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Opened July 14, 1969
Oral History Interview with
July 14, 1969
by Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Judge, could you give me a little of your personal background: where were you born, where were you educated, and what positions have you held?
TANNENWALD: Well, I was born in a little town in upstate NewYork called Valatie, which is about halfway between Hudson and Albany, and it is best known because it is the next town to Kinderhook, which is where Martin Van Buren was born. I went to grammar school in Valatie and in those days there were no psychological problems in skipping children, or at least people weren't aware of them, so that I completed the eight grammar grades in five years, and graduated from the Valatie grammar school at the age of ten. I was eleven the month after I graduated. At that point my mother and father moved to Albany and I entered the William S. Hackett Junior High School, which was the first class of the junior high school in Albany. I spent a year there, and then went on to the Albany High School and graduated from there in 1931. I was fifteen the month after I graduated from high school, and the combination of the fact that my age, being so young, and the fact that I didn't have any money, caused me to wait a year before I went to college. I spent that year taking a couple of courses in the high school. I think I took a chemistry course and worked for the legislative correspondent of the New York Times every afternoon. In those days the New York Times used to publish the list of new corporations formed every day, and it was from the office of the secretary of state in Albany and type it up and send it in to New York. I had the job of typing. I was not a typist. I did it by the old-fashioned hunt and peck system, which I still use.
In September of 1932 I entered Brown University in Providence on a scholarship and graduated there fours years later summa cum laude and then went to the Harvard Law School. I put myself through Brown, principally by borrowing enough money to see me through my first year, and I did the same thing at law school. Other periods I worked. It may be an interesting commentary to note that the aggregate of my gross expenses before scholarships and so on for my four years at Brown was approximately the same as the cost of one year of my younger son's education at Dartmouth some thirty odd years later.
I entered Harvard Law School and kept my nose to the grindstone the first year and ended up first in my class, made the Harvard Law Review. I was also the first in my second year and for the three years' average. I was note editor of the Harvard Law Review. While I was in law school I did some outside tutoring to make some money, and also in my last year in law school, I helped the then professor of taxation, Erwin Griswold, later dean and now Solicitor General of the United States, write a couple of briefs. His wife had been stricken with polio the latter part of my second year in law school, perhaps the summer of 1938. In any event, my last year which was '38-'39, academic year, his wife was flat on her back in the hospital in Cleveland, and the financial drain on him was enormous, so he did a considerable amount of outside practice. He had two or three of his students helping him write briefs, and so on. I was one of the few members of my class who decided I wanted to go into private practice instead of going into Government service, and I made arrangements to join the firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges when I finished law school. In the spring of 1939 when Professor Magruder was appointed to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, he asked me to come with him as his law clerk for a year, but I had made up my mind I wanted private practice, and I had a job so I didn't need the clerkship for a job, and I guess I was ambitious to make money in those days and so I turned him down. It's one of the few regrets I have in my life, not that it would have helped me pragmatically. I don't think it would have had any direct bearing on my future career, but I always have felt that I missed a year that would have been a very pleasant memory and a very wonderful experience, because Magruder was quite a man. I entered the firm and did general practice until shortly after Pearl Harbor, when I became very restless. I tried to get a commission but couldn't on account of my eyes, and I had lots of friends who had been classmates of mine in law school who were working in Washington. The bulk of the members of the Law Review, as a matter of fact, came to Washington to work, and I started looking for something that would give me an outlet for my emotional problems of not being willing to stay in private practice while the war was going on. One of my good friends, who unfortunately is now deceased, was Philip L. Graham, who later became publisher of the Washington Post. Phil was then assistant general counsel of the Lend-Lease Administration. I talked to Phil and he found out that Dean Acheson, who was the Assistant Secretary of State, was trying to augment his staff but had budgetary difficulties and so temporarily it was worked out that Lend-Lease hired me, and I went to work for Acheson in the State Department. This is why I am listed as a principal legal consultant to the Lend-Lease Administration. I never really worked for Lend-Lease. I started from the very first day I went to work, which was I think in May of 1942, over in the State Department working for Acheson in the economic warfare area. I think after a month or so I was assigned to the Foreign Funds Control Division, which involved the diplomatic and political side of the Treasury Department's exchange control regulations during the war.
HESS: What were some of your duties while you were there?
TANNENWALD: The duties of that division were--it was a very small one--were to maintain liaison and coordination with the Treasury Department, in order to make sure that the diplomatic and international political considerations on controls over transactions and dollars were taken into account for freezing foreign-owned assets. For example, one of the provisions that came in, that came under consideration, was the question of freezing or getting the Latin American countries, in addition to ourselves, to stop the importation of U.S. currency, green stuff, and this involved negotiations with Brazilians, for example, and I was involved in that. We also were involved with the Alien Property Custodian, and some of the political implications of the seizure of enemy-owned assets which were held--purportedly held by the enemy via a neutral country. For example, I was involved in the seizure of American Bosch and what to do about it. The Swedes claimed that it was a Swedish corporation. These were the kinds of problems that we got into.
I stayed there only for a year, because it became apparent to me that I was going to be drafted, and while I had no basic objections to serving in the army as a buck private it seemed to me that if I could find an assignment that would make better use of my talents, I would be well advised to do it.
In 1942 the United States Air Forces, the Army Air Forces, under General [Henry H.] Arnold, had decided to copy a system that the British had created at the time of the Battle of Britain, which was to opt the services of the Air Force and to make scientific analyses at the operational level and put their conclusions, if they could, into practice, without having the information come back to the laboratories in the United States, which meant it would be six months or a year before the answers came back and by that time it might be too late. The chief of that setup in the Army Air Force was a professor in my law school, W. Barton Leach, and Leach felt very strongly that there was a role for the lawyers to play, particularly if they were possessed of technical background. And I had had the equivalent of a mathematics major in college, and so I was offered the chance to become the deputy chief of the Operations Analysis Section of the Eighth Fighter Command in England, and I took it in the spring of 1943.
Leach's theory, which was quite valid and proved out in my case and a few other cases, was that a lawyer could perform two functions in that kind of a setup. Let me just say a word about what the setup was. Most of the sections were on the bomber side, and they would do analyses of the strike photographs to determine such questions as the proper pattern for bombing, whether you bombed individually or whether you bombed on the leader of a squadron or a wing; or the various kinds of fuses and size of bombs for particular types of targets.
On the fighter side, we got involved in problems such as the proper belting of ammunition, the study of combat film. Every fighter plane automatically took a film of his combat to determine ways in which fighter pilots might be trained for better accuracy, because this was before the automatic sighting mechanisms, and the pilots were notoriously poor in their shooting capabilities. Gasoline consumption studies, which became very important as they tried to push the outer range of the fighter planes, to Berlin for example, and then later in the Pacific, when the planes based on the Philippines and Okinawa were flying over water into Japan. But the point that Leach had and he was quite right, was that a lawyer could serve a very useful purpose in that area. Two ways: First of all, he was the administrative officer of the section, he was the one who had to take care of all the nonsense of getting the supplies and getting the travel orders and the day-to-day housekeeping problems that most of the long-haired scientists didn't want any part of, and even if they would have had to do it, they wouldn't have known how to do it. Secondly, the key to the success of these sections lay in the ability of the scientific personnel who were members of the section to communicate their conclusions from their studies to the commanding general of the unit. This meant that you had to put it in language that the average military officer would understand, and here again, Leach felt, and quite correctly, that a lawyer, particularly a lawyer with a scientific background, could perform a useful function. I found that because of my scientific and mathematical background, I was able to take the ideas and conclusions of the scientific boys, who were members of my group, and put those conclusions and ideas in language that the military would understand. I spent about fifteen or sixteen months, with the Operations Analysis Unit in the Eighth Fighter Command, right outside of London. Then, toward the end of 1944, in September, I was assigned temporarily to London to set up the mechanics for housing and implementing a program of what was known as the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. I was there only until about a months after the survey team came over. They came over about Thanksgiving of 1944, and I left in late December of ‘44. This was a very interesting group. Its potential for future history was perhaps not recognized at that point. Just by way of notation, three members of the group were Adlai Stevenson, Paul Nitze, who later became head of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department and then Deputy Secretary of Defense, and George Ball, who became Under Secretary of State. I became good friends of all three of them and maintained that friendship over the years. Stevenson certainly did not indicate his future potential at that point, in fact, of the three that I've mentioned, if I had to rate them, I would have rated Stevenson third in capability. He was bright, but I didn't think measured up to either Nitze or Ball.
I came back in December of 1944, and at that point the Air Force was stepping up its activities in the Pacific and augmenting some of its new commands, and I was asked to form an Operations Analysis Section to go out with the 301st Fighter Wing, which was then based at Mitchell Field. I spent the first six months of 1945 looking for people and getting equipment and so on together, and I finally left with my section in the first week of July of '45, and I was there until September when the war with the Japanese ended and I came home. We were on Ie Shima.
I was a civilian throughout this period. I had the simulated rank of a full colonel. I was technically in '45, in June of '45, drafted, but the Air Force had worked out with the Army Adjutant General at that point, or long before then, that any of us that were drafted, there were only about seven or eight of us in this group that were of draft age, most of the scientific personnel were men in their late thirties and forties, that we would be inducted, but instead of being sent to basic training, we would be released in the enlisted reserve and sent back. I was sworn in along with forty-nine other people at Grand Central Station in New York, the induction center, and forty-nine of them got tickets to Camp Dix, and I got my papers releasing me to the enlisted reserve.
I went back to my firm in October of ‘45, and started to do tax work for the firm, because they needed somebody to take over the tax job. The man they had wasn't working out.
In the spring of '46, the firm needed somebody to go down and run the Washington office which they were establishing. They asked me to recommend somebody, and I recommended myself, because I loved Washington. And so I came down here and I was here from 1946 to 1949.
During that period, I gave vent to some of my urge for public service by getting involved with the Secretary of Defense in two specific projects. I was a very close friend of the then special assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Marx Leva, who in 1949 became Assistant Secretary of Defense under Forrestal. When the Air Force was separately constituted by the National Security Act of 1947, there was a lot of paper work involved within the Department of Defense, drawing a line and separating out this segment of the Army, because the Air Force had been part of the Army until that point. And so I was asked to supervise that separation, and what that meant was, I spent a day a week at the Pentagon reviewing papers. I had a committee of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, principally the Army and the Air Force, working up drafts of orders for Forrestal to sign. We had to separate the procurement functions, we had to separate the transportation functions, who got what jeeps and so on. Some fascinating problems which I always threatened to write a Law Review article on and never did, involved the whole question of what you did about the officers club funds, which are non-appropriated funds, but still are public funds. I mean, the whole history was going back to the Civil War days, legal history. But these were the kinds of problems.
HESS: How did you work that out?
TANNENWALD: We just separated it out. I've forgotten now, frankly, the particular techniques. I'm sure the orders are all a matter of public record and speak for themselves. That went on from, I guess it was early in--I don't know when I started this. Nineteen forty-seven, I guess, early '47 I think I started that. And then in early 1948, March of 1948, the United States Government started to worry about the possibility of a Communist takeover in Italy and France, in the spring elections of 1948. We suddenly came to the realization that really aside from the President's power as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, there was no legal basis for furnishing arms and equipment to a foreign government, other than by way of sale. At this point of time, the first Economic Cooperation Act, ECA act, was going through Congress. And Mr. Lovett, who was then Under Secretary of State and conducting the liaison with Senator Vandenberg, who was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, worked out with Senator Vandenberg, a possibility that there would be a military assistance section to that act, to be known as Title VI. I was given the job of drafting that section. The draft was prepared in February of 1948, which then never saw the light of day because Vandenberg decided that for various reasons it would not be appropriate to try and get military assistance as part of the economic assistance legislation. There was a decision made to go for a separate military assistance act the following fall, and at that point in time, I think it was in October or November of '48, General [Lyman L.] Lemnitzer, who was then a two-star general, was brought into the Secretary of Defense's office as a special assistant for military assistance, and I became his counsel. I took three months off from my firm with the idea of getting the legislation presented to Congress. There were delays and along around March of '49 my firm said enough was enough, and I had to leave Lemnitzer and I went back to my firm. The Military Assistance Act finally got enacted sometime in the summer of 1949.
In June of 1949, I went back to New York because I decided that if I wanted to really be part of my law firm I belonged in the main office and not in the branch office. At that point of time again, in order to keep my finger in the pie in Washington, I went back to being a consultant to the Operations Analysis Section of the United States Air Force. The Air Force had continued Operations Analysis into peacetime, and still has it, as far as I know. I didn't do much in that capacity, I think I came down for consultation on a few specific problems, maybe three times between the summer of 1949 and the summer of 1950. In early July of 1950 I was in Washington for a day of consultation to the Air Force, and I went by to see my friend, Marx Leva. He and Felix Larkin, who was then the general counsel of the Department of Defense, had just had lunch with Secretary Johnson. Johnson had just come back from a Cabinet meeting at which Harriman had been present. And Harriman asked Johnson to recommend somebody as his lawyer. Harriman was going to form a very small staff. He had just come back from Paris where he was Special Assistant to the President for Foreign Affairs, and he asked Johnson to recommend one of five people to hire as his lawyer. Johnson asked Leva and Larkin at lunch who they had and they said that the lawyers that they had on the staff of the Pentagon who were good they didn't want to let go, and the lawyers that weren't good they didn't think they ought to shove off on Harriman. But they had two names of people outside of Government whom they thought might be interested: one was myself, and the other was Jack [John T.] Connor, who later became Secretary of Commerce and was then, I think, secretary of Merck & Co., and later became president of Merck. I happened to show up so they twisted my arm and I reluctantly agreed to at least go and talk with Harriman that afternoon, which I did. I went to work for him the following Monday.
I don't know how far you want to get any personal color into this sort of thing, but the day I saw Harriman, whom I didn't know, I think I had been in a couple of meetings over in the State Department during this period of being a part-time consultant of Forrestal, at which Harriman was present, and we probably met, but we certainly didn't know each other.
I had an appointment with him, as I recall, at 6 o'clock. I delayed my return to New York in order to keep it, and he was very busy. At about twenty minutes to 7, he came out and said, "I'm awfully sorry, but I've got to go and meet Dean Acheson." I think they were meeting, as I recall, at the Chevy Chase Country Club. He said, "Come on and ride out with me, and then I'll have my car take you to the airport."
It was pretty obvious to me as we drove out in the car that Harriman had done some checking on me between the time that Louie Johnson had called him at about 2 in the afternoon and when I was riding with him. I never did find out all the people he checked with. I know one was Phil Graham, who told me months later that Harriman had called him.
In any event, the point of all this is that the conversation in the car dealt with explaining the job and asking me a little bit about my background. I remember very vividly that when we got over the Taft Bridge near the Shoreham Hotel, Harriman suddenly turned to me and said, "Look, I don't really care what your political beliefs are in the sense of identification with a party. I would hope that you were a Democrat, but I wouldn't really care if you were a Republican, provided you answer one question. You've got to answer me honestly. I really have only one question to ask you. Do you believe in the liberal principles that Franklin Roosevelt stood for, because if you don't I don't want you.”
And that was the test. I've always remembered that because I thought it was very significant. This was the most important thing in his mind. Everything else was subsidiary.
HESS: Have you ever heard anyone else mention that they were asked the same question by Mr. Harriman?
TANNENWALD: No. Never as far as I know. There could have been others, but I've never come across it. In any event, this was a Wednesday, and I went to work for him on the following Monday, which as I recall, was the 16th of July 1950. Harriman's job at that point was very ill defined. He told me afterwards, and he's made this statement many times, that immediately after Korea, he called the President and said, "I'd like to come home and work on this with you." And Truman said, "Come on home."
In the early days, as best I can make out from the situation as I found it when I went to work for him, his primary responsibility was to try to bring some peace into the relationship between the State Department and the Defense Department. Acheson and Louie Johnson were at sword's point. It was a very unpleasant and unproductive personal and professional relationship.
HESS: What was the basis for their disagreement, do you recall?
TANNENWALD: I really never figured out whether it was simply the usual struggle between the Defense and the State Department. I'm inclined to think that it was exacerbated by Louie Johnson's personal political ambitions. I think Louie Johnson hoped someday to run for the Presidency. And there was talk about that later on. It never materialized, but in 1952 there was some talk about Louie Johnson.
HESS: Why was he chosen to be Secretary of Defense?
TANNENWALD: I don't know. I was very much on the fringe. I don't know why Johnson was chosen. He had done yeoman work for Truman in raising money in 1948. He had been an Assistant Secretary of War so that he was familiar with some of the military problems; he had the reputation of being a sound, competent lawyer, and I think that these were all factors that went into Truman's mind.
HESS: Did he or did he not have a tendency to try to overstep his bounds and take upon himself some of the responsibilities that rightfully belonged in other departments and other areas?
TANNENWALD: I would say yes, although I only had one specific indication of that that I can remember. I went with Johnson up to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when he testified in executive session. And I've forgotten now whether I was invited to go by Johnson, or whether Harriman found out that Johnson was testifying and thought it would be useful to have an observer there and called Louie Johnson; however it was, I don't know. But there was clear indication in this testimony that Louie Johnson was chafing under the restrictions imposed upon him by the White House, both budgetary wise and in terms of the overall load in the military. He was all for--well, let's put it this way, he was a "hawk" in terms of what we ought to do in Korea, and he made no bones about it in his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, although the primary purpose of that testimony, as I recall it, involved the question of bases, or military assistance to Spain. There is one episode or one aspect of that trip to the Hill that I think I might just as well record. It's been, as far as I know, a fairly closely guarded secret, but Truman knows it. I know what happened, and I may be wrong in putting two and two together, and I don't think I'm a hundred percent wrong. After that hearing was over, Johnson asked me to ride back with him. He said he would drop me at the old State Department. He had never met me before, and I always thought that what he did showed very poor judgment on his part. He utilized the ride from the Senate side of the Capitol to the old State Department building, now known as the Executive Office building, to tell me what a terrible time he was having with Acheson, what a terrible man Acheson was, and that he hoped that Harriman would straighten this out. And he left no doubt in my mind--in fact, as I recall, he said in so many words that he hoped that Harriman would become Secretary of State.
I came back and reported this to Harriman, along with a report on the testimony. Harriman asked me to put it in writing, and I put it in writing, and there was only one copy of that memorandum, to my knowledge. Harriman had a meeting with President Truman that afternoon, or the next morning, I've forgotten which, but within a space of twenty-four hours after. I'm quite certain that Harriman reported this to the President and indeed, I'm convinced that he showed the President my memorandum, and for all I know he may have left it there. I don't know where that memorandum is today.
HESS: Did you ever hear Mr. Harriman express an opinion on how he evaluated the qualifications of Louis Johnson?
TANNENWALD: Not really, except that I know that he was very much upset about this conversation, and felt that this showed a streak in Johnson that made him questionably--let me put it that way--questionably fit to be Secretary of Defense. And of course the sequence of events was, that within a matter of five weeks after this episode, Louie Johnson was no longer Secretary of Defense. Now it would be presumptuous of me to suggest to you that my memorandum is what fired Louie Johnson. I mean, there were a whole conglomeration of considerations but I've always had the feeling that this episode may well have been the straw that broke the camel's back. Because Truman was a great admirer of Acheson's, as you know. And this attack by Johnson on Acheson not only must have galled Truman because of his feelings for Acheson, but as I indicated before, I think it showed very poor judgment, I mean, for the Secretary of Defense to sound off to an underling of another Cabinet or semi-Cabinet member, on a highly personal relationship at the top level of the Government. It just didn't make any sense.
HESS: What methods did Mr. Harriman use to try to bring about better cooperation and coordination between the Defense Department and the State Department?
TANNENWALD: Well, there was a very short period, of course, when Louie Johnson was there, it was really July, August and the early part of September of 1950. During that period Harriman was really just beginning to lay the ground work. He did it by constant contact with the men in uniform, the top men in uniform, whom he had known from the wartime days. And knew them all: Marshall (well, Marshall was out at that time), Eisenhower, Bradley--you name the top people and he knew them. He did maintain a direct liaison with these people in the Pentagon. He went to every morning staff meeting at the State Department. He was invited by Acheson to participate in that. The relationship between him and Acheson, of course, was excellent. I think it has deteriorated in later years. Now it's got nothing to do with personalities. It's just that Acheson is a hawk and Harriman is a dove, and I think they have parted company. But they were very close, they had gone to Groton together, they had gone to Yale together, very close friends, and each respected the other's ability and each respected the other's position. Harriman was very sensitive to the role of the Secretary. He never undercut Acheson with Truman. He was a mediator. He tried to get things done by persuasion. But as I say, the Johnson-Acheson business never became a problem that he really coped with, because Louie Johnson was only there for about three months or less, and then it became Marshall and Lovett. And of course this put a completely different color on it. First of all, Marshall had been Secretary of State, and understood the respective roles of the Departments. Secondly, Lovett had been Under Secretary of State and was a close personal friend of Harriman's. Lovett's father and Harriman's father had run the Union Pacific Railroad together, and Lovett and Harriman were partners in Brown Brothers Harriman in New York, so that the personal relationships here were such after mid-September of 1950 that there were no special problems. Harriman's work really involved just shuttling back and forth between the Pentagon and the State Department and the White House, bringing to bear his vast experience and understanding of international affairs. He had a sixth sense about international problems. He is not an articulate man; he never has been. He's better now than he was. But I used to go to meetings with Harriman and he would sit and listen to everybody else talk, and when it was all finished he would somehow, in a largely inarticulate fashion put his finger on the critical problem, not so much the critical problem now, but the implications for the long run. And ninety-nine out of a hundred times subsequent events would prove him right. But he was highly respected by Marshall and Lovett and by Acheson. And then, of course, David Bruce, who was an old friend of his, became Under Secretary of State. Harriman was a great one to utilize the powers of persuasion. He also had a great capacity which he taught to me, and it has stood me in very good stead, to know when to fight and when not to fight. He didn't fight for everything; we had our priorities, and we sometimes would remain quiet on something we didn't agree with, or make a pro forma protest and let it take its course even though we didn't agree with what we were doing, because we knew that the next day that we had a more important battle that we wanted to win. He had a great sense of being able to select.
Now, this was September of ‘50. Harriman had a five-man staff in which he really covered the waterfront of the military and foreign affairs field.
HESS: Who was on the staff?
TANNENWALD: The final staff as it evolved--there were a few people who were there temporarily, for example, when I came in in July of '50 Charlie [Charles] Hitch, who later became the comptroller of the Defense Department in the Republican administration, and is now the, I think, the provost of the University of California at Berkeley, was there for a while, but the basic staff that evolved was Lincoln Gordon, who was his economist, Harriman's economist, and involved in all the economic aspects of foreign policy, and military policy; Frank Roberts, who was a retired general--I'm not even sure Frank was even retired at that point--who was Harriman's liaison with the National Security Council. Sam [Samuel David] Berger, who is now the number two to Bunker in Vietnam, Sam had come out of the labor movement and had been with Harriman on the Lend-Lease Mission in London as early as 1940. And Sam was Harriman's liaison with the labor groups and although I was never privy to the full extent of what Sam did, I'm convinced that Sam did a good bit of liaison work with the CIA, Harriman's involvement with the CIA. Gordon, Roberts, Berger, myself, I was "the lawyer" but I ended up pretty much as Harriman’s chief of staff. I sort of kept the office running and I was his troubleshooter. The fifth guy was a fellow named Dick Johnson, Richard M. Johnson, who was Harriman's liaison on the lending side and the financial side of foreign affairs. He maintained Harriman's liaison with the Export-Import Bank, and with the National Advisory Council which was the fiscal advisory body at the Treasury. That was the group throughout this period, 1950-1951.
I gravitated in the fall of 1950 partly from being the troubleshooter to being a member of the presidential speechwriting stable, along with Murphy and Bell and Neustadt and Lloyd, and occasionally Marx Leva from the Defense Department, and Marshall Shulman from the State Department.
HESS: Do you recall what speeches you helped on?
TANNENWALD: The two that I remember most vividly were the national emergency speech in December of 1950, which was after the Chinese struck in Northern Korea, and then the State of the Union message in January of 1951.
HESS: Let's take those one at a time. Just how were those speeches written?
TANNENWALD: Well, the pattern of all the speeches was the same, these two, as well as any other speech. Murphy was in charge of speeches. Murphy was the Special Counsel to the President, and he was in charge of speeches. And he would opt various people on his staff, like Dave Bell, Dick Neustadt, Dave Lloyd and George Elsey. Those were the principal ones that he used from his staff. And then he would pull in people from the outside. If it was a speech, for example, that had a lot of military overtones, Marx Leva from the Defense Department would be involved from the beginning. If it was a foreign affairs speech, Marshall Shulman, who was Acheson's speechwriter, would be involved. And I gradually became part of that, because Harriman's staff was part of the White House staff, and we got involved in foreign affairs speeches particularly, and so I became involved. The pattern was that when the President had to make a major speech like that, a group of two or three would be asked to prepare drafts. Usually it was within the White House staff that the initial draft was prepared. And after the initial draft was prepared, then Murphy would opt in two or three more people. So you would end up with a writing team of maybe five or six people. And it would go through a couple of drafts, and when Murphy thought it was in good enough form to show to the President, he would take it to the President. As far as I know he took it to the President alone. He may have taken one of his own boys like Bell, Neustadt, or Lloyd with him, but I never went with him to the President, and to my knowledge, neither did Marx Leva or Marshall Shulman. He would go in to the President, and then he would come back with the Presidents ideas. And then it would go through another draft. Then it would be sent to the departments that were interested, State, Defense, these are the ones that I was primarily concerned with.
HESS: Would that be the first time that the President was presented with those ideas?
TANNENWALD: No. Generally a speech--when I say Murphy took charge--generally what happened, and I left this out, when a speech had to be given, Murphy would talk to the President initially, and get the President's ideas as to what he wanted to say. Then these two drafts would be prepared. Then when it was in shape, when Murphy thought he'd carried out the President's ideas, it would go back to the President; it would come back and then it would go through a couple of more drafts, and then go to the departments. Occasionally, if it was going to be a tough speech, an earlier draft might go to the interested departments. But my recollection is that no draft went to the departments until after the President had seen a draft. And then it would go through, depending on how complicated or difficult it was, anywhere from five to ten drafts. My recollection is that the State of the Union message in January 1951 went through nine drafts before it was finally agreed upon.
When Murphy felt it was ready, it would be submitted to the President, and sometimes, say, twenty-four hours later, after he had had a chance to read it, there would usually be a meeting in the Cabinet Room, at which the President, those of us who worked on the speech, and the interested departments, would be represented. And the President would go through the speech, line by line, making his suggested changes, and making for comments. When it was finally finished that would be it, and he would hand it to Joe Short, who was the Press Secretary, to get it run off and ready to go. That was almost standard operating procedure.
HESS: The State of the Union address being the major address of the year, were there any other changes? Were there any other steps that came in?
TANNENWALD: Well, sometimes, and I guess it was on the State of the Union messages, the departments, because it covered so much ground, various departments would be asked to submit suggestions as to what they wanted to go in, and this would be very early in the game. The most vivid recollection I have of how this speechwriting process worked, and incidentally, before I forget it, let me note for the record, and you must have them, that John Hersey did a series of articles in the New Yorker magazine, one of which was on the writing and preparation of a presidential speech, and it's a very accurate account of how a speech got prepared. I've forgotten, I think it was the national emergency speech, a declaration of national emergency speech in December of 1950, that Hersey used as an example. He was there from the beginning to the end. Hersey was part of all of the drafting sessions. He never participated. He would just sit there and watch and make notes. It's a very accurate description.
But what I started to say was, the most vivid recollection I have of a speechwriting episode, and it involves a story about President Truman, which I think is a most revealing story. It involved the firing of MacArthur in the spring of 1951, which I was deeply involved in.
Harriman came back from a Cabinet meeting, I remember, on a Tuesday morning in April, of 1951. I think it was the 8th of April, something like that. He got hold of me and said, "Go over to Charlie Murphy's office this afternoon. The President is going to fire MacArthur and he wants to start working on a speech." The schedule was that Frank Pace, who was then the Secretary of the Army, and was in the Far East, was to tell MacArthur on Wednesday night, Washington time, and the President was to go on the air Thursday night to explain to the country why he had done it. And we were to prepare the speech. I recall that it was Murphy, Bell, Neustadt and myself. Marx Leva may have been there at the beginning--I'm not sure anymore--the first afternoon session. I think Marx was there, and I think Dave Lloyd came in before the afternoon was over. We spent the afternoon working on the speech. About 5 o'clock, the President called Murphy in. Murphy came back and said, "The speech is off for the time being. We're going to write a press release. The President is going to fire MacArthur tonight." Tuesday night.
As best I could figure out what had happened, and I'm not sure how much of what I'm about to say, is what I knew then or what I later picked up talking about, is that the White House had gotten word that the Chicago Tribune was holding a line open to Tokyo, from which the President inferred that MacArthur had gotten wind of what was going on and was going to try and beat him to the punch my making a statement in advance of the President's statement and the President was damned if he was going to let MacArthur beat him to the punch. So we worked on a press statement from about 5 in the afternoon until about 10 at night. I remember this so vividly, because I had a great argument with Charlie Murphy throughout the period, because I wanted the press statement to include the fact that the President was doing this on the unanimous advice of the principal civilian and military advisers. And Murphy wouldn't put it in, and never convinced me that he was right in not putting it in. So at 10 o'clock we assembled in the Cabinet Room, the President, Harriman, Acheson, Marshall was away and Lovett was there, Bradley was there, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and what I will call us "Indians" who had worked on this statement, Joe Short, the Press Secretary. And just like in every other major speech, the President went through this line by line, and various comments and suggestions were made. And when he finished, also as part of the regular pattern, before he handed it to Joe Short, he turned to the assembled group and said, "Does anybody have anything to say?" And the rule of the house was that you could be the lowest man on the totem pole, and if you thought there was something that ought to be said, you could do it. And Truman was the kind of guy you could do this with.
I said, "Yes, Mr. President, I think there's something missing. I think this statement ought to say that you're doing this on the unanimous advice of your principal civilian and military advisers."
I will never forget this night as long as I live. He turned to me with a twinkle in his eye and he said, 'Not tonight, son. Tonight I am taking this decision on my own responsibility as President of the United States, and I want nobody to think that I am trying to share it with anybody else. This will come out in forty-eight or seventy-two hours, but as of tonight, this is my decision, and my decision alone." And I remember it, because it brought home to me what so many people have said that Harry Truman understood what it meant to be President of the United States. I've never seen that story in print, but those of us who were there remember it. Dick Neustadt and I commented on it just recently.
Now, let's see, where shall I got from there. This takes us into April of 1951. Before I go further into the MacArthur episode, I think I ought to backtrack a bit to, this must have been around February of 1951. That winter, as I recall it, there were five American divisions in Europe. Some word got out that the President was thinking of sending the sixth division to bolster the forces of Western Europe. And there was a great furor. It's interesting because you see it today in the Senate attempt to limit the commitments abroad. There was a Troops for Europe Resolution introduced in the Congress, a joint resolution, the effect of which was to limit the power of the President to send anything beyond six divisions, I think it was beyond six, I may be off, it may have been four divisions there, and he was going to send one more, and it was no more than five or it was five there and he was going to send one more and that was going to be six. But the resolution allowed him to send the one that he wanted to send, but then said, "You can't send any more without the consent of the Senate, or the consent of Congress." I remember going to Blair House with Harriman one evening, in January or February of 1951. I went with Harriman because Harriman was given the job which he then put off to me, of coordinating the testimony of the administration witnesses, particularly the pentagon and the State Department, on this resolution before the respective committees. And Harriman took me to see the President because I have forgotten now what the immediate occasion was, but it had to do with something relating to this resolution, whether it was a crisis, or whether we were just having a discussion session for the future handling of it, I don't remember. But I know we went to see the President at Blair House in connection with this resolution. The President, among other things, said to us, "Look, I want you fellows to understand my position very clearly. I have no intention of sending more than this one division. That's all I expect to send, so that this resolution is really not going to hurt me, one way or the other, in terms of what my future plans are for the sending of troops. But I can't take this resolution as President of the United States. I will not sit here and be party to a legislative action which, although it's not binding on the President, will certainly have an impact, which may hamper a successor of mine fifty or one hundred years from now." Truman fought the battle of the Troops for European Resolution solely on the basis of its impact on the Office of the President, not in terms of inhibiting anything he as President wanted to do. This was quite clear and he said this to other people subsequently. This was the basis of that fight.
After the MacArthur firing, and incidentally the press release was followed by a speech which was given on Thursday night, we had the problem with the hearings. And here again coordination between State and Defense was necessary. Harriman was given that job. I took it over for Harriman, the day-to-day operations of it. And there were really three of us that worked in coordinating all of the testimony that went up. There was Marx Leva from the Defense Department; Adrian Fisher, who was the legal adviser from the State Department, and myself. We were the ones who arranged for people to testify, went over their testimony, went through the cables of the joint chiefs back and forth to MacArthur, and put it all together. Of course, each of us had responsibility for the testimony of our bosses. I had the responsibility for Harriman who ended up never testifying because at the point of time that he was supposed to testify he was sent by President Truman out to Iran to negotiate the oil seizures of the [Premier Mohammed] Mosadeq regime. So in lieu of testifying he filed his so called Yalta statement, which I think, is the definitive statement on the meaning of Yalta, and still is as valid today as it was eighteen or nineteen years ago.
Now, where do we go from here? Have you got anything you want to...
HESS: I have several questions. One: about this time, on April 21st, Anthony Leviero writing in the New York Times published an article for which he received the Pulitzer Prize, which contained a number of documents that dated from Wake Island. Do you know where he received his information?
TANNENWALD: I don't know of my own knowledge. I'm a little hesitant to speculate. I have my own ideas.
HESS: What is your idea?
TANNENWALD: I don't know whether I ought to put it on the tape.
HESS: You can take it out.
TANNENWALD: All right. I would really like your advice on this. I don't know what anybody else has put on the tapes. Maybe there are other people who could fit this all together. My theory--let me put it to you this way. Shortly after the Leviero article, George Elsey came to see me. George and I were very good friends. George said, "I have a problem, and I have got to leave the White House staff and I need another job."
My relationship with George was such that I wouldn't dream of asking George for all the details. He told me what he wanted to tell me, but what he didn't want to tell me, I didn't ask him. We were very close friends; we are still very close friends.
He said, "Well, I had some trouble in connection with the Leviero article." Apparently that's clear that the Leviero article triggered it, and I was the one who went to Harriman. George had an idea that Harriman could use a special assistant, you know, to be his major-domo. We worked it out, and George came to work for Harriman.
The fact that he came to work for Harriman, to be sure, Harriman was then director of Mutual Security, and technically no longer part of the White House staff, but we were very closely integrated to what went on in the White House in the foreign affairs field. I still maintained almost the same relationship with Murphy. I was still part of his speechwriting stable. We were still part of the White House staff, because Harriman did not become director of Mutual Security until October of ‘50. We were still part of the White House staff. The fact that we were still part of the White House staff, and that Elsey could come and take a job with Harriman, lends some support to what I am about to say as my speculation. My speculation is that George Elsey did give the story to Tony Leviero, that George gave it to Tony with the knowledge of the President and that the President said, "George, I want you to do this, and you're going to get your neck chopped off, but I want you to do this for me. I will have no choice but to disown you when it comes out. But I want Leviero to get this." And George, being a tremendously loyal supporter and follower of the President, did it. This is my theory, I cannot give any other explanation. If the President were really angry with George, if George had done something he wasn't supposed to do, I can't conceive of the President being pleased that Averell Harriman would hire George. That's still part of the White House staff.
Now, I have never had this confirmed; I have never asked George Elsey this question point blank. I don't feel it's any of my business to do it, but this is my guess as to what happened.
HESS: How effective was he on Mr. Harriman's staff?
TANNENWALD: Very effective.
HESS: Just exactly what were his duties?
TANNENWALD: George was sort of the guy who kept Harriman organized. I was Harriman's chief of staff, and I ran the office, and George ran Harriman.
HESS: Did he need a little organization?
TANNENWALD: Yes. Harriman is not the best organized man in the world. His great quality--he gets kudos for having good organization, and he has, and what I'm about to say I say without any egotism, although I am a part of what was involved. He was not a good organizer. He was not a good runner of an organization. But he had an uncanny capacity to surround himself with people who could do it. He always had somebody, in Commerce it was Bill [William C.] Foster; in Paris, it was Milt [Milton] Katz. In the '50 to '51 days, it was me primarily. He has always had somebody who could run the shop for him. Sometimes the guy who ran the shop also had to run him, but usually he had a special assistant. Now he had not had a special assistant before then, because he wanted to keep his staff very small. With five people I think that he felt like he didn't really need it. I've forgotten by this time if the pattern of possibility of Harriman taking on the added responsibilities through running the foreign aid program was in the picture or not. There was also, I think, about this time, some talk about Harriman being chairman of the National Security Resources Board, and as far as I can make out, that was all set to go. Because one of the reasons was that Harriman as Special Assistant to the President was at the meetings of the National Security Council by invitation and not by right. Now, this really didn't make any difference with the setup as it was, but you never can tell. Harriman was always a little bit uncomfortable about this. I talked to him about this within the month, and he denies this. He says, "I didn't care whether I was there by invitation or by right, I was there as Averell Harriman." You know, this was true in a sense, but the chairman of the National Security Resources Board had a seat as a matter of right on the NSC. Harriman would have liked to have had it for that reason, but he didn't want to take it for that reason alone. And his discussions with the President and others at that time, were that the NSRB was going to be reorganized, and would be really the overall agency under the President for running the Korean war effort, not the military side of it, but like what happened with the War Production Board during World War II. For some reason or other, who blocked it or what, I don't know, but it never worked out. The powers of the NSRB or its chairman were not sufficiently expanded to encompass what Harriman wanted. He didn't want a planning job, in other words, he wanted an operating job, and the NSRB was a planning agency, so that never materialized. But whether this was going on so that Harriman foresaw the possibility of increased responsibilities and figured he'd take George on, or whether he was doing it simply to be nice to George, or indeed whether he was doing it simply because the President asked him to do it, I don't know. It's conceivable that if my analysis is right as to what the circumstances under which George Elsey got the axe, the President could have said to Averell, "Take care of my boy for me. I can't do it. I've put him in this impossible position and I'd like to see him taken care of."
HESS: One general question about Mr. Harriman himself. In your estimation and in your opinion, what would be his value to the United States?
TANNENWALD: Are you talking about then or now or both?
HESS: Then and since then.
TANNENWALD: Well, then his value to the United States was that he was one of the few remaining figures in Government from the wartime. He was one, certainly the one who had had the most experience negotiating with the Russians. He had this sixth sense. He was, for those reasons, a valuable adjunct. He knew how to get along with people, which is also one of the reasons why Truman used him in the coordination of State and Defense. Since then, of course, all of these qualities are still present and his experience has grown. I think he's perhaps more valuable today, or has been, and I think still is, since 1960 for a reason which he himself has put into his own words. Prior to 1960, for all of his substantive value, Harriman was still looking for another job, so to speak. Until he got licked for Governor in ‘58, it was elective office. I think he had hoped that he would still get another shot at the Presidency. I think he had a tremendous inner drive which was satisfied by his being elected Governor in 1954, in part, and then devastated four years later when he was defeated. I think he had this tremendous compulsion to be elected to a prominent public position. Despite his knowledge and his background and his ability, I think he always felt that he got his jobs because of his money and his position, not because of him, even with Harry Truman when he should have known better. I think that he would be the first to say that his money couldn't have meant less to anybody than Harry Truman. I think there was this subconscious thing that it was his name and his money was what was responsible, and he wanted to prove that he really had it by getting elected to public office. The governorship did this. I think he really wanted to be President. I know he wanted to be Secretary of State. This was the one unfulfilled ambition, and he came very close to getting it, as he has told me, in 1949, when it was between Harriman and Acheson. Truman picked Acheson. I think Harriman may well have harbored hopes, although they should have been remote, that he might have been made Secretary of State by President Kennedy. But once '60 came, and Kennedy was elected, and Kennedy did not name him Secretary of State, I think Averell came to the conclusion that he had reached the end of the line as far as his seeking any other job was concerned. I think he once made the remark to me, and maybe I'm parroting my own words, probably these are my words. I said, finally, I said, "You know, he's a great guy. When he took the job as Assistant Secretary of State," he came down from Under Secretary to be Assistant Secretary of State for the Far East, I said, "Well, Averell's finally arrived. He's only interested in doing a job; he's not interested in getting one anymore." And because of that change he became even more valuable. Personal ambition was eliminated from the equation.
HESS: Did he actively seek the Democratic nomination for President in 1952?
TANNENWALD: He certainly did. He campaigned all over the country, and I think he lived in the illusion that he had Harry Truman's support.
HESS: What gave him that illusion?
TANNENWALD: Harry Truman unquestionably encouraged him to run, because I think Truman believed that anybody who wanted to take a crack at it ought to take a crack at it. And the question of who was going to succeed him was vital, and I don't think he knew in the spring of 1952 whether Stevenson was going to finally succumb to the pressures or not, and he foresaw a wide-open convention and he figured, you know, "Harriman might just as well do it as anybody else." I think he encouraged Harriman, but I'm equally convinced that when Harriman would go to see him during the spring of '52--I remember one Saturday afternoon, I think it was; Harriman was back in town from campaigning around the country (this must have been in May of '52), and he went to see the President. He came back and he said, "Harry Truman's in my corner."
I remember thinking at that time, "I can't believe Harry Truman's in his corner." Or if he was, I didn't think Harry Truman would tell him so. I think Harriman heard what he wanted to hear. He translated words of encouragement into words of support. You know, this is very easy for a human being to do. He wanted that nomination very badly.
HESS: Who do you think that Mr. Truman would have preferred to have seen as Democratic standardbearer that year?
TANNENWALD: I think he really wanted Adlai Stevenson, although he wasn't sure he could get him. I think he had Adlai in mind all the way through. I could be wrong. I'm really not privy to any of the discussions. I never knew anybody else that he really wanted. He encouraged [Stuart] Symington to run; he encouraged Lyndon Johnson to run; he encouraged Harriman to run. I can't believe--maybe Symington, I don't know, but I doubt it; I doubt it.
HESS: Did Mr. Harriman go to the convention in ‘52, with the idea that he could make it?
TANNENWALD: He certainly did. Oh, yes.
HESS: Did you go to the convention?
TANNENWALD: I went to the convention with him.
HESS: What do you recall about those days?
TANNENWALD: They were hectic. We had our little command post.
HESS: Where was your command post, do you recall?
TANNENWALD: It was in the Convention Hall in the stockyards up in the eaves. Harriman was fighting hard for the nomination. I think he thought that it was still unsure that Stevenson wanted it. Stevenson really didn't say yes until the convention was underway. I think he also thought that Stevenson had been so wishy-washy about it that when he did finally get around to saying that he wanted it, that it would be too late. He couldn't see [Estes] Kefauver.
HESS: What about Vice President Barkley? What was his opinion of Vice President Barkley?
TANNENWALD: I don't recall anything about Barkley in those days, or Harriman making any comment. It's sort of a very dim recollection. Now that you mention it, I remember that Barkley was trying to get it, but my recollection is such that I can't really think that anybody took him seriously at that point. Barkley was an old man at that point.
I remember one episode where there was an attempt to get the Harriman and Kefauver forces together.
HESS: Sort of a block Adlai movement?
TANNENWALD: Block Adlai move. And it didn't materialize, because neither one would take second spot to the other. I remember meeting in the Congress Hotel at 3 o'clock in the morning the night before Stevenson was nominated. Frank Roosevelt was there, he was Harriman's campaign manager, and I've forgotten who Kefauver's campaign manager was at that point. And as I recall, Walter Reuther was there, and I think it was Reuther who said to Frank Roosevelt, one of the labor boys did I know, "Frank, you know, if you can persuade your boss to support Kefauver, you might get the second spot yourself."
And Frank, who is not loved by a great many people, made a statement that I'll never forget; he said, "Look, I'm Harriman's campaign manager, and I'm going to be his campaign manager right to the end. If it's the bitter end, fine; if it's successful, fine. But I'm not interested." He turned it down absolutely cold. There are a lot of people who just don't believe this story. They think Frank was an opportunist, and he was to a large degree.
But he was loyal that time.
HESS: Do you recall what degree of delegate support that Mr. Harriman may have had going into the convention?
TANNENWALD: I've forgotten. He thought he had a good nucleus of support in the Middle West, and mostly the Ear West, from Mississippi to California, the Rocky Mountain area, principally because of his identification with the Union Pacific Railroad and Sun Valley. I've forgotten what the delegate count was. People like John Carroll would know a lot more, if John remembers, because John was his campaign manager.
HESS: Do you recall Mr. Harriman making any comments about Governor Stevenson after Governor Stevenson had received the nomination?
TANNENWALD: Only that he would enthusiastically support him.
HESS: Did you think Stevenson could win the '52 election against General Eisenhower?
TANNENWALD: I'm hesitating because I don't really remember. I don't have a very vivid recollection of the '52 campaign, principally because I left the country early in October on a six week trip to the Far East and Middle East for Harriman. I was out of the country through the bulk of the campaign and through the election. I didn't get back until early December, so that I don't really remember.
HESS: What were your duties on that trip?
TANNENWALD: Harriman, both when he was Special Assistant and when he was Director of Mutual Security, we had the feeling, some of us, that his office had never given enough attention to the non-European areas. And we had to come up with a budget recommendation--it was still going to be a Truman budget that had to be formulated--so partially to indicate to these other areas that the foreign aid program did have an interest in their welfare, and partially to get some firsthand information for the budget requirements, I took this trip.
HESS: Where did you go?
TANNENWALD: I went to Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, then Indo-China, Burma, India, Pakistan, Lebanon and Israel.
HESS: What was the nature of some of the comments that were made to you by the officials that you spoke to, something perhaps of the nature, "We would like to have a Marshall plan for us too?"
TANNENWALD: Well, of course, there was a plan, the Mutual Security Act of 1951, which was passed in the fall of ‘51, had aid in it for the non-European areas. The big question in those days was, should the aid program in those areas be patterned on the Marshall plan, which was a big, large injection of aid, or should it be more directed along the lines of technical assistance. This was a battle that has been fought ever since the aid agency was in business. I suppose every country was out to get as much aid as they could. India was the big problem, because India was looked upon as the showpiece of democratic experiment in South Asia. Pakistan, I remember a guy, [General Mohammed] Ayub Khan, who was then the minister of defense, and he was interested in military aid, and I remember ducking out of it because I didn't want to get involved. What little I said, he didn't like very much, because I didn't think they were going to get much military aid. But Anna Rosenberg, who was then the Assistant Secretary of Defense, was there at the same time that I was, so I let her handle all the questions. I don't have any specific recollections as to amounts and thrust. India felt that it needed more than technical assistance. The big problem in Indo-China was, you know, "What do we do about the French?" We were ambivalent in those days. We didn't support the French and neither did we tell the French that they had to fish or cut bait. I remember having an early morning breakfast, with Don [Donald R.] Heath, who was then the ambassador, just prior to my departure, I was leaving on a 6 a.m. plane and we had breakfast at 4 o'clock, and I kept pleading with him, "For God's sake, tell the French what they ought to do. They ought to recognize that there are elements at work in this country that they've got to stimulate and bring along, and sooner or later they were going to have to get out."
He said, "No, we can't tell the French what to do."
Ed [Edmund Asbury] Gullion, who was the political officer at the Embassy at the time was livid about the fact that we weren't doing with the French what we should be doing. This was the fall of 1952.
HESS: This brings us up pretty well to the transition from the Truman administration to the Eisenhower administration.
TANNENWALD: The transition I can tell you very little about, only because I have no recollection of it. As far as Harriman was concerned, it went extremely smoothly. Harriman was determined to make a good transition, and, I think he was one of the first of the Truman Cabinet people to get hold of his counterpart, he got hold of Harold Stassen. Stassen was sufficently of the liberal Republican ilk that there was a good bit of rapport between him and Harriman. We were instructed to hold nothing back. I remember that I worked almost constantly with Stassen from early December, which I think is when he was first--or late November--right on through, and I stayed on with him for three months. As a matter of fact, he wanted me to stay on with him as his general counsel, and I decided I wanted to go back to private practice, besides which I didn't particularly like the idea of taking a demotion. He said, "I can't give you an assistant directorship." But it was a very easy and very smooth transition.
HESS: Just what is your opinion of Mr. Truman's major contribution during his career?
TANNENWALD: Well, I don't know specifically how to answer that. I guess I can summarize my general attitude by a line that I've often said that if I were to write the epitaph on Harry Truman's tombstone, it would read:
So right on the big issues,
He was right on all the big issues, particularly in the field of foreign affairs. His problem was that he let himself get involved with some of the minor nonsense of the people around him. I'm thinking of Harry Vaughan and the mink coats and the deep freeze and stuff like that. Truman somehow never could realize that his attitude on what I call some of the smaller issues, that really weren't important, colored his image and his effectiveness in the public eye on the big issues. I would say that he will go down as a great President, particularly for what he did in the foreign affairs field, because I think his greatest accomplishment if I had to evaluate it, is that he led this country into international involvement, rather than letting it go back to isolationism, which it could very easily have done. Anybody who thinks that World War II killed isolationism in this country is dead wrong. In 1945 and 1946 this country was ripe for going back. They had their bellies full of war, very much like what's going on with Vietnam today, only more so.
HESS: Judge, where would you place Mr. Truman on the scale from a liberal to a conservative?
TANNENWALD: I would say, he was to the left of center.
HESS: Why? Can you give me an example?
TANNENWALD: I think in the area of foreign affairs, he was definitely a liberal. In the area of domestic affairs, I think he was less than a full liberal in the field, for example, of civil rights. And here I must draw a distinction. I'm talking about Harry Truman as a President in the sense of recognizing what he could get. I don't think he was a full-blown liberal in the area of domestic affairs. Now in terms of what he could get, I think his basic instincts all the way through were very much on the liberal side. I think he wanted to do more in civil rights than he did. I think he wanted to do more in the field of social welfare than he did. So, I may be too conservative.
HESS: There are those who say that in the field of civil rights, his actions were taken from the standpoint of political expediency, and that he really didn't mean some of the statements that he made on civil rights. What would you say about that?
TANNENWALD: This is very hard for me to answer, because I never knew Harry Truman personally. I'm not able to distinguish as other people might, what Harry Truman's personal feelings were as distinct from his attitude as a President.
HESS: How would you rate the Presidents of recent years, from Roosevelt to the present, in terms of effectiveness, administrative ability, intellectual ability, and as men?
TANNENWALD: That's a large order. I'm not sure you can rate them all in the conglomerate.
Roosevelt was a wartime leader, and in some ways this made it very easy for him, because he could get a lot of things done that he otherwise couldn't have done. I think Roosevelt will go down in history as a more intellectual man than Harry Truman and Eisenhower, not more intellectual than Kennedy, more intellectual than Johnson and Nixon. I think, on the other hand, Truman will go down as more of a man of principle than Roosevelt. Both Roosevelt and Truman will go down as activists as compared to Eisenhower, who was not an activist. Roosevelt and Kennedy will vie for which of the more recent Presidents had the more charisma, and Kennedy will probably win that battle. If I had to sum up my feeling, I think that starting with Roosevelt, Eisenhower will come down as the least effective President in terms of accomplishment; but here again, it depends on how you define effectiveness, define accomplishment. If you define it in terms of what you as an individual want, it's one thing; if you define it as what the people wanted, you come out with another result. I think Eisenhower was the kind of a President that the American people at least thought they wanted during the 1950s. I think in history one of the marks of a good President is the guy who is maybe the kind of a President that the people at the time don't want, but ought to have. And in that sense, Harry Truman will go down in history as a most effective President, because he pushed the country in directions that the country needed to be pushed in and didn’t want to be pushed. Roosevelt is very hard to evaluate, because of the fact that the bulk of it was during wartime. I don't know how history--you can go back and read Schlesinger in the pre-World War II days of Roosevelt, and it's a very mixed bag as to how Roosevelt comes out. Roosevelt was certainly not the man of principle that Harry Truman was. Kennedy will go down as a great President, but I think he was very much like Roosevelt. The luster will be dulled if not tarnished as the years go by. I don't think Roosevelt is considered today as great a President as he was, let's say, fifteen years ago. On the other hand, I think Harry Truman is considered a greater President today than he was fifteen years ago.
Johnson will go down--it's very hard to tell how Lyndon Johnson is going to go down. He did some great things. He got lots of things through Congress in the domestic field which John Kennedy--I don't think Kennedy would have gotten them through. But he will be tagged with Vietnam, and what it has done to the fiber of this country, beyond just being in a war that we shouldn't have been in. Presidents can survive that kind of a mistake, but whether he can survive in history on this one, which really has done something to the fiber of this country, I don't know. It's too early.
HESS: What is your estimation of Mr. Truman's place in history, one hundred or one hundred and fifty years from today, how will historians and the general public view Mr. Truman?
TANNENWALD: I think Mr. Truman will go down as a fighting, forward-looking President, whom, as I said, led the country in directions that they really didn't want to be led. He laid the foundation for revolutionizing the outlook of this country, both domestically and internationally.
HESS: Do you have anything else to add on Mr. Truman or the Truman administration?
TANNENWALD: Not that I can recall. I went through some of my old notes last night to refresh my recollection.
HESS: Thank you very much for your time.
TANNENWALD: Not at all.
Albany, New York
Albany High School
Alien Property Custodian
Arnold, General Henry H.
Eisenhower, Dwight D.
First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston
Hackett, William S.
Tannenwald, Theodore, Jr., in the employment of
Harvard Law School
Heath, Donald R.
Johnson, Richard M.
MacArthur, General Douglas:
testimony hearings on
Merck and Company
Military Assistance Act of 1949
speech writing for Truman, Harry S.
Mutual Security Agency
National Advisory Council
Operations Analysis Section of the Eighth Fighter Command in England
Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Tannenwald, Theodore, Jr.
Foreign Funds Control Division of the State Department, works for the
Harriman, W. Averell, an employee of
MacArthur, Douglas, dismissal of, discussed by
Middle East and Far East, travels to
Operations Analysis Section of the Eighth Fighter Command in England
Operations Analysis Section of the United States Air Force, and
speechwriter, as a
Truman, Harry S.:
and MacArthur, Douglas
and the Troops for Europe Resolution
Union Pacific Railroad
Valatie, New York