in a press conference made some reference to the fact that he would use whatever weapons that it was necessary to use to meet the military situation. Clement Attlee came from England at that time to discuss that remark with the President, as


I recall. Was that a period of time when the President may have been swinging over, may have thought that there were conditions under which use of the atomic weapons would be justified?

PACE: I frankly rather doubt it, the discussions had been quite general on this subject and I think if I had to make a guess, that the President was really merely enforcing his position, negotiation-wise, with the Chinese Communists. I really quite seriously doubt that Mr. Truman was swinging towards the use of atomic weapons in that war.

HESS: Did you ever hear him articulate any conditions under which he thought their use would be justified?

PACE: No. No, I did not.

HESS: All right. Was it ever recommended by any of the advisers that the use of atomic weapons might be given to the commanders in the field, the discretion of whether or not to use it would be moved out to the commander in the field?

PACE: No. I heard no such reference.

HESS: All right. Anything else on the use of the atomic bomb?

PACE: No, I think that covers it. You see, in stating


those three items, I've identified the basic problems. Probably one, the question of its effectiveness, was really very much at the top of military people's minds, and their general conclusion was, that it would not be effective.

HESS: You mentioned that moral considerations was one of the reasons why it was not used. What did Mr. Truman have to say at the time on that subject? Why I ask is that he had ordered its use in times past and has been roundly condemned as we all know by a number of critics, for that very reason, for not considering implications in the moral use of the atomic bomb.

PACE: I think that the two situations were substantially different, certainly substantially different in my mind and I think substantially different in his.

No one ever talked about the use of the atomic bomb except as a tactical weapon in this particular situation. No one conceived of it as the use of the atomic bomb against cities or anything of that nature. And so you were considering here a lesser moral question. However, I still think that the question of the moral posture of the USA in using an atomic weapon against a lesser foe under these circumstances was very much in a great many people's minds.

I never heard the President speak on that subject


specifically, but at the military levels at which this issue was discussed, these three factors were compelling: One, it's value as a tactical weapon; two the moral impact, and three the relationship between Russia and Europe if it proved to be ineffective. And of the three the third was as compelling as the others.

HESS: We would lose a degree of control over Russia, if it…

PACE: If it proved to be ineffective.

HESS: All right, moving on, what do you recall about the transition from the Truman administration to the Eisenhower administration? Who worked on those matters? How smooth was it? Could it have gone better? Since you were Secretary of the Army right up to the end of the Truman administration.

PACE: Well, as you recall, there was not any intimacy at that juncture, between President Truman and President Eisenhower.

President Truman always regarded politics as a game to be played to the hilt, in which you said the things that would advance your cause and he never regarded it as a personal matter.

Mr. Eisenhower, who was unused to politics, did frankly personalize it, and as a result, two men who had a great deal in common were driven apart by different attitudes


towards this particular function. Mr. Eisenhower regarded it as something in which you said only exactly what you thought and any reference to people was clearly and identifiably a proven matter. Truman regarded it as the development of a pattern in which you sought to bring your side out the winner.

So, to the extent that Mr. Truman was not himself running for office, the transition should have been smoother really than it was. I think that the relationship between Mr. Eisenhower and Mr. Truman was very perfunctory and I don't think that the values of the previous administration were transitioned on to the new administration.

HESS: Who replaced you, who was Mr. Eisenhower's Secretary of the Army?

PACE: Bob [Robert T.] Stevens took my place.

HESS: Did he come in, or did he send representatives in during the last few months of the Truman administration to talk with you or to look over the operation of your office?

PACE: You mean after the election?

HESS: Yes, after the election and before the inauguration.

PACE: Oh, he came in himself. I had known Bob Stevens and there was never a problem between us at all. The transition there was very simple, very smooth. Bob and I have been friends,


he had been Army oriented, he was a gentleman, the whole transition there was very simple. and very smooth, no problem whatsoever.

HESS: Did he have any assistants who came in at that time who may have spent some time in the office, going over the files and checking things?

PACE: I'm not sure that Bob Stevens was identified as Secretary of the Army until really quite late along in the game. I think that maybe it was not much more than two or three weeks before Mr. Eisenhower took office that Bob was selected. And so the kind of long term interrelationship just wasn't there. But as far as that was concerned I remained available to Bob for judgment and identification of our past practices.

HESS: So the transition in the Department of the Army was quite smooth?

PACE: Quite smooth, no problem at all.

HESS: Good.

Briefly, how would you rate the Presidents of recent years, from Mr. Roosevelt to the present in terms of intellectual ability, administrative ability and as men? We have discussed Mr. Truman's administrative ability, but just how would you rate the Presidents you have known; Roosevelt,


Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson?

PACE: Well, Mr. Roosevelt came in under very perilous circumstances, and obviously did an absolutely unique job of turning the country around from a sense of despair to a future of hope. He was a consummate politician, a man utterly confident of himself and I felt brought to the country, really, some great and needed changes.

I felt that he had not thought through all of the changes that he achieved. For instance, there is no question but that business had exercised an undue control over the process of labor, but I feel in righting the balance, Mr. Roosevelt created undue strengths in labor that had at least in this day and age, made our competitive position extremely difficult to sustain.

So, I would rate Mr. Roosevelt certainly as one of the unique Presidents of all times. I frankly think he would have been a greater President if he had two terms instead of four. I had the feeling that towards the end of his period in office he was really consolidating positions that he felt were important, but were not in my judgment thoroughly thought through.

I also believe that Mr. Roosevelt introduced into the political system the necessity for presidential candidates to promise more than they can deliver, and established it


as a pattern in our political life. This has proven to be disadvantageous to the democratic political process.

HESS: And that wasn't done to such a great degree before?

PACE: Well, not at all really. As you know the democratic process--except in certain areas--was much more limited than it became after that time. Whether the media, the development of televisio