Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
Opened January, 1976
Oral History Interview with
June 28, 1974
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Mr. Saltzman, would you explain how you happened to deal with occupied areas during World War II?
SALTZMAN: I got into occupied area work in the American Occupation Headquarters in Austria at the end of the war because I was one of the initial staff officers of General Mark Clark at the time the Fifth Army was organized in Morocco at the beginning of 1943, and remained on his staff until the end of the war and went with that staff, and him, to Austria.
MCKINZIE: At the time you became involved in that work in Austria, how did you perceive the future of Austria and Germany in Europe? There was at that time Henry Morgenthau's plan for "pastoralization."
SALTZMAN: Well, I don't think at that time I had much of an opinion about the future of Germany, because
we were pretty busy with Austria and I didn't know whether the conditions were the same in Germany as they were in Austria -- which goes back to the attitude of the occupying powers. As I look back on it, I think I felt that Austria had very little chance of becoming, and continuing to be, a going concern economically. I think that view was reinforced by the way the Russians acted in their participation in the occupation because there, as in Germany, I understand, they acted as if they did not realize that the European Advisory Commission agreement provided for a really joint occupation of the country as a whole with the four zones of the occupying powers serving merely as administrative facilities for quartering troops and that sort of thing. The Russians always acted in Austria as if the zone belonged to them and we could only do, with respect to their zone, whatever they would let us do, which was practically nothing.
MCKINZIE: This attitude was apparent from the very first, when you first moved in with the troops?
SALTZMAN: Oh, before we moved in. I remember my shock at the way the Russians acted with us before we went into Vienna. You will recall that they had captured Vienna
and had occupied Vienna for several months before the occupying powers took over the occupation. When we indicated from Italy that we wanted to come to Vienna and talk to them about administrative arrangements, they said something like this, "Yes, you can come in next week and stay two or three days, you can bring a party of not more than so many people, etc."
So, we went in, and I was in that party. We went in and sat down, we discussed the administrative arrangements, and they said, "You may use one road to go from Vienna to the American zone, and may use one road to go out from Vienna to its Tulln Airport. You can have only "X" number of telephone pairs from Vienna to communicate with your American zone. And your planes flying to Vienna will fly within a ten mile wide corridor."
Now, this to me was absolutely incomprehensible, and I shall never as long as I live understand why our Government (and the same thing was happening in Germany), why our Government didn't say to Stalin, "Look, Stalin, you don't understand, read the European Advisory Agreement. We are partners, we are joint partners in a consolidated occupation of Austria and Germany. Don't misunderstand, we're going to fly our planes into Vienna
from any direction we want to and I've told General Spaatz to protect them, and we're going to use as many roads as necessary, any roads that we please. And if we want to land at the Schwechat Airport, we'll land at the Schwechat Airport. And, oh, by the way, I've told General Patton to move the Third Army to Linz."
I seriously think that if that attitude had been taken with respect to Germany and Austria in the summer of 1945 there would have been no cold war. That's the only thing they understand.
MCKINZIE: To what extent were you able to protest this?
SALTZMAN: I don't know, we operated that way, that's the way we operated. In the meanwhile, the Russians were engaging in pillage on a large scale. I've often gone down that one road from Vienna to the American zone, through the Russian zone, through the distance from Vienna to Linz where the American zone started and seen truckload after truckload after truckload being moved east by the Russians full of furniture and pianos and every conceivable thing that they thought they might have use for.
MCKINZIE: When you left Austria in early 1946, did you
anticipate that occupation of Austria would drag on and on?
SALTZMAN: No. No, I don't think so, not to the point it did. No, I had no idea it would go on for about ten years.
MCKINZIE: Had you, at the time you returned to civilian life in 1946, any expectation of going back into either military or Government service?
SALTZMAN: None at all, no.
MCKINZIE: How did that happen then?
SALTZMAN: At the end of the war a subdivision of the State Department was established to work on our Government's policy respecting the occupied areas. This was under an Assistant Secretary of State, created for the purpose, and that position was first occupied by General John H. Hilldring, who had been the head of the military government section of the War Department during the war.
In the late spring of 1947 General Hilldring decided to resign, and I was invited at that time to succeed him, undoubtedly on his recommendation to General [George C.] Marshall. I had been a general officer during the war and
General Marshall probably knew a little about me.
MCKINZIE: When you took that position, how did you assess the situation in Germany and in Japan? Had there been progress, had the occupation policy up to that time, in your view, been satisfactory? Did it call for any major changes that you wished to make when you took the office?
SALTZMAN: Well, when I took the job succeeding General Hilldring I don't think I knew enough about what had happened during the year since I had left the occupation headquarters in Austria to have much of an opinion about that as I first took up the work. A year had passed during which I had been engaged in business in New York and had been, in effect, just a newspaper reader.
When I did begin to work in the State Department on occupied area work, I think I felt that the progress in Japan had been more apparent than it had in Germany and that this was probably caused by a couple of problems we had in Germany and to a lesser extent in Austria that were not present in the Japanese occupation. The lack of cooperation which continued always in the occupation, impeded, obviously, the kind of progress in Germany which
had been contemplated at the end of the war. These problems were not in the Japanese occupation at all, which was entirely under the control of General [Douglas] MacArthur at that time, and this obviously enabled tangible results to be obtained more easily and more quickly.
In addition, in Europe we had some problems with our other allies, particularly the British, which I encountered as soon as I took office. The British were extremely short of dollars at that time, and there were various things involved in the occupation which required the payment of dollars by the British, without which our part of the occupation would suffer financially, and this required a great deal of negotiation, particularly when the so-called bizonal agreement was renegotiated shortly after I took office.
The bizonal agreement revision was negotiated in Washington in the autumn of 1947, and both General [Lucius D.] Clay and General Robertson, who was the British military governor, came back to Washington for those negotiations. Clay acted as a spokesman for our delegation in that conference because of his intimate familiarity with the problems concerned and the final agreement was not reached until the Council of Foreign
Ministers meeting in London in November to which General Marshall went and at which I was also present. The very last things to be decided were decided in London between General Marshall and the Foreign Affairs Minister, Ernest Bevin.
MCKINZIE: Could I ask you to comment on the relationship between the Defense Department -- the National Defense Establishment I think it was called at the time -- and the Department of State during the transition, because I understand that at the end of the war the Army didn't particularly want a prolonged presence anyplace, and that the Army was anxious to turn over the administration of occupied areas to the State Department, but that the State Department was not particularly anxious to get involved in operations. Was that an issue so far as you recall?