Oral History Interview with
James W. Riddleberger
Chief, Division of Central European Affairs, U.S. Dept. of State, 1944-47;
counsellor of embassy, and chief, political section, American Military
Government, Berlin, Germany, 1947-50; acting political adviser to commander-in-chief,
U.S. Forces, Germany, 1949-50; political adviser to E.C.A., Paris, 1950-52;
appointed a career minister, 1950; director, Bureau of German Affairs,
U.S. Dept. of State, 1952-53; and subsequent to his service during the
Truman Presidency served as an ambassador to various countries and as
director of the Internationa1 Cooperation Administration.
June 24, 1971
by Richard D. McKinzie and Theodore A. Wilson
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Opened June, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
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Oral History Interview with
James W. Riddleberger
June 24, 1971
by Richard D. McKinzie and Theodore A. Wilson
RIDDLEBERGER: Well, now you want to ask questions and then I answer?
Is that the way we do it?
WILSON: Yes. If it's okay with you.
RIDDLEBERGER: My voice isn't so good. Does that matter?
WILSON: No, no.
RIDDLEBERGER: I've talked too damn much already, said a lot of things.
WILSON: Maybe we might begin by asking if there was anything that came
up in the conference, or that has occurred to you when you read over the
transcript, about the general issue of the occupation that you might want
to comment on?
RIDDLEBERGER: I don't recall anything offhand. But don't forget it's
been a long time since I read it. When did you get it out?
WILSON: It was early last fall, I suppose.
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. It's been, you see it's been... I thought it had been
six months or more. You know I read it as soon as I got it, but again
though I thought it was very good, but I don't know that I have any particular
comment on it.
WILSON: They received some excellent comments on it. The only objections
were by that young man Gregory Henderson, who...
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, really.
WILSON: ...who wanted certain of his statements changed. Well, I think
we have some questions that may come up. Perhaps we might begin by talking
briefly, or asking briefly about your service in London in '43 and '44,
when you were Second Secretary of the Embassy. It was a crucial time in
U.S.-British relations. Did you deal in any way with postwar issues at
that time when you were serving in London?
RIDDLEBERGER: Only incidentally, because I was brought back here for
that. But I better explain that I went to London in 1942 primarily to
work on economic warfare. We had taken a decision jointly with the British
to amalgamate in London the entire economic warfare operation. And in
effect the British Ministry of Economic Warfare and the Economic Warfare
Division of the American Embassy were put together. In other words, the
committees were all joint committees. The decisions were all joint decisions.
And the operation became a totally integrated affair.
Now this sounds simple but economic warfare was vast in its ramifications.
It went not only into such things as issuance of navicents for cargoes
which went to the neutral countries such as Switzerland and Sweden, but
it entered into the whole question of financial control. So, it was a
very big operation indeed.
WILSON: You were in on the ground preparations for the Safehaven program.
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes, in one sense. But what we had to do first was to organize
the blockade section of the Embassy, and then put that together with the
British Ministry of Economic Warfare, and I concentrated primarily on
that. The reason for that being that Winfield Riefler, who had come from
the Federal Reserve Bank, and who was in those days the Chief of Economic
Warfare Division in London, had to concentrate on the war trade agreements,
primarily with Switzerland and Sweden. His time was so taken up with negotiations,
that in effect I took over the running of the whole blockade section.
WILSON: Yes. Economic Warfare is related to postwar assistance in some
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh yes. Then the other aspect of it was, of course, what
we call the intelligence operation, which was also under Riefler, and
on which I would help occasionally, because I was the one who had come
out of Germany, just the year before. But the management of the blockade
section was so heavy that I didn't have much time to work on other aspects
of it. People like Walt Rostow were there, on that side of it in those
days. Essentially, I ran the blockade part of it, and put it together
with the Ministry of Economic Warfare.
Also, because of the connection of many of these problems I became a
liaison officer from Economic Warfare Section of the Embassy to the Lend-Lease
Section under Averell Harriman. He was running lend-lease in London.
MCKINZIE: What kind of awareness registered with you at the time of the
British concern for their own economic future? Surely economic warfare
had something to do with Britain's view of itself.
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. I realize that.
MCKINZIE: Oh, I realize the winning of the war was the most important
RIDDLEBERGER: Very much so. But dont forget that this is 1942. Two things
were still happening. The night raids on Britain (the German night air
raids) were still very heavy. The blitz was over, the day blitz, but the
night raids were still going on and they were still very heavy. And on
top of that, of course, the losses at sea from submarine warfare were
still enormous. So this period was really concentrated on survival, I'll
be perfectly frank about it. And while I'm sure that within some part
of the British Government--no doubt--thinking was going on; but this was
'42 and '43.
WILSON: You mentioned you had some involvement in intelligence work,
coordinating intelligence work.
RIDDLEBERGER: I'd be called upon from time to time because I often had
personal knowledge that some of these other experts didn't have. But I
didn't really work very much in that field. I'd be asked a lot of questions.
You must remember that I came out very late from Germany, not as late
as those who got interned obviously, but I came out, I recall, it was
the early summer of '41. And because of the fact I'd been in charge of
the representation of foreign interests in Germany I had been able to
WILSON: Yes. So you knew...
RIDDLEBERGER: Jeff Paterson and I were able to travel, because we had
the right to inspect camps. And that meant that I went all the way from
a civilian camp, let us say, in upper Silesia, for example (where Wodehouse
was incarcerated) all through the rest of Germany to the Western frontier,
because I had the right to do that. Therefore, I would often have a fairly
recent knowledge of the situation in a particular city that somebody else
might not have. Of course, I was living in Berlin so I was asked about
the situation there. This was before the heavy bombing of Berlin. It was
earlier in 1941.
WILSON: You were brought back to the United States in 1944
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes, from London.
WILSON: ...to be Chief of the...
RIDDLEBERGER: Chief of the Central European Division. This brings me
back exactly to what you asked me earlier--and that is that at the Moscow
Conference in 1943.
WILSON: Right, '43.
RIDDLEBERGER: I did not attend the Foreign Ministers Conference in Moscow
of the British, the U.S. and the Russians, of course. It was decided there
to establish the European Advisory Commission in London for the purpose
of commencing the negotiations on occupation, both of Germany and Austria.
I was notified of this I would say probably late 1943.
I was told that I should probably be called back to Washington and a
reorganization of the State Department was coming, whereby I would be
made Chief of the Central European Division; and, therefore, I would be
deeply involved in the whole question of occupation. That's exactly the
way it worked out. The State Department was reorganized and the former
Western European Division was broken down into Central, Southern, Western,
and British Commonwealth divisions. I took over one of those divisions
in which I was competent both for Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia.
WILSON: And Czechoslovakia?
RIDDLEBERGER: And Czechoslovakia. That was my administrative responsibility
within the State Department as Chief of the Central European Division;
but in addition to that I was made Chairman of a State, War and Navy (there
wasn't any separate Defense Department then), which was given a cover
name of Working Security Party. And that was the Washington arrangement
for backstopping the negotiations in London in the European Advisory Commission,
on which our representative was [John G.] Winant, our Ambassador and Sir
William Strang was the Britisher.
WILSON: We would be very interested in having your assessment of first
the hopes for the EAC, and then what happened to it. Winant became very
bitter about what happened, and the assumption was that he had some idea,
some belief that it would work and others did. Some other information
that we have there was cynicism from the beginning about it. Is that fair?
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, yes. Primarily in the White House, yes. [President
Franklin D.] Roosevelt didn't want to delegate these most important matters.
But the question of it working I think can be summarized very quickly.
It worked insofar as the negotiation of agreements on the structure of
the occupations were concerned. On policy I must say it got, well, practically
nowhere, in spite of monumental efforts by the British, and less monumental
on our part, and sort of a negative attitude by the Russians. But the
control machinery agreements came out of it, and the protocol on zones,
and eventually the same thing for Austria.
WILSON: Yes. You put in an enormous amount of time working out specifications--stipulations
for control of civilian population, the use of police. This sort of thing
came out of the EAC. And yet while you were doing this you knew that people
like Henry Morgenthau and others were submitting papers...
RIDDLEBERGER: This was one of the most difficult periods in Washington.
Difficult for the State Department, I mean.
RIDDLEBERGER: In that, while technically Roosevelt had approved all this,
and had endorsed the conclusions of the Moscow Foreign Ministers meeting,
he never regarded the European Advisory Commission as an important instrument.
He thought a lot of these important matters should be reserved for him
and for [Sir Winston] Churchill and for [Joseph] Stalin. That was his
idea. In fact, he described the European Advisory Commission once as not
only not being on a primary level, but not even on a secondary level and
he called it merely a tertiary level. That was the very phrase he used.
WILSON: What sense did you have of his views about the occupation? He
was running fourteen horses in a way.
RIDDLEBERGER: His views were very simple in one sense as reflected back
to us. That is while we were given the responsibility of trying to carry
this out, you see, at this time Roosevelt would say, "Well we can't make
these decisions here. Let's wait and see what we find when we get in Germany."
WILSON: There's a suggestion that he really didn't believe the United
States would stay very long?
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, yes. He made that very clear.
WILSON: He did?
RIDDLEBERGER: Very clear on several occasions. This by the way, is coming
out now as the Foreign Relations are being published.
WILSON: Yes. Right.
RIDDLEBERGER: I am supposedly writing a book, you know, on American policy
in the occupation of Germany. That's the general subject; it's not a title
yet. We don't know. I got started on it, but General [William H., Jr.]
Draper got me to come here, and while I'm trying to cut down, I don't
always succeed. And, consequently, while I've written a chapter and blocked
out another one and done some drafting on it, I've had to drop it.
MCKINZIE: Well, we hope you can go ahead with that.
RIDDLEBERGER: I hope I can go back to it someday. And luckily I made
no commitment on the timing, and I stipulated that at the very beginning.
This was an offer that came to me. As soon as they heard I planned to
retire (I was still in Vienna) I was asked to do this study. It must have
been 1967, and the moment I got back here they (this institute in Washington)
asked me if I'd undertake to write this. I said, "Well, Ill see. I will
start on it. I will have to go and ascertain what documentation is available."
The organization is called the American Enterprise Institute, and what
it did was very clever in a way. It publishes primarily brochures that
analyze legislation and that sort of thing, but it had one done by Bill
Sebald, a colleague of mine. He was [General Douglas] MacArthur's political
adviser in the occupation of Japan. They got him to write a short study,
not very long, about 135 pages, something like that.
WILSON: Yes. We've seen it. It's very good.
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, you've seen it. Not bad.
MCKINZIE: No, no, quite blunt.
RIDDLEBERGER: Quite blunt, yes. As I pointed out to the director here,
I said, "You know, Japan was in effect a one power occupation. And there
are those who would characterize it as being a one man occupation." I
think this has a certain merit too. But, of course, Germany is a very
different story indeed. You had these long negotiations, and you had a
four power occupation eventually, and a great--well, I can almost say
disorder in the policies of the several states, certainly in ours, and
how it would come about, and who had the authority to do what and so forth.
Then you had, as you properly mentioned, the injection of Morgenthaus
ideas. And they played a great role. But the difficulty about writing
this sort of study is, that this is a very long and complicated period,
extending from the time of the Moscow Conference in November '43 (it took
until January to get the European Advisory Commission started, that is
from the beginning of '44) until the end of the war. In fact, some parts
of the Austrian agreement, as you know, weren't signed until the armistice
was practically upon us, and that was done at the very last moment. Then
we had to arrange for the participation of France, in the occupation.
WILSON: Right, right.
RIDDLEBERGER: This meant a certain rewording, and also meant a redrawing
of the zones.
WILSON: Right. And it meant complications.
RIDDLEBERGER: And it meant complications, right. I must say that as the
Soviets wouldn't give an inch as far as their zones were concerned, the
French had to be given zones carved out of what we had thought would have
been only Anglo or American zones of occupation.
WILSON: When you came back to Washington, what was the level of preparation?
Was the preparation for planning for the occupation just beginning?
RIDDLEBERGER: No, it had not. Now, I can't speak with any authority about
the situation within the Pentagon. I don't think it had advanced very
far, although later it did. But in the State Department they had made
enormous efforts. I was impressed by the enormous preparations that had
been made. This was due primarily to Phil Mosely, Philip E. Mosely, who
is not back in--is he back at Columbia?
WILSON: He has an office at Columbia.
RIDDLEBERGER: He was the one who set up this research division, as they
called it then. I've forgotten. It was a longer name than that, but it
was really the commencement of the preparations for the postwar period.
They prepared a monumental documentation of extraordinary accuracy and
care I thought. In fact, in the end I just corralled some of the people
he'd gotten, because he then was sent to London to assist Winant on the
negotiations. To be perfectly frank about it, I took over three or four
of his people to try to get my division going.
WILSON: How solid was the information you were getting about the German
economy and about the state of affairs that the Allies would find when
they did occupy?
RIDDLEBERGER: I wasn't getting it, that is to say, not necessarily my
division. We got it incidentally. But that went into more--that went both
into the Pentagon and into the planning in the State Department. I mean,
the general intelligence side of it. This was a vast flow of it.
WILSON: Yes. We are just going through UNRRA materials now...
WILSON: ...and we are going through, oh, a number of other categories
in the National Archives. And the impression we get is that sometime in
early, perhaps even mid-1945, just about the end of the European war there
is a reassessment of the kinds of problems that would be found. There
is a rather heightened concern for the problem that would be found in
the liberated areas as well as in Eastern Europe.
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh my, yes. I should explain one thing to be specific.
It comes back to me now in answer to your question. We set up another
division in the State Department on what you might call the German economic
side of it, and the Chief of that was [Charles P.] Kindleberger. They
had great confusion on Capitol Hill, because I'd be accused of having
said or written something I'd never heard of, and Charlie also. Charlie
Kindleberger ran that part of it. And then, of course, I was really deep
into the negotiating aspects of the--through the European Advisory Commission,
and what you might call the whole political side. Of course, we were drawn
into the whole argument over the Morgenthau plan. In fact, I was one of
the few people who was present when it was first unveiled.
WILSON: You dealt incidentally I suppose with UNRRA. I'm sure you had
something to say about the attitudes of the Department and of the Government
toward UNRRA and its role, even though UNRRA was primarily in Eastern
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. But UNRRA was not Germany, you see.
WILSON: Right. But then UNRRA got into the DP question in Germany.
RIDDLEBERGER: That's right.
WILSON: There was a question of UNRRA coming into Austria, and taking
RIDDLEBERGER: That's right. But don't forget that in the end most of
the relief then came through the GARIOA for Germany and Austria...
WILSON: Right, right.
RIDDLEBERGER: ...while UNRRA operated primarily in other countries. So,
therefore, I didnt myself participate intimately with UNRRA, because
I knew that Germany and Austria wouldn't be in it. Incidentally, for Czechoslovakia,
I did. Yes. I still had that too. You can imagine in those days Czechoslovakia
was something I couldn't devote much attention to.
WILSON: Oh, yes.
RIDDLEBERGER: I had one fellow on it who knew the language and was very
good and so forth. But, apart from begging Truman to let us get into Prague,
well, I didn't have the time really.
WILSON: Did the transition from President Roosevelt to President Truman
affect your work at all? Was there any change of approach, any new direction?
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. In a sense that there was a new power conferred upon
the State Department. Now, of course, this was all a very interesting
period, you see. Roosevelt, even up until his death was still postponing
decisions on Germany, because he still hadn't decided. He would decide
on these matters later, he said. But he died in April, 1945. While [Edward,
Jr.] Stettinius was an awfully decent fellow, and a very nice fellow and
I liked him personally, he was about as much Secretary of State as I was
King of Spain. I mean in the sense of exercising the real power on the
important issues of the time. He was concentrating upon the United Nations
negotiations, and he was devoting almost his entire time to the prospective
conference that took place in San Francisco. He was still Secretary of
State, of course, at the end of the war, when Truman succeeded to the
White House. But, actually, it was Harry Hopkins, who I would say was
the most important official in matters respecting the Soviet Union, and,
consequently, Germany and Austria, and to a lesser degree what you might
call the secondary level in the State Department. But by that time a State,
War, Navy Coordinating Committee had been established and so we were getting
a lot more answers to problems.
To come back to your question, we knew, that is to say division chiefs
within the State Department knew, very quickly that Jimmy [James F.] Byrnes
was going to become Secretary of State. Mr. Stettinius was still Secretary
of State, and the decision was that he would remain Secretary of State
until the San Francisco Conference was concluded. After all, he had represented
the U.S. at Dumbarton Oaks negotiations and all the preparatory work.
And I don't think Truman wanted to throw him out, so to speak, until that
part of his endeavors had been completed, and I think that was quite right.
Therefore, the State Department had this difficult problem of the Potsdam
Conference date having been fixed, with a Secretary of State whom we knew
was not going to the Potsdam Conference. The prospective Secretary of
State being in Washington with Stettinius in San Francisco, and quite
frankly what happened was the division chiefs who were involved in preparations
for Potsdam went to the Shoreham Hotel to brief Jimmy Byrnes after our
day's work in the State Department. All that had to be kept very quiet.
How much of this can be published later on, I don't know yet.
WILSON: We have to see.
RIDDLEBERGER: But that's the way it was done. And Jimmy Byrnes did not
take his oath as Secretary until just before he went aboard the cruiser
to cross the Atlantic with Truman en route for the Potsdam Conference.
WILSON: Who was running the department while Stettinius was still there?
RIDDLEBERGER: Will [William] Clayton on the economic side, and a couple
of the Assistant Secretaries, Jimmy [James C.] Dunn. I'm talking about
Europe now. Latin America was a different matter.
WILSON: Yes. I realize that.
RIDDLEBERGER: Was Sumner Welles still there?
RIDDLEBERG: I guess not.
WILSON: He left in '43.
RIDDLEBERGER: Well, whoever took his place.
WILSON: Well, we have the impression that Clayton attended Potsdam.
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, Clayton was there. The fact is we went together to
Berlin. We flew together.
WILSON: Yes. We have the impression that he was doing some things that
were not strictly economic.
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh yes.
WILSON: He was a very strong figure in this period?
RIDDLEBERGER: In fact Clayton was technically the chairman of this committee,
which was formed after the big row over the Morgenthau plan. Morgenthau
used to always convene the committee in his office. He was a Cabinet member,
and, of course, as Will Clayton was Assistant Secretary, Morgenthau would
always be in the chair. He got around that one. But you know on this subject
there is so much now published that I'm just sort of touching a few high
points that really go along with that.
WILSON: Yes. That's right. But in the published material and the material
that we get in doing our research there are gaps.
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes there are.
WILSON: One of the striking things we've learned from these interviews
is that the personal relationships, in the Department for example, often
are not reflected in the sort of memoranda that would go from place to
RIDDLEBERGER: No, no. They are not.
WILSON: As we were saying, or someone said at that conference last year,
well, you may have a working paper, or a contingency plan to use a current
phrase, that will spell our various...
but then what may happen is that the next afternoon, you see,
it's thrown out.
RIDDLEBERGER: It's one of the dangers of present publication of these
documents, because, you know, you've got to know more or less what kind
of approval that particular paper had.
WILSON: Yes. You dealt with this question to some degree during the conference,
but we'd like to go over it again. What about the decision to have Army
control of the occupation? The documentation would suggest that the Army
was not very eager to maintain any long term control of Germany, and that
the State Department was equally disinterested. And that for, maybe even
into 1946, there was a debate about who really should be in control of
the occupation, who should administer the occupation, I guess. Is that
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. But my recollection is that the question of the Army
control was settled fairly early, because the State Department, you see
in the first place the Army was going to be there and with the physical
power. This is where I agreed with Roosevelt in ways. For nobody could
foresee exactly what kind of a situation we would have in Germany. No
one could be certain that there would be a general surrender. And there
was a great deal of talk about the redoubts, you remember, in Bavaria
and all that sort of thing, wolfpacks and so forth. So I think that there
was early agreement that it could only be the military that would take
over in the initial stages. But what is an initial stage? You see, obviously,
the first couple of weeks or months even, but after that I think it was
still open. But I think that certainly in the Cabinet level echelon, let
us say of the Government, that it was recognized that it had to be a military
affair for some time to come.
WILSON: Some time to come?
RIDDLEBERGER: Meaning more than just a couple of months.
WILSON: There was through 1945 at least recurrence of this phrase, six
months, the six-month period.
RIDDLEBERGER: Don't forget, though, the Pentagon had made in the meantime,
well, starting in 1944, commenced very detailed planning for occupation
and military government, and we knew all that within the State Department...
RIDDLEBERGER: ...and therefore, it was assumed, at least it was assumed
as far as I know more or less generally, that it would be a military government.
Now the time on it I don't know. Of course, there again we didn't know
what Roosevelt's ideas were, because Roosevelt, you're right about one
thing, always had this idea that he was going to get the troops out quickly.
That opinion was not shared by a lot of other people; but, however--they
are still there in one way or another.
WILSON: Your relations between State and the Army were, I gather, fairly
RIDDLEBERGER: Fairly good, yes. Our relations were good. It was Morgenthau
with whom our relations were strained.
WILSON: Yes. And I gather that there was some continuation of Treasury
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, yes. It even went into the early stages of the occupation.
RIDDLEBERGER: Particularly on the reparations and that side of things.
And [General Lucius] Clay was faced with a pretty delicate situation there
for a long time. The Treasury officials being there, you see. And, of
course, Truman took care of that after a while by getting rid of Morgenthau.
That was his solution for that.
WILSON: And White, too.
RIDDLEBERGER: And Harry White. Of course, Harry White was the moving
spirit. And, I think, Harry White really wrote the Morgenthau plan. At
least, he was the one who explained it to us. You know where it was first
unveiled, don't you?
WILSON: No, I don't.
RIDDLEBERGER: In Harry Hopkins office in the White House. Harry called
a meeting, and I guess Dunn and [H. Freeman] Matthews and I went from
State, Harry White and I don't remember anymore the others that were there
from the Treasury, and Harry Hopkins and maybe somebody else from the
White House. I don't recall. I think there is a memo on all this somewhere.
And Harry White was the one who did all the talking, I mean, as far as
the explanation of their plan was concerned.
WILSON: The interpretation of the early stages of the occupation that
has been brought out in the last few years, has been pushed forward in
the last few years, and I think won the day at the conference last year,
was that the Army attempted to follow to the letter instructions given
it for the first year, year and a half. And that it was meeting increasing
opposition from the Russians, but also from the French. The French were
a basic obstacle for General Clay and for the State Department in carrying
through the program spelled out under the Potsdam protocol. What happened
then--what's the process at least from your perspective--of the change?
The decision on the part of the United States Government and of Clay to...
RIDDLEBERGER: Well, I think you have to remember one thing, that Clay
felt very strongly, and I think it's probably brought out in his book,
although I can't give you chapter and verse on it, that any possibility
of developing a common policy with the Soviets on the basis of the Potsdam
agreement was made much more difficult, because of the French attitude.
WILSON: Yes, right.
RIDDLEBERGER: Now I'm not sure that it did, personally, but I think he
felt that--I think he felt it very strongly, and I think he's never had
any hesitation in saying so. On the other hand, whether or not it really
made any difference in the end I'm not so sure.
WILSON: The French were just acting as substitutes for what the Russians
would have done you are saying?
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. Because I personally could never see, and to give
you a very specific example, any intention on the part of the Soviet representatives
to carry out the Potsdam agreement that Germany should be treated as an
economic unit (even earlier than that--the London agreement) that Germany
should be treated as an economic unit.
WILSON: That's certainly a basic.
RIDDLEBERGER: That's basic.
RIDDLEBERGER: What that meant was that they were taking out resources
from the Eastern zone, while we were putting in food and raw materials
from the West, you see.
WILSON: Was it necessary for a period of time to elapse to bring this
fact to the mind of the American public, and to confirm it for people
in the executive agencies of the Government, so that you could finally
say, "Well, it isn't going to work, this principle isn't going to work
and we've got to try something different." Was that necessary, or should
it have been done earlier?
RTDDLEBERGER: My feeling is that in many high quarters in the Government,
even at the time of Potsdam, there was complete conviction that the Soviets
were not going to carry out either London promises or Potsdam promises.
On the other hand, don't forget it was a very bitter war.
RIDDLEBERGER: The political transition that Truman had to make--was a
very complicated one. Don't forget the Morgenthau point of view was still
very popular. A lot of people, you know, simply said, well, let the bastards
starve and so forth, and Morgenthau is right, etc., etc. Why don't we
just convert Germany into a goat pasture. And, therefore, within the United
States, as within the United Kingdom, there was this political problem
of appearing to change a policy which had been followed. [Henry] Wallace,
for example, of course, always tended to side with the Soviet position.
I'm talking now of the immediate postwar period. He was very much inclined
to criticize us for any change in the policies he approved.
WILSON: General Clay...
RIDDLEBERGER: To illustrate what I mean, I was in Berlin at the time
of the [Viacheslov M.] Molotov-[Joachim von] Ribbentrop pact, and I was
still in Berlin when Molotov came in the winter of '41 to discuss with
the Germans the carving up of Europe, not to speak of colonies.
RIDDLEBERGER: So, let us say that my reaction to the Russians was not
exactly one of complete admiration. When in London during the war I would
say anything, even in the most conservative circles in Great Britain about,
Soviets have their own aspirations, and their own policies, and what they
consider to be their vital interests, and they are going to pursue them,
Id almost be told sometimes that this was--if not treason--at least heresy.
One simply couldn't say anything against the Soviets. And, of course,
don't forget we still had that situation here in many ways.
WILSON: Yes, yes.
RIDDLEBERGER: And Roosevelt, of course, had never let out the full picture
of our relationship with the Soviets, and this all had been very carefully
kept away from the public. They talk about Vietnam today. Of course, I
think with regard to Vietnam there's an awful lot given out in comparison
with what I can recall about our relations with the Soviets during the
WILSON: In a sense then President Truman was a breath of fresh air?
RIDDLEBERGER: Yes. He had one thing, of course, that made the operation
so much easier; that is, that had confidence in his Secretary of State.
At least he did in the early phases. Now I gather there was a break on
WILSON: With Byrnes, yes.
RIDDLEBERGER: With Byrnes. But certainly in the early phases Byrnes talked
for the President...
RIDDLEBERGER: ...there is just no doubt about it. And then even after
that, when George Marshall came in, the same situation prevailed--the
same situation of confidence.
MCKINZIE: Could you help us kind of document this erosion of hope that
some U.S. people in Germany had for cooperation with Russians. It started
out with difficulties between Germany's economic unit, and I gather repatriation
RIDDLEBERGER: Repatriation and so forth.
MCKINZIE: Had a great deal to do with--the Russian conduct in a way.
RIDDLEBERGER: Conduct and so forth.
MCKINZIB: They messed up.
RIDDLEBERGER: And you had great division of opinion in the Army about
the Soviets, including such renowned figures as [General George] Patton,
RTDDLEBERGER: No secret on what Patton's views were. But Clay was faced
with the Potsdam decisions conveyed to him with full, sordid details.
I remember that Matthews and I, I think, got on a plane at the end of
the Potsdam Conference and went directly from Berlin to Frankfurt to meet
with Clay, and give him not only the signed copies of the Potsdam Agreement,
but background details in a long session that went on for I've forgotten
how many hours. In addition, he had Bob Murphy right there, who had been
through the whole thing. And then, of course, Clay saw the top Army people,
as well. I say, didn't [Henry L.] Stimson come to the Potsdam Conference?
I think he did.
WILSON: Did he?
RIDDLEBERGER: McCloy did certainly
WILSON: I'm not sure that Stimson did.
RIDDLEBERGER: Stimson may not have come, or he may have come up for a
day, I don't remember. You know your memory can deceive you on things
WILSON: The effort to carry forward this goal of economic unity was--at
least according to the published materials--a very long one on the part
of the United States.
RIDDLEBERGER: Oh, I should say so. Clay was infinitely patient.
WILSON: Clay claimed, or the assertion was that even the attempts in
1947, the serious attempts to set up a bizonal arrangement, economic arrangement
was a first step in bringing the French in and then assuming--demonstrating
this would work, and bringing in the Russians-the Russian zone. Is that...
RIDDLEBERGER: No. I would doubt that, I mean, whatever hopes they had
I think that they had been pretty well dashed. Don't forget that while
bizonal negotiations had been initiated, at least in an informal way before
the Moscow Conference in March and April of 1947. It was only after that
these negotiations for Bizonia were completed. And don't forget at that
time we had gotten some pretty strong words from Moscow.
WILSON: What is your view of the reason for the decision to give it up.
Is it a matter of just, well, let's make a rational arrangement here?
We can't work with the Russians. Let's make some better arrangement to
bring Germany back? Was it on a political basis, or we've had suggestions
that it was economic, that the pressure to continue to pour money into
Germany just was no longer making sense?
RIDDLEBERGER: I think it was both. But then you have to remember the
circumstances of late '45 and early '46. When Byrnes went to Moscow, and
I think it was December '45.
RIDDLEBERGER: He came back and was persuaded that some kind of great
effort must be made to give the Soviets satisfaction on their security
after this dreadful invasion, you see.
RIDDLEBERGER: And that's when he conceived the idea of what turned out
to be the forty-year disarmament treaty for Germany.
Now, Jimmy Byrnes was determined that that was not going to leak; so
he sent for me and told me what he had