Oral History Interview with
Secretary of the Treasury in the Truman Administration,
1946-53. Other Federal positions once held include Executive Vice-President
and Director, Defense Plant Corporation, 1940-43; Assistant to the Director
of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1940-44; Federal Loan Administrator,
1945; Director, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1945-46.
Secretary Snyder has been a longtime close friend of Harry S. Truman beginning
with their service in the U.S. Army Reserves after World War I.
John W. Snyder
January 10, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History
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. ) 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder
January 10, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Snyder, what stands out in your mind concerning the period of
time that you spent as Federal Loan Administrator?
SNYDER: Mr. Hess, my two and a half months as Federal Loan Administrator
was about the busiest, shortest, most satisfying of any period of similar
length of my life. I was appointed Federal Loan Administrator on April
17, 1945. As you have pointed out, it was the first major appointment
made by President Truman. The Senate confirmed my appointment on April
27th, and I was sworn in on April 30th. The public reception to the announcement
of the appointment ranged from "Who is he?" to those that were highly
favorable. I am happy to say that the large majority fell in the latter
class. The business community particularly accepted it as a good omen
that Mr. Truman had appointed a
banker for a banker's job. As I still had hopes of getting back to St.
Louis and taking up my bank work in the First National Bank there, I got
busy at once to accomplish many of the things that I had felt should be
done in recognizing the RFC and the Federal Loan Administrator's job for
peacetime operation. I had been in and out of the RFC operation for nearly
ten years beginning back in 1937 as manager of the loan agency in St.
Louis. In 1940 I was called to Washington to help organize the RFC for
handling its defense programs. It was at that time that a wartime expansion
of RFC resulted from the establishment of a number of subsidiary corporations
that carried out specific wartime functions up until the present time.
By the present time, I naturally refer to the time of my appointment as
Federal Loan Administrator.
In the first week of May the war was
obviously approaching its end, and with it, the RFC's major contribution
to the war effort would be finished. I had long felt that there should
be a contraction of war agencies as soon as practicable, and I had discussed
it at great length with Jesse Jones, with members of Congress, and with
many others before I became Loan Administrator. With this in mind, it
was one of my initial major undertakings as Federal Loan Administrator.
I immediately began plans for streamlining the program of the RFC. I discussed
it again with a number of those in Congress who were particularly interested
in the RFC operations, and with Mr. Jones, and with the President. They
all were in complete agreement that the five large subsidiaries that had
been created for defense and war purposes should be absorbed by the parent
corporation. To be absorbed were the Rubber Reserve, Metals Reserve, Defense
Supplies, Disaster Loan, and the large Defense Plant Corporation.
The way it worked out, the streamlining was primarily a bookkeeping change
that would simplify the RFC setup and prepare it for whatever peacetime
task it might be given. Senator Robert F. Wagner of New York introduced
the necessary legislation into Congress to implement the plan of contraction.
It was promptly passed by the Congress, which was obviously gratified
to find a Government agency ready to cut back its own empire.
The next major task that faced me as Federal Loan Administrator was what
to do with the surplus Government war plants and equipment after the war
was over. As you know, as head of the Defense Plant Corporation, I had
supervised the financing of the building of most of those facilities.
The Defense Plant Corporation had actually signed contracts for the financing
of close to eleven billion dollars of war facilities. The war in
Europe having ended on May 8th and with the war in the Pacific approaching
its climax, many of the industrial facilities were no longer needed. So
I immediately began plans to dispose of the surplus plants as rapidly
as was feasible with the approval of the Government. A large number of
persons both in and out of Government had expressed the hope during the
war that some of the war plants would be retained and operated by the
Government to provide yardsticks by which to gauge private industry. I
had been opposed to this program from the very first days of the creation
of the Defense Plant Corporation. A number of my associates and I in an
attempt to curtail such an eventuality wrote a clause into the contracts,
the lease arrangements which the Defense Plant Corporation entered into
with the industrialists who operated the defense plant facilities, providing
that when the necessity for defense was no longer apparent that the lessee
could buy the plants
back under a stipulated formula. Therefore, in consultation with the board
of directors of the RFC, which had absorbed the defense plant operation,
we began to discuss the most appropriate procedures to follow in bringing
about this restoration of industry to private hands.
My third important consideration was to begin work with the directors
of the various RFC functions to make plans for the best manner in which
the RFC could serve in the great reconversion problem that was going to
face the country following the war. Probably I can best illustrate what
developed in my mind by reading an excerpt from a speech that I made in
Evansville, Indiana about that time:
There are five major problems that will tax the initiative, ingenuity,
and patience of us all, how to reapply our labor force to the job ahead;
how to re-equip our factories, how to maintain credit, how to skillfully
liberate our controlled economy
from the protective measures necessary in the peak war years, and
how to adjust our tax structure after Japan is defeated.
I then outlined a few of the steps that the RFC would be prepared to
take in aiding in industrial reconversion:
First, to make loans against the cancelled war contracts; second, to
make business loans to returning veterans; third, to make commitments
now for future loans so that industry might proceed with plans for rehabilitation
and reconversion; and fourth, automatically guarantee bank loans to industry
up to 75 percent with a ceiling of $250,000 for each loan, and participate
with banks in individual industrial loans made to industry in any
amount. I was particularly anxious that the Nation know that the RFC was
well prepared to cooperate with the Nation's commercial banks to finance
plant reconversion, finance equipment and plant purchases, and to finance
property purchases where needed.
I immediately began to work out with banks an arrangement for making loans
under what we called the "blanket participation agreement." Under this
agreement, banks were permitted to make loans subject only to a few conditions,
such as solvency, collateral, and a limit on salaries paid by the borrower.
This permitted the banks to make loans on their own judgment and without
requiring prior approval by the RFC. I felt that through this agreement
that the Government was showing complete confidence in the banks, which
is, of course, as it should be. It was my opinion that together the banks
and the RFC could solve the financial problems of the small businesses,
which were capable of, and entitled to solution during the reconversion
and post-war periods. While I was in the midst of these engaging pursuits
aimed at a reconversion program, I received a message from President Truman,
who was, at the time, at the
Potsdam Conference, that he wanted me to take over the Office of War Mobilization
and Reconversion, a job which I frankly did not wish to undertake. However,
since I was in Washington to be as of such help to President Truman as
I could be, I could not hesitate to undertake to do the job that he wanted
most for me to do.
As I was preparing to leave the Federal Loan Administrator's job, I summed
up in my own mind what I had been able to accomplish in the short time
in which I had been in the office. I began by streamlining the RFC. I
made an effort to make the agency more efficient and more economical.
I established a broad policy for the disposal of surplus plants and material,
and finally, I set out a program for the RFC, which was to help it carry
out in the post-war years a program to aid large and small businesses,
a program that certainly, in my opinion, would go a long way towards the
from war to peace. This, Mr. Hess, I think, gives you a brief story of
my experience as Federal Loan Administrator.
HESS: Mr. Snyder, what type of plants presented the most difficulties
in the conversion process?
SNYDER: Well, naturally, it was those types of unusual plants like the
magnesium plants and some of the large steel plants--the one out at Provo,
Utah, for instance, was an enormous, complex, integrated steel plant that
was built out there near the middle of Utah, away from sources of labor
supply, of iron ore, and from coking coal. It was purely a political location.
But we were able to finally locate a buyer in the U.S. Steel Corporation,
but, of course, in that case, there had to be some bargaining because
they were taking an operating problem on their hands in taking over the
In the Rubber Reserve, we had to wait our time until the rubber manufacturers
were ready to undertake to switch from natural rubber to synthetic rubber.
But, in due course, those plants were all absorbed very well, but it was
slow doing. Some of the larger ordnance plants, such as the one that I
mentioned out at Chicago, had eighty acres under one roof. Well, it took
quite a bit of planning to get operations that could utilize that large
a space, but through community cooperation, putting sometimes eight and
ten operations into the same building, we were able to get them all pretty
well operating. There were many, of course, the one-purpose plants for
manufacturing machine gun bullets and things of that sort, that there
just wasn't any peacetime use for, had to be either turned into storage
plants, or some facility of that character. But by and large by our foresight
in putting the option clause into the contracts, the operators
in the Defense Plant Corporation facilities had planned ahead for the
use of their plants. In that way these plants were more easily converted
than some of the one-purpose plants that were built by the Ordnance Department
and some of the specialized agencies.
HESS: The efforts on finding an occupant for the Willow Run Plant came
a little later, is that right?
SNYDER: Well, yes, the Willow Run Plant was initially built by the Ford
Motor Company. Mr. Ford, Sr. didn't want to have anything to do with Government
financing. And so when he started to build the large bombers in that plant,
why, he built the plant himself. Subsequently, the Defense Plant Corporation
purchased it from the Ford Motor Company, and leased it back to them for
operating during the war. Following the war, the plant was used by two
or three different lessees,
initially, the Kaiser Motor Company was in there for awhile, and one of
the large hangars was taken over for a municipal airport terminal. Finally,
though, they got it operating pretty well; all the facilities are now
FUCHS: There for awhile, wasn't Lustron using part of the facilities?
SNYDER: Yes, but that wasn't a very big operation.
HESS: And we'll come to that later when we discuss housing. Also, I believe
that Tucker was in there making cars.
SNYDER: Well, Tucker was to have made cars, but he had three or
four prototypes of an assembled car, but he never went into production.
HESS: Did you ever see one of those cars?
SNYDER: Yes. I went to a showing that he had one time.
And the greatest attraction were the lovely girls that he had standing
HESS: And not necessarily the car?
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: What type of conversion presented the least difficulty?
SNYDER: Well, the plant that was of the size that could be quickly turned
into manufacturing of a product the company was accustomed to make, like
the automobile plants. General Motors did a tremendous job, Ford did an
important job, so did Chrysler, in very quick conversion, taking out the
special tooling that was installed for the defense program, and switching
to the type of production line that was required for the automobile assembly.
HESS: During the time that you were Federal Loan
Administrator, and also with the OWMR, what plans were made to prevent
profiteering in the disposal of surplus plants and property?
SNYDER: The Defense Plant Corporation attempted to meet that problem
through the clause that I mentioned as an option to buy at a certain agreed
formula, that considered depreciation, usage, size of the plant, and its
adaptability to prevent operation. A fair formula was worked out that
would prevent, to a great degree, any profiteering. The greatest problem
came when you had a plant that was not readily usable, or you had a plant
that the operator holding the option did not particularly want to buy
at the end of the hostilities, or a plant that was too large to be used
by the lessee. Then we had to get into some negotiations to try to sell
it. I don't think that as far as the plants are concerned, there was any
great degree of profiteering.
The profiteering came largely in the disposal of surplus property.
HESS: Mr. Snyder, why, in your opinion, did President Truman select you
for the job at OWMR?
SNYDER: Mr. Hess, that would be a very difficult answer for me to give,
because, as you know, Mr. Truman was at the Potsdam Conference at the
time that he accepted Henry Morgenthau's resignation as Secretary of the
Treasury, upon Morgenthau's insistence on a showdown as to how long he
was to remain in the Treasury post. President Truman then cabled instructions
to send the nomination of Fred Vinson to the Senate as Secretary of the
Treasury, and followed it with the instruction to send my name up nominating
me for OWMR, the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion. This action
was entirely without consultation, and therefore it was not
until after he returned that he rather bluntly one day said, "Well, my
principal reason was that I wanted you over closer to me. We have so many
things we have to work out together." At this point I will repeat that
the President and I had discussed the Vinson appointment before he went
to Potsdam, and I was personally in favor of the Vinson appointment. Fred
Vinson was well-known, well-liked, and he knew his way around Washington
through his service in the Congress. I felt that Mr. Vinson's presence
in the Cabinet would be a political asset to Mr. Truman, but contrary
to some reports that were current at the time, we did not discuss that
I might be considered for the Treasury, or that I might be considered
as a successor to Fred Vinson in the OWMR job.
Mr. Hess, my nomination as Director of the Office of War Mobilization
and Reconversion was sent up to the Senate on July 16, 1945, and was
confirmed unanimously just two days later on July 18th. I was sworn in
on July 23rd, on the same date that Fred Vinson was sworn in as Secretary
of the Treasury.
Briefly, Mr. Hess, before we go any further, I should probably give you
my conception of what the job or OWMR was. The United States Government
had sprouted a long list of alphabetical agencies designed to perform
certain functions during World War II. However, these agencies only partially
met the new responsibilities forced on the Government by the war. The
permanent Government agencies were forced to take on duties that were
strange to them, which taxed their abilities, and which often cut across
the old established departmental lines. All this, the new agencies plus
the new functions forced on the permanent agencies, presented a problem
to the Chief Executive. If all these multiple, and often overlapping,
functions, were to be
performed effectively, they either had to be coordinated or else new authority
lines had to be drawn. The latter alternative would have meant the virtual
reshaping of the executive branch of the Government in the midst of a
war. President Roosevelt, therefore, chose the first alternative and set
up in 1943 the Office of War Mobilization with power to coordinate the
defense work of the various Governmental agencies. The Director of this
office was given extraordinary powers to carry out his duties, but the
methods of exercising those powers were left largely to his discretion.
There was inherent in the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion,
a difference of opinion as to the exact function of the agency. The press
and my predecessors had sort of taken the view that this was an "Assistant
President's" job that actually had many of the powers of the President
to make decisions and direct policy.
To me, however, it seemed unthinkable that I should attempt to set up
my office in any such capacity, intervening and counteracting the prerogatives
of the Cabinet members themselves. I, therefore, attempted to design the
operation of the office as a sort of catalyst. Events were not on my side,
however, in this endeavor. The end of the war meant the end of the unity
of purpose which had bound the Government, business and industry together,
and it brought back into play the conflicting, sometimes clashing interests
of the pre-war period. This resulted in situations in which the Office
of War Mobilization and Reconversion could not remain unobtrusive, but
had to step into controversies and to assert its authority. In spite of
these difficulties, I was able to maintain, and succeed to a large degree,
good relations with the heads of the agencies and departments. My relationship
with the Cabinet members who might well have been
expected to have resented any intrusion upon my part under the old conception
of the office, were, on the whole, very splendid relations. The Cabinet
members, by and large, appreciated the fact that as I was located very
close to the President, I might be able to furnish to them a means of
communication to the Chief Executive that might otherwise have been lacking.
On the whole they were very cooperative and helped me a very, very major
President Roosevelt from the beginning placed mobilization and reconversion
in the White House. Its offices were in the Executive Mansion, and its
first director, Byrnes, picked up the appellation, "Assistant President,"
by acting for Roosevelt on many domestic matters. Byrnes held the job
for nearly a year. He was actually Director of the Office of War Mobilization
for much of that time. The Reconversion title was added somewhat later.
Byrnes dealt primarily
with war problems while he was director. Vinson who succeeded him was
in the office when Germany surrendered and the United States shifted from
a two-front to a one-front war. Peacetime problems then came in for a
larger share of attention, but it remained for me to handle the big shift
from war to peace.
HESS: Do you think that Mr. Byrnes regarded himself as somewhat of an
SNYDER: Oh, no question about it. He was the one who built it up. He
encouraged that title.
HESS: What was Mr. Vinson's view?
SNYDER: Well, that would be pretty hard to try to formulate. Mr. Vinson,
after he came into the OWMR, brought in a number of staff members who
actually did most of the work for Mr. Vinson in economic research and
in the economic planning on how the reconversion should be
handled. They injected a great deal of speculation and controversy into
it in order to aid in passage of certain legislation that they felt that
Congress should enact following the war in connection with full employment,
unemployment compensation, many labor laws that they felt should be enacted
and a number of restrictive laws on industry. I don't know how much of
Mr. Vinson's personal views were reflected in the actions of OWMR during
the time that he was there.
HESS: Who were a few of the people that he was bringing in at that time?
SNYDER: Well, the one man that I remember particularly was Robert Nathan,
a labor economist. It was a small staff, there were less than eighty in
the whole staff, but there were quite a number of specialists that had
been employed, writers, particularly, public relations people, economists--but
it was relatively small for an
office that was undertaking such a gigantic job.
HESS: Did Mr. Vinson seem to have the same idea that Mr. Byrnes had had,
that he might be an "Assistant President?"
SNYDER: He never voiced that particularly, but he wasn't adverse to people
calling him that. He was pleased whenever he was referred to in the papers
or in public statements as the "Assistant President," but I don't recall
his ever, personally, through statements, encouraging the use of it.
HESS: Was he as vigorous in the carrying out of the duties of his office
as Mr. Byrnes had been?
SNYDER: Well, Mr. Byrnes was in a different situation. We were in a war
and his operations were mobilization to get equipment, get priorities
on the needed things, to get manpower distributed
properly, and it was entirely different--we were under the pressures of
war. Shortly after Mr. Vinson got into that post the German part of the
HESS: He came in on April 2nd.
SNYDER: You see, it was only a short time until May the 8th when Germany
capitulated. From then on he was faced with the carrying on of the Japanese,
or the Pacific part of the war, while reconversion was beginning to develop
on the European side where the war was over.
HESS: Awhile ago you said that your relations with the Cabinet members
were good "on the whole." I want to ask you who didn't go along?
SNYDER: Well, Wallace. I had problems with Secretary Wallace, and I had
real differences of opinion with some of the agencies.
HESS: Which ones in particular?
SNYDER: OPA and Wage Stabilization.
HESS: Who was running those at that time?
SNYDER: [Chester] Bowles, and [William] Davis. I had a number of debates
with the Housing Authority, John Blandford, and then later, Wilson Wyatt.
William Davis had the Office of Economic Stabilization that administered
price and wage controls.
HESS: What was the nature of some of the difficulties that you were having
at this time with these people?
SNYDER: Largely in the matter of transition from war to peace in the
handling of controls of prices and wages. Those in charge of the wage
division wanted to press the wages up, while OPA wanted to hold prices
down; together they wanted to control prices and release wages.
They wanted to control materials and direct where they would go, which
was an impossible procedure in a free enterprise system in peacetime.
They were going to decide where every piece of lumber should go, where
every brick went, and to say that you could build a building here for
the purpose of selling groceries and deny another man material for doing
something else that this particular group didn't think was necessary at
the time. They wanted to make judgments on what could be done and what
couldn't be done, which I thought was completely inequitable in
times of peace. They wanted to direct the materials and equipment into
housing when they didn't have the skilled workmen available that could
do the job. The labor force was not sufficient to do the kind of job they
were talking about, this building of two million or more houses a year.
They didn't have the journeymen carpenters, they didn't have the
journeymen bricklayers, plumbers nor other skilled labor. So 1 had considerable
trouble in trying to get some realism into the picture. I was having pressures
by citizens, by suppliers and by mayors of cities who wanted certain things
done that didn't fit in with the planned economy which was being worked
HESS: At the time you were at OWMR, Chester Bowles was head of the OPA,
is that correct?
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: According to a letter printed in part in the book, The Truman
Administration: A Documentary History, edited by Bernstein and Matusow,
Chester Bowles wrote to President Truman on December 17, 1945 outlining
some of the difficulties that he had encountered, and just a small portion
of the letter that they included is as follows:
In September, I told you why I would like to be relieved of my present
responsibilities by the first of the year. My desire for relief is
even greater today. As you know, I have been carrying this difficult
assignment for nearly thirty months. The pressures today are at their
peak. Like many others I feel the need for a rest.
In addition to these rather personal reasons, I have been disturbed
over my relationship, and the relationship of the Office of Price
Administration, to John Snyder and some of his staff. While I like
John personally and respect his sincerity, we often fail to see eye
to eye on the most effective ways to meet the problems which we face.
Under the circumstances John might feel more comfortable to have
a man in my position with whom he was in more fundamental agreement...
What do you think about Mr. Bowles' letter to the President?
SNYDER: Well, that's a controversial matter. It was just a matter of
two different viewpoints. At that time, Mr. Bowles was already planning
a career in politics. He had a daily program in which he went on the air
to tell the housewife that he personally was protecting her interests
through price control, and seeing that she got her groceries at a right
price, and her drygoods at a right price. It was a daily program that
was scheduled for his message to the public. That was all well and good
if all the other problems that we had in adjustment and in transition
from war to peace would have fitted in smoothly with his idea, but he
reached the point when he was almost building himself up as the one protector
of the housewife against the ogres of the Government, private business
and industry that were trying to maneuver them into a position of high
prices and scarcity of commodities. It was unrealistic in a sense, the
pressures were so great that he wanted the entire control program to stay
intact; he didn't want to release certain items as they came into supply
because he had the idea that that would then set precedent to bring pressures
on other areas where in the opinion of his people
the supply wasn't sufficient. So, it was a matter of facing realities
that was our real problem; where he had the objective of building up a
political figure, and I had the objective of trying to get the job done
in the best manner possible in the interest of the people and the economy
as a whole.
HESS: What was his philosophy of how prices and wages should be handled?
SNYDER: I don't know whether he had any real philosophy about it other
than to hold the controls on just as long as possible. Through such an
arrangement, it became very apparent that there was no way of equitably
handling the controls. You had to start taking them off sometime; Congress
was demanding it, the public was demanding it, and the other people who
were equally interested in politics were demanding realism. How could
you say that a piece of
material should go into a house instead of into a factory or into a store,
or into something that a mayor felt that he urgently needed in his city.
He had gone for four years restraining the needs of his town because of
the war effort, and he felt that he had to build a firehouse, improve
the school facilities, etc. It just didn't balance. It really wasn't realistic.
HESS: Some historians have pointed out that when controls were lifted,
prices shot up somewhat faster than some people thought that they might.
SNYDER: That's probably true. When you stop to think that for years we
had been in an all-out war effort, savings had been building up, people
had money that they had saved to spend when the war was over, and naturally,
people are human beings. While they have been referred to as "People are
funny," they are that at times, but because they're human though, rather
than funny. When the war was over they felt like, "All right, now, we'll
turn around and go in another direction." And they didn't have the restraint
and willingness to deny themselves further that Mr. Bowles and his group
felt that they should be forced to have. And the pressures were such that
regardless of the idealism of it, the realism didn't permit the program
as the more liberal group felt it should be followed in their planned
HESS: Will you touch on some of the other aspects of the OWMR job?
SNYDER: From the minute that I sat down in my OWMR job my life was not
a tranquil one. In one sense, the period between the German and the Japanese
surrenders was much more difficult than the years when the war had raged
in both Europe and Asia. With a two-front war, the United States policy
held determinedly to the
goal of victory first. Personal and public differences among Government,
labor and business leaders were shelved as the Nation met its challenge
of war. The surrender of Germany inevitably meant a letdown. Some war
contracts were, of course, cancelled, and some men were released from
the armed forces. The Nation began to experience a kind of mental ambivalence,
the war was still on, yet, the war was over. For instance, on July 30,
just six days after I took office, the Mead Committee, successor to the
Truman Committee, issued a report heavily criticizing the Office of War
Mobilization and Reconversion for failing to plan for reconversion problems,
while at the same time the report stated that nothing was to be allowed
to interfere with the war effort against Japan. While most of the committee's
criticisms were directed against those periods when Byrnes and Vinson
held the office, its entire recommendations were leveled
at me as the new director. The Mead Committee recommended that OWMR be
put on a supervisory, operating basis, with: direct control over the other
war agencies. This, of course, was impossible. You couldn't put an office
or a person, other than the President himself, in the position of bossing
Cabinet members and their departments, you could coordinate, certainly,
but supervise, no. Fortunately, the Congress did not follow the recommendations
of the Mead Committee.
Following the fall of Japan, the United States entered the first stage
of reconversion at full speed. Billions of dollars worth of war contracts
were cancelled right and left by the Government; millions of men were
taken out of uniform under pressure of Congress and sent back to civilian
life. Of course, all of this produced a host of economic problems. The
essence of solution to all these problems was
that the multitude of plants that had been producing war materials had
to be changed over to the production of badly-wanted consumer goods, which
production would employ millions of returning servicemen and the additional
millions of temporarily displaced defense plant workers. To tell the whole
story adequately, of the experience of the Office of War Mobilization
and Reconversion in the reconversion period covered by my tenure of office,
would, without question, take a whole volume to properly highlight the
various phases of problems, incongruities, and difficulties which emerged
with the cessation of hostilities. I think that it would be better to
sum up briefly the results which were obtained through the operation of
that office. I personally like to recall the words of Arthur Krock in
the New York Times, in which he stated that I intruded realism
into a situation that
badly needed it, that I saw no economic panaceas for that difficult period,
and that I realized that any solution of economic ills requires work,
and that such solutions do not result from the juggling of statistics,
or from wishful thinking. Happily, history has recorded that an economy
straining to reach the maximum in war production was converted to full-time
civilian production without any great or pertinent dislocation of labor
or business. It was this current toward changing a controlled economy
into a relatively free one that flowed through all of my actions in the
Reconversion Office. It is gratifying to go back to the newspaper files
of the period and read: "U.S. PRODUCTION AT ALL TIME PEAK";
"EMPLOYMENT IS BUILDING UP STEADIL--NOW ABOVE V-J LEVEL"; "PRIVATE
WAGE AND SALARY PAYMENTS ARE NOW AROUND THE V-J DAY LEVEL"; "FEDERAL
EXPENDITURES CONTINUE: TO DECLINE"; "BANKS MEETING DEMAND
FOR THE POST-WAR FINANCE LOAN".
These were, indeed, heartening recognitions of the success of the reconversion
program. For the record shows that the Nation's industries have been reconverted
and the Nation's armed forces had been demobilized in accordance with
the demands of the people and the Congress; industry was well on its way
toward that full production which would mean jobs and prosperity, not
only for the demobilized soldiers, sailors, and airmen but for all citizens.
Without a doubt, reconversion had been accomplished much faster than anyone
had thought possible. In retrospection, I think today as I thought at
the time, that a great part of the remarkable record was due to the ingenuity
and drive of the American people. The all-out war productions had taught
business to do big things fearlessly. It had taught labor to find better,
more efficient and productive ways of producing goods on the
production line. It gave me great satisfaction that the free enterprise
principles had been allowed, in a large measure, to work in the reconversion;
it was with great satisfaction that I was able to record in my final report
that, "More Americans are working, producing more, earning more and consuming
more than ever before. Since V-J Day, civilian production as a whole was
increased by twenty billions of dollars annual rate, and now has reached
the highest peacetime peak in all of our history." Please remember that
this was less than nine months from the time when some economic prognosticators
foresaw a wide-spread industrial and business recession as an aftermath
of the war.
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