Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum


Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder

Secretary of the Treasury in the Truman Administration, 1946-53. Other Federal positions once held include Executive Vice-President and Director, Defense Plant Corporation, 1940-43; Assistant to the Director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1940-44; Federal Loan Administrator, 1945; Director, Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1945-46. Secretary Snyder was a longtime close friend of Harry S. Truman beginning with their service in the U.S. Army Reserves after World War I.

Washington, D.C.,
March 5, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess

[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]


NOTICE
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. [45]) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.

RESTRICTIONS
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
Independence, Missouri

[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]



Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder

Washington, D.C.,
March 5, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess

[411]

HESS: Mr. Snyder, to begin this afternoon let's finish up what we want to say on Chester Bowles and, as you've just mentioned, we've got quite a bit down on him already, but one of the things I found about Chester Bowles is in Cabell Phillips' book The Truman Presidency. Phillips has the following quote:

In February 1946 Snyder made an end run around Bowles to give the steel companies a $5-a-ton increase in prices, which they had been demanding in exchange for an 18 1/2 cents-an-hour wage boost with which to get steel workers, who had gone out on strike, back to the furnaces. Bowles, furious, handed in his resignation. The President cooled him off by reviving the almost-expired Office of Economic Stabilization--a wartime superagency with somewhat ambiguous powers over both prices and production--and moving the disconsolate Bowles upstairs to be its director. Mr. Truman glossed over the steel pact as being no more than a 'bulge in the line' and said that the fight to hold firm on prices and wages would continue without abatement.

Tell me about the events of that time.

[412]

SNYDER: Well, I think, we'll find that we've already discussed that previously, but to wind that particular quotation up and put it in the perspective that we'd like to have it, the fact of the matter is, as I stated previously, I felt that Mr. Bowles could be of great value to Mr. Truman politically and did not want him to be leaving the administration, and through my checking the situation I came up with the idea of making him the Director of the Office of Economic Administration which was already authorized but had no occupant at the time; and so Mr. Truman took advantage of that and gave him that title, which seemed to please him at the time, and it helped bridge the hiatus that we did not want to develop. This, of course, subsequently leaked out and was published in the papers, which can be found by checking back to the press of the time.

[413]

HESS: And one note that I wrote down here this morning from the Public Papers is that Mr. Bowles served as the Administrator of the OPA from November 5, 1943 until February 25, 1946 and then as Director of Economic Stabilization through July 10, 1946.

Let's continue on with the question of the strikes. Late in 1945 and early in 1946 there was a great rash of strikes throughout many industries. One general question: What caused so many strikes to come at this particular time--what were the events?

SNYDER: It was the natural sequence of the aftermath of the war, trying to get labor and management back into collective bargaining, with each side probably demanding the limit and hoping to come to some compromise in between. Labor seemed to be very determined to get the highest wages they possibly could get,

[414]

while private industry and manufacturers showed some inclination to be restrained in their price rises. They were very adamant about not being restrained as to price if labor was going to be released on the wage side, and it was because of this situation that all these various agreements had to be worked out at this time. Labor and management had been operating somewhat on the continuous labor agreement without any particular formal contracts during the war. Now they were getting back to where negotiated contracts were to be signed between the parties, and they were attempting to get the best results out of that for the various parties as they could get. This spread almost through the whole of industry. It was in the steel mills, in the automobile factories, in the meat plants, in coal mining, in electrical equipment, it spread throughout nearly all of the manufacturing world and at one time along about the first of January, or a little

[415]

later, of 1946 we had several million protesters, some of whom were on strike, and others were threatening picket lines and so forth. It was just an adjustment period that we had to go through to get the labor-price situation ironed out while still trying to hold on to some of the price and wage controls. Of course, the wage controls had been somewhat released because of the statements that had been made in so many quarters indicating that wage scales could be raised without any price raise, and this set in motion a chain reaction that accelerated all of these strike situations. But they were really brought to a focus by the fact that they were trying to get contracts re-established and these debates and arguments came up in that connection.

HESS: One of the books I read this past week harkened back to the eight million unemployment

[416]

prediction and said that many of the strikes were a reaction against this prediction which was very frightening to the unions. So they were trying to put forward a hard front to get all of the benefits that they could, because they were afraid of the predictions that were being made.

And they thought that when all this unemployment came along that they might be severely damaged.

SNYDER: That could have been one of the factors that entered into the situation.

HESS: On this point I want to read just a couple of items that I've taken from the book The Truman Administration: A Documentary History, by Bernstein and Matusow, just to establish a little clearer some of the events of this time. They say that on January 20, 1946 about 750,000 steel workers joined nearly 200,000

[417]

meatpacking workers, 200,000 electrical workers, and 320,000 General Motors employees on the picket lines, so there was a good deal of general striking at that time. And on the subject of the steel industry, Bernstein and Matusow have the following to say. I'd like to read this and get your reaction to it:

Rebuffed by the steel industry and unwilling to seize the mills, Truman followed the advice of John Snyder, his loyal friend and the director of the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, and yielded to the steel management. Under the new stabilization policy of February 14, 1946, the steel industry received more than $5.30 a ton in price compensation for the additional 18.5 cents an hour workers gained. Meanwhile on March 13 the United Auto Workers finally ended its 113 day strike against General Motors, also winning a wage increase of 18.5 cents. Soon after, the company raised prices. Though Truman had allowed a 'bulge in the line' to settle the steel and auto strikes and others besides, he still hoped to restrain inflation.

Well, that leads to several subjects. One: Do you think that you "yielded" to the steel companies?

[418]

SNYDER: No, there was no yielding to the steel companies per se, it was a matter of trying to arrive at a solution of an impasse. The steel people took the very positive position that they could not grant such a wage raise without a simultaneous price raise. I had called in a group of independent CPA and cost accounting experts on steel pricing and had them make a careful study of the relativity of the price-wage situation in the steel argument and they came up with a very logically set-out analysis and formula which showed that as a minimum a $5 per ton raise in ingot steel should be permitted for a wage scale raise of 18 to 20 cents, and it was not just a matter of acceding to the steel companies' demands, it was a carefully studied formula that was in fairness to all. And as a result of that the parties were brought together and the steel strike was resolved.

[419]

HESS: At this time Mr. Truman referred to the fact that he was allowing some increases as a "bulge in the line."

SNYDER: That became necessary, Mr. Hess, because you couldn't just set down a list of rules that had to be followed across the board, and each situation required a careful ad hoc study. It would have been delightful if we could have held the line everywhere until we did get a little breather and get production into motion and start the flow of consumer goods, but that wasn't to be and where there was undue pressure on one side we got resistance on the other, and it was only through handling them actually piece by piece that we began to get some results in re-solving the strikes. Had we stuck strictly to the formula of OPA on pricing and had let the wage people, the labor people, and wage stabilization, remove

[420]

their restrictions, we would have had endless problems in the various industries that would have been most disastrous.

HESS: On the subject of the railroad strike, taking a few statements from Mr. Truman's Memoirs, Volume I, on May 23, 1946, the railroad unions called 300,000 members out on strike and the following day May 24, 1946, Mr. Truman made a nationwide broadcast in which he spoke of the difficulties he had had with two of the union leaders, Mr. Alvanley Johnston, president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and A. F. Whitney, president of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen. He said that he began conferring with Whitney and Johnston as far back as February 21, 1946, and that eighteen unions out of twenty had accepted the offer of an increase of 18 1/2 cents per hour, but those two men would not go along with it. Were you present at the

[421]

conferences?

SNYDER: At some of them. There were a number of them. I had a little difficulty at the time understanding just why Mr. Johnston and Mr. Whitney took the position that they did. They had somewhat agreed to the arrangement previously then...

HESS: Just as the other eighteen unions had done?

SNYDER: Yes, in the initial talks before they had all agreed; and then as more of them were agreeing on it, they began to back up a little. So, it appears, to me at least, that they were jockeying for position of leadership in the railroad unions and they felt that if at the last minute they could squeeze a little additional consideration out of the picture it would give them an edge. However, Mr. Truman was very firm. He went up to the Hill to deliver a speech

[422]

to Congress requesting further authority when he received a message that the strike had been resolved by unanimous agreement of all parties along the line of the settlement as had been agreed by the eighteen, and had been resisted by Mr. Whitney and Mr. Johnston.

HESS: On the subject of this trip to the Hill that was the time that Leslie Biffle gave him the message while he was addressing the joint session of Congress telling him that the railroad strike had been settled, and several people thought that that was a put-up deal, and as you know Senator Wayne Morris had quite a bit to say about that.

SNYDER: Well, it wasn't. It was just a very fortunate, dramatic thing that happened, and as a matter of fact, similar occurrences had happened several times. As you recall, one that didn't turn out quite so happily

[423]

was the time that they came in and announced the withdrawal of L-41 in the materials control and that, of course, was considered to have been planted, which it wasn't at all. Those things just sometimes happen. Fortunately, in our opinion, Mr. Johnston and Mr. Whitney feared the results of having Congress take any action on this matter, and at the same time they realized that they were driving too hard a bargain and that the consensus was against them and when they saw that Mr. Truman was going to go to the lengths of going to Congress with the matter, they capitulated.

HESS: This was the time, wasn't it, when Mr. Whitney said that in the next election he would use the entire treasury of his union to defeat Mr. Truman?

SNYDER: That's true, but that never happened. As a matter of fact, I think he supported him.

[424]

HESS: In checking the Memoirs I found on page 501 of Volume I the following quote:

On May 24, the day following the start of the strike, I went before the American people in a nationwide radio broadcast and related the facts. I announced that unless operation of the railroads was resumed at once I would call upon the Army to assist the Office of Defense Transportation in operating trains...

Which indicates that the idea of having the Army take over the railroads had been discussed, but that that measure was not necessary at this time.

SNYDER: That is my recollection, and their capitulation and acceptance of the settlement forestalled any request of the President for authority to seize the railroads, and that, doubtlessly, was one of the reasons, as I just stated, that caused Whitney and Johnston to join the other eighteen unions and accept the settlement.

HESS: They were really the roadblocks in the matter,

[425]

weren't they? Anything else come to mind on the railroads?

SNYDER: No.

HESS: Our next subject on strikes, Mr. Snyder, is on coal strikes, and, as you know, there were a good many strikes in the coal industry following the war. We have discussed briefly your involvement in that situation, but I would like to ask a couple of questions concerning events that took place in May of 1946. In his Memoirs Mr. Truman states:

I called Lewis to the White House six times from March to May, along with Charles O'Neill, spokesman for the coal operators, in an effort to bring the two factions together. At the May 10 Cabinet meeting I stated that Lewis had promised that the strike would not last more than a few days. But Lewis failed to keep his word. I told the Cabinet that it was ironical that Lewis was now making safety and welfare the primary issues of the coal strike when for ten years he had opposed the inclusion of safety features in the union contracts.

[426]

Do you recall anything in particular about those meetings?

SNYDER: Well, they were almost continuous in the spring of 1946. Mr. Lewis was dominating the scene and he was getting all the mileage that he could possibly get out of the negotiations. Mr. Lewis was a very able salesman and he didn't mind dropping one thing and picking up another viewpoint at any time if it suited the situation, the better to advocate a different viewpoint from one in the past. He didn't rely too heavily on what he had said in the past.

HESS: On precedent.

SNYDER: On precedent. If something new presented itself that would better carry him with the audience that he was talking with. He was consistent only in one thing and that was he was the boss, and he certainly was

[427]

that for many, many years and rightly so, because he had been a great leader in correcting many of the abuses in the coal mining operation.

HESS: Had he been just a little bit derelict about trying to forward safety measures in his negotiations?

SNYDER: He had been a little slow in the opinion of many people because there were so many things that had to be corrected, and the cost of some of these safety devices were so exorbitant as measured against other things that he was trying to get all the little things, the apparent smaller things, accomplished before bringing in some of the greater expenditures that would be required. There were dozens and dozens of items that needed correction in the way of ventilation, and in the way of water supply, and the equipment for lifting, of course, they all had somewhat to do with safety, but

[428]

living conditions had a great deal to do with it, and hours; while we're looking back on it you can say nearly everyone of those things that he was pressing are connected with safety in one way or another. The safety devices they're talking about here, particularly, are mechanical safety devices whereas these others had the human side to it and the physical side, the health side, the standard of living side...

HESS: The sociological type of things.

SNYDER: ...sociological is a good word.

HESS: On the subject of Mr. Lewis and his strikes on page 496 of Mr. Truman's volume he says;

...just eighteen days after I took the oath of office as President, when on April 30, 1945, John L. Lewis ordered seventy-two thousand anthracite coal miners out on strike...

and he says that was the first strike that he had to put up with, just eighteen days after he took

[429]

office.

Mr. Truman has the following quote in his Memoirs concerning the 1946 period:

During this soft-coal strike of 1946 the mines had been shut down for forty-five days at a cost of ninety million tons of coal. At this point the government stepped in to take over operations in May. However, we continued negotiating with Lewis until we reached an agreement on joint control of the welfare fund and other issues in dispute.

Now, a statement on that welfare fund, that was one of the main things that Lewis was trying to forward at this time, and in March of '46 when this show had got on the road he wanted a welfare fund set up that would be paid for by royalties on coal, and that he would have the exclusive control of the welfare fund.

SNYDER: Exclusive control of the welfare fund to be used in whatever fashion he considered proper was his goal. Of course, that was opposed very strongly by the coal mine operators as well as

[430]

by many in the Congress and the other places that felt that that was going too far. They subsequently, of course, did work out a welfare fund which did give Mr. Lewis quite a firm control over its use.

HESS: Well, this is a point where the Government did step in and took over the coal operations. In this particular instance did you think that the Government should have done this--is this something that the Government should do?

SNYDER: I've never been enthusiastic about the Government taking over the operation of industry. In every case where it lasted longer than a very brief period of time, it's been to the detriment of industry and the economy and was not well done. This coal operation, fortunately, did not last very long and it was doubtlessly justified in this instance.

[431]

HESS: I'd like to take this particular difficulty--the coal strike--just a little bit further along and into the period of time that you were Secretary of the Treasury, since it's one continuous subject. Let me read a couple of paragraphs out of Mr. Truman's Memoirs on this:

The government had taken over the bituminous mines in May only after it became clearly evident that this was the only available means of averting an economic disaster to the country. I was eager that the mines be returned as early as possible to private operation, and the owners stated that they, too, were eager to regain control of their properties and encouraged his miners to lay down their tools. On November 20 the country was once again plunged into a general coal strike--this time against the government of the United States. I had instructed the Justice Department to seek a temporary injunction restraining Lewis' action in calling the strike. Federal Judge T. Alan Goldsborough issued the injunction against the United Mine Workers' chief, ordering him to cancel notice of the termination of the contract. When Lewis refused to comply with the injunction, he was summoned before Judge Goldsborough to show cause for his failure to obey the court injunction. On December 4 Lewis was found guilty of civil and criminal contempt of court. His personal fine was fixed at ten thousand dollars, and

[432]

the United Mine Workers Union was fined a total of three and a half million dollars. Seventeen days after he had called the costliest strike in his career, Lewis ordered the miners to return to work.

Well, this, of course, was right at the time of the election of 1946, an election that the Democrats in Congress lost. They lost both houses that year.

SNYDER: Yes, that's right. That was the first election after Mr. Truman became President. He was not involved in it directly as President as it was an off year election. It has been said that all these strikes and the labor disputes and quite a number of things, disappointment in housing, for instance, brought about a defection in the voters in their selection of majorities in Congress and brought on the election of a majority of Republicans in the House and the Senate. That I will leave to the political analysts, but it seemed that we had had a long period of

[433]

heavy labor influence in the Government through their efforts in the elections, and it seemed that the first time that they were being somewhat thwarted in the free rein, many of the labor leaders did get out and work against the Democratic candidates who had not gone to bat for them in Congress to the extent they desired.

HESS: In his Memoirs, Mr. Truman mentions that Lewis called this particular strike at this time in an attempt to bluff the Government and also because of the congressional elections, and as Mr. Truman says, "He may have contributed to the turnover in the Congress which he was anxious to bring about. But instead of helping to elect a sympathetic Congress, Lewis soon learned that he was faced with a reactionary-controlled group in the Eightieth Congress, which soon was to produce the Taft-Hartley Act."

If he had been trying to produce one thing,

[434]

he didn't do it and produced something else.

SNYDER: That was true with all of them. In a moment of pique I think they thought that they were going to bring pressure that would redound to their own benefit. It didn't though because the Congress turned right around in the months to come and brought into being some very strong labor legislation.

HESS: Quite often after a war isn't it the normal thing for the country to want to swing another way? Now, one thing I have in mind is just after the Second World War England swung from a conservative government to a liberal government, at the same time Mr. Churchill was in Potsdam.

SNYDER: Well, we can hardly take that as an example. England was about to elect a labor government at the beginning of the war and it was because

[435]

of the war, and because of the skillful leadership of Churchill, that the labor party agreed to postpone any drive for taking over the government during wartime, but they lost no time after the war was over in doing what they had planned to do prior to the war.

HESS: Do you think--well, I came up with a poor example there, but is it normal for the people to want sort of a change after a war or not?

SNYDER: I think it is frequently true that following a war the public wants to put the blame on the "in" party for the war. The voters of the United States, the citizens of the United States, have traditionally abhorred war. We've never been a warlike country, and we just don't like war. It is true that there has been a swing away from the "in" party following each war because they put the blame on the "in" party for the war

[436]

and its conduct. It probably had a considerable bearing, and not just the labor situation, on the election of 1946--the congressional election.

HESS: The next subject I have on my list deals with the Bottlenecks Subcommittee of OWMR. And in November of 1945, OWMR established a Bottlenecks Subcommittee. Could you tell me a little bit about the reason for the setting up of that committee and its operation?

SNYDER: The reason, without doubt, was the fact that there were a number of raw materials and finished products that were not coming into production as rapidly as was required to give a balanced flow of the needed supplies as judged by the various analysts in the Commerce Depart-ment and in various trade journals, and these laggards were put together in one group and called the bottlenecks of the reconversion of industry holding back a full-time production flow.

[437]

The timber industry was one of them, and you could go on and name a number of them, but those were all grouped together for analysis. The purpose of the committee was to study what was holding each of these items back and to see if those couldn't be cleared up so as to bring the items into a fuller production stream. Unfortunately, the committee didn't accomplish a great deal except to focus attention on the problem, and I think the attention that was brought to bear on the particular problem helped to straighten it out more than any of the actions that were taken.

HESS: In the files of OWMR in the National Archives there are several memos by Robert Nathan about the time that the committee was set up--late in November and early in December. Was he one of those instrumental in the formation of the committee?

[438]

SNYDER: That's right. It was a recommendation of his group to set up such a committee. It was not an enthusiastic committee. The members did not put a great deal of effort into it, but because of the attention that was given to it, it seems to have served its purpose without the committee doing any great amount of work.

HESS: The subcommittee was composed of five men. Do you recall very much about those men?

SNYDER: The chairman of it was Philip H. Coombs. He represented OWMR and was a member of Nathan's staff. At one time he was acting director of Materials Supply Branch of the National Housing Agency but he didn't stay in Government very long. Phil Maguire was a representative of the Civilian Production Administration. He was the deputy director at that time. Then there was John Bulkley representing the Office of

[439]

Price Administration, and Manual Lerner representing the United States Employment Service, and Phil Arnow representing the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Well, now just the reading of those names will show you the handicap that they had as a committee, to go out and persuade industry or labor or manufacturers or suppliers to take any particularly coordinated action.

HESS: Do you mean by that because they were not high enough on the ladder?

SNYDER: They were not high enough on the ladder and there had been resistance, as I indicated just now, of the departments under whose jurisdiction these various things came, to enter into any such operation. Because I think they foresaw the futility of trying to--it would be going back almost and trying to re-establish priorities to bring the kind of pressure that the people

[440]

who thought up this bottlenecks committee had in mind, and to direct materials into a particular production stream. And that was what we were trying to get away from in trying to lift controls. So, I think, as I mentioned a while ago, it was the publicity that was given to it that helped solve the problem rather than any action of the committee.

HESS: Our next subject concerns the attitude of the Congress towards reconversion. During the war the legislature had turned over a good many powers to the executive. Did you feel that when the war was ended that Congress was anxious to reassert its own authority and wanted to direct reconversion by legislation instead of by Executive order?

SNYDER: I am sure that that is the case because, as you know, we found that Congress did not go along with the Mead Committee's recommendation

[441]

to strengthen the OWMR and give it real dictatorial powers. Not only was Congress anxious to get the controls back to prewar status, but the various departments, most of the Cabinet members, and many segments of the people, wanted to remove these tendencies towards dictatorial power and to put that authority back in the classical areas such as the legislative arena where the representatives of the people could vote on the matter rather than have an individual or a group of individuals make those determinations.

HESS: In my research on that question I found that the report submitted by Bernard Baruch and John Hancock in February of 1944 that was widely known as the Baruch-Hancock report, stressed the need for congressional leadership in planning postwar readjustments.

SNYDER: Yes, that was a very interesting and very

[442]

pertinent report. In that report that covered such items as the settlement of war controls. They felt that without strong pressure on the part of Congress that those contract settlements might drag on to the detriment of the reconversion and the re-establishment of a peacetime economy. The disposal of surplus property--they thought that Congress should take a more positive position in that. We will touch on that when we take up the policy that was adopted by the Truman administration regarding the handling of the surpluses. We'll take that up at our next session. There were billions of dollars in properties scattered around the globe in huge excess quantities and it took more than just a surplus disposal czar to make decisions regarding a policy that would hold up before the people. So, the Baruch-Hancock report touched on that. And then they felt that unless Congress took a very

[443]

positive step in regard to removal of wartime controls that they'd drag on and that some particular groups would try to hold on to them as long as possible to maintain their position in administrative power. And the report touched on the orderly process of discontinuance or curtailment of wartime production. Legally it had been set up in the statutes that no item was to be continued in production after the war that was not actually needed for defense purposes, and in spite of this there was a great deal of effort made to defeat that aim. Instead of Congress taking the leadership unhappily, some of the congressional groups were the worst violators of continuing construction and turning out certain products that were patently not needed and would not be needed. For instance, the story I told you about the surplus ships is an example in that area.

[444]

The one thing on which the Baruch-Hancock report missed their mark was the legislative action that they thought would be necessary to accelerate the resumption of civilian production. I think that industry got way ahead of everyone on that. They wanted to resume production rapidly and went far ahead of all expectations. However, the Baruch-Hancock report did highlight, and point out, that the small man should be protected and given a chance to join in with his small plant operation, or what was called the small business operation. That, of course, was always a problem because when you're after production you want to get the producer that will deliver the goods, and the little man had difficulty at times getting finance, getting a market, organizing a sales organization, and working up a distribution for his product. All of those considerations took more time because of lack of experience and lack

[445]

of finance. Touching on that was one of the commendable parts of that phase of the report. I thought it showed great intelligence and foresight.

HESS: In August of 1945, the President created a committee referred to by Somers in his book as the "SSR Committee" which was made up of yourself as chairman, Harold Smith, director of the Bureau of the Budget and Samuel I. Rosenman: "For the purpose of making recommendations to me from time to time on the proper disposition of the various war agencies," and I have read that one of your main jobs was to recommend which war agencies were to be abolished and which ones consolidated into existing or permanent agencies, is that correct?

SNYDER: That is correct. We assumed the responsibilities of that assignment very seriously. Its formation had grown out of my recommendations

[446]

to the President that we should take very firm steps in eliminating wartime agencies along the lines that I had taken in merging the RFC subsidiaries into the RFC and thereby cut down on the scope and the breadth of the operation by getting the war activated policies out of the picture and back into the peacetime economy pat-terns. We had many agencies in the Government that were formed purely for war purposes and had no part in our administrative setup once the war was over and it was apparent that the hostilities had ceased. So, we started in making a careful analysis and determination of which ones had served their purpose, were no longer needed and should be dissolved, or their remaining activities transferred to one of the permanent agencies. We started out in a very considerate attitude. We picked out five that we felt were eligible for dissolution and we called in the heads of those agencies and

[447]

explained to them that they had served their purpose, complimented them on the record that they had made and said that we are now planning to dissolve their operation and disband them. Within less than twenty-four hours we had an avalanche of protests from the Hill and from the various Congressmen whose pet projects these particular agencies were, and we soon learned that we had to adopt a sterner procedure.

HESS: It wasn't going to be so easy, is that correct?

SNYDER: Yes, we woke up quick as to the seriousness of our undertaking. We promptly reversed our procedure and thereafter when we decided on the dissolution of one of the agencies--the OWMR had the authority to do that as you know--we would issue the dissolution order and then tell them about it afterwards. It was fait accompli by the time the word got to them. We actually

[448]

dissolved some forty-one or two agencies--discontinued them and folded their remaining activities into one of the permanent agencies. It could have gone much further but so many other things came up that in time they were absorbed and taken over and the problem was worked out. It could have been done a little quicker if we'd had a little more breathing spell in which to do it, but by the time we got this well in motion I went over to the Treasury and the OWMR began to quietly fold up.

HESS: Did Harold Smith and Mr. Rosenman give you quite a little bit of assistance in this matter?

SNYDER: Oh, tremendous. Sam Rosenman, of course, from the legal side, and Smith from the Bureau of the Budget side. He was able to produce the costs and the accomplishments, what they were doing and what it was costing them to do it,

[449]

which we could measure up against the necessity, and he was extremely helpful and very cooperative in the end decision, as was Judge Rosenman. Judge Rosenman, of course, protected us constantly on the legal side and was very cooperative. It was one of the closest knit committees that I served on at any time during my public administration.

HESS: Well, we'll want to get into your relationship with the Bureau of the Budget at a later date since as Secretary of the Treasury you had a very close relationship with that bureau, but just one general question, how effective was Mr. Smith as Director of the Bureau of the Budget?

SNYDER: Very good. I considered that he did a very good job. I was always very complimentary toward Mr. Smith as Director of the Budget.

[450]

HESS: Our next question is on the continuation of OWMR after you left, and when your appointment as Secretary of the Treasury was announced, the President told the press that no new director for OWMR would be appointed and that the office would come to its termination after the completion of its business, but because of some pressures from various agency heads the President appointed John Steelman, his special assistant, to assume the directorship. Did you discuss the problem of the continuation of the office with the President at the time he offered you the position as Secretary of the Treasury?

SNYDER: Oh, yes. We decided definitely that the OWMR had served its purpose and that there was no justifiable reason for permanently continuing the operation of the OWMR: that the President had sufficient operating units in his control there in the executive office to take care of most

[451]

of those things and then he had more time to have the various Cabinet members work out the phases of the problems that affected their particular operation. We had had sufficient evidence during the latter years of the war and the early years of the reconversion to know that the President did not want to have that kind of an operation within the White House itself, and so, we decided that it would be best to dissolve it and put the remaining requirements and activities back in the various permanent agencies.

HESS: Now, part of it did go to the White House at the end, did it not? Part of the operations of OWMR still went to the White House?

SNYDER: Well, it stayed there; it didn't go; it was in the White House all the time. You see the OWMR office was always in the east wing of the White House. So, it wasn't a matter

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of moving it over there because it was always there. After I left, due to one cause or another (some of the agencies wanted to have someplace they could deposit their problems and brush them off, and then on the other hand, it may have been the recommendations of the individual himself that the director of OWMR be continued), Mr. Truman did decide to continue it for awhile. But it was gradually dissolved.

HESS: On December the 12th of 1946, Mr. Truman signed Executive Order 9809 which pro-vided for the disposition of certain war agencies and according to that those functions of the office that pertained to "the formulation and carrying out of the reconversion plans that would affect the economic conditions of the United States as provided in the War Mobilization and Reconversion Act of 1944," were transferred to the President. And that is when Dr. Steelman

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went to work at the White House as assistant to the President. That was his initial date with the President.

SNYDER: He was already over there, I think. Yes, I think he was already on the President's staff before I left. Let's check on that.

HESS: In looking up our records, I find out that Mr. Snyder was quite right because Dr. Steelman was Special Assistant to the President from December 29, 1945, until the date of the Executive order on the 12th of December, 1946, when he was made The Assistant to the President, and he held that post until January the 20th of 1953--the end of the administration.

SNYDER: Yes, and, of course, it was only six months that the OWMR office really continued in operation after I left but its influences and its effectiveness diminished rapidly until

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December of '46 when it was finally dissolved.

HESS: And that same Executive order transferred some of the functions to the Office of Temporary Controls.

SNYDER: Yes, that was directly under the President's direction.

HESS: Then I found that Harold Stein was commissioner of War Mobilization and Reconversion there for just a little while.

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