Oral History Interview with
Vice consul, Windsor Ontario, 1937, Milan, Italy, 1938-39; third secretary, American Embassy, Berlin, 1940-41; officer, Department of State, 1942-43; third secretary and second secretary, American Legation, Stockholm, 1944; staff, U.S. Political Adviser on German Affairs S.H.A.E.F., 1945; secretary of mission with U.S. Political Adviser for Germany, Berlin, 1945-49; director, Office of German Political Affairs, Department of State, 1949-52; special assistant to director, Bureau of German Affairs, Department of State, 1952.
July 23, 1974
by Richard D. McKinzie
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened March, 1979
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
July 23, 1974
by Richard D. McKinzie
MCKINZIE: Mr. Laukhuff, a lot of people are interested in knowing why people went into Government service in the first place. It appears from your credentials that you might have been headed for something academic.
LAUKHUFF: Well yes, it appears that way, but it wasn't necessarily that way. I was interested in the Foreign Service from, well, sometime during my college career and that was especially reinforced when I did my graduate work. I had international law under George Grafton Wilson
at Harvard and he had prepared a lot of people for the Foreign Service and he was always talking about it and telling about it and my interest very definitely began to turn to that direction.
But I got out of -- I never finished my Ph.D. but I got out of my graduate work right at the time of the depression and I had to have a job, and I had originally thought of an academic career as a possibility, so that's where I went. At that moment a post opened up at Sweet Briar College and I went there and took it and was there for six years.
Then in '36 the Foreign Service exams opened up again for the first time after the depression; they didn't take anybody in during the depression, so I seized the opportunity to take the exams and get in.
I had some encouragement at the time from various people. The uncle of one of my students was Judge Walton Moore who was then counselor
to the State Department and took quite an interest in me, and Stanley Hornbeck, who was later an ambassador, but then the expert in Far Eastern affairs, with whom I was acquainted for various reason, and he encouraged me to go ahead. And so I took the exams and got in, and in a way this was a sort of pursuing what had been my original intention anyway.
MCKINZIE: How would you describe yourself in those days? Did you have an outlook on international events, would you describe yourself as a Wilsonian or...
LAUKHUFF: Oh, yes, very much so, which you've perhaps guessed from some of my background. That's exactly what I would have described myself as, and it often amuses me, of course, as I get older (this has happened time and again to people); I started out thinking of myself as a Wilsonian liberal, and I still think of myself that way,
but what was a Wilsonian liberal has become something of a conservative now!
But that was my definite slant, a bit starry-eyed I would say -- you know, my knowledge of foreign affairs was purely academic and hypothetical and I was starry-eyed and idealistic, and hoping that the world was a lot better than a lot of people seemed to think it was.
So, that was the angle from which I approached the thing. I certainly gradually got brought down to earth in the course of my experiences because of an awful lot of hard facts in foreign affairs.
MCKINZIE: Might I get you to talk about your experiences in some more detail beginning with your assignment in Berlin in 1940 and 1941.
LAUKHUFF: Yes, I went up there from Milan. Up to that time my experience had been wholly on the consular side of things, and I was very happy to be there (in Berlin). I had an interest in Germany
which I suppose was both semi-academic and emotional if you like, or sentimental, simply because my -- well, not simply because -- but my grandparents were born in Germany and I found it an interesting country. I had only been there once before I entered the Foreign Service, and so I had expressed an interest -- in fact when we got through with our Foreign Service Institute training we had a chance to express desires as to what kind of post we wanted, and I said Germany or a neighboring country, and of course, what I got was Italy, which was neighboring enough and closely enough tied with Germany and that was very, very interesting from that point of view.
But I was delighted to be able to go to Germany. I looked upon it, my assignment there, with some foreboding because I think it was perfectly clear to most of us where the world
was headed at that time. In fact, most of us were, I think, most of us in the Foreign Service who were concerned at all with political affairs, were just terribly impatient with the slow progress of public opinion in this country toward what eventually became our involvement in a war, because we saw the thing with great clarity and thought it was inevitable that we had to play our part.
Well, anyway, I went there and welcomed the chance to be there. My first work there was (although to be sure it had nothing to do with Germany exactly) it was in the foreign representation section of the Embassy that handled the affairs of the British, the French, and the other allied countries whose representatives had been driven out of Germany, and it involved tremendous correspondence. We were in charge of administering funds for the relief of the nationals of those countries. We were responsible for inspecting
the civilian internment camps. I had to go every three months to a civilian internment camp down in Bavaria where there were, well, at the beginning, I suppose, several thousand, I don't remember the exact figure anymore, nationals of all these countries, including Poles and Norwegians and all sorts of people, and inspect the camp and this was a terribly depressing experience to me. I'd never been involved in anything like this before and to see the conditions under which they were held, not that there was any outright cruelty, the camp was run by the army theoretically, actually the Gestapo exercised a good deal of control over it. Then I'd go back to Berlin and fight with the Foreign Office for the next three months to try to improve certain conditions there, and we did gradually succeed in...
MCKINZIE: Were there Jews there, as you recall...
LAUKHUFF: There may well have been; I have no memory of that particular aspect of the problem. There must have been some, it seems to me, but I have no recollection of any particular problem in that area in that camp. The Jewish policy of Germany was terribly starkly etched on our minds, because we saw it on every hand.
My secretary in the Embassy was a German woman who was a Jewess and whose bitterness and despair day-by-day grew deeper and were terribly, you know, sad. She disappeared during the war (after we left). I'm sure she and her husband were taken off to be liquidated. No one ever knew what happened to them. I think without exception, at the Embassy, we were tremendously anti-Germany and pro-Allied, but of course, we didn't show that in our official dealings so much.
MCKINZIE: Was it difficult to deal with Germans?
LAUKHUFF: Yes, quite. Well, one would have to say yes and no. It was very hard to have any contacts with the ordinary run of people. They were afraid to have any contacts with us, or they were so indoctrinated with Nazi doctrine that they really disliked us, like, for example, my neighbor across the hall in my apartment house who would scarcely greet me. I could hardly force him to greet me except with a little "Heil Hitler," which I of course never responded to in kind. I always said, "Good morning."
But as far as officials went, there were many officials who really, we felt, were very friendly toward us, underneath, but they didn't dare show that too much. And the Foreign Office was not bad to deal with. Still I'm talking about 1940, even well into '41, but they weren't really in control of things, that was the trouble. We would deal with the Foreign Office, and they would go to the Army and the
Army would be helpless because they couldn't get the Gestapo to cooperate with us in regard to the camps.
Now, I'm speaking in a very limited sense, because my contacts were all on this side of things, through my whole, well, yes, through that whole period of my assignment in Berlin I didn't deal with anything but foreign representation matters.
We had allied real estate all over Europe from Norway to Greece, to try to handle by mail and see that there were caretakers and the property was taken care of and the bills were paid and all that sort of thing, and it was a hopeless job; we had a very small staff to deal with this. And we couldn't go to these places and do it ourselves, we had to just do it through the Foreign Office and through correspondence, but this was the very narrow focus of my interest. I was there as an observer, in a sense.
I don't know what, how far you want to go into anecdotes that might shed some light on the feelings and emotions of the people at that time, whether you want to bother with that or not. I mean one amusing, but still sort of revealing incident, was at the end of the war in France. The Germans suddenly began to decorate the Unterden Linden, and the word quickly got around that they were going to have a victory parade after the fall of Paris. This was 1940. And so they put banners up everywhere, they all but put them on our Embassy there at the Brandenburg Gate, and they put loudspeakers up and they erected reviewing stands and so forth. And so the great day came and this victory parade went right past us and the Goebbels gave a speech right out in the platz in front of us and we all were at the windows, and it was a bitter, bitter, bitter day for us, you know, we felt extremely
It's very hard to recapture that now, even for me, the sense of defeat. Never hopelessness, but still it was very hard in those days to have any hope. We weren't in the war, the Allies were obviously reeling and so we were extraordinarily glum that day as we watched this parade and all the saluting and the heils and the flowers tossed to the troops and all this business. Any other time it would have been a very picturesque and memorable event. Well, it was memorable, but it didn't seem very picturesque.
Well, at any rate, when it was over the parade went by and I wanted to get out of there and get home, so I went down and got in my car in the courtyard behind the Embassy and went charging out of the side gate into -- I can't remember the name of the street now at the side of the Embassy -- and here was the parade. It had
gone around the block and was coming back, just to go back to its starting point -- it wasn't supposed to be a parade any longer. And I got out into the street before I realized what was happening and I had half of the army behind me and half of it in front of me, and I was right in it. And then there were, of course, hundreds of thousands of people on the streets and they had started to disperse but suddenly they all flowed back together again to watch them go back, and I was trapped in the parade. And I went down the Charlottenburger Chaussee, let us say to the Victory Column, in this parade, with people yelling on both sides and throwing roses in my car. I never felt more out of place and I thought, "What if an American photographer gets a picture of this?"
Well, at any rate, a policeman ordered me to get out, but there was no way to get out. So I had to go on about a mile before I was
able to extricate myself. This I found amusing, but the day itself left a bitter taste that none of us ever forgot.
I was there in December 1941, and, in fact, I was the duty officer at the Embassy on the night Pearl Harbor was attacked and we got the news. I remember telephoning various people, George Kennan and various people at the Embassy, at their homes, to tell them about it, so we knew that the axe would fall very, very shortly after that, or felt certain that it would, and indeed it did within a few days, on the 11th.. We saw Hitler go over to the Reichstag and that was -- the declaration of war came immediately, and we then were told to be ready to be taken away on a Saturday, I guess it was, Pearl Harbor was on a Sunday and the following Saturday we were able to assemble at the Embassy with our luggage, and nobody knew where we were going to go or what they were going to do with us.
There was a good deal of anxiety, but we all assembled and were taken away, put in a train with our luggage -- we had mountains of luggage which the Germans hadn't somehow quite foreseen and they were terribly annoyed with it, because it was holding up the schedule of the train's departure, but they loaded it all on and off we went into the night not knowing where we were going.
We ended up, of course, at Bad Nauheim, outside Frankfurt, and had to be kept on the train, living on the train for another three or four days, I don't remember exactly, because the hotel was not quite prepared for us. This all happened so suddenly that they weren't ready.
And then we were held at this hotel in Bad Nauheim from December until May, when we were exchanged against the Germans held in this country, and it was a time of -- it was an interesting period. We were about a hundred
people, a little more, because there were families, and there were some journalists, American journalists with us, interned with us, and we of course, had all sorts of problems with morale and misbehavior and one thing and another, and we set up a little office there, headed by George Kennan, and we exchanged notes in the best diplomatic fashion with the German Foreign Office about things, carrying on a little diplomatic mission right there. And we were not mistreated in any any way, but we were deprived of our freedom and the food was very, very poor. Well, it was poor in comparison with what we had been used to in Berlin where we could import things weekly from Denmark and that sort of thing. And some people suffered fairly severely, physically, from it.
MCKINZIE: Were you given any outside liberty?
LAUKHUFF: No. Well, at first we were taken across
the street each morning to walk for an hour in the Trinkhalle, which was, of course, a watering place in Bad Nauheim and they had these elaborate places where you go to drink the waters, and everybody else was kept out and we were allowed to walk there under guard. That didn't last very long, I don't know why, and then for quite a long time we were not allowed out at all, except in the garden of the hotel which was about a quarter of the size of this yard [which you see from this porch], and a very small space indeed, or to church on Sundays. I was not religious in those days and I never went to church; some of them went to church, not because they were religious but to get out of the hotel.
At any rate, in the spring, then, we were taken on little walks up and down the banks of the little stream which flowed behind the hotel and which, curiously enough, bore the name Usa;
this brought its amusements too. Because of the exuberance of spring and the deprivation of diet, some of our people dug some dandelions along the walks, along the banks of the stream. Well, this brought us strong protest from the German Foreign Office that we were destroying public property!
One of the journalists also fashioned a kite and flew it on one of these occasions and this brought a real threat from the German Foreign Office because they said we were perhaps signaling to the enemy airplanes, and this was the childish, but I suppose inevitable atmosphere of suspicion in which we lived and they functioned, and so we really didn't have much freedom.
MCKINZIE: While you were interned, did you have any apprehension for your own safety and did you have any knowledge of how the war was going?
LAUKHUFF: On the first question, to the best of my recollection I would say no, no real apprehension, great anxiety as to when we would ever get out or under what conditions or how conditions might deteriorate, all that sort of thing, but I don't think any of us ever had any real anxiety about our personal fate. As to how the war was going, a variety of answers could be given to that.
We, of course, had access to nothing but German, some German, newspapers. Now, most of us, practically all of us, were pretty adept at reading German newspapers by that time. We were journalists or diplomats and we had been doing that right along, and we knew pretty well how to interpret things, or to read between the lines, and we knew, of course, what a very distorted and propaganda type of news we were getting.
That's really the only outside information we had except that sometime during this period a "glee club" began to practice among us. I was not ever involved in this, but some of the journalists and a few other people, formed a small group which would withdraw to a room to "practice."
Well, it finally leaked out that actually one of the correspondents had smuggled in a small radio and they were listening to the BBC broadcasts, and then the word would filter out through the rest of us gradually, but they had to be careful so that the Germans wouldn't find this out, because they would have torn the place apart.
This, however, I have to confess, didn't do much to lighten the gloom, because that was a terribly bad period of the war, and there really was no good news. But at any rate, we did get something of the British view of things
(it was a small radio and it didn't always function), and receive the broadcasts and so forth.
But other than that we were totally cut off, and we really didn't even know, except in very small detail and at very rare intervals, whether anything was moving forward toward our release. The Swiss were in charge of our affairs and I think a member of the Swiss legation from Berlin came down once or twice, of course never met with all of us, they met with Mr. Leland Morris, who was our Charge' d'Affaires then and George Kennan who was the first secretary (and really Mr. Morris, I think, was highly depressed by this whole thing and sort of withdrew upon himself both physically and emotionally and kept to his room so that George Kennan really took over the effective running of the group).
But we only knew that negotiations were going
forward through the Swiss between the Germans and the Americans, but, you know, had no reason to be hopeful about it, we just didn't know any of the details. So it came as a surprise, a very happy one, when we were told in May that negotiations had been completed and we were to be exchanged. I don't remember exactly how long in advance we learned that.
So, we packed up and we were forced to (I think this was deliberate, but maybe one tended to judge the Germans with great harshness in those days, and it may have been due to all sorts of things, shortage of transport, shortage of gasoline, I don't know what) anyway we had to walk through the streets carrying our luggage all the way from the hotel to the station, which was a quite a long distance, with people looking at us. We thought that the Germans put us on as a show, really. Whether they did or not I don't know; they did take our trunks in
And we were loaded on this train and again went off into the night not knowing where we were going exactly, at least I didn't; if George Kennan knew he didn't ever tell. And we went across France, we went around Paris, we did not go through Paris. Several little incidents which you may have been told about by other people, but which were revealing, happened enroute.
Incidentally, there was only one sleeping car, for the women, the rest of us had to sit up. No, that was on the train in Spain; on this train I think we did have sleeping cars.
MCKINZIE: The group, I take it, was mostly men?
LAUKHUFF: Well, no, some of them had been but we had a few teenage children, only two or three I think, but we had quite a few wives and female secretaries of the Embassy and so forth.
Well, so, once going through the fields in France somewhere in mid-France, I was looking out the window along with some others, and out of the crop, whatever it was, wheat or whatever, suddenly rose a man, a peasant, and waved an American flag at us. Word had gone ahead about this train. This was a curious thing how word had traveled ahead and he was waiting for us, to show his sympathies. Of course, he might have suffered very severely I should think for that. But apparently he was not caught.
Another time the French crew of a train coming in the other direction had passed us, leaned out and given the victory signal, which we took as a sympathetic gesture toward us; conceivably it might not have been, but that was the way it was understood at the time.
We were taken as far as Biarritz where we were unloaded and put up in the Palace Hotel, I guess it was, and in luxurious surroundings,
crystal chandeliers and marble columns and all sorts of things, and we had a bowl of the thinnest kind of soup and a piece of terrible bread and that's about all we had for supper there in this great dining room.
We were to leave the next morning and, at about 5 o'clock in the morning, we were all awakened by a tremendous sound of battle all around us, airplanes, machineguns chattering all up and down the beach (the hotel was right on the beach) and smoke pouring over everything, artillery going off.
Well, at first we thought, you know, the Allies had landed, but it was a German exercise at repelling invasion, and our military people, attaches, were convinced they did it just to show us how ready they were and so forth and so on. And this went on, this was still going on when we were taken through the streets to the station at about 8 o'clock or so, just a tremendous battle
raging. And we found that rather amusing and interesting after our first alarm.
MCKINZIE: But they asked you to walk through the streets again, carrying your luggage.
LAUKHUFF: Yes, yes. So then we were taken just a short distance to the border, Spanish border, and had to walk across the border and get on a Spanish train that was provided, which did have only one sleeping car for the women and children, and the rest sat up. It was a first-class train and the food was beautiful on it. Oh my, how we appreciated that. All that day and through the night (and we didn't get to Lisbon until the next afternoon sometime) we were locked in the train, we could not get out any place, all across Spain until we got into Portugal.
MCKINZIE: There were no Germans with you?
LAUKHUFF: No Germans, no. There were Spanish guards
on the train. No, the Germans left us at the border and I dare say in spite of what I said earlier about feeling no anxiety, we really all did heave a kind of involuntary sigh of relief.
MCKINZIE: Did the State Department give you leave when you got back?
LAUKHUFF: Well, they tried not to give me any, to tell the truth; when I got to Lisbon I found that I was assigned to Lisbon to stay there, not come home, and I protested. I think I was not the only case of the sort. They heeded my protest and brought me home and gave me home leave. I don't remember what I got, certainly a month, and I needed it, I was in very -- I was very nervous and rundown and thin and it took me sometime to get my equilibrium back, you know, although after all it hadn't been all that bad an experience. It made us realize what it would be to really be a prisoner of war or civilian
internee, or far worse, in a Jewish internment camp, or anything of that sort. If we suffered under this, mentally and physically, what other people went through is almost unimaginable, because we were so much better treated, and in so little real danger.
We all realized that we were dealing with a regime which really had no respect for tradition, or custom or law and, therefore, there was always the outside chance that, you know, anything could happen to us, I suppose. I suppose we realized that.
But it's rather interesting and sad to see the deterioration that went on in international law, from the time of World War I through this world war. Traditionally, of course, Embassies were sacrosanct, and were exchanged immediately with full honors and no restrictions on their freedom at all, sent out in style. I don't remember the British and French ambassadors, of
course, I wasn't there when they left Germany, I hadn't come yet, but I think they went out with maybe 48 hours delay, something like that.. Then the Dutch and Belgians, I've forgotten exactly, but I think it was a couple of weeks that they were held up, and the Russians, when their turn came, they took five weeks to arrange for them to get out, so we knew that things were getting progressively worse, and in our case it was five months, and there were worse cases where people were held longer. The British ambassador to Belgium, who was captured in Belgium, Sir Lancelot Oliphant, wrote a book about his experiences later, which I have in my library.
He was held for over two years, we had the care of him, that was one of our chores. And we visited him at his various places of internment, poor man, he was horribly lonely. He was an elderly man who had just married for the first time about five weeks before he was captured and
who was in a dither about everything, he saw his life slipping away from him. He was a very unhappy person, but an interesting man. He wrote daily to his wife who was in England and among the ridiculous and unpleasant chores which fell to my lot was to censor his mail. He sent his mail through the American pouch by arrangement with the Germans, but only on condition that we would read it (he wasn't the only case, there were others too) that we would read it to make sure that there was no military or other information of any sort.
Well, this, I felt, this was extremely repugnant to me to read this man's letters to his wife. I'm frank to say I made a pretense of it at the beginning and then I just let it go. I think the man had no access to military information, and was not sending any anyway, and I was just simply not about to read his extremely private correspondence with his wife. We also
had to censor the mail of the -- when the French left they left behind a French national as caretaker of their Embassy across the street from us in Berlin, a Monsieur Fraysse. Though I forget so many things, as I told you, I remember his name through all these years, and he was from, oh, I don't know, Auvergne or someplace in France with which I had no personal acquaintance, and wrote his letters in the dialect of some Southern province. It was incredibly difficult, couldn't make head or tails of it. Whether he was passing on information I don't know, but he gave his wife minute instructions about everything to do with his farm; when it should be fertilized, when the trees should be pruned, everything. For all I knew there could be all sorts of code words in there, but at any rate we had to send his mail off too.
MCKINZIE: When you got back then to Washington, got
a little leave, you were assigned to Portugal. I would have imagined that they would have wanted you to stay in German affairs through the war.
LAUKHUFF: Ha, you don't know the State Department! The State Department never, never has operated on quite that logical a basis. And anyway, I don't mean to be unfair about it, but it may be that they saw this as a temporary assignment or perhaps -- I don't remember what they had in mind if I ever knew -- or perhaps reporting on Germany from within Portugal as I did later in Sweden. But at any rate, they did bring me back and let me have some vacation, and then I was assigned to the Department itself to handle the German desk, which was not a very meaningful desk at that point, obviously, but it brought me into the Division of European Affairs and into contact with all that was going on in that whole area.
MCKINZIE: Well, when you were on the German desk were there plans, by say 1943, for dealing with Germany in the future? There was a lot of postwar planning...
LAUKHUFF: Yes, and we weren't very much involved in it. I say this very flatly, and my memory of details of that period really is very -- quite vague at this point, but I have no memory of feeling that I was in the middle of planning. I do think I got involved in some meetings perhaps, oh, I seem to remember a meeting with Isaiah Bowman who was one of the planners. Perhaps there were other meetings, but I was relatively young still and my post was certainly a relatively minor one. I was right at the bottom of the hierarchy in the Division of European Affairs. I had good relations and good access to the Chief of the Division, Jack Hickerson, but I was not really involved in planning.
If there was planning going on it was going on under the White House’s aegis, in my opinion, chiefly, rather than the State Department's, and I had no sense that any really important plans were being laid, and I would just have to put it that way. I can't throw any light on what was going forward in the way of planning.
In hindsight, with the benefit of memory only, and with such memories as I have, my impression would be that it was pretty ragged, and floating pretty high up in the air.
Well, of course, nobody could foresee exactly how things were going and they certainly weren't going well at that time, though everyone had, I think, pretty supreme confidence about the ultimate outcome, but exactly how the ultimate outcome would turn out, or how it would come, in what circumstances, whether we would be dealing with a German government or a collapsed Germany, none of that could be foreseen.
I'm afraid a good deal was improvised. I remember at the time, and I can no longer give you a date, or exact circumstances, but sometime when Italian affairs seemed to be propitious for some kind of initiative, I got the idea of some kind of a joint propaganda appeal by [Franklin] Roosevelt and [Winston] Churchill. How I got involved, don't ask me, because this was Italy and not Germany, except indirectly, but at any rate, I wrote up a statement which I thought would be of the sort that they ought to launch to the Italian people at that juncture, and I took it to Jack Hickerson and to the man above him, [James C.] Dunn. And they thought very well of it and took it to the White House and really submitted it to the President, but he never picked it up. Of course, I think we all had the feeling of what is perfectly clear historically to everybody, that Roosevelt did not lean heavily on the State Department. And
we had a feeling often that we were spinning the wheels and not really affecting the course of events.
MCKINZIE: He didn't lean on the State Department, and he didn't want the State Department really to rock his boat either. Did you sense that?
LAUKHUFF: Yes, I did, I think everybody did. Incidentally, if we may skip ahead, of course when we came to the Truman-Acheson relationship there was a totally different sense of our place in the scheme of things. Whatever one might say of the Foreign Service, its morale was not too high when Mr. Hull was Secretary of State, with Hopkins, and so forth, but -- so, you often had the feeling that no matter how hard you tried, what you proposed would probably not be very seriously considered at the White House, if it ever got to the White House.
MCKINZIE: Why Stockholm after the German desk?
LAUKHUFF: Well, I was sent there specifically to report on Germany. It was, after all, a listening post, a window inside Germany, almost, because it was surrounded by Norway and Finland. I mean you were there, you know, it was a center of intrigue and of visitors. Of course, the Swedes were back and forth to Germany and that sort of thing. So, well, I guess it did come as something of a surprise to me. I have no recollection of ever trying to arrange this or having any post in mind particularly, but as a matter of fact during that year and a half period at least two other abortive assignments were given to me, neither one of which I welcomed, frankly, and both of which I fought, frankly, and both of which I was successful in evading. One was to open a consulate in Iskenderun in Turkey, I don't know why, and the other was to open a consulate in Luanda, in Portuguese Angola.
Well, these were of peripheral importance, I don't say they didn't have their own importance, but they were pretty far divorced from any direct contact with Germany, and in both cases, for one reason or another, the assignments were cancelled and I was kept on with the Department, and then suddenly this Stockholm thing opened up and I was very pleased at that because I thought it to be interesting and it was as close to Germany as I could get and so I went there, quite a place to get to in those days.
At that point this was my first occasion to fly, I had never flown until that moment. I flew across the Atlantic, and with many adventures, and got to England and was told to simply hold myself in readiness, that I would be told when and where to go when the time came. And so at a given point I was handed tickets to St. Andrews in Scotland and went up there by train and stayed
at a hotel there, and was told to hold myself in readiness, that the British would let me know when I was to go to Stockholm.
And so one night a British WAC, or an equivalent thereof, came to get me in a jeep of sorts, and had a terrible time getting it started, I remember. And she said, "Don't worry, I think the plane will do better than this." She took me out to Lukars Airfield, where I was bundled up in all sorts of flying equipment, a warm flying suit (this was in the middle of January '44), and bundled me up in all sorts of stuff and a Mae West life jacket put on me. I was given instructions about the whistle that hung from it to blow it if we came down in the waters of the North Sea, and a red flare that I could set off, and one thing and another. I was taken onto the plane and fastened into my seat, with an oxygen mask over my face, the windows were blacked out,
it was the only seat in the plane, all of the rest had been removed, and the crew said, "We'll see you later," and departed.
And I never saw a human face thereafter until we landed in Stockholm six hours later, and it was extremely cold. It was an old "Dakota" plane. This was some sort of clandestine operation, I never knew the story behind it, never did know who really was running it. They were Americans, the crew were Americans.
At any rate we had to go very far north in order to cross Norway (which was German-occupied) at the narrowest point, so we were far above the Arctic Circle, and it made the trip a rather long one, but it was uneventful. We were a sitting duck if any German plane had risen to challenge us, but they didn't, and we got there, so there I was.
And this was an interesting period, but not all that productive, frankly. I was not
engaged in clandestine operations of any sort, I was not with the CIA. I did not, you know, have secret meetings with Germans, except in one case, through the intermediary of a Norwegian employee of the legation, a very capable person about whom I always felt some reserve. I never felt I knew him, I don't know precisely what game, if any, he was playing, or whether he was wholly aboveboard; he was reputed to be a loyal Norwegian, and as far as I know, he was.
But at any rate, I never quite let myself go with him but he arranged for me to meet somebody and I would just have to simply confess that though I should remember this person, he was a young German, I think in the German Foreign Office, the memory is very dim now. I remember spending an evening with him, in which we sort of verbally sparred at some distance across the room and it all came to absolutely nothing. Whether he ever had anything definite in mind or
was just sounding me out, which is certainly all I was doing, I don't know. Anyway, nothing came of it.
There was very little of that so far as I was concerned; there was a good deal of that going on by other people in the Embassy who did not, were not -- with whom I had no active connections. Most of my time was just spent picking up some information as one could from the newspapers, and particularly the German press. We got a vast array of German papers of all sorts which I and some assistants tried to cull, any direct or very indirect, usually indirect, information, statistics, and such political information as one could pick up and interpret. Of course, rumors were a dime a dozen in Stockholm. We didn't put too much credence in most of them, and I'm sure the State Department didn't either.
So, as I look back on it, I feel it was
somehow not a very profitable period. Oh, profitable to me maybe, but not to the State Department or the war effort. I don't know that anything very sensational ever came out of the Embassy there.
MCKINZIE: Were listening post assignments generally considered to be boring assignments?
LAUKHUFF: Oh, I don't think that I can give you any answer. I don't have any recollection of how they might have generally been considered. No, I don't think so. Sweden was a country with which I fell in love, I was happy to be there even though at that time we were restricted, we couldn't go to many parts of Sweden, for military reasons, but no, it wasn't boring, it was somewhat exciting because Sweden's position was quite insecure and one didn't know what might happen. I remember this as activity which was really of no political significance
of any sort or even -- no significance in regard to the State Department. I remember on D-Day, the day of the Allied landings in Europe, there was a special service of intercession at the Anglican Church in Stockholm which I attended and all of us went to, and the British -- yes the British people were there -- and, shortly after it began, a slight figure came down the middle aisle, very quietly, modestly, and went into a very front pew. It was the Crown Princess Louise of Sweden, later the Queen, who was British-born of course, and who just couldn't refrain from showing her concern and sentiments that way, but she did it very quietly with no fanfare.
So, after all, it was only a year that I was there, exactly a year. I'm sorry, it's a pretty thin story of Stockholm, but I really-it was an interesting period, we had a fine group there, and we had a fine chief, Herschel Johnson,
who was the Ambassador there at that time, the "Minister" at that time he was called, was a very fine chief, but he didn't have much to do with my work, I was left pretty much on my own.
MCKINZIE: When you were assigned to SHAPE, did you feel you had as much knowledge about Germany as you could or should have had?
LAUKHUFF: Well, I didn't know too much of what had been going on back home, I certainly had not been part of any planning such as had gone on at home, but I felt, you know, I felt it was reasonable and logical and that I was competent to take part in whatever was about to be unrolled, and I was very, very happy about this because this was going to take me right into the center of things, I thought, as indeed it did.
So, I flew out of Stockholm, the same way I came in, only under worse circumstances. I mean
in the sense that I was given no equipment this time. It was again in the middle of January, bitter cold, and I sat up in the cockpit with the crew, they had no -- they only had three oxygen masks and we flew quite as high as the plane could go I guess, and I was about to black out and nobody seemed to be doing anything about me. And I thought, "Well, they know I don't have oxygen, and they know I need oxygen, and damned if I will say anything."
At the last moment before I blacked out the radio operator handed me his mask and we exchanged back and forth periodically after that.
Well, anyway, we carried out surreptitiously three Norwegian refugees who were going to join the free Norwegian forces in England. And they nearly froze to death, they were in the body of the plane without blankets or anything and the crew finally brought them up into the cockpit where we were quite crowded; it was a small
plane. When we flew over the coast of England the pilot fired off a recognition signal so the antiaircraft batteries wouldn't open up on us, and the three Norwegians were absolutely petrified with fright, they thought we were being attacked by antiaircraft, or by airplanes, or both. They didn't speak any English and nobody spoke Norwegian, but I spoke Swedish, and so I explained in Swedish so they could understand what it was and they were relieved. Anyway, we got back there, and so that chapter ended and another one began, which was very interesting. I was pleased to be connected with [Robert] Murphy whom I had heard of, of course, but had never worked with before. We frankly spun wheels there for a while and this was to be a very frustrating chapter.
MCKINZIE: Who was calling the shots -- what was the call, in fact?
LAUKHUFF: Well, as far as London went we just twiddled our thumbs during the few months we were stationed at Bushey Park, outside of London. We hardly ever saw Ambassador Murphy, he spent a great deal of time with General [Dwight D.] Eisenhower who was never out in Bushey Park, or almost never, I don't know where he was, but he wasn't there. And so we were a small group under the leadership of Donald Heath, later Ambassador to various places, Bulgaria and Saudi Arabia and various and sundry places, and we just shuffled papers and made plans out of thin air, you know, I mean it was not a rewarding period, but we were marking time as we knew or fondly hoped that all of this would be proved for the better later on.
We went on into France, out to Versailles for another couple of months, and there the experience was very similar, passing papers
around among ourselves, drawing up plans of one sort or another, which so far as I know never came to anything. I remember a great flap at the time when we were -- so far as I can recall when we were still in London they had -- somebody, not to the best of my knowledge our group, although I know that Bob Murphy was very much, was involved in it, but it just didn't filter down to us, they had drawn up plans for exactly what should be presented to the Germans if they surrendered. And of course, they did, but the trouble was, as I recall it, General Bedell Smith went off forgetting to take any of these papers with him, so they improvised on the spot instead, is my recollection!
MCKINZIE: When you were not only dealing with the problem of German surrender, but the problem of German occupation, were you under the impression the Army was going to be doing it for a long time, or that it was going to fall
to the State Department to take care of occupation?
LAUKHUFF: Well, that's kind of hard to answer, I don't know quite how to answer that, I suppose I would say that we, I think, were pretty much under the impression that the State Department was to have a very important say in this, and would be listened to very carefully and really would be the guiding force as far as policy went while the Army would carry out all the things we decided.
Well, we got disabused of that, of course, in short order, but as far as length of time goes I think to the best of my recollection I would say our impression was that this was going to be a pretty long continued thing, oh, maybe quite long.
I don't think we thought, if your question means that, that the Army would go in and then turn Germany over to us, I don't think we quite
saw it working out that way, but I think we saw ourselves in a very, very important directing role, or hoped we would be -- felt we would be.
MCKINZIE: The question was simply prompted by the fact that the State Department had some reluctance, I think, at the top level, to get into anything resembling operations. They'd rather be in a policy making position.
LAUKHUFF: Policy, that's right. Oh, we didn't have the apparatus for operations; it just wasn't there. The Foreign Service, remember, when the war broke out, was a very small group. When I went into the Foreign Service in '37, you know, there were only -- there were under a thousand Foreign Service officers. I don't remember the exact number but 700 or 800, something like that, a very elite group, but a very small group. This is part of the whole problem of what happened to the State Department in those
years and which has affected it ever since, it just was unable to adjust rapidly to a great change in its responsibilities or its potential responsibilities. It didn't have the manpower and always was reluctant to get involved in the dirty work of operations. And I suppose I shared that attitude as much as anybody, maybe more than some, I don't know. We saw ourselves as policy directing people and let somebody else carry it out.
MCKINZIE: When did you begin to have close contact with Mr. Murphy?
LAUKHUFF: Oh, in Berlin. In Versailles I saw him occasionally, relations were very pleasant, but I was not close to him and this period again was a period really of waiting and again a period of thinking that, well, when we get to Germany all of this is going to coalesce and we'll come into our own, so to speak.
So, we went on to Berlin and I don't remember exactly, there was a confused period there, of course, after we went to Berlin, when we were involved in billeting problems and office space problems and organizational problems; this gradually shook down, and gradually our contacts and relations with Ambassador Murphy became very close and very satisfactory on the whole. Perhaps this is as good time as any to say that I have a great deal of respect for Bob Murphy and a certain amount of affection but it was my impression now that he was a man, always, who was capable of playing his cards very close to his chest who seldom, we felt, seldom really revealed himself to us. Friendly, jovial, congenial as he could be.
And he made real efforts to cue his staff in as time went on. As I say, this developed somewhat gradually, he had to come to know us,
after all, who were a miscellaneous bunch most of whom he had never worked with. But, gradually we would be called to his office and he would tell us what he wanted to tell us, commit himself as far as he wanted to commit himself, reveal his concerns and anxieties as far as he felt it was safe to do so. And ask our counsel and advice as far as he wanted to.
So, there was always an area that we never penetrated, I'm sure of that, and this was often a subject of considerable criticism as we talked among ourselves, but respectful criticism because we all did have great respect for him. And I see him still occasionally in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations and like him very much.
He had his worries through those years (I'm telescoping terribly of course), as time went on he exerted himself with all his ability, which is very considerable, to keep always at
the elbow, first of Eisenhower and then of [Lucius D.] Clay or whoever -- [General Joseph T.] McNarney, and Bedell Smith and everybody around, but as time went on, of course, Clay emerged as the real power, even before he was military governor. And so it was Clay that he dogged like a shadow and with whom he exerted every effort to establish the closest possible relations, and I think he succeeded to a very large extent so that I think personally he had an influence on Clay and the course of events, which none of us are in a position to estimate. Only he and Lucius Clay can say. I don't think any one of the rest of us can be sure how much he could influence Clay's decisions, and there were points in which he couldn't influence him at all, quite clearly.
Clay was, in many respects, a great man, a master administrator, and a man of decisiveness, a man who kept his own counsel to a large extent.
He would send for Murphy at the drop of a hat, and Murphy would drop everything and go, because he meant always to be available to Clay when Clay wanted him and he had free access to Clay. But they had their rows too. Of course, the position of the State Department group there from first to last was a source of irritation, perplexity, anger, frustration.
We never established ourselves satisfactorily -- to our own satisfaction -- in the relationship we would have liked. We were in on, I suppose, on most things in some capacity or other, but we were sometimes short circuited, often ignored, I mean our counsel was ignored.
Even Clay's civilian advisers on his own staff, however, in military government, were much more powerful than we. One very notable example was Ed [Dr. Edward] Litchfield. I remember an occasion when he kept asking what we thought and so on, and I got tired of this,
because he was obviously not revealing anything of his own thoughts. And I said, "Ed, I want to know what you think. I don't care what General Clay said."
At this point he was always quoting Clay, "General Clay wants this done."
I said, "You've asked our advice, I don't care what General Clay says, what do you think?"
He got frightfully angry, rather impolite to me. And that just happened to be one recollection which surfaces, but this is typical of what we had to put up with.
MCKINZIE: A political scientist from the University of Michigan, [James K.] Pollock, was also on his staff. Would a person like that have more influence on the course of events than, say, someone on Bob Murphy's staff?
LAUKHUFF: Well, I wouldn't say that he had -- I
wouldn't want to say, though it might be true, that he had more influence than Bob Murphy, probably not. But he had a good deal more influence than we down the line as far as I was. Of course, I wasn't very high up, I was only a second secretary of Embassy, I guess, at that point, I don't remember, in rank, and simply a member of the political section of Ambassador Murphy's staff. Later I became the chief of the Political Section, but even so, I wasn't very important, so it's not quite fair perhaps to compare me with Jim Pollock, with whom I had very cordial relations and formed a friendship, not close, but which lasted for some years, with various contacts with him.
I don't think we feared people like Pollock. Pollock was a political scientist, he was an honest man, he was a perceptive and wise man, and ready to listen and discuss with people.
We did fear people like Litchfield, who was devious and had his own axe to grind, very clearly, and was ready to undercut us at any time, cut our throats anytime, frankly.
Maybe I can illustrate something of our position in another specific way. General Howley, then Colonel Howley, was head of the American command, the American military government command in Berlin, and he sat on the Allied -- well, he was the Allied Commandant of Berlin (the American commandant of Berlin, I’m sorry) and he sat on the Allied Kommandatura, of course, and at some point, fairly early, I was named as his political adviser. In other words, I was Murphy’s extension to the American commandant of Berlin.
Well, this was an empty title if there ever was one, as Frank Howley in his book well reveals, and you may not have read it, but at any rate, it does show that he really didn’t
have any use for State Department types at all. And he tolerated me and, generally speaking, was reasonably polite, but he certainly didn't, in general, except on rare occasions, even bother to ask me what I thought, so that I was very hard put to it. I volunteered my advice on many occasions but that didn't get me very far.
However, I was always present and this was one of the most interesting experiences of my life, to be present at the meetings of the Allied commandants, the four, up until the time of the breakup of the Kommandatura. And to sit through those endless sessions -- it was an educational experience to see how the Russians operated and see our French and British colleagues and so forth. I was present on the occasion when the Kommandatura really broke up. And it broke up because Frank Howley unwisely chose to get impatient and take offense and walk out. He really broke it up, he walked out and then the
Russian said he had been insulted and he walked out, and he didn't come back.
So, of course, I informed Ambassador Murphy right away, this took place late at night as I recall (most things took place late at night), and I informed him, and gave him a full report about it and the next day he took me in to see Clay who was very upset about this, and had me report. And Clay asked me point blank, should he remove Howley? It was one of the few occasions when I suppose I was asked for advice or when something might have happened or not happened depending upon my advice. I don't know whether if I had said yes, he would have removed Howley. Howley had been injudicious and too fast on the trigger and I said, "Well, on the merits of the case, yes, but," I said, "you can't do that. In the face of the Russian reaction and the Russian pressure, I think this would be regarded as a weakness. I don't think you dare
remove him." And they agreed with that and whether they would have agreed if I had said the opposite, I don't know.
At any rate, he was not removed. And so far as I knew, he never knew about that moment. He would have been most unhappy to think I had anything to do with his fate, I'm sure!
MCKINZIE: That incident reveals your feeling that real cooperation between the Soviet Union and the United States in the zonal matters was pretty well over by that time.
LAUKHUFF: Oh, yes, well, I think so. In fact, I think frankly that -- now, I'm speaking -- well, I don't know what word to use, at any rate, let me put it this way, that I and some of my colleagues on the political side, on Ambassador Murphy's staff, very rapidly came to what I still think was an entirely correct assessment of the situation in Germany, very early, and before the
official line came to that, long before the official line came to that.
In the early days Clay, and I would judge with Murphy's consent, and that probably Murphy felt the same way, did everything to mollify the Russians, to get along with the Russians, to give in to the Russians, except on the most essential things, to show them that he was ready to negotiate in good faith and in fairness. Of course, I think everybody knows now that this doesn't necessarily work with the Russians, this doesn't achieve what -- they look at things differently. The American Military Government heads berated the French all through those early months of the occupation, it was "those damn French who oughtn't have been there in the first place" who were causing all the trouble, who were holding up everything, and indeed they did. But to deal with French obstructionism was one matter
and to deal with Russian obstructionism was another matter, and the real lasting obstructionism, and the one that was going to be difficult to surmount or was impossible to surmount, was coming from the Russians.
And I think (always, I'm thinking of people like Brewster Morris, who later became Ambassador to Chad and is retired now from the State Department -- don't know whether you know his name or not, lives out in California -- and he was my colleague on the same level I was, dealt with political matters; Louis Wiesner, who is still in the State Department, has been largely involved throughout his career with labor relations, international labor relations; Rebecca Wellington, now retired, as Consul General at Salzburg; and some others, John -- Jack [John W.] Tuthill, later Ambassador to Brazil and various places), I think we all saw this pretty much eye-to-eye, and we quickly pushed the French
aside as really insignificant. They were capable of causing all sorts of trouble and difficulty and irritation, but it seemed to us the real enemy, frankly, was the Russians, that they were just not going to cooperate, they had their own aims which were totally different from ours in Germany. They were not going to be won around by fairness and openness across the negotiating table and so forth. And furthermore, that we ought not to be placing our hopes solely on the conservatives and reactionaries among the Germans, that we must establish close and cordial relations with, and make use of, the Social Democrats, for example, especially in the Berlin situation, which was chaotic and difficult and gave every evidence of becoming worse, as it did.
We didn't get any support on this, we were speaking to the wind, it seemed to us. There was a firm policy that we should try at
all costs, almost all costs, to get along with the Russians. We wiped this off mentally at an early date and this sounds like boasting now, but I think the records would support it, if the records exist, of memos we wrote. I took strong exception at a fairly late date to this general policy in a lengthy memorandum to Ambassador Murphy, simply disagreeing with decisions that had been made. I can no longer recall the immediate cause of all this, and I remember him saying to me, "What are you trying to do, get your view on the record?" -- with a smile!
And, in a sense, I guess I was, because I really didn't have much hope that it would change things, but he was very fair about it and he sent it off to "Doc" Matthews in Paris, who was in Paris at the time, as representing a point of view among his staff, and it pretty well represented the point of view of all the lower
echelon of his staff, whether he knew it or would recognize it or not.
Well, this illustrates several things. It illustrates that there was for a long time a cleavage of emphasis at least, if not of policy, between the top and lower ranks and also illustrates Bob Murphy's fairness and the fact that you could disagree with your superiors and it didn't affect your career. I mean they talk so much these days about being penalized in the Foreign Service if you venture to express policy dissent. I have very little patience with the present Foreign Service; I'm very disappointed in it. They are much more concerned with labor-management relations than they are with career foreign policy matters, and I'm very sorry about it, and they complain bitterly that, you know, you have to go along, and you have to hide your disagreement -- well, maybe you do,
now-a-days, but you certainly didn't then. I never was one to go along if I felt convinced it was the other way and I always expressed myself very freely and I got along very well in the Service.
MCKINZIE: You wrote this memorandum to Ambassador Murphy as early as when?
LAUKHUFF: Oh, it's hard to say, I should think this was '46 or '47 even, maybe, and probably not '45, no, not '45. We pretty well suppressed our feelings though, I think, I know, we talked endlessly among ourselves about these things and I would say as early as the mid-fall of 1945, anyway, we had, our views had solidified pretty well along this line, that the Social Democrats ought to be paid much more attention to.
Of course, Schumacher [Kurt Schumacher, head of the Social Democratic Party] was a
terribly difficult person, a very difficult, abrasive personality, and not easy, and the type of person that Clay would just not get along with five seconds and could hardly tolerate, I think. I say that with no sound evidence, but this was my impression, and even Murphy who spoke perfect German and could get along with and did meet Schumacher, nevertheless they felt this, he was too difficult a person, he wasn't going to get anywhere, and he wouldn't get anywhere with the Social Democrats, and he wouldn't this and that, and that he was really hostile to the Americans anyway (and indeed he was to a certain extent) and it wasn't worth all the time, and that we ought to pin our hopes on the Christian Democrats.
Well, of course, he later showed, I think, that that policy wasn't wholly well founded, and also as early as the fall of '45 I would say that in the lower echelons we really were
training our sights on the Russians as the people to watch, not the French. We thought they (the French) were a diversion.
And difficult as they undoubtedly were, and hostile as Clay was to them, he really would berate the French up and down. Of course, it was easy to berate the French in those days, and much more difficult to berate the Russians. Anyway berating never affected the Russians one way or the other. But I mean the object of concern was, in our minds the Russians, not the French, but it took a long time and we went along, we suppressed these feelings of criticism, I would say, in my memory, until perhaps well into '46, and from then on we concentrated by establishing the best relations we could among ourselves with the Social Democrats who were far more powerful in Berlin in those days and far more important to the scheme of things than the Christian Democrats
were, or perhaps ever have been since. And we concentrated on giving advice when it was asked for, drawing up plans when they were asked for, or sometimes when they weren't, about how to deal with the Russians and what kind of line to take with the Russians.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall talking with your colleagues about that JCS-1067 and all the complexities of that document? That document appears to someone who comes along after the fact to have put Clay in a position of determining a lot of policy.
LAUKHUFF: Well, that's entirely possible. If you want me to talk about JCS-1067 I would have to say right off the bat I can't do it, and this is one of the particular quirks of my memory. I remember that this was a terribly basic policy, that it was endlessly argued over and so forth and so on, but the details of its application and the arguments elude me completely at this
MCKINZIE: Well, it had set up de-Nazification and demilitarization, democratization and all kinds of things, you know. But it put General Clay in a position of having to execute them, taking Nazis out of responsible positions, training people and, of course, he was the only man they could get out there, who could do that.
LAUKHUFF: That's right. It's hard to remember back and much more difficult to establish any time periods in my mind at any rate now, and mind you, again, by way of apology or explanation, I haven't got one single word in writing to refresh my memory about any of these things. I never kept a diary, I never kept any of my notes or papers or memos or anything, it's all just up there [in my head].
But in the beginning, whether I was typical
or not, I wouldn't want to even say any longer. I went back into Germany, very, very bitter, unduly so for the position I was in. I mean Foreign Service people, diplomats, should not allow emotions ever to get in the way of things. But bitter about the war and about Germany and about the Nazis, and really where it carried over into bitterness about the Germans, not just the Nazis (though I knew all the Germans hadn't been involved in all these things), and quite unduly so, I think, for the sake of stable judgment, but this rapidly was overcome I think in my case, and in other cases, and we got a more objective and colder view of the situation, divorced from these wartime businesses. I suppose all this is extremely difficult for anybody who didn't live in that period to understand or to appreciate, rather, fully, the depths of feeling, and bitterness, and anger felt in the world towards the Nazis.
But it had deeply affected me and when I went back in I felt that these people got exactly what they deserved when I saw the poverty, the hunger, the cold, the destruction, the way they were living. I do, of course, have some German friends, and relatives in Germany that I have been in constant contact with and visited back and forth with while I was in Berlin before the war and during the war, and then afterwards I got in touch with them again, too; and for them I had sympathy of course, and even tried to help them in various ways. (My cousin, incidentally, speaking of de-Nazification and all this business, was head of an organ manufacturing firm in a small town in South Germany and a man of importance in his town, and in his profession. And he spoke English, he had lived in the United States a couple of years, and the military government moved in there and the military government
head -- well, I don't know what's the matter with my brain today, but Richard -- the man that later became -- he's a political scientist, well-known, became director of the Census and other things in this country more recently -- it'll come back later. Anyway, he was the commander of the military government -- head military government officer in that town, and he investigated my cousin, who told him, among other things, he could get in touch with me, I was in Berlin, as to his past political affiliations, and so he did get in touch with me and I gave my cousin a good bill of health because I could do so in very good conscience indeed, he had indeed been picked up by the Gestapo for injudicious remarks made about the regime "in his cups," when he was "in his cups" locally, and I had had many occasions to observe him with what I felt was some honesty.
At any rate, to make a long story short, I gave him a good bill of health and he was
appointed mayor by the military government, and he's never forgotten that.
The last time I was in Germany, which was eight years ago, we sat over a bottle of wine one evening and he got very sentimental and broke down and cried about what I had done for him at that time.
But gradually one saw that this wasn't the way one was going to build a new world, you couldn't build it on feelings of hatred and revenge and destruction. De-Nazification was all right, although it might have been carried to extremes, was carried to extremes. You had to make some sort of sorting out of the sheep from the goats, obviously, in those days, but the long continuance of it and repeated applications of it in individual cases, were perhaps another thing but the non -- what was the term?
LAUKHUFF: Non-fraternization policy, this quickly became silly to many people as first of all, perhaps, not the right policy in all honesty, and secondly, humanly impossible to enforce. And so, of course, it was gradually abandoned. I don't know what General Clay's own personal feelings about it were at all, nor Ambassador Murphy's for that matter. I don't remember, I must have known something at the time.
But, of course, the real turning point came, characteristically, when Clay, an engineer, a businessman, saw that he couldn't build any kind of an economy there if we were going to destroy everything and take it out in reparations, and that you had to restore the soundness of the currency and you had to provide some basis for an economy, with safeguards, as we hoped and thought, against Germany becoming too predominant again economically, or certainly militarily, but if this
experience taught me anything, and I suppose any historian should know this and know it a million times over, and yet we have to learn this lesson again and again and again, every time there's a war, apparently, we have to learn this lesson that you cannot build a lasting peace, or durable arrangements of any sort on the basis of destruction and hatred. It has to be built, you have to create some new base of cooperation, at any rate, if not friendliness, and economic stability, and so that became -- when Clay became convinced of that he then began to really see the real problem lying in the Russians, I think.
MCKINZIE: Well, at first Clay's responsibility was to provide the Germans with a standard of life, not supposed to be higher than that of any of the other Allies...
MCKINZIE: And he was supposed to keep it yet lower than that but yet high enough to prevent. I think the phrase was, disease and unrest. And 1946 and 1947, particularly those winters, were really tough ones and I wondered if, you know, on the spot there, you ever thought that the situation was economically, socially, physically desperate enough so it might be approaching the unrest stage among the people.
LAUKHUFF: Well, I don't know, all my remarks will have to be taken with caution I think now, on that. We went into Germany -- I remember enough to indicate this clearly -- we went into Germany, you know, thinking we might be killed at any minute, that there were bands of Germans going to resist by guerilla warfare. As we drove into Germany, I drove in in an Army jeep, with a military government colonel and two sergeants, as I recall. At any rate, you know, there were stories about wires being stretched across roads
and decapitating people riding along and we were in that state of mind about the Germans.
Well, of course, it quickly developed that the Germans were not in that frame of mind at all, they were pitifully beaten. It's often generalized, perhaps stupidly, that the Germans are terribly arrogant when they are up and terribly cringing when they're down, and there's something to that. There's something to that. But at any rate, they were next to cringing in the early postwar months. But not in all cases, by any manner of means.
I remember the pitiful specimens of humanity that the military government put into police uniforms to build up a new police force in Berlin, subservient and beaten down. This was true of the people generally. They were quite hopeless, they were relieved that the war was over and there was some natural spontaneity of spirit that arose just naturally from that,
but by and large, and as you have rightly recalled those first winters, particularly the winters as I recall, of '46 and '47, were desperately terrible times and the cold was Siberian, and it came down out of Russia, as a matter of fact; and the people were living in ruined houses, in cellars, without the proper shelter, and clothed in many cases in almost rags, at least odds and ends that they had saved, and without heat. And processions of people going every day into and out of the Gruenewald Forest in Berlin to cut wood, at first to pick up wood. That was soon all gone, and then to cut down trees because the Germans relaxed their strict forestry regulations and designated many trees, thousands of trees, to be cut down, whole areas that could be cut down, and working long hours, older men and women, trying to cut out the great stumps out of the ground, so that they could use every bit of it for wood.
I'm digressing no doubt on unimportant things, but I remember I was much preoccupied when I first went back to find the woman who had been my housekeeper in 1940 and '41, a very loyal old-fashioned German woman, who had taken it very hard when I was sent away to internment and had sent me in internment at some risk, and undoubtedly great cost, to herself, foodstuffs, by package, parcel post. She even got eggs, which were practically unobtainable and made eggnog (where she got the brandy or whatever, I don't know) and sent me bottles of eggnog and anything that she thought would be nourishing that she could lay her hands on. A wonderful woman, and I was much concerned about her.
I had a lot of trouble finding her, but I did finally locate her in Berlin after several months. And I went to her room, she had a single room and they had built a little
brick fireplace with a pipe in a hole knocked into the wall, or through a window, I don't remember the exact arrangement, and she had to go out every day to find wood to build the fire to cook her food.
Well, this was very typical and she, in fact, was in more comfort than many because her house, the house she was in was not damaged. And they were cold and they were hungry, they were without roofs, and shelter, and food, and it was a miserable time and yet I don't think -- I have no memory that we were seriously afraid of unrest on any major scale. Certainly there was unrest, but I think our feelings were motivated as much by just basic human consideration as political considerations, and I may be wrong about this. General Clay I remember, for example -- of course nearly every house in Berlin had been unroofed by the bombings and there was a great shortage of materials, but
he collected together what he could find and he did provide roofing tiles for a large school near headquarters so that the school could be resumed, the children could be under a roof.
He didn't have enough to do much for the housing, because we took care of our own buildings first to repair them. Glass was in short supply, everything in short supply and the Germans were awfully hopeless, and of course, awfully jittery there in Berlin.
Now remember that I'm dominated more by memories of Berlin than of Germany generally. While I was in Frankfort, from time to time, and other places, and through the German countryside, still it was Berlin that predominantly influenced me and my outlook and Berlin is where -- well, Berlin is a curious mixture and they're big city people. The Communists and Socialists have always been very strong there. Berlin never did give in to the Nazis, in a
sense, and this was recognized by everybody. It was called, of course, as you know "Red Berlin" in the old days, and the Berliners are a very tough lot, they are a rather unlovely lot. Oh, of course, obviously, the society people, people of culture, are cultured wherever they are, but the ordinary Berliner isn't either terribly good looking, or very polite, or anything else, and yet they are very resilient and very tough people, and they bore a lot and they bore it with anxiety, with concern, and a lot of other things; but I don't think at any time there was any particular thought of an uprising in Berlin, no matter how bad things got.
Now, Berlin wasn't typical though, the Russians were there and all four powers were there in some force and, you know, what, after all, can people of no circumstances do? So, I don't recall that we were particularly worried about that, but...
MCKINZIE: Well, when you were thinking about the problems of Germany, and you were under the directive to keep it, there was even, what, a level of production that it was not to exceed, and for a while they were on rationing of 1250 calories a day or something like that.
MCKINZIE: Then suddenly people began at some point evidently simultaneously, or if you read a lot of books you get the idea that it was simultaneously -- everyone saw that the situation, not only in Germany, but in France and Italy, which had political problems and the rest in 1947, and the rest of Europe which had all sorts of physical and food problems, couldn't be dealt with piecemeal. Somehow it had to think in terms of the European recovery, and of course that eventually brought the Marshall plan.
MCKINZIE: And I was wondering if among your colleagues there was much discussion of having to not only keep things on an even keel, and hope that the Germans could pull themselves up by their bootstraps again, but at what point did you begin to think that some sort of massive outside aid was going to be necessary? Was it talked about? Do you recall whether it was talked about before Secretary Marshall, or was this something anybody talked about with Robert Murphy?
LAUKHUFF: Well, now, I'm going to have to plead -- beg off on that one. I think, certainly at some point, but this is what I can't help you out on. I would think, in retrospect, that before Secretary Marshall proposed his plan, we began to be driven to the conclusion that there had to be a broader solution of some sort, or at least to the conclusion that, well, certainly to the conclusion that Germany located
as it was, and as important as it had always been in the economic sense, could not be left desolate and a wasteland and that there could be no strength, no European strength in the sense which we would like -- that a sound Germany, and in those days we fondly hoped a reunited Germany, was a necessity to European peace and recovery.
Now, I just simply can't tell you anything in detail. I can't recall conversations about this. I don't know at what point this came into our thinking at the lower levels, let alone at what point it came into the conviction of people at the top levels. I simply can't tell you any longer.
MCKINZIE: Well, then let me pose another kind of question and that is, to what extent, do you remember, did you think that the problems that Europe had and Germany had, were basically economic problems? I've been kind of concerned
a little bit about talking to people who were in the economic division and people in the political division, whether they ever talked to each other.
LAUKHUFF: Well, you may well be concerned and I'm going to say very frankly here that this was one of my weaknesses as a political officer. I have never been very strong on economics, very knowledgeable about economics, even as aware as I should have been or should be now, always, of the significance of economic factors in political matters, and there was too much dichotomy, too much separation between political and economic officers.
We certainly did talk to each other in the strict sense of the word, certainly, and had conferences galore. And throughout my later service in the State Department with Jacques Reinstein [Director of the Office of German Economic Affairs], Jacques and I spent endless
hours together in meetings, and then personally, privately, alone, individually. But I always felt very weak in this area, frankly, and I think this was a weakness in a political officer because I didn't always make the connections.
Oh, in a general way, sure, I thought of the influence of economics on politics, but probably my concern with this would have come along later than it should have and later than some other people's did. About the only thing I can say to you in that respect, I think the people in finance and economics went their way and made their decisions too often without any particular concern for political effects, or political input, and vice versa. It works both ways.
MCKINZIE: What kind of special projects did you handle between the time you went back to Germany at the end of the war and say the time of the Berlin blockade?
LAUKHUFF: Well, of course, the most important, I suppose, the most outstanding special assignment, was to be political adviser to Howley at the Kommandatura, a sterile period, an interesting period, but utterly sterile in terms of coming to any arrangements with the Russians ever. This was the period in which the Russians were much opposed to Ernst Reuter, who was coming into power and who came into power, and who, with the rest of the city government, was eventually driven out of East Berlin, of course.
Otherwise I don't recall any special assignment except a general assignment of observing the German scene, reporting on it, making recommendations with regard to political arrangements, maintaining contacts with political parties; we had many such contacts at the lower level, as Murphy did, and even Clay to a lesser extent, at a higher level. We had
contacts with such political leaders as Jakob Kaiser and [Kurt] Schumacher and in the very earliest days, Grotewohl, when he was supposedly exerting power in the eastern sector which I think was always less power than it appeared -- he was, of course, always completely dominated by [Walter] Ulbricht, whom I never did meet; but I remember Brewster Morris and I in those very, very early days, it must have been in the late summer of '45, anyway August perhaps, or September, at the latest, going over to the east sector and talking to Grotewohl, who was very pleasant, who at that time, of course, was still a Social Democrat, in name as in his personal background.
MCKINZIE: Yes. I asked General Clay the other day what he did to assure that the Christian Democrats would succeed, and he was a little embarrassed about that question, and said of course, then we had democracy, and that
there was no real impediment to any political activity by anybody.
LAUKHUFF: Well, that's right. I believe that to be true, I don't think there was any impediment. You know, nobody was thrown into jail, nobody was prohibited from doing things that other people could do. There were no roadblocks, to the best of my recollection, thrown in the way of the Social Democrats for example. It was perfectly clear to us that they were the strongest party, actually and potentially, and we were terribly concerned at our level, to encourage Schumacher against the Grotewohls and Social Democrats like him who were splitting off to the SED (Sozialisliches Einheits Partei, or Socialist Unity Party) in the eastern sector. That was the Communist dominated united party. We thought that Schumacher and his colleagues, who were determined to preserve their position in Berlin, ought to be given every facility and aid in the
way of money and encouragement and so forth and so on, but they didn't get very much, you know. Whether we subvented the Christian Democrats with money, or not, I don't know, but the atmosphere toward them was certainly much more cordial and the contacts more frequent, I would say, than with the Social Democrats, but still, there were no impediments for the latter.
I think Clay is, technically at any rate, completely correct in saying that we had democracy. In our sectors we had it completely, in the Russian sector certainly not. There, every force was thrown in to insure the success of the Socialist Unity Party in that sector.
Well, I don't have much more to add on that subject. It was simply a kind of aversion. Our people at the top really were afraid of Socialists, they were -- I'd have to say this, and I think it applies to Lucius Clay, too, and a lot
of other people, they were politically illiterate, to a certain extent, and dominated by prejudices. And to them a Socialist, perhaps particularly at that time, was an ineffective sort of fellow, half dangerous and half ineffective but hardly to be distinguished from a Communist. They simply didn't draw the distinctions which it was proper to draw and which it is still proper to draw, between their methods and outlooks and goals and so forth. And so they were very suspicious of Socialists either as people who would be difficult to get along with or would upset the apple cart, would make demands at embarrassing moments, who would make demands that we wouldn't want to grant, or who would go soft and join the Communists in the end, all of these things. Rightly or wrongly, we thought we saw things more clearly at a lower level!
God knows I was never a Socialist. I
mean in this country I was never a Socialist although I did vote once for a Socialist candidate for President. I've boxed the compass in my long career as far as voting goes, but I have never been, either in theory or in practice, a Socialist of any sort. Nevertheless, I was able to distinguish between socialism and communism, and this is what the top people did in only the fuzziest kind of way.
So, this explains, I think, my feeling that there was a conservative bias in General Clay, in economics and politics, and in other people too. I don't know what to say about Ambassador Murphy in this respect, because Murphy was a keen observer. He was a man of the people, in his origins very much so, a steelworker at one point, and you know, not from the upper classes in any sense; not perhaps that this really is significant, but I don't know what his real thoughts were. This is where that curtain
that came down interferes with one's vision. He may well have been entirely in accord with our views about the political situation and yet found that the going just wasn't suitable for it with General Clay and the military. So, I don't know.
MCKINZIE: If I could pursue the military-State Department relationship because it applies to you and your job in the American Kommandatura group in Berlin. Someone has deposited the idea that there is an inherent problem, where you have military people and State Department people who are supposed to work harmoniously, because of the way the responsibility is assigned and delegated. That the Army put a great deal of faith in the judgment of the commander in the field and gives him a broad general assignment and tells him to do whatever he has to do to get the damn thing done, but that the State Department is looking over its representative's shoulder
all the time constantly asking for reporting, keeping the individual on a shorter leash so that when the military and State Department person have a common job to do, it has to be done in a particular way, because of the different kinds of authority.
LAUKHUFF: Well, that's right. The picture you've drawn is overdrawn, but it's basically true, somewhat overdrawn. It has varied at various points in history and with various individuals but basically that's true, and that, of course, always really put the State Department people at a disadvantage. The other man, the military man, knew he had the power, he knew that in the crisis he would be backed up. We never did. We could never count on that, we could never be sure. We always had to go back home.
Murphy couldn't speak with quite the same authority to Clay as Clay could to Murphy,
and we were, after all, also really in their hands, and they were riding high, and the State Department, while it might agree with us, was not able effectively to move the Defense Department to do anything about it, because they didn't override their people but gave them a long leash. And so I suppose we really suffered in a sense under a frustrating sense of inferiority vis-a-vis the military. We were indeed, were almost physically in their -- well, we were physically in their power for many things, it took a lot of fighting to get proper accommodations and this sort of thing, not for Murphy but for people down the line. And there was a point at which this became a real issue. I think it must have been one of the most critical moments in Murphy's relationship with Clay when Clay objected to our having an independent reporting system to the State Department, and I think Bob Murphy really stood up and fought that time. This is my impression, though I don't know the
details, never did. He didn't take us fully into his confidence, but he was pretty worked up at that point and may indeed have laid down some ultimatums of his own about our getting out altogether. There was, you know, a real humdinger of a fight, and Clay backed off of that, somewhat, but he was never happy and always had the feeling that we were going behind his back and criticizing and attacking him to the State Department instead of -- I think he and certainly many of his subordinates thought we were some kind of spies there, rather than advisers and colleagues. There was far too much of this kind of attitude.
On the other hand, we no doubt often had a very condescending attitude towards the military. I'm sure we were guilty of wrong attitudes, too, because we felt they were pretty simple folk, ridden with prejudices and military points of view, and that they
didn't know very much about politics and the finer points of diplomacy and cared less! And indeed, that's all quite true in many cases, and they thought we were sticklers for etiquette and all sorts of things, so there was ground for all sorts of misunderstandings.
But it really did come to a pretty heavy crisis at one time and there must have been an immediate cause for this, which is now gone out of my mind. I'm sure there was some particular policy, some particular crisis, some particular problem in which Murphy had sent off one set of recommendations and Clay was bound to pursue another policy. I don't recall the immediate cause of it, but I do remember a very tense period there and Murphy was pretty taut.
MCKINZIE: How did the relationship between State and the Army change with the Berlin airlift, the Berlin crisis? In fact, you might want to talk about that in connection with how your job changed
with the Berlin crisis.
LAUKHUFF: Well, of course, the four-power Kommandatura came to an end, came to an end during the airlift. The whole situation in Berlin became much more sharp and crystallized, a good many pretenses were dropped all around and we had to accept the fact that it was a divided city and that the Russians weren't going to put the various agreements we thought we had about political developments and democratization into effect in their sector.
I would say we came down to earth at that period, that's perhaps the way which it affected my job was psychological rather than anything else, and everybody else's job the same way. I don't recall that there were any particular changes in my duties, we went on seeing the Germans and talking to the Germans and advising military government in one way or another.
MCKINZIE: Well, when the whole idea of the airlift was
being discussed, there were some other alternatives being discussed too, one of them was to ram through...
LAUKHUFF: Ram through, yes, well, I can't add much to that that hasn't been written in history.
MCKINZIE: Well, I just wondered if Mr. Murphy called in his staff and talked to them, you talked about this curtain...
LAUKHUFF: Yes, I'm sure he did. I'm sure he did although I couldn't give you a date or specifics. I'm sure he did, we talked about it certainly, it was not the sort of situation where he would shut us out completely, and we must have talked about it and I seem to remember his laying out the possibilities and his own inclination toward advising Clay to ram on through. What our reactions were at that time I could no longer report, you know, confidently. I suspect we probably felt, with some trepidation,
that he was right on that, if for no other reason that no one could foresee the real alternative of an airlift on the scale which eventually developed. The alternatives seemed to be defeat and ejection from Berlin or withdrawal from Berlin or complete impotence in Berlin or ramming through. Those seemed to be the alternatives, not the airlift, at that early point.
MCKINZIE: Do you associate your own belief that a united Germany was going to be impossible, with any particular development, or was that a kind of evolutionary kind of thing?
LAUKHUFF: Well, it was very much an evolutionary thing so far as I'm concerned. I maintained a hope that some way might be found for a reunification of Germany, after I left the Foreign Service. I think early on we became reconciled to the fact that this was going to be very, very tough and it was a questionable thing and it would take years probably to come to some
We hoped, I suppose, for a while, that the success of the economic revival in our zone might spark an uprising or one thing or another might force, some international development might force the Russians to draw in their horns somewhat, but I guess we really didn't have many illusions about this. I thought this was really going to take place, but I'm sure we didn't think it was going to take place overnight, or tomorrow. At some point the world really gave up the idea of German unification as anything that could be achieved by planning, deliberate planning, or negotiations. I don't know just when that happened, sometime perhaps in the late fifties, I don't know.
MCKINZIE: Did you ever think that the Marshall plan, by uniting Western Europe and not bringing in Eastern Europe contributed to a division in Europe which made the unification more
difficult? The Marshall plan involved West Germany.
LAUKHUFF: Well, I don't know. Now, I don't think that my views on that would be worth very much, frankly. I suppose there were two schools of thought, one that it might divide, make the division more sharp and more permanent, then the other school, perhaps, some people believed that it would make Western Europe and Western Germany so strong that it would act as a magnet to draw the East in.
At that time their economic development [in the East] was proportionately lagging behind very, very much, in Eastern Germany anyway, I don't know about the rest of the Eastern bloc, but -- and you know, it was all very well to think in these "magnet" terms, but I don't know that anybody ever thought exactly how this would take place. I mean it was a figure of speech that was very glib
and very nice, but exactly how does Western Europe act as a magnet to break down the Warsaw Pact and the Eastern bloc and draw people in?
You know, it wasn't very realistic, but I think that probably below and beneath all of that was a kind of desperation, combined with a conviction. At any rate, we couldn't let West Germany go down, simply because of some vague hope that we'd be able to unite the two parts of Germany; we felt that we had to survive in the West and build ourselves up and hope that the future would in some way take care of itself.
MCKINZIE: I think it would be appropriate to talk a little bit now about your own dealings with the problems of the evolution of NATO as that bore on Germany. There was a lot of desire to have Germany integrated someway into a North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
LAUKHUFF: It's an interesting problem, historically, with so many ramifications that I can only speak in the most general terms, about it. In the beginning, I, like everybody else, was obsessed by fear of Germany, a fear that this whole experience, which was so traumatic for the world (I have to keep emphasizing that because it is so hard to recreate it now) would be repeated. This fear dominated all the earlier policies toward Germany, of course, including the idea of putting weapons into the hands of the Germans or recreating any kind of a military force. That was just absolutely anathema, it wasn't to be thought of at first.
The evolution from that point to the point where we are now, with Germany in NATO and so forth, was slow and gradual, and tortuous, and it is very hard to recreate. It's hard to fill in the middle part of it. You know where you started and you know where you ended, but just
how did we get from one to the other? Many of the discussions at these meetings of NATO, of course, revolved about this, and of course, as time went on and we began to soften (if I may use that term), on this issue, the French and others got horribly excited about this and more rigid than ever at first, for all sorts of reasons that are quite apparent, such as historical connections with Germany. No one could possibly foresee clearly the day when they would be allies.
And much of the discussion was concerned with that, much of the earlier discussions in which Adenauer joined with [Dean] Acheson and [Ernest] Bevin and Robert Schuman; the cast changed somewhat from time to time, but at any rate it was essentially those four at first and for a long time, who were involved. Adenauer didn't push hard for anything and was willing to give all sorts of assurances of talking about
limitations on Germany's positions on these, those and the other things, naval vessels and bombs and artillery and all this.
Of course, the really decisive event, for my money, was the Korean war. Now, I don't know whether you want to get that far ahead or not. There were one or two other things I want to come to that are of minor importance in the earlier period but up to that point, all of us, I think, had been willing to go along with the idea of at the most a very highly circumscribed German rearmament (if you even dared use that word), some kind of a police force in Germany that would be some assistance, would at least relieve the allied forces of responsibility for internal security in case of an attack by the Russians, all that sort of thing. It was the shock of the Korean invasion of South Korea that changed that, really radically changed that.
I can't really fill in much of that picture for you, I'm very frank to say, but I do remember
that the Secretary obviously was -- Mr. Acheson was powerfully influenced by this [Korea]. Colonel [Henry A.] Byroade was then Director of the Office of German Affairs and virtually Assistant Secretary of State for Germany; he was my immediate chief, of course. An extraordinary man, one could talk about him for quite a time, a military man, but of whom we had none of the usual suspicions of the military. In fact, the military began to have suspicions of him, which made his own relations with the military, who felt he had deserted them, in a way, more difficult when he came into the State Department, but that's another story.
At any rate, I remember, to make a long story short, that he called me in one day and he said, "I want you and anybody you want, probably John Calhoun (who was my deputy) -- " I've gotten way ahead of the story, you see. I'm now in the period when I was Director of the
Office of German Political Affairs in the Department. We had an Office of German Economic Affairs of which Jacques Reinstein was the head and both of us were under Byroade ("Hank" Byroade, as we called him). So it was that Byroade said, "The Secretary wants a paper. You go into retirement, we'll release you from all other responsibilities, you go off and get an office somewhere where there's no telephone, and you just cut yourself off and spend as long as is necessary, but do it fast and produce a position paper justifying the creation of some kind of a German defense force."
And so we did do that, Calhoun and I, for I don't remember how long now, maybe a week, maybe two weeks, I don't remember how long we spent at it, and we did produce a paper. I don't know whether it was a world-shaking paper, I don't know what happened specifically to that paper and its rationale, but in the
course of producing this paper, I guess this is the most significant thing, we of course, argued ourselves completely around to the point of view of thinking that it was justifiable and right and necessary for some kind of German force to be created in organization with Western Europe.
MCKINZIE: Did Henry Byroade have some input to that?
LAUKHUFF: No, not in the first draft of it, none at all, to the best of my recollection, except to say that we could go as far as we wanted to, that the Secretary was receptive to, and wanted, some discussion of the whole problem. I wish I had a copy of it, I have no recollection of anything that was said in that paper, it must be in the Archives someplace. Nor, as I say, can I pretend to say that this finally influenced Mr. Acheson's thinking or anybody
else's thinking, though I suppose it had some role in the situation. But from that point on, we really were on the other side of the line, in favor of doing something. We knew we had to proceed with some caution, yet with some boldness, we were caught in dilemmas of all sorts, time dilemmas, great danger in the Far East, wondering what the Russians would do in Europe because that, of course, was the world's first thought, they'll take advantage, they'll do the same thing in Europe in order to catch us off balance.
And so it seemed a very immediate sort of danger, and we, therefore, saw a great need for haste, and yet we didn't know how we'd overcome what were bound to be the traditional French objections to this.
Schuman [French Foreign Minister] himself was a very wise man, a very moderate man, a very cooperative man. He and Acheson got along
wonderfully well. Schuman often, I think, suffered from severe criticism by his own staff, from foot dragging, from sabotage from his own staff, who thought he was going entirely too far in terms of traditional French policies.
Again, a digression, and this is nothing unrecorded because Mr. Acheson tells about it in one of his books, Present at the Creation, I guess, or maybe one of his other books, but it illustrates something of what I just said. It was at Lisbon in ‘51 and he and Schuman and Eden met one evening at the British Embassy to hammer out some proposals about infrastructure and the German share of the support for Allied troops. And this whole thing was up for revision I guess at that time, or for renewal, or for addition, or at any rate for some changes. So we spent a whole evening there and Schuman was there and Eden and Acheson, and about three to four people at the most from each of their staffs.
I was there and Reinstein was there, Byroade was there, whether any of the rest, any of the other Americans were there, I have no recollection. And similarly on the French side there was Jean Sauvargnagues, who is now the French Foreign Minister, and who was my opposite number at that time, and about three of his colleagues. I don't even remember who they were anymore. And Eden had somebody there.
At any rate, they ran on through the evening and finally Schuman got very tired and sleepy. Schuman was, after all, not very young and not very well, and he said he just couldn't take it anymore, he was going to go home, and he gave full powers to Mr. Eden and Mr. Acheson to settle things as they liked, whatever it was that the specific focus was on.
And so the discussion went on, and on, up toward midnight, and as soon as Schuman left
the French, the lower people on his staff, became very obdurate, they would not agree. They would not agree. And I remember Eden's outburst, he said, "Now, look here," shaking his finger at him, he said, "Mr. Churchill and I have put up with an awful lot with the French and we're sick and tired of it, I've come to the end of the line. Now, you've got to agree on this," or words to that effect. I don't remember. I do remember, "Mr. Churchill and I have put up with a lot from the French." It was a very outspoken outburst, most undiplomatic and quite unusual in my experience. I never heard anything quite like it.
Mr. Acheson backed him up in somewhat more restrained language, and together they ordered the French to go and get Mr, Schuman on the telephone and gain his consent to what they were proposing, whatever it was. The French demurred, saying that Schuman had gone
to bed, as indeed he had, and Acheson and Eden forced the issue and made them go and telephone him. His reply was, "Do whatever Acheson and Eden say."
But this is an example. They were very unhappy, it was a terrible loss of face for them really. I don't mean to indicate that personal relations weren't always very, very cordial, and nice, and on occasion they were very cooperative, but generally speaking Schuman was far in advance of the French Foreign Office, and to some extent the French government, on this thing, so he had handicaps to overcome.
Well, where am I?
MCKINZIE: Well, Korea was the thing we were talking about.
LAUKHUFF: Yes. Yes, that's right. So, I don't know that I can really add anything else. Out
of this evolved the European Defense Community Treaty, with German participation in it, and of course, we fought for that to the hilt. I know a lot of people thought and I suppose most historians think that we were deluding ourselves at the time that this had any chance of success. I think maybe it was a very close thing and that maybe we came very close to the edge of success. At the time it seemed to me it was a fatal setback to the idea of Western European cooperation, including Germany. I have a more relaxed view toward it now. Other things arose and no irreparable damage was done, and maybe we evolved into, in the end, a much more healthy relationship than that one, which would have kept the Germans in a very subordinate position. To all intents and purposes they are in a position of perfect equality now.
MCKINZIE: Some people have said that the European
Defense Community was simply another idea. Well, the idea of NATO, were simply military devices to bring about political ends, that they came into the same general category as the OEEC, which came about as a result of the Marshall plan, that they were simply ways to hold a continent really frayed at the edges and shattering in the middle, together. And it was just more of a part of the glue, or the cement of the whole thing. Is there any -- and obviously that's an overstatement like a lot of what I say -- but is there any truth to that, is there political purpose to that militarily?
LAUKHUFF: Yes, I think there was, as I look back on it. It's hard to say what my answer would have been at the time or whether -- to what extent I was thinking in these terms, but certainly first of all, it did have a direct military purpose, no question about that, a purpose born of some desperation, I would say, but a purely military
purpose. But via this route, I'm sure that it was felt that there would be political -- this was a route to political cooperation too, maybe we were getting it "bass ackwards," but I think the idea was there. I really think it was primarily military in purpose at the time, because we were, as we have been from the very beginning, really militarily weak (leaving the atomic bomb aside) in Western Europe, are today, were then, always have been in terms of a conventional attack, and ability to contain it if needed.
MCKINZIE: Do you think that that possibility of attack was a real one?
LAUKHUFF: Yes, I'm sure we did. Yes, I would unhesitatingly answer "yes" to that, that most people were convinced that there was a real possibility of attack. I wouldn't be able to think of anybody who argued contrariwise.
There may have been some, but I think the general assessment was that this was a real possibility and just when the possibility, the reality of this possibility, began to -- really faded in people's minds, I don't know. It still exists. I would still not rule it out as a possibility, though I don't look for it, it's highly improbable now, I would say, but yes, I think we were really dominated in this, as in so much else, by fear.
A very strange paradox it was -- our coming out of the war so strong, having won the war, but immediately confronted, or after a period of reorganization, confronted by a fear stemming from a new source in this case a real fear of Russian aggression, because the Russians were stymied in many respects. There was every, every reason to believe that they had real -- they were riding very high, they had real thirst for power, or so it appeared at any rate, and if
nothing else, that they might engage in aggression of some sort in order to protect their position in the East, make it still more secure. Assuming that their real ambition was simply to unite Eastern Europe under their aegis, there was a fear that in order to make their position more secure, they might attack the West, but for whatever reason I think we lived in real, if possibly misguided, fear -- and I won't say it was misguided because today's circumstances are different. They are not the circumstances of those days, and the position was very insecure, and very tempting, we thought, to the Russians.
MCKINZIE: In 1949 when the Berlin crisis was resolved at the United Nations pretty much, as I understand it, without the knowledge of anybody in Berlin, or anyone in the State Department who were on the German desk for that matter.
LAUKHUFF: That's right, so far as I'm concerned it's right.
MCKINZIE: Were you back yet in the State Department?
LAUKHUFF: Well, let me see, what was the exact date of that? It was in the spring wasn't it?
MCKINZIE: It would have been May, I think, of 1949.
LAUKHUFF: No, I wasn't. I was still in Berlin and I was in Berlin until mid-summer, maybe July, I'm not quite sure what the date was when I left, but I have no recollection of having any advance knowledge of what was going on there [in Paris], it was really secret diplomacy at its most secret, I think.
MCKINZIE: When I talked to General Clay, General Clay said he didn't know anything about it
either and he said he thought there was an error made there, that the United States was really in a very good bargaining position in 1949, that it should have used that good bargaining position to gain some political ends. I would like you to comment on that if you would care to.
LAUKHUFF: Well, I can't comment very much except to say I'm not so sure he's right. We were making a terrific effort, it was a successful effort to deal with the blockade, and we were sustaining our position, but could we have sustained it indefinitely? I mean we had a lot to gain by just bringing the blockade to an end, without exerting ourselves to attain other things, when I'm not at all sure that we had all that many cards. We had at least enough cards to show that we couldn't be driven out of Berlin, but they were in a sense negative cards, they weren't positive cards to achieve other things. I mean what we were doing was not hurting the Russians, it was stymieing them,
it was irritating them, it was frustrating them. It was, in a sense, making them lose face (I suppose you could say that), and they were eager to get out of it with some honor I suppose by that point, but not at any great price, greater than lifting the blockade.
I would be inclined to take issue with General Clay's assessment of that, but he probably knew a lot more about things than I did, so I don't know that I can do that justifiably. I think it was a great achievement, certainly, for which he deserves great credit, because if he had not been able to demonstrate that we could live, and could not be driven out of Berlin (and it was he who did that, all the credit goes to that man, and I'm convinced of that, supported by a lot of other people to be sure) if he hadn't done that, why, our position would have been helpless, and Jessup's negotiations would have come to nothing. I think it was a
great achievement and I've never wasted time bemoaning things we might have done in addition to what we did do.
MCKINZIE: Right. Was it natural rotation that brought you back to the State Department in 1949?
LAUKHUFF: Oh, I suppose so. Let's back up just one second for a minor footnote to history, that you may not have run across from anybody else, or any other source. I don't know, but in the -- and again I'm sorry to say that I forget the exact date, but it was in the spring, or late spring of, or early summer of '49, Murphy sent for me and said that I was to go to Paris to negotiate changes in the West German boundaries.
Have you ever heard anything about this?
LAUKHUFF: We had an agreement with the British, the French, the Belgians, the Dutch, and the Luxembourgers,
in more or less treaty form -- well, a binding agreement at any rate -- that any desired changes in Western German boundaries would be examined and evaluated by all of them, whenever anyone of the parties wanted to make such suggestions. So they had jointly approached us to have a conference. They had a good many changes they wanted to make in West Germany's boundaries. I had never done anything like this before and in a way I was daunted by it, and in a way I was a little exhilarated at it, and so I went as the American negotiator. There was Viscount Hood from the British Foreign Office and a former Dutch cabinet member, former Dutch minister of finance, and I don't remember the others.
We met for a considerable period of time. I'm sorry to say I can't say exactly how long, but some weeks, and there were maps of all sorts, and I was very reluctant, I didn't really
want to have any part of this.
It seemed to me that the lessons of history were so amply clear, and the nonsense of making small changes in West Germany's frontier on any ground was so apparent that I was rather appalled by the whole procedure. Nevertheless, we were committed to it. I don't remember any specific instructions but in a general way they went that for the sake of Allied cooperation we should go as far as we had to and no farther than we had to, and that we should try to restrain their demands, their grabs of territory.
Well, I can no longer give you the details, they are all in the record someplace, but the Dutch wanted adjustments here, two or three kilometers or miles in this direction, and along this railway, or this road, completely within Holland, "and after all," they would say, "the people in this area are mostly Dutch," -- you know,
all the standard stuff that has come out in every boundary change in history I suppose. "This was strategically a little easier to defend." Such nonsense, and so forth, and so on. In the end we agreed on a number of changes on the Belgian, Dutch, Luxembourg and French frontiers, involving some thousands of Germans, and some, I don't remember, some unremembered amount of territory, not large, no Alsace-Lorraine or anything like that, not even a Saar settlement, but still an unpleasant business.
So I went as far as I had to go, you know, throwing cold water on every proposal as far as I could, but having to give in in the end. There was no denying them. It was just like misers with a pot of gold in front of them, they couldn't keep their hands out of it (I'm sorry to put it that way, but it was a rather unedifying spectacle to me).
So, toward the end of it, I got fed up
with this. There was every evidence that this sort of thing would happen again, and I recommended to the Department a statement which I should read to these people, that this was the last time we would ever consider such changes. I was very happy when the Department agreed to authorize me to make this statement, and I thought I was pulling off quite a coup, in a minor sort of way, and so I read this out and there was silence, and something of consternation on the faces of some of these people. Then the Dutchman said, "Does this mean that you're not going to abide by the provision in this agreement? Is the United States not going to abide by the provision in this agreement, which says that any of the parties can call for a conference and present their request for changes whenever they want to?
I had really somewhat forgotten the exact language of the agreement, but I recovered fairly
rapidly, for me, much better than I usually do, and I said, "No, it doesn't mean that at all. Of course, we'll meet with you at any time, and consider any changes." I think I put it this way: "You may present any changes, any demands for changes you like, we will simply never agree to any of them in the future, these are the last ones we are going to agree to." He was furious but there was nothing he or others could do. This business attracted very little attention, almost no attention from the press, so I think it's an almost forgotten incident.
Subsequently, I had to go back and go through the American zone and report this to all the Ministers -- President of the States in the American zone. Actually it didn't affect any of them because none of them were on the border, it was the British and the French zones which touched the border, and anyway they had
their hands as full as they could with other problems, and they really couldn't have cared less. I might have saved myself all the foreboding I had about going and breaking this news to them. None of them really protested -- you know, Germany was not united and they were separate disunited states under occupation and they really shrugged their shoulders and said, "So, what," in effect.
Well, eventually, my belief is, my understanding is, that all of these little segments of territory have been returned to Germany. Not one of them proved to be permanent, which was exactly what I predicted at the time. "None of this will last, the day will come when you'll have to turn it all back." And they all did.
MCKINZIE: Could you have taken the position, or did you take a position that to make those kinds of things prior to any general peace
agreement, in which boundaries would be discussed, was improper, or that boundaries were appropriately discussed at a time when a peace …
LAUKHUBB: I may well have said that, or thrown that consideration out, certainly we didn't stick on that position officially. In fact, officially, probably, the position was that these were temporary changes to be confirmed by a later peace treaty. I think that undoubtedly must have been, though my memory is hazy on that particular point, but that must have been our position.
Well, to get back then, it was immediately after that that I was assigned back to Washington. I remember I got a telephone call in Berlin from Jacob Beam, recently the Ambassador in Russia, who was then working with Murphy and really establishing the office of German
Affairs in the Department and Beam said, "We'd like you to come back and be director of the political side of things." And I don't remember what the title was, he was proposing at that time, it quickly evolved into Director of the Office of German Political Affairs.
So, I went back, I jumped at this, I saw it as a promotion, which it was, as a chance to be near the center of policymaking, which it was, and a good experience for me, and so forth, and so on.
So, I went back and had three years of that, four years really. The last year my title was different, I was Special Assistant to James Riddleberger (who succeeded Byroade), and was relieved of immediate responsibilities, but essentially I had '49 to '53, yes, essentially about four years in the Department on German Affairs, which was what I wanted. I suppose at times I got a little tired of the limited
focus on Germany, but I had become known as a -- was becoming known as a German expert at that point, far beyond my just desserts, of that I'm perfectly confident, but at any rate, that became my field of specialization.
MCKINZIE: Most of the basic policy changes had been made, had they not, by that time?
LAUKHUFF: Yes. Yes, except for this shift from very reluctant acceptance of very circumscribed German rearmament over to the other side. With that exception I suppose so, yes. I mean we were committed to developing Western Germany and going it on our own apart from the Russians, you know.
MCKINZIE: You said that you could talk a little bit about Ambassador Byroade. Do men like that make a very big difference, or is it something that evolved out of a faceless group. To what extent do you -- he's obviously a memorable
character for you.
LAUKHUFF: That's damned hard to assess generally. I think men do make a difference. We weren't a faceless group, exactly. Byroade made a good position for himself in the State Department, he was a very -- he is, no doubt still, a keen person, looked like a playboy, he had many playboy instincts, very handsome, ladies man and so forth, but a very capable guy, shrewd and calculating, very level headed, not easily flappable, and he had the Secretary's confidence I think. He was into the center of things as far as they concerned Germany, and for a long time my contacts with the Secretary were mostly through him. I mean I didn't immediately have many personal contacts, later I did, but, oh, I think it made a difference but we did work together very well as a team. It wasn't a stellar performance, it wasn't a star system, he had a strong sense of doing things by
channels, thanks to his military background, but he kept us cued in to what the Secretary said or was thinking or doing and what went on in meetings that he attended at higher level than any that we attended, and he sought our advice and I think listened very, very well, and very patiently.
And I must say, I had the feeling that although I was at the, I suppose, third echelon, if not fourth, in the Department, I had a feeling I was participating in events, very much so, and I like to have that feeling.
MCKINZIE: Yes, of course.
LAUKHUFF: I don't like to -- I didn't have that feeling in 1942, '43, when I was in the Department, I was much more junior and everything. But at this time I had a feeling that I was making an input, though I couldn't always see it in the end product, but it went there, if I said --
gave advice by paper or orally by Byroade, unless he rejected it, which he would do on occasion, of course, out of hand, that I could influence his thought and his decisions and that he would pass these on to the Secretary and be listened to in turn.
So, I felt pleased with the general situation and we worked together well, Jacques Reinstein and I, and Byroade, and Jeff [Geoffrey] Lewis (he was Byroade's deputy) and then, of course, other people down the line, who funneled in through us mostly. We worked together as a team. Jacques Reinstein and I were certainly very different individuals, not really basically very compatible in personality, but we never had any real rows and got along very well together, worked very closely together.
Now, I think...
MCKINZIE: And there weren't any major divisions within the office concerning German policy?
LAUKHUFF: Not that I can recall. No, I really can't recall any occasion on which we were bitterly divided, or even unbitterly but courteously divided, over a major issue of policy. We wanted to stick together, we wanted to arrive at a correct policy, we were all, I would say, animated by the proper motivations and determined to work together until we did. I've no doubt, though specific instances don't come to my mind, that there were many occasions on which we differed in details or on a policy at first, or on minor policy, but I don't remember that we split on anything major. And that was good, I think.
MCKINZIE: Should there have been a separate German division?
LAUKHUFF: Well, I think there should have been. I suppose a lot of people didn't and the Office of European Affairs was, I think perhaps in a
sense, never quite reconciled to this removal of Germany from their ken, but they worked with us very well as a whole, oh, very well. And our relationships, for example, with the people working on Russian affairs were very close, and quite cordial. We, of course, deferred to them in their basic knowledge of Russia and the Russians, they generally deferred to us about Germany. George Kennan was a Russian expert, but he was not on the Russian -- didn't have anything to do with Russia, he was on the Policy Planning Staff at that time until he got out of diplomacy temporarily. George's views never were fully in accord with our German policy. He, for a long time, held a view of separation of the forces in Germany, drawing back, a demilitarized zone, and so forth, which I for my part, was always willing to consider, but which I just never could accept as tenable or as acceptable to the United States
in terms of the forces involved in the geographical location involved and the much less prejudice which I felt it posed to the Russian position than to ours.
I've discussed this with George in the past, I even took issue with him on this in the pages of the New Republic once upon a time in a couple of articles, but I have tremendous admiration and respect for George Kennan, whom I first knew in Berlin during the war, whose ability is enormous, his mind is incisive and pellucid and he's a great person. He's a little rigid, he's a little too inclined, as I am, to think that once he writes his elegant and persuasive prose, that's the way it's going to be, everybody's going to be convinced by that. It didn't always work that way, of course.
But at any rate, George, from a position of influence, but on the outside, in a sense,
looking in, was a constant critic more or less openly, more or less muted, of some aspects of our German policy. Other than that we worked, for example, very closely with "Chip" Bohlen. I had a very rewarding period in the Department. I, in some way, perhaps thanks to an ability to write and a reasonably good mind, I got tapped to work on most communications that went to the Russians during those years about German matters, and I worked very closely, sometimes with Bohlen, but usually with Phil [Philip] Jessup and oftentimes the British and French were brought in too, because we worked very closely together on things of joint interest like that, but I had a share in drafting almost all papers, diplomatic notes and telegrams that went off to the Russians and this was very interesting, a very interesting period. And with Phil Jessup I had very good relations, I had great respect for him. I sat with him and Chip Bohlen through the painfully dull months of the
Palais Rose Conference, if you've ever heard of that.
LAUKHUFF: When the deputy foreign ministers were given no more difficult task than to draw up an agenda for their chiefs, which of course, they were completely unable to do, and I watched the verbal sparring across the table between Jessup and Gromyko and the French Ambassador (Parodi). The Britisher there was frankly a dreadful representative of England, Davies, I forget his first name, who didn't pull his weight and who was unpredictable and unreliable.
But, at any rate, to sit there at that table was another education, an education in futility, but an education in the Russians, too. It was really on the basis of that experience as well as my experience at the Kommandatura that I wrote an article that appeared in Harper's once called "Negotiating
with the Russians." No, that wasn't the exact term, "How to Negotiate with the Russians." I guess that was it. And not that I was the greatest expert but I had some things to say and I said them and they seemed to be useful at the time.
Well, I've rambled on here, I'm just talking about the surface things it seems to me, perhaps. At one point I remember (these are just isolated things, I'm just not weaving this together well at all and certainly not in terms of policy) at one point the Warsaw powers issued a declaration, very hostile, very unacceptable to us, called the Warsaw Declaration. Don't ask me what the specific points in it were anymore, but at any rate, it seemed to me we should answer this for propaganda purposes. We were all keenly obsessed with this whole business as part of propaganda war, perhaps too much obsessed with it that way, I
don't know. At any rate, we were seldom able to match the Russians in propaganda, so I don't know why we tried so hard all the time, but I did draft a declaration which I sent over through channels, through Byroade, to the Secretary's office with a request that he consider issuing it, and he did issue it at a press conference, and, well, you know, it had no effect on history one way or the other, but it was very pleasant to write and to hear the Secretary read it out!
There were endless policy discussions in the Secretary's office. I got involved sometimes because it purely involved the German Bureau and the Secretary, oftentimes because it involved the Russian problem, as it affected Germany. This latter was in the forefront of our minds. This was the great problem of our relationship with Russia, as well as our relationship with Germany, and many times
we sat in the Secretary's office hashing this around, hashing this over.
I received, of course, some tremendous impressions of Mr. Acheson and his way of doing things and his personality and his abilities in those conferences. He would sit at the head of the table with various people Jessup, Bohlen, Byroade, various people, maybe myself at the foot when I was there. Mr. Acheson would propound whatever question it was we were assembled to discuss and would call for documents and go around the table.
I remember one time when I took Bohlen sharply to task, very presumptuously indeed, because I said, "Chip, you know the Russians much better than that, and you know that they will never respond to that kind of approach," very presumptuously, but the Secretary listened quietly with a little smile on his face, and Chip subsided, to my astonishment, because I
thought he would rip into me, so maybe I had something for the moment on him, but at any rate, the Secretary would listen and create an atmosphere that allowed even me, as a rather junior officer, to speak my mind freely and frankly, as everybody would around the table. Sometimes there would be a consensus, and he would listen, occasionally with a question or a comment, but on the whole very silently until everybody was finished and then he would say, "Well, it seems to me that the point that we have arrived at is," and he would summarize the incisiveness and clarify the position, and either make a decision or reserve a decision, but he had a very clean, clear mind and sized up immediately what people were saying.
He was impatient of time wasting, he didn't like to have his time wasted. I met that side of him unfortunately on my first encounter with him. I was very shaken by it,
unduly so, unnecessarily so.
Soon after I came to the Department that fall of '49, Byroade said I was to go along to London. It must have been -- I frankly don't remember what it was, whether it was a meeting of the foreign ministers or a NATO meeting or what it was, I'm inclined to think it was a meeting of the foreign ministers, but I don't remember exactly. At any rate, we went on the Secretary's plane and Byroade said, "Now, I want you to brief the Secretary," on some aspect of the German problem that I was very familiar with, just being back from Germany. So we went down, it was one of those old Pan-Am planes -- I don't know whether it was an amphibian plane, but anyway, it had a cocktail lounge on a lower deck, and we went down there and the Secretary came, I was introduced and Byroade, you know, told me to tell the Secretary about thus and so, and I did, and I hadn't gone too
far when the Secretary cut in quite impatiently and said, "Yes, yes, I know all of that, but what about so and so."
You know, I was treating him as if he were an imbecile or a kindergartner in this matter. I didn't know him, I didn't know his background or how much he knew or anything about him. So I thought, "What a way to start your career in the State Department!"
But quite apparently he never held this against me and I subsequently had many contacts with him. He had a fine sense of humor, he was urbane and polished. I never heard him complain about the attacks that were being made on him in Congress, and in the press, and he suffered acutely during those years from that source, of course. We often wondered what the effects must be on him inside, but he was never anything but his collected, calm, urbane self.
I remember once when Jessup and I were in the middle of working out a position on something or other that lasted over a series of days. Whether we were preparing a statement, a diplomatic note, a telegram, I don't know what it was, but at any rate, every day at about 6 o'clock we went to the Secretary's office to report and discuss the latest phase of this, whatever it was. And he looked up one day as we came in and said, "Well, gentlemen, 6 o'clock shadow," a take-off on what you may not even recognize as a shaving advertisement of the time. No nonsense about him, but very kind and very -- well an admirable man, in every respect. He was very quick on his feet, he was very urbane on his witticisms. I remember (and he tells this in some form or another in one of his books) that I was there when he was meeting with Schuman and Bevin and Bevin started out by attacking him pretty roughly,
not personally, because they were on excellent relationships, such as you would not have thought could exist between two men of such totally different backgrounds and temperaments, but Bevin was very sharply critical of something we had not done, and really, you know, was demanding some kind of response from Acheson.
When he finished, Acheson said, "Well, I am reminded of the phrase in the General Confession." Acheson of course was an Episcopalian, his father was an Episcopal bishop, he was brought up in the Church, he was not a great churchgoer, or outwardly a very religious or church-going man at the time I knew him. I don't know what his inner life was, but he was thoroughly impregnated with the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church and all its phrases. He said, "There is a phrase in the General Confession that says (now as a good Episcopalian I ought to be able to reproduce
it, but the words escape me at the moment). They are to the effect that, 'Our sins are grievous and abhorrent to us and we repent thoroughly of them."' That's the sense of it. He was using the religious quotation as a means of saying, in effect, "I'm terribly sorry, we are guilty, we are sorry." This led quickly into a general discussion of an unusual nature.
Schuman said, "Ah, yes, we have something like that in the Roman Catholic liturgy, too." Whereupon Bevin said, "Well, I wouldn't know anything about that, I'm a bush Baptist, and we don't have anything like that."
But the moment of tension, such as it was, was past and I've seen him do that many times, and not unseldom with a religious note of some sort, or some church connection, liturgical connection.
So, at any rate, I think he was a great man. Much has been written about his relationship
with Truman. I myself had no contacts directly with the President, of any sort. I met him once at a White House reception, that's all. The Secretary was meticulous in keeping the Department informed of Mr. Truman's views, what he wanted done, and when orders came from the White House -- when a request came from the White House for information, believe me, the place was turned upside down in a hurry to provide it for him in good full form. But generally that wasn't necessary, because the Secretary kept him so constantly and fully advised without imposing on Mr. Truman's time. He didn't run to him with every shift of the wind, or every problem that came up, not by a long shot, but he also never got off base. I remember once, only once, sitting in his office when some problem came up on which he had either not yet consulted the President or it was a new aspect and he felt that this
was something the President would like to know and ought to be advised of, and perhaps give his reaction. Mr. Acheson just reached for the telephone and called him directly -- but I fear my stories are no good because I don't remember, you know, the specifics. But whatever the problem was he simply explained to him in a few words and got either his go ahead or his approval or his reaction to it, whatever was needed at that point, and hung up and went on from there. He was meticulous in keeping the President fully advised when he was abroad, at conferences, and the daily telegram to the President was a thing of high priority, usually coordinated by Luke Battle, Lucius Battle, who was then Secretary Acheson's secretary. And Luke would ask us for input and for advice and counsel on that, and we all jumped to do that.
But Mr. Acheson put his own input into it,
it was a very personal thing in the end, and not too long, but the President never felt that he didn't know what was going on and what Mr. Acheson was doing.
MCKINZIE: I think maybe it was very important in their relationship because...
LAUKHUFF: Terribly important, yes. He has laid great stress on it in all he's written about his relations with Truman -- there's nothing new, original, about this, but I did see it at work.
MCKINZIE: Someone has written, I guess in a biography of Acheson. Gaddis Smith up at Yale...
LAUKHUFF: Oh, yes.
MCKINZIE: ...has written that maybe...
LAUKHUFF: I've read this.
MCKINZIE: ...that Dean Acheson perhaps was more
like a British foreign minister in some ways, that the State Department functioned a little bit like the British Foreign Office in the sense that the State Department came up with policy and a way to implement the policy, and took the whole thing to the President. Said, "Here's the problem, here's the proposed policy, and here's the way it is proposed to implement it." And the President said okay, or not okay.
MCKINZIE: And this is very different from what it had been under Franklin Roosevelt and Cordell Hull. And this put the State Department...
LAUKHUFF: Oh, what it became later, at some later periods too. Yes, this was a bright hiatus in the State Department relationship with the White House. Yes, I think that's very sound analysis. I think that's exactly the way it was.
MCKINZIE: And it was rather good for morale that you're doing something.
LAUKRUFF: Very good for morale, morale was very good, the Secretary had great support and this had no political basis at all. Really political considerations in my day in the State Department played a very minor role. Of course, they were forced terribly on our consciousness during the McCarthy day but I mean to say people didn't act as Democrats or Republicans they really saw themselves, in the Foreign Service (I believe, from all I can gather, to a far larger extent than they do now) as non-political career officers, there to serve the President and the Secretary of State. You fought for what you believe was right, you expressed yourself honestly, you took positions, if worst came to worst and the Government evolved a policy that you couldn't go along with, you got out. But you made some
accommodations as things went along, and accepted things. But on the whole it was a well-oiled and effective machine for policymaking I think during the Acheson -- much of the Acheson -- period.
MCKINZIE: Is it a fair question to ask if you quit in 1952 because of something you couldn't go along with or did you...
LAUKHUFF: No, I didn't quit because -- a mixture of reasons. I was wavering under terrible depression because of McCarthyism and the attacks on the Department, this was sadly depressing to Department morale throughout, and some people did quit for that reason. The immediate cause of my quitting was that I was assigned to Saigon as Deputy Chief of Mission in 1952 and then this was postponed for a while and then in '53 I was definitely assigned there, but a physical examination
showed that I had to have a surgical operation before I went.
The operation, while successful, caused some difficult and long-lasting aftereffects which made it impossible for me to function for a good many months, and I couldn't be assigned anywhere or do anything useful, and that, combined with other things, my general outlook of depression and hopelessness about the Department, led me to get out.
I also had, at the time, I thought, a good opening in New York which proved to be based on misapprehensions and didn't work out the way I hoped it would. So, things went rather bad and hard for me for a while, but it all came out all right in the end. But, no, the immediate reason was health, I couldn't go to Saigon. Perhaps just as well, we've often philosophized about it in the family. We had a child less than -- just about a year old at
that time, and conditions in Saigon were, of course, climatically difficult and also politically and militarily. The French were still there, but there was terrorism and we were rather nervous at the prospect of going.
On the other hand it would have been a very responsible position. God knows where I would have gone, or what would have happened to me. Had I gone there my life would have certainly been very different. But it wasn't to be.
I wanted to give another illustration of no great significance, but of some interest, of Mr. Acheson's ways of doing things. On this same evening that I spoke of when they had the fracas with the French and Schuman had gone home early, late at night Mr. Acheson said he wanted to send a telegram to Adenauer and told Jacques Reinstein and me what he wanted said. Well, Jacques and I were assigned
to draft something. It didn't seem too difficult so we labored over it and produced a couple of pages, I guess, of our best prose which we thought would achieve what the Secretary wanted and he looked at it and he said, "Oh, no, that won't do at all, that's not right."
We were very cast down about this. He went off in the corner by himself and sat down and wrote out one sheet and a little more of legal size yellow paper, his message, and gave it to me and said, "Now, tidy it up and send it off, I don't want to see it again."
So, I did, I edited it, I changed it, I added a little bit here and there, and tidied it up and sent it off. But he was, you know, I mean he didn't divorce himself, he didn't just issue orders and then hope somebody would carry them out, especially in a matter like this. This was a personal message, he had an excellent
personal relationship with Adenauer, whom I think he admired, and Adenauer admired him greatly, and this was to be a personal message, a personal appeal to him, to Adenauer to get behind the proposal that the three Allies were going to make to the German government, and he wanted to be sure that it said the right thing and had the right tone, and it was actually far better that he write it himself because it carried pure Acheson that way, more so than if we had tried to draft it.
MCKINZIE: Well, let me ask you one question about Acheson, I don't want to drag this on to exhaust you, but Dean Acheson said at some point that the Council on Foreign Ministers should never have been created, didn't have anything to do, and never did anything, or some words to that general effect, yet it took a lot of time didn't it?
LAUKHUFF: Yes it did. It did, and I think...
MCKINZIE: Did you think that you actually could achieve anything at those meetings?
LAUKHUFF: No, I think we very early after the war came to the conclusion that this was going to be a waste of time, yet no one saw a way to get out of it. The Russians constantly pressed for it, because they saw advantages in it for them.
LAUKHUFF: Either to drive us from compromise and concession to compromise and concession, or to get propaganda advantages. I'm sure that we quickly realized that -- well, when I say "quickly," all things are relative, I don't know at what point, but it didn't take very long until we realized that the meetings of the Council of Foreign Ministers were going to be
a waste of time and very unpleasant and difficult experience all around, whether with Vyshinsky or Gromyko or whomever.
Gromyko, if that man would only really laugh or smile once in his life! If he smiles it's the most painful thing as if his face is in a mass of plaster of paris and would crack if he smiled. He simply isn't capable of smiling or laughing. He's a fantastic person.
But we couldn't get out of it, we were tied to this by agreement, we were pushed into it sharply by the Russians. We were afraid, you know, I mean afraid what the consequences might be of not continuing to participate. It was a waste of time and an unpleasant task for all concerned, innumerable hours and inexhaustible amounts of energy were spent on these things to no good purpose. And in the latter phases, of course, with everybody convinced it was no good purpose, except the
I can't add anything more to that.
MCKINZIE: Weren't they just generally accepted by your compatriots in the office and would somebody -- Jacques Reinstein have accepted that?
LAUKHUFF: I think so. I think so; maybe Jacques has said something or will say something to the contrary, but my impression is that there was no difference between us on this. I suppose there were differences of degree between the higher ups maybe on this, I don't know. Phil Jessup maybe might have retained hopes longer than other people. I don't want to say anything in the slightest degree critical of him, but he was perhaps a more idealistic academic type to begin with and to end with than other people were, though he took a lot of hard knocks and learned a lot in the course
of events, but maybe he abandoned hope of these things later than other people, though I have no concrete evidence to support that statement. But I think generally speaking there wasn't much difference of opinion on this, I don't recall any, certainly.
MCKINZIE: After General Clay retired in 1949, and he was replaced by a High Commissioner, what kind of changes did this make in the relationship between that official. I mean he is a successor in a sense.
LAUKHUFF: Oh yes, it made quite a bit of change because McCloy after all, was more like an ambassador at that point, and closer in touch with the State Department, more cooperative; he wasn't a diplomat, but he was a civilian, he was not military, in spite of having been Assistant Secretary of War, or Secretary of War I guess at one point. We certainly didn't just pull strings and influence Mr. McCloy, he wasn't that kind of person. But
we certainly had a much closer relationship with him than was ever achieved in the case of General Clay. I remember, for example, this leaks out into my memory, a brief vignette of one of his visits back to the States and being in the Department and we were sitting in Byroade's office -- Byroade and Jacques Reinstein and myself, and I don't remember who else, McCloy certainly, and maybe some of his people. And I in particular and perhaps Jacques too (though I don't remember), were taking a line that McCloy didn't like.
And he jumped up very excited and very irritated finally and paced up and down and said, "Well, you can force this on me if you like but it won't work," or words to that affect, I don't remember his exact words. And we did not, of course, try to force on him anything that he objected to that strenuously, he was dead set against that. But we would have never gotten
that far in a conversation with Lucius Clay!
So, McCloy was a reasonable and cooperative man, a thoughtful man with whom you could argue things out. We didn't always see eye-to-eye, he was much more (and indeed this particular thing I'm talking about may have been on this subject, I don't remember) he was much more in favor of creating a defensive policy force in Germany, a constabulary, or a border defense force, or whatever the title was at that time, I've forgotten. Anyway, he was much stronger for that, he was willing to go farther in that direction earlier than some of us were back there, we were dragging our heels on that, trying to hold him back on that. Later we leapfrogged, almost leapfrogged him. Well, that's not quite fair because he went along with the -- as far as I can recall -- with the whole future course of policy on German rearmament, but yes, I think it made a -- I don't particularly remember talking about it as
a subject of vast conversation -- but I think it must have made (and I put it that way because in many things I'm saying I'm arguing from deduction and inference rather than direct recall), it must have made a great psychological change in our feelings, in our attitudes. Here at last we could really have some influence on the course of military government and German policy.
McCloy operated very independently. You couldn't just send him out a telegram and tell him to do something and think he'd do it. I mean he had to be persuaded and he could go off on his own sometimes, he was a strong-minded man.
Mr. Acheson, by some strange quirk, placed me in his book, Present at the Creation, as a member of McCloy's staff, and Jacques Reinstein too, in the same paragraph. I wrote him after I read the book and told him how much I admired
the book and said I'd read it with a fine toothed comb, and I had only been able to find one error in it, that was on page so and so, when he described Jacques Reinstein and me as members of McC1oy's staff. I said, "That would have been a great honor indeed, but we had a still greater honor, we were on your staff!" And he wrote back very kindly and humorously that this would be corrected in the next edition. I don't know whether it ever was or not. But I did see a lot of McCloy and actually where this came into Acheson's book, we had been all together -- we had gone with Acheson to London. McC1oy had come from Germany, Jacques and I went back to Germany with McCloy on his plane afterwards and went with him then down to Lisbon. I don't remember the circumstances but somehow, somebody, in researching this, I take it
(the Secretary could not have researched it alone, that book, he had a lot of help, of course) somebody in researching it inaccurately connected us with McCloy, possibly because of those circumstances. But I thought McCloy was a great man, and a good man for the position at that time.
MCKINZIE: Fine. Thank you very much.
LAUKHUFF: Oh, you're very welcome.
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
List of Subjects Discussed
Acheson, Dean, 109, 111, 114,
115, 117-118, 146-159,
Adenauer, Konrad, 109, 161, 163
Allied Control Commission for Germany, 59-62, 91
Battle, Lucius, 155
Beam, Jacob, 134-135
Berlin blockade, 1948-49, 102-104, 123-126
Berlin, Germany, individuality of, 84-85
Berlin, Germany, U.S. Embassy in, 4-14
Bevin, Ernest, 151-152, 153
Bohlen, Charles E., 143, 147-148
Bowman, Isaiah, 33
Byroade, Henry A., 111-112, 113, 116,
Calhoun, John, 111, 112
Christian Democratic Party, Germany, 69, 70,
Clay, Lucius D., 55-57, 61, 63,
69, 70, 71, 77,
78, 83-84, 92-93, 94,
96, 98-100, 101, 124-126
Council of Foreign Ministers, 163-165
Dunn, James C., 35
Economics, influence of on politics, 88-90
Eden, Anthony, 115, 116, 117-118
Eisenhower Dwight D., 48, 55
European Defense Community, 119-120
Allied Control Commission for Germany, friction with U.S. on, 63,
Germany, opposes rearmament of, 117-118
U.S. diplomatic personnel interned in, World War II, 23-25
Allied Control Commission for, 59-62, 91
Goebbels, Joseph, 11
Berlin blockade, 102-104, 123-126
de-Nazification program in, 72-76
deprivation in, post World War II, 79-84
Federal Republic, boundary revisions, 127-134
Nazi, Bad Nauheim Civilian POW Camp, 15-22
Nazi, civilian internment camps, description of, 7-8, 15-22,
Nazi, internal allied diplomatic personnel, treatment of, 27-31
Nazi, officials, relationship with foreigners, 9
North Atlantic Treaty Organization, membership in, 107-109
politics in, party, 65, 68-69, 70,
rearmament of, post World War II, 86-88
reconstruction of, post World War II, 86-88
reunification, possibility of, 104-107
U.S. military government, Army-State Department relations in, 49-52,
Gromyko, Andrei, 144, 165
Grotewohl, Otto, 92
Heath, Donald, 48
Hickerson, John D., 33, 35
Hood, Viscount, 128
Horneck, Stanley, 3
Howley, Francis, 59-62
Hull, Cordell, 36
Italy, U.S. propaganda appeal to, World War II, 35
Jessup, Philip C., 143-144, 151, 166-167
Johnson, Herschel V., 44-45
Kennan, George F., 14, 16, 21,
Korean War, effect on German rearmament, 110
Laukhuff, Perry, background, 1-6
Lisbon Conference, 1952, 115-118
Litchfield, Edward, 56-57, 59
Louise, Queen of Sweden, 44
McCloy, John J., 167-172
Moore, Walton, 2-3
Morris, Brewster, 69, 92
Morris, Leland, 21
Murphy, Robert D., 47-49, 52-56, 58,
61, 63, 66-67, 69,
96-97, 98-100, 101,
Netherlands and Germany, border revisions between, 127-129,
North Atlantic Treaty organization (NATO) and Germany, 107-109,
Office of German Economic Affairs, U.S. State Department, 112
Office of German Political Affairs, U.S. State Department, 112,
Oliphant, Sir Lancelot, 29-30
Palais Rose Conference, 144
Pollock, James K., 57-58
Portugal, 32, 115-118
POW internment camps (civilian) Nazi Germany, 7-8, 15-22,
Reinstein, Jacques, 89-90, 112, 116,
139, 161, 166, 168,
Reuter, Ernst, 91
Roosevelt, Franklin D., U.S. State Department, relationship with, 35-36
Sauvargnagues, Jean, 116
Schumacher, Kurt, 68-69, 92, 93
Schuman, Robert, 109, 114-117, 153
SHAEF, 45, 47-51
Smith, Walter Bedell, 49, 55
Social Democratic Party, Germany, 65, 68-69,
70, 93-94, 95
Socialist Unity Party (SED) Germany, 93, 94
Allied Control Commission for Germany, obstructionism on, 60-66,
Spain, (Fascist) interned U.S. diplomatic personnel in, 126
diplomatic negotiations with, difficulties, 144-146, 164-165
Western Europe, military threat to, 122-123
State Department, U.S., shares policy making with Army in Germany,
Sweden, U.S. Embassy in Stockholm, World War II, 37-45
Sweet Briar College, 2
Truman, Harry S., Dean Acheson, relationship with, 154-156
Tuthill, John W., 64
Ulbricht, Walter, 92
Unter den Linden, Berlin, Nazi victory parade on, 1940, 11-14
Wellington, Rebecca, 64
Wiesner, Louis, 64
Wilson, George Grafton, 1-2
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