Oral History Interview with
Petroleum Coordinator for War in Europe on petroleum lend-lease supplies for Russia and England, 1941; Secretary of the Democratic National Committee, 1941; Treasurer of the Democratic National Committee, 1942-48; a principal supporter of Harry S. Truman for the vice-presidential nomination, 1944; director of the Democratic National Convention, 1944; Democratic National Committeeman, 1944-48; U.S. Representative on the Reparations Commission, with rank of Ambassador, 1945-47; Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, 1947; and adviser to the Secretary of State on reparations, 1947-48.
Edwin W. Pauley
Los Angeles, California
March 3 | March 4 | and March 9, 1971
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.
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 April, 1973
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
Edwin W. Pauley
Los Angeles, California
March 3, 1971
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Mr. Pauley, when did you first become interested in seeing someone other than Mr. Wallace nominated for Vice President in 1944?
PAULEY: Well, I became concerned about Henry Wallace because he was the Vice President. It seemed to me that he was making too many pro-Soviet statements, and his actions were such that I did not think that he would become, either by election or succession, a proper President of the United States. I gave this a great deal of thought; I had considered it
from my own intellectual experience in Government and interest in Government philosophy. As time went on, I felt that I should pursue this matter further and do something aggressively to prevent his nomination for Vice President of the United States.
FUCHS: Will you date this a little more closely as to when you first felt that you should take such action?
PAULEY: I can date it specifically when I took this action. It was about a year before the convention that I proceeded to prevent his becoming the President. I say "the President," because, in my opinion, it was becoming obvious that the Vice President would become the President because of Roosevelt's health. I organized a campaign to prevent Henry Wallace from becoming the Vice President and used all the influence
that I had in the Democratic Party to bring this about. This came about by my recruiting all of the Democratic friends of great influence that I had within the party and particularly those that had influence with President Roosevelt, because I knew that no matter what any of us who opposed Wallace might do, we would have to have the backing of Roosevelt to obstruct Wallace's campaign.
FUCHS: How did you go about this specifically?
PAULEY: Well, I recruited all of those friends that I had who were opposed to Wallace. I always felt that the Vice President would become the President; and that subsequently happened. Many people who had not been as close to Roosevelt as I was, didn't realize his infirmities as much as I did at the time.
FUCHS: Some of those who knew Roosevelt at the
time said that they didn't notice any change in his health until he returned from Yalta in February of '45. Had you seen something before this?
PAULEY: Yes, I did before that time. Ed Flynn, who was then chairman of the Democratic National Committee was ill, and, being secretary and treasurer of the committee, I used to keep the usual morning Tuesday and/or Thursday standing appointments that the Committee chairman had with Roosevelt. During that time, several of our meetings were held in Roosevelt's bedroom upstairs and we discussed political appointments. I realized then that he was failing and that he would not be, if reelected, the same sharp and admirable President that we had had before, and that, therefore, we would have to rely on a successor. At that time the only successor was Henry Wallace, whom I and
many of my associates believed would not be the proper man to become the President of the United States. Then I seriously activated a campaign against Henry Wallace. I did it regretfully, for many reasons. The prime one was that his wife was so charming and so lovely that I didn't want to do anything to disturb the feeling that we all had in the Democratic Party concerning her. Now then, Wallace was so involved in the Soviet approach to the problems of the United States, that it was almost impossible to talk to him about it. His eyes were always looking to the stars; he felt that he was right, and no one could tell him any different. This was typical: One night we had a fund-raising dinner at the Shoreham Hotel. I had no car and was relying on taxis. He had a car but he dismissed it and said, "I'm going down toward the Mayflower, would
you walk down with me?"
I said, "I'd be delighted to."
So we started walking down and he brought along with us a young fellow that he had employed on the Government payroll to teach him the Soviet language. So after crossing the Rock Creek Bridge by the Shoreham, he said, "Do you mind if we take off our shoes?"
I said, "No, I don't."
We all took off our shoes and we ended up in a jog trot. I was against having a President like this. It didn't help my mood any.
FUCHS: Did you ever see Mrs. Wallace after the '44 convention?
PAULEY: I saw her frequently after she knew that I was an opponent. But she was a wonderful person and acted on all occasions like she
should, Democratic Party-wise. She will always be in my book as a very charming woman.
FUCHS: Did Mr. Wallace ever have anything to say to you about your part in this?
PAULEY: No, but he knew how I stood and I didn't anticipate him being my great friend from then on.
FUCHS: Did he ever evidence any animosity toward you?
PAULEY: All he could, but I didn't have any personal animosity toward him. I believe that he grew up in the wrong school of political thought. I think that he was mesmerized by the Soviet Union. When we look back on it now, I thank God he did not become the President. I think that a great many people in the United States feel that way. I was very proud to be able
to defeat him.
FUCHS: I understand Pa [Major General Edwin M.] Watson was utilized in your strategy. Would you care to comment on that?
PAULEY: Pa Watson was Appointments Secretary to Roosevelt, and I found out that Pa Watson felt about Wallace as I did. He was ready to block Wallace, and he was a loyal friend of mine in plotting out the course to do this. As you know, when you control the appointments of the President of the United States, which he did, you're a very powerful fellow, because you can send in only those you want to meet the President. So I enlisted his willing aid, and we worked together. We made appointments for the President with Democratic representatives all over the United States, and the ones that got the preference were those who felt the
same as Pa Watson and I did.
FUCHS: When did you first come in touch with Mr. Truman and become aware of his capabilities?
PAULEY: Well, I first met President Truman when he first became a Senator -- in the office of the Democratic Majority in the Senate. Then my acquaintance grew with him, particularly when he became the head of the committee to investigate the war activities under Roosevelt. Roosevelt was very doubtful about anybody that would have the influence of the Senate in attacking him, and the administration; and so, therefore, it was debated in the high circles of the Democratic Party, primarily, its members within the Senate itself, and I didn't have anything to do with that. But he was selected.
FUCHS: Are you saying that there was some opposition
to the appointment of such a committee and of Mr. Truman to head it at that time, because it would likely oppose certain measures of the administration?
PAULEY: Roosevelt had by that time come to the conclusion that there was going to be a committee, that there was no way he could stop it. Roosevelt knew that there would be a committee. Barkley and other important Democrats were for Truman, and Truman conducted the investigation in such a manner that he did not intimidate or disgrace anybody; he only pointed out the facts. That, of course, was the one thing that made him the dominant man at the time of the selection of the Vice President. Roosevelt remembered him favorably from that.
FUCHS: What year did you first have appointments
with President Roosevelt?
PAULEY: It was after the election in '32, when the Democratic Party ended up with a terrific deficit. They asked me to help out and I said, "Well, I will only if the President wants me to, and I'd have to talk to him." I had met the President before this, but I didn't know him well. Then I raised their deficit; but one of the requirements was that I had to have the President help me at any time that I wanted it. I'll say this, Roosevelt gave me all the help that I asked him for.
FUCHS: Were you serving in an official capacity for the Democratic National Committee at that time?
PAULEY: I was National Committeeman from California.
FUCHS: How did you happen to enter the Government
in the capacity of petroleum coordinator for lend-lease to Russia and England?
PAULEY: Well, because I kept firing salvos, both in my individual capacity and my capacity as a former president of the Independent Petroleum Association of California -- telling the President how to run the Government, and how to run the war, and so forth. Finally we arranged an appointment and he said, "We're facing the problem that Europe has to have a hundred tankers for lend-lease. Do you know how we can get them?
I said, "Sure I do." Of course, I knew everything then, but I was a little younger. So, I gave him the formula which was to form a Petroleum Administration for Defense. I had been reading all about international petroleum supplies and I told him about it. So, he wrote a memo in his own handwriting to
the Secretary of War: "Let Ed Pauley be your adviser on enemy supplies vs. allied supplies of petroleum." That got quick response. I then said, "We can do it by controlling the petroleum supply and companies from one coast must not transport the same products that are also being shipped from the opposite direction; we must work out an exchange, which require complete coordination. I suggest the following," and I wrote the memo that created the Petroleum Administration for Defense. It later became the Petroleum Administration for War.
Ickes and I fought like hell all during the earlier days, but we finally got the proper administrator, [Ralph K.] Davies, under Ickes. Truman, of course, was not President at that time, so he had nothing to do with it; although he did support it later.
FUCHS: Regarding the Vice Presidency, at this time you were still thinking primarily of Speaker Rayburn as the candidate you would like to see as the vice-presidential nominee?
PAULEY: Yes. I was a great admirer of Sam Rayburn's. I think that he was a great Speaker of the House, a great citizen of the United States and would have made a great Vice President and President. I advocated him on every occasion that I could.
Sam Rayburn in a speech he made to a money raising dinner in St. Louis, said he was supporting and advocating Harry Truman. There was never any real serious dispute between Rayburn and Truman, so far as I know, for the nomination. In fact, I know positively that Rayburn called me up in the heat of the convention, and said, "If you put my name up you're not my friend, because I can't win. I don't have the delegation." As you know,
the Texas delegation split: One half went for Wallace and one half for Rayburn. If it hadn't been for that, Rayburn would have been the Vice President.
FUCHS: Do you recall your first meeting with Senator Truman?
PAULEY: I think it was in the Senate at a luncheon in Secretary Biffle's office. He had a luncheon there every day, as a matter of fact, and Truman was there very often.
FUCHS: How were you dividing your time between Washington and California then?
PAULEY: Oh, I'd say 90 percent in Washington. My business was operating fairly satisfactorily, and I got the bug and started to do public service.
FUCHS: What are your recollections as to the meeting
of July 11, 1944? Who called it and why?
PAULEY: It was called by Roosevelt himself, and was more or less a command performance.
FUCHS: Would you relate your recollections of it in detail?
PAULEY: The President that evening was most jovial. We had cocktails with him in the upstairs oval room, and he made several of his famous and delicious martinis. We had some very frivolous conversation. President Roosevelt was a charming gentleman and his approach to every problem or incident was bound to reflect a sense of humor which only he could put forward.
FUCHS: You had dinner before talking about the vice-presidential possibilities?
PAULEY: Yes -- but it had been discussed somewhat
upstairs during cocktails. Then after dinner we adjourned and went back upstairs and it really began. The discussion finally came around to, "Won't you take Wallace?"
I cited some reasons why we wouldn't. It wouldn't be good because of all the people in the Democratic Party that had been selected to raise money, Wallace drew the least crowd. The people in leadership didn't want him. They felt there were better people. I hadn't mentioned Rayburn once up to this point, but I said that there were other people that were better qualified. Roosevelt said, "Why?"
I said, "Well, take Sam Rayburn."
He said, "You know, we've discussed that. His own party didn't accept him in Texas. They took 50 percent of him, but unless they have 100 percent, they couldn't put him ove