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J. Thomas Schneider Oral History Interview

Oral History Interview with
J. Thomas Schneider

Chairman, Munitions Board Inter-Agency Committee on Military-Contractor Relationship, 1949-50; Chairman, Munitions Board Industry Advisory Committee on Military-Contractor Relationship, 1949-50; Chairman, Personnel Policy Board, Department of Defense, 1950-51, and Assistant Secretary of Commerce for International Affairs, 1952-53.

Washington, D.C.
January 10, 1973
by Jerry N. Hess

See also J. Thomas Schneider Papers finding aid

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

 


Notice
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.

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 June, 1983
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
J. Thomas Schneider

 

Washington, D.C.
March, 1977
by Jerry N. Hess

 

[1]

HESS: All right Mr. Schneider, this morning let's start by discussing your background a little bit. Tell me where you were born, a few of the positions that you have held before your service with the Truman administration?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I was born in Cedar Hill, Robertson County, Tennessee, on June 2nd, 1895. I went to public schools in my hometown until I went to college at the University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee, between 1913 and 1917,

 

[2]

from which I graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1917.

Immediately upon graduation I took the examinations for a commission in the Regular Army, and in the interval I applied for and attended the second officers training camp at Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, but about a week or so before that camp was to complete the course in the latter part of November, I was informed of my appointment and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Regular Army, which I accepted.

From there I went to the heavy artillery school for young Regular Army officers at Fort Monroe, Virginia, and graduated from that in the spring of 1918, and immediately joined the 62nd Artillery Regiment, which was an artillery regiment at that time based in the Presidio in San Francisco, California, and then in a

 

[3]

few months the regiment left to go overseas.

We arrived in France, I believe, in the early part of, June, 1918, and a short while after that I went to the front for a time with a French artillery regiment and came back and joined the regiment just before the armistice as it was in training for the front.

I was then detached from the regiment and went into an officers replacement camp, and from there, after a week or so, I was ordered to General Headquarters at Chaumont, where I became Information Officer, General Staff, and aide to the Chief of Staff, Major General [James W.] McAndrew.

After a short time I was appointed Acting Secretary of the General Staff, GHQ AEF, and thus became acquainted with General [John] Pershing. General Pershing and his General

 

[4]

Headquarters removed from Chaumont to Paris (45 Avenue Montaigne) during the Paris Peace Conference and I went along as Secretary of the General Staff. During this period, General Pershing's brother James, came from New York for a visit and I conducted him over the battlefields and visited the headquarters on the Rhine of the U.S. and Allies, I returned with General Pershing and his headquarters, on the Leviathan, arriving in New York City on September the 13th, Pershing's birthday, of 1919. (He was then, I believe, 59 years of age.)

A couple of months after that General Pershing informed me that the President and Secretary of War [Newton D.] Baker had requested him to make a tour of military camps and posts, as well as principal industrial areas which had been engaged in war production; and General

 

[5]

Pershing asked me to set up the trip and to accompany him and his staff on that trip; which I did, and which lasted from just before Thanksgiving of 1919 until sometime in March of 1920. There were about 10 staff members in the party, all of whom served on Pershing's staff in France, including Generals Fox Conner, Moseley, Fiske, Colonels George C. Marshall, John Quekemeyer and myself.

General Pershing and his staff were entertained by civic bodies and others throughout the trip which covered practically every state in the Union and most of the major cities. We returned to Washington in the early spring, and just before we arrived in Washington, General Pershing told me he had rented "Highwood," Mrs. Henry C. Corbin's estate in Chevy Chase, Maryland, and asked me to become a member of his personal household. (The General was a

 

[6]

widower.) He also had with him a Major John G. Queckemeyer, and we three lived together there until Pershing retired in September of 1924.

I then was stationed in Boston, Massachusetts, where I took advantage of the opportunity to go to the Harvard Law School and obtained a law degree in 1925.

From there I went to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to the Army Field Artillery School for a year and remained there with the 1st Field Artillery Regiment for the following year and thereafter was assigned to the United States Military Academy and taught law and field tactics to the cadet corps, 1927-1929. I then reluctantly resigned my Regular Army commission in December of 1929 and went with a law firm in New Jersey. The Army by then had been reduced to less than

 

[7]

11,000 officers and slightly over 100,000 enlisted men and appeared to offer no future.

After a few years there I went to New York, became a member of the New York bar and remained there during the early years of the "Great Depression." In 1934, I became Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior (Harold Ickes) and made a survey in this country and in most foreign countries, including a trip to Western Europe and the Scandinavian countries, dealing with the field and history of the preservation of historic sites and buildings. This was made possible through a grant from John D. Rockefeller. And in connection with and as a result of this, I obtained legislation through Congress setting up an appropriate and existing authority in the National Park Service to administer a program in the United States covering the subject. Most

 

[8]

of the Federal Government's activities in this field developed from that legislation and has since formed an important division in the National Park Service.

HESS: Before we move on, tell me a little about General Pershing, just your evaluation of the man and what kind of a person was he?

SCHNEIDER: Well, when I first met him at GHQ -- I might say at this point that I happened to be ordered to GHQ by a turn of the wheel of fortune as I knew no one there at the time. I didn't learn this until a few years later. The Chief of Staff desired someone to become his aide -- primarily office aide -- and he requested the Adjutant General to send over the personnel file of a few young Regular Army officers, and mine happened to be one of those the Adjutant General selected and the

 

[9]

Chief of Staff happened to pick mine out of the few that the Adjutant General sent over. I knew no one at GHQ at the time and it was just a very lucky break for me. But General Pershing, of course, as everyone knows, was a very stern disciplinarian in the military, and publicly gave an impression of being a very stern man, which I say not by criticism but really as a very commendable trait for a distinguished military leader. But he was very efficient, he was a tremendous administrator, and, of course, I don't have to add my comments as to what a great military leader he was, and what a great organizer he was, as that's all a matter of well-known history, but I don't believe that the public as a whole had any idea at all, then or now, of what Pershing was like as a man.

 

[10]

In his home he was always a perfect gentleman. I lived in his home for approximately five years as a young officer, and, although I'm certain I gave him many reasons to do otherwise, he never spoke an unkind word to me in the entire five years I lived in his home with him. He was always considerate of me, and I was very fond of him, and he always gave every evidence of being fond of me.

I happen to think of one little incident, among many that I could think of, which I think shows the character and consideration of the man. I accompanied him to a very high official dinner at the British Embassy during one very cold, snowy, wintry night, and I had a cold, and very foolishly I didn't take an overcoat with me. But we came out of the Embassy after the dinner, somewhat after 10 o'clock, he said, "Schneider, where is your overcoat?"

 

[11]

I said, "I didn't bring one, General."

"Well," he said, "you have a cold haven't you?"

I said, "Yes sir."

He said, "Here, put on my overcoat."

Well, I objected, but he made me put on his overcoat to protect myself while driving out to Chevy Chase.

Well, that is just one minor illustration of the kind of man he was in his personal relationships with his friends and the people who lived in his home.

I kept in touch with him quite frequently after he retired, and during the last several years of his life he was at Walter Reed Hospital and I called on him there any number of times, and he was always alert and interested in everything almost right up to the end.

 

[12]

HESS: All right, now moving back to your own career, was your next position as counsel of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation?