Durward V. Sandifer Oral History Interview

Durward V. Sandifer

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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 professional historians and political scientists, some international lawyers, a few. The bulk of the staff that I came to work with were men of that type. I had taught International Relations and International Law for six years. My background was both academic and legal, so it wasn't any problem for me to fit into that background.

MCKINZIE: How integrated was all of that work? There is some suggestion that the people who were interested in political cooperation after the war didn't have too much to say to the people who were interested in economic cooperation


after the war ended.

SANDIFER: That would not be my impression. While this was a sizeable staff it was really directed, inspired, by Pasvolsky who furnished the genius and the "think tank" operation for the direction of the operation. He was an economist by training. Welles was an international diplomat and Foreign Service operator. I think that the staff was quite well-integrated, with frequent staff meetings. They worked together on the preparation, for example, of the planning for the United Nations. All parts of the staff took part in the preparation of the Charter and background.

MCKINZIE: In those early discussions was there a kind of general agreement that, in fact, there should be something, a modified League?

SANDIFER: I don't think that on the part of Hull, Pasvolsky and the staff who worked on this, there ever was any doubt about it. We didn't even debate whether there should be an international organization. We only debated the form it should take.


Now there were career officers in the State Department, in the career service, who would have doubts and questions about that. A number of them were brought gradually into the operation, and they participated in it. But they had a more hesitant and pragmatic approach in the sense that they were not convinced, many of them, that the way to approach our handling of the basic problems of international cooperation and relations after the war would be through a United Nations organization.

But other antecedents: there was not only the United Nations, there was the Bretton Woods Conference for establishing the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. There were preparations for scientific and cultural organizations. That brought together people from all the disciplines in the Department, and in government. There were interdepartmental committees, committees that included people from public life, business, military, political -- a very wide spectrum -- and so this was all moved forward through a series of interlocking committees that covered all these areas -- political, economic, social, cultural, and legal.

MCKINZIE: What kind of evolution did the idea of an international


organization go through between 1942 and the Dumbarton Oaks Conference. Was there "field" for general discussion ideas about this structure or about what power this postwar organization might have?

SANDIFER: There was one basic question, I would say, on which not too much time was spent debating and analyzing. That was the question of whether we should have a universal and general organization or a regional organization with some kind of a superstructure over it. The man who chaired the committee which prepared the first draft charter, or constitution, of an international organization was Sumner Welles. He was interested in an international structure that would be partly regional in which the representation in the Security Council and in the General Assembly would be to some extent on a regional basis. But not even he would advocate a strictly regional structure.

Now, [Winston] Churchill, at this same time, was thinking in terms of a regional organization, an organization for Europe, an organization for the Far East, for Latin America, and so on. All this with a sort of a holding


company at the top. So, that was one of the basic questions that was discussed.

MCKINZIE: Would that then explain the inclusion of the provision in the final charter for regional organizations?

SANDIFER: The provision that was included in the Charter and prepared at Dumbarton Oaks was very general and did not provide for, or contemplate, a fully structured regional organization with decentralization of power to regional organizations like the Organization of American States, for example. It was the major organization in existence at that time. That was because Pasvolsky's thinking was in terms of a universal organization and he was afraid that if you fragmented it into regional organizations you would diffuse the authority of the organization and it would not work effectively because you had to draw upon the resources on a sort of a Federal basis -- at least for getting the necessary resources and authority for carrying it on. For that reason the regional provision was rather simply drawn in the Dumbarton Oaks Proposals.

The Latin-Americans were very disturbed by this. So


we had preliminary discussions with the Latin-American countries. Before the conference at San Francisco, after Dumbarton Oaks, a conference was held as you probably know at Chapultepec. The Latins put the United States under pressure to get them to expand and give fuller recognition to the regional organization and to their part in the operation.

They carried on that activity, that philosophy, at San Francisco and they converted Senator [Arthur H.] Vandenberg, and John Foster Dulles, who was an adviser to Vandenberg, principally, at that conference.

So, we had a confrontation within the American delegation and with the Latin-American countries, primarily, as to what extent the role of the regional organization should be spelled out -- the limitations on action without the consent or participation of the regional organizations. The result of that was the development of the regional chapter in its present form and of Article 51 on collective self-defense.

MRS. SANDIFER: Didn't you also have people like [Nelson] Rockefeller who were pushing for the Latins?


SANDIFER: One Latin-American leader who was especially effective in this was Lleras Camargo, of Colombia, who later became the Secretary General of the Organization of American States under the revised charter of the OAS, negotiated at Bogota in 1948. He led the Latin-American demand for an increased recognition of regional organizations. They had a real concern that with the veto the Security Council could be paralyzed by a Soviet veto and then no action would be possible.

The regional organization, as the Charter was originally written, would have difficulty in legalizing, or claiming that they were carrying out legal enforcement operations if they did it without the approval or consent of the Security Council. So, what they were looking for to a considerable extent, at least that's the emphasis in what they had to say, was to assure that their organization would be permitted, legally, to take enforcement action if the Security Council failed to act.

MCKINZIE: Let me ask if there was another motivation, apparent motivation of the Latins in this. If there were no regional organizations and they were just a part of the


general U. N. membership, then would they not have to take their chances with the rest of the world for whatever kinds of economic cooperation the United States might choose to involve itself in. I have the impression that many Latin-American nations at the end of the war believed that because of their sacrifice of the wartime years, they were now entitled to, or they now wanted, very much stronger trade relations and increased trade with the United States which would not be possible were there not some kind of regional organization.

SANDIFER: I would say that the Latin motivations were rather complex. In the first place they professed to resent and not like the OAS, not to be too enthusiastic about it, because they considered that it was dominated by the United States. Nevertheless, they found a very comfortable haven and an institution through which they could make their influence felt, even though the United States was the predominant member of the organization. So, that there was a certain element of pride in this, and a determination to see that they were given a maximum opportunity for participating in, and bringing their influence to bear,


in the general organizations through the influence of this regional organization. I think you're right, that they had other motives and these other factors that you name entered into their calculations.

MCKINZIE: You mentioned that at San Francisco the Latins convinced John Foster Dulles and Arthur Vandenberg of their position. By the time all of these things became open, how much was partisan politics involved in the position of the U. S. delegation. let's say by the time of San Francisco?

SANDIFER: In this particular case, I wouldn't think that Vandenberg was motivated primarily by partisan politics in the approach that he took. He had participated in the political, in the inter-departmental political committee, and he was well aware of the thinking that had gone into this. I believe his thinking had evolved gradually. In the earlier days he had been influenced more than he realized by Pasvolsky's thinking, since he prepared the agenda and sort of guided the discussions. Pasvolsky was a genius at manipulating people who were opposed to his point of view. I've seen him sit in committees


with high-ranking military leaders, who were in disagreement with him, but he was very subtle in his argumentation and his techniques for achieving his objectives. He would sort of move around them and have them surrounded before they realized what was happening, and they would agree with his views in some of these committees.

So, I think that Vandenberg's ideas on regional organization developed rather slowly and then were influenced by Dulles. Dulles may have been thinking primarily in terms of partisan politics because he was much more of a partisan than Vandenberg was. Vandenberg really had a sincere interest in international organization as such, and he believed in it. You know, he had a sort of a "conversion on the road to Damascus," so to speak. He began as an isolationist and somewhere along the line he saw the light, so he became a sincere and ardent advocate and gave his full support in San Francisco and in the Senate.

MCKINZIE: Nelson Rockefeller had been a director of the Institute for Inter-American Affairs, and he had a lot of personal investments in Latin America. Was he at all influential on these Latin-American positions?


SANDIFER: Yes, he undoubtedly influenced the Latin-American position, and he was a spokesman, so to speak, in the State Department for the Latin-American point of view. There was a stage at which he thought, and the Latin-American element in the State Department thought, that not enough consultation was taking place with the Latin-American governments in the preparation of the Charter.

Well, you had to get an agreement on a charter, and if you started by consulting with them you might never get off the ground. Hull was very receptive and very sensitive to the importance of the Latin-American areas. He had helped to develop the Good Neighbor Policy. There was no anti-inter-Americanism in the White House or in Hull's office in the question of emphasis here. Rockefeller brought Hull and the Department to the point of holding a series of consultations with the Latin-American states prior to San Francisco. Rockefeller was very much interested in it, but I would say again that his motivation was not partisan politics. I never saw any indication that it was.

MRS. SANDIFER: Speaking of partisan politics and getting off


the Latin-American subject a moment, just partisan politics in general on the United Nations, it seems to me that this development of the United Nations and the way in which Hull managed it in order to have it not be a partisan thing is a superb example of what can be done to create non-partisanship.

MCKINZIE: You mean bringing in Vandenberg?

MRS. SANDIFER: Not only that, but he conferred all the time. You had all the time these leaders from Congress, the House and Senate, who came to these meetings even before the days that they were supposed to be public, that people were supposed to know what you were doing. Those people had been brought in. Also all of these prominent people from all over the country, both Democrats and Republicans...

SANDIFER: Yes, that's right.

MRS. SANDIFER: ...that came all the time to meet with you.

SANDIFER: Hull, under the direction of Roosevelt, made a superhuman effort to see that this was a bi-partisan


operation, because he was very much aware of what happened to the League of Nations. And he was determined from the beginning that this would not happen again. So, they went very far in the direction of bringing all of these elements into the picture. The leadership in the Senate and the Foreign Relations Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee in the House were all included in the political committee which developed this thinking.

MCKINZIE: Do you recall whether when they were brought in there was much isolationist sentiment expressed to those planning committees...

SANDIFER: I didn't participate in the political committee. I was a participant in the international organization committee, and I participated in the subsequent committee. I might explain this by recalling that Welles, in 1943, succeeded in getting through this committee on international organization subcommittee of which he was the chairman, an agreement on a draft constitution.

This had elements and an emphasis that Pasvolsky didn't agree with. So, about that time, confrontation between Hull and Welles came to a peak, and Welles left


the Department.

Then I participated in a committee with one of the peculiar names, the Political Agenda Committee, which was again intended to conceal what it was really doing. That was a committee of top experts in the Department: the legal adviser, the Director of Far Eastern Affairs, Pasvolsky, the Director of Economic Affairs, and so on -- about a dozen men. And we, in the Bureau, or in what was then still the Division of Special Research, served as expert staff for that. And, of course, there was no disagreement on this sort of thing. My impression is, from my association with the people who participated in the political committee, that there was no difference of opinion on the question of moving in the direction of creating a postwar organization. If there was, it was not major and not influential. A postwar organization was not opposed by people like Vandenberg, not even in the early phases that I know of.

MCKINZIE: Not to dwell unduly on this aspect of the thing, but I think it's very important. You mentioned some details about the Latin-American view of the way that the


Charter was structured. Do you recall any particular consultations with the British? Some historians would say that there was a "special relationship" with the British and that not very much was or could be done without British collaboration on that, even in the early stages.

SANDIFER: We had a meeting in the Department on the expert level with the British. I think it was prior to Dumbarton Oaks, which was, in a sense, a technical meeting for hammering out the technical details; the formulation of the principles and institutional arrangements that should be instituted in the Charter. There was a special arrangement with the British because they were also making a study of postwar organization. Prior to Dumbarton Oaks we didn't have any opportunity to meet with the Russians. We did have a conference at Moscow in which the basic proposition that there should be a postwar international organization, security organization, was agreed upon. So, the Russians had agreed to that. The French Government was sort of floating in upper-outer space somewhere. It wasn't in any position to participate in this. So


there wasn't anything especially significant in the fact that we did carry on special consultations with the British. It was that they were in agreement with our general objectives and they had, by the time of Dumbarton Oaks, if they had ever intended to espouse, they had abandoned Churchill's idea of a regional organization. They didn't bring it forward at Dumbarton Oaks.

MRS. SANDIFER: I think it's interesting that we were the only ones that had the whole thing, as we thought it should be, written out before we went to Dumbarton Oaks. The others never brought in a plan...

SANDIFER: We had a full fleshed out plan of organization at Dumbarton Oaks. The British had a limited plan, and the Russians didn't have any -- except that all that they wanted was a security organization. They weren't interested in bringing in economic and social matters.

That was another aspect of this which I didn't get to in getting off onto this other discussion. There was the discussion over regional organization and then there was a discussion, from the beginning, as to how, or to what extent, economic and social matters should be


made a part of a general organization. Some of the officers in the Department, particularly from the economic area, naturally, were inclined to feel that there should be separate specialized agencies which would not be integrated into the universal organization.

As a result of the discussion and debate over this you have the compromise that took place in the Charter. One draft of the Charter provided that these specialized organizations should be an integral part of the United Nations Organization.

The compromise was that there should be an economic and social council, and the specialized agencies should have relationship with the United Nations and receive certain policies and administrative guidance and direction; but they would be independent. That had already evolved to the point where that was inevitable, because Roosevelt arranged for the Food and Agriculture Organization conference in 1943. The constitution had already been agreed upon for that organization. UNESCO was under way, the development of the general charter for UNESCO. And there were other existing organizations like the aviation organization, which became the Civil Aviation Organization,


and the International Labor Organization.

Originally, I think, Pasvolsky was thinking in terms of the overall organization which would incorporate these agencies and make them a dependent part of the United Nations. It was just too complicated to bring that about with the existing organizations and the insistence on the part of influential departments and people that it would be better to have these economic and social agencies act as independent on the basis of independent charters and constitutions.

One of their arguments was that in that way you could draw upon a wider clientele for support of the international organization program generally. This is because you could enlist the support of all the people who were interested in agriculture, you could enlist those who were interested in labor, you could enlist all those interested in world health, and so on, and education and welfare. So, you would help develop a broader base for support for an international organization program.

MCKINZIE: Were there also those who simply feared the internationalization of their particular responsibilities?


SANDIFER: I think that they feared that there would be too much of a political element in the sense of political considerations being too influential in the determination of the policy of the overall organization. These people had the concept that world health should be treated as a technical problem, and that labor should be treated as technical problems, and not as a political problem.

MCKINZIE: That world trade is a technical matter?

SANDIFER: Well, not so much there, because Bretton Woods had already established, by 1944, the Monetary Fund and the Bank. They wanted to protect even those organizations from political influence in the invidious sense of that term -- being policy determined from the standpoint of national politics, or partisan politics.

MCKINZIE: Let me put you on the spot as one of the men most knowledgeable about the United Nations. Would it have been stronger, would it have worked better had that occurred?

SANDIFER: I would think that while the existing organization is extremely cumbersome, and difficult to manage, both


internationally and nationally, even the Government of the United States finds it extremely difficult to develop a consistent and coordinated policy for implementation through these organizations. We may find ourselves following one policy in the Food and Agriculture Organization, and another one in the economic and social areas of the United Nations. It would have helped to simplify, theoretically at least, the problem of developing unified policies, unified, uniform administrative policies, budgetary policies, personnel policies. But it's a little bit difficult to visualize a United Nations organization structurally and politically, we will say, that could have managed that. Because those are some very wild and difficult horses to ride. It would only have been feasible if the agencies in the nature of independent organizations had never been developed. It might have been feasible if you could have established in the beginning an organization that consisted of a department of health and a department of science and culture, and a department of labor, and a department of finance, not with a separate organization, but as an integral part of the general organization.

Too much development had taken place even before


Dumbarton Oaks, to make it work. This wasn't politically feasible. At the time that we were originally writing the Charter, I was inclined to the view that it was desirable to provide for the incorporation of these various organizations and activities within the United Nations. That is, they would be a part of the United Nations structure and subject to direction and control by an economic and social council of the organization. In other words, the policy would be determined by a United Nations body with these various component parts operating under that.

MCKINZIE: Am I correct, then, in inferring that your original vision of what the United States might achieve was somewhat broader than that which actually materialized?

SANDIFER: Yes, broader in the sense that it would have resulted in the establishment of a more far-reaching organization with stronger component parts within the organization itself. But in the end, it might have had the effect, and I am inclined to think it would have had the effect, of weakening -- real grass roots support of the organization as a whole. Because you would have had one


channel through which all support for international organization had to funnel. It's not an open and shut question either way. Just in the field of finance and organization of personnel, and efficiency of operation, and the problem of overlapping organization, there has been a serious problem in managing our participation in these organizations, and in the United Nations, in Congress. Congress has been very critical and resistant to appropriations they've had to make, because they felt that there was a duplication of effort and an overlapping of programs. In addition to that, of course, you have the regional organizations in Latin America.

MCKINZIE: It has its own overlapping programs.

SANDIFER: It has an economic and social council, it has a cultural council, it has the Council of the Organization of American States. There is the special Latin-American Economic and Social Commission. The problem of developing a viable and defensible line of demarkation between what the United Nations Organization does and what the Latin-American organization does, is extremely difficult. The reason this has been manageable is that there has not


been full-fledged organization in other areas. Of course, now we have an Organization of African Unity. We never have had one in the Middle East, except the Arab organizations which are incomplete and sort of nebulous, and none in the Far East up to the present time.

MCKINZIE: Let me go back a little bit, you mentioned earlier that Franklin Roosevelt was concerned about the weaknesses of the League that were built in