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C. Tyler Wood Oral History Interview

 

Oral History Interview with
C. Tyler Wood

During the Truman Administration served as special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, alternate member U.N.R.R.A. council, 1945-46; deputy to Assistant Secretary of State, 1947-48; assistant to Deputy Administrator, E.C.A., 1948-49, Assistant Administrator for Operations, 1949-50; Deputy U.S. Special Representative in Europe, 1950-52; associate Deputy Director Mutual Security Agency, 1952-53.

Washington, D.C.
June 18, 1971
by Richard D. McKinzie and Theodore A. Wilson

[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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 December, 1981
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

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

 



Oral History Interview with
C. Tyler Wood

 

Washington, D.C.
June 18, 1971
by Richard D. McKinzie and Theodore A. Wilson

 

[1]

WILSON: You know, I think, something about our project.

WOOD: Yes, I've had one or two letters...

WILSON: Right.

WOOD: I've heard about it and I'm very eager to contribute anything I can to it because I had a tremendous admiration for Mr. Truman; not that I was in an exalted enough position to have much to do with him. But I did sit in with Paul Hoffman on a couple of the sessions with him

 

[2]

about personnel, with Donald Dawson; and I was privy to what was going on in the Marshall plan development. So, perhaps I may remember some things that will be of some help to you. I'm not totally sure my memory as to dates is reliable, I assure you.

WILSON: Well, those things of course, can be checked. I wouldn't be concerned about them in making some comment, even though you're not precisely sure that you have the exact day or even the exact person. What we've found in doing these interviews is that, one, it is the tone of policy -- the shadings of policy that come forth and are extremely useful to us. And, two, there are the relationships between people and between organizations, and if you're looking at documents and looking at records, that is sometimes difficult to fill in.

WOOD: That is very true.

WILSON: So it isn't exactly what was involved...

 

[3]

WOOD: Then one's memory on that sort of thing would be somewhat more reliable than just when something happened or who said what or...

WILSON: Yes. Very helpful.

MCKINZIE: If it seems that some of our questions may not be precisely on the topic of foreign aid, it's in part because Dr. Philip C. Brooks, the Director of the Truman Library, has asked us in these interviews to ask some fairly wide-ranging questions about your Government career which would be of use to, perhaps, someone other than the people interested in just foreign aid. We'd like for you to go back as far as the War Production Board if you have any

WILSON: Maybe the first question we might ask is -- why did you enter Government service?

WOOD: That's kind of an interesting story. I was minding my business up in New York as the head of a New York Stock Exchange firm, and I was

 

[4]

going into the building where my office was and I ran into a classmate of mine from Princeton, Erskine White. He stopped and talked and I said to him, "What are you doing?"

"Well," he said, "I just went down to Washington. I'm working in the War Production Board and I'm up here in New York trying to recruit people to help us."

And he went on to tell me how he was working on production under General William H. Harrison, who was then the operating vice-president of the AT&T company, and this fellow was one of the top officers in the New England Telephone Company.

Well, to make a long story short, I was interested. It was right after Pearl Harbor, late December 1941 or early January '42, I think. And the next thing I knew I'd filled out an application and they brought me down here and put me on the job on the War Production Board. I was excited as we all were about the attack on Pearl Harbor and wondering whether there wasn't

 

[5]

something I could do. That's how I came to Washington.

WILSON: So many of the people we've talked to and so many of the individuals who had important service later had that experience and particularly with the War Production Board. In a way it was like a fraternity.

WOOD: Well, it was a remarkable aggregation of able human beings, none of them quite knowing what to do at the outset. It was the kind of confusion, however, that stimulates people and causes them to put forth their best effort. I had more fun in those early days just working on the various problems they had. Then, General Harrison was asked to come over to the Army. The Pentagon wasn't fully built at that point and there was a lot of mud around it. And he asked me if I'd come over there with him, so I went over to the Pentagon with him. In another three or four weeks I received my official appointment. I went

 

[6]

to the War Production Board in January '42, and was in the Pentagon, later '42 to '45.

MCKINZIE: What were you doing, primarily, during this period in the Army?

WOOD: In the Army, I was in the production division of the Army Service Forces, and I was working on all sorts of problems and bottlenecks -- organization of the procurement services of the Army, and that sort of thing.

Another fellow and I were put in charge of reorganizing the procurement division of the Surgeon General's office of the Army. In charge of this division were several colonels close to retirement age with little knowledge of modern procurement methods and procedures. There were all sorts of problems. I wandered around and took a look at the inefficient operations, based on peacetime experience, and, by bringing in some men from industry who were knowledgeable about procurement practices and problems, got things moving;

 

[7]

it was remarkable what could be done -- with just a little knowledge and common sense, and with younger people. Then it was decided to try to do something similar in the case of the Signal Corps. There turned out to be a lot of improvements that could be made in that branch of the Army Service Forces. I also worked on improving methods of forecasting requirements, both for items of equipment and the raw materials needed for production of them.

WILSON: We have a feeling there were a lot of very capable people that came into the Government service during the war.

WOOD: There isn't any question about it; there were men of the greatest ability. I was associated with some young men that General Harrison brought in from the telephone system. They were among the ablest I've ever worked with. One of our officers was later a financial vice-president of one of the operating companies of the Bell System, and then,

 

[8]

subsequently, became president of the Michigan Bell Telephone Company and then of the Illinois Bell Telephone Company. Harrison just picked these fellows on the basis of their ability, and it was a most remarkable group all through.

They had some amazingly able people from finance, business, law -- some of the smartest lawyers I've ever seen -- and production people. George Woods, for example, who is now president of the World Bank, was one of our co-workers in the production division in the Army Service Forces.

WILSON: One of the issues that has come up most often in our research, and we are intending to make it something of a thesis, is that in understanding various programs -- foreign aid programs during the war and after the war -- the pivotal question of the successes they had and the failures they had is, in a sense, a question of personnel. In another way, a question of administration, bureaucracy, procedures. It is something that is not given

 

[9]

attention, really, in the history of the period. The sort of thing I'm trying to get at is, I talked to Ambassador [Henry J.] Tasca last summer, and he made a very strong argument for explaining the remarkable success of the Marshall plan was a result of it being carried forward by a new agency. And he made a very strong argument for explaining certain problems that occurred in '51 and '52, because the agency had lost whatever impetus its newness gave. So what would you say about that general question?

WOOD: Well, these agencies are like human beings; they are born, they go through a very vigorous youth, manhood, then age and senility. I would agree with him, that the fact that this is a new agency meant a great deal to its eventual success. As a new agency, but not solely because it was a new agency -- we mustn't forget that the challenge of the vision of what has to be done, what needs to be done, is significant. Also, the interactions then probably stimulated the people whose attraction

 

[10]

to a new agency was (a), it's new, and (b), it has an exciting job to do...

MCKINZIE: The new agency has the power to carry it through.

WOOD: Sometimes, in a situation like that, where you're breaking new ground, you will find the power to carry the job through is narrowly circumscribed and