Oral History Interview with
Matthew J. Connelly
Chief investigator for the Senate Special Committee
to Investigate the National Defense Program (the Truman Committee), 1941-44,
Executive Assistant to Senator and Vice President Truman, July 1944-April
1945; and Appointments Secretary to the President, 1945-53.
New York, New York
August 21, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Connelly 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
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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 It may not be published in full except by permission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 May 1969
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Connelly Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Matthew J. Connelly
New York, New York
August 21, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Connelly, I'd like to go over a list of the men who served
on the Cabinet during the Truman administration, and ask a few questions
about each man. In most cases we might have specific questions that may
apply only in that individual case, but a few general questions would
be such items as: Why were those particular men chosen for the post; how
effective were they in carrying out the responsibilities of their positions,
what were their relationships with the President, and why were they replaced,
if that was the case?
Our first one starting with the Department of State would be a holdover
that Mr. Truman had from the Roosevelt days: Edward Stettinius. What can
you tell me about Mr. Stettinius?
CONNELLY: Mr. Stettinius was Secretary of State
under Roosevelt, and
when Truman took over he had to work with the Cabinet that was in office
until he could evaluate the performance of each one. Mr. Stettinius did
not remain very long after Mr. Truman took over. He resigned from the
position of Secretary of State to enjoy private business. Mr. Truman did
not have complete confidence in Mr. Stettinius because his thinking and
Mr. Stettinius' thinking were not in total agreement.
HESS: Could you give me an example of that?
CONNELLY: There were several matters of policy that Mr. Truman felt he
could not go along with, which Mr. Stettinius advocated. In other words,
Mr. Stettinius was brought up to represent the thinking of Mr. Roosevelt.
Altogether, Mr. Truman did not agree, and as a result his departure was
not disagreeable to Mr. Truman.
HESS: The next man was James F. Byrnes.
CONNELLY: James F. Byrnes was sent for by Mr. Truman after he arrived
at the White House. He had a great deal of confidence in Mr. Byrnes because
of their association in the Senate. Mr. Byrnes came from South Carolina,
and talked to Mr. Truman and immediately decided that he would take over.
Mr. Truman to Mr. Byrnes, I'm afraid, was a nonentity, as Mr. Byrnes thought
he had superior intelligence. It later was proved that the opposite was
true. So Mr. Byrnes' appointment was based on the association that they
had in the United States Senate, but after being sworn in as Secretary
of State several disagreements exerted themselves and Mr. Truman eventually
had to request the resignation of Mr. Byrnes over clashes in policy and
thinking and in politics.
HESS: Some historians have said that Mr. Truman's appointment of Mr.
Byrnes was in the nature of a consolation because Truman had received
the 1944 nomination instead of Mr. Byrnes and had it been the other way
around, Byrnes would have been President at that time. What do you think
CONNELLY: I don't believe that's true. Mr. Byrnes was placed in nomination,
or suggested for nomination as Vice President by Mr. Truman. Mr. Byrnes
had previously called Mr. Truman and suggested that he introduce him as
a nominee for Vice President under Roosevelt. Mr. Truman left for Chicago
with the intention of nominating Mr. Byrnes. However, things as they developed
at the convention, ruled out Mr. Byrnes and Mr. Truman received the nomination.
Mr. Truman was completely loyal to Senator Byrnes because of their Senate
association, but it was not very long before Mr. Byrnes thought that he
had become President and Mr. Truman had not. Conflicts developed and Mr.
Byrnes was later asked to relieve himself of the position of Secretary of State.
HESS: The next man is George C. Marshall.
CONNELLY: George C. Marshall was a great American, highly respected by
Mr. Truman, looked upon by Mr. Truman as the Chief of Staff, and Mr. Truman
regarded himself as a colonel. He had great reverence for the Chief of
Staff and he believed General Marshall could do no wrong. General Marshall
was brought into the administration by Mr. Truman, and Mr. Marshall performed
with intelligence, and integrity and with good faith, all of which were
appreciated by Mr. Truman. And George C. Marshall in Mr. Truman's eyes
could never do anything wrong.
HESS: We have a couple of questions on the Marshall plan, but we'll take
those up a little later.
The next Secretary of State was Dean Acheson.
CONNELLY: Dean Acheson became Secretary of State at the departure of
General Marshall, who went back. to the Defense Department as Secretary
of Defense. Dean Acheson was highly regarded by Mr. Truman. He was an
intellectual, he knew foreign policy, he knew the operation of the State
Department, but in my own opinion, Dean Acheson, more or less because
of his intellect, educational background, and his experience around Washington,
impressed Mr. Truman to the end that anything that Mr. Acheson did, as
far as Mr. Truman was concerned, was correct. I never quite held that
opinion myself. In my book Mr. Acheson was above and beyond the normal realms of
Government operation. Mr. Acheson, in my vernacular, would be
considered an egghead, not a practical administrator, and not a man who
represented the opinion of America, or of the people of America. Mr. Acheson,
for some reason, was more or less beholden to the operations of the British
Government. In my opinion, these things conflicted with the viewpoint
of Mr. Truman, who was all American.
HESS: In your opinion, why would Mr. Acheson's views be so closely correlated
with the British viewpoint?
CONNELLY: Over a period of many years, the State Department was patterned
after the British Government. They thought British, they acted British,
and they were under a peculiar phobia that the British way was the right
way, and the American's patterned themselves after that. That is true
of the history of the
HESS: All right. Moving over the page to the Secretary of the Treasury,
the first one was also a Roosevelt holdover, Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
CONNELLY: Henry Morgenthau, Jr. was a holdover. Henry Morgenthau, Jr.
was a man with ideas of his own, all of which Mr. Truman did not always
agree with. He was conscientious, but he was a dreamer. He was also petty
in many ways. For instance, he would personally supervise the Secret Service
protection of the President. He would personally take trips around at
night to find out if the Secret Service were on their posts, which was
unbeknown to Mr. Truman. I found out from the Secret Service that he had
done the same thing under the Roosevelt administration. This, to Mr. Truman,
was quite obnoxious.
However, I think one of the things that Mr. Morgenthau
presented to Mr. Truman in the early stages of his administration was
a plan for Germany, in which he wished to reduce Germany to an agricultural
state. Mr. Morgenthau gave me a memorandum which he had drawn up incorporating
his ideas. I checked that memorandum out with several officials who disagreed.
As a result of these consultations I had with these different officials,
Mr. Truman refused to accept Mr. Morgenthau's plan. Mr. Morgenthau was
very unhappy about the President's decision not to accept this plan.
HESS: Was there ever any serious consideration given to accepting the
CONNELLY: Not beyond me confirming with other members of the existing
staff in Washington the value of such a plan, none of whom I consulted
were in agreement, whether he felt
that Mr. Truman rejected it I do not know.
HESS: Did Mr. Morgenthau wish to continue on as Secretary of the Treasury
for Mr. Truman?
CONNELLY: After that disappointment of Mr. Morgenthau on his brainchild,
he gradually lost interest. And Mr. Truman knowing about that background,
and knowing about the discussions that I had with various members of the
administration, declined to accept Mr. Morgenthau as a permanent member
of his Cabinet.
HESS: The next man was Fred Vinson. Why was he chosen to replace Mr. Morgenthau?
CONNELLY: Fred Vinson was a member of Congress for many years, he had
known President Truman for many years, President Truman admired him greatly,
and after President Truman found out that Mr. Morgenthau was not the man he wanted,
he thought in his own mind that the man that he would put in
that position would be a man he could trust and who would be for him;
therefore, Mr. Truman offered the post of Secretary of Treasury to Mr. Vinson.
HESS: In your opinion, did he make an effective Secretary of the Treasury
for the time that he was there?
CONNELLY: Mr. Vinson made a very effective Secretary of the Treasury.
Mr. Vinson reported regularly to President Truman, explained things, worked
things out with him, and as far as I know they never left in any disagreement.
HESS: What is your opinion of Fred Vinson as a person?
CONNELLY: Fred Vinson as a person was one of the most human beings I've
ever known. He was
highly regarded by anybody who knew him. He was highly
qualified, not only in the science of government, but as a legislator
he had achieved a great reputation. Mr. Truman, naturally having been
in the Congress for many years, liked those things about Mr. Vinson. And
after Mr. Vinson was appointed Secretary of the Treasury, he fulfilled
his job so well that Mr. Truman had nothing but high regard for him and
HESS: When the post as Chief Justice became empty, were there others
that were considered for that position besides Mr. Vinson?
CONNELLY: Mr. Truman made a personal decision on that. As far as I know,
he did not discuss it with many people, if any, but due to Fred Vinson's
performance, Mr. Truman respected his integrity, his honesty, and decided
that Fred Vinson would make an ideal candidate for
the Supreme Court of the United States.
HESS: Why was John Snyder chosen to succeed Mr. Vinson?
CONNELLY: John Snyder was chosen to succeed Mr. Vinson because for many
years he had been a personal friend of Mr. Truman's. He was in the banking
industry in Missouri, and Mr. Truman had high regard for his financial
ability and integrity. And when Mr. Vinson was moved up to the Supreme
Court, Mr. Snyder was Mr. Truman's first thought as his successor.
HESS: What was your opinion of Mr. Snyder's effectiveness as Secretary
of the Treasury?
CONNELLY: Mr. Snyder made an effective Secretary of the Treasury. As
far as I know--and that was not my bracket to evaluate him, he reported
directly to the President, and not to
me. I knew nothing about his activities,
except what the President told me he wanted me to do in connection with that department.
HESS: What was your opinion of him as a person?
CONNELLY: Mr. Snyder, in my book was a very petty, small-minded, small
town banker, and I never thought he had the stature to carry this job
of Secretary of the Treasury of the United States.
HESS: In your opinion, what was the general opinion of the other Cabinet
members concerning Mr. Snyder? Do you recall?
CONNELLY: I believe that Mr. Snyder was so self-involved and secretive,
that none of the other members of the Cabinet really got to know him.
HESS: All right, he served until the end of the administration. Our next
category is Secretary
of War, and Mr. Henry M. Stimson was also a holdover
from the Roosevelt administration.
CONNELLY: Mr. Stimson was what you might call an international statesman.
Mr. Truman had high regard for him because he believed him to be a man
of integrity, and his first interest was the United States. He respected
his judgment, he respected his sense of fair play, and he had nothing
but admiration for him.
HESS: He resigned in September of 1945. Did he wish to stay on or not?
CONNELLY: No, Mr. Stimson actually initiated the resignation himself.
HESS: He was replaced by Robert Patterson. Why was Mr. Patterson chosen
for the position?
CONNELLY: Mr. Patterson was already in the Defense Department, and Mr. Truman thought
that he was the logical successor, because he knew the
operation of the Pentagon, and the military establishment. He was an outstanding
lawyer, and he had in the meantime developed the great respect of Mr.
Truman during his performance as Secretary of War.
HESS: The next man who served for just a short period of time until the
unification was Kenneth C. Royall. He appears again as Secretary of the
Army so we'll discuss him as Secretary of the Army, if that's all right.
The next category is Secretary of Defense. Of course, the first Secretary
of Defense under the unification act was James Forrestal. Why was he chosen
as the first Secretary of Defense?
CONNELLY: Forrestal was Secretary of the Navy prior to the merger of
the branches of the Army, Navy and Air Force. Mr. Forrestal had
Washington under the Roosevelt administration, was a highly intellectual
fellow, and was a good administrative officer. When the merger was completed
to create the Defense Department, Mr. Truman looked on him as the superior
of the other members of the military establishment and appointed him as
Secretary of Defense, which office he held very successfully until an
illness overtook him.
HESS: Do you recall any instances, any evidences on the job of the mental
deterioration that overtook Mr. Forrestal, unfortunately?
CONNELLY: Yes, I recall Mr. Forrestal called me and told me that his
telephones were being bugged, his house was being watched, and he would
like me to do something about it. So I had the chief of the Secret Service
detail at the White House make an investigation of Mr. Forrestal's home;
I had him observe it,
I had him check his phones, and found out that he
was just misinformed, that it wasn't being watched, and there was no indication
that there was any wiretapping in Mr. Forrestal's home. That really upset
me, because I realized that the Secret Service would do a thorough job,
and I told the President that I was worried that Mr. Forrestal might be
a little bit wrong.
HESS: What did the President say at that time? Do you recall?
CONNELLY: He asked me what I thought and I said, "I think Mr. Forrestal
is cracking up."
So he said, "Why don't we arrange to have him go down to Key West and
take a little vacation?"
So, Mr. Forrestal did go to Key West. There was a repetition down
there. Mr. Forrestal had hallucinations about things that
were going wrong
at Key West and he called me from Key West and told me that something
was wrong down there. So I checked very carefully with the Navy, who supervises
Key West, and Mr. Forrestal later was transferred from Key West to the
naval hospital in Bethesda.
HESS: Do you recall what he thought was going wrong at Key West at this time?
CONNELLY: He thought that the same things were happening, that people
were annoying him, and he felt he was under surveillance down there, he
felt that he was being watched, and in other words, he was being personally
persecuted. So as a result of that, we had him very quietly removed to
Bethesda hospital in Washington. .And history will disclose that is where
he jumped out a window.
HESS: The next man to hold the position was Louis
Johnson. Why was he
chosen for that position?
CONNELLY: Louis Johnson was chosen for two reasons. Number one, Louis
Johnson had been Commander of the American Legion. He was a perennial
candidate for President. He was a very effective political organizer,
and during the campaign of 1948 when things were not very good for Mr.
Truman, Louis Johnson accepted the position as treasurer of the Democratic
National Committee. He gave up his law practice. He devoted all of his
time to raising money for the campaign in '48. He was a highly successful
lawyer in Washington, and Mr. Truman turned to him after the death of
Mr. Forrestal to take over the Pentagon operation.
HESS: During this time, two important events took place, the cutting
back of the Armed Forces and the invasion of Korea. Some people had blamed
Louis Johnson for the reduction in
the Armed Forces. Is that valid?
CONNELLY: That is valid. He had promised that he would cut to the bone
the expenditures of the Defense Department and set out to do so, with
the result that when the Korean war developed we found ourselves very
unable to meet our commitments for our appearance in Korea.
HESS: Was this done strictly for reasons of economy? Wasn't it seen that
this was a dangerous thing to do in the world situation at that time, or not?
CONNELLY: Well, World War II was over and Mr. Johnson thought that the
appropriation for the Defense Department could be cut to reduce the overhead
we had in maintaining the equipment over here and overseas, and he put
on an economy program and without the Korean war at that time being imminent,
he succeeded in his
objectives. However, when the Korean thing developed
we were too thin on supplies and materiel.
HESS: In the Korean war the North Koreans invaded South Korea, we'll
get to that a little bit later, on June the 24th, on a Saturday, of 1950.
Just when was the decision made to replace Louis Johnson . What can you
tell me about the resignation of Louis Johnson?
CONNELLY: I don't recall.
HESS: Was that offered willingly, do you recall?
CONNELLY: I don't believe so. I think that the President by this time
became dissatisfied with Johnson because of his inability to get along
with other members of the Armed Forces.
HESS: How did he got along with the other members of the Cabinet?
CONNELLY: Louis Johnson was somewhat of an individualist, and Louis Johnson
was not what you would call a cooperative member of the Cabinet. He was
running his own show, and he didn't want any interference from anybody
else, and I don't think he asked very often for opinions from anybody else.
HESS: Would he interfere in other departments?
CONNELLY: No, not that I know of. He was running his own show and was
satisfied to do that.
HESS: All right. Now, George Marshall was the next Secretary of Defense.
Why was he chosen to replace Louis Johnson?
CONNELLY: Marshall had been Chief of Staff during World War II, and Truman
had complete confidence in his ability as a soldier, and as an administrator.
After Louis Johnson left the Cabinet, Truman knowing Marshall, appointed him as
Secretary of Defense because he realized that Marshall had more
knowledge of the Defense Department operations than anybody else he knew
of, and that he would be a natural to take over the management of the
HESS: He served approximately one year. Did he wish to retire at this time?
CONNELLY: That I don't know.
HESS: The last man to hold the position was Robert Lovett. Why was he chosen?
CONNELLY: Robert Lovett had been Under Secretary with Marshall. Robert
Lovett was a very brilliant administrator. Robert Lovett had pleased Truman
with his opinions on things at Cabinet meetings when he appeared on behalf
of Marshall, and Robert Lovett had become very close to Truman because of his ability
and his intelligence. Truman figured him as a logical replacement for Marshall.
HESS: Did he make a fairly effective Secretary of Defense?
CONNELLY: He was very effective.
HESS: All right. He served until the end of the administration.
HESS: The next three lists are gentlemen who did not hold full Cabinet
positions. We'll just go over those lightly. The Secretary of the Army,
Kenneth C. Royall. He was named Secretary of the Army at the time of the
unification, shortly thereafter, in August of 1947. Do you recall why
he was chosen first Secretary of the Army.
CONNELLY: No, I do not recall why he was chosen.
However, I believe he
performed well and intelligently as Secretary of the Army. In the convention
in 1948, Mr. Royall indicated that because of his southern background
and connections that he had to support General Eisenhower, under whom
he had served during World War II, and that his loyalty in that campaign
would have to be for General Eisenhower.
HESS: On that subject, on pages 196 and 197 of The Truman Presidency
by Cabell Phillips, it is mentioned that President Truman asked Kenneth
Royall to go to talk to Eisenhower and offer: Eisenhower first place on
the Democratic ticket and that Mr. Truman would take the Vice President's
position on that ticket with Eisenhower. Is the report as given in Phillips'
book factual, is that the truth?
CONNELLY: One part of it may be the truth. One
part of it that he may
have suggested to Kenneth Royall because of his personal knowledge and
relationship to Eisenhower, that he talk to Eisenhower. At that point
he thought that Eisenhower should be offered the nomination as President,
but the second part that he would step down to Vice President, I don't
HESS: All right. Royall was replaced by Gordon Gray in 1949.
CONNELLY: Gordon Gray had been an assistant. And after the departure
of Kenneth Royall, Gordon Gray was moved up by President Truman, because
Gordon Gray had demonstrated great administrative ability and Mr. Truman
suggested that he should be the man because of his knowledge and background
in the Pentagon.
HESS: The next man to hold the position was
CONNELLY: Frank Pace had been in the Budget Bureau, and Frank Pace had
developed Mr. Truman's confidence in that position. He came to know him
very well, and when the vacancy occurred, it occurred to him that because
of his administrative and financial ability as chief of the Budget Bureau,
he was the ideal man to put in that spot to keep an eye on the operation
of that department, particularly in view of the financial structure, and
the amount of money involved.
HESS: In April of 1951, during the situation revolving around the dismissal
of General MacArthur, as I understand it, a message was sent to Frank
Pace to deliver the message to General MacArthur that he had been relieved,
but Mr. Pace could not be found. Is that correct?
CONNELLY: That is correct. Frank Pace, I believe was in Korea at that
time, on an inspection tour. He was sent word to contact General MacArthur
and inform him of the decision of the President. Frank Pace could not
be reached and finally a message was sent, I think it was supervised at
that time by General Bradley on how it should be released. Through that
channel, I believe, the notice was sent to General MacArthur.
HESS: There are some historians who think that Mr. Pace did this intentionally,
and made himself unavailable at this time. What do you think about that?
CONNELLY: That's a question I couldn't answer, because anything I would
say about it would be problematic.
HESS: All right, fine. Now the next group, the
Secretary of the Navy,
and we've already covered James Forrestal. He was Secretary of the Navy
from 1944 until 1947, and then John L. Sullivan from '47 to '49.
CONNELLY: John Sullivan had been in the Treasury Department for many
years, I believe he was General Counsel and then later Under Secretary
of the Treasury Department. Mr. Truman got to know him pretty well and
had, great faith in his ability and his judgment. Mr. Truman nominated
him for Secretary of the Navy.
HESS: The next person is Francis P. Matthews.
CONNELLY: Francis P. Matthews was suggested originally to me for the
position of Secretary of the Navy by Louis Johnson. Louis Johnson thought
that he would be the right man for that spot. I called Mr. Matthews and
told him that the President would like him to be
Secretary of the Navy.
So he said he'd have to think about it, and he'd have to talk to his family
about it, and Mr. Matthews finally came to Washington to see the President
and agreed to take the appointment.
HESS: The next man is Dan Kimball.
CONNELLY: Dan Kimball was from California and he had been highly recommended
to Mr. Truman by several of the other members of the Cabinet who knew
him personally, and by some of the people in California that Mr. Truman
had great confidence in.
HESS: Who were they?
CONNELLY: Some of them were people like Ed Pauley, George Killion, and
other people that were known and liked by Mr. Truman and he had respect
for their judgment and as a result Kimball became Secretary of the Navy.
HESS: All right. Two gentlemen held the post as Secretary of the Air
Force, Stuart Symington from 1947 to 1950.
CONNELLY: Stuart Symington was also from Missouri, and Mr. Truman had
brought him in to Washington in connection with the disposal of surplus
after World War II. I believe he was chairman of the commission set up
to supervise the disposal of the surplus, most of which was overseas.
And on that basis, and because of his background in manufacturing, he
was suggested to Mr. Truman for this position by a Cabinet member named John Snyder.
HESS: And he was replaced by Thomas Finletter in 1950.
CONNELLY: Now the Finletter appointment, I'm not familiar with how that
was arranged. He had been an important lawyer in New York City, and
had also been in the Democratic Party for many years; he had great intelligence
and Mr. Truman interviewed him and thought that he would fill the bill.
HESS: Did he do a pretty, good job?
CONNELLY: He did a good job.
HESS: Back to our full Cabinet positions, the Attorney General. The first
Attorney General was Francis Biddle, a Roosevelt holdover.
CONNELLY: That's correct. Mr. Biddle served in the Cabinet under President
Truman until he could find out who he wanted himself who would be his man.
HESS: Did Mr. Biddle want to continue on in that post?
CONNELLY: I don't believe so. I think Mr. Biddle was continuing in the
post due to the fact
that we wanted some continuity in the operation of
HESS: Why was Tom Clark chosen to replace him, do you recall?
CONNELLY: Tom Clark had been in the Department of Justice as an Assistant
Attorney General, and during his course of operations, he became known
to Mr. Truman who liked his ability and liked the way he operated, and
Mr. Truman personally selected him as a successor to Mr. Biddle.
HESS: And when he went to the Supreme Court in 1949, J. Howard McGrath
was chosen as Attorney General. Why was Mr. McGrath chosen at this time?
CONNELLY: Mr. McGrath had been chairman of
the Democratic National Committee,
had displayed a great deal of ability and Mr. Truman had observed him
as chairman of the national committee, and there was another little political
reason. When Mr. Clark moved up to the Supreme Court to fill a vacancy
(I believe caused by the death of Justice Murphy), Mr. McGrath was appointed
to the Cabinet, and Mr. Truman thereby solved the problem of ignoring
the Catholic people and appointed Mr. McGrath and it was the first time
that two members of the Catholic faith were members of Mr. Truman's Cabinet.
HESS: I believe we mentioned that in one of our previous interviews.
Now, the events revolving around the resignation of Mr. McGrath bring
up the name of Newbold Morris. Just what happened at the time of the resignation
of J. Howard McGrath?
CONNELLY: Well, during the administration of Howard McGrath, there was
a series of congressional investigations, there was considerable press,
criticizing the department, criticizing people taking money and favors
in Government, and Mr. McGrath, without consulting with Mr. Truman, called
Mr. Morris, who was an official in New York and I believe had been a candidate
for mayor of New York, to Washington, to appoint him, without consultation
with Mr. Truman, to set up a division in the Department of
investigate all Government employees. Mr. McGrath had made that agreement
with Mr. Morris without consulting the President. And when Mr. Morris
approached the White House one day on the invitation of Mr. McGrath, Mr.
Truman was totally unaware of the fact that it had already been published
that Mr. Norris had been appointed.
HESS: I understand there was some question about a questionnaire also
that Mr. Morris had worked out.
CONNELLY: Mr. Morris had worked out a questionnaire to require each member
of the Cabinet, each key staff member of the administration to file a
report indicating how many clothes, how many dresses each Cabinet wife had...
HESS: Did you ever see one of those questionnaires?
CONNELLY: I never saw one but I knew about it. One
night we were discussing
it at Key West, we were down there on a trip, the staff members were discussing
it after Mr. Truman went to bed. We did not know that Mr. Truman had not
gone to bed. The Naval Aide said he didn't want any part of this, he'd
go back to the Navy. The Air Force Aide said he would too. And while this
discussion was held we didn't know Mr. Truman was listening.
HESS: He was listening in at the time.
CONNELLY: So after we got into it pretty deeply, he came in and said,
"Don't worry about it. That questionnaire will not be sent." Whereupon
he advised Attorney General McGrath that that questionnaire would not
be sent, and it never was.
HESS: Do you recall if that is the time that he talked to Attorney General
McGrath at the
airport after they got back?
CONNELLY: I don't know. I believe it was at the airport after we came
back from that trip and the Attorney General was out to meet him and he
told the Attorney General that the decision was his and Mr. Morris would
have to go.
HESS: Why was James P. McGranery selected to replace J. Howard McGrath?
CONNELLY: That was an interim appointment until Mr. Truman could find
out who he actually wanted as his next Attorney General.
HESS: Who chose Mr. McGranery?
CONNELLY: Mr. McGranery was then a Federal judge and Mr. Truman had known
Mr. McGranery since his legislative days. Mr. McGranery had always proven
himself to be a friend and loyal
to Mr. Truman, and because of the hurry
that existed at that time, it was suggested to Mr. Truman by me, that
Mr. McGranery would be available. Whether he would give up his judgeship
in Philadelphia to take the job I didn't know.
HESS: All right, he served until the end of the administration.
The Postmaster General. The first one, who was also a Roosevelt holdover,
was Frank Walker.
CONNELLY: Frank Walker was a holdover and was former chairman of the
national committee. Frank Walker wanted to resign. He was very close to
Mr. Truman and was for Mr. Truman when he was elected Vice President.
They were very close. But he wanted to resign and did.
HESS: Why was Robert E. Hannegan chosen?
CONNELLY: Robert E. Hannegan had been chairman of the national committee,
was an old personal friend of Mr. Truman's from St. Louis. And Mr. Truman
was instrumental, originally, in getting Mr. Roosevelt to appoint Hannegan
as Commissioner of Internal Revenue. He had previously been Collector
of Internal Revenue over in St. Louis.
HESS: And he was replaced in 1947 by Jesse M. Donaldson.
CONNELLY: Jesse M. Donaldson was a career man of the Post Office Department,
and Mr. Truman thought that somebody who had been in the Department would
know the problems (and they had plenty), that Donaldson was more qualified
to evaluate the inner workings of the Post Office Department, and he was
a career man, and Mr. Truman believed that Donaldson was the best choice
for the appointment.
HESS: And he served until the end of the administration.
The next department is the Department of Interior and the holdover from
the Roosevelt days was Harold L. Ickes. What kind of a man was Mr. Ickes?
CONNELLY: Mr. Ickes was saddled with a title which always stayed with
him as "The Old Curmudgeon." Mr. Ickes was personally envious of every
other Cabinet officer of Mr. Roosevelt's. Mr. Ickes was soon known to
Mr. Truman as being a troublemaker, because nobody wanted to talk before
Mr. Ickes in a Cabinet meeting.
HESS: What kind of trouble would he cause?
CONNELLY: He used a nice habit of leaking Cabinet stories to Washington
HESS: And he was replaced in 1946 by Julius A. Krug. Why was Mr. Krug
chosen to replace Mr.
CONNELLY: Mr. Krug had been with TVA, Tennessee Valley Authority, for
sometime. He was considered as a bright engineer and Mr. Truman in looking
for a successor to Mr. Ickes selected Mr. Krug because of his engineering
ability and his experience in the highly successful TVA program.
HESS: Was he an efficient Secretary of the Interior?
CONNELLY: For a time he was, and then later in the administration Mr.
Krug was inclined to be absent from his job as Secretary of the Interior
to take care of private interests, and actually made his headquarters
in New York City and would only show up at the Interior Department on
Cabinet meeting days, would sign his mail, and then would not come back
until the following Cabinet meeting. So Mr.
Truman became aware of this,
and so as a result he requested the resignation of Mr. Krug.
HESS: What pretext did he use to make New York City his headquarters?
CONNELLY: Because of his personal interests, his business interests.
HESS: And he was replaced by Oscar Chapman. Why was Mr. Chapman chosen?
CONNELLY: Mr. Chapman had been running the Department. He was Under Secretary,
and he was a career man, practically, with the Department, and Mr. Truman
looked on him as reliable, who would keep house and pay attention to the
job. So Mr. Truman selected him to succeed Krug who had been his superior
as a Cabinet officer.
HESS: I understand that Mr. Chapman had been in the department since
1933. Do you recall offhand why he was not chosen in 1946 at the time
that Mr. Krug got the appointment?
CONNELLY: I really don't know.
HESS: Did he make an effective Secretary of the Interior?
CONNELLY: He was very effective, very conscientious, and did his homework.
HESS: On the subject of liberals and conservatives, how would you rate Mr. Chapman?
CONNELLY: Mr. Chapman I would rate as a liberal. He had a wide, public
interest in promoting causes in the interest of the country. He was highly
civic minded, he had no personal political ambitions, and he was a dedicated
Secretary of the Interior.
HESS: Could you give me a thumbnail sketch of what would be a liberal
and what would be a conservative?
CONNELLY: The answer to that is "How high is up." Who can say
HESS: All right, Mr. Chapman served until the end of the administration.
The next department is the Department of Agriculture, and Claude Wickard
was the holdover for a few days into the Truman administration.
CONNELLY: I believe Mr. Wickard submitted his own resignation. He had
been in the department for several years under Mr. Roosevelt, and he believed
that Mr. Truman should be the selector of the head of Agriculture.
HESS: And then Clinton P. Anderson came in in June of 1945. Why was Mr.
Anderson chosen to be Mr. Truman's first Secretary of Agriculture, actually,
not counting Mr. Wickard?
CONNELLY: Because of his legislative experience Senator Anderson was
considered by Mr. Truman to be cognizant of most of the agricultural problems
and he believed that he was qualified to supervise the operations of the
HESS: He left in 1948 and Charles Brannan came in. Why was Mr. Brannan chosen?
CONNELLY: Mr. Brannan was chosen as a successor to Mr. Anderson. Mr.
Anderson at that point had been elected to the Senate, and as a result,
had to resign as Secretary of Agriculture. Mr. Brannan had been more or less of
a career man at the Department of Agriculture. And Mr. Truman
in his belief that if possible he would appoint people who had been in
the Department who were qualified to take over, and he considered Mr.
Brannan as that man.
HESS: How would you classify Mr. Brannan, as a liberal or a conservative?
CONNELLY: Well, the same thing applies. Mr. Brannan had some ideas which
were not consonant with President Truman's thinking. If you would say
liberal or progressive, Mr. Brannan was both, if you know what the term
means. This I am not qualified to tell you.
HESS: The main thing associated with Mr. Brannan is the Brannan plan,
which was not passed. What do you recall about the failure to get the
Brannan plan passed through Congress?
CONNELLY: Well, the conservative members of Congress who are vitally
interested in agriculture
did not agree with the Brannan plan. The Brannan
plan, subjectively or on paper, looked very practical but many members
of Congress did not agree with Mr. Brannan's theory on how the farm program
should be operated, with a result that it was pretty well sandbagged by
members of Congress.
HESS: And the next department is the Commerce Department. Henry Wallace
was the first Secretary.
CONNELLY: That's right. Mr. Wallace was Secretary of Commerce and Mr.
Wallace at one time decided that he was going to make a speech in New
York. He brought the speech in to President Truman and told him he would
like him to read it and Mr. Truman could see no point in reading his speech,
so Mr. Wallace arrived in New York, made the speech, and the kettle started
to boil. So, he was in total opposition to Mr. Truman's theory on how
foreign policy should be run, and
as a result Mr. Truman decided that
he would ask Mr. Wallace to submit his resignation.
HESS: Now at this same time 1 believe James Byrnes was at the peace conference
in Paris. Is that correct?
CONNELLY: I don't recall.
HESS: I think that he was. What do you recall about the resignation of
CONNELLY: Well, he was requested to resign by the President because of
this speech he made in New York, and after Mr. Ross indicated it had been
approved by Mr. Truman. But Mr. Truman had not approved it, because he
had not read it.
HESS: I believe that the President was asked at a press conference, isn't
that correct, if he did approve the speech, and what he later
that he approved Secretary Wallace's right to make the speech; he did
not necessarily approve the content. Do you recall that?
CONNELLY: That's correct, but he had not read the contents, because
he believed that Secretary Wallace would not make a speech in violation
of his own thoughts and ideas and what he personally would do himself.
HESS: Which he did.
CONNELLY: That's right.
HESS: And he was replaced by Averell Harriman. Why was he chosen?
CONNELLY: Well, Mr. Harriman had had considerable experience in the Roosevelt
administration. He was ambassador to Russia and he held other sensitive
spots, and Mr. Harriman being of a section of our economy which was considered
to be Wall Street, Mr. Truman placed him in that department because he
had knowledge of business, finance and also that he had many contacts
in the business world.
HESS: And he was replaced in 1948 by Charles Sawyer. Why was he chosen?
CONNELLY: Charles Sawyer was from Ohio. Charles Sawyer had been an original
Truman supporter in the presidential race. Charles Sawyer, I believe,
was in the banking business in Ohio, and had the respect throughout the
mid west for his integrity and his honesty and knowledge of business operations.
And it occurred to Mr. Truman that Mr. Sawyer had the qualifications for
the position of Secretary of Commerce.
HESS: Would you rate him as liberal or a conservative, or more one way
than the other?
CONNELLY: I would say that Charles Sawyer was in
the middle, you couldn't
rate him as either liberal or conservative.
HESS: The next department is the Department of Labor. Francis Perkins
was the holdover for just a month or so at the beginning of the Truman administration.
CONNELLY: Well, she was held ever from the Roosevelt administration.
After Mr. Truman arrived in the Cabinet, he found that he respected her
very much, but he found it a little embarrassing to other members of the
Cabinet to have a woman present during their deliberations, and because
of that there was awkwardness among other members of the Cabinet, that
they could not speak freely with a woman present. Mr. Truman, after this
impression was placed upon him, and in view of the fact that other members
of the Cabinet resented her appearance on the Cabinet, finally decided
that he would
be better off by letting her out of the Cabinet. He respected
her, he admired her, but he had to respect also the views and wishes of
the other members of the Cabinet.
HESS: Do you recall what members of the Cabinet felt this way?
CONNELLY: I would say practically all of them.
HESS: And she was replaced by Lewis B. Schwellenbach.
CONNELLY: Mr. Truman and Mr. Schwellenbach, I believe, arrived in the
Senate in the same term and they became very, very close friends, and
Mr. Truman had great respect and admiration for him. As a result, he suggested
Mr. Schwellenbach could very well fill that post.
HESS: And he died on June 10th of 1948 and Maurice Tobin was chosen to replace him.
CONNELLY: Maurice Tobin had been in politics in Massachusetts, which
was one of the key states in '48 in the campaign. I suggested to Mr. Truman
that there was a very tough race in the State of Massachusetts. Maurice
Tobin was running against Paul Dever for the nomination for Governor,
and I said, "To resolve that, why don't you offer him the appointment
as Secretary of Labor?" Tobin, at that point was a little reluctant but
finally he was convinced that it was the right thing for him to do, and
he became the Secretary of Labor to prevent a blood bath between Paul
Dever and Maurice Tobin in the campaign in Massachusetts, which would
upset the state, and it was a state that Mr. Truman had to carry. Mr.
Tobin agreed to accept and then became a very active member of the Labor
Department, and also was one of the best campaigners in the campaign of
'48 that Mr. Truman had.
HESS: One question dealing with the Department of Labor, and with the
wing of the White House that was set up under John Steelman, dealing mostly
with labor negotiations: Did there seem to be any areas of conflict between
the organization under Steelman and the Department of Labor--any rivalry?
CONNELLY: There was. When Mr. Truman told me that he was going to appoint
Dr. Steelman to that post as a special assistant to supervise strikes
and labor matters in the White House, I called his attention to the fact
that there would be a conflict, because each man would consider that he
had the complete authority. And naturally there was friction, but it was
kept to a minimum. There was a natural resentment on the part of the Secretary
of Labor who could be overruled by Dr. Steelman, but it never came to
the point where it developed into any
HESS: One general question now that we have gone all through the departments,
if you were to pick a strong department, and if you were to pick one of
the departments to be more or less the weak link of the Truman administration,
what two departments would you pick. Let's take the first one first. What
would you think was the strongest department, the best run, the best administered,
probably the most effective, perhaps the one that helped the President
CONNELLY: That would be difficult. I really don't know.
HESS: What would you think would be the weak link, the weakest department,
the one that helped the President the least?
CONNELLY: I would say the State Department.
HESS: The State Department. Why?
CONNELLY: The State Department intrinsically does not care who is President.
Because of the career service they have in the State Department, it doesn't
make a bit of difference whether it's a Republican, a Democrat, or a Socialist.
When they are appointed, they are there to stay.
Now, an example of that could be in connection with the recognition of
Israel. A man who was in charge of that area was named Loy Henderson.
At the time of the Israel problem, we had a meeting in the Cabinet room
with Secretary Marshall, who was then Secretary of State, Loy Henderson,
and a member of his staff, Clark Clifford, Dave Niles and myself, attended
the meeting. And during that meeting Mr. Henderson deliberately lied to
HESS: What did he say?
CONNELLY: He took exception to the fact that there was any possibility
of Israel winning any war with the Arabs. He said that the Israelites
would be driven into the sea. He was asked several questions on the basis
of information that I had received from the Jewish intelligence agencies
which offset most of what Mr. Henderson said to the President. That information
was available during the meeting to the President.
HESS: You don't think that this could have been an honest conviction
on his part? You think that it was a fabrication?
CONNELLY: There was no question about it. After the meeting I asked the
President if he knew what happened. He said, "Henderson lied to me." He
said, "I want you to call Secretary
Marshall and have him fired."
I called Secretary Marshall and told him what the President's message
was and he said, "Well, that's an order?"
I said, "That's an order."
He called me back and said, "I better come over and see the President."
So he did. He told the President he couldn't fire him. All he could do
was transfer him because he was protected by the career service. And the
President asked him how far he could transfer him. As a result, he was
transferred, but he was not fired. He was following, at that time, the
British lines which most brass in the State Department, the career brass,
followed without any question. They had always followed the British Foreign
HESS: On the subject of the recognition of Israel, how instrumental was
Clark Clifford in your
opinion in formulating the events of that time,
in convincing Mr. Truman that the State of Israel should be recognized
as quickly as it was, after the announcement of their formulation of the State?
CONNELLY: Well, the decision had already been made with the assistance
of David K. Niles, who handled the minority problems and myself. We were
the fundamental movers. Mr. Clifford, when he got into the picture, had
to draft a proposal on how it would be handled, de jure
or de facto. He had to draw up the papers. His job at that
point was drafting the papers to effect the recognition of Israel. He
was instructed to do that by the President.
HESS: But on a policy that had already been reached by other persons?
HESS: How instrumental was Eddie Jacobson in this matter?
CONNELLY: Eddie Jacobson was Truman's partner in the haberdashery business.
They served together in World War I, they were very close personal friends,
and Eddie Jacobson had contacts with many of the Jewish groups around
the United, States, and he reported his findings to the President. His
findings I knew nothing about, because the President never discussed it
with me. The only information I had, I received on my own working with
David K. Niles, and we presented this program to the President, we gave
him the reason why we thought it should be done, and the importance of
getting it done. Mr. Truman agreed and as the result of the information
he got from Jacobson, from David Niles, and myself. When the decision
was made that he wanted it done, Clifford came
into the picture to draft the legal papers
HESS: Why was this your decision? Why did you take the position that you did?
CONNELLY: For two reasons: One, it was humanitarian, and two, it was
good politics, and I raised the question with Mr. Truman, "How many Arab
votes are there in the United States? Where does the Democratic Party
get its financing from?" And the answer was apparent.
HESS: One other question on David Niles. I may have already asked it,
this may be repetition. But how effective as a political adviser was Dave Niles?
CONNELLY: David Niles was a very bright, political analyst. He was quiet,
he was receptive, he was never out in front. During the Roosevelt administration,
they used to call him the "back stairs boy at the White House." I had known
David Niles personally long before I went to the White House. David
Niles had been a man Friday for Harry Hopkins in the old ERA and WPA days.
I knew his reputation in Boston before I ever met him. David Niles wanted
to resign when Truman came in, and I told the President that if he lost
Dave Niles, he would lose somebody who would be completely loyal to him,
and had been with him for Vice President at the convention in Chicago,
and if he had had any sense he would convince David Niles that he should
remain as an administrative assistant to do the same work he did for Roosevelt,
to handle minority groups.
HESS: How important, in your opinion, was the recognition of the State
of Israel early in 1948 to the Democratic victory the following November?
CONNELLY: There's no question about it. He had
practically a solid Jewish
vote. He also had financial contributions to the campaign in 1948 that
he never would have had without Jewish support. It was a matter of, more
or less, just pure politics to me.
HESS: One question on that, we are probably in, I suppose, the most Jewish
of all cities now, New York City. Now Mr. Truman lost New York State.
Even though it was important, it did not swing New York State into the
Democratic column, correct?
CONNELLY: Correct. That was largely due to Henry Wallace, who had developed
a great relationship with the Jews of New York City.
HESS: And other liberal elements.
CONNELLY: And other liberal groups.
HESS: I think we have touched upon some of those
in our previous interviews.
That is all the questions that I have on the Cabinet. Do you have anything
else you'd like to say concerning the Cabinet?
CONNELLY: Well, when President Truman took over, it was very soon apparent
that a Cabinet meeting under Roosevelt was practically a nothing. The
members of the Cabinet all suspected each other, and Roosevelt played
one against the other, with the result that nobody would talk openly,
or one of the other members would go out and get it planted in a news
story. Well that was not Truman's method of operation, and he wanted a
team. And gradually he changed the whole pattern of Cabinet meetings to
make it open discussion and that's what he wanted. And if there was a
difference of opinion between members they would bring it up at the Cabinet meeting, not
go behind the door and try to get the President's ear personally.
For our next subject, let's take up foreign aid, and I'd like to go over
a few of the events that led up to the formation of the Truman doctrine
for Greece and Turkey, the Marshall plan and Point 4 and just ask some
general questions about them.
On March the 12th, 1947, the President spoke before a joint session of
Congress concerning the situation in Greece and Turkey. What was the background
to the decision to lend aid to those countries?
CONNELLY: I can't answer that, because I was not familiar with that phase
of the operation. That was handled with the State Department.
HESS: All right. William Clayton has been cited as being instrumental
in the formation of the
Marshall plan. Do you have any information on that?
CONNELLY: No, I know nothing on that.
HESS: And Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson spoke in Cleveland, Mississippi
on May 8, 1947. As I understand, that was a speech that President Truman
was going to make and then upon the death of Senator Bilbo and the discussions
about a replacement for Senator Bilbo the President did not want to go
into Mississippi at that time. Do you recall that?
CONNELLY: As I recall, Mr. Truman never made any appearances in the South
while he was President.
HESS: Do you recall any times when a plan may have been underway for
an appearance in the South and then cancelled?
CONNELLY: I believe there were, but due to the change in politics down
there and the tension that had developed in the campaign in '48 when the
South walked out, Mr. Truman decided that he would avoid any appearance
in that area.
HESS: This is a time before the 1948 campaign, this is May the 8th, 1947.
Do you recall if the President had under consideration to make that speech
in Cleveland, Mississippi?
CONNELLY: It could be, but I don't recall it.
HESS: Secretary of State George C. Marshall spoke at Harvard University
on June 5th, 1947, at which time he outlined the policy for making Europe
self-supporting. Do you know why he set this policy forward, instead of
CONNELLY: No, I do not.
HESS: And Point 4, of course, was the fourth point of the President's
inaugural address on January 20, 1949, that concerned assistance to underdeveloped
areas in the world. Do you know where that idea originated?
CONNELLY: No, I do not.
HESS: The next subject is the President's trip to the West during May
of 1950. Did you accompany the President on that trip? That was the trip
they took out to the rededication of the Grand Coulee Dam on May 11, 1950.
CONNELLY: I recall it very well. That dam was probably the most rededicated
dam that we have had in this country, and it was used as an instrument
to get the President known in that territory so the people of that territory
would have an idea of what the President was like. And actually it was
political motivation because the dam sure didn't need another
rededication. It was an instrument as an
excuse for that trip to keep it on a non-political basis.
HESS: Of course, 1950 was a year of the off-year election, not the presidential
elections, but was this a maneuver to get the President out on a political
basis and have him seen in various cities and various states for political reasons?
CONNELLY: That's correct.
HESS: Do you recall anything in particular about that trip, anything
HESS: What do you recall about the events at that time that South Korea
was invaded in June of 1950? In checking the Public Papers I find
that the President. dedicated Friendship Airport
in Baltimore on June
24, 1950, and at the conclusion of the dedication ceremony the presidential
party boarded the Independence and flew out to Kansas City. Did
you go along on that trip?
CONNELLY: I was not on that trip. That decision, I believe, was made
on a Sunday in Kansas City, and I was not in on it.
HESS: And the President, as I understand it, flew back on Sunday and
had a meeting that evening at Blair House with Dean Acheson and several
other people. Is that correct?
CONNELLY: I believe so. I was not present. I was in New York at that time.
HESS: You were in New York. On that subject, when did you first see President
Truman after he received the news, was it a matter of days?
CONNELLY: No, I believe it was at a staff meeting on the following Monday.
HESS: On Monday. What seemed to be his attitude about the invasion?
CONNELLY: The invasion was one of those things that had to be stopped.
In other words, he didn't want the Communists to get control of Asia,
and he believed that Korea was the right place to stop them.
HESS: Did he believe that he could take this action on his own, without
CONNELLY: I believe the decision was made before Congress knew about
it. It was made in consultation with the Defense Department and the State
HESS: Do you recall anything particular about the President's reactions
when the Chinese
Communists crossed the Yalu River late in November of
1950, after he had already been out to Wake Island in October of 1950?
CONNELLY: I believe that movement was encouraged by General MacArthur.
It was one of the reasons that General MacArthur had fallen in disfavor
with the President, so I'm not certain of that, because I was never cognizant
of any of the intelligence involved in any of these things. I did not
want to. know about these decisions, because if there was a leak on them
I didn't want to be held responsible for contributing toward a leak. So
I very purposely and very persistently avoided anything to do with American intelligence.
HESS: All right. And on November 1st, 1950, an attempt was made on President
Truman's life. Where were you at that time?
CONNELLY: I was having luncheon at the Shoreham
Hotel with a member of
the Atomic Energy Commission named Tom Murray, who has since died, and
I had a call from the White House to tell me about the incident, so I
immediately went back to the White House and the President was due to
go to a funeral at Arlington Cemetery that afternoon, so he went directly
from the Blair House to Arlington Cemetery--I don't recall who the funeral was for.
HESS: It was the dedication of a statue of Sir John Dill.
CONNELLY: It could have been, I don't recall. But I did not see the President
until after he returned from Arlington.
HESS: What was his attitude when you saw him?
CONNELLY: Well, he said, "These were crazy guys trying to take a shot
at me." He more or less wrote it off.
HESS: Do you ever recall any time after this that he may have spoken
of that event or of assassination attempts in general?
CONNELLY: Just conversationally. His personal worry was about the White
House policemen who were shot trying to protect him, and he was very,
very sympathetic to the policemen involved and to their families.
HESS: There was one policeman that was killed and two were wounded. What
are your recollections of the events leading up to the dismissal of General
MacArthur on April 11, 1951?
CONNELLY: I believe that General MacArthur had become a candidate for
President, and it was not customary, as I understand it, for a general
in the Army to undertake any activity like that without first notifying the Commander
in Chief, which General MacArthur had not done.
HESS: Were you present at any of the sessions when it was under discussion
what to do about General MacArthur in early April?
CONNELLY: I participated in the final summation when it was decided to
fire General MacArthur. At that meeting were General Omar Bradley, I believe,
the Secretary of State--I believe there were five or six others--I don't
recall offhand now. And we finally came up with a draft of a message to
send to MacArthur--the President was not present at that meeting, which
we held in the Cabinet Room. So, after we completed what should be sent
to General MacArthur, we went to Blair House, General Bradley, myself,
and someone else, I forget whom, and we presented the draft to the President,
he read it very carefully, and he
said, "Let it go." And thereupon General
Bradley took over and through him the message was sent.
HESS: On April 21, 1951, in the New York Times, there appeared
an article by Anthony Leviero which contained many of the documents which
have been top secret up until that time concerning the meeting on Wake
Island. Do you know where Mr. Leviero obtained his information? I believe
he won a Pulitzer Prize for this particular article.
CONNELLY: I believe he accompanied the presidential party to Wake Island.
No, I did not go to Wake Island. I didn't know the President was going
to Wake Island. I got a call from the Secret Service. I was in New York
for the weekend, and they called me and I was closed in by weather and
I couldn't get a flight back. I did get back the next morning, the
staff meeting was on and the President
discussed it and I said, "I think this is a mistake."
He said, "Well, it's all settled. The news is out."
So after the staff meeting broke up I went back to him and I said, "I
think you're making a mistake."
He said, "What do you mean?"
I said, "When does the king go to the prince? I think this is a mistake."
He said, "Well, it's done. Forget about it. I want you to handle the
advance. We're going to have a telecast out of San Francisco. I want you
and Don Dawson to go to San Francisco, set up the arrangements for a television
show whenever we get back, and set up the list of people that should be
invited." So Don Dawson and I went to San Francisco and set up the arrangements
for his telecast out of San Francisco when they returned.
HESS: I believe we discussed that at the conclusion of the second interview.
The next subject, sir, deals with some of the men who served in the post
of chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Could you comment on
the relationship between Mr. Truman and the men who held the post of chairman
of the Democratic National Committee during his administration. What was
the relationship between Mr. Truman and Robert Hannegan?
CONNELLY: Mr. Truman and Robert Hannegan were very close politically
in the State of Missouri. I was in St. Louis with Mr. Truman when he was
Vice President, or before, and I know he made a personal phone call to
President Roosevelt supporting Hannegan who was then District Collector
of Internal Revenue in St. Louis for the post as Commissioner of Internal
Revenue in Washington. Mr. Hannegan did get
that job and became chairman
of the national committee under Roosevelt. He was there when Mr. Truman
was elevated to the Presidency, and for reasons of health, Mr. Hannegan
had to step down, and he died as a result of a high blood pressure operation
that he had.
HESS: I have heard that Senator Truman supported Robert Hannegan in his
bid for chairman of the Democratic National Committee back when Mr. Truman
was still in the Senate. Did he really have this much influence or were
there other people supporting Mr. Hannegan?
CONNELLY: I imagine there were other people. Mr. Hannegan already arrived
in Washington as Commissioner of Internal Revenue, and naturally being
from Missouri Mr. Truman would have to endorse him because that position,
I understand, had to be confirmed by the Senate. So as a Senator from
Missouri, he would automatically
have to support Mr. Hannegan, unless
he was personally obnoxious to him, which he was not.
HESS: In your opinion, just how much influence do you think Senator Truman
would have with President Roosevelt at that time?
CONNELLY: I would say none, because Mr. Truman was only asked one time
to deliver a speech by President Roosevelt when he was in the Senate,
and that was to the Moral Rearmament group in Washington, which later
caused Mr. Truman quite a bit of difficulty because it was a highly controversial
HESS: All right, sir, the next man who held the post as chairman of the
Democratic National Committee, was J. Howard McGrath. What was his relationship
with President Truman during that period of time?
CONNELLY: Howard McGrath was a member of the Senate at that time from
Rhode Island, and I personally knew Howard McGrath. I had known him since
about 1935 when he was Federal District Attorney in Providence, Rhode
Island. When the vacancy occurred after the death of Bob Hannegan, I recommended
to Mr. Truman that he appoint Howard McGrath, and a fellow at that time
who was administrative assistant to Senator Theodore Green, and who in
my book at that point was the best politician on Capitol Hill, so our
package was for Howard McGrath to make the speeches and let Eddie Higgins,
who was Green's assistant, the other Senator from Rhode Island, do the
work. Well, unbeknown to me, which Higgins later told me about, he couldn't
take the job because he had an agreement with Senator Green that he couldn't
leave him, that Green had set up some kind of a trust fund for him, as
long as he would stay with him. So that
wound up with us having Howard
McGrath without Higgins. So Truman asked me if I would be interested in
the job, and I said no. Clark Clifford was supporting a boy who had been
with the committee under Hannegan named Gael Sullivan, from Chicago. I
knew that Gael Sullivan was not the type that Truman could work with.
CONNELLY: He was temperamentally unfitted to Truman's temperament. He
was a front man, and Truman didn't need any front men, because I was in
a position to feel that he should be the President.
HESS: Mr. Sullivan was executive director of the DNC from February of
1947 until May of 1948. Do you think that he was disappointed that he
was not named chairman?
CONNELLY: Very much so. As a matter of
fact he got himself in trouble as a result thereof.
HESS: In what way?
CONNELLY: He was picked up for drunken driving in Rhode Island. He came
from Rhode Island originally and I called my friend, Eddie Higgins, after
I learned about it and Eddie Higgins got it fixed in Rhode Island. So,
of course, after that incident...It was brought about, I know, by the
fact that he didn't get the top job, because he was a very ambitious boy,
a very bright boy, but very ambitious.
HESS: And the next man to hold the position was William M. Boyle, Jr.
CONNELLY: He was more or less of a stopgap. He was from Kansas City,
Missouri, and Truman was very obligated to his mother who was a precinct
worker when Truman was running for
the Senate. And in the absence of anybody
else, he suggested that we put Bill Boyle in there, and Bill would report
to me and to him, and then he made the decisions which needed to be made,
which he did.
HESS: And the next man was Frank E. McKinney.
CONNELLY: Frank E. McKinney was suggested by Frank McHale who was a national
committeeman from Indiana, and he had met Truman in the campaign in '48
and he was a fundraiser also in Indiana for the Democratic Party. I talked
to Mr. Truman about McHale's recommendation and he liked McKinney personally.
He said, "Let's have him in for a talk," which we did and McKinney agreed
to take the job and remained in the job until the end of the campaign.
HESS: I believe he was replaced before the campaign.
Wasn't he replaced
by Stephen Mitchell before the 1952 campaign?
CONNELLY: That was after the convention.
HESS: That was after the convention.
CONNELLY: Stephen Mitchell was picked by Stevenson. I believe that Stephen
Mitchell was in the same law firm with Stevenson in Chicago.
HESS: What was the relationship between Mitchell and Mr. Truman? Did
they get along all right?
CONNELLY: They got along all right, but they were totally, I would say,
at a distance, because Mitchell's appointment, naturally, was to try to
HESS: Did you have any dealings with some of the other people of the
national committee, Gael Sullivan, Jack Redding, or Sam Brightman?
CONNELLY: All of them.
HESS: What kind of men did you find them to be?
CONNELLY: All brilliant, all conscientious, but they were picked by somebody
other than Truman or Truman's appointments. I believe Hannegan appointed
Sullivan, because Hannegan had a great deal of respect for Sullivan's
intelligence and Sullivan could make a good speech, but he was not the
type who thought like Truman did and I knew it would never work.
HESS: For my next subject, an article by Cabell Phillips in the New
York Times of December 23, 1951, was entitled "The White House Crowd:
The President's Top Ten." The article lists you as one of the top ten
and goes on to say:
Matthew J. Connelly. Debonair and ingratiating, 'Mat' Connelly is one
of the more controversial figures in the President's immediate entourage.
As appointments secretary, he wields great influence as the White House
cop', deciding who will and who will not be granted an audience
with the boss. In the last couple of years he had enlarged his sphere
of operations to include high-level political matters, particularly
those involving job appointments. This has earned him the suspicion
and jealousy of some highly placed Democrats.
What are your reactions to what Mr. Phillips has to way about you in
CONNELLY: I believe Mr. Phillips gives me too much credit for the influence
I wielded with President Truman.
HESS: Did you at that time feel that there were some "highly placed Democrats"
who were suspicious of you?
CONNELLY: I see no reason for it. It's apparent that there may have been
people around Washington who felt that they had an open sesame to the
President for selfish reasons, and if I had any question about it I discussed
it with the President, but every decision was made
by him, not by me.
HESS: Would there be anyone in particular that you would think might
fall in that latter group?
CONNELLY: Offhand, I don't know.
HESS: All right, fine. When did you first become aware that the President
did not intend to run for re-election in 1952?
CONNELLY: Well, he discussed it many times casually, but never seriously
with me. The first time that I knew that he had definitely made his decision
he called me at home on a Saturday which was the day he made his announcement
at the Democratic dinner in Washington, and he told me that he had decided
that he would not run and that Charlie Murphy would be in touch with me.
He had just finished talking with Charlie Murphy, and I believe Charlie
was working on the speech that he
made for the dinner.
HESS: Did you know before this tame that he had made this decision?
HESS: As you know, there is a slight difference of opinion as to what
Mr. Truman said in his Memoirs. He says that he made that announcement
to a group of his staff at Key West in March of 1951, that is in his Memoirs,
Vol. II, page 489, and William Rigdon in his book, White House Sailor,
says that Mr. Truman told a group of his staff that he did not intend
to run on November the 19th of 1951. But you wouldn't have any...
CONNELLY: I was not present at that meeting. I was not in Key West when
that decision, if it was made then, was made, and I knew nothing about it.
HESS: All right. What do you recall of the reaction when the President
did make his announcement that night at the National Guard Armory?
CONNELLY: Well, the National Guard Armory turned from a state of celebration
to a state of dejection. The audience said, practically unanimously, "No,
Mr. President, no." It then became more or less of a wake.
HESS: Who was the President's choice for the Democratic nomination?
CONNELLY: The President originally agreed to the nomination of Adlai
Stevenson. Adlai Stevenson became a reluctant virgin.
HESS: Did you feel that he was Mr. Truman's first choice?
CONNELLY: I believe that Mr. Truman reviewed the odds and decided that
in view of his position
in Illinois, as the Governor of Illinois, in view
of the fact that he had been highly recommended by the members of the
national committee, that he would go along with that decision. However,
in the late stages, Governor Stevenson was very reluctant to commit himself.
I sent Oscar Chapman to Chicago, he knew Stevenson personally, I had never
met him, and tried to have him get Stevenson to say yes or no. Stevenson
was reluctant, and Chapman reported back to me.
HESS: About what time was that, do you recall?
CONNELLY: I would say that was about two weeks before the convention?
HESS: That late?
CONNELLY: Yes. So I conveyed that to Truman, and he had an alternate
to the convention from Missouri named Tom Gavin. Now I sent for Tom
and had him smuggled into Washington and I hid him out at the Mayflower
Hotel, so the reporters wouldn't reach him. So Mr. Truman, with the reluctance
of Stevenson, gave Tom Gavin a letter in longhand placing in nomination
the name of Alben Barkley. Now, I brought that to Tom Gavin and got him
out of town before the press boys could get to him. He had to go the back
way to get home because the press boys were spotted at the airport and
everywhere, looking for him. And he had a sealed envelope which he would
open on the convention floor putting in nomination the name of Alben Barkley
as Mr. Truman's candidate. Then Stevenson finally decided that he would
go, so I called Gavin and I told him to change the name of Barkley in
the letter to Stevenson, which was done, at the request of President Truman.
So when it came time for the Missouri delegation Gavin put the
Stevenson in nomination from Missouri. So that's how that worked.
HESS: Do you recall the difficulty that Mr. Barkley had at the 1952 convention
with the labor delegates?
CONNELLY: I remember it very well because I had Max Lowenthal--I believe
you know Max Lowenthal--I had him out there and Max was very close to
the labor boys. I had a room at the Mayflower Hotel with two TV sets watching
the convention, and I used to get calls from Max, from Chicago, and the
day Barkley arrived--unfortunately he had very bad eyes --and he walked
through the lobby of the hotel and he didn't recognize the labor boys
who were there. So they thought they were snubbed. So I then got Les Biffle
on the phone and Les had always been very close to Barkley and he was
out there at the convention,
as a matter of fact, he was sergeant at arms
of the convention, and I told Les what happened. So then they made a strategic
mistake, because labor leaders are all prima donnas, and I suggested to
Les that Barkley set up a meeting with these fellows and talk to them
individually. So instead of that they set up a breakfast the next morning
and invited all the labor leaders. Well, they are very jealous
of each other. So, all that achieved was one more snubbing for the prima
donnas, so they sat on their hands as far as Barkley was concerned.
HESS: I believe at that meeting they told him that they couldn't go along
with him, isn't that correct?
HESS: Going back just a few months in time, I'd
like to read a section
from Cabell Phillips' book on page 419, and this deals with the time Mr.
Truman was having a difficult time getting Adlai Stevenson to accept the
nomination, the fact is in March, he had not. But Mr. Phillips has the following:
One night, late in March, he invited a few of his close advisers, including
the new Democratic Chairman, Frank E. McKinney, to a small dinner at
Blair House. He sounded them out, tentatively, on the proposition of
his being a candidate to succeed himself. But his guests, as tactfully
as they could, said no. The President said 'the Boss'--Mrs. Truman--was
against the idea too, and he guessed that that made it unanimous. He
gave each of those around the dinner table a newly minted silver dollar
to show there were no hard feelings from their verdict.
Is that true?
CONNELLY: I was not at the meeting, but I've heard about it and I believe
that is true.
HESS: Do you know who else attended that meeting other than Frank McKinney,
the only one identified
CONNELLY: No, I do not.
HESS: A11 right.
CONNELLY: I do know that after we were having trouble getting Stevenson
to say yes or no, I was at a party at the Mayflower Hotel and Les Biffle
was there. So the President called me and he wanted me to come back to
the White House, so I went back and the two of us sat in his study in
the White House and I told him about what was going on. On my left was
a very beautiful portrait of Mrs. Truman. He was sitting at his desk and
he looked at me and he said, "Matt, do you think the old man will have
to run again?"
I pointed to her picture and I asked, "Would you do that to her?"
He said, "You know if anything happened
to her what would happen to me?"
I said, "All right. I think you've thought about it."
Then I got McKinney and Les Biffle to come to the White House and we
agreed that the only other one that we would consider would be Barkley,
and that's when we got the draft of the letter for his alternate to read
in Chicago at the convention.
HESS: What seemed to be the relationship between President Truman and
Governor Stevenson during the convention and the campaign?
CONNELLY: After Stevenson decided he would run, Truman said, "I'll do
anything I can to help." Now this help was not very much desired by Stevenson,
because Stevenson actually was running against Truman. He did not want
to get involved with any aspect of the Truman administration.
HESS: On that point I would like to read another paragraph from Cabell
Phillips' book. This appears on page 425.
In August Stevenson paid a visit to the President in the White House
in the hope of working out a modus vivendi by which the
President would remain in the background until the last couple of weeks
of the campaign, while Stevenson created a public image and program
of his own. The conference was held in the Cabinet room with the President
and key members of his staff lined up on one side of the vast coffin-shaped
table, and on the other side, Stevenson and picked members of the ‘Springfield
crowd’--like representatives of sovereign powers at a treaty conference.
It was stiff, painfully uncomfortable, and largely inclusive.
Were you present at that meeting?
CONNELLY: I don't believe any such meeting ever occurred. The only time
that I recall that Mr. Stevenson came to the White House after he was
suggested for the nomination, he was invited to the White House by the
President for dinner. I met Mr. Stevenson at the airport and drove him
to the White House and
then I left. I did not participate in anything
that happened that evening. The next morning, Stevenson showed up at a
staff meeting and he was still a guest at the White House. The President
suggested Stevenson have lunch with him and he said he was sorry but he
couldn't, he had made an engagement for lunch with Dean Acheson. For some
reason Acheson was detained--whether it was a congressional hearing or
what--I don't know, but he was not available for luncheon. So, I suggested
to him that he could have lunch with the staff and he said no, he would
rather eat alone. So I arranged for him to go back to the White House
residence and have lunch alone in his room, which he did.
HESS: So he did not meet with the President and a group of his advisers?
CONNELLY: Not that I ever heard of.
HESS: All right.
What seemed to be the relationship between the Truman campaign staff,
and the Stevenson campaign staff during the campaign?
CONNELLY: They both operated independently. I accompanied Truman on that
trip, and as a matter of fact I was never enthusiastic for Stevenson,
but my loyalty was to the President, and I campaigned with him in that campaign.
HESS: What were your duties during that campaign? Were they much the
same as they were in 1948?
CONNELLY: Oh, yes, exactly the same.
HESS: Was there a difference in the President's general attitude in 1952
from the time when he was the actual candidate in 1948? Was he more relaxed,
in other words?
CONNELLY: He was more relaxed but he still put everything he had into
trying to help Stevenson.
HESS: And as I understand, David Bell was assigned to the Stevenson headquarters
by the White House. Is that true?
CONNELLY: That could very well be, I don't recall now, because that was
a pretty busy time.
HESS: In your opinion, why did Governor Stevenson run his campaign from
Springfield rather than from New York or from Washington?
CONNELLY: I believe that the fundamental reason was that Governor Stevenson
was trying to disown any connection with the Truman administration.
HESS: Did you accompany the President on all of his trips? I believe
there were several in 1952,
is that right?
CONNELLY: On the campaign? Yes, I accompanied him on all of them.
HESS: During some of those speeches, the President hit rather hard at
General Eisenhower, in fact, he probably hit harder at Eisenhower than
Stevenson did. Is that correct?
CONNELLY: That is correct. The President was very annoyed with General
Eisenhower and the way his campaign was handled, when he said nothing
in support of people like General Marshall, who was called practically
a traitor by Senator [William] Jenner of Indiana. When anybody who criticized
Marshall to Truman it was like criticizing his own father, and he took
that very strongly, personally, which as a result developed into a very
great cleavage between Eisenhower and Truman.
HESS: Who did you think would win that election?
CONNELLY: I knew that Eisenhower would win it.
CONNELLY: For two reasons: We had a weak candidate on the Democratic
side. Eisenhower was a war hero, he just came back, and he had a popular appeal.
HESS: Did you feel that there was anyone that the Democrats could have
picked who could have defeated Eisenhower during that election?
CONNELLY: I don't believe so.
HESS: Anything else come to mind dealing with the '52 campaign, or Governor
CONNELLY: Nothing of great significance.
HESS: What was Mr. Truman's attitude toward the Americans for Democratic
Action during the years of his administration?
CONNELLY: He suffered them but he didn't believe in their movement. He
believed that you had to be a member of a party or you could stay out
of it. He liked political organization. He didn't like mavericks. And
he didn't like so-called independent groups.
HESS: What was the attitude of Mr. Truman and the White House staff towards
pressure groups in general?
CONNELLY: Towards pressure groups in general you have to give them an
audience, but he was not subject to pressure. He was very strong minded
in his own right. If their cause was reasonable, and he believed it was
reasonable, he would go along with it. If he didn't, he would give them
HESS: What types of political assistance can be rendered by such groups?
Here I have in mind
such groups as the Political Action Committee of the
CIO and the B'nai B'rith.
CONNELLY: Principally the action on the part of both groups was to arrange
for local support among their organizations, and also to develop campaign
funds for our campaign, because big business, ordinarily, cannot be found
anywhere near a Democratic candidate.
HESS: On another subject, did the staff pay very much attention to the
public opinion mail that came into the White House?
CONNELLY: Some of them did, and some of them had been around long enough
to know better than to pay very much attention to it.
HESS: Did you personally ever read any of the so-called public opinion mail?
CONNELLY: Oh, certainly. I used to read all that
material, but I found
out that most of it was self-serving and not in the national interest.
HESS: On another subject, was news leaking out of the White House through
unauthorized sources much of a problem during the Truman administration?
CONNELLY: In the early days when Byrnes was Secretary of State, he accused
the White House staff of leaking information, and I found out later, and
I believe that there was an investigation made, that the leak actually
came out of the State Department.
HESS: What could be done to stop such news leaks?
CONNELLY: There isn't anything in the world that can be done as long
as you have human nature in politics.
HESS: On another subject, what can you tell me about the inception of
the Hillman book project?
That was William Hillman's Mr. President
CONNELLY: The inception of that was that Hillman talked to me about the
possibility of doing a book of photographs of the President, which I had
approval from the President to let him do it. He had a photographer. It
started out as a picture book. But Hillman came to me one day and said
that during the photographing he had done of the President, and so forth,
that the President was talking so much and that he would like to use it.
I said, "Well, your contract was that it was going to be a picture book."
He said, "That's right, but how am I going to sit on this material, because
he just gives it to me."
I said, "We better go see the President," which we did.
And the President said, "Well, go ahead,
it's all right." So he gave
Hillman permission to include some of his interviews.
HESS: And also they included some memoranda and letters, things they
had found in the White House papers.
CONNELLY: I believe they found some but I believe that anything that
they had was authorized by the President himself. Because at that time
I was not press secretary and I don't believe that Hillman discussed any
of that material with the press secretary.
HESS: One thing that I recall that is there in the memorandum that the
President said that he read over the phone to James Byrnes after he came
back from the Moscow conference. And when the book was published in 1952,
you may recall that James Byrnes said that that was not so, that he did
not read that memorandum to him, and that he hadn't known anything
CONNELLY: Well, any information Hillman had he received from the President
and knowing Truman and knowing Byrnes I choose to believe Truman.
HESS: In your opinion, how successful was Mr. Truman in separating his
individual views from the views he thought he should take because he was
President, or indeed, do you think that was a problem that the President
had to face?
CONNELLY: I believe in rare exceptions, because everything that was a
problem or a decision was discussed openly with the Cabinet, and it was
after deliberation with every member of the Cabinet participating that
he finally came to a conclusion.
HESS: There are those who say that many of Mr. Truman's pronouncements
on the subject of civil
rights were designed from the standpoint of political
expediency and that he really wasn't serious when he seemed to be backing
those measures. What is your reaction to that statement?
CONNELLY: I don't believe that's true. I believe that Mr. Truman, unless
it was an ad-lib, which he hadn't thought out, wouldn't give any indication
of that, because every other move which he made with respect to civil
rights was very well thought out and discussed before he made it.
HESS: Regarding the general charge against an individual that came to
be known as McCarthyism, was there a response among the White House staff
members to protect themselves from this sort of thing?
CONNELLY: In connection with McCarthyism? I
don't believe so. Not that I know of.
HESS: McCarthy did name a couple of people on the White House staff,
isn't that correct? He mentioned David Lloyd; I believe that at another
time he mentioned Philleo Nash.
CONNELLY: It's very possible, but that made no impression on Truman.
HESS: Did the President himself ever express in your presence any viewpoint
about the operation of the Presidency or upon Government organization?
CONNELLY: Well, he believed very consciously and very seriously that
there was only one President, and that there could only be one President.
He believed in delegating authority and maintaining that delegation, unless
confidence was misplaced. And at that point, he would revert to action
whether it involved
a Cabinet officer, a member of the staff,
or regardless of who it was.
HESS: As one who has had good opportunity to observe the Presidency,
do you have any opinions as to how you think the Presidency might be changed?
Are there any aspects of the Presidency that you think demand too much
of a President's time or attention?
CONNELLY: The office of the Presidency will always demand attention and
too much time. Details such as ceremonials, and things of that nature,
should be delegated to someone else, and not imposed on the President's
time, on more important matters.
HESS: I have heard reports that there may have been a meeting at the
Blair House on the evening of January 19, 1953, attended by same members
of the Truman staff and a few of the incoming
Eisenhower people, at which
time Mr. Truman may have said that the principal accomplishments that
he would be remembered for would not be the Marshall plan or Point 4 but
it would be for reorganizing the White House office in such a manner that
no future President could make a mistake. Do you recall anything about
CONNELLY: I recall nothing about it and I was not at any such meeting.
HESS: What in your opinion were Mr. Truman's major contributions during his career?
CONNELLY: Boy, that's a tough one. I'd have to think about that.
HESS: Do you think that it would be more in the field of foreign affairs,
the Marshall plan, Point 4, the Truman doctrine?
CONNELLY: They were all important, and I would say that they were all
landmarks, but I also feel that on the domestic front he accomplished
a great deal--civil rights was one. I would say that working out a better
relationship with Congress than had been demonstrated in previous years,
I believe on key issues members of Congress that he had confidence in
were called in for discussions on proposals he was going to initiate,
and I believe all and all there was a better working relationship between
Congress and the President than normally existed.
HESS: What did you see as his major accomplishments in the field of civil rights?
CONNELLY: The fact that he recognized that it was there, and the fact
that it was important for this country to recognize that times had changed,
and that civil rights could no
longer be ignored.
HESS: What is your estimation of Mr. Truman's place in history? How do
you believe he will be regarded by historians one or two hundred years
CONNELLY: I believe that when the record is read and digested he made
decisions which will indicate him as one of the strongest Presidents we
have ever had in the White House.
HESS: Mr. Connelly, reading a few excerpts from an article by Drew Pearson
and Jack Anderson of January 25, 1968, regarding Clark Clifford, the first
quote is, and I believe contains an error, but I'll let you tell me about
Clifford had met Mr. Truman through his St. Louis friend, Stuart Symington,
then a member of the Truman Little Cabinet.
What do you say about that?
CONNELLY: Clifford was brought to the White House originally by Commodore
[Jake] Vardaman, who was then Naval Aide to the President. Through Vardaman
the President met Clifford, and after the retirement of Vardaman, who
was reassigned to the Federal Reserve Bank, Clifford took over his position
as Naval Aide. Later, after the departure of Sam Rosenman as Counsel to
the President, Clifford was reassigned to the job as Counsel to President
Truman at the White House.
HESS: The next excerpt from the article is as follows:
On December 22, 1946, it was noted that Clifford began drafting the
State of the Union message. In January he advised Mr. Truman to end
price controls and war powers. In June 1947 he revamped the entire housing
program. In July he wrote Truman's message vetoing the Taft-Hartley
Earlier, in February of that year, he had drafted the Army-Navy merger,
a law which he will now have to live with as Secretary of Defense.
What is your comment about that section?
CONNELLY: With respect to the first part of that, I cannot recall whether
he wrote the message on price controls, but I am certain that if such
a message was written by Mr. Clifford, it was based on information he
received from other members o£ the administration who were interested
in this field. I have no personal knowledge at this time of that event.
HESS: All right. And the third excerpt that I would like to read was
By the summer of 1947, the handsome attorney from eastern Missouri
had become so powerful inside the White House that he aroused the jealousy
of Truman advisers from western Missouri, notably Harry Vaughan.
Backing Vaughan were John Steelman and Matt Connelly. It was noted
that they were leaking stories about Clifford, and heckled him in staff
Clifford continued to ghostwrite Mr. Truman's messages to Congress,
but by 1950 jealousy inside the White House intensified to the point
where he bowed out.
It was the opposition of Connelly and Steelman which caused Clifford
to lose his first big case--the merger of Pan American Airways with
American Overseas Air Line. Clifford was retained by TWA to block the
merger. The CAB was with him. But Mr. Truman listened to his anti-Clifford
advisers and ruled for the merger.
What are your comments there?
CONNELLY: With respect to the fact that there was jealousy among the
White House advisers towards Clark Clifford, that is completely unfounded.
With respect to the next phase, in connection with that case by the CAB
with respect to Pan American Airways with American Overseas Air Lines,
Clifford, as I recall, did follow that recommendation of the CAB. All
such approvals have to be finally decided by the President himself. Dr.
Steelman was very instrumental in discussing the case with President Truman
because he had been advised by other members of the industry that such
a move by Pan American would be unfair to other competitors overseas,
and the Overseas Air Line, I believe it was called, that Pan American
was interested in…
HESS: American Overseas Air Line?
CONNELLY: American Overseas, yes. That came to the attention of Dr. Steelman
also, and I had repercussions on it myself. And I agreed with Dr. Steelman
that the advent of that thing was improper and not in the public interest.
Now with regard to Clifford's connection with that case, that occurred
after he had left the White House. if he did represent TWA. Now,
that was not during his term at the White House, but his representation
of them came after his departure from the White House. And his departure
from the White House was on his own volition and
was not caused by any
participation by other members of the White House staff. As a matter of
fact, the reason for his departure, he invited me to luncheon one day
and told me he was very disappointed that the President did not make him
Attorney General. He had offered him Under Secretary of State, which he
declined, but he was very disappointed in not being the Attorney General.
I explained to him that at that point there was a matter of politics involved,
because he appointed a member of the Supreme Court and then appointed
a second Catholic to the Cabinet which would placate the howl he would
have gotten from not appointing a Catholic to succeed [Frank] Murphy of Michigan.
And Clifford said that that idea had never occurred to him, and he did
not realize the politics involved. And shortly after our luncheon conversation,
within a matter of one
week or two weeks, he announced to the President
that he was going to resign to go into the practice of law.
HESS: And that was his major reason for leaving?
CONNELLY: That is correct.
HESS: One question on the quotation that I read. Was the CAB in favor
of giving TWA this merger?
CONNELLY: That is not right. The only connection that was involved there
was the merger of this American Overseas and Pan American.
HESS: Now, was TWA’s effort though just to block the merger? Is that right?
CONNELLY: TWA opposed it because it was in competition with Pan American
and American Overseas, for passenger traffic to Europe.
HESS: One question on Clark Clifford. I have been told that shortly before
the election in 1948 when he was in St. Louis, that he made the statement
that he did not think Mr. Truman would win the election. Have you ever heard that?
CONNELLY: I haven't heard it personally, but I've heard of it, because
I think outside of the President and myself no other member of the staff
thought he would win the election.
HESS: Why do you think Mr. Clifford would make a statement like that?
CONNELLY: Because at that point it was popular to say that. Mr. Clifford
knew he had to go back to the practice of law if the President was not
re-elected, and I'm sure that Clifford is shrewd enough to not close doors
if he was going to enter the practice of law in Washington,
which he did.
HESS: Did you find anything else in that article that you'd like to comment on?
HESS: Mr. Connelly, after the Truman administration had ended, you encountered
some personal difficulty. For the record, what would you like to say about
CONNELLY: Those difficulties, I guess, are akin to any participation
in political life. It's a natural thing that your goal will concur in
developing enemies, by not doing what people want. It does bring about
animosities when people who are tuned down on a request that is not proper
to begin with.
After the nomination and election of Eisenhower, his people decided that
they were going to try to get some gossip and try to
defame the Truman
administration. They were principally desirous of obtaining material on
the President himself. When that was a failure, then they decided to investigate
or bring charges against other members of the official family, and at
that point, I believe I was one of the closest people to the President
having been with him since 1942, and they decided that they would go after
me. So I explained to the President what had happened, and he said, "Well,
you know, and I know, they're not after you, they're after me."
So, I said, "In other words, I'm the fall guy.
He said, "You can say that."
So, the trial in itself was a fiasco. The prosecution made their point
because they had a favorable jury; they would not, grant a change of venue
to get an impartial trial, and as a result I was convicted. Now, I have
talked to many lawyers about it who have studied the case, watched it
very carefully, and said that there was no question in their minds but
that there was a miscarriage of justice.. I believe that to be true from
my own point of view, because I do know better--I was very, very careful
in my engagements with the President. I had never sought to use my own
influence in any regard. The President believed that the Cabinet officers
had charge of departments, they were not to be interfered with, and he
never interfered, and I know I never interfered, and any of them could
say so. Now, because of the fact that I had that close relationship with
him, then they drummed up those charges which were simply childish. They
charged me with many counts of an indictment, most of which fell through,
and I was convicted of not giving my best services to the Government,
whatever that means; I do
not know. However, there are people in politics
who were fair-minded. I could name among them: Joe Martin, who was former
Speaker of the House of Representatives; Charles Halleck, former Republican
Majority Leader of the House, who went quickly to [Herbert] Brownell and
told him that this was a mistake. Charles Halleck appeared for me as a
character witness at my trial. When he got back to Washington, Brownell
asked him what he was doing in St. Louis. He said, "I went out there to
say a word for a friend of mine, who I believe has been wrongly accused."
He was told to stay in Washington, and to mind his own business. Halleck
told me this personally.
Another friend of mine, who was also Republican, the late Senator Bridges,
also went to Brownell and complained about the indictment. Brownell told
him and told Martin to go back on
the Hill and mind your own business.
So neither one of them were effective in giving me any protection. They
all believed I was wronged, and until Bridges died he still thought so;
Halleck, I know, still thinks so, and Joe Martin, I know, still thinks
so. These are not rabid Democrats I'm talking about. So to me the thing
was political, I was the fall guy and I have no regrets, because I believe
I was right in the beginning. My devotion was to Truman, and I never consciously
did anything to embarrass him, and never would. Period.
HESS: Do you have anything else to add on Mr. Truman or the period of
the Truman administration?
CONNELLY: No, I believe the only thing I could say about him is that
he conducted the office in the highest sense of the word, and his loyalty
was to the American people, and he had no partisan prejudice which was out of line.
HESS: How would you rate his administrative ability?
CONNELLY: He had great administrative ability for one reason: He listened
and he had judgment, and he wanted to know all the answers before he made
a final decision. And I think that is my definition of a real executive.
HESS: Well, I'm out of questions, do you have anything else to add?
HESS: Thank you very much for your time.
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