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Durward V. Sandifer Oral History Interview


Oral History Interview with
Durward V. Sandifer

International lawyer, with long career in the U.S. Department of State and the Foreign Service, 1934-60. In addition to other positions served as Secretary General and Chief Technical Expert, U.S. Delegation to the U. N. Conference, San Francisco, 1945; Dep. Director, Office of U. N. Affairs, 1947-48; Acting Director, Office of U. N. Affairs, 1949; Dep. Asst. Sec. of State for U. N. Affairs, 1949-54. Attended many U. N. Assemblies and other international conferences in various capacities for the State Department, 1944-52.

Silver Spring, Maryland
March 15 and May 29, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie

[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. [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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September, 1975
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]


Oral History Interview with
Durward V. Sandifer


Silver Spring, Maryland
March 15, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie


SANDIFER: My interest in foreign affairs developed when I was a student in a small college in Illinois. There was nothing esoteric about it, I was just interested in history and I became interested in the possibility of taking some kind of operational part in foreign policy.

We were out in Illinois where, in those ancient days, 1920-24, there wasn't very much information about education in the field of foreign service, diplomatic service. I had a history professor who was very much interested in that area, and he recommended that I go to Columbia University to study with Parker Thomas Moon, who was an expert at that time in the field of what was called imperialism and world politics.

There was going to be established the Walter Hines School of International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University. It never was established. They have now a school of


Advanced International Studies. I went to Columbia University to study international law and then law. I didn't know anything about, for example, the Georgetown School of Foreign Service which was just beginning in 1922 and would have been ideal for that purpose.

I mention this because it illustrates the change in this country, now as compared with 50 years ago. Because now if you travel through that area, you find students who know what the score is on that kind of thing. They have from 10 to 20 thousand applications for the Foreign Service in spite of the fact that they only have 150 places in any one year -- 10 thousand, 15 thousand people applying for 150 places.

So, I went to Columbia University and studied international law and became very much interested in law itself as a tool of studying international law. I was influenced by Charles Cheney Hyde, who was the outstanding international lawyer in this country at that time. As a result of that, when I finished my work at Columbia University after teaching for a short period at Rutgers University, I came to the State Department in the office of the Legal Adviser. I spent 8 years there. I worked on Latin-American legal


problems and on nationality and immigration. Also I assisted the legal adviser, Green Hackworth, along with three or four other lawyers, in preparing his Digest of International Law, which was a successor to the Digest of International Law by John Bassett Moore.

I was very much interested, of course, in the international aspect of this and I wrote a book, a doctor's dissertation, while I was in the State Department, on the law of evidence in international arbitrations and adjudications.

After the war began, you may remember that [Cordell] Hull was very prompt in beginning the study of postwar problems in the State Department. Leo Pasvolsky, who is this man right here [identifying Pasvolsky in photograph], had been in the Trade Agreements Division in the Department. He was an economist from the Brookings Institution here in Washington. Within a month after the war began, Hull called Pasvolsky back to the State Department to head up a study of postwar problems -- economic, political, and international organization. Hull and Pasvolsky gradually developed, between 1939 and 1942, a staff and a program across the board in this field. By 1941 when the United


States entered the war they had it going full blast. I was transferred to that study at the request of Pasvolsky in the summer of 1942 and continued in that work from there on until the time I was first transferred into the general Foreign Service in 1954.

I concentrated primarily on the preparations for the participation of the United States in international organization -- in the United Nations. We developed the U. S. proposals for the Charter of the United Nations which were first considered at Dumbarton Oaks in August 1944 and then the San Francisco Conference.

Well, that's how I entered the field of international organization and international relations.

MRS. SANDIFER: I think that you should say that when we were in Eureka that you were very much interested in the League of Nations, and so was I, and so a part of your motivation was your interest in peace.

SANDIFER: Yes, I was very much interested in the League of Nations.

MRS. SANDIFER: We were very much interested in spite of the


fact that this history professor who influenced our lives did not have any faith in an international organization. So when you were transferred over to that, you were doing what you really wanted to do, that here at last was a chance to actually participate.

SANDIFER: Yes, I was motivated by an interest in history and law and international organization, from the beginning.

MRS. SANDIFER: You had spent a summer in Geneva while the League of Nations was still in existence.

SANDIFER: Yes, in 1929.

MCKINZIE: Do I understand correctly that the man who influenced your life a great deal did not himself believe in the efficacy of international law?

MRS. SANDIFER: That's right.

SANDIFER: He influenced my life a great deal because he himself did not know about the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. He knew about Parker Thomas Moon, who had become a distinguished scholar in that field, and he knew Columbia University. So, he sent me to Columbia University. And


this all unraveled as a result of that. If I had gone someplace else, my career would have turned out quite differently.

MCKINZIE: Did you ever discuss with him your own feelings about international law, international relations?

SANDIFER: Oh yes, I used to debate with him about the League of Nations and the role of the League of Nations and the importance of it, and so on. Of course, that was in 1920-24. That was in the early days of the League of Nations. He just was not a believer in that kind of international activity. He's like a good many people today, they don't think it's practical, they don’t think it has the necessary worth or authority.

MCKINZIE: But you did.

SANDIFER: Yes. Yes, I did.

MCKINZIE: What kind of people did you work with? Was there a particular type of person that came into the State Department to work in these postwar planning sessions? You mentioned that you were called in by Pasvolsky and


I know Sumner Welles took a personal interest in this.

SANDIFER: By the time I entered that work Pasvolsky had a well-organized staff. You see, he began with an outfit called the Division of Special Research. It was called the Division of Special Research because they wanted to conceal what it was doing. This was confidential, the public was not supposed to know that the State Department was carrying on a thorough-going, far-reaching study of what the problems would be in the postwar world in economics, business, finance and international organizations.

MRS. SANDIFER: This was before we were in the war.

SANDIFER: So he had recruited a staff of about, oh, I suppose a hundred or so people by the time I entered the operation in July of 1942.

MRS. SANDIFER: I thought that was a small staff.

SANDIFER: Well, it was a small staff, but it had grown. I wouldn't be sure what the size of it was in July, but anyway it was a substantial staff, and those men were recruited primarily from the colleges and universities.


They were "academicians," so to speak, because there was a decrease in enrollment in colleges and universities which accelerated as we approached our entry into the war. So men came from colleges and universities from all around the country, which were having a decreasing need for their services at that particular time. That was the reason that they were available. Normally they would just not have been available. It doesn't mean that they weren't good men, or that they weren't outstanding scholars. But by and large they were not professional public servants. They were not professional diplomats; they were pro