Oral History Interview with
Career in the US Department of State, 1922-60. Among many assignments served as Director, Near Eastern and African Affairs, 1946-48; Ambassador to India, 1948-51; and Ambassador to Iran, 1951-55.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview .
Opened January, 1976
Oral History Interview with
MCKINZIE: Mr. Ambassador, itís hard to know where to begin in an interview with you, because youíve had a most distinguished career, with the Soviet Union, particularly.
HENDERSON: Well, I worked eighteen years on Eastern Europe.
MCKINZIE: Yes. Itís difficult, donít you think to start talking about the Truman era, as April l945. You have to sort of consider the events of the war.
HENDERSON: Would you like then for me to tell you about my position and whereabouts at the time of the death of President Roosevelt and what my initial
feelings were with regard to the Vice President who was succeeding him?
MCKINZIE: Yes, indeed, I would. But we might go back a little bit, if that is agreeable and talk about your experiences in dealing with the Soviets since our relations with the Soviet Union became one of Mr. Trumanís first problems.
HENDERSON: Well, my introduction to matters pertaining to Eastern Europe took place in the early part of 1919 when as a member of the American Red Cross Commission attached to the Interallied Commission for the Repatriation of Prisoners of War with headquarters in Berlin, I acted as an inspector of prison camps in Germany. There were several hundred thousand Russian prisoners in these camps awaiting repatriation, and the problems connected with their repatriation were complex and numerous. There were arguments both in Paris and Berlin with regard to decisions relating to their
repatriation. On the one hand, there was a fear that if they should be sent back to Russia, they would be drafted into the Soviet Army and thus strengthen the Soviet forces who were fighting the Poles. On the other hand, there was the feeling that since they had been fighting as Allies of the West they, like other Allied prisoners, should have the right to return home.
In April 1920, a sub-commission was sent to Lithuania in order to try to find out first hand what the situation was at the German-Soviet front, and what the possibilities were of repatriation through the lines held by the Germans. Under arrangements effected following the Armistice the German armies were charged to remain temporarily in Lithuania in order to hold back the Soviets. This sub-commission was composed of members of the Interallied Commission in Berlin. It was headed by a British major; and its other members consisted of a United States medical officer, a French captain,
an Italian captain, a German officer acting in a liaison capacity, and myself. After consultation with the German commanders and the members of the newly formed Lithuanian Government in Kovno (later Kaunas), we were taken to the front lines where for the first time I came into contact with the Soviet military. Our sub-commission returned to Berlin with assurances that the returning Russian prisoners would be allowed to pass through the lines and go to their homes.
Following my return to Berlin I was assigned to Marienberg, on the borders of East and West Prussia to be in charge of the last stage in Germany of the repatriation. Large stores of army rations were placed in warehouses in Marienberg and as the train loads of prisoners came through on the way to the German-Soviet front each prisoner was given a bag of rations for use in going through the lines. Several U.S. Army non-commissioned officers were assigned to me and two of them would go on each train to the front and then return for the
next train. This kind of repatriation lasted only a month or so. When the Poles pushed back the Russians so that a Polish-Soviet front replaced the German-Soviet front, the Poles would not permit the Russians to return through their lines. Our work in Marienberg thus came to an end.
In the latter part of August 1919, I was sent by the American Red Cross to Riga to talk with representatives there of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, regarding the practicability of and need for an American Red Cross Commission to Western Russia and the Baltic States. I returned to Berlin in September to report to Colonel Ryan, my Chief in the Red Cross, that the governments of those little nations desired very much such a mission and would give it their hearty cooperation.
I then accompanied Colonel Ryan to Paris where this Commission, of which I became a
member, was organized with him as the head. I spent the next six months with that Commission, serving in Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. I shall not go into detail here regarding my adventures and experiences during this period, but I learned a great deal while there about that part of the world and about Soviet attitudes and policies.
In April 1920, I was assigned to Berlin as Chief of the American Red Cross office there and remained in that capacity until the latter part of 1921, when I returned to the United States and began to study for the Foreign Service examinations. It had been my original intention to be a lawyer. While I was in law school, however, I failed to get into the armed forces because of a partially stiff right arm, the result of a childhood break. Determined to do my part in the First World War, I went to Europe in the latter part of 1918 with the American Red Cross. During my years in the Red Cross I had met many members of our Foreign
Service. I liked them and became interested in the Service. I took the examinations in January 1922 and entered the Service several months later.
My first post in the Foreign Service was Dublin, Ireland, where I served as Vice Consul. After two years and several months in Ireland, I returned to the United States on home leave. While in Washington, I met by accident Evan E. Young, the Chief of the Eastern European Division of the Department, whom I had known when he was United States Commissioner to the Baltic States. Since there was a vacancy in his Division he asked me, in view of my experience in the area, if I would be willing to take it. When I agreed, he arranged for my transfer. I took over my first post in the Department in that Division in January 1925 and for the next eighteen years I worked on matters pertaining to Eastern Europe in the Department, in the Baltic States, or in the Soviet Union.
MCKINZIE: When you first went into the Foreign Service, had you expected that eventually you would be in Eastern Europe?
HENDERSON: Well, my interests were very much in Eastern and Central Europe. It was my desire, however, to have a variety of experiences, and therefore, I did not request an Eastern European assignment when I entered the Service. I refused to name an area of preference since I thought it would be better for the Department to decide what my first post should be.
MCKINZIE: Mr. Ambassador, Iíve talked to a number of people who contend that you are the teacher of a great number of diplomats in dealing with the Soviet Union, that your experience was early, and that your perception was deep. Iím speaking in particular of Charles Bohlen, Elbridge Durbrow . . .
HENDERSON: Oh, youíve talked to them.
MCKINZIE: Well, I havenít talked to Mr. Bohlen yet, but I have talked to Elbridge Durbrow and a number of other people who have been in the Soviet service. Are there outstanding events in those years between the experience in Riga and the Second World War, seminal events which helped you to form your ideas about how one had to cope with the Marxist government of the Soviet Union?
HENDERSON: It would be difficult for me to give what I would consider a satisfactory answer to that question without going into considerable detail. When I first arrived in Berlin in the early part of 1919 and during the subsequent periods when I was in Germany I saw the efforts of the Communists under Soviet guidance to take over the country. Great mobs of Communists or Communist sympathizers under the leadership of so-called "Spartacists" would go into the streets and sometimes for hours pillage, kill, and burn. The Spartacists were highly trained Communist cadres who were in close
communion with Moscow. In Germany and the three Baltic States the Communists were looking for weak spots in which to make trouble, to weaken the governments in power, and to strengthen the world Communist movement.
In the latter part of 1919 I opened an American Red Cross office in Kaunas, Lithuania. The Communists resented our presence and did their best to interfere with our work. They even fired on members of my staff at times. On one evening as I was entering my residence a bullet hit the lintel of the door only a few inches from my head. One of my successors were attacked and wounded, but fortunately even after being shot was able to defend himself from his attackers.
During my many conversations with the Russian prisoners of war in Germany, with refugees pouring into the Baltic States from Russia, and with journalists and other foreign visitors returning from Russia I received
impressions that were lasting. In looking over a report that I wrote to the Red Cross when I returned from my first visit to Lithuania in April 1919, I found that I had stated that the Lithuanians were desperately in need of aid and had urged that the American Red Cross try to help them. I had added that such aid might help them to combat Communist aggression in the area. You can see, therefore, that even at that time I had already formed some ideas with regard to Communists and their activities in Eastern Europe.
MCKINZIE: Would you care to comment, sir, on Franklin Roosevelt and his views about the Soviet Union? He evidently had a very optimistic attitude about the future, and Iíve read some of the dispatches from the Second World War in which you were taking a more cautious view.
HENDERSON: Well, President Rooseveltís views seemed to vary from time to time. Sometimes when the
Russians seemed almost contemptuous of him and of his feelings, he would become annoyed and be sharply critical of them. In general, however, he seemed to be confident that with his charming personality and his ability to persuade, he would be able to influence them to such an extent as to gain their cooperation.
Although he rarely issued personal statements critical of Soviet policies or specific actions, he was privately unhappy and at times even angered at Soviet attitudes during the period beginning with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Treaty of August 1939 and the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941. During this period oral instructions from the White House filtered down to us in the operational level of the Department to exercise firmness in dealing with the Soviet authorities in all matters relating to the protection and promotion of our national interests and the interests of American citizens. He personally,
for instance, approved our adoption of a so-called "tit-for-tat policy" recommended by Ambassador Steinhardt in Moscow in dealing with minor problems in our day to day relations with the Soviet Union. That policy was in essence that if Soviet officials would take a stiff unyielding position with respect to certain of our problems we would take a similar position with some of their problems and in doing so would let them know that if they were prepared to be courteous and helpful in connection with our problems we were prepared to treat their problems in a similar spirit.
President Roosevelt was indignant at the manner in which the Soviet Union annexed the Baltic States and personally approved the condemnatory statement issued by Under Secretary Welles on the subject. The President, himself, issued statements critical of the Soviet aggression against Finland. On one occasion he told a group of students, who apparently were sympathetic to the Soviet Union, that the Soviet Union was the
aggressor and on another occasion he condemned the treaty which the Soviet Union extracted from Finland following Finnish capitulation.
In his attitude toward Finland he differed somewhat from Mrs. Roosevelt who had a group of friends who were extremely friendly to the Soviet Union. I can recall that in early March 1940 the personal secretary of Mrs. Roosevelt called me by telephone. She said that Mrs. Roosevelt had friends who tell her that the Finns really started the war and were the aggressors and she would appreciate it if I would look carefully into the matter and let her know what the true story was. I replied that it was not necessary for me to look into the matter again. I and other members of the Department had carefully studied the origins of the war from the very beginning and there was no doubt that the Soviet Union was the aggressor. Mrs. Roosevelt was apparently not satisfied with my reply because several days later a letter addressed
to Secretary Hull and signed by Miss Thompson, Secretary to Mrs. Roosevelt, came down to my desk for action. That letter enclosed a pro-Soviet pamphlet which presented a distorted picture of the Soviet-Finnish dispute and indicated that Finland, not the Soviet Union, was the aggressor. Miss Thompson in her letter said that Mrs. Roosevelt would appreciate advice as to how much material in the pamphlet was truth and how much was fiction. I drafted the reply which was signed by Mr. Berle, an Assistant Secretary of State, who was at the time Acting Secretary in the absence of the Secretary and Mr. Welles.
I have already referred to the Presidentís attitude with regard to the Soviet absorption of the Baltic States. You might be interested in the manner in which the President and Under Secretary Welles worked together. It was, I think, in the early morning of July 23 that Mr. Welles asked me to prepare a statement for issuance to the press expressing sympathy for the people of the
Baltic States and condemnation of the Soviet action. Upon looking at my draft later in the day he said that he did not think that it was strong enough. In my presence he called the President and read the draft to him. They agreed that it needed strengthening. Mr. Welles then recast a number of sentences and added several others which apparently had been suggested by the President. Since he was at the time Acting Secretary, Mr. Welles, thereupon, sent the statement down to the press room for issuance without further consultation. I was at the time in charge of the Eastern European Section of the Division of European Affairs.
Even during the period of Soviet-German cooperation the President, wisely I thought, tried in general to keep himself aloof from the conflicts that were inevitable in the conduct of relations between a country like the Soviet Union and the United States. If statements critical of the Soviet Union were issued, they
usually came from the Secretary or Acting Secretary of State. Unpleasant exchanges with the Soviet Union were usually effected at an operational level between the appropriate members of the Department and the Soviet Embassy or between our Embassy in Moscow and the Peopleís Commissariat for Foreign Affairs. As a result, a fiction was created and widely believed among Soviet officials and left-leaning New Dealers in Washington that the Department, and particularly those members of the Department charged with handling Soviet affairs, were not loyally carrying out the Presidentís policy of strengthening friendly relations with the Soviet Union.
The Presidentís attitude did change, however, after the Soviet Union was forced into the war as the result of German aggression. The British, in particular, who were bent on winning the war at any price and who were anxious to do what they could to appease Stalin, were able to exert
considerable influence on him. In my opinion at the time, the obvious efforts of the British to appease Stalin made the Russians even more difficult to deal with. Lord Halifax, for instance, again and again apparently under instructions from Eden, the British Minister for Foreign Affairs, tried to persuade us to recognize the Baltic States as a part of the Soviet Union. They did not wish to embark on a policy of this kind unless we would go along with them. This we were not prepared to do. In other instances, however, where we felt that important principles were not involved, we yielded to British pressures.
MCKINZIE: But seemingly President Roosevelt took some initiative in agreeing with Stalinís request for a second front in 1943, and that was not what the British wanted.
HENDERSON: Yes, that was true. But I think that the President took that position on the spur of the
moment without the usual consultation with his Allies. If my memory is correct, Stalin was pressing him for more planes and other war supplies than we were in a position to furnish at the moment, and the President in order to appease Stalin, without considering all the factors involved, indicated his belief that a second front should be established in 1943. The President, of course, like Churchill, considered it important that Stalin should be convinced that we wanted to be of all possible aid to the Soviet Union, which during 1942 and 1943 was bearing the brunt of the German offensive.
Although I was in the Soviet Union at the time, it was my feeling that the President thought that he would be pleasing the Russians when he announced that we would follow a policy of unconditional surrender. The Russians, however, refrained from joining in such a statement. We were committed, but the Russians kept themselves free of such commitment.
The President later, as the war approached its end, did, in my opinion, go too far in his efforts to convince Stalin that we were not antagonistic to the Soviet Union, that we appreciated the "sacrifices" that the Soviet people had made and were making, and that we wanted to cooperate with them in creating the kind of a world after the war in which all of us could live happily and peacefully. Under the influence of some of his advisors he took great risks and made commitments which, in my opinion, were not to the advantage of the free world or to the maintenance of peace.
It was the feeling, I believe, of most of us who had been observing the Soviet Union over the years and been dealing eye to eye with the Russians--it was at least my feeling--that no amount of blandishment, no amount of persuasiveness, no bribes, and no concessions could divert the Soviet Union from its basic objectives. Its
leaders were dedicated, I might even say fanatical, Communists. They had risked their own lives and destroyed millions of human beings over the years in their determination to establish eventually a Communist world. With two of the great barriers, Germany and Japan, which had in the past contained them, torn down, they were out, when peace came, to take just as much additional territory as the world situation would permit. They might be willing from time to time to change tactics in order to cope with particular temporary situations, but they would not alter their basic objectives. That was my belief, and I felt that it was my duty to offer my advice and to write memoranda when occasion required me to do so, setting forth my views.
I am confident that anyone who reads the series of volumes put out by the Department of State entitled Foreign Relations of the United States would get the impression that I was a "hard-liner"
so far as the Soviet Union was concerned, and that impression would be correct. I was. Litvinov, the Peoplesí Commissar for Foreign Affairs when I was in our Embassy in Moscow during the 1930s and the Soviet Ambassador to the United States from 1941 to 1943, recognized that fact. He knew that I understood him and also understood the policies and the aspirations of the leaders of the Soviet Union. Furthermore, in the Department were a number of persons who did not hesitate to give him copies of my secret memoranda relating to United States-Soviet relations. On several occasions these memos had upset some of his plans.
When my four years in the Department of State were nearing an end in the summer of 1942, it was necessary for the Department to decide on a new assignment for me since under the law at that time a Foreign Service officer could not remain in the Department for a period longer than four years. It was therefore arranged for me to be appointed as a Foreign Service Inspector and to spend six
months inspecting our Embassy in Moscow and Kuibyshev and our diplomatic missions and consular offices in the Near East. At the end of that time I was scheduled to return to the Department and resume my work in the Eastern European area. When in July 1942, I applied for a visa to go to the Soviet Union, Litvinov was obviously annoyed. He asked me why I was planning to go to Moscow. When I told him in the capacity of an Inspector of Embassies and Consular Offices, he was quite rude. He said he did not see why I should go to the Soviet Union as an Inspector. Nevertheless, the visa was issued and I arrived in Moscow in the middle of August.
My plans for inspecting our missions and consulates in the Near East after inspecting our divided Embassy in Moscow and Kuibyshev did not, however, materialize. After I had completed the inspection work in the Soviet Union and was preparing to depart for Tehran, I gave a farewell
dinner to the Ambassador and members of the Embassy who had been so kind and helpful to me while I was in the Soviet Union. After I had made my farewell speech, the Ambassador said he had a surprise for me. A telegram had just come in from the Department asking him to come to the United States for consultation and requesting that I remain in the Soviet Union as Chargé díAffaires pending his return to the Soviet Union.
Admiral [William H.] Standley returned to the Soviet Union in January 1943 and I prepared to go back to Washington. Before I left he told me that I ought to know that just prior to his departure from the United States, Litvinov had asked him if it was true that I was coming back again to work on Eastern European Affairs. When Standley had replied in the affirmative, Litvinov had said that the United States and the Soviet Union would never have good relations so long as Henderson was on that desk.
I thanked the Ambassador for telling me what Litvinov had said and immediately on my arrival in Washington, I told Secretary Hull what Litvinovís attitude was. I said that it would probably be better for the United States in this trying period for me to be given another assignment, and for my position in Eastern European area to be filled by someone who would be acceptable to Litvinov. The Secretary disagreed. He said, "No, I am not going to have Litvinov say who is going to handle things in the Department. You are going back to your old job."
Some two months later the Secretary sent for me. He said that he was sorry to tell me that I was to have another assignment. "The people over there," he said with a gesture in the direction of the White House, "want a change." I learned later that Litvinov had complained both to Mr. Welles and Mrs. Roosevelt about my return to the Department and they, who were very close to one another, had persuaded the President to take action.
When I asked the Secretary what he would like for me to do, he said, "You are to go out as Chief of a Diplomatic Mission." I pointed out that Chiefs of Mission were usually selected from the officers in Class I; that I was only in Class II; and that I did not think that it would be right for me to deprive some higher ranking officer of a Chief of Mission appointment merely because I must go to the field. I added that I would be happy to accept any more junior post that the Department might regard as appropriate for me. The Secretary replied, "No, you are to go out as a Chief of Mission. Your assignment must be a distinct promotion. I do not want Litvinov or other Soviet officials to think that they can damage the career of a Foreign Service officer because he might happen to displease them, or for other Foreign Service officers in the future to be afraid of taking action which they consider good for the United States because they did not wish to excite Soviet displeasure. Now you look around and find
out what posts might be available and let me know which one you want."
During the next few days I learned that the Chief of our Mission in Iraq was resigning and that the post would be vacant. I thereupon went to the Secretary and told him that I would like to go out as Minister to Iraq. "What! To Baghdad?" he said, "Why do you want to go there?"
"Itís just the post I would like," I said. I did not add that I was selecting it because at that time there were no other Foreign Service candidates for it. So, I went to Baghdad. I wish to make it clear that I bore no ill feelings against Mrs. Roosevelt or Mr. Welles because of their intercession. Mrs. Roosevelt always had a rather soft spot in her heart for the Soviet Union and was glad to be able at times to take steps to improve United States-Soviet relations. Welles had become very close to Litvinov, who apparently had fallen out of favor with Stalin, and was anxious to do what he
could to help him.
MCKINZIE: Did Mrs. Roosevelt ever speak to you personally?
HENDERSON: Yes, we have talked to one another on a number of occasions, but never about my transfer to Iraq. Iíve never even intimated to her that I knew about her interest in the matter.
MCKINZIE: Could you talk about your wartime experience in Iraq? It became, as, of course, the whole Middle Eastern area became, vitally important in the war in a strategic sense.
HENDERSON: Well, Iraqís role was not very important so far as we were concerned.
MCKINZIE: But Iran next door was.
HENDERSON: Well, during the period that I was in Iraq, the country was virtually under British control. They had a large Embassy there headed by an able and experienced Ambassador and composed of British experts on the area. A British lieutenant general
was in command of the British forces stationed in various parts of the country. Among his assistants were perhaps eight or ten brigadier generals. The British forces in Iraq at the time included a large number of Indian regiments, the members of which were well disciplined and made a fine appearance. British India was playing an important role in that part of the world. As Minister to Iraq, I had responsibility for such relations as we had with the Arab sheikdoms in the Persian Gulf. In visiting them I found that British officers, as members of the Indian Civil Service, were acting in the role of advisors and counselors to the various Sheikdom Governments. Also vessels flying the flags of British India patrolled the Gulf looking after lighthouses and other shipping facilities.
While I was in Iraq, its chief port, Basra, gradually became one of the important shipping centers for commerce through Iran between the
Soviet Union and the Western Allies. Many of the military supplies urgently needed by the Soviet Union were unloaded in Basra and shipped through Iran to the Soviet Union.
During my stay in Iraq the British Government arranged for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Iraq and the Soviet Union, and the new Soviet Minister and I established amicable relations, partly because I was the only other member of the diplomatic corps who had been stationed in the Soviet Union or was really interested in the Soviet Union. A treaty between Iraq and Great Britain had provided that Great Britain should be the only power with an Ambassador in Iraq. Accordingly, all other Chiefs of Mission were Ministers or Chargé díAffaires.
MCKINZIE: Then you returned to the State Department in March of l945, is that not correct?
HENDERSON: Well, I arrived in Baghdad in November
1943 and was there almost a year and a half. It was, I think, in early March 1945 that a friend, a lieutenant general stationed in Cairo in charge of the United States Air Forces in the area, came to Baghdad on a visit. He was keen on shooting, so I took him out in the country on a shoot. After a frustrating afternoon wading through irrigation ditches and climbing mud fences, I arrived late in the evening in the legation very tired. Don Burgess, our code officer, was waiting for me. He said, "Mr. Minister, I have here an important telegram for you."
"Does it need action tonight?" I asked. He said that he thought that I should look at it at once.
The telegram was from the acting Secretary of State, Mr. Joseph C. Grew. It asked if I would be willing to come back to the Department as Director for Near Eastern and African Affairs. Although the position was two notches higher in the Departmentís hierarchy than that which I
had left in 1943, I was not exhilarated at the prospect. I had become interested in the problems of the area. I had been intrigued by my visits in the Kurdish Mountains, by my calls on the Arab entities in the Persian Gulf, and in the complex political and religious rivalries of what had become to me a challenging little country. I also realized that as Director of the Office in the Department known as "NEA" I would again be faced by a series of controversial and far from pleasant tasks when the war, which was already approaching its end, would terminate. Nevertheless, I didnít think for a minute of replying to this telegram in the negative. As a Foreign Service officer it was my duty to accept in good grace any position that the Department might suggest to me. Accordingly, on the following morning I sent a reply stating my willingness to accept the position and my pleasure that the Department had sufficient confidence in me to offer it.
Several days later I received my instructions to visit various countries in the area for which I was to have responsibilities before reporting to the Department in the middle of April.
MCKINZIE: Do you know what prompted the Departmentís telegram? Did you have a friend at court?
HENDERSON: No, so far as I was aware I had no friend working on my behalf. Mr. Hull had already retired and been replaced by Mr. Stettinius. I had met Mr. Stettinius, who had succeeded Mr. Welles as Under Secretary just prior to my departure from Washington in 1943, but our relationship had been casual. I was told later that on his way back from Yalta the President had spoken somewhat kindly of me and my views and had suggested that I be brought back to the Department. He may have been responsible for my return to Washington.
In pursuance of my orders I visited some
eight or ten countries or dependencies either before saying my farewells in Baghdad or while enroute to the United States. My last visit was at Tangier where I spent two days with an old friend, Consul General Rives Childs and his wife, before boarding a Trans-Atlantic airplane for the United States. At about midnight on April 12 Rives knocked on my bedroom door and asked me to come down for a few moments. Downstairs I found him and his wife in a state of excitement. "Weíve got bad news," they said, "the radio has just announced the sudden death of President Roosevelt."
I felt deeply shocked because, although I had frequently not shared the Presidentís views, I not only admired him but had a feeling of affection for him. Furthermore, his death seemed to me to be a great national loss, with peace just around the corner and important postwar decisions to be made. I wondered if Truman would
be able to stand up with his limited international background to the overbearing and ruthless Stalin and the sly and resourceful Molotov. During the night I thought of the death of Lincoln on the eve of victory and the difficulties which plagued Johnson in the post-Civil War era in dealing with a vindictive Senate, many members of which considered themselves superior in education, experience, and culture to the President.
I arrived in Washington on April 15 and assumed my position as Director for Near Eastern and African Affairs immediately.
MCKINZIE: Did you anticipate that a new President would mean a change in policy?
HENDERSON: No, I didnít. I thought that for a time at least he would be surrounded by the advisers whom Roosevelt had assembled and would to an extent depend upon them until he had become settled in office, had adjusted himself to the
routine of a Presidentís life, and had had an opportunity personally to examine the international problems facing the country and to become acquainted with the international figures with whom he would be required to deal. Itís difficult for a new President, who has unexpectedly assumed the office, to escape the advisers of his predecessor, particularly when he was following a popular President. I didnít think that Truman, who hadnít thus far won any spurs in the international field, would fire Rooseveltís advisers and go out all alone in the world.
MCKINZIE: I wonder if you might speak to the point of your thoughts about the postwar world? There was a lot of energy expended in the Department during the war in making plans for the postwar world.
HENDERSON: Yes. It had been my feeling during the war that we should try not to let the war end with the Soviet Union in a dominating position in
Central Europe. It was my firm opinion that if the war should come to a close with powerful Soviet forces dominating Eastern, Southeastern and Central Europe, the Soviet Union would try not only to retain under its control the territories which its forces were occupying but as much additional territory as it might extract from its indecisive Western Allies. I felt the same way about the Far East. I repeatedly urged that we should not encourage the Soviet Union to go to war with Japan. I pointed out that there was a danger that when Japan was on the verge of defeat, the Soviet Union would come in at the end so that it could claim certain Japanese territories and insist on certain peace terms that would help it to realize its ambitions in the Far East.
During the war I disagreed with certain members of the Department, particularly some of them in the economic areas, who seemed soft on the Soviet Union and considered that those of us
who believed that the Soviet postwar aims were irreconcilable with ours, were misjudging a peace loving ally.
I was really upset during the last part of the war when we refrained from going into Czechoslovakia in order to let the Russians occupy it; when we refused to accept the surrender of some of the forces in Germany and the Balkans so that they would be compelled to surrender to the Russians; when we permitted the Russian forces to occupy Germany on all sides of Berlin so that Berlin was completely at the mercy of the Russians or of forces dominated by the Russians. When, however, I arrived in the Department in 1945, I found plenty of problems facing us in the Near East, South Asia, and Africa. We had Greece, Turkey, and Iran, for instance, the continued independence of which was in great danger.
MCKINZIE: Well, on the point of the Near East, you mentioned that the people in the economic division were . . .
MCKINZIE: ...softer, thatís a good word, weíll use that. Yes, were softer toward the Soviets, and, in addition to the economic people, were there not a few people in the Division of European Affairs who, for example, were willing to make concessions to the Soviets about the straits and wanted to talk about the revision of the Montreux Convention in dealing with the Soviet use of the Dardanelles?
HENDERSON: Yes, thatís true. But in my opinion most of those people were not particularly soft on the Soviet Union. They were for the most part people who had no deep convictions or strong views and who, therefore, were willing to go along with what seemed to be the overwhelming opinion of the media, or of persons around the White House. Frankly, there were a number of people who took it upon themselves to be advisors to
the President and who in a sense played a role of defending Soviet actions and the Soviet point of view. Joseph Davies, the former Ambassador to the Soviet Union, for instance, through publicity, speeches, movies, and writings, was able to generate a considerable amount of public opinion in favor of giving in to the Russians whenever we could do so without generating too much criticism. Then there were a number of persons in the Government and even in the State Department and among the armed forces who felt that in the interest of their careers it was important for them not to win the disfavor of Harry Hopkins, the Presidentís closest advisor on foreign affairs. I am referring here to President Roosevelt, not President Truman, since Hopkins played an important role in the White House for only a few months under the Truman administration. One of the surest ways of winning the disapproval of Hopkins was to express suspicion of Soviet motives or to intimate that we could not
depend upon Soviet cooperation in the postwar era.
There were also in the State Department, particularly among the so-called "New Dealers," who had come in with a predominately academic background, a number who took the position that the most important factor in assuring a future peaceful world was a cordial relationship with the Soviet Union and that it would be unfortunate to permit such factors as the continued sovereignty of various small nations to interfere with Soviet-American friendly cooperation. So those of us who were concerned about the role that the Soviet Union, no longer hampered by a strong Japan in the East and a powerful Germany in the West, might play after the war were frequently in a minority.
Would you like for me to tell you of my first meeting with President Truman?
MCKINZIE: If you would, sir.
HENDERSON: Shortly before my departure from Iraq in March 1945, President Roosevelt invited Abdul Ilah, the Regent of Iraq, who was the uncle of the boy-king, to visit the United States. The invitation was accepted and it was arranged for the Regent and his party to arrive in Washington on or about April 19. In view of the Presidentís death on April 12, the visit was postponed. President Truman reissued the invitation shortly after he had assumed the Presidency, and the Regent was expected to arrive in the latter part of May.
Although I had assumed my duties as Director for Near Eastern and African Affairs in the middle of April, I still was the Minister to Iraq for a number of weeks awaiting my return into the Foreign Service. At that time, according to law, a Foreign Service officer was required to give up his commission in the Foreign Service when he accepted a Ministership or Ambassadorship, and I had, therefore, resigned temporarily from the
Service when I had taken my oath as Minister.
When the Regent arrived, therefore, in May, I was not only the Director of the office handling Iraqi affairs but was also the Minister to Iraq. Furthermore, the Regent and Nun Pasha, his Prime Minister who was accompanying him, and I, had become personal friends. Therefore, I was assigned to assist Mr. Grew, the Under Secretary, in meeting and looking after the royal party.
Several days prior to the arrival of the group, the President sent for me and asked me to discuss Iraq with him and to outline some of the various problems between Iraq and the United States and such other matters that might be useful for him to know about during the course of the visit. I spent nearly an hour with the President and was impressed with the quickness with which he grasped the situation and subjects to be discussed. He made a few notes, asked me a few questions about my background and then dismissed me with the courtesy that I learned to
expect from him.
Mr. Grew and I met the Regent and his party at the railway station and escorted them to the White House. The President and Mrs. Truman were out on the portico to greet them and to invite them to have tea. The Regent, Nun Pasha, and a Military Aide of the Regent, Mr. Grew, and I spent perhaps half an hour with Mr. and Mrs. Truman in one of their reception rooms on the first floor. Mrs. Truman then excused herself and the President escorted us to his library or study on the second floor where after a brief discussion of the world situation we went into considerable detail with regard to matters affecting United States relations with Iraq and ways with which these relations could be improved to the advantage of both countries. Again I was impressed by the President. He conducted the discussion with an easy grace and I marveled at his memory of the details that I had given him during our previous conversation.
After we had concluded our preliminary conversations, the President turned to Mr. Grew and said, "Mr. Secretary, you are an accomplished pianist, wonít you play a bit for us?" Mr. Grew played for a few minutes. After he had left the piano, the President signaled to a servant to bring in some glasses, opened a cabinet, and then said to each person, "What would you like to have?"
Now, Iím sure that the President had no idea that among the Arabs, I mean the real Arabs, not those who have been westernized, there is a custom that either the head of the family or his oldest son present serves a distinguished guest. The host will not permit a servant to do so. I could see that our guests deeply appreciated what they considered to be the Presidentís courtesy in personally giving them their drinks. The President by his simple and unaffected hospitality had made an unforgettable impression upon his Arab visitors, most of whom, by the way, selected non-alcoholic drinks since they were devout Moslems.
After the drinks, the President himself sat at the piano and played a couple of pieces before personally ushering us to our cars. I could see that the Arab guests were pleased with their visit. It was a fitting introduction to the United States for them. Thus did the President receive the first head of State to visit him during his Presidency.
MCKINZIE: This is very interesting. Iíve never heard this story before. And this was the first head of State that he received?
HENDERSON: The first head of State, yes. He was perfectly at ease and they liked his disarming informality. He was not breezy or self-conscious, just informal, easy, and pleasant.
MCKINZIE: Could we talk a little about the Near East after the war? Thereís a book, perhaps you have seen it sometimes past, by a man named Arthur Millspaugh who talked about President Rooseveltís
hope for a couple of countries in the Near East, particularly Iran. Millspaugh contends that Roosevelt communicated with him in such a way as to make him believe that he hoped that Iran would be a kind of model country in the postwar years; that it would be a test case to see if the principles of the Atlantic Charter, self-determination and that sort of thing, could be put into effect, because it was after all a country in which the British, the United States and the Soviets had had interests and had had forces in.
HENDERSON: Yes, I have met Millspaugh on a number of occasions, but I do not believe that I have read his book. If I am not wrong, he went to Iran first in the middle twenties as a sort of "Administrator General" to reorganize and head the Iranian financial system. He did quite well until 1927 when he got into a dispute with Reza Shah over military expenditures and was compelled to resign and leave the country. In 1942 he was
invited back to Iran as Administrator General of Finances and in that capacity he and his American assistants under contract with the Iranian Government were given considerable economic and financial authority. At that time Soviet troops were occupying the northern sections of Iran and British troops various southern sections. In addition, some thirty thousand American troops were in the country for the purpose of facilitating the shipment of military supplies to the Soviet Union. The Soviet military and civilian officials disliked the presence of the Millspaugh group, and the British were not happy to have them there. Many of the Iranian officials engaged in economic and financial work did not like the idea of taking orders from these Americans. In the air of intrigue Millspaugh and his assistants found it more and more difficult to function. When I arrived in Baghdad late in 1943, I learned of the difficulties that they were encountering and early in 1944 the situation became so difficult
for the American group of which Millspaugh was the head that they could no longer perform the tasks they had contracted to perform. They finally left Iran in the early part of 1945 shortly before I left Baghdad. This group was not regarded as a United States governmental mission but rather as a group of experts in the employ of the Iranian Government.
As a result of his visit to Iran in the latter part of 1943, the President did, however, seem to be particularly interested in the development and future of that country. He was responsible while in Tehran for the so-called "Tehran Declaration" signed by Churchill, Stalin, and himself, in which all three parties undertook to respect the territorial integrity, sovereignty, and political independence of Iran and to withdraw their forces from the country within six months after the termination of hostilities between the Allied Powers and Germany and Germanyís
associates. Some of his exchanges later with the Shah demonstrated his sympathy for Iran. I can remember in one message to the Shah he suggested that the latter make every effort to reforest the barren hills and valleys of the latterís country.
MCKINZIE: But was that Milispaughís idea rather than anybody in the Departmentís idea, that Iran was supposed to be a kind of a model?
HENDERSON: During the time that I was serving in the Middle Eastern area under President Roosevelt and even later I do not recall anyone in our Government expressing the hope that Iran or any other Middle Eastern country might become a model state. The President and all of us working in the area, however, hoped that after the war the countries of the Middle East, including Iran, could develop into fully independent entities and conduct their own affairs and their foreign affairs in a manner that would be consonant with the terms of the Atlantic Charter.
During the last few months of the war, the Middle East countries encountered severe economic difficulties. They could not export, import, or engage in shipping without the consent of an Allied Mission stationed in Cairo, the so-called Middle East Supply Center. The purpose of this Center was to make sure that the economy and life of the people of the Middle East would be geared to the Allied peace effort. Since the British were playing the dominant role in the Middle East, they really dominated the Middle East Supply Center and at times the people in the area felt that they were being called upon to make unfair sacrifices for the benefit of the Western Allied powers.
MCKINZIE: Then it was your impression that the Middle East was supposed to be a kind of . . .
MCKINZIE: . . . model territory.
HENDERSON: I donít think so. Nevertheless, from the American side there was a deep interest in the welfare of the people in the area and the hope that after the war they could have a better life. Not only the President but most of us working in the Near East or Middle East area did have a special interest in Iran. In the first place, we had a vague feeling of guilt so far as Iran was concerned. I can recall how shocked I was when in August 1941 Soviet and British troops suddenly moved in and took control of Iran, the Russians from the North and the British from the South. When several months earlier Hitler had similarly seized control of Denmark and later Norway, the Government and press of the United States loudly condemned his actions as aggression. When the British and the Russians marched into Iran, however, there was no protest on the part
of our Government, the press, or the American people in general. In his memoirs Cordell Hull treated it as a small element in the efforts to stop Hitlerís ambition of world conquest. I was working on Eastern European affairs at the time, and based on my many years of experience in observing and dealing with the Soviet Union, I was convinced that the Soviets were going into Iran with the intention of staying there and eventually working their way to the Persian Gulf. It was true that the British and the Russians desperately needed to use Iran as a corridor for sending war supplies from the Western world to the Soviet Union, but I knew in my heart that what they did was an act of aggression. I could also understand the reluctance of Reza Shah to agree to the series of demands that the Russians had been making upon him since he, like most Iranians, was aware of the long-range Soviet ambitions with respect to his country.
Another reason for our special interest in Iran was that we regarded it and Turkey as important shields of the Middle East and South Asia. If the Russians could break through Iran to the Persian Gulf, they would be within a couple of hundred miles of most of the known oil resources of the world and would be overlooking millions of square miles of Southern Asia. Iranian independence and territorial integrity were, therefore, of vital importance, not only to the Western world but to all peoples who looked to Middle Eastern oil as the source of their energy.
MCKINZIE: I wonder if you might help some historians with a little problem involving Iran. When the Soviet did not withdraw their troops, as they were committed to do, President Truman said, in the latter part of his Presidency, that he had sent an ultimatum to Mr. Stalin saying that if he didnít withdraw those troops that he, President Truman, would send the Sixth Fleet into the
Persian Gulf. Iíve talked to the people in the historical division of the State Department and they say they canít find such an ultimatum.
HENDERSON: Well, there is a danger in discussing history and the roles, major or minor, in which one had played. Unless one has the documents before him or has recently consulted them, heís almost sure to make mistakes, just as I may make mistakes in this conversation with you. Iím sure that the President had never sent an ultimatum of that kind to Stalin. I tried to get a number of strong telegrams out of the Department to our Embassy in Moscow containing messages for the Embassy to deliver to the Soviet Government relating to the Soviet troops in Iran, but my cautious superiors in the Department would not let them go through. If the President had sent such an ultimatum, the Department would not have been so cautious. No, the President didnít send such an ultimatum. If he had done so, the Russians,
in my opinion, would have been even more stubborn. They would have believed that the President was bluffing; that he had no intention of going to war with the Soviet Union in the Persian Gulf.
MCKINZIE: There were some people, Mr. James V. Forrestal for one, Secretary Robert P. Patterson for another, who were concerned at the end of the war, that as the British influence waned, that American influence increase in that area for reasons of safeguarding the oil supplies. And, I guess you could name a few other people who, at that time, were actually aware of the importance of oil. Harold Ickes was another such man.
HENDERSON: Well, the people in the Office for Near Eastern and African Affairs, which I happened to head at the time, were very much concerned about the importance of the oil in the area, and we were constantly expressing our concern. On November 12, 1947, I believe that is the date, I made a speech
in New York on the subject of American interests in the Middle East in which I touched on oil. At that time there was much propaganda and demagogic talk in the press about "oil politics," and oil had become something of a dirty word to be avoided. I said that Middle East oil is the lifeblood of South Asia and Africa and is of great importance to Europe; that an unfriendly power in possession of the great Middle East oil reserves could hamper the rehabilitation of Western Europe and retard the economic development of Africa and Southern Asia; that we should have a more mature approach to the problem of oil since it is not necessarily a symbol of sinister imperialism but a vitally needed commodity like food. That speech was printed in the Department of State Bulletin at the time and is, therefore, available if anyone is interested in the Departmentís attitude toward oil in the Middle East during the immediate postwar years.
MCKINZIE: Might we talk a little bit about the economic people in the State Department?
HENDERSON: Iím sorry. I canít remember their names. Most of those I had in mind had come in during the war period from the academic world. They were undoubtedly able economists. The knowledge of many of them about the Soviet Union had been acquired in the "liberal" atmosphere of classrooms or from the reading of left-leaning magazines or other literature and from popular and persuasive commentators.
MCKINZIE: There was of course William C. Clayton, the Under Secretary for Economic Affairs.
HENDERSON: Yes, but I would not include him among the economists who differed with us with regard to the Soviet Union. He was highly experienced in world affairs. I was referring to another group, mostly college professors in the economic field who had come into the Department with highly idealistic
views of what the world should be and how the world they had in mind could be brought about.
MCKINZIE: About integrating world economy and that kind.
HENDERSON: Yes, about an integrated world economy and they took it for granted that Russia would be a partner in such an economy, and in order to show the Soviet Union that its participation would be welcome, they were willing to make concessions here and there to the Soviet Union--concessions that in the end would place more peoples under Soviet control but would not alter Soviet ultimate objectives.
MCKINZIE: Well, those same people were arguing, too, that the countries with which you were concerned, could somehow become a part of that larger world system . . .
HENDERSON: Yes, thatís right.
MCKINZIE: . . . yes, and even argued publicly that if they were not quickly integrated into it, there would be some kind of social revolution, or violent revolution and they talked about "the revolution of rising expectation among the masses."
HENDERSON: Thatís right.
MCKINZIE: Was that a real threat? Iíve read some scholarly stuff that says that that wasnít the problem, that the awakening hadnít occurred at that time.
HENDERSON: I donít think the problem was as serious as some of the extremists put it, but I do think that during the war a lot of people in the Middle East had been awakened--people who previously had not been interested in local or world politics. So many changes were taking place in that area, and there had been so much talk of what was going to be done for the Middle East. There was, I
believe, a certain amount of "rising expectations." I donít think these new ideas were of the kind that would lead to immediate violent revolution unless Communist agents would penetrate the area and use them to stir up revolt.
Furthermore, during that period the agents of Moscow were for the most part careful in their propaganda in that area. They did not wish to offend the religious sensibilities of the Moslems. Their main thesis was "the imperialist domination--get rid of the imperialists, they are exploiting you." They were not agitating for the establishment of Communist regimes. Their line was "throw out the imperialists and their stooges and bring in friends of the people." They realized that the Moslems of the Middle East had no more affection for communism than did the people of the Western world. Their propaganda therefore played down ideological points of view and stressed economic and nationalistic.
MCKINZIE: At what point was the idea of technical assistance seriously considered by the people in your division?
HENDERSON: I canít remember. Almost immediately following the termination of the Second World War we were urging the extension of economic assistance to some of the countries in our area, and in some instances assistance in the form of military supplies. We, of course, advocated strongly aid to Greece and Turkey in the early part of 1947, but this was aid of all kinds--financial, economic, military, yes and technical, although as I recall it, we did not use the term "technical." We favored experts being sent out, however, to assist the recipients in making the best use of the funds and equipment sent to them. It seems to me that the word, "technical assistance" came into vogue only after I had left the Department and arrived in India.
MCKINZIE: May we talk about that since weíre on the subject of technical assistance? In India, which of course was just getting on its feet, and with social problems which were potentially violent in nature, I suppose if American assistance was going to make a difference, that would have been a test case, would it not, or at least some people would have looked at it that way? And could you talk a little bit about what your reaction was?
HENDERSON: I was very much in favor of technical assistance to India and other countries in the Middle East and South Asia. There were, of course, several problems connected with it. In the first place, the United Nations was establishing a technical assistance program which would include India. The Chairman of the United Nations for Technical Assistance was Canadian, whose name I cannot recall just now. At any rate just as we were starting to launch our program in India, he arrived in New Delhi and made an off-the-record speech to a meeting of the representatives in that
city of the British Commonwealth and top Indian officials in which he urged that India look to nationals of the Commonwealth for technical advisors and not introduce American technicians into the country. He intimated that American technicians were not to be trusted, that they would come to India not merely to aid the people there, but to advance American interests there at the expense of Indiaís partners in the Commonwealth.
I never saw the transcript of that speech but leaks with regard to it came to us from various sources. Some of the British officials and businessmen in India, as well as many Indians, who through long association had friendly feelings for the British, were opposed to Americans coming in any guise to live and work in India. Some of them considered that Americans were more dangerous than the Russians so far as India was concerned, and that it would be unfortunate for American influence to displace the tested and stabilizing
influence of the British.
On the other hand, there were many Commonwealth officials and businessmen who favored the introduction of American technicians into India. Members of the British and Canadian High Commissions, in particular, went out of their way to cooperate with our technicians when they arrived. Nevertheless, there was, I believe, among other British friends in general a feeling that it would be better for the United States to advance funds to the U.N. for the hiring of foreign technicians than to send in a lot of American technicians who had never had any experience in South Asia. I thought in view of these feelings that we should advise our technicians when they arrived to go out of their way to make it clear that they had come solely to render technical assistance and to do or say nothing that might create the impression that they were trying to undermine British influence.
MCKINZIE: Would you have approved in principle the idea of technical assistance coming through an international organization rather than coming unilaterally from the United States? Should it have been tied to political objectives of a country?
HENDERSON: Perhaps I was somewhat prejudiced, but it was and still is my opinion that in general technical aid coming through an international body was not likely to be as effective as direct aid from a single nation. It seemed to me that the American money spent for direct technical assistance accomplished as a rule more than the same amount spent for aid going through international channels. I am not opposed to aid going through international channels, and at times we should, in my opinion, contribute to such aid, but I think that aid direct from one country to another is likely to be the most effective. It seemed to me that American technicians working on
a program which is purely American, are inclined to take more pride in their work and to be more enthusiastic than those representing an international organization.
MCKINZIE: When it was fairly clear that there was going to be American aid to India, you mentioned before we started our conversation here that you had sent a detailed memorandum on the way aid should be administered.
HENDERSON: Thatís right. We received circular instructions from the Department asking us to give our recommendations as to the method in which aid should be administered; and I wrote a dispatch in which I suggested that we not try to set up aid missions as such. It was my feeling that an aid mission would require too much overhead. It would need offices, secretaries, automobiles, several layers of authority forming a hierarchy, and so forth. My thought was that we would approach
technical assistance by asking the Government of India where it needed technical assistance and what kind of assistance it would like for us to send it. We might also ask the Indian Government if it would like for us to send an expert on certain technical problems to look over the situation, who, after an investigation, might advise the Indian Government what kind of technicians would be most helpful and then if the Indian Government would ask us to send them, we could do so. Our experts, I thought, should however work in the Ministry or farm or factory where needed, side by side with his Indian colleagues. They should not flaunt high salaries and superior scales of living. The Americans could be rewarded on their return to the United States by receiving in lump sum the portions of their salaries not paid to them while in India. I believe that for an American technician to receive from the United States three or four times the
amount of pay as his Indian colleagues or superiors received would eventually create hard feelings. This was my idea in general.
MCKINZIE: I see. Of course, that did not get implemented, but what kind of technicians then did you see in India before you left?
HENDERSON: They sent us excellent technicians. They were, in general, a hard-working, capable, and tactful group of men and women. When I left India in September 1951 for Iran, our aid mission was still growing. It doubled and even trebled in size after I had left. I was very pleased with what its members were doing and how they conducted themselves. When I arrived in Iran, I found that our aid mission there was already almost at full strength. Shortly after my arrival there, a new "Director of Technical Cooperation" was attached to the Embassy with the rank of Minister. He was highly experienced, having served in the
Department of Interior as Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation and later as Assistant Secretary.
MCKINZIE: William Warne?
HENDERSON: Yes, and he was a great asset to our work in Iran. I came to have great respect and deep affection for him. His predecessor, who was preparing to return to the United States just as I arrived, had also done a good job. He had been associated with the University of Utah or Utah State University, I forget which, but he had brought into his mission a number of technicians, for the most part from Utah, who were experienced in the field of agriculture. Since the climate and land of Utah have many similarities to those in Iran, they fitted beautifully into the agricultural program. Most of them had large families and their own automobiles, and every Sunday their loaded cars could be seen streaming
across the countryside in the direction of the mountains. Although their scale of living was far above that of their Iranian counterparts, nevertheless, they were very popular among their Iranian fellow workers.
MCKINZIE: Mr. Ambassador, since we are on the subject of technical assistance in this area, maybe we could go on and ask you to relate again a very unpleasant incident that occurred in Iran, which you told me about before we started. That was the tragic trip to Iran of Henry Bennett who was the Presidentís appointee, as Chief of the Technical Cooperation Administration. As I recall, he was coming in December of 1951.
HENDERSON: Thatís right, he was due to arrive in Tehran in December 1951, about three months after my arrival there.
MCKINZIE: As I recall, he was going there for the purpose of getting a country agreement with respect to aid
HENDERSON: Yes, he was to work out with the Iranians a somewhat detailed aid agreement. I had been looking forward to seeing him and went down to the airport to meet him. It was one of those December days in Tehran when a soft flaky snow made it difficult to see more than several hundred feet above the ground. We could hear a plane passing back and forth above the airfield but we couldnít see it and it apparently could not see the ground. It was an Egyptian plane with an experienced Egyptian pilot.
MCKINZIE: You were there with the official welcoming party?
HENDERSON: Yes, I was there with representatives of the Embassy, our Aid Mission, and several high ranking Iranian officials. For some fifteen or twenty minutes, the plane would pass over us, circle and then come again. Finally it disappeared. After waiting for another hour, I returned to the
Embassy and called several airfields in the vicinity, one in Abadan and the one in Baghdad, as well as our Embassy in Baghdad and our Consulate in Abadan, to ascertain if the plane had landed in one of them. When finally darkness fell and we had heard nothing, I had dark forebodings.
Nestled as it was among the mountains, the Tehran airport presented grave dangers during snowstorms. So early the following morning when the snow had ceased to fall, I asked our Naval Attache if he could fly in his plane over the area to look for the missing plane. He reported a couple of hours later that he had spotted what might be a wrecked plane at the bottom of a foothill several miles from the airport.
Along with a couple of junior members of the Embassy and followed by Iranian officials and a physician, our Naval Attaché and I set out at once in a jeep for the hills where our attaché had seen an object that might be the plane. After
several miles we left the road and followed a camel trail until we saw pieces which might have come from a plane that had been skidding and rolling down from one of the higher hills. We left the jeep and walked through a narrow rocky defile which led us to the wreck. Several bodies were lying by the plane, some were still in it, and several were strewn along the hillside. The first body that we came to proved to be that of Dr. Bennett, and that of his wife was only a few yards distant. Among the other American citizens who perished in the wreck were Mr. Albert Crilley, Dr. Bennettís special assistant; Mr. James T. Mitchel, a photographer who was making photographic records of various Point IV activities; Miss Emijean Snedegar, a commissioned officer of the U.S. Public Health Service, who was on a mission for the Department of State; Mr. Benjamin Hill Hardy, an expert in the field of public relations who was assisting Dr. Bennett; Mr. Louis Hedrick
Jordal, who was serving in Baghdad as an Exchange Professor of Biology, and who was coming to Iran to spend Christmas with friends; and Mr. Jesse Lee Smith, an engineer who was on a business trip. The broken bodies were taken to Tehran and prepared for shipment to the United States. Some five days later, on December 27, I believe, the Embassy had memorial services for the eight Americans, which were attended by most of the American community in Tehran and by representatives of the Iranian Government.
MCKINZIE: May we go back a little bit to 1947, to the events about which much has been written. I guess you were the duty officer the day that the British sent the note in February, that they were not going to be able to . . .
HENDERSON: No, I was not the duty officer because the Department was still open. The duty officer is the person who remains on duty after the Department
is closed for the day or for the weekend in order to handle any emergency that might arise. Iíll tell you the story of what happened on the fateful afternoon of Friday, February 21, l947. I was at the time Director for Near Eastern, African, and South Asian Affairs. Along about 3 oíclock in the afternoon Jack Hickerson, who at the time was Acting Director for European Affairs, called me on the telephone. He said that the Counselor of the British Embassy would like to see me urgently and asked if I could receive him. I replied that I could receive the Counselor at once.
When the Counselor arrived, perhaps a half hour later, he handed me the copies of two notes, the originals of which he said the Ambassador would present to the Secretary of State, General Marshall, on Monday. Since these notes were rather important, the Embassy as a courtesy was giving the Department copies in advance so that the
Secretary would not be taken too much by surprise.
I thanked the Counselor, who left without discussing the contents of the notes. When I looked at them I realized how important they were. One related to Greece, and the other to Turkey, both countries which were in the area of the responsibility of our office. In brief, the notes stated that in view of the difficult financial position in which Great Britain found itself, it must discontinue the military, financial, and economic aid that it had been giving to Greece and Turkey as of March 31, 1947, and expressed the hope that the United States would shoulder the burden of giving the aid which these two countries sorely needed. The British Government intended to refrain from making an immediate announcement of its decision in the hope that in the interim the United States Government would decide to take the responsibility for assisting these two countries.
Secretary Marshall had the habit of leaving
the Department before noon on Fridays and making himself available until Monday morning. I, therefore, called up Jack Hickerson, who specialized on British affairs, went to his office and showed him the notes. The two of us, thereupon, asked Mr. Acheson, who was in charge of the Department in the absence of the Secretary, for an urgent interview. Mr. Acheson was very busy but he received us at once. After looking at the notes he said to me, "I want you to get your staff together and work like hell over this weekend. What I expect from you is a memorandum which I can give to the Secretary early Monday morning (the Secretaryís appointment had been set at 10 oíclock). Between now and Monday I want you to bring this memorandum to me so we can go over it.
I went back to my office immediately and called in the members of my Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Division, also my economic assistants,
and we set to work. We held a series of conferences, and drafted and redrafted until late Friday night. We worked all day Saturday and did not leave the office until nearly midnight. By 11 oíclock Sunday we had ready a memorandum which seemed to us to meet the situation. I immediately telephoned Mr. Acheson at his residence in Georgetown, and he asked that I bring it to him at once. To my relief he expressed himself as satisfied with it. The following morning he gave it to the Secretary at 9 oíclock and they decided that the matter was of such importance that the Secretary would tell the British Ambassador, after the Ambassador had presented the notes, that he would like to think about them and talk to the President before making any comment with respect to them.
The Secretary asked me to be present during his conversation with Lord Inverchapel, the British Ambassador. My memorandum describing their conversation is to be found in Foreign Relations of
the United States, 1947, Volume V.
I had not been surprised when Mr. Acheson had approved our memorandum of action. He and I had been discussing the problems of Greece and Turkey for some time, and both of us felt that a crisis with regard to them was imminent. We did not know what form the crisis would take. We felt, however, that the British could not indefinitely continue to carry the burden of Greek and Turkish assistance.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall, in those meetings that you held with your staff over that weekend, was your staff and the people in your division pretty much agreed? Was it almost inevitable that the final document was going to result?
HENDERSON: Well, I think that the answer to that is "yes" so long as you leave the word "almost" in the question. All of us had been worried about the problems of Greece and Turkey, particularly Greece, for months. Such aid as they had been receiving
from the British was insignificant compared with the problems and their needs. We had tried to find some method for giving loans of a modest character or grants to them. We had been turned down. The National Advisory Committee on International Monetary and Financial Problems had taken the position that there was no legislation that would authorize such assistance to them. That was rather irritating to us at a time when we were granting large loans to Communist-dominated countries like Poland.
The British decision expressed in the notes handed to the Secretary would make the situation of Greece and Turkey even more desperate. All of us were agreed that if the British should make their announcement that aid to Greece and Turkey would be suspended after March 31, and there was no prospect of aid coming from the United States, the morale in both countries would sink to such a level that their Governments would have difficulty in rallying the peoples to resist the pressures
that were being placed upon them from the Communists and the Soviet Union and its satellites. The guerrilla warfare carried on in Greece with the support of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia was sapping the strength and endurance of Greece. Although the propaganda pressure that the Soviet Union had been applying to Turkey with regard to its eastern provinces and the Dardanelles had eased somewhat since the United States had taken such a firm stand on behalf of Turkey in the late summer of 1946, it would undoubtedly be resumed if it would appear that the Western Powers were losing their interest in the maintenance of Turkish independence and territorial integrity.
We were unanimous in our belief that some way should be found to let the Greek and Turkish Governments know that the United States was planning to come to their assistance before the British decision was announced. We believed that since at present there was no legislation under
which such assistance could be extended, appropriate legislation should be enacted. That would mean action on the part of Congress. But members of the Congress would not be likely to vote for such legislation unless they could be given to understand the gravity of the situation and unless they would be given to feel that such legislation would have national support.
It seemed to us that the following steps should be taken:
1. Convince the President of the importance of extending aid and of proposing that Congress pass the necessary legislation.
2. Suggest that the President be armed with documents that could convince key members of Congress whom he would call into a conference of the necessity for such legislation.
3. That in order to gain popular support the President make a speech to the country in which for the first time since the war he would tell the people of the United States of the dangers to the free world arising from the aggressiveness
and expansionism of international communism.
Churchill, who during the war years had vied with President Roosevelt in lauding the Soviet Union as our freedom loving ally, had already presented some of the facts of life so far as the Soviet Union and communism were concerned to the American people during the course of an address that he had made at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, an address that had shocked and distressed many Americans, who since Hitlerís attack on the Soviet Union in June 194l, had come to consider that broadside attacks on the Soviet Union and communism were in bad taste. Nevertheless, we felt that unless the American people could be made conscious of what the Soviet Union, its satellites, and the Communist parties throughout the world were doing, Congress would not have the support necessary for the passage of the required legislation.
Although in our memorandum we did not try to
spell out word for word the contents of the various documents to be presented, including the Presidentís speech, we did, however, if my memory serves me correctly, indicate some of the lines that might be followed. I regret that the original memorandum cannot be found. Mr. Acheson apparently gave the copy that I handed him to the Secretary. One copy, I believe, went into the files of the Office for Near Eastern, African and South Asian Affairs, which was used during the preparation of the documents and apparently misplaced. In pursuance of the regulations governing secret documents, I retained no copy for myself.
In general, the program proposed in the memorandum was carried out. The Secretary discussed the matter with the President; the President called in the leaders of Congress and explained the situation to them. Much time was spent on the drafting of the Presidentís speech and other documents, including the proposed legislation and
the support of it. Differences of opinion with regard to various passages in the draft of the Presidentís speech were resolved by Mr. Acheson who served as umpire. All our work was done in secrecy--on a "need to know" basis--we could not, therefore, discuss our problems with many of our colleagues in the Department. Since the two countries involved were in the Middle East, the draft which Mr. Acheson took to the President limited the application of the policy expressed in it to "the free peoples of the Middle East who are resisting attempted subjugation..." When the President was making certain alterations in the draft, he said to Mr. Acheson that he saw no reason to limit the announced policy to the Middle East, it should have worldwide application. Thus, the President himself made this important decision in what was to become known as the "Truman Doctrine."
MCKINZIE: Thatís an interesting point. I was not personally aware of that.
HENDERSON: I was not aware of how the change came about until several years ago. Shortly after his death, Mr. Acheson told me of his conversation with the President as they were looking over the draft. You asked a few minutes ago if there were any differences of opinion among members of my staff as we drafted the document. I indicated that we were all in agreement. During the following week as the task force was enlarged, certain disagreements did take place. George Kennan, for instance, who came over from the War College to work with us, thought that our assistance should be limited to Greece; that Turkey because of its geographical position was in an area with respect to which the Soviet Union was extremely sensitive, and that for us to undertake to come to the aid of Turkey was therefore a rather serious commitment. I disagreed. We put the matter up to Mr. Acheson who decided that Turkey should be included. I, personally, would have liked to include Iran, which
also was sorely in need of help following its tribulations during the war years. But since the British had not asked us to assume any responsibilities with regard to Iran I did not push the matter.
MCKINZIE: When the President finally did call in the members of Congress, Vandenberg is alleged to have said to him, "Mr. President, the only way you are ever going to get this is to make a speech and scare hell out of the country," or something like that.
HENDERSON: Well, in general that was our idea from the very beginning. We did not use the expression "scare the hell out of them." Thatís the Congressional way of stating our purpose. We used Department of State language like "tell them the truth about the situation." One of our problems, by the way, was to obtain from the Greek and Turkish Governments requests for aid in a language which could be included in our support of the proposed
legislation. We prepared for the Greek and Turkish Embassies in Washington statements describing what we were planning to do and added to these statements the drafts of the kind of requests we needed. I handed these statements and drafts to the Embassies and indicated that if they wanted aid, we hoped that the requests would come as soon as possible. The Greek request came almost immediately and was almost identical with our draft. The Turkish Foreign Office apparently entered into a number of conversations in Ankara before replying. It had made a number of changes in our draft, but its request was in a form that suited our purpose.
MCKINZIE: Then did you have, personally, dealings with the legislature in the process?
HENDERSON: No, I did not go before Congress or testify.
MCKINZIE: I mean on an informal basis.
HENDERSON: I may have discussed the subject in passing with various Congressmen whom I would happen to meet socially. But I did not do any lobbying. At the request of Mr. Acheson I did make a number of speeches on the subject in various parts of the country.
MCKINZIE: I know that your name is not on the hearings.
HENDERSON: Those hearings were so important that Dean Acheson handled them personally. In the meantime I had a number of other urgent problems relating to my area which could not be neglected: Iran, Palestine, India, various Arab and African countries and entities. I assigned one of the most able associates in my office, Jack Jernegan, to assist Mr. Acheson, and he did an excellent job. I was also keeping in constant touch with our Embassies in Athens and Ankara.
MCKINZIE: May we pursue the business of the Greek-
Turkish thing for a little bit? After the money was forthcoming, then there was some question over how the money could most appropriately be used, and you went to Greece then in the summer of l947, did you not?
MCKINZIE: Was this to speak with Ambassador Lincoln MacVeagh and with Dwight Griswold over how this money might be used?
HENDERSON: No, there were disagreements about how the money for Greek aid should be spent, but I did not go to Greece to discuss those differences.
MCKINZIE: The newspapers at the time had made this comment. Could you address yourself to that point, please?
HENDERSON: Well, I was busy tending to my own business connected with troubles in half a dozen countries when early one morning in the last part of August,
Mr. Lovett, who had succeeded Mr. Acheson as Under Secretary, asked me by telephone to come to his office. He said: "The President wants you to leave for Greece this evening." He added that a number of prominent Greeks in this country had been to the White House to complain because the new Government in Greece, headed by Tsaldaris, was a one-party Government. All the members of the Cabinet belonged to the Nationalist Party, which was pro-monarchist and conservative. These visitors to the White House, all of whom were "liberal minded," said that most Greeks in the United States were also "liberal," and there was a growing resentment that the United States was giving aid to, and thereby strengthening, a pro-monarchist government. They insisted that unless a coalition government replaced at once a one-party conservative government, the Greeks in the United States would be able to destroy the effectiveness of our aid program. They might even be able to prevail on Congress to withhold
funds for the program. Our able Ambassador to Greece, Mr. MacVeagh, had tried without success to persuade Tsaldaris to bring members of other parties into his Government. "Your job, therefore," said Mr. Lovett, "is to leave at once for Greece and there in company with our Ambassador to let Tsaldaris know that the success of our aid program is endangered unless Greece has a coalition government."
I knew Tsaldaris quite well. He had made a number of trips to the United States, and while he was in Washington he and I had had several discussions regarding the aid program and other facets of Greek-American relations. It was true that he was a conservative. During the period immediately following the war he had unswervingly opposed the Communists when most Greek political leaders, not knowing whether Greece would fall to the Communists like its Balkan neighbors, sat on the fence. His National Party had won overwhelmingly
in the recent Greek elections, the fairness of which had been attested by a team of American observers. I, therefore, demurred at going on the mission. Mr. Lovett said that if I did not go, someone else possibly less sympathetic to Tsaldaris would be sent.
When I met Mr. MacVeagh at the airport two days later, I told him the purpose of my mission and added that one reason why I had consented to undertake it was that neither I nor anyone in the Department wanted the Ambassador to be compelled to do it.
When the Ambassador presented me to Tsaldaris, I told the latter in as gentle a manner as I could what our problem was in the United States and that I had been sent to see him and to ask him to help us. He said, "I have tried to set up a coalition government, but the members of other parties insist that they will not participate in any government headed by the Nationalist Party of which I am a member. More than half of the members of our
Parliament are members of my party and it would be difficult to make them understand why our Prime Minister must be the member of some minority party." He added that perhaps I might be able to persuade the minority parties to be more reasonable. Mr. MacVeagh said that he would be glad to introduce me to the leaders of some of the other parties.
During the next two days the Ambassador and I talked with three or four leaders of the opposition parties but found them adamant. They apparently had already agreed among themselves that the new Prime Minister should be Sophoulis, the leader of the Liberal Party, which had once been one of the great parties of Greece, but at the time had only a handful of members in the Parliament. To make a long story short, Tsaldaris finally capitulated. It was arranged that the new Prime Minister would be Sophoulis and Tsaldaris would be his Deputy.
I was unhappy at the result of my mission.
Tsaldaris, in my opinion, was the kind of strong man that Greece needed at the time, whereas the aged Sophoulis was inclined to waver when it came to making tough decisions.
MCKINZIE: Mr. Ambassador, this is, I guess, a kind of philosophic question, and one that only a naive historian would ask, but what you describe constitutes intervention into the internal affairs of a sovereign nation .
HENDERSON: Perhaps it could be called indirect intervention. I did not tell him that he must resign or that Greece must have a coalition government. I did tell him about the problem we were facing in the United States, a problem that might involve eventually the curtailment of termination of aid to his country. It can be argued, I suppose, that in telling him frankly what our problem was, I was really inviting him to resign. Whether or not it was intervention, it was a mission with
regard to which I took no satisfaction. I did, however, take some satisfaction in one aspect of that mission. While I was in Greece, I had long talks with Mr. MacVeagh; Mr. Dwight Griswold, the head of our Aid Mission to Greece; and the top American military leaders. On my return to the United States, I told General Marshall that I thought we were not giving enough attention to the internal military problems of Greece. There was no purpose in trying to build roads and help establish factories only to have them torn down or destroyed by the guerrillas. We should have as an advisor in Greece a strong military leader who had experience in guerrilla warfare. After hearing my story, the Secretary arranged for the Chiefs of Staff to make a fresh review of the needs of Greece in connection with its struggle with the guerrillas. Eventually our military aid to Greece was strengthened and Lt. Gen. Van Fleet, who was experienced in guerrilla warfare, was
sent to Greece to take charge of the military portion of the program.
MCKINZIE: I wonder if we might talk about Israel, and I donít presume to know even where we might begin? Perhaps you could, for the record, give some background to this problem?
HENDERSON: During the years that I was serving as Minister to Iraq (November 1943 to March 1945), the Iraqis were becoming increasingly concerned about our attitude towards Palestine. They construed statements made by American politicians and various American organizations favoring the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine to mean that they were in favor of the establishment of a Jewish State in that area. They did not believe that the Zionists would be satisfied with having a sort of "old folks home" in Palestine. On various occasions members of the Iraqi Government brought up the subject to me. Those who were the most friendly toward the United States seemed to
be the most concerned.
I can remember that on various occasions both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister told me that if the United States should decide to take a firm stand in establishing a Zionist state in Palestine, the whole Arab world would begin to feel that the United States had become an enemy of the Arabs. They said that the Soviet Union would certainly take advantage of the situation; that those Arabs who were friendly toward the West would be eliminated one by one, and that the whole Middle East would become anti-American.
I sent a number of reports to the Department with regard to these conversations. I think it was in November 1944 I wrote a personal letter to Wallace Murray, the Director for Near East and African Affairs, indicating that I hope that the Department did not think that I was overemphasizing the importance of the Palestine problem or that
I was becoming rabidly anti-Zionist, but that I considered it my duty to inform it that if the United States should intervene in Palestine on behalf of the Zionists, our relations with Iraq would be adversely affected in every field. It seemed to me that our Government should be given to understand what might be expected in the Middle East if it should espouse the Zionist cause. I felt that the Department should be informed with force and bluntness about the situation; that for me to mince words in order to save myself from criticism would be cowardly. Although my letter was of a personal nature, not intended for the files of the Department, it found its way into the files and was published in Foreign Relations of the United States.
MCKINZIE: What kind of response did Mr. Murray give you?
HENDERSON: I didnít receive a reply and never knew why he had put it in the official files.
George Wadsworth, our Minister in Syria, was a veteran in the Middle East, and at times I would fly over to have lunch with him and to discuss our common problems. When I asked him how he handled questions put to him by the Syrians, he said that he was telling them that the United States would never back the establishment of a Jewish State. He said that he was quite sure that the United States Government would not go so far as to support the establishment of such a State, what we have been hearing is only the irresponsible talk of politicians. I told him that I was not so sure of what our attitude would be. When the Iraqis talked to me about Palestine, I was telling them that I was interested in their views and thanking them for giving them to me; and that I would convey them to my Government.
Before returning to the United States to assume my new position in the Department, I visited a number of Arab countries, including in particular Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Egypt. Our Ministers
in those countries told me of the concerns of the Governments to which they were accredited regarding our attitude toward the Palestine problem. Some of the officials of those countries to whom they introduced me also expressed concern over the same problem. Old Ibn Saud in Saudi Arabia made the future of Palestine the most important topic of my conversation with him. He said, however, that he relied on the integrity and good sense of President Roosevelt, which he thought would prevent the United States from following policies which would alienate the Arab world.
When I arrived in the Department in April l945, three days after the death of President Roosevelt, I realized that the problem of Palestine would be one of the crosses which I would have to bear and that it would be a heavy one.
MCKINZIE: And very early too, was it not, because in December of 1945 there were all that hundred
thousand extra emigrants.
HENDERSON: Yes, the emigrants were a part of the same problem--many of them, who after years of misery and suffering, were in internment camps awaiting transportation to Palestine. Some people may think that I had no sympathy for those poor refugees looking for a place to go. I, in fact, had deep sympathy for them, but it seemed to me at the time that civilized countries throughout the world should lower their immigration barriers and welcome them. The United States, Canada, Australia, a number of Latin-American countries could have made room for them. I thought that in going to Palestine they would not find the happy, quiet Jewish National Home which they were looking for. There, I was convinced, they would be encountering new anxieties and uncertainties in a small country in a hostile environment. Their lives would be torn by tumults and violence, and furthermore the people whom they
would be displacing would also become refugees, homeless and miserable. I used the word "displacing" because I could not conceive how there could be a Jewish State in Palestine unless many members of the Arab majority were pushed out.
The Zionists, however, were determined that, come what may, the displaced Jews in Europe and even those who were not displaced who were willing to do so, should go to Palestine. Now was the time, they seemed to think, a time that might not come again in another thousand years, for the Jews to be assembled again in their own old homeland. They were not interested in trying to make it possible for the Jewish refugees to go to the United States or to any place other than Palestine. Although many American Jews were not Zionists, most of them looked to the Zionists for leadership in solving the problems of the Jewish refugees.
Under pressure of the Zionist juggernaut, the President, members of Congress, other leaders in American political life, the press, and the radio
found themselves entangled in the problems of Palestine. The pressure on the Department of State was terrific, and my office unfortunately was one of the centers of the storm. Most of the basic decisions were made, however, at much higher levels--the President himself or perhaps the Secretary of State or an Under Secretary.
The British found themselves in a very difficult position in the latter part of 1945. Under pressure from the Zionists, the American press and American political leaders were demanding that the British, who were administering Palestine, should immediately admit one hundred thousand European Jews. Resolutions had been approved by congressional committees calling for the admission of the hundred thousand into Palestine preparatory to the establishment there of a Jewish State. The resolutions were being held pending only as the result of pleas by the White House and the State Department that
Congress take no action until the Executive Branch of the Government could work out solutions with the British Government. The British feared that if it should make the kind of decision demanded, outbreaks of violence would take place not only in Palestine but in a number of Arab countries.
After tedious negotiations with the British carried on at a high level, the British finally suggested that a joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry be set up to examine the situation of the Jews in Europe and to make a review ofí the Palestine problem. President Truman accepted the suggestion after considerable discussion regarding what its terms of reference should be. In general, the Committee would be charged with examining conditions in Palestine that might relate to the problem of Jewish immigration there, with examining the position of Jews in the European countries who have been the victims of
Nazi and Fascist persecution, and with obtaining the views of Arabs and Jews with regard to the problems of Palestine. The Committee was then to make to Great Britain and the United States recommendations with regard to the temporary handling of problems in Palestine and Europe relating to the Jews, and also recommendations with regard to the provision of facilities for Jewish emigration. I shall not try to go into the exact wording of the Committeeís terms of reference. In any event, the Committee was charged with making its report within one hundred and twenty days. The American Government appointed six members for the segment of the mission, headed by Judge Joseph Hutcheson of Texas. The only members of the mission whom I happened to know personally were William Philips, formerly Under Secretary of State, and Frank Aydelotte, former President of Swarthmore College. It was my understanding that the White House had selected the members with the concurrence of the Secretary or Acting Secretary of State.
Before being appointed all members were subjected to the usual security clearances. This matter was handled by the section of the Department responsible for handling security problems. At the last minute one of the appointees found himself unable to serve and the White House suggested Bartley Crum to fill the vacancy. Several days later the Security Officer of the Department came to me with Crumís security report. He said that he was not satisfied with it and felt that he should not be given security clearance for the kind of mission for which he had been nominated. After examining the report, I was inclined to agree. Crum seemed to me to be a type of left-leaning lawyer who was almost tireless in his search for publicity. He was a member of several "united front" organizations, and was noted for his demagogic speeches. He seemed to me to be the kind of person who would use his membership in a commission of this kind
for gaining personal publicity and acclaim rather than for achieving the extremely serious purposes for which the commission had been created. I may have written or initialed a memorandum opposing an issuance of a security clearance to him. In any event the decision made at the top levels of the State Department went to the White House and reached the desk of Dave Niles, who acted as the Presidentís advisor on matters pertaining to Jews.
I learned later that Dave Niles and Crum were close friends, and that Niles had suggested Crumís appointment to the President. Niles was furious at the Departmentís reluctance to grant a security clearance to Crum and maintained that opposition to Crumís appointment had been engineered by reactionary anti-Zionist elements in the Department. He was able to get the Presidentís support and Crum was appointed. Upon Crumís arrival in Washington, Niles showed him
the correspondence from the State Department objecting to his appointment, and from that time on Crum lost no opportunity to attack the Department in general and me in particular. He charged, for instance, that I had tried to influence him privately by telling him that, in considering the Palestine problem, he should always bear the Soviet Union in mind. It is true that I did believe that in considering the Palestine problem, we should not overlook the factor of the Soviet Union, but my distrust of Crum was so deep that I had avoided entering into any private conversation with him.
I mention the incident of Niles and Crum because during the next three years they both played pro-Zionist roles: Niles a leading role and Crum a minor one. Niles, in fact, was one of the trump cards held by the Zionists. From his desk in the White House he could observe all developments relating to Palestine that were taking place in the United States and inform and
advise his Zionist contacts. He was, in my opinion, loyal to the President in that he never criticized him. If the President would make a decision displeasing to the Zionists, he would tell them that the "career people" in the State Department had misled the President. He felt that it was his duty to maintain the Zionist support, and through the Zionists, the Jewish support of the President, and he acted accordingly. Furthermore, his personal sympathies were with the Zionist cause.
On one occasion when he was trying to prevail upon me to support a project which I considered to be not in the interest of the United States, he said to me, "Look here, Loy, the most important thing for the United States is for the President to be reelected. That overshadows other considerations."
On another occasion when I remonstrated with him for the way in which he was depicting me as an "anti-Zionist" villain in his talks with the
Zionists, he said, "Itís my job to protect the President. Your shoulders are broad enough to take the blame. What can happen to you? The worst will probably be an assignment to the field." Niles was useful in a way to the President by keeping him informed of the desires and concerns of the Zionists and by shifting the blame from the President to underlings when the United States, by taking or failing to take certain actions, excited Zionist displeasure. I am certain, however, that the President was not aware of the various machinations in which Niles was accustomed to engage, sometimes in the name of the President.
The Anglo-American Committee had been instructed to strive for a unanimous report and its members encountered considerable difficulty in reaching unanimity. After hearings in Washington, London, Palestine, and various European countries they did much of their drafting in Lausanne. It
soon became obvious that any report that would be unanimous must be full of compromises. At this point Crum would call up Niles in the White House, informing the latter of the problems and requesting his suggestions. Niles would then consult with Zionist leaders. The final report was not satisfactory to the Zionists, the Arabs, the British, or the White House. Nevertheless, it contained one feature that softened the Zionistsí disappointment. It recommended the immediate authorization for the immigration of one hundred thousand Jews into Palestine. The provision that Palestine in the future should not be either a Jewish or an Arab State, but a State which protects equally the rights of Moslems, Jews, and Christians was not so pleasing to the Zionists.
The report was immediately rejected by the British Government, which refused to issue the authorization for the admission of the hundred thousand Jews. Politicians and the press of the
United States began to berate the British for refusing to accept the advice of a Committee which they had helped to create and again British and American relations began to undergo a strain.
In early June 1946, the President established a so-called Cabinet Committee on Palestine and Related Problems, composed of the Secretaries of State, War, and Treasury to assist him in carrying out the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. In early July the alternates of this Committee, headed by Henry Grady, representing the Secretary of State, went to London to discuss with the British Government how those recommendations could best be implemented. They returned with a scheme of provincial autonomy for Palestine preparatory to a possible bi-national state or to partition. The President refused to accept the suggestion of the Cabinet Committee and on October 4, 1946, he issued a statement urging that substantial
Jewish immigration be resumed at once to Palestine, indicating also that he was preparing to make a recommendation to Congress that our immigration laws be liberalized in order to permit the entry into the United States of displaced persons, and expressing his willingness, in case a workable solution for Palestine could be found, to recommend to Congress a plan for economic assistance to the area.
The issuance by the President of this statement just at the time that the British Government was carrying on extremely sensitive conversations with the Arabs and the Jews added to the strain that the Palestine problem was placing on British-American relations just when it was important that our two countries should be working closely together. When it became apparent to the British that they could find no solution for the Palestine problem, which included that of the admission of large numbers of Jews, that would be agreeable both to the Arabs
and to the Zionists, and that they could find no solution that would be satisfactory both to themselves and to the White House, they decided to request the calling of a special session of the General Assembly of the United Nations to which they could surrender the mandate for Palestine which the dissolved League of Nations had given them and to place the borders of Palestine and its problems on the United Nations.
We were appalled at the idea. How could an organization of some fifty-odd nations be expected to solve a problem of this kind? It seemed to us that the British should at least work out what they considered to be the best solution and then present their plan to the United Nations on approval. I myself was pleased at the idea of the matter being turned over to the United Nations. To me the "Palestine problem," regardless of the kind of decision that might be made with respect to it, was one that would be sure to give rise to strife, hatreds,
recriminations, intrigue, and political machinations on a domestic and international level for years to come, and I did not want it to be also our particular problem.
After a series of exchanges between the British and ourselves, it was decided that the British would call for the Special Session; that the Special Session would appoint a committee to study the Palestine problem; and that the committee would make its report to the regular session of the General Assembly which was scheduled to meet in September 1947. The British Government took the position that it would not try to present a solution of its own to the Special Session since it had not been able to find a solution that would please both the Arabs and the Zionists and it could recommend no solution that would be acceptable to both parties.
Dean Acheson and I had a number of talks about the submission of the Palestine problem to the United Nations and the methods of handling
it there. I think that probably I helped to convince him that it was extremely important that in the years to come it could be said that such decisions as had been made, had been international decisions not American ones. During our conversations, I took the position that the members of the committee to be appointed by the General Assembly to study the problem should be nationals of countries which were not permanent members of the Security Council--countries which were most likely not to be easily subjected to pressure by either the Arabs or the Zionists. I said that to me it seemed from a historical view important that the members of the committee be regarded as unprejudiced and completely fair during the course of their investigations and studies. Mr. Acheson agreed and made the appropriate recommendations.
I spent a considerable part of the time in an advisory capacity at the Special Session which, if my memory serves me correctly, met in New York
in April 1947. I was deeply impressed by the efficiency of the Zionist lobby. Drawing on their enormous sources of information, they seemed to have studied the countries over which for one reason or another they might have the most influence, and they had apparently their own slate. They flooded the lobbies and the halls, buttonholing delegates and engaging in persuasive and sometimes almost menacing conversation. The United States had no formal slate of candidates for the Commission as it was called.
During our conferences in the Department we had, however, selected some ten countries as illustrative of the countries which we thought might make good members. The Zionists worked hard on their slate and seemed to have had considerable success. I can recall their eagerness to have Guatemala included and their cheers when its election was announced. Only two of the members on our illustrative list--Canada
and Sweden--were elected. I did not believe that the Zionists were pleased at the election of Iran, a Moslem country. Nevertheless, Iran had thus far not displayed the kind of antagonism toward the Zionists that had been manifested by the Arabs.
The Arabs, after observing what had taken place at the Special Session in New York and after studying the composition of the Commission took the position that the Commission was prejudiced even before it began to function, and proceeded to boycott it in New York, Palestine, and elsewhere. Most of the witnesses that appeared before the Commission therefore, except for several Christian groups and British officials in Palestine, were Zionists, or Zionist sympathizers.
I shall not go into details regarding the report of the Commission. It presented two plans: a so-called Majority Plan and a Minority Plan. The Majority Plan, which was supported by seven of the eleven members, provided for the partition
of Palestine into an Arab State, a Jewish State, and the city of Jerusalem. The Arab and Jewish States were to become independent if my memory is correct, on September 1, 1949. During the interim, the United Kingdom was to be responsible for the administration of Palestine under the auspices of the United Nations. During the interim also, 150,000 Jewish immigrants would be accepted by the Jewish State. The two States, though independent, would enter into an economic union to be worked out by treaty. The United Nations would exercise an International Trusteeship over the city of Jerusalem.
The Minority Plan, which was presented by three members--India, Iran, and Yugoslavia--provided for the establishment, after a transitional period of three years, of a Federal State for Palestine with Jerusalem as the capital. During those three years the area would be administered by an authority to be set up by the General Assembly.
The Majority Plan was the one that the General Assembly considered. Little attention was paid to the Minority Plan, I realized that what I had been fearing was at hand. It was clear to me, and I am sure that it was equally clear to the Zionists and everyone else well-acquainted with the problems of Palestine and the general situation in the Middle East, that the Majority Plan could not be successful. The division into two states as planned was not clear-cut. In each state there were enclaves of the other state; passageways from these enclaves or islands to the parent state could cause endless problems even though the two states had friendly relations. The difficulties in policing and maintaining order in such a conglomeration, particularly in an atmosphere of hostility would be almost infinite. The problems connected with the defense of such tangled states would also be grave. The idea of an Economic Union and political independence was also
impractical. Would, for instance, immigration be an economic matter to be regulated by the Union or a political matter to be regulated by the individual state?
Furthermore, how was the plan to be implemented? In spite of the efforts to divide on an ethnic basis, at least 400,000 Arabs would be in the Jewish State. The Arabs in Palestine would certainly refuse to cooperate in setting up their state; the Arabs of the surrounding states would be likely to support them. There would surely be armed clashes. Would the United Nations be willing to send its forces into the area to subdue with arms a people, the majority of whom did not want their country to be divided? Would then pressure be brought on the United States to send in its armed forces? The British had made it clear they would not try to implement any plan which was not acceptable to both the Arabs and the Zionists. Or would the United Nations, after approving the division of Palestine, do nothing
with regard to its implementation and let the people in Palestine fight it out among themselves? If they should do so, I feared that the Arab armies of the neighboring countries might come in and begin to exterminate the Jews. That we could not tolerate. We then, of course, would find ourselves at war with the Arab world.
I was not surprised that even though the Zionists were not pleased with all the details of the Majority Plan, they were delighted with it as an instrument with the aid of which they could now establish a Jewish State. They were not worried about details. If only the General Assembly would approve it with certain amendments, which they hoped with the aid of the American delegation would be injected, they could then set about and with their own determination, skills, and good organization transform this impossible state proposed by the plan into a larger different and more viable organism.
I discussed my concerns with Mr. Lovett, following my return from Greece in the early days of September. Mr. Lovett said that he would make an appointment for me to have a talk with General Marshall on the subject. It was arranged for the General to receive me some two days later, on September 15, I believe, in New York. When I arrived in the Generalís office for my appointment, I found that I was not to have a private talk with him. In his office were some of the members of our delegation to the General Assembly: Mrs. Roosevelt; Mr. Fahy, the Legal Adviser of the Department of State; General [John H.] Hildring, Assistant Secretary of State for the Occupied Areas; and Foster Dulles.
General Marshall introduced me and said that he had asked me to talk to him and to the members of the delegation regarding the view which my office had with regard to the Majority Plan. I was not prepared for a briefing of this kind. Nevertheless,
I set forth my views as best I could. I explained why, in our opinion, the Majority Plan was unworkable; I pointed out that the establishment with our support of a Jewish State in Palestine, unless such a State would be acceptable to the Arab world, would cause much bloodshed and suffering, would alienate the people of that world who have been placing much trust in the United States, might result in the loss to the free world of the use of the great resources of the Middle East, and that the continued existence of such a State could cause suffering, expense, bickering, and damage to the United States internally and internationally for many years to come. I said that undoubtedly the Soviet Union would try to take advantage of the situation by penetrating into the Middle East.
When I had finished my brief talk, the Secretary turned to Mrs. Roosevelt and asked if she would like to comment. She said, "Come now, come, Mr. Henderson, I think youíre exaggerating
the dangers. You are too pessimistic. A few years ago Ireland was considered to be a permanent problem that could not be solved. Then the Irish Republic was established and the problem vanished. Iím confident that when a Jewish State is once set up, the Arabs will see the light; they will quiet down; and Palestine will no longer be a problem." Iím sure that Mrs. Roosevelt didnít know that my first post in the Service was Dublin.
The Secretary then invited the other members present to give their opinion. General Hilldring and Mr. Fahy said that they were inclined to agree with Mrs. Roosevelt; Mr. Dulles said that he preferred to make no comment.
MCKINZIE: He was thinking about 1948, himself, probably.
HENDERSON: Well, yes, he was undoubtedly thinking about 1948. He was a supporter of Mr. Dewey who
was running for nomination on the Republican ticket, and as you will recall, Dewey and President Truman were competing with one another for the favor of the Zionists. Mr. Dulles was quite aware that if he had made a statement expressing concern about the feasibility of the Majority Plan, the Zionists would know about it within a few hours. General Hilldring would have told Dave Niles, and Niles would have passed the news along to his Zionist friends. I did not realize until later at the close ties that existed between Hilldring and Niles. Hilldring was accustomed to keep Niles informed of developments relating to Palestine in the Department and in New York and to look to Niles for suggestions and advice.
Following our discussion, Ambassador Austin appeared and a more formal meeting of the United States delegation was convened. At the Secretaryís invitation, I stayed on and participated to an extent in the meeting.
On my way back to Washington I came to the
conclusion that in the informal "give and take" that had taken place during the discussion, I had failed to give an adequate well-organized presentation of the views of the office and of myself. Upon my return, therefore, I called in the concerned members of the office and we spent several days preparing a lengthy memorandum entitled "Certain Considerations Against Advocacy by the United States of the Majority Plan." This memorandum also contained suggestions for the tactics which we might pursue in view of the fact that, following the meeting of the delegation in New York, the Secretary had already informed the First Committee of the Assembly that the United States was giving serious weight to the majority proposals.
I handed this memorandum to the Secretary under cover of a note, saying that when I had gone to New York I was not really prepared to enter into a full discussion regarding the attitude which our Government should take toward the Report of the
United Nations Commission, and that I had, therefore, decided to let him have the full views of my office and myself in memorandum form. In transmitting the memorandum I again assured him that the members of my office were endeavoring loyally to carry out such decisions as he had made or might make in such a manner as to minimize so far as possible the damage to our relations and interests in the Middle East.
The fact that I had given the Secretary the memorandum eased my conscience somewhat. At the same time I had the feeling I was increasing the burden that was already resting on the Secretary. I realized that he was not happy at the role that history was calling upon him to play. On one occasion when I had approached the Secretary regarding a problem that I was facing in regard to Palestine, he had said that he would be grateful if I would take up matters relating to Palestine with the Under Secretary rather than with him.
Palestine, he said, had become more of an internal than an international problem and had to be faced in a way quite different from most foreign affairs problems. On this occasion, however, I felt that I must present our views direct to the Secretary.
I believe that the Secretary had either shown my memorandum to the President or referred to it in talking with the President. In any event several days after I had given it to the Secretary, I was summoned to the White House. With the President was Clark Clifford, Dave Niles, and several other White House aides whose names I do not recall.
MCKINZIE: Clark Clifford was present?
HENDERSON: Yes, he took the lead in the conversation. According to my recollection he said that it was the understanding of the President that I was opposed to the United States adopting a position of supporting the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine. It would be appreciated, therefore,
if I would give my reasons. After I had set forth some of my reasons, I was cross-examined. What were the sources of my views? Were they merely my opinions which might be based on prejudice or bias? Did I think that my judgment and that of members of my office were superior to that of the intelligent group that the United Nations had selected to study and report on the Palestine problem?
It seemed to me that the group was trying to humiliate and break me down in the presence of the President. I tried, however, to hold my ground. I pointed out that the views which I had been expressing were those, not only of myself, but of all our legations and consular offices in the Middle East and of all members of the Department of State who had responsibilities for that area. Many of them had had more experience than I in dealing with Middle Eastern Affairs. It so happened, however, that I was acting for
the time being as spokesman for the area.
We realized, I said, that in deciding how to deal with the current problems relating to Palestine, the President had to consider the domestic as well as the international aspect of his decisions. We, in the Department of State and the Foreign Service, considered it to be our duty to acquaint the Secretary of State and through him the White House of what in our opinion the effect on the international position and interests of the United States would be if the United States should embark on a policy of supporting the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine.
The cross-questioning became more and more rough and finally the President stood up. "Oh, hell," he muttered, "Iím leaving." From his bearing and facial expression that evening I was not at all convinced that even at that late date the President had made the final and definite decision to go all out for the establishment of
the Jewish State. Although I was not in a position, of course, to know what his real feelings were, I had the impression that he realized that the Congress, the press, the Democratic Party, and aroused American public opinion in general, would turn against him if he should withdraw his support for the Zionist cause. On the other hand, it seemed to me, he was worried about what the long-term effect would be on the United States if he should continue to support the policies advocated by the Zionists. He was almost desperately hoping, I thought, that the Department of State would tell him that the setting up in Palestine of Arab and Jewish States as proposed by the U.N. Commission would be in the interest of the United States. This, however, the State Department thus far had not been able to do.
In the latter part of November l947, it appeared that the General Assembly would soon be ready to cast its vote for or against the much
amended "Majority Plan." The debates had been heated. There had been a considerable amount of recrimination. Our delegation in New York had been doggedly supporting the Plan although it had been able to insert a number of amendments, some of which had in our opinion been improvements. It had turned down or merely ignored some of the suggestions emanating from the State Department with the approval of the Secretary.
I think that it was on November 22 or 23, that I received notice that the Arab Ministers in Washington wished to call on me in a body to ascertain what the attitude of the United States with respect to the voting would be. I immediately got in touch with Mr. Lovett, told him of the impending visit, and said that I would like to know what I should tell the Ministers. He said that he would consult the President. On the afternoon of the 24th, Mr. Lovett told me that he had talked with the President, that the President had said that although the United States
delegation would of course vote for the majority report as amended, he did not wish to use threats or improper pressure of any kind on other delegations. We were not to try to coerce other delegations to follow our lead.
When I received the group of Arab Ministers, I told them what the Presidentís instructions were. I said that we would vote for the Report but that we wanted the other delegations to feel free to vote for what they thought was right. The Ministers left, greatly relieved.
A couple of days later I was chagrined when reports came to me that members of our delegation and other Americans holding governmental positions were engaging in arm-twisting, threats, and various forms of coercion in order to prevail on our delegations to vote for the Report. I found that two members of the Supreme Court had sent a telegram to the President of the Philippines requesting him for the good of relations between the Philippines
and the United States to instruct his delegation to vote in favor of the Majority Plan. Both the Firestone Rubber Company, which had large rubber plantations in Liberia, and the Liberian Minister were concerned about Zionist threats of the boycotting of Liberian rubber if the Liberian delegate did not vote for the Plan. The Greek Minister came to me very upset. He said that both the Zionists and representatives of our Government in New York were stating that unless the Greeks voted for the Majority Plan, Greek aid would be seriously affected and the United States would have less interest in the maintenance of Greek independence.
Finally I called up Herschel Johnson, Austinís deputy whom I had known for many years. I said, "Whatís going on up there? We are being told here in Washington that the Americans at the United Nations are engaging in a lot of arm-twisting in order to get votes for the Majority Plan."
Herschel, who was under extreme tension at the time, burst into tears. He said, "Loy, forgive me for breaking down like this, but Dave Niles called us up here a couple of days ago and said that the President had instructed him to tell us that, by God, he wanted us to get busy and get all the votes that we possibly could; that there would be hell if the voting went the wrong way. We are working, therefore, under terrific strain trying to carry out the Presidentís orders." It was difficult for me to believe that the President had instructed Niles to give that kind of order to our delegation.
MCKINZIE: To put it in bluntest terms, you believe that Dave Niles operated without the Presidentís authority?
HENDERSON: I cannot believe that the President authorized Niles to give such a strong order. It might be that complaints had reached the White House that our delegates in New York were sitting on their hands while the Arabs and their friends were working
hard for votes, and that unless our delegation would display more interest in the outcome, the Majority Plan would be defeated. The President might then have authorized Niles to instruct our delegation without arm-twisting or the use of undue pressure to do some lobbying for the Majority Plan, and Niles might have couched the Presidentís instructions in much stronger language.
Well, I think my time is about up. I can talk to you further about this if you like for me to do so.
Second Oral History Interview with Loy W. Henderson, Washington, D.C., on July 5, 1973. By Richard D. McKinzie, Harry S. Truman Library.
MCKINZIE: In our previous session you mentioned, but you didnít elaborate on the work of the U.S. delegation at the U.N. I think you were present as a political adviser, were you not, when the political committee of the U.N. took up its discussions on Palestine in 1947?
HENDERSON: No, I did not serve as a member or as an adviser to the delegation. While the political committee of the United Nations was considering the Report of the United Nations Commission to Palestine, I was trying to carry out my duties in the Department as Director for Near Eastern and African Affairs. Those duties, of course, included my acting as adviser to the Secretary and the Under Secretary on Palestine and on other areas of the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa. I did spend some time at the United Nations as an adviser during the Special Session on Palestine,
but if my memory serves me correctly, the only time that I went to the United Nations during its regular session in the latter part of 1947, was on September 15--I believe that was the date--when at Mr. Lovettís request I called on General Marshall in order to inform him why the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs thought that the United States should not support the Majority Plan of the U.N. Commission on Palestine. As I told you during our previous conversation, when I arrived at the Secretaryís office in New York, I found there most of the members of our delegation, and they participated in my discussion with the Secretary. Following that discussion, the delegation held one of its meetings and the Secretary invited me to take part in it. My presence at the meeting may have caused you to believe that I had served as an adviser to the delegation.
HENDERSON: Well, I think that I have told you of my recollection of what took place at the meeting.
MCKINZIE: Of course thereís a considerable aftermath to all that, and Warren Austin had to make a speech. You mentioned it in connection with Margaret Trumanís statement in her book.
MCKINZIE: And you have not discussed that point.
HENDERSON: I havenít discussed the Austin statement?
MCKINZIE: No, you have not.
HENDERSON: Well, as you know, on November 29, 1947, the General Assembly passed a lengthy and detailed resolution calling for the division of Palestine into three parts as suggested by the Majority Plan. This was done in the face of warnings that neither the Arabs in Palestine nor the Arab States would cooperate in the implementation of such division
and that, in view of the Arab attitude, raw force must be used on an extensive scale if the resolution was to be implemented. Among the provisions of the resolution were the following:
1. The British shall terminate their mandate as soon as possible, but by August 1, 1948, the mandate should be ended and all British troops withdrawn from Palestine.
2. The British shall announce as far in advance as possible the dates on which they intend to terminate their mandate and their schedules for the withdrawal of their troops from the various parts of Palestine.
3. The General Assembly shall set up a Commission composed of one representative of each of five States, which will gradually take over the administration of Palestine under the guidance of the Security Council as the British withdrew. The Assembly elected the following States be represented on this Commission: Bolivia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Panama, and the Philippines.
4. The Security Council shall be charged with the implementation of the Plan. If it should find that during the period of transition from British control to the beginning of the functioning of the new States certain circumstances should develop which constitute a threat to the peace, it was empowered to take the appropriate measures provided under the
Charter and the Resolution of the General Assembly that might be necessary to enable the Commission to carry on its work.
The above provisions which I have only roughly outlined, were only a few of several scores of stipulations in the resolution.
The British, who were fully aware of the contents of the resolution, informed us just prior to its passage that their schedule called for the withdrawal of troops for certain regions to begin at the end of February 1948 and for the withdrawal from all of Palestine to be completed by July 31. According to their schedule, the civil administration and the mandate would be brought to an end on May 15, 1948.
During the early months of 1948, the Security Council worked under considerable strain to carry out many of the detailed instructions of the resolution. It became increasingly clear to us in the Department, however, that, as the result not only of the refusal of the Arabs in Palestine to cooperate in the setting up of Arab and Jewish
States, but of their active opposition to such partition, the ingenious plan so laboriously developed by the General Assembly could not be carried out.
By the end of February we had become convinced that when the British terminated their mandate on May 15, there would be no organizations in Palestine prepared in an orderly fashion to carry out the partition plans and to take over the administration of the area. There would be confusion, armed strife, and terrorism. Reports coming in from our diplomatic and consular representatives in the Middle East indicated the likelihood that some of the Arab States might send in their armed forces to help their fellow Arabs. If such forces should enter Palestine in large numbers, the United States might feel compelled to send in its forces to prevent the extermination of the Jews, many of whom were
survivors of Hitlerís atrocities.
If the Jews should win they could extend, in the absence of an Arab State, their territory far beyond the bounds established by the resolution with the result that the world might be faced for an indefinite period with hundreds of thousands of homeless Arab refugees, and the new State, born in an atmosphere of hate and vindictiveness, would survive over the years only with the financial aid and the political or even military aid of the United States. In such an atmosphere the Middle East would be a deeply troubled area for many years.
It was with such gloomy forebodings that members of the Department, including in particular those on duty in the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, began to think of what the alternatives of our present policy might be. We went through the various suggestions that had been made over the years for the solution of the Arab-
Jewish problem in Palestine. None of them looked promising. Nevertheless, we felt that there should be prepared an alternative policy for presentation when there was no longer any doubt that our present policy was leading to violence, bloodshed, human suffering, and possibly even to a war.
The ideas contained in the document did not just come out of my head. I did not merely sit down and write it. It was worked on by members of my office, of the Office of Special Political Affairs, of the Legal Adviserís Office, and by personnel from the economic areas. The Secretary and Mr. Lovett were aware that we were looking for alternatives.
Nevertheless, since I was the driving force behind the document, since I contributed to it, and since I approved the final draft, I did not hesitate to take personal responsibility for it when the question of authorship was raised.
In the early part of March, after discussions with my colleagues in other offices, I took the
document to Mr. Lovett. I told him that it was a proposed speech for Ambassador Austin to make when it had become completely clear that the plan contained in the resolution of the General Assembly could not be carried out by peaceful means. The essence of the speech was to the effect that since there was general agreement that the plan could not be carried out by peaceful means, the United States believed that further steps should be taken at once not only to maintain the peace but to afford the Jews and Arabs in Palestine a further opportunity to come to an agreement with regard to the future government of Palestine. The United States, therefore, proposed that a temporary trusteeship under the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations be established for Palestine. Such a trusteeship would be without prejudice to rights and claims of the Arabs and Jews or to the character of the eventual political settlement.
In order to put this plan into effect the United States proposed that a special session of the General Assembly be called and that the Palestine Commission be instructed to suspend its efforts to implement the partition.
Several days later Mr. Lovett, according to my recollection, told Mr. Rusk and me that the President had read the document, approved it, and had suggested that it be sent to Ambassador Austin with the suggestion that when he came to the conclusion that the time had come for him to deliver the speech, he was authorized to do so. On the afternoon of March 18 or in the early morning of March 19, Mr. Rusk told me that Ambassador Austin had told him that he thought that the time had come to make the speech and asked me what I thought about it, and I said that I agreed.
Several days later Mr. Rusk came into my office very upset. He said that the President
was furious that the speech had been made without his authority. I said that it had been my understanding that he had seen the document, had approved it, and had said that Ambassador Austin should be authorized to deliver it when he felt it would be appropriate. I said that the President should be informed that I was responsible. If anyone in the Department was to be held responsible for the delivery of the speech, it should be I. I had originated the idea; I helped to draft the document. I wanted to be held personally responsible.
MCKINZIE: Wasnít it Mr. Lovett who had taken the document to the President in the first place?
HENDERSON: That was what Iíd always thought. It was to Mr. Lovett that I had given the document and with whom I had discussed it. He, rather than the Secretary, usually talked about the problems of Palestine with the President. It was he who
told me what the Presidentís decision with respect to the document was. Of course, it is possible that Lovett had given the document to the Secretary and the Secretary had taken it to the President. But the Secretary usually liked to stay in the background when the Palestine problem became active.
I could understand the Presidentís feelings of anger and frustration. We later learned in the State Department that on the evening before Austin delivered the speech, Dr. Weizmann, the head or former head of the Jewish Agency, had called upon the President secretly, and that the President had assured him that we were not changing our policy with respect to Palestine. Then within less than twenty-four hours, Ambassador Austin had made the speech that represented a complete reversal of our attitude.
How, one might ask, could the President have given the assurances to Weizmann after he had
authorized Austin to make the speech? One explanation might be that a week or more had passed since he had approved the speech, and he may have thought that Austin had decided that the situation did not call for a change in policy. He might also have thought he would be approached again before the speech was delivered. I was deeply distressed that I had contributed to the placing of the President in such an embarrassing position.
I believe that the Secretary was not in Washington at the time that Ambassador Austin delivered the speech. When he returned shortly afterward, he and Mr. Lovett had some talks with the President, and they convinced him, I believe, that we in the Department honestly thought that we were carrying out his instructions. I have heard that the Secretary assumed responsibility for the muddle. It would be like him to have done so. He was not the kind of leader who would try
to place the blame on those serving under him if things went wrong. In any event, if the President had any rancor toward me, he did not show it during the months and years that followed. A couple of months later he appointed me Ambassador to India and some three years later, Ambassador to Iran. He uniformly treated me with courtesy and consideration. I even received a kind letter from him some months before his death congratulating me on my eightieth birthday.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall the mechanics of getting out from under that speech that had been made? Did you have to take any responsibility for that then?
HENDERSON: The resolution that had been presented by Ambassador Austin did not, of course, pass. When our representatives at the Security Council learned what the feelings of the President were, they gave it only pro forma support. On March 25
the President made a statement explaining our policy with regard to Palestine. He emphasized that the United States proposal for a trusteeship under the Trusteeship Council was not intended as a substitute for partition; it was merely an effort to fill the vacuum soon to be created by the termination of the British mandate on May 15, and that a trusteeship would not prejudice the character of a final settlement. To avert a tragedy in Palestine, he said, he was now asking Ambassador Austin to urge upon the Security Council that the representatives of the Arabs and the Jews be called at once to the Security Council table to arrange a truce. The United States, he continued, was prepared to lend every appropriate assistance to the United Nations in reaching a peaceful settlement. I have forgotten who prepared this document. Certain sections of it were discussed in our office, but I do not believe that I saw the full draft. I know that we did
not prepare it.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall what part, if any, you had to play when subsequent events resulted in Israelís declaration of its nationhood? Can you recall where you were?
HENDERSON: Yes, I was still in the Department when the State of Israel came into being at 6:01 P.M., May 14, Washington time, l948, and United States recognition of the new State was effected ten minutes later through an announcement made by President Truman. My role in connection with the recognition was negligible. It was limited to a few minutes of discussion with several members of the Legal Adviserís Office who had been charged with preparing a memorandum for the White House relating to the announcement that was being planned. I left before the memorandum was completed and was told that I was to mention the matter to no one.
Early in the afternoon of May l4 I was authorized to prepare and send out a brief circular top-secret telegram to our diplomatic and consular offices in the Arab countries warning them that the United States might extend de jure recognition to Israel within a few hours.
On May 17, I was also authorized to hand to Mr. Eliahu Epstein, the Washington representative of the Jewish Agency, who had begun to act as the agent of the Provisional Government of Israel, a note, dated May 14, which contained the text of the Presidentís announcement of recognition.
I may add that I had deep respect for Epstein. He was always a gentleman in dealing with the Department and I considered him to be a man of integrity who was holding a position in which at times the Zionist leaders in the United States were pulling him one way and headquarters of the Jewish Agency in Palestine were pulling another way.
MCKINZIE: Did you ever have any reason to think that because of the position that you had taken on the Palestine problem that that had some effect on your appointment as Ambassador to India?
HENDERSON: Oh, yes, without any doubt, it was responsible for my transfer from the Department. It also cast a shadow over me that was never fully dispelled. Literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who were devoted to the establishment and continued prosperity and development of the Jewish State have continued to associate my name with what
they considered to be the nefarious "pro-Arab" group in the State Department who had opposed the establishment of such a State.
During the years 1945-1948, various of my Jewish friends had tried to warn me that I was making powerful enemies who could make life miserable for me. I can recall that a Jewish member of Congress with whom I had friendly relations, had given me a fair warning. He had said, "Loy, I want to tell you that you will be in deep trouble if you continue to adhere to what is believed to be your present attitude with regard to the establishment of the Jewish State. Canít you at least modify your stand and just let affairs take their natural course? If you continue to advise our Government against supporting the setting up of a Jewish State, your career can be ruined, and I donít know what else might happen to you."
I thanked him because I felt that he was not
threatening me but, on the contrary, was trying to be helpful, and I told him that in my present position in the Department of State it was my duty to advise the Secretary of State on problems relating to the Middle East. I would not be doing my duty if I should allow considerations of my personal career or well-being to prevent me from telling him what my office, which was composed of personnel well-acquainted with problems of the Middle East, and I believed to be the policies that would be in the interests of the United States, of humanity, and of peace. I added that I need not tell him that I was not anti-Jewish and that I was interested not only in the welfare of the United States but in that of the Jewish people.
During the latter part of 1947 and the first six months of 1948, thousands of letters came into the State Department demanding my immediate dismissal. Similar letters also piled up, I assume,
in the White House. I was attacked on the floors of Congress, and on one occasion a delegation of members of Congress, I understand, went to the White House in order to insist that I be dropped from the Department of State.
It became clear by the middle of 1948 that my continued presence in the Department represented a liability both for the Administration and for the Department.
MCKINZIE: And then, of course, your appointment to India was in Ď48.
HENDERSON: Yes, in June, I was asked if I would be willing to go as Ambassador to Turkey and had replied that I was prepared to go to the field in any capacity agreeable to the President and the Secretary. Several days later while I was in California attending a seminar at Stanford University, I received a telephone call from the Department inquiring if I would be prepared to
go to India instead of to Turkey, and again I stated that I would do whatever the President and the Secretary wanted me to do. So in early July I was appointed Ambassador to India.
Upon my return to the Department I was told that the shift was made because some of the more extreme American Zionists would not be happy if I would be serving at a post in the Middle East so close to Palestine. The irony of the change was that George Wadsworth, who was to go to India and then shifted to Turkey, was a highly qualified and experienced expert on the Middle East, who for many years had been opposed to Zionist ambitions with regard to Palestine.
MCKINZIE: Could you talk a little bit about the State Department in general on this subject? I donít think we mentioned that in our last conversation, Mr. Truman, I think, did say in his Memoirs, something about his feeling that there was considerable anti-Jewish sentiment.
HENDERSON: I encountered no anti-Jewish sentiment in the State Department. Most of my colleagues, I believe, and I am including personnel in offices other than my own office, thought that the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine by sheer force would cause endless trouble for Arabs, Jews, and the United States and might eventually even lead to wars in which the United States might become involved. The Policy Planning Staff in the Department, according to my recollection, made a study of the Palestine problem which resulted in recommendations similar to those made by us.
MCKINZIE: Did you have discussions with the Policy Planning Staff?
HENDERSON: The Policy Planning Staff called in members from various offices in the Department to testify at its hearings. I talked to them as a representative of my office. Its findings, I believe, were
not widely known. I doubt that they were ever published. That is understandable because they were primarily for the use of the Secretary and Under Secretary and not for the general public.
MCKINZIE: But, nevertheless, there were a number of other people who you believed arrived independently at the same position.
HENDERSON: Of course, my influence in the State Department was not so great that its other members were not able to form their own independent decisions. Although I cannot speak for him, and so far as I can remember he did not tell me what his views were, I was confident that Dean Rusk also thought that the establishment by force of a Jewish State in Palestine would be a mistake. Although both Dean Acheson or Bob Lovett were careful never to approve the views expressed by my office, they were continually asking for them and encouraging us to give them voluntarily. If
they had told us not to give them, we would of course not have done so. They passed many of our memoranda to the Secretary and to the President. I think that in general both they and the Secretary were of the opinion that our concerns had a certain amount of substance.
MCKINZIE: How much in your discussions with the people in the White House, or even in the State Department, did you talk about the inevitability of some kind of war if this thing happened?
HENDERSON: In most of my discussions I took the position that in the absence of an arrangement acceptable to both Jews and Arabs for the establishment of a Jewish State, a Jewish State would be set up by force; there would certainly be wars of some kind. I said during my talk at the White House that the Arabs in the Middle East outnumbered the Jews to such an extent that even if, in the initial clash, the Jews would have the advantage and be able to establish their State, they would be
facing a hostile Arab world many times the size of the Jewish State for an indefinite number of years to come. I did not see how such a State could long survive without our continued aid, and there was a danger that sooner or later we would become involved in one of the wars that seemed to me to be inevitable.
MCKINZIE: Before you assumed your Ambassadorship to India, had there been discussions in the State Department as to what kind of not only diplomatic relations, but what kind of American assistance should go to the new State of Israel?
HENDERSON: There were no talks in which I participated regarding the kind of diplomatic relations which we should have with Israel. I do recall that the White House thought that our envoy to Israel should have the rank of Ambassador even though our recognition had been de facto. These decisions had been made in the White House and were carried
out in pursuance of White House instructions.
It was taken for granted that the new State should have aid at once and that it would not be self-supporting for many years. I do not recall the extent to which my office participated in arranging for such aid. I was in the office only a few weeks after Israelís independence had been declared. There was of course some hope, which turned out to be realized, that wealthy Jews in the United States and throughout the world would contribute generously to Israelís support.
MCKINZIE: If we might pursue that chronologically a little bit, after the initial war and some semblance of at least non-violence in the area, there were all kinds of plans to develop the area, I guess on the theory that economic prosperity would tend to blunt antagonisms between . . .
HENDERSON: When you speak of the area are you referring to the whole Middle East?
MCKINZIE: The whole Middle East, yes.
HENDERSON: Yes, there were hopes that by giving aid to the Arab countries we could show our friendliness. I tried again and again in talking with the Arab Ambassadors and Ministers with whom I was dealing at the time, to convince them that the United States Government and people had only friendly feelings toward the Arabs, that our position with regard to Palestine and to the establishment and recognition of the Jewish State was not anti-Arab. We were merely trying to help an unfortunate people to whom history had been unkind, to survive as a nation, and we had been hoping that could be done in the framework of friendship with the Arab world.
MCKINZIE: Did you happen to know Edwin Locke, who was a special Ambassador to the Middle East, or he had a kind of roving commission from President Truman in 1951 and 1952, at which time you were in Iran and
occupied with other problems?
HENDERSON: The name is familiar, but I canít remember him or his mission.
MCKINZIE: In 1952, he recommended a massive plan of assistance for the entire Middle East, a massive plan of economic assistance . . .
HENDERSON: I do vaguely remember something of the kind.
MCKINZIE: . . . to the highest levels of the State Department and I recall it was checked in the White House and then it was rejected, but by this time you had little dealing with that part of it.
HENDERSON: No, I wasnít in the Department at that time. I had my hands full in Iran.
MCKINZIE: Yes, I see. Did you follow closely the mission of Gordon Clapp, who was appointed by
the United Nations to go to the Middle East, and he took an international team with him to discuss the development of the Jordan River and the number of . . .
HENDERSON: Again I have only a vague recollection of that mission. Quite a number of plans were proposed during the years as a result of our desire to see the Middle East working together in efforts to develop the area.
MCKINZIE: I think that the last time we talked you had mentioned something about your experience in India, but I think we mentioned it only in passing. You mentioned India in the context of aid, I think, when we discussed India before.
HENDERSON: Yes, I think we did refer to India in connection with aid programs.
MCKINZIE: But of course there were quite a number of other issues involved in India at that time. Later
Secretary Dulles, after the Truman Administration, said in effect that it was immoral for any nation to take a neutralist position when there were such important ideological conflicts in the world, and yet here you were Ambassador to a new nation, which was trying to get itself together. How do you feel about Secretary Dullesí later contention?
HENDERSON: I do not recollect that Mr. Dulles ever went so far as to make the statement that you just accredited to him. However, I must say frankly that I donít think that India was following a really neutral position. I think that Indiaís professed neutrality for a good many years at least, was not genuine. Although many of the Indian people and even some of the Indian political leaders had friendly feelings for the United States and the American people, the Government of India was inclined to regard the United
States with suspicion and dislike.
MCKINZIE: Could you elaborate a little?
HENDERSON: Yes. When I was on my way to India in the autumn of 1948 to present my credentials, I was directed to stop off in London because Mr. Bevin, the British Foreign Minister, wished to have a talk with me. While in London I had a series of conversations with various members of the Foreign Office, many of whom I had met in different parts of the world during my years in the Service. Prior to my departure Mr. Bevin gave a dinner for me which was attended by members of the Foreign Office and officials in other Ministries who were working on matters pertaining to India. Sir Archibald Nye, who had recently been appointed High Commissioner to India, came down from Scotland to attend. As you are aware, the members of the British Commonwealth exchanged "High Commissioners" instead of "Ambassadors."
After the dinner Mr. Bevin invited Sir Archie and me into an adjoining room for a private conversation. Mr. Bevin told me that recently an Imperial Conference had been held in London attended by representatives of various member nations of the British Commonwealth. He said that Nehru, who was there representing India, had astonished other representatives at the Conference by his vituperative attacks on the United States. He added that Nehru had threatened to withdraw from the Commonwealth if the United Kingdomís relations with the United States would continue to be closer than those with India, and that he and other representatives present had some difficulty in quieting Nehru and making him more cooperative.
Bevin then told me that it was extremely important to the United Kingdom for India to remain in the Commonwealth and, therefore, it would like to do what it could to assuage Nehruís feelings.
He wondered whether I would mind if Sir Archie, after his arrival in India, would refrain from showing any particular friendliness toward me and the American Embassy, and if from time to time he would be publicly critical of the United States.
I told Mr. Bevin that I did not think that the idea was good and that I would mind very much. I said that I thought Nehru would understand sooner or later that we were playing some kind of game. I did not think that the United States and the United Kingdom should have friendly relations in one country and unfriendly in another. I would have no objection if the High Commissioner would have rather formal relations with me and if our Embassy and the members of the High Commissionerís staff would exercise a certain amount of restraint in our social relationships, but I did not think that we should be critical of one another or maintain the kind of unfriendly relations that might
give rise to comment. Bevin deferred to my point of view and I had the impression that Sir Archie was relieved at the outcome of our talk.
Another incident occurred during my stopover in London which was of some significance. As a matter of courtesy, I made a call on Krishna Menon, the Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. I was ushered into the High Commissionerís office most courteously by his Counselor. Menon arose from behind his desk when I entered but did not come forward to greet me. I offered my hand which he took after a slight hesitation. He motioned for me to take a chair and then sat down behind his desk. He said as he took his seat, "Well, this is interesting; you are the first American Ambassador who has ever darkened my threshold." I replied that I felt honored; that since I was in London on my way to India, I wanted to have the pleasure of meeting the Indian High Commissioner of whom I had heard many times. He
continued, "Yes, Ambassador Douglas has not seen fit to call on me. But we shall see the time when American Ambassadors will feel honored to be received by an Indian High Commissioner." I replied that I was sure that Ambassador Douglas would feel honored now to be received by the High Commissioner. The Ambassador had been under very great pressures since his arrival in London and had not been able to complete his courtesy calls. Krishna Menon was not placated. Such friendly remarks that I made elicited only cold silence or sarcastic rejoinder. The Counselor who conducted me to the door as I was leaving and who had remained in the background during the conversation murmured apologetically as I left that unfortunately the High Commissioner was not feeling very well. Since Menon was reputed to be one of Nehruís closest personal friends, I was not happy as I left the High Commissionerís office for the American Embassy. I told Ambassador
Douglas about the conversation and he promised to call on Menon within the next few days.
When I arrived in India the Canadian High Commissioner asked for an appointment even before I had presented my credentials. He told me that he had come to carry out an unpleasant task. He then said that he had received instructions from his Foreign Office regarding what the relations should be between his Commission and our Embassy.
The proposition that he made to me was similar to that made by Bevin in London. When I told him that I could not enter into such an arrangement, he said that he was pleased at my answer and would inform his Government accordingly. During the remainder of his stay in India our relations were cordial. His successor, however, who arrived about a year later, made it a point to make public statements highly critical of the United States.
MCKINZIE: What kind of relationship did you have
with Mr. Nehru?
HENDERSON: Our relations were of a friendly character but they were never close. When I paid my first call on him I told him that I had a sense of great responsibility since the United States was one of the great powers of the Western world and India was the greatest power of the new emerging world, and that close friendly relations between us seemed to me to be important not only to the United States and India but for a harmonious world in the future. Nehru did not reply to this remark. He merely turned the conversation to other topics.
During this and subsequent conversations he was generally courteous. He would not allow himself, however, to be drawn into really friendly exchanges on the subject of United States-Indian relations. When on several occasions he dined alone with me at our Embassy, he would talk with considerable frankness about many details of Indian
history and of Indian struggle for independence. He liked to ask questions about the United States, about our political parties, and the workings of our Constitution, but he was coy about discussing American-Indian relations.
Nehru seemed to be uncooperative in various aspects of American-Soviet relations. When I arrived in New Delhi I found two special representatives there of one of our Departments, I think of the Department of Commerce. Their mission was to try to work out arrangements with the Indian Government that would enable the United States to import large quantities of manganese from India. Our steel industry on which there were heavy postwar demands, was not able to obtain sufficient manganese to satisfy its needs. Since India was known to have large deposits of manganese, it was hoped that with American financial and technical assistance India could greatly increase its production of
manganese and begin exporting it in considerable quantities to the United States. Various Indian Ministries showed an interest in the scheme but Nehru rejected it. He took the position that India should retain for its future use its resources of this kind. This refusal took place when India was seeking credits from the United States in order to meet many of its own urgent needs for food and machinery.
In the early part of 1949, the Indian Governor of the Province of Orissa, who had been the first Indian Ambassador to the United States, invited me to visit him. I spent several days touring the Province with him. Orissa had some extensive iron deposits and there were coal deposits not too far away from them. He was eager to have them developed with the aid of United States funds and technical assistance. It seemed to me to be a good idea. Enough iron ore or pig iron could be shipped to Japan to pay for the cost of the development of
the mines and eventually for the cost of the building of iron works and steel mills. Again some of the Indian Ministries were interested and again Nehru rejected the idea. I was advised that he insisted that Indiaís iron resources must be preserved for Indian use. Furthermore, some of my Indian friends told me in confidence that Nehru was afraid that a scheme of this kind might lead to the introduction of American imperialism into the country.
While I was in India Nehru was retaining for himself the portfolio of Minister of External Affairs, but the official who actually administered the Ministry as though he was the Minister was Sir Girja Bajpai. During part of the time that I was in the Department in Washington as Director for Near Eastern and African Affairs (the name of the office was changed in 1947 to that of Near East, African, and South Asian Affairs), Sir Girja was attached to the British Embassy in Washington
to assist in the handling of Indian Affairs and he and I had worked closely together and had established a friendship that continued up to his death. That friendship was of great help to me. Bajpaiís suggestions and his interest in strengthening Indian-United States relations compensated to an extent for Nehruís aloofness.
MCKINZIE: There were some difficulties, were there not, in 1950 once the Korean war started, about when U.S. commercial policy changed, for one thing?
HENDERSON: Well, Nehru was irritated about our policies with respect to Kashmjr. He felt that we were not cooperating as we should with Indian efforts to retain all the areas of Kashmir that the Indian troops had occupied. Pakistan, unlike India, had tried to establish close friendly relations with the United States, and when the United States had responded in kind Nehru was not only displeased
MCKINZIE: Did you ever discuss with Nehru his relationship with the Soviet Union?
HENDERSON: Yes. Nehru made it clear--and he has said the same thing publicly--that he had no objection to communism as an ideology, but that he did object to any country trying to infiltrate another by the use of communism. When I first arrived in India, the Soviet Union was following policies critical of Nehru. But although, as I have pointed out, Nehru was reserved in his attitude toward the United States, he was making special efforts to improve Indiaís relations with the Soviet Union.
While I was in India a series of crop failures plus the rapid increase in population produced a shortage of grain and other foodstuffs to such a point that starvation on an immense scale was threatened. Friends of India in the United States advocated an enormous gift of grain to India since
the country did not have the foreign currency or prospects of foreign currency in the future to pay for it. I, through State Department channels, urged that such a gift be made for humanitarian reasons.
A bill providing for such a gift was introduced into the House of Representatives and, after weeks of discussion, was adopted and placed before the Senate. A Senate Committee after hearings recommended its passage. During the course of the hearings, however, some of the witnesses or Senators, I forget which, made some remarks that infuriated Nehru. In spite of the fact that there was no doubt that the Senate would have passed the bill, Nehru announced just before the voting that India would not accept gifts from the United States.
Since without the grain a major tragedy would have been enacted in India and since there was no prospect that in the foreseeable future India
would have foreign currency with which to pay for it, we entered into a special arrangement in accordance with which payment was to be made in rupees that would be held by the Indian Government and spent by the United States in India in a manner to be agreed upon between the two Governments. It was understood, however, that they would not be used to pay for exports from India. Most of these funds eventually were used to pay for some of the costs of our aid programs in India or for facilities that were later turned over to the Indian Government.
The day after the passage by the Senate of the bill to sell the wheat to India for rupees, I visited the Indian Parliament to observe what the action there would be. As I recall it, Nehru informed the Parliament that he had good news; three ships were enroute from the Soviet Union to India laden with grain. After the applause had abated, he said that he also had to report
that the United States Senate had finally passed the bill that would authorize the sale of grain to India.
One of the most important and difficult conversations with Nehru was in connection with Korea. When in June 1950 North Korean armed forces with the support of the Soviet Union and Communist China suddenly invaded South Korea, the Security Council met at once and considered some resolutions on the subject. According to my recollection, the Soviet Union boycotted the meeting and, therefore, was not able to use its veto. One of the resolutions, I believe, (I have not reviewed the documents for many years and am somewhat hazy about the exact wording) branded North Korea as an aggressor and called upon the members of the United Nations to send forces to the assistance of South Korea. The Indian member of the Security Council, whose vote was needed for the passage of the resolution, postponed
voting until he could receive instructions from his Government.
The Department sent me a telegraphic instruction to call upon Nehru immediately and urge him to authorize his delegate to vote in favor of the resolution. I made an appointment at once with the Prime Minister through Sir Girja Bajpai, whom I informed regarding the purpose of my visit, and he apparently passed this information to some of his colleagues in the Ministry of External Affairs. It warmed my heart as I went down the halls to meet Nehru when several of my friends came out of their offices to wish me luck. Many members of the Ministry, I may add, were on our side and were hoping for an improvement in Indian-American relations.
During my long talk with Nehru he hedged and hedged. He hated to make a decision which would anger both China and the Soviet Union. Yet he knew that for the moment most of India and the
whole free world were condemning what was clearly armed aggression on the part of North Korea. The situation practically forced him to agree to send the authorization to his representative on the Council--not my efforts of persuasion. His position throughout the world as a neutral in favor of peace would have been weakened.
So much was at stake during my talk with Nehru that after I had sent my telegram to the Department, I had to have a few minutes of rest on the couch in my office.
There was an embarrassing aftermath to this affair. Arthur Krock, after a talk with a member of the Department, wrote a story for the New York Times praising me for helping persuade Nehru to make his decision. When I saw that story, I was shocked because the last thing that Nehru would want would be for the world to think that he had been influenced by an American.
MCKINZIE: But you did have to talk to him for some
length of time.
HENDERSON: Yes, but I thought and still think that the situation, not my words were responsible for his decision. I think he regretted it. Later as the war turned out to be one in which the Americans and the South Koreans were fighting the North Koreans and the Chinese, the Indian newspapers which were under the influence of Nehru became critical of American actions in Korea.
MCKINZIE: After that resolution did you ever discuss the supplying of an Indian contingent of troops to the U.N. force with anyone in the Foreign Office or with . . .
HENDERSON: Yes, I discussed the matter with Sir Girji Bajpai, but not with Nehru. I did not urge that Indian troops be sent because I felt that it would serve no good purpose to do so. I was really surprised when they did send some medical detachments
MCKINZIE: Did they discuss in any detail why they did not want to send troops?
HENDERSON: No, but I knew that Nehru did not want Indian troops to fight Asians unless Indian interests were at stake, and for Indians to join Americans in fighting Asians would have been distasteful to him. Let me tell you another story which may assist you in understanding Nehruís attitude with regard to Asia.
In the spring of 1949, we had in New Delhi a conference of consular representatives of the United States. Representatives of our consular offices and the consular sections of our diplomatic missions throughout Asia from Indonesia and Japan to Turkey and Iran attended. At the end of the conference we had a dinner, and as chairman I invited Nehru to be our guest to give an off-the-record talk. During the course of his informal remarks, he said that the United States was making
serious mistakes in judgment in formulating its policies with regard to Asia. It was not paying enough attention to the real centers of power in Asia.
He stressed that important decisions with regard to Asia must be made by Asians for the benefit of Asians. There were two great powers in Asia who should be responsible for peace and international order on the Asian continent. They were China and India, and these two powers should be encouraged to work together to that end. A Peking-Delhi axis should exercise control over the rest of Asia. Chinaís sphere of influence should be on its side of Asia and Indiaís sphere on its side. If the United States would pursue an intelligent policy, it would take no decisions with regard to Asia without consulting the great power concerned.
After Nehru had resumed his seat at the table, I asked him a few questions. What did he mean
in referring to "Indiaís side" and "Chinaís side?" The mountains, he said, were the rough dividing line. When I asked him about the sphere in which various states and entities would fall, he answered somewhat as follows: Burma would be in Indiaís sphere; Hong Kong, Indo-China, and Thailand would fall into Chinaís sphere; because of their geographical location China and India would have to come to an agreement with regard to Indonesia and Singapore. When I pointed out that no reference had been made with regard to Japan he said that Japan should be considered as dead for the time at least since it had allowed itself to become a United States satellite.
At the time that this conversation took place, India had not as yet recognized the Peopleís Republic of China, and it did not do so until in the later part of the year.
MCKINZIE: So, when he was speaking of China, he was speaking of Chiang Kai-shekís government?
HENDERSON: No, I didnít think he was. He referred to the Delhi-Peking axis several times and the Communists were already in control of Peking and there seemed little doubt that they would remain in control. It is true that an Ambassador representing Chiang Kai-shek, was still in New Delhi and in fact was dean of the Diplomatic Corps, but already it was noticeable that Nehru was beginning to ignore him. Nehru once told me that he didnít care particularly what the ideology of China might be so long as China was not controlled by a non-Asian power.
On another occasion when Indonesia seemed to be trying to stir up trouble with Australia about West Irian, I took it upon myself during an informal chat that I was having with Nehru to mention the matter to him. I said, "Look here, you are on very friendly terms with President Sukarno. He seems at present to be following a policy with regard to West Irian which might
lead to years of friction between Indonesia and Australia. Do you think that he would listen to you if you would suggest that he soften his tone and thus make it possible for the two countries to work out a mutually satisfactory settlement? It would be unfortunate for another bitter endless dispute to develop in this part of the world. "
Nehru said, "Mr. Henderson, thereís one thing that you should understand. If there is friction between an Asian and a non-Asian power, I must be on the side of the Asian power."
"But," I said, "isnít Australia almost a part of Asia?"
"That is true," he answered, "but Australia is European oriented."
MCKINZIE: At what point did you begin to get briefings on your next assignment in Iran?
HENDERSON: My first briefings, so to speak, were my
experiences in the Department of State immediately after the end of the Second World War when Iran was in the area for which I had responsibilities. During the period 1945 to 1948, Iran was one of my problem countries.
MCKINZIE: Yes, I understand that, but I meant while you were in India, were you beginning to. . .
HENDERSON: No, I received no briefing while in India. In June 1951 I was ordered back to the United States on consultation. Upon my arrival in Washington, I was informed that a rather dangerous situation was developing in Iran and since I had had some experience in dealing with Iranian problems, the Department would like for me to go there to fill the vacant Ambassadorís post. During the two weeks that I spent in Washington I was given an extensive briefing with regard to the new problems that had developed in Iran.
MCKINZIE: Did you talk with Henry Grady then?
HENDERSON: No, he was not in Washington at the time. I was sorry because I had a lot of respect for him and thought I could have profited from a talk with him. But I did talk with the people in the Department who were acquainted with and handling matters pertaining to Iran and was given a good picture of the situation.
MCKINZIE: I read the other day a masterís thesis, I think at American University, about Iran. The author of this masterís thesis contended that Iran at the end of the war had wished a rather substantial American loan, and that, indeed, an American consulting firm--Knudson, I believe, from Iowa or some place--had gone over at the cost of $650,000, had drawn up a considerable plan of development for Iran; and that the loans that Iran thought should be forthcoming, werenít. And, they argued that they would either have to get additional money from royalties of the Anglo American Oil Company or theyíd have to make this
development through American loans. When American loans were not forthcoming, then they began to agitate for the increased royalties. And the author of this thesis then said, "Well, if the American Government had granted a substantial postwar loan to Iran, then the whole business with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company would never have arisen"
HENDERSON: That sounds to me like a thesis from one of the pro-Mossadegh Iranian students in the United States, who almost uniformly followed the line that all of Iranís troubles stem from the attitudes and activities of the wicked imperialists. I do not recall this particular plan of the Knudson firm, which I believe did engage in some tremendous operations in that area, particularly in Afghanistan. The United States was engaging in extensive technical aid programs in Iran when I arrived there and we were pouring considerable sums into the country.
The dispute between the Anglo-Iranian Company and Mossadegh was not a mere financial affair. It was much more than that. He wanted by hook or crook to get the British out of Iran. His insistence on increases in royalties was only the opening gun of a planned war. Allied with Mossadegh was a group of Iranian politicians, some of whom would have liked for the Soviet Union to replace the United Kingdom as the most influential foreign power in Iran.
MCKINZIE: Well, might I go back? I donít know what kind of attitude the State Department took on money that the United States might provide Iran, but in the studies that were made of the Iranian system there were recommendations for a considerable number of reforms, that development capital wouldnít be effective unless there were some changes in various ways. Did you ever discuss that in the very early part, about the American loan?
HENDERSON: No, I didnít. Not that I recall. I think that I have already told you that back in 1947 when we granted aid to Turkey and Greece on a large scale, I personally was in favor of including Iran. But that proved too difficult. The British, for instance, had not asked us to assume any financial responsibilities for Iran. The United States had so many requests for aid at the time that it was not searching for new areas to spend money. My office in the State Department did, however, try unsuccessfully to obtain some loans for Iran shortly after the Soviet troops withdrew from the country. Considering the situation in Iran, I am sure that the EX-IM Bank would have replied to requests for large loans to Iran for purposes of development that such loans could not be granted without special legislation.
MCKINZIE: Did you discuss this whole problem of the nationalization of the oil industry with the Shah
at the time that you presented your credentials?
HENDERSON: No, not when I presented my credentials. We merely had a rather formal exchange of good wishes for the strengthening of friendly relations between our countries, etc. As a rule specific problems are not discussed at the time of the presentation of credentials. Furthermore, the British Embassy in Iran was carrying on the discussions with regard to oil and the United States was not a party to the dispute.
MCKINZIE: When I said that, I meant did you allude to hoping that there would be some help in the resolution of this problem?
MCKINZIE: That would not have been appropriate?
HENDERSON: No, the fact is that it would not have been appropriate for me to discuss the subject
unless the Iranians would bring it up. This they eventually did, and I tried to the best of my ability to prevail on each side not to take an extreme attitude.
MCKINZIE: Did you have conversations both with the Shah and Mossadegh in 1951?
HENDERSON: Yes, I had numerous conversations with both. I suppose that during the years 1951 to 1953, I had perhaps fifty or sixty conversations with Mossadegh and a somewhat less number with the Shah.
MCKINZIE: Mossadegh must have been an interesting personality.
HENDERSON: Yes, he certainly was.
MCKINZIE: As well as a forceful kind of politician.
HENDERSON: Thatís right.
MCKINZIE: Would you discuss the Prime Minister as a
personality and your relationships with him as this issue developed?
HENDERSON: Mossadegh was an attractive man although he was neither handsome nor elegant. He was tall and lanky; his long horse like face topped with rather disheveled gray hair was expressive like that of an actor. He had a large mouth and when he smiled, his whole face lit up and one felt drawn toward him. He liked jokes and liked to laugh at them--a trait which is always helpful, particularly when one is engaged in serious conversation. He was troubled with dizzy spells so he would remain in bed much of the time. In general I found our conversations interesting and even agreeable. During most of them he was in bed and I was sitting beside him. He was quite frank, at times, without being offensive in criticizing our policies, and I was equally frank with him. So we got along quite well, each pointing out where he felt the other was wrong.
Mossadeghís weakness, in my opinion, was that he still felt that he was living in an era of about 1910-1912, when Iranís basic foreign policy consisted of playing the Russian Empire off against the British Empire. He did not seem to realize that the Soviet Empire was quite a different entity from that of the Czars, and was using different tactics and different methods in its endeavor to extend its power and its territories, and that the British Empire was gradually evaporating. The British were no longer the threat to Iran that they were when they controlled South Asia and much of the Middle East.
Mossadegh was not a Communist, and I was convinced that he was opposed to communism as an ideology. Nevertheless, he was willing to accept Communists and their fellow-travelers as allies. He had, I understood, a princely background and was related to the ruling family of the regime which had been overthrown by the father of the Shah. I thought that one of his ambitions was to
be the Regent or a member of a Board of Regents which would replace the Shah and rule the country until an appropriate successor could be found. He did not understand that the Communists and their allies had no use for him and that they would get rid of him just as soon as he had served their purpose.
One of his ambitions was to make Iran completely independent. He had been one of the leaders in opposing the Soviet efforts in the middle 1940s to obtain oil concessions in Iran, and at that time he had intimated that the British concessions should also get out of the southern part of the country. He hoped to be able to play the Americans as well as the Russians off against the British. For that reason he tried hard to get my personal support. I tried to make him understand that in the Middle East it was important for the Americans, so far as possible, to cooperate with the British; that unless we could cooperate the Soviet Union would
take advantage of our disunity and that could be disastrous to Iran.
MCKINZIE: What about the British position? It has been argued that had Great Britain not been in a declining phase, that British policy toward Iran might have been somewhat more accommodating than it was. That Britain had found herself in a period of decline and, therefore, to make any kind of concession was especially painful.
HENDERSON: I think that that argument has some merit. With their waning power many British took the position that the making of concessions would be considered in Iran and elsewhere as signs of weakness. But it should be borne in mind that Iranian ambitions, and particularly those of Mossadegh, were not to be satisfied by a yielding to the original demands. An agreement on the part of the British to begin making changes in the terms of its oil concession contract, in the opinion of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, would
weaken the sanctity of the whole contract. If one change can be made, why not still stronger pressures to make others? If the Iranians were to be placated, there would be a steady retreat until the concession was completely lost. The loss of that concession would result in a weakening of the British position in the whole Persian Gulf and in the creation of a situation of which the Soviet Union with: its own ambitions would try to take advantage.
MCKINZIE: There were obvious differences between the Shah and the Prime Minister.
HENDERSON: Oh, yes, of course!
MCKINZIE: Could you tell us how you had to handle that? Was this a test of all your skills in diplomacy to be able to speak to each of them without alienating them?
HENDERSON: Well, there were, of course, some problems
in this connection. I took care to make it clear to Mossadegh that I was accredited to the Shah and that when I talked with the Shah, I was talking with the Chief of State; and that when I talked with Mossadegh it was with the head of the Government. That was the demarcation line that I tried to draw; sometimes, however, it did not prevent me from running into difficulties. For instance, in the early part of 1943, or it might have been in the latter part of 1942, the Shah, apparently surfeited with the humiliations that he was suffering at the hands of Mossadegh, announced that he was going on a temporary sojourn abroad. I understood that Mossadegh was delighted. With the Shah out of the country, he could proceed to carry out some of his plans for strengthening his own power.
When I heard of the Shahís intentions, I was deeply concerned. I did not know what might happen. I was not sure that Mossadegh would be able to
control the group of ambitious politicians around him, some of whom might well take advantage of the Shahís absence to bring about a leftist coup. I, therefore, made a call on the Shah and urged him not to leave. He insisted that it would be better for him to be away for a time and let things take their course. Several days later I made a second call on him and during our talk he said that perhaps it would be better for him not to leave for a time at least.
I felt that I should tell Mossadegh frankly of my conversation with the Shah, and although I had no appointment with him, I went at once to his residence, which was almost across the street from the Shahís palace, and asked to see him. When I told him that I had had a talk with the Shah and that during the course of our conversation the Shah had told me that he had decided not to go abroad in the immediate future, Mossadegh became furious. He charged me with interfering in the affairs of Iran; he said that I
had no business to advise the Shah not to leave the country. I said that I was sorry that he, Mossadegh, felt that way, "but since I am accredited by the President of the United States to His Majesty I consider that I have the right to talk with him, particularly about his personal plans."
MCKINZIE: This one time Mossadegh was most upset.
HENDERSON: But Mossadegh was also upset the last time I saw him.
MCKINZIE: Perhaps you could describe that.
HENDERSON: In June 1953 I was ordered back to the United States for consultation, and since I had had no leave, the Department suggested that I take some on the way back. The situation in Iran had become so complicated that the Department felt it might be better that I delay my return. Iran was in a desperate financial situation.
Mossadegh had even spent the funds that had been set aside to pay pensions to the retiring civil servants and army personnel. Dissatisfaction with his administration had increased and there was tension. The Department apparently felt that if I should appear in Tehran, Mossadegh would ask me to see him, would have photographs taken of our chatting together, and would try to convince the public that the United States was supporting him. I spent a couple of weeks as a guest of our High Commissioner to Austria in the Austrian Alps, then I went to Beirut for some sea bathing. On the evening of Saturday, August 15, I heard from the radio in my hotel room that the Shah, who had been resting in his palace on the Caspian Sea north of Iran, had sent a messenger to Mossadegh, informing him that he had accepted the latterís resignation and had appointed General Zahedi as Prime Minister; that Mossadegh had refused to resign and had arrested the army officer
who had served as a messenger; and that the Shah had flown to Baghdad.
I was so upset by this news that I could not sleep during the night, and I reproached myself for not having been on my job in Tehran. The next morning I called the Embassy by telephone and asked that it send our Naval Attachéís plane for me. I arrived in Tehran in the afternoon of Monday, August 17, and was met at the airport by Mossadeghís son, members of the Embassy, and a detachment of soldiers to accompany me to the Embassy. On my way to the Embassy, I found the city in confusion. Mobs with red flags were tearing down statues, destroying street signs which bore the name of the Shah or his father, pillaging shops, and beating up some of the shopkeepers.
I asked Mossadeghís son to arrange an interview for me with his father, and that evening I had a meeting with the Embassy staff, at which I
learned that during the last two days many attacks had been made upon Europeans in the city and the suburbs; that the -chauffeur of our Naval Attaché had been stabbed while trying to defend the automobile; and that many Americans were being threatened.
On Tuesday morning I received a telegram from our consulate in Isfahan stating that several thousand persons bearing Communist flags and shouting in Persian "Yankees, go home" had been parading in front of the consulate.
I met with Mossadegh late Tuesday evening. I found him fully dressed and neatly groomed sitting in his reception room, an indication that he was planning a formal conversation. He began at once to upbraid me for the Shahís attempt to dismiss him. He said that there could be no doubt that the United States was responsible for the Shahís action, and it would now be held responsible for the aftermath.
I said that I had not come to argue about who was responsible for what had taken place but to discuss the danger in which American citizens in Iran now found themselves. I said, "Communist mobs seem to be in control of the streets; and the police, apparently under orders, are not attempting to control them; foreigners are being attacked; one of our Embassy chauffeurs has been stabbed. In Isfahan thousands of demonstrators, carrying Communist flags and using threatening language, are demonstrating in front of our consulate. Unless you can give me assurance that this violence and threats of violence will be stopped and American citizens and property will be given protection, I shall immediately order all American women and children and all the official American citizens whose presence here is not urgently needed to leave the country."
"If you pull out all the Americans, it will look to the whole world," said Mossadegh, "that
the United States is entirely deserting Iran."
I answered, "We would not be deserting Iran; I would be here and all the Americans who are needed would still be here, but as long as the police do not give them proper protection I do not want those who are not really needed to remain. If they do, incidents can take place which could seriously injure the relations between our countries."
Mossadegh picked up his telephone and talked for a few minutes with the chief of the police. It was apparent to me that he had previously given orders that they were not to interfere with the demonstrators unless they should get completely out of hand, and since he rarely left his residence he had not been fully aware of what was going on. Over the phone in my presence he gave orders that a stop should be put immediately to rowdyism and violence. When I left Mossadegh about an hour later the police, apparently with
pleasure, were busy dispersing the gangs in the streets and trying to restore order. I understood later that the Communists were furious at the interference of the police and returned to their homes feeling that Mossadegh was double-crossing them.
Early on the following morning, Wednesday, August 19, 1953, an important date, I received word while I was having breakfast that an uprising was taking place in the lower part of the city. I hurried across the Embassy garden to the chancery where I learned that a group of members of a well-known athletic club had suddenly emerged from the club with various kinds of arms calling upon the people to help them overthrow the Mossadegh regime and restore the Shah. In this club its members were accustomed to work hard developing their torsos in accordance with certain Iranian traditional exercises, which included the swinging of heavy clubs. The leaders of the
demonstration, therefore, were men with almost frightening physiques, and they were rapidly joined by people on the street. Members of my staff whom I had sent out to find what was going on kept us informed by telephone. Within an hour the demonstrators reached the building which houses one of the leading pro-Mossadegh newspapers and destroyed the plant. I was confident that when the crowd would come into contact with the military, it would disperse, but to my surprise the military joined it. By noon the demonstrators had taken over the Foreign Office and a little later the area surrounding our Embassy compound was full of cheering people. General Zahedi, whom the Shah had appointed to succeed Mossadegh, and who had been in hiding, came out and seated on a tank moved through the applauding, waving crowds.
Late in the evening Ardeshir Zahedi, the son of the new Prime Minister, came to see me. He said that the leading cities of the country and most of
the countryside were now under the control of the army, which had come out for the Shah and his father. He added that his father had asked him to inquire if I had any suggestions to offer. After a minuteís thought I said, "Yes, I have three suggestions. In the first place, I think every effort should be made to prevent Mossadegh from being harmed or killed. If he is taken prisoner, care should be exercised to make sure he is not physically abused. The question of his punishment, if any, should be left to the courts. In the second place, a circular telegram might be sent out at once to all the Iranian diplomatic missions and consular offices informing them that the new Prime Minister appointed by the Shah has taken over and they should continue to transact their business as usual. No revolution has taken place, merely a change in government. My third suggestion is that a similar announcement might be made for the benefit of the civil
servants. They should be told by radio that they should report to work tomorrow as usual."
During the next twenty-four hours, Mossadegh was captured and imprisoned pending a trial. Most of the Iranian diplomatic and consular offices carried on as usual. On the following day the governmental machinery was for the most part functioning. Zahedi proceeded to set up a new cabinet for the Shahís approval. The Shah, who was in Rome on the day that Zahedi took office, returned to Tehran on August 22. I have never seen Tehran so happy as it was when it greeted him back.
MCKINZIE: Okay. Shortly after that there was an article in the American press, that you may know about, contending that Allen Dulles and Norman Schwarzkopf and a sister of the Shah . . .
HENDERSON: To my knowledge Allen Dulles was not in Tehran at all during that period. I am quite
sure that Schwarzkopf had nothing to do with the affair. I am not prepared, however, to say that the CIA had nothing to do with some of these developments. It has been charged that the CIA inspired the uprising that started with the march of the members of the athletic club in Tehran. Whether it did or did not, I honestly donít know. When I returned to Tehran, I was under the impression that Mossadegh, at least for a time, had won his long conflict with the Shah. When I talked with Mossadegh on the evening of August 18, I had no idea that an attempt would be made to overthrow him by force. I was surprised by the events that took place the next day, and I think that if they are ever published, my telegrams to the Department will support what I am saying. I am sure of one thing, however. No matter how skilled the CIA might be, it could not have engineered the overthrow of Mossadegh if the people of Iran had not overwhelmingly been in favor of the return of the Shah.
MCKINZIE: What about the special Averell Harriman mission?
HENDERSON: While I was in Washington in June 1951, I had a talk with Ambassador Harriman about his mission to Iran, but my knowledge of the results of his mission is so incomplete and even my memory of the purposes of it so vague, that I hesitate to discuss it.
MCKINZIE: Could you address yourself a little bit to the point of what, I guess, was formerly called the Middle East Defense Organization, and the attempts to get something like that going? Of course there were all of these serious problems in Iran at the time, but the Middle East Defense Organization was something the United States . . .
HENDERSON: Again, I hesitate to discuss this organization. My knowledge and memory of it are too poor for me to be able to make any helpful comments with respect to it.
MCKINZIE: Youíve talked a bit about Mossadegh as a personality, you might tell a little about his philosophy, his alliances often with the Tudeh, as I understand.
HENDERSON: Yes, he had a sort of alliance with the Tudeh Party. The deputies from Iran, who were his stalwart supporters, had close and cooperative relations with the Tudeh Party, which in effect was Communist-controlled. Mossadegh was at his best in speaking to enormous crowds. He was the kind of spellbinder who could win the support of the masses. Sometimes he was so overcome by his own eloquence that he would join his audience with sobs. As I think I have already indicated to you, he was really a strong nationalist, but strangely enough a nationalist who looked to the Communists for support.
MCKINZIE: Could you then turn to talk about the Shah, both as a personality and as a political leader during the time that you knew him? Was
he acutely aware of the problems of a country like Iran or to what extent was he not aware because of the royalty involved?
HENDERSON: I think that without doubt he was aware of many of the problems facing his country. He had been educated in a preponderantly British private school in Switzerland, where he had liberal-minded British tutors. There he had been exposed to much discussion about absolute and limited monarchies, the advantages of a country where a king reigned rather than ruled, and so forth.
I believe that when he first became Shah he hoped to be able to maintain law and order and to promote prosperity and enlightened progress by playing a much less absolute role than that played by his father. He tried to remain more in the background and not to interfere too much with his Prime Ministers.
Over the years, it seemed to me, the Shah gradually came to the opinion that unless he played a much stronger role the country could not make the kind of progress that was necessary if it was to preserve its independence and territorial integrity. He realized that a giant power to the north had ambitions to take control of the country and that various Western powers were exercising undue influence over its internal and international policies. Furthermore, there existed in the country certain tribal, religious, and feudal traditions and practices which compounded the difficulties in bringing about the social and organizational reforms that were required if Iran was to become a modern state. Most of the Prime Ministers who paraded across the political scene were not particularly interested in instituting reforms, did not have the stamina to incur the hostility of the fanatical mullahs, the haughty and defiant tribal chiefs, and the great landowners who were determined to
defend their prerogatives, or were more concerned in strengthening their own personal power than in changing the character of the State.
The Shah was handicapped during his early years on the throne by the fact that he had been shown little consideration by the British and Soviet military leaders who controlled the country during the Second World War, and by the fact that he had not come from a long line of rulers. Iranians of the upper classes, particularly those who had in their veins the blood of former royal dynasties, were inclined to look upon him as an upstart. This handicap weakened him to an extent in dealing with his Prime Minister and was a factor in the attitude of the old aristocrat, Mossadegh, toward him.
Although earlier Prime Ministers had treated the Shah with a certain lack of deference, they had not displayed Mossadeghís attitude of disdain. It seemed to me that the years suffered under
Mossadegh resulted in his decision to rule in the future rather than just to reign.
Even with Mossadegh in power the Shah had endeavored to bring about a land reform, to make an end to a system in which great families could own and control scores of villages, the denizens of which were little more than serfs. Mossadegh himself was the owner of quite a number of villages.
To encourage other landowners to follow his example he began to turn over the villages which he had inherited from his father, the so-called "crown lands," to the villagers. He set up commissions which divided the land as equitably as possible among the members of each village. The new owners did not pay for the piece of land that they acquired but over the years they did pay certain amounts in the form of special taxes. Facilities not subject to division became the communal property of the village. These included,
in some instances, irrigation systems, dams, pasture lands, and various kinds of agricultural and mechanical equipment. Since 1953 thousands of villages in Iran have changed ownership by this method or similar methods.
MCKINZIE: A non-specialist in Middle Eastern affairs viewing that period, sometimes gets the impression that every time the Shah spoke to an American representative he asked for money. Did that seem to you to be a preoccupation of his?
HENDERSON: Yes, the Shah had visions of ways to improve the lot of his people, to promote the security of Iran, and to strengthen his own hand. Funds were not available so whenever occasion offered he made suggestions for grants or loans from a rich country which was pouring millions into Europe, Greece, and his neighbor, Turkey. Mossadegh was also pleading for financial assistance. Following Mossadeghís removal from
office, the Shahís requests for funds increased in number and size. I remember that one of his hobbies was to improve the life and raise the status of the non-commissioned officer corps of Iran. He wanted funds to build for them decent housing, to furnish them attractive uniforms, and otherwise to make the service more congenial. He believed that without a contented corps of sergeants and corporals, the army could not be dependable.
MCKINZIE: Thatís an interesting point. I think about the time you arrived the Tudeh Party had been putting some pressure on Mossadegh to rid Iran of the American military missions there. Do you recall that?
HENDERSON: Yes, the Tudeh Party did not like the presence of American military personnel in Iran. It was also unhappy at the presence of so many aid people in the country.
I think that it was in January 1953, that the Department after weeks of discussion with various American oil companies and with the British, instructed me to make a proposal for the solving of the oil problem to Mossadegh that was more liberal than any arrangement that had been made up to that time between a foreign oil company and an oil-rich Near Eastern country. I have never worked harder than I did during the next ten days to persuade Mossadegh to accept this proposal. The Department under Dean Acheson as Secretary of State had tried so earnestly and so long to find a solution of the stubborn oil problem that was gradually ruining Iran both financially and politically that I wanted the problem solved before the change in administration, which was due on January 20.
I sat by the side of Mossadeghís bed one day for eight consecutive hours going over the proposal point by point and explaining to him the significance and advantages to Iran of each
paragraph. Mossadegh seemed interested and even grateful and promised to give me an answer within the next few days after discussions with his advisers. When I left I was tired but somewhat encouraged and immediately sent a telegram to the Department summarizing our conversation. I said that Mossadegh seemed to be pleased with our proposal but I was concerned about what his advisers would say. Mossadegh was like a rubber band which one could stretch but would go back to its original position when it was let go. Mossadeghís answer, as I feared, was in the friendly negative, and the new administration with General Eisenower as President and Mr. Dulles as Secretary of State took over a troublesome unsolved problem.
MCKINZIE: This is outside the Truman administration, but it is still a part of the same thing? What kind of conversation did you have with the Shah after the overthrow of Mossadegh?
HENDERSON: The Shah returned to Iran, as I believe I have already told you, on August 22, three days after the overthrow of Mossadegh, in a blaze of glory. The whole diplomatic corps was at the airfield to meet him and Tehran had a day of rejoicing. He asked me to call upon him a couple of days after his arrival and I found him rather downcast. He was not particularly pleased with the list of Cabinet ministers that the new Prime Minister had proposed. He took exception, as I recall, especially to one of them who, he had been given to understand, had been put on the list at the suggestion of "the Americans," and asked why the Americans should be interested in this appointment. I told him that I had not suggested the inclusion of the man in question and if any other United States citizen had made such a suggestion, it had been without my knowledge. Nevertheless, I said that the man in question had so much prestige throughout the country as an
able and honest public official, that in my opinion his inclusion would strengthen the Cabinet. The Shah finally approved the list.
His chief concern seemed to be with the financial situation of the country. It was, in effect, bankrupt and since the oil fields and refinery were not in operation, the situation was becoming worse daily. The Shah mentioned a number of projects which were sorely in need of financial support and expressed the hope that the United States would extend assistance pending the settlement of the oil problem. I may add that in my opinion Iran was in need of additional funds at the time that Mossadegh became Prime Minister in order to carry out certain projects in which the Shah was interested, and the Shah was hoping that Mossadegh could bring enough pressure on the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company to increase its royalties at least up to the level that the American oil companies were paying the Saudi-Arabian Government.
He felt, however, that Mossadegh was going too far in his pressures and that it was unwise for Iran to take over the refinery and the oil-fields and to nationalize the concessions. Mossadeghís moves were so popular, however, that the Shah refrained from interceding.
MCKINZIE: Maybe, a kind of last question for this interview would be to ask you to comment upon the evolution of the Department of State during those postwar years. You served under a number of Secretaries of State and under a number of Presidents.
HENDERSON: Yes, Harding was President and Charles E. Hughes was Secretary of State when I entered the Service.
MCKINZIE: Well, you have seen quite a number.
HENDERSON: Yes, I have served both in the Department and abroad under every subsequent President and
Secretary of State with the exception of Secretary Byrnes under whom I served only in the Department.
MCKINZIE: How would you then in perspective, judge the effectiveness and morale of the Department?
HENDERSON: In my opinion the morale and effectiveness of the Department were never higher than they were during the period that Truman was President. In the first place, we had three Secretaries of State: Byrnes, Marshall, and Acheson for whom the personnel of the Department had a deep respect and liking. I am not including Stettinius here, whom the members of the Department also liked, since he served under Truman for only a short time. Although the relations between the President and Byrnes became somewhat strained for a time, in general, the President and his Secretaries of State worked together harmoniously. We were also fortunate
in having three Under Secretaries who were popular in the Department and who also enjoyed the confidence of the Secretaries and the President. I refer to Grew, Acheson, and Lovett.
The morale of the Department is usually higher when the President is a man who is not afraid to make difficult decisions and who is prepared to accept the responsibilities that flow from such decisions. I must admit that during the first three or four months following the death of President Roosevelt, before Truman began to get what might be called a feel of the situation and was in a position to choose his own advisers, there was some concern in the Department. But when the new President with increasing self-confidence began to take the lead, the departmental morale began to soar. Furthermore, Truman was able for the most part in the field of foreign affairs to work well with members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, and that
meant much to the personnel of the Department.
I might give you an illustration of how President Truman acted when faced with a difficult decision. I think that it was in July or August l946 that we became disturbed at the pressures that the Soviet Union was applying to Turkey with respect to the Dardanelles and to the Turkish eastern provinces that at one time had belonged temporarily to Russia. The Soviet Union was intimating that those provinces should be ceded back to it and that also it should participate in the control of the Dardanelles. These pressures became so strong that both the Turks and we became concerned lest the Soviet Union might suddenly make a move to satisfy its aspirations by force.
After giving the matter considerable thought, our office came to the conclusion that the situation was so dangerous that it should be brought to the attention of the President in a
form which would enable him to make a firm decision to the effect that the United States should resist with all the means at its disposal any Soviet aggression against Turkey; that we would carry out such a policy by both words and acts in a manner that would convince the Soviet Union that we would not permit Turkey to become a victim of Soviet aggression.
We, therefore, prepared a memorandum which we hoped that Mr. Acheson, who was Acting Secretary while Mr. Byrnes was in London, would take to the President in person. In this memorandum we stated that in our opinion the Soviet Union was maneuvering to obtain control of Turkey and explained what Soviet control over Turkey would mean to future world peace. We said that the time has come to convince the Soviet Union that we will not permit Turkey to be the object of its aggression; that our policy should not be implemented by provocation or threats; but that we
should have frank talks with the principal nations involved and give Turkey strong support in the United Nations, if necessary. If the United Nations would be unable to stop Soviet aggression, the United States should not hesitate in meeting such aggression by force of American arms.
Mr. Acheson, after studying the draft of the memorandum, asked the Secretaries of War and Navy to come to his office to discuss it. We did not find it necessary to talk much about it. They both agreed with Mr. Acheson that the memorandum should be presented to the President in the presence of themselves and their Chief of Staff in order to impress upon the President the gravity of the decision which he would be called upon to make.
Mr. Acheson made an appointment with the president and he, the Secretaries of War and of Navy, their Chiefs of Staff, and I went over in a group. The President was told by Mr. Acheson as he presented the memorandum that the decision
he was asking the President to make was so grave that he wanted to have the heads of the three Departments and their assistants present in order to be able to answer questions. The making of the decision suggested might have grave consequences; also the failure to make the decision could have serious consequences.
The President studied the memorandum. He read it over several times. Then he leaned back in his chair and said, "Yes, this is a serious decision. The Soviet Union, Turkey, and other powers, however, should know where we stand. I agree to the policy suggested, and it should be carried out with the minimum of threat and without provocation." We pursued that policy and the Soviet Union toned down the threatening attitude it had been taking with regard to Turkey. It meant much to me on that day to see a great President in action.
MCKINZIE: Well you know President Roosevelt has often
been accused of being his own Secretary of State and Iíve heard other people comment that Truman did delegate these matters to his Secretaries in a way that allowed the State Department to have a higher view of itself than it had had at some other times in the past. Would you concur in that?
HENDERSON: I certainly do. President Roosevelt, it seemed to me, was playing his own game in the area of foreign affairs. Mr. Hull and no one else knew what the next move should be since the President made up the rules as he played. It was impossible, therefore, for Mr. Hull to make decisions on many occasions on which one would expect the Secretary of State to give the answer, and the President on his part wanted to make all the important decisions himself. Mr. Hull, at times, however, did not hesitate to argue with the President when he believed that the President was about to make what he considered
to be a wrong decision, and sometimes the President would take Mr. Hullís advice. Mr. Truman, it seemed to me, however, played the game according to rules, with which his Secretaries of State were made acquainted. They could, therefore, make decisions for the President in cases where they knew his rules were applicable.
The major exception to the relatively smooth cooperation between President Truman and the State Department was the handling of the Palestine problem. But, as Secretary Marshall has pointed out, Palestine had become more of an internal than an international problem.
May I make one more comment? On President Trumanís last day in office in Janaury 1953, I sent him a telegram through the Department of State wishing him much happiness and continued usefulness to the United States and telling him how honored I felt to have been able to serve under one of the great American Presidents. I sent
this telegram through the Department because I wanted a copy of it to be in the State Department files.
MCKINZIE: Very good. Well, thank you very much.
List of Subjects Discussed
and Bennett, Henry, 71-75
Director for Near Eastern and African Affairs, appointed to, 31
and economic aid, philosophy of, 66-68
on Greek aid mission, 94-96
and Greek-Turkish aid (Truman Doctrine), 76-98
India, appointment as Ambassador to, 160
Litvinov, Maxim, 22-27
and “Majority Plan” on Palestine, 125-127, 129-130, 135, 136-137, 141
and Nehru, Prime Minister Pandit, 176-177
Palestine issue, public reaction to his position on, 157-159
reaction to death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, 34-35
Soviet Union, attitude toward, at end of World War II, 20-22
Soviet Union, inspection trip to, in 1942, 22-24
Truman, Harry S., comments on, 42-46
Truman, Harry S., meeting with, on Palestine issue, 131-134
and trusteeship proposal on Palestine, 147-153
as U.S. Ambassador to India, 170-193
as U.S. Ambassador to Iran, 193-230
as U.S. Minister to Iraq, 26-32
and Zionism, 98-100, 104, 110, 111, 112
Hopkins, Harry, 40-41
Hull, Cordell, 237-238
and relations with China, 188-191
and spheres of influence, 188-190
and U.S. grain bill, 182-183
and C.I.A. involvement in 1953 coup, 217
and land reform, 223-224
Mossadegh, Premier Mohammed, 207-216
Pahievi, Shah Mohammed Riza, 205-206, 216, 220-230
and U.S. economic aid, 196-197
Oil interests in the Middle East, 56-57
Repatriation of Russian prisoners in World War I, 2-5
Truman, Harry S.:
and Iraq, Regent of, 42-46
and Palestine issue, 98-155
Palestine report in United Nations, states U.S. position on, 136
State Department, relations with, 237-238
Truman Doctrine draft, expands scope of, 86
trusteeship proposal on Palestine, opposes, 149-150, 154
and Turkey, memorandum concerning security of, 236
and “ultimatum” to Stalin, on Iran, 54-56
Tsaldaris, Constantin, 92-96
Tudeh party, 218, 226
Turkey, Soviet pressures on, 233-326