Oral History Interview with
Oscar R. Ewing
Attorney, Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing, New
York, New York, and predecessor firms, 1919-1947; Assistant Chairman of
the Democratic National Committee, 1940-42; Vice Chairman, 1942-47; Special
Assistant to the U.S. Attorney General, 1942 and again in 1947; Acting
Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, 1946; Administrator of
the Federal Security Agency, 1947-53; and organizer and member of an unofficial
political policy group during the Truman administration, 1947-52.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
April 30, 1969
by J. R. Fuchs
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Ewing Oral History Transcripts]
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
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced
for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission
of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened July 1971
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Ewing Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
Oscar R. Ewing
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
April 30, 1969
by J. R. Fuchs
FUCHS: Do you have something to add about the Minnesota episode?
EWING: Well, yes, as I said the merger of the two parties in Minnesota
was completed just before the Democratic National Convention in 1944.
After the election and after around the first of the year, Mrs. Ewing
and I were at the White House for lunch with President Roosevelt and others.
As we walked in, of course President Roosevelt was sitting down. As Mrs.
Ewing went up to greet him, he pulled her head down so that he could whisper
and I wouldn't hear, and he said to her, "Helen, your husband is a miracle
Naturally she was surprised and replied, "What do you mean, Mr. President?"
"Well," he said, "I have been trying to get the Democratic Party and
the Farmer-Labor people in Minnesota together for the last twelve years
and I got nowhere, and your husband did it in two years. He's a miracle
That was, of course, very nice for the President
to say. It certainly
showed how appreciative he was of any help one gave him.
FUCHS: Very interesting. What else do you recall about the 1944 convention
and what part did you play in that?
EWING: In the 1944 convention it was all set that Roosevelt was to be
renominated for a fourth term. The real fight was over the vice-presidency.
In 1940 Henry Wallace had been elected Vice President along with Mr. Roosevelt
as President, and when the 1944 campaign came around Mr. Roosevelt indicated
that he would again like to have Henry Wallace as the candidate for Vice
President. There was a great deal of opposition to Mr. Wallace's renomination
and Bob Hannegan, who was National Chairman at the time, was a strong
booster for Mr. Truman. There were various other candidates, too, such
as Jimmy Byrnes, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, shipbuilder
Henry Kaiser and a few favorite sons. Mr. Hannegan was so busy with his
activities on behalf of Mr. Truman's candidacy that he really had very
little time to arrange for the convention. As a result, I as vice chairman,
had to more or less arrange the program and attend to other details such
for the resolutions that had to be adopted and so forth.
The mechanical details of the delegate's rooms, the convention hall and
all similar things were managed by the treasurer's office. Ed Pauley was
treasurer. But actually because of Mr. Hannegan's involvement in the fight
for the vice-presidency I had a great deal to do with the actual running
of that convention. The way things went I had to make sure that all necessary
material was with the platform committee, as an example of what I'm talking
about. Then there were some matters that were bitterly controversial and
it was necessary to appear before one committee or the other, so that
the committee members would know what was the administration's position
on the contested issues.
FUCHS: Do you remember any of these specifically?
EWING: Well, as I recall, there was the matter of the seating of the
delegation from South Carolina. An all white delegation had been certified
by the state authorities and there was a Negro delegation which was contesting
the action of the state authorities. There were similar matters, for instance,
a similar contest
regarding the Mississippi delegation.
EWING: There was nothing of earth shaking importance. These were just
FUCHS: Had you come in touch with Mr. Truman other than the incident
that you related yesterday regarding the speeches by Stark and then your
appearance before the Truman Committee? Had you come in touch with him
in any other way during this period from the 1940 campaign of his up to
EWING: Well, there had been various social how-do-you-dos. But I don't
recall anything special. We had, however, got to know each other fairly
well. One thing I remember distinctly. During the 1944 convention, in
Chicago the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee were in
the Stevens Hotel and I had an office there. One day, I think perhaps
the first or second day of the convention, Senator Truman and Senator
Tunnell of Delaware came into my office. Senator Truman said to me, "Oscar,
some of my friends are trying to nominate me for Vice President and I
do not want it. If there's anything you can do to prevent them from
it I would appreciate your help. I want to stay in the Senate, I don't
want to run for Vice President."
I replied, "Well, Senator, I don't know whether I can do much, but I'm
glad you told me what your desires are. "
And that was all, because I did speak to Bob Hannegan and told him what
Senator Truman had said. Mr. Hannegan was all hot and bothered about getting
the nomination for Senator Truman, so he paid no attention to anything
I said, and I knew he wouldn't.
FUCHS: Did you talk to Hannegan about this before Truman's call?
EWING: Oh, yes. He was full of it. Every time I would see him he would
say something about it. And Ed Pauley, who was treasurer of the National
Committee, he was just as enthusiastic for Truman for Vice President as
Bob Hannegan was.
FUCHS: Why do you think that they were so enthusiastic for Truman?
EWING: Well, number one, I think they felt that Henry Wallace would not
be a good candidate and you can't beat somebody
with nobody. They believed
that, all things considered, Senator Truman was the best man for the job.
Of course, Mr. Hannegan took the lead because he had been prominent in
Missouri politics and his support of Truman in the 1940 primary when the
latter was running against Governor Stark for the Democratic senatorial
nomination contributed much towards Truman's victory. It was therefore,
quite natural for him to take the lead in trying to get the vice-presidential
nomination for someone from his own state. Mr. Pauley, I think, was genuinely
fond of Truman and very sincerely thought that he was the best man that
could be got for the nomination.
FUCHS: I wonder how Pauley became acquainted with Mr. Truman, how he
became so enamored with Mr. Truman?
EWING: I am not sure that I know. Pauley knew every angle of the petroleum
business and rendered invaluable assistance to our Government on petroleum
problems from about the time World War II began in Europe. This kept him
in Washington much of the time and I imagine he got to know Senator Truman
during this period. Anyone who got to know Truman could not help but like
and admire him.
FUCHS: Do you recall attending any meeting in which they
their strategy to get Truman the nomination?
EWING: Not particularly. You see, we were there in headquarters and I
might be asked to sit in on the discussion of some problem or might have
casual talks in the hall but actually I was so busy with the details of
the convention that I had little time to devote to who would be nominated
for Vice President.
FUCHS: You didn't attend any in the months prior to the convention, say
starting in January 1944 on through when Hannegan, Pauley and some of
the others were conspiring to do this?
EWING: Yes, I am sure I did but I do not recall any specific sessions.
In any event, I wouldn't call it a conspiracy.
FUCHS: Well, it wasn't a conspiracy, a poor choice of words.
EWING: On the planning you mean. I don't recall. I have a feeling there
were one or two but I don't remember any details. We're talking about
things that happened twenty-five years ago.
FUCHS: Yes, it's very difficult. Did you have any intimate knowledge
of the call that Mr. Roosevelt was supposed to have put through to Hannegan
which Mr. Truman was supposed to have overheard, in which he asked Mr.
Truman to run and Hannegan said that Mr. Truman was against it and Mr.
Roosevelt was supposed to have said, "Well, all right, if he wants to
wreck the Democratic Party they can always make excuses." Did you ever
talk about that with Mr. Hannegan? The reason I ask is that there are
several different stories about it as to whether Mr. Truman actually talked
with Mr. Roosevelt or whether he just overheard this.
EWING: Well, I'm not sure that I have an accurate recollection of just
what happened. I was very busy on the details of the convention and I
wasn't deeply involved in the vice-presidential nomination. In fact I
would say that most of what I know of those details was accidentally acquired.
But there was a great deal of talk at the National Committee's headquarters
obviously. If my memory is right, the President was passing through Chicago
on his way to San Diego. Before he had left Washington, I think Mr. Hannegan
had had a talk with him and I think the President still indicated he preferred
Mr. Wallace. His
train was to go through Chicago at the time the convention
was in session or just a day or two before. The President did not leave
the train and I think it was in the course of that conversation that the
President told Mr. Hannegan that if he were a delegate he would vote for
Henry Wallace but that if the convention felt otherwise he would accept
either Senator Truman, or Bill Douglas. Is that right?
FUCHS: That's right.
EWING: And that was the word with which Mr. Hannegan came back from that
train talk with President Roosevelt. And then he and the people who were
working with him for Mr. Truman felt that they had the permission of the
President to nominate, in addition to Wallace, either Senator Truman or
Mr. Justice Douglas. This gave a great lift to activities for Senator
Truman. The labor people were very active at this time and I had been
in close touch with the labor people right along. I recall that Sidney
Hillman asked me to arrange for him and some of the other labor people
to have breakfast with Mr. Hannegan, and I may also say that I think this
took place a day or two before Hannegan's talk with
the President to which
I just referred. At that time the labor people were pushing very hard
for Henry Wallace. As I understood it, Mr. Hillman wanted to talk with
Mr. Hannegan and express labor's views in the hope that he would stop
urging Senator Truman so strongly and go along with the nomination of
Vice President Wallace. Of course, I'm sure that Mr. Hannegan at the breakfast
still maintained his position and I got the impression that the labor
people were very unhappy about that.
FUCHS: You didn't attend the breakfast?
FUCHS: Was this at the Stevens, the breakfast?
EWING: I think it was. It could have been at the Palmer House or someplace
else. I've just completely forgotten where they did hold that. I know
I did not attend, but Mr. Hillman did afterwards express his disappointment
that he hadn't made more of an impression on Mr. Hannegan.
FUCHS: Did you have any contact with Jimmy Brynes at this time who, as
you know, had aspirations?
EWING: No, I did not. I did not. I always had a very high opinion of
Mr. Byrnes, Governor Byrnes, Senator Byrnes, Mr. Justice Byrnes and still
do. I think he had been encouraged by Mr. Roosevelt to seek the vice presidency
after the President had begun to have doubts about Henry Wallace as a
candidate. The labor people were dead opposed to Byrnes and still wanted
Wallace but had indicated that if it could not be Wallace they would take
I well remember the Thursday night of the convention. President Roosevelt
had been renominated and had accepted the nomination by radio. All the
galleries had been packed by Wallace followers. At the conclusion of the
President's acceptance speech there was a tremendous demonstration which
soon turned with great shouts for Wallace and demands that the convention
proceed with the nomination of the vice presidential candidate. The tumult
was so great that Senator Samuel Jackson, of Indiana, the Permanent Chairman,
warned the crowd that they were packing the aisles until it was becoming
dangerous. I realized that if the convention remained in session it might
very well nominate Henry Wallace. So I went to Chairman Jackson and said, "Senator,
you've got to adjourn this convention tonight and let the nomination
go over until tomorrow."
He shouted back, "Why, I can't. There's too much noise here to even put
I said, "Well, now listen, I'll go down on the floor and find Dave Lawrence,"
who was Mayor of Pittsburgh and chairman of the Pennsylvania delegation.
"I'll ask Dave to make a motion to adjourn. No matter how much noise there
is you recognize Dave and put the motion, declare it adopted and walk
off the platform. Nobody can stop you, and everybody will soon walk out."
In this way we got the convention adjourned until the next morning and
Senator Truman was nominated on the second ballot.
FUCHS: Do you recall anything then that occurred after Mr. Truman received
the nomination? I mean there in Chicago?
EWING: No, I don't. No, I don't. I know later, and I'm not sure how much
later, but the labor leaders came around to me and told me how they were
for Truman all the time.
FUCHS: How did your duties as vice chairman differ from--
the convention--from those you had as assistant chairman?
EWING: Not at all.
FUCHS: Was there more than one vice chairman at this time?
EWING: Yes, but they were completely inactive. Frank Hague, as I recall,
was a vice chairman; then the head of the Women's Division was a vice
chairman, Mrs. Tillett. Whether there were any others I do not recall
but I'm sure that Mrs. Tillet and I were the only two that were active.
FUCHS: What part did you play in the campaign?
EWING: Well, I made a number of speeches and rode on the President's
train on one speaking trip. Things would come up in one state or another
where someone from the National Committee was needed to do something.
I don't remember any specific things. I was just, more or less, a trouble-shooter.
FUCHS: What do you recall of the years from November 1944, say, up until
the time you became Federal Security Administrator in August of 1947,
almost three years there?
EWING: Well, I recall nothing in particular. With the end of the war
in late 1945 I'd finished my work as counsel for the Aluminum Company
of America in Washington and went back to full time with my law firm in
New York. I was still able to do chores for the National Committee. Bob
Hannegan was still National Chairman. After President Roosevelt died and
Mr. Truman became President, there were gradually a number of changes
in the Cabinet. In one of these changes Mr. Hannegan was made Postmaster
FUCHS: Didn't you serve as acting chairman in 1946 when Mr. Hannegan
had a serious illness?
FUCHS: Do you recall anything of that--anything that came up then or
any problems you had? Any appointments that you were consulted about?
EWING: Well, no, there were a lot of routine appointments that went through
the National Committee all the time, and Mr. Truman was very punctilious
about getting the opinion of the National Committee on practically all
appointments. I don't think this applies to Cabinet appointments or things
like that which were quite personal, but routine appointments such as
United States Attorneys and judges, postmasters, etc. I think it was after
Mr. Truman took office that Attorney General Biddle resigned and Tom Clark
was made Attorney General.
FUCHS: How did you view that appointment?
EWING: Oh, I thought it very good and it certainly proved so. He had
the pleasure of seeing his own son made Attorney General by President
Johnson, and to me Ramsey Clark made a great Attorney General.
FUCHS: Did you approve of the Supreme Court appointment for Clark?
EWING: Oh, yes, I thought it was fine. Tom Clark was a good lawyer and
made a splendid Supreme Court Justice.
FUCHS: Did you feel that they were nominating a future President when
Mr. Truman was nominated for Vice President?
EWING: Well, I was very concerned about Mr. Roosevelt's
health. I had
had an experience that had given me a warning about that. During a Presidential
campaign, as you know, it is customary for the Democratic candidate for
President to go to New York the Thursday before the election, and make
a trip around through the five boroughs, ending up at Madison Square Garden
for a rally and a major speech. In the 1944 campaign, President Roosevelt's
train arrived in Jersey City early that morning and was ferried over to
the Brooklyn Navy Yard where he got off of his train and the motorcade
around the five boroughs started. I was in the motorcade in the car directly
behind the President along with Steve Early, the President's Press Secretary,
and Admiral Ross McIntire, who was the President's. physician. During
the trip around the boroughs an incident happened that involved a joke
on Admiral McIntire. Late in the afternoon the cavalcade ended down in
Washington Square in New York where Mrs. Roosevelt had an apartment at
the time. Steve Early could hardly wait to tell the President this joke
on Admiral McIntire. A couple of months later on the very day the President
started for Yalta, at noon he had a luncheon for the campaign workers
at the Democratic National Committee.
Mrs. Ewing and I sat at the President's
table and I reminded him of this episode with Admiral McIntire and he
didn't recall it. I was sure Steve Early had told him about it and I knew
that it was an event that he would normally remember as the President
greatly enjoyed jokes on members of his staff. His failure to remember
this joke on Steve was a tip to me that he was not his old self. Afterwards,
after President Roosevelt's death, Admiral Swanson, who was Surgeon General
of the Navy and had accompanied the President to Yalta told me how sick
Roosevelt was on that trip.
FUCHS: Where were you when Roosevelt died?
EWING: I think I was in Washington. I am sure I was, because I attended
the funeral ceremony in the East Room of the White House.
FUCHS: You went back to New York at the end of 1945?
EWING: Yes. I went back to my old firm of Hughes, Hubbard & Ewing
and was there all of 1946 and until August 1947 when I was appointed Federal
FUCHS: I have a copy of a telegram here that was addressed
to you, at
Indian Road, Fieldstone, New York 63, New York, by J. Donald Kingsley.
It's dated January 3, 1947, and it reads:
All members of our group including Clifford and Connelly can meet Thursday
night January 9. I have therefore set up our meeting for that time.
Recall what that would have been as early as January 1947?
EWING: Oh, yes. The 1946 election had turned out very badly for the Democrats.
We lost control of both the House and the Senate and naturally that was
a slap at the President. President Truman had been in office since, I
think, May of '45 when President Roosevelt died. Some time after President
Truman took office, I went up to New York with him. He was to speak up
there and we rode in from the airport to the hotel. He rode in an open
car and sat on the top of the back seat. As we drove through the streets
no one seemed to pay the slightest attention to the President. That concerned
me greatly because if it had been Roosevelt the streets would have been
blocked. But this was characteristic of the attitude all over the country
towards President Truman at that time. He was not given credit for the
qualities he had. He was following an outstanding
President with great
popular appeal, and was compared to Roosevelt to his, Truman's, disadvantage.
The public at that time had more or less the attitude that they would
endure Truman because they had to. This, taken with the loss of the House
and the Senate in '46, worried me very much and I felt something had to
be done about it.
At this time I was Acting Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
The loss of Congress had so upset Bob Hannegan, who had high blood pressure
anyhow, that he nearly had a breakdown. He went to Florida for about six
months to try to get his strength back. It was during that time that I
was the Acting Chairman. It seemed to me that we had to do something that
would create a better image of President Truman.
In my gropings for what might be done I remembered an experience that
I had had in the 1940 campaign. President Roosevelt had come up to New
York to make a talk and he had brought a group of newspapermen along with
him, in fact a whole trainload I think. After the President's speech they
all rushed down to the Pennsylvania Station to take the train back to
Washington. It seems that when the newspapermen, who were headed by
Early, attempted to go down to the train the gates were closed and the
police would let no one through. Well, Steve was a hot-headed Virginian,
very able, I'm not criticizing him at all; but he was hot-headed, and
he got angry. A Negro policeman was on duty at the gate they were supposed
to use and Steve got into an argument with the officer and kneed him.
Well, that caused the greatest furor that you can imagine. The Republican
papers took it up from one end of the country to the other, and you'd
almost think that Roosevelt himself had assaulted the policeman from the
furor that they raised.
About a week after that, Ed Flynn, who was chairman of the Democratic
National Committee at that time, called me into his office and asked me
to have lunch with him alone. He started off by saying, "Jack, I'm terribly
worried about this Steve Early matter. If it had been anybody except a
secretary of the President, the man who kicked that policeman would have
been in jail. Steve was completely wrong in what he did and it is hurting
Roosevelt. I have told Roosevelt that he's got to fire Steve Early."
I said, "Oh, Ed, great goodness, I'm afraid that will make this matter
worse instead of better."
"No," replied Mr. Flynn, "we're being put in the position of defending
a wrongdoer. That's an untenable position and we shouldn't permit it.
Steve Early should get out of the way and not hurt Roosevelt's campaign."
We talked along a little longer and then Charlie Michelson came in. He
was head of the Publicity Department of the Democratic National Committee,
and had a telegram from Chicago saying that Willkie had cancelled all
of his speaking itinerary in that part of the country and was returning
to New York where he would speak in Harlem the following night, Philadelphia
the next night, and Pittsburgh the next night, Akron the next night, Detroit
the next night, and then in Chicago again. Well, this news disturbed Mr.
Flynn even more.
FUCHS: What was the significance of this change of itinerary?
EWING: He was coming back to speak in the Negro areas of those cities.
The three of us talked along a little further and suddenly a thought occurred
to me and I said, "Ed, have you had the views of our Negro leaders up
"No," he said, "that's a good idea. Get some of them in here this afternoon.
Let's see what they think."
By then it was two o'clock I suppose, and I was able to reach two of
the leaders in Harlem by telephone. They were the only ones I could contact
on such short notice, Herbert Bruce and Danny Burroughs. They said they
would be at my office at four o'clock. When they arrived we started discussing
the problem immediately. Mr. Bruce and Mr. Burroughs told me that they
really did not know how their people felt about Steve's mixup with the
Negro policeman. Both men told me they had had their captains in the night
before and tried to find out what their people were thinking, but about
the only answer they got was that people were saying nothing. This troubled
Mr. Burroughs and Mr. Bruce because they said that when the Negro wasn't
saying anything it was ominous. After considerable discussion Mr. Bruce
spoke up and said, "Mr. Ewing, I happen to know that policeman pretty
well. If you'd like to get a statement from him, I think I can arrange it."
"Oh," I answered, "that would be wonderful, please do it."
"Well," he said, "you dictate the statement you want him to make."
So we got a secretary in and dictated a statement.
We tried to make it
as near as we could to what the policeman might say. One sentence was:
"The Republicans are trying to make a political football out of me." When
we got the statement written Mr. Bruce left to try to contact the policeman.
About eight o'clock that night he called in and said he'd seen the policeman.
The policeman was perfectly willing to sign the statement, but he was
under strict orders from the police department to sign no statement and
give no statement to anyone. This obviously meant that we would have to
get approval of the police department. So I telephoned Dave Niles. Dave
Niles was one of President Roosevelt's secretaries who had taken time
off to act as liaison officer between the Norris-La Guardia Committee
(which was to help in re-electing President Roosevelt) and the Democratic
National Committee. I asked Dave if he would contact Mayor La Guardia
and ask him to arrange for the policeman to sign the statement. Dave called
back in a few minutes to say that Mayor La Guardia had made a speech that
noon in Detroit and was now on the train, on the Detroiter, returning
to New York. He was to arrive at Grand Central Station at eight o'clock
the next morning. I, therefore, asked Mr. Niles if he would be good enough
to meet the train and try to clear the matter with Mayor La Guardia early
the next morning. Dave said he would.
Next morning I was down in my office early, before eight o'clock, and
shortly after that time the telephone rang. It was the Mayor and he said,
"Mr. Ewing, I understand you have a statement you want that policeman
And I said, "Yes, Mr. Mayor."
"Well," he continued, "Mr. Ewing, I'm going to be at 1234 Broadway at
9:26 this morning, and I don't mean 9:25 and I don't mean 9:27, I mean
9:26, and I want you to have someone there with the statement so that
I can go over it first."
I said, "I'll have someone there, Mayor."
So, I did. About 9:30 I had a telephone call and it was the Mayor. "Oh,
Mr. Ewing," he exclaimed, "that's a wonderful statement. It's fine, I'll
see that it's issuance is authorized." Then he asked, "How do you plan
to put it out?"
"Well," I said, "we were hoping that the Police Department could put
it out because we don't think it would look so good for the Democratic
to be issuing it."
He answered, "Good! I'll take care of that."
The next thing I knew, oh, it was about half past one, Police Commissioner
Valentine called me and said, "Mr. Ewing, I've got this statement that
you want this policeman to make but we can't put this statement out. "
I asked, "What's the trouble Commissioner?"
"Why," he replied, "it's political and we don't want to get into politics
and we just can't do it."
I said, "Well, how is it political, Commissioner?"
"Why," he answered, "you have that sentence in there that 'Those Republicans
are trying to make a political football out of me.' If you take that sentence
out we'll be glad to put the statement out."
"Well," I said, "Commissioner, the Mayor went over that statement and
he called me back to talk about how it should be put out and he said,
'Don't let anyone change a word of that statement. It's perfect as it
is.'" I said, "If you can get the Mayor's consent to eliminate that sentence
it's perfectly all right with me."
He says, "Oh, hell, I'll put it out."
This experience had a lesson for me, because when election day came,
Roosevelt carried those Harlem districts thirteen, sixteen to one. Now,
the Negro up there couldn't tell their captains anything, they were inarticulate,
but all they knew deep in their heart was that Roosevelt was pitching
on their team; and that's the greatest asset a politician can have. So,
the memory of all this came back to me when I was trying to think, in
early 1947, of some line of action that would make great masses of voters
feel that Mr. Truman "was pitching on their team." I decided to get a
group together and see if we could think of things to do that might create
this feeling. I got the Secretary of Agriculture, Charles Brannan; Leon
Keyserling, who was a member of the Board of Economic Advisors; Dave Morse,
who was Under Secretary of Labor; Jebbie Davidson who was Under Secretary
of the Interior; Clark Clifford who was the President's personal counsel;
Wayne Coy who, I think at that time was a special assistant to the President
in the White House.
FUCHS: Now this letter was from J. Donald Kingsley. Was he included in
EWING: Yes. Don Kingsley was my Assistant Federal Security Administrator.
FUCHS: Now, was that later on or was that as early as January '47? I
was wondering if this group started as early as January of '47 or if this
letter could have been...
EWING: No, this group was started before I was appointed Federal Security
Administrator. Several months before I started the group in my capacity
as Acting Chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
FUCHS: Kingsley was then in the White House, apparently.
EWING: I think that that's right.
FUCHS: This is a White House letterhead.
EWING: That's right.
FUCHS: Had you been a friend of Kingsley's for some time?
EWING: Yes, he was more a friend of my older son, Jim, but I had met
Kingsley through Jim and had a very high opinion of him and particularly
acumen. When I became Federal Security Administrator I asked
him to become Assistant Administrator, and he did. But that must have
been just about when the group was getting started.
FUCHS: Who made the selection of these members?
EWING: I think I did very largely, in fact I know I did, but it was in
consultation with Kingsley and others.
FUCHS: Who did you first propose the idea to? Do you recall?
EWING: Well, it may have been Kingsley, I'm not sure. It may have been
my son, Jim. I'm not sure.
FUCHS: Matt Connelly was included in the original group?
EWING: I asked Matt, originally, to join us and he came to one meeting,
and right away said to me, "Clark Clifford is the one from the White House
who should be in that group." I don't think Matt attended a meeting after that.
FUCHS: Connelly has been accorded by some students to have been rather
astute politically. Would you corroborate
on that or not?
EWING: Oh, yes, oh, yes. He was of great value to the President. He was
Appointments Secretary and to see the President you had to go through
Connelly. He had a very keen ability to let the people see the President
who ought to see him and keep out those who just use up the President's
FUCHS: Did he go into the President's office much when Mr. Truman had
someone there with him or did he just always remain outside at his desk.
EWING: Oh, I think he practically always remained outside unless the
conference was about something in which Matt was already involved. He
never intruded. For instance, sometimes when I'd see the President, I
might ask Matt to sit in because it was to be something that I wanted
him to know about. But he certainly never intruded.
FUCHS: You think that he felt that one, or maybe two, if Kingsley was
going to be there as well as Clifford, was a sufficient number from the
White House that he
didn't feel that he could add anything?
EWING: No, I don't think it was that. I think he felt that Clark Clifford,
who was counsel to the President, was really more involved than he was
with policy matters, and that of all people in the White House Clark Clifford
would be the best liaison between our group and the President.
FUCHS: So, how did this group develop then?
EWING: Well, we met at my apartment in the Wardman Park every Monday
night. We would meet at six o'clock for dinner, my secretary would call
all the members beforehand to find out if they were coming and what they
would like for dinner. She would put the order in during the day and the
food would be all ready when we got there. As soon as we finished eating
we would discuss various things that we thought might help the President
FUCHS: Did you tell him of this when you started?
EWING: Oh, yes.
FUCHS: Did you ask him if it was permissible?
EWING: Yes. The President knew all the time what was going on. After
we got started Clark Clifford carried on most of the liaison work between
our group and the President. But every so often it would be more appropriate
for someone else to discuss a particular matter with the President, for
example, Charlie Brannan if it was something to do with agriculture. Later
on when I became Federal Security Administrator, if it was something in
my bailiwick, why, I would take it up with the President. But if the subject
was something general Clark would be the one who would talk to the President
about it. For instance, things involving the military, Clark would handle
that. That was clear out of my field.
One of the matters that we took up involved civil rights. The Civil Rights
Commission had brought out their report and they had made quite a number
of suggestions for action by the Government. We had all read the report
and some one had the idea that there were many recommendations in the
report that would require legislation, but that there were a great many
others that the President could make effective by Executive order. Whoever
it was that brought this up
went on to suggest that we advise the President
to actually proceed to issue such orders. The President took that advice
and did it. For instance, the report recommended abolishing all segregation
in the armed services. As Commander in Chief the President could order
this. I remember working with Clark Clifford and Secretary Forrestal in
the preparation of that order. Finally we got it in shape as far as the
President and we were concerned. Secretary Forrestal suggested that before
it was issued it ought to be cleared with the heads of the three services,
that is the Army, the Navy, and the Air Service. Secretary Forrestal said
when we were discussing this that he was perfectly sure that the order
would be satisfactory to John Sullivan, who was at that time Secretary
of the Navy; he was also sure it would be satisfactory to Stuart Symington
who was the Secretary of the Air Service. He was a little concerned about
Secretary Royall, who was Secretary of the Army, and he turned to me and
said, "Jack, you know Secretary Royall well, would you mind clearing this
I said, "No. I'll be glad to."
And I did. I called Secretary Royall up for an
appointment and then went
over to his office. He read over the draft order once, then he read it
over again, and then turned to me and said, "Jack, you can tell the President
that this order is entirely agreeable to me. Not only will the Army go
along but we will do so enthusiastically." As an afterthought I could
not understand why the Secretary of Defense should ask me to clear something
with one of his subordinates, and I don't know to this day why it was.
But that's what happened.
FUCHS: What were your thoughts about Secretary Forrestal at that time?
EWING: Well, I admired him very much, very much. I did not know him in
New York, but I got to know him quite well in Washington and I thought
very highly of him. I think he was the Under Secretary of the Navy when
I first got to know him. It was after the Allies had crossed over from
Africa to Sicily and were beginning to move up the Italian peninsula,
and the question arose as to what kind of civil government should be established
behind the army as it moved further up the Italian peninsula. Dean Acheson
was Under Secretary of
State at that time. Shortly after the middle of
1943, Mr. Acheson and Mr. Forrestal came over to see me at my hotel and
asked me if I would consider the appointment as, I think they were going
to call it Governor General of Italy or something of that kind, but anyhow
it would be to head the civil government behind the army as it moved on
north. I told them that this was not a post that would interest me. I
did not speak Italian, although Mrs. Ewing spoke it fluently; but I just
did not feel that this was a job that I could do well and I preferred
not to be considered.
FUCHS: Do you recall who was given the appointment?
EWING: Yes, Charley Poletti, who had been governor of New York. He was
lieutenant governor and when Governor Lehman resigned to become head of
UNRAA, Mr. Poletti became governor of New York. It was an excellent appointment.
Governor Poletti spoke Italian and could understand the nuances of what
went on much better than I could.
FUCHS: You said your group would have dinner. Did you generally eat first?
EWING: Yes, that would be purely social and we didn't start business
until after we had eaten. Then we'd talk till sometimes pretty late, half
past eleven, twelve.
FUCHS: Did you have a prepared agenda?
EWING: No. What would happen during the week was that each member of
the group would be on the lookout for something that should be discussed
and, at the meeting, the subject would be brought up and considered. Sometimes
it would be an idea that we couldn't do anything about and we'd drop that
subject. Someone else would always be ready with another subject for discussion.
We never lacked for matters to consider.
FUCHS: Was the press aware of this?
EWING: I think there were times when the press got wind of our activities,
because I've seen where some columnist would make a reference to them;
but we were very careful not to let anything get out to the press and
that's why no notes were kept, no minutes or anything else.
FUCHS: No records at all were kept of this.
EWING: No. The only record I think is the one my secretary
kept of who
was coming to a meeting so she could order dinner for the group.
FUCHS: One writer, Cabell Phillips I believe, has said that this group
disbanded after the 1948 election?
EWING: No. That is not correct. We kept on practically until Governor
Stevenson's nomination in 1952. Obviously there wasn't much for us to
do after that because he was running the show. I think he was very reluctant
to associate himself with what we might be doing because, as you remember,
at the end of President Truman's term, his popularity had sunk considerably
and I think Governor Stevenson felt that it would be wise to stay a little
aloof from him.
FUCHS: Could you succinctly, but not too briefly, state your concept
of the function of this policy committee?
EWING: Yes. In organizing the group it was my idea that we should try
to develop a pattern of things for the President to do that would convince
the various groups of voters that President Truman was pitching on their
team, just as those Harlem Negroes felt towards President Roosevelt in
1940. For instance, one of the early subjects
that we considered was whether
or not President Truman should veto the Taft-Hartley Bill. He was under
great pressure from the leaders in Congress and I think from all of his
Cabinet, except the Secretary of Labor, to go along with that bill and
approve it. Our group, after discussing it, felt very strongly that it
was unwise for him to approve the bill. We argued that labor was very
much opposed to it, that the chances were the bill would be passed over
his veto anyhow and thus become law so that he would lose nothing by the
veto. Our view finally prevailed and the President vetoed the bill. Congress
promptly overrode the veto but Truman had greatly increased his popularity
with labor thereby.
FUCHS: It might be important if you recall anyone who opposed the veto,
or what was the situation in the White House as you might have known it--people
outside the group. Who was advocating it if any?
EWING: Well, I think all of the Cabinet were opposed to the veto except
the Secretary of Labor, and the leaders in Congress were urging the President
to approve the bill such as Speaker Rayburn and the Democratic Majority
Leader John McCormack.
FUCHS: What about John R. Steelman?
EWING: I don't recall what if any position he might have had on it, because
John was not in our group but he would have been very much in favor of
anything he thought would help the President. He was very loyal to the
FUCHS: Was there anyone in your group that favored signing it or who
played the devil's advocate particularly?
EWING: Well, I'm sure the arguments in favor of the President signing
the bill were weighed. I don't recall that any one person pressed them.
If an argument occurred to any one of us which he thought should be considered
he would bring it up simply to be sure that all angles were discussed.
FUCHS: Did you generally just arrive at a consensus or did you take a
EWING: No, there would always be a consensus on any action that was recommended.
I don't recall that in a final showdown if anyone ever dissented from
a conclusion of the group. The last thing we'd do was to decide who would
take the matter up with the President. And as I
said, it was generally
Clark Clifford, but if the subject was in someone else's field, why, he
would be asked to discuss the matter with the President.
FUCHS: Did Charley Murphy, as assistant to Clifford in Clifford's office,
attend any of these meetings?
EWING: At first, he did occasionally. Clark would ask Charley to attend
if for some reason he, Clark, could not. But when Clark resigned as counsel
to the President, Charley Murphy took his place and he was regularly in
attendance from then on. I think Clark attended some meetings also even
after he had resigned as counsel to the President.
FUCHS: There is a memorandum which has received considerable notice by
scholars lately, I believe that it was first, to my knowledge, mentioned
by Cabel1 Phillips in his book on Mr. Truman's presidency, and then subsequently
has been mentioned by Irwin Ross and Arthur Krock, to the effect that
Clark Clifford wrote this memorandum of November 19, 1947 outlining the
strategy for the campaign. Are you aware of this memorandum?
FUCHS: Would you comment on the authorship of that and what you know
EWING: I think Clark wrote that, as far as I know, himself. I'm sure
I wasn't involved in it in any way, although much of its contents had
been discussed in our group. Clark didn't have to have the approval of
our group to write that memorandum; he was free to send any memorandum
to the President. I know some of the things that were in that memorandum
had been discussed in our group. It was a very, very able piece of work
and very prophetic as to what might happen.
FUCHS: Did you see the memorandum prior to the election?
FUCHS: Did you know that it had been written?
EWING: No. Clark may have told me about it. I tried to think of that,
but my best answer would be that I did not know about it. It's so hard
after all these years to know just when you found out something. But I
know that when I saw these recent references to it my mind
was a perfect
blank. I did recall, when I read it over, various things that I knew we
had discussed in our group. But what, if any knowledge I had of the memorandum
at the time, I just draw a blank.
FUCHS: So then, the next question is whether Mr. Truman had ever mentioned
it, but obviously you recall nothing about it.
EWING: Oh, he never mentioned it to me.
FUCHS: When this group started you were still residing in New York, you
had gone back to New York?
FUCHS: But you kept this apartment in the Wardman Park ever since your...
EWING: No, when I terminated my work with the Aluminum Company of America
in Washington at the end of '45 I gave up the apartment in the Carlton
Hotel. It was after I became Federal Security Administrator in August
of 1947 that Mrs. Ewing and I took an apartment in the Wardman Park.
FUCHS: Well, if this group started to meet in early 1947,
where were you meeting then?
EWING: Well, I dare say that I just went down to Washington and got a
suite at the Carlton. That must have been it. Iím sure that's what it
was, because that's where I always stayed in Washington.
FUCHS: Do you recall any other particular matters, such as you already
have on Taft-Hartley and civil rights, that this group considered prior
to the nomination and the election?
EWING: Well, at one time or another I believe we discussed every issue
that arose between January 1947 and the middle of 1952. Among these were
national health insurance, national fair employment legislation, unification
of the armed services, massive housing legislation, overhaul of existing
labor legislation. Other issues were also discussed but I do not recall
them now. On the whole I believe the group's deliberations and recommendations
contributed substantially to President Truman's re-election in 1948. Clark
Clifford wrote me a congratulatory note on my 70th birthday in which he
refers to the work of the policy group. This letter is as follows:
I am delighted to be even a small part in the celebration of your seventieth
birthday. It must be tremendously gratifying to you to look back over
those seventy years and realize what a unique contribution you have
made to your friends, your party and your country.
If I had to select the outstanding service you have rendered in your
notable career, I would choose the contribution you made to the Truman
Administration as the organizer and leader of the policy group that
played such an important part in those exciting years. The influence
you had on the men around President Truman was of inestimable value
to him and will be remembered always by all of us.
You have my best wishes for many more fruitful years and my affectionate
(signed) Clark M. Clifford
FUCHS: Did you take part in the speechwriting, say for instance the President's
civil rights message of February 1948?
EWING: Well, I did work on some messages, Not a great deal. I worked
on his campaign speeches in 1948. I would answer your question by saying
that I'm sure I took part occasionally in some message that would be dealing
with subjects within my bailiwick in the Federal
Security Agency, but
I don't recall any one of them specifically.
FUCHS: How did your appointment as Federal Security Administrator come
EWING: Well, Bob Hannegan had been close to Mr. Truman politically for
many years. In Mr. Truman's campaign for re-election to the Senate in
1940, Bob had rendered important aid at a very critical time. Furthermore,
Bob had headed the fight to get Mr. Truman the Vice Presidential nomination
in 1944. After Mr. Truman became President, Hannegan, as Democratic National
Committee Chairman and Postmaster General, occupied a very influential
position. He was particularly anxious to have the new President surrounded
by people who would be completely loyal to the President.
I remember the night before President Roosevelt's funeral. Bob Hannegan
and I were together in Flynn's hotel room. We all agreed that the most
important thing that Mr. Truman as President could do was to surround
himself first of all with people who were loyal to him. Hannegan carried
that message to Mr. Truman and there was a gradual shift of personnel
surrounding the President. Of course, Mr. Truman at first asked all the
Cabinet to remain but gradually he moved them out and got his own people
installed. That's absolutely essential for a President to do. Any contrary
practice is ruinous. A President has got to have people who are loyal
to him or they will cut his throat. In 1947 Mr. Hannegan urged Mr. Truman
to appoint me Federal Security Administrator. I'm sure it was primarily
as a result of Mr. Hannegan's activities that I was appointed.
FUCHS: Why was the then Federal Security Administrator, who had succeeded,
I believe Paul McNutt, who was the original one, why was he leaving?
EWING: That I don't know. The President gave him another position.
FUCHS: This was...
EWING: Watson Miller. I forget what job he was given.
FUCHS: I believe he became Commissioner of Immigration.
EWING: No, it wasn't that but it was something like that.
FUCHS: You know of no other reasons why Watson Miller was
position and room made for you in FSA?
EWING: No, what I think the President had in mind was this: The Federal
Security Agency was politically a very sensitive position. Its activities
affected every man, woman and child in the United States, and the President
wanted someone heading the Agency who would be alive to the political
consequences of what might be done. Watson Miller was a perfectly grand
person but he did not have that particular quality.
FUCHS: On the policy group again, did you deal in foreign affairs. Did
you discuss foreign affairs at all?
EWING: No, not the policy group. I got involved very much in one phase
of foreign affairs.
FUCHS: But not at this time?
FUCHS: On the 13th of August 1947 you wrote the President and said that
you had just talked with Tom Clark on the telephone and that he had told
you that all preliminaries were arranged, and that Mr. Truman was ready
to announce your appointment as Federal Security
Administrator when you
were next in Washington. I wonder why this came through Tom Clark. In
the same letter, I might mention, you also noted that: "The position gives
me an unique chance to help politically;
but I know that first and foremost I can help most by doing a bang-up
job with the agency--and I promise to do this." Do you care to comment
on how Tom Clark came into this. I believe you have already gone over
the political angle. Another letter of the same date written to John Steelman
says that Tom Clark had just told you that Steelman had all the preliminaries
arranged in regard to the appointment.
EWING: I had completely forgotten those letters but seeing them brings
back that I had just previous to that time of August of 1947 finished
the prosecution of Douglas Chandler in Boston for treason.
FUCHS: What was that case?
EWING: Tom Clark was Attorney General at the time and he had appointed
me Special Assistant to the Attorney General to prosecute that case. Mr.
Clark was a great friend of Bob Hannegan's, and this would indicate that
he knew what was going on in regard to my possible appointment. John Steelman
as Assistant to the President, I remember, he was the man that the President
had asked to get things straightened out with Watson Miller. Apparently
that's why I wrote to him. That's the way he was involved, in any event.
FUCHS: I see. Would you care to go over the prosecution of Douglas Chandler?
I think that that would be interesting, how you happened to come into
EWING: Yes. I've already told about working on the prosecution of William
Dudley Pelley for sedition out in Indianapolis in 1942. That prosecution
necessitated my making a study of Nazi propaganda. As a result of that
study, I got the idea that we ought to prosecute those American citizens
who were broadcasting Nazi propaganda and Fascist propaganda from abroad.
So, I went to Attorney General Francis Biddle and suggested that these
broadcasters be indicted for treason. He answered my suggestion by saying
"I don't think we can make a case stick because there are some Civil War
cases which hold that mere words do not constitute the overt act that
is an essential element of the crime of treason. "
FUCHS: Now Biddle's resignation was effective June 30 , 1945. But you
did take this up that early?
EWING: Oh, yes. This talk with Attorney General Biddle was not too long
after I finished trying the Pelley case in 1942. In this talk I explained
to Mr. Biddle why I thought we could make the case. I argued that those
Civil War cases involved nothing more than a man getting on a stump and
talking to a crowd of people that were within the normal range of his
voice. I felt this was quite different from words spoken into a microphone
that could project the words all over the world; furthermore, that propaganda
had become a definite weapon of warfare, and that anyone who used that
weapon against his own country should be prosecuted for treason. When
I had finished, the Attorney General said, "Well, I think you've got a
point. Will you prosecute them?"
I told him I could not. I explained that it would not be fair to my law
firm for me to be away from the office for the time required to prepare
these cases for trial and try them.
He thought a moment then said: "I'll tell you what we will do. We'll
monitor all these broadcasts that
come in from Axis stations and see what
they look like."
So, he arranged to have all of these broadcasts monitored by a monitoring
station located in Maryland near Washington,. Obviously there was nothing
much the Government could do until it could arrest the broadcasters. In
the meantime, however, the F.B.I. was monitoring the voice of Douglas
Chandler and others, and then had witnesses in Washington identify the
various voices. On the basis of voice identification, several of the broadcasters
were indicted in the District of Columbia. After the war these broadcasters
who had been spewing Axis propaganda were captured. The Department then
sent investigating teams over to Europe and they procured very convincing
evidence which built up very strong cases of treason against them. But
there was an interval between the time I talked with Francis Biddle about
indicting these broadcasters in early 1943 and the end of the war when
the further investigation could be made in Europe and the broadcasters
could be reindicted on the new evidence. This accounts for the interval
of time and why in early 1947 I would be working with Tom Clark who had,
in the meantime, succeeded Francis Biddle as
FUCHS: You probably didn't take this up with Biddle in 1945, during the
some two and a half months that he served as Attorney General in the Truman
EWING: No. No, I did not.
FUCHS: Then did you approach Tom Clark about the prosecution of Douglas
Chandler and Robert Best, who was the other one you were to prosecute,
EWING: Well, first I was asked to be prosecutor in all eight cases. I
said I couldn't do it and then they finally asked me if I would take the
first case. At one time the Department planned to prosecute Best and Chandler
together and then we realized we couldn't. I, therefore, took the Chandler
case and it was to be the first one to be tried. This would present an
opportunity to get a court's reaction to our theory that mere words could
be the overt act required for a treason conviction when the words had
been spoken into a radio microphone for all the world to hear.
FUCHS: Best broadcast from where?
EWING: I don't remember, because I never got into that
case. It was very
obvious to me from the start that we couldn't try Chandler and Best together
because they broadcast from different places.
FUCHS: You just tried the one case?
EWING: I only tried the one case.
FUCHS: So then, Clark asked you to come in on it?
EWING: I think that's the way it happened.
FUCHS: Anything you recall that might be of interest about this case
as it developed?
EWING: Oh, yes. It was a very interesting case. The group that the Department
of Justice sent over to Europe after the war to collect the evidence,
they did a marvelous job. Chandler was a very handsome man, but he had
made a failure of almost every business venture he had undertaken. He
had tried many things, being a stockbroker, being an insurance agent--I
don't recall the others but in every case something happened that made
it a failure. Chandler always blamed the failure on a Jew. As far as I
could see no Jew had anything to do with any of the failures, but that
didn't make any
difference in Chandler's mind. It was because of his violent
anti-Semitic feelings that he applied first to the Italian and then to
the German governments to broadcast for them. Before the war Chandler
had married a woman from Pittsburgh who was fairly well-to-do. As the
clouds were gathering, they had moved to some little place in Austria
near Trieste. There he nursed his anti-Semitic feelings and first applied
to the Italian government for a job of broadcasting to America. The Italians
turned him down. Then he made a trip to Berlin to apply personally for
a job of broadcasting to America for Radio Berlin.
FUCHS: Did he do this partly because he needed money or was it solely
because he wanted to work against Jews?
EWING: I think it was the latter. I believe his wife had an income on
which they could live comfortably, but not extravagantly. One reason they
went to Austria was because the cost of living made it an attractive place
for them. When he applied to Radio Berlin they employed him at the highest
salary that they paid any broadcaster.
The crew that the Department of Justice sent over to Europe dug up all
of this. They dug up the details of the workings of Radio Berlin. It was
all under Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda. The Germans had divided
their radio activities into various sections. There was Radio North America,
Radio South America, Radio North Africa, Radio Southeast and Radio East.
Each one of those sections had a head man and then there would be various
broadcasters who worked under the head. The heads of the various sections
had a meeting with Dr. Goebbels every morning at eleven o'clock, and he
gave them what was to be the line for that day. They, the heads of those
sections, would go back to their office, call in their broadcasters and
tell them what were the lines for the day. The broadcasters then went
off to prepare their broadcasts. They might work at home or they might
work there at the station. In the late afternoon they would return to
the station and make recordings. The recordings would be put on the air
at various times in the evening, depending on whether they were broadcasting
east to Asia or to the Near East or Africa or America. The broadcasts
for America were put on late in the evening because of the
difference in time.
FUCHS: What were they normally, fifteen minutes or half hour stints?
EWING: I would say they were about fifteen minutes.
FUCHS: They didn't have the long playing records?
EWING: I don't recall whether they had them or not.
FUCHS: It's not important, I just wondered. Then how did the prosecutions
case go. What was Chandler's defense?
EWING: Insanity. When the army took over Germany, Chandler had been arrested
and put in jail in Paris. Then on the basis of the new evidence collected
in Europe by the investigating team Chandler was reindicted in the District
of Columbia. After that he was brought back to this country. This was
done by flying him first from Paris to the Azores and from there to Gander.
We were very insistent that the army, in bringing him back to the District
of Columbia, fly over no United States land until they got to Chesapeake
Bay and then fly up over the Potomac River to the District.
for that was because under Federal Law if a Federal crime is committed
outside of the territories of the United States and the accused is captured
and brought back into the country, he must be tried in the United States
District Court of the District into which he is first brought. We wanted
to try this case in the District of Columbia and that was why we asked
the Army to be sure that the plane didn't cross any United States territory
until it came up the Potomac River. Even then we could not be sure because
a court might hold that the Potomac River would be in either Maryland
FUCHS: Were there precedents for this that even though they didn't land
in a district that if they flew over it...
EWING: No. That is what we were hoping for but we didn't want to take
a chance of flying straight down over land. Notwithstanding all of our
requests that this route be followed, the pilot of that plane had a girl
in Boston so the next thing that we knew he had landed at an airport near
Boston, Westmoreland Field I think it was.
FUCHS: I really don't know, sir.
EWING: Well, it was near Boston, Massachusetts. The result of this was
that we had to bring all the witnesses from Germany back again to Boston
and reindict Chandler in Boston so we could try him there. We didn't want
to take a chance of a possible reversible error if we tried him in the
District of Columbia.
FUCHS: Why was that?
EWING: Well, simply, it would give him a legal point. There was no question
that we had to try him in the district in which he was first brought,
and there was no question as it turned out that he was first brought into
the district of Massachusetts. That's why we had to reindict him up there
because of what this darn pilot had done. We later found out that he had
this girlfriend in Boston, that's why he brought the plane down there.
He claimed that he couldn't get his wheels retracted and that it slowed
him down so much that he couldn't get any further than Boston. He couldn't
make the District of Columbia. And I'm sure this bloop of his cost the
United States Government at least a hundred thousand dollars because of
the expense of bringing the witnesses back again from Germany.
FUCHS: What happened to Chandler?
EWING: Chandler put in a defense of insanity. His lawyer claimed that
this obsession about the Jews was a paranoid form of insanity. The defense
brought in expert witnesses who said that Chandler's violent anti-Jewish
feeling was a symptom of paranoia. We had witnesses who testified that
he didn't have. a lot of other symptoms that a true paranoia would have
to have. And so the jury convicted him. The judge was then obligated to
sentence him and could impose the death sentence. I thought if there were
ever to be a death sentence in any case Chandler deserved it because his
propaganda was so vicious. He deliberately tried to disrupt the morale
of the men in the armed forces as well as the morale of their wives and
children and families at home. His main theme was to tell the men in the
Army and Navy that their wives were running around with other men in America,
then he'd make a broadcast to America addressed to the wives and sweethearts
of boys in the armed services and telling them that their men were playing
around with the girls in foreign countries. It was a nasty, mean thing,
and I felt very strongly that the Judge should have given him
sentence if there were to be any death sentences for any crime. But the
Judge only sentenced him to life imprisonment and he's still in the hoosegow
as far as I know.
FUCHS: Was it weighed that maybe he was only giving what Goebbels told
him to, that they were not actually his words?
EWING: No, no that defense was never made. The Constitution is very specific
in its definition of treason. It's adhering to the enemy, giving him aid
and comfort. That's the substantive part of the crime. Then the procedural
requirements for the crime are that there must be the testimony by two
witnesses to the same overt act. We ended up proving, as I recall, about
twelve overt acts of broadcasting. We would have a witness who would testify
that Chandler made a certain recording and then we'd play the record of
that broadcast to the jury so they could hear his voice and what he said.
We had to bring witnesses over from Germany who could describe to the
jury exactly how Radio Berlin operated, how it was set up and how when
a man spoke into the microphone a recording was made and when the recording
how the wires took the words to the broadcasting apparatus.
The Department's investigators did a beautiful job.
FUCHS: I believe that I've read that the average time served on a life
sentence is fourteen years? I may be wrong on the exact figures. It's
now been twenty-two years, I guess. Has he come up for parole?
EWING: Well, the only thing that I know is that after Chandler had been
in jail five or six years, one of his daughters came to see me. This was
when I was still Federal Security Administrator so it must have been prior
to January of '53. His daughter asked me to recommend that her father
be paroled or possibly pardoned. I told here I didn't feel that I could
do it, that I felt what he had done was really a very serious crime and
that I was not willing to recommend his release. As far as I know he's
never applied for parole again.
FUCHS: Do you know where he is confined?
EWING: He was in a Federal prison in Connecticut. There's a Federal prison
there in which he was confined.
FUCHS: Was he a young man when you prosecuted him?
EWING: No, he was a man, oh, I'd say fifty years old.
FUCHS: What ever happened to Pelley?
EWING: Pelley had been sentenced for a term of five to fifteen years.
I believe he served only a little more than five years because he was
a good prisoner and behaved himself.
FUCHS: Is he still living?
EWING: I don't know. It seems to me that I've seen that he died. But
I'm not sure of that.
FUCHS: Do you care to cut this off now?
EWING: Well, we might.
FUCHS: It's four-thirty and I don't want you to get too tired, and you
have a meeting and you haven't had your dinner yet. It's up to you, sir.
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