Oral History Interview with
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.
John W. Snyder
March 12, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview
Transcript | Additional Snyder Oral History
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 September, 1970
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices
and Restrictions | Interview Transcript
| Additional Snyder Oral History Transcripts]
Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder
March 12, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Secretary Snyder, I believe it was in September of 1945 that you spent two weeks in Europe surveying the surplus property and lend-lease property situation. What do you recall about that trip and what were the problems that you encountered?
SNYDER: Mr. Hess, the trip actually had two objectives. Just going back a little, President Truman and I, while I was still at the Federal Loan Administrator's office, began to talk about surplus property disposal at the time that I went to Congress to start the consolidation of the RFC subsidiaries--that was really a step towards disposal of surplus properties because through that arrangement we worked out a method of disposing of the plants that would be in surplus and the equipment that was in those plants and the
material. This led to our discussion of the bigger problem as it might appear for the future, and as early as July, 1945, the President had determined that instead of a committee or a commission that he felt that a single administrator of the surplus property disposal should be provided by Congress and he sent a message up to Congress as early as July advocating the authorization for the appointment of a single administrator of surplus property disposal. As the European part of the war had come to a close in May, that accented it, of course, and led to the decision to try to clarify the surplus property problem. It had already become evident to us that there was a tremendous problem ahead of us from the reports that we began to get back from Europe as early as June, and so by July we had framed a recommendation to Congress for the authority to appoint a single administrator. Then, of
course, in the meantime President Truman went over to Potsdam and attended the Potsdam Conferences where he learned a great deal there of the tremendous tonnages of surplus property that were in Europe. He actually sent his message up on the Surplus Administrator before I went into OWMR, but the point I'm making is that we had been thinking about it and studying this problem for some months before the war stopped. Then after he returned from Potsdam in August and by the first of September, it became pretty evident to us that a quick look ought to be taken of the situation in Europe, particularly, because in the meantime Japan had capitulated. In planning the trip to Europe, with one of the objectives being the surplus property problem, he and I discussed who the most competent person for that job that was available and between the two of us we decided that Stuart Symington, president of the Emerson
Electric Company in St. Louis, who had been heavily involved in war production during World War II, was very competent and highly able to undertake such a job, so I invited him to go on this trip although he had not been appointed at that time. The bill had not been passed, actually, authorizing the single administrator, but I took him along with me. As it was confidential at the time the publicity didn't come out about the trip, because we didn't want to stir up a lot of speculation and have to cope with that at the same time we're trying to learn something about the European situations. The strange part of it is that when the news did finally come out the item was carried in the paper that I was accompanied by the Surplus Property Administrator, although he was not actually appointed until after we got back. But as I said there were two objectives actually involved, the other
was to take a look at the industrial destruction in Germany and see how much of a problem was facing us. We not only had a problem in Europe with the rehabilitation of our Allies, but we also had a definite one in that we had to measure the capabilities of Germany to get back on its feet and determine how much of a financial, labor and materials problem there was going to be in that situation. Again, just to reiterate, this was a very confidential mission and we avoided publicity to the trip before we went over. I took with me on this particular trip, Stuart Symington, as I have just mentioned, and Mr. David R. Calhoun, who was the vice president of the St. Louis Union Trust Company--that's really the company that owns the majority of the stock of the First National Bank of St. Louis. Mr. Calhoun had been a deputy administrator in WPB and was well versed in the problems of materials and surpluses by reason
of his experience in WPB. I took with me Earl Stewart who was the electrical contractor who installed the intricate electrical machinery in our large nuclear plants at Oak Ridge and also out in the state of Washington. He was a thoroughly informed man on electrical machinery and equipment and plant production lines. I took Mr. Leslie Biffle, who was Secretary of the Senate, because I felt that he could provide me with the type of questions that would be raised by the Congress when I got back in reporting to them our conclusions and our recommendations as to what we should do about the situation after we had taken this quick look and gotten an impression. I had, of course, a number of servicemen who were assigned to make available to me the necessary data and transportation and so forth which we will discuss as we go along. The whole trip, however,
was placed under the general supervision of Lieutenant General Joseph K. Cannon, who was the commanding general of the Strategic Air Force of the U.S. Army in Europe at that time. We took off initially from Washington on Sunday morning of September the 8th and we flew first--in those days you didn't get in a plane and fly right to your destination in Europe--we flew first to Stephenville, Newfoundland, and refueled and then to the Azores and refueled and then into Paris, and we arrived there on Sunday afternoon of September the 9th. We were met at the airport by General Cannon who had assembled quite a number of Army and Navy personnel to give us an opportunity to tell them what we were going to want to discuss with them when we came back later so that they could be assembling the data, the figures on the likely surplus property and their locations, and their state of preservation
and maintenance, the personnel problem and so forth. We left early the next morning from Paris. We decided that the first thing to do was to fly up and have a conference with General Eisenhower and get his impressions or counsel as to both problems, and we had already advised him in advance so that he could assemble whatever notes he might desire or personnel to help us. Enroute, however, to Berlin we flew across France and saw a great part of the area over which the U.S. troops had marched. We had a wonderful opportunity to see what the path of the war is in a heavy operation such as was conducted at that time.
HESS: Did you see a lot of destruction?
SNYDER: We saw a great deal of destruction both in small towns and in railroads and road equipment, and we saw places where there were heavy resistance points and how they had been built
up--and then as we got over Germany we circled Kassel. Now Kassel had at that time a population of about 200,000 people. It was a very important railway center and for that reason it was selected as a strategic target. The Air Force was already beginning to activate a study of the second phase which was to examine the effects of our heavy bombing. We were, during the course of our visit, to visit fourteen bombed out cities, and as we discuss them I'm going to briefly tell you the purpose that our Strategic Air Force had in bombing those particular places. It wasn't just a matter of bombing the town, but it was an effort to try to destroy the potential attack force or defense force of the Nazi army. Kassel was a railway center, as I said, and they had assembled there some very large locomotive, aircraft and tank plants here they were manufacturing equipment for the
now defending army--it was the attacking army at one time--and was built up as a potential source for those particularly vital items of war. One of the huge plants there was the Henschel and Sohm Locomotive and Armament Works. This plant turned out something like 200 locomotives a year of very large power and it also had a capacity of about 150 large tanks per month, so it was considered an important point to put out of commission. They also had an airplane factory there that built the Messerschmidt 109's, and they had been turning out, up until the time we started bombing, about 70 a month of those aircraft. Now, when you stop to think that about 10 percent of all the German single engine fighters were manufactured right there in that plant and 22 percent of the entire production of this particular type of plane in all Germany, you can imagine that we had a rather
urgent need to try to put a stop to the production. Then, too, at Kassel were the marshaling yards for the railroads handling nearly all supply distribution to the entire western front line after the invasion started.
In the next town we flew over we could plainly see the tremendous effects of the bombing because here were plants that were now nothing but shells that had once been manufacturing a large volume of items for the Nazi forces. This town was Magdeburg. It was a larger town, running about 350,000 inhabitants. It was the capital of the very famous old province of Saxony which was known way back through German history and was one of the foremost cities, I suppose, in central Germany. This was a very important town as a center for rail and river traffic. It was a focal point for the transfer from the barge lines to the railroad or vice versa
from the railroads to the barge lines, to move up and down the river. They had here one of the largest German synthetic oil plants. The Brabag synthetic oil production unit was located there which had an output of about 21,000 tons a month of synthetic lubricating oil and some gasoline. I think it was considered about the tenth largest of all the German plants for this purpose. As a matter of fact, I was told by the Air Force representatives that the Germans kept up their efforts to keep that plant in repair right up to the capitulation. It was that vital to their operation. There was a small Krupp plant here, too, that had been making the Nazi tiger tank and they were turning out about forty-five of those a month, so you can see that this was considered a very, very important plant. Then we came over Berlin, and it was to me who
had been brought up as a banker and had placed great value on property values, I tell you it was a sickening sight. The German buildings in this city as in most of the large cities--were very ponderous, heavy structures with thick walls of masonry, stone and various other construction materials and they were so old that there was hardly any steel in them. They had been built with masonry and wooden trusses and construction of that character, and when the bombings started the planes would come over and break the roofs through with explosive bombs and then drop incendiary bombs later. We could look right down through the shell of those buildings some five, six, seven stories with nothing but the walls standing. They had been completely gutted, and the periphery of the city was very clearly outlined by this destruction of the core of the city. Out in the suburbs,
unless there were industrial plants out there, you could see the green trees and the houses with their tile roofs untouched. But right in the city was this honeycomb of the shells of the big buildings. Of course, Berlin was a target objective for many reasons because they had centered in and around Berlin a great deal of the industry of the Nazi production plants. They had centered there, to a great degree, the manufacture of electrical equipment, general engineering equipment, the aircraft components, such as the instruments, the wiring harness and the more intricate mechanism of the airplane, and they also had quite a number of engine works there because there was a higher ratio of trained personnel available. There was also quite a number of tank factories. Apparently the intent was that they were going to keep those tanks in production to protect
Berlin if there was an attack on Berlin. So it was a three-fold target, I guess; one was to bring home to the German high command that Berlin was not impregnable; number two was to destroy as much of the potential manufacturing capacity for war of the community, and the next as a double morale builder for us and destroyer for Germans. First for our troops to know that Berlin was being mauled, and second was to bring home to the Berliners and the Germans that their capital city was pregnable, and couldn't stand up against the air attacks that were going to come. When we arrived at Tempelhof we were taken promptly to our GHQ. We had lunch with General Eisenhower and spent some time going over the various objectives about which I wanted his counsel and advice. He was extremely helpful and was most generous with his time because as you can imagine he had a very full schedule. We had just established our command headquarters
there--this was within less than three months after V-E Day. We were trying not only to get control of the situation in the devastated nation that we had conquered, but we also had to give consideration to troop disposal, that is, what troops we were going to retain in Germany, and their redistribution. There were constant consultations by General Eisenhower with our allies and with the Germans and particularly with the Soviet Union, because they had moved in in great force, as you know, and began to be difficult to deal with right from the very moment that the war was over. General Eisenhower arranged that a day or two later we could meet with General Bedell Smith in Frankfort, agreeing that he would assemble there personnel and data on a great many of the items that we were asking about. And then, under his direction, we were driven over the city of Berlin--both the East Zone and the West Zone--we went into
East Berlin, and it looked very much like West Berlin at the time. `We went to the Reichschancellery and saw the destruction that had taken place with the bombing, both from the Russians and from the Americans. The Russians had done most of the bombing though in Berlin. The building was more damaged by Russian plundering than by their bombs. And we had the dubious thrill of going down in the bunker where Hitler committed suicide. And where he supposedly murdered Eva Braun. One of the souvenirs that General Eisenhower sent me afterwards was a picture frame that was hanging in the bunker in which Hitler committed suicide. Before he fired the shots that killed Eva Braun and then himself, he ordered his orderly to pour gasoline on them and burn them up, so the place had been badly smoked up and burnt, and his picture frame--I'll show you sometime--shows the signs of the smoked room. Eisenhower
had the frames filled with photos--some of which I'll show you copies of here--and presented it to me as a pictorial sketch of the Snyder Mission. The bodies were actually burned outside.
We then proceeded to the airport and started toward Wiesbaden, which was to be the hub of our operations around Germany, before going back to France. Enroute back from Berlin, we flew over Frankfurt which was an enormous industrial complex--largely chemical--some of the big I.G. Farben plants, the Adler Motor Vehicle plants, quite a number of large synthetic rubber plants, synthetic oil plants, and the Areo Engine Works were located in Frankfurt. Frankfurt was just simply mowed down by bombs. I have pictures here that I'll show you afterwhile so that you can see the actual destruction of these places. An interesting situation at Frankfurt was the fact that right at the
edge of the city was the enormous seven story administration building of I.G. Farben, and it was two blocks long and there wasn't a scratch on it. We heard the kidding after we landed that the Air Force had saved that building for their headquarters when they took Germany. Anyway they moved right in after V-E Day and made good use of it.
HESS: Maybe there was some truth to the story.
SNYDER: There could well have been.
Here in Frankfurt another vital target was the main marshaling yards of the whole upper Rhine Valley. That, of course, was a vital target to interrupt the flow of supplies to the forces at the front and to harass the movement of relieving forces as well as disorganizing the general distribution of both sustenance and armament materials. A great
number of railroad equipment factories were located here--railroad car wheels, engine wheels, switch gears and a great number of electrical equipment plants for the electrical control machinery for large generating plants and large motor installations that operated many of the huge machines that they used. They had, like all large cities, a tremendous number of smaller plants that really, in total, turned out a large tonnage of very vital military items, such as the small arms parts and instruments of all kinds for computing firing data, adding machines, typewriters, and because of the large numbers of synthetic rubber plants that had three or four rather large tire plants there.
Then we landed at Wiesbaden where we established our headquarters from which to make other explorations that we had planned. We were up early the next morning and before
8 o'clock we took off on a trip up to Hamburg. Enroute we flew over the city of Hanover. Hanover was a town of about half a million people at that time--badly destroyed as you can easily see from these pictures--it is another one of the very ancient German cities that was the capital of the kingdom of Hanover; it goes way back seven or eight hundred years in its history. It has always been a very highly industrialized city and was one of the principal administrative points in northern Germany because of their excellent communication lines, railway lines and waterways. Now, here again they had a great number of tire plants and produced large numbers of armament turrets for both tanks and airplanes. They manufactured a great deal of engineering equipment--transits, elevators, cranes and items of that sort--that were used not only militarily but for construction of plants. Everything was devoted largely to the
war effort however, as you can well imagine. They also built quite a number of fighting vehicles here, like the gun carriages for the cannons, tractors, the prime movers to move the cannons towards the front, the rifles and military trucks, transports, tanks--gasoline tanks, not fighting tanks--and they manufactured a tremendous amount of wire and cable here because they had another large synthetic rubber plant near so the insulation was available, and they also had some copper and brass plants that made the shell cases for the heavy caliber guns. It was considered to be one of the most diversified small cities. Of course, it was a half a million and that's a pretty good sized town for Germany.
From there we went on over to Hamburg. Now, Hamburg was a pretty big city even then--it's bigger now, I think it's nearly two million people now--then it was about a half
million at the time we were there. The war had not caused too great a reduction in the population. Hamburg, of course, was a great sea coast town--a splendid port--and the merchant fleet was centered largely in that area. At one time just before the war I think that there were over 1500 ships that had their home port in Hamburg. That gives you some idea of the tremendous importance that port was to the supply of the war for Germany. Then also, because of its port facilities it naturally was a large submarine manufacturing area. We visited a number of the yards where they had been building submarines , and also we saw at least twenty submarines that had been sunk right in their pens where they had come in for refueling or for supplies, or for repairs. In the shipbuilding areas where they had been building subs we saw any number of them that had been badly damaged in the process of being constructed and
were never finished. Because of the port facilities and the importation of foodstuffs and that sort of thing, they had a lot of food processing plants around this city and tremendous grain elevators and warehouses. It looked like acres and acres of warehouses because with ships handling cargo both ways the products were warehoused there while awaiting a ship or after unloading from a ship until they were distributed inland. This city was very badly mauled by the bombing. And, again, another one of the features, because it was a port, there were nine railroad trunk lines that went out of Hamburg to all parts of Germany, and so that came in for heavy bombing too, with the marshaling yards, the sidings, the repair plants for the railway equipment, the rolling stock and so forth, being pretty badly bombed out.
We went over to Bremen. Bremen was a large submarine concentration point and it had one of
the largest airfields in Germany.It had airplane plants and parts plants all around the airdrome. There were two or three very important steel plants and three or four gas plants--they used gas in their blast furnaces and in many of their operations and they had some very large gas manufacturing installations at this place--and, of course, they made all sorts of products for shipbuilding, marine engines, rudders and navigational equipment. And here, too, were several large oil refineries, because of the port facilities for the importation of the crude, it was processed right there. This was an extremely important manufacturing town and came in for some heavy bombing. As a matter of fact, the bombing of Bremen ran very high in its total tonnage--over 25,000 tons of bombs were dropped on that area; that is compared with about 75,000 tons that were dropped on Berlin.
Then we went to Essen. Now, Essen was sort of the main headquarters of the Krupp operation, and I don't need to tell you how vital the Krupp steel plants and steel operations were to the whole Nazi war effort because they built their cannon, they built the plate for the warships, they manufactured all the semi-finished steel products around that area, and for that very reason this was the center of attention for some pretty heavy bombing to knock out those plants. Just for instance, take a look, this was a Krupp plant before the bombing started and this was it after it was completed. You can see how badly it was bombed out. And yet in spite of that they kept that plant operating, in part anyway, right up until a relatively short time before the end of the war.
We went over Dusseldorf as that city was the center of machine tool making. They made
tremendous, indispensable machine tools for all of German industrial plants. They had wire plants there, too, and important electrical generating and gas plants that manufacture engines for electrical and gas engines. They had huge marshaling yards that were given considerable attention with the bombing. And then, of course, Dusseldorf has a harbor area that was kept very active by the Nazis throughout the war. The dock storage and the engineering equipment there was given a great deal of attention by the Air Force.
Then we went to Cologne. Cologne is an important railway center on the Rhineland largely because of the scores of barges that came up the Rhine to unload cargoes there and be reloaded on railroad cars to go up through the northeastern part of Germany. They also had ever so many factories in depth all around Cologne. Our bombers had a real problem in Cologne in being
extremely cautious not to damage the cathedral. Unhappily, the main railway station was close by the cathedral, and, of course, in dropping their bombs on this railway center, the detonation loosened many of the tiles, but that was the only damage that was done to the cathedral of a structural nature. It was the reverberations of the explosions rather than any hits. I don't think it had any--there was one shell that fell in the north end but it did relatively little damage. The cathedral was quickly restored after the war, and to look at it today you'd never know that it had gone through a war. The main production around here was largely automotive. One of the big Ford plants was there and several I.G. Farben plants were in that location--chemicals and so forth. The main part of the city was largely residential, but it was completely belted by very heavy industrial activity.
And then we went back to Wiesbaden for the night and left again early in the morning when we drove over to Ludwigshafen. In Ludwigshafen was the big I.G. Farben works where they had their huge chemical plants, synthetic rubber, synthetic oil, planning laboratories and so forth. Well, because of its known potentiality it received some very heavy bombing, but to my utter amazement some of the synthetic rubber plants were kept running right up--in reduced capacity, of course--until the last day of the war. The genius of those engineers and chemists in their ability to patch up and keep production going was quite remarkable. We went through the entire plant. We were introduced to some of the top engineers and they were delighted to tell us all about how they kept the plant in operation, and it was through them that I learned about how they kept things going right up until the last. Then we
drove around over the town and from there to Frankfurt to meet General Bedell Smith. General Smith had come well prepared with documents, with schedules of equipment, its location, the requirements that would probably be necessary for the remaining troops, what could be disposed of, a general estimate on what part could be used in the civilian rehabilitation . This data furnished us with a tremendous overall picture of the Allies' situation. He pointed out that we would pick up additional information in Paris and in London when we got to those points. We had lunch with General Smith and had a very, very enlightening conference with him, and from there we left for the airport and flew to Salzburg. Enroute to Salzburg we flew over Nuremberg. While Nuremberg had been largely noted because of its being the site of the great festivals and the athletic events and the big stadium,
Nuremberg actually was a very important industrial city. Their production was largely in submarine engines, tanks, armored cars, military transports, aircraft, aircraft equipment, electrical motors and the powerful search lights that were used for antiaircraft purposes and for the airports and so forth, and so it came in for some very, very heavy bombing. I think there were around 20,000 tons of explosives dropped on Nuremberg. We went over and inspected Munich. Here was another large marshaling yard. They had railroad maintenance plants, factories that built railway locomotives, aircraft, engines of all characters, chemical equipment, chemical machines, and they had some rather large synthetic tire plants there.
From Munich we went to Salzburg and then drove up to Berchtesgaden to visit Hitler's retreat where he had expected to take his last stand, as you probably have read. That never
worked out, but I never saw such tremendous preparation for such an eventuality. Berchtesgaden is in Bavaria up in the Alps. One of the featured items at this location was the Eagle's Nest which Hitler supposedly built as his headquarters. It was up on one of the highest mountains in that area, and its access was principally through a tunnel that was dug into the mountain and an ele-ator shaft that took you up to the Eagle's Nest. There was a road that had been carved out of the granite of the mountain that also went up to the peak at tremendous cost in equipment and manpower. That didn't seem to bother them when they were doing something for the Fuehrer. From the Eagle's Nest you could look out from different windows and see four different countries, and it was a gorgeous scene in any direction. It was wonderfully equipped and beautifully
furnished. One of the outstanding pieces of interest was a huge, black marble mantelpiece that Mussolini had presented to Hitler. It was all furnished for entertaining; it had a huge reception room, which they called the conference room, but it had never been used much for official conferences. As a matter of fact, one of the guards told me that Hitler had never been up there over two or three times in all of its history. Eva Braun, however, loved it up there and spent a great deal of her time entertaining, having friends as guests and giving big parties. They had a wonderful wine cellar and beautiful kitchens and dining room, lovely china, and magnificently furnished bedrooms, living rooms and laundry rooms. Then down on the shelf, as they called it, which was several hundred feet lower, there was sort of a flat area where Hitler had his house built--his headquarters and, of course, Goebbels,
Goering and all of the Nazi VIP's had houses built all around Hitler's place, because whenever he'd come there and the camp followers would all follow, as well as the suppliers, big merchants and everybody who were getting rich off the war. The British for some strange reason, after the war was over, came over and bombed that area pretty badly for no apparent reason; the war was finished, but they came over anyway and took pleasure in bombing out Hitler's retreat. However, they never touched the Eagle's Nest; there's not a scratch on it. Then from that level going back into the mountain was a tunnel that branched out into a city that would house something like 30,000 troops--I may be exaggerating, but it was a tremendous number--nearly as many troops as the personnel in one of our divisions. And in this area were hospitals, operating rooms, dormitories, barracks, living quarters, a communications center, everything that you could
think of--huge warerooms for supplies: ammunition, food and clothing. And here we went into the vault in which was stored for safe keeping a great part of the art objects that had been stolen by the troops all over Europe and brought there. Of course, the biggest ones were stored in some salt mines elsewhere but a large portion of the finest art objects were hidden back in this granite vault.
From Berchtesgaden we flew into Paris, and there assembled were Colonel Glenn Jackson, General George C. MacDonald, Tom McCabe, who was the administrator of the Army-Navy Liquidation Commission. Again, we were given wonderful cooperation and help on the location and the types of surpluses we had to consider and we got a little better breakdown on trucks and tires and things of that character, and in food supplies so that we could know what we could convert for the use in the rehabilitation of
France and Belgium in particular. We spent the night there and worked way into the morning on these figures. From there we flew over to London. From the airport I went right to the embassy and spent nearly two hours with our ambassador, Ambassador [John] Winant, and through him I was able to talk with Mr. Churchill, with Ernie Bevin, with the head of the Bank of England, and we were able to get some additional, very valuable suggestions and counsel from all those various people. And through the good offices of Ambassador Winant we were taken down and shown the assembly room and all the war documents that had been brought in from Germany, Belgium, Italy and from many other countries, which were stored there for classification and disposition. When we completed our various discussions there, we boarded the plane and came home. Our real work then started in assembling a report for President
Truman, and Mr. Symington and I spent many hours with him going over the various findings. Out of that vast amount of background knowledge and statistics we had obtained, we formulated the plan that we took up to Congress and got a bill passed on the disposal of surplus property. We received a very warm reception by the committees and they were most prompt in approving the single administrator for surplus property. Mr. Truman immediately appointed Symington and he took over that job. That in a very quick and brief fashion gives you the story. In the meantime on the second phase, as I kept emphasizing, you can see the problem that we discovered that laid before Germany in getting their plants back to operating so that they could furnish jobs and consumer goods for the people. We had to, through aid and counsel, direct their efforts towards getting the most essential of the industrial
plants re-established--clothing, food production, machinery, and industries of that nature. We had quite a problem, as you probably have read, with the Russians. They just carried whole trainloads of machine tools and equipment out of Germany. We understood that it was going to be largely the type that had been used for munitions, but it wasn't. They just carried everything they could put their hands on, much of which they damaged so badly in tearing it loose from bases that they were never able to use it, but it gave us an inkling of what kind of victors the Russians were. They had some provocation as I learned in later years when I got up into Russia and went to Stalingrad and to some of the places where the Germans really gave them a pretty bad time. That is about all I have on this, unless you have some questions.
HESS: I have a couple of short questions. Roughly what
percentage of the surplus property was decided to be allocated for the civilian population?
SNYDER: That evolved later. We did not make that determination at that time. We set up a High Commissioner in Germany whose job was to work out that problem. We set up the same sort of thing in a different fashion in England and in Paris and in Brussels. Fortunately, not too long after that ECA came into operation and helped work those things out. In our plan we placed the responsibility for the disposal of the surplus property in the State Department, because it was our belief, and I think it worked out very much that way, that the State Department would be dealing with governments--government to government--and we could get a better return on our money--there was no money anywhere after the war--and we could get a better return in money factors by letting the State Department
exchange it for properties, for installations, for closing arrangements for airbases or things of that character, or for some of our military bases and for embassies, and we found that that worked to our advantage whereas if we had tried to sell, we would have had long term credits on the sales that we would never have collected anyway. We were up against a very difficult situation, and this is one thing that I have to continually emphasize, because of the fact that we had demobilized our armed forces entirely too rapidly. We didn't leave enough people to guard and maintain these huge supply depots, and pilferage was pretty bad, as we just couldn't guard the property or maintain it, and then, of course, deterioration becomes a factor in large stockpiles of items of that sort--rubber tires stacked as huge as mountains, trucks standing out in the open, in the rain
and sleet and so forth.
HESS: Now, we have been discussing the disposition of the material that was already in Europe, but shortly after this time it became obvious that food and fuel were going to be in very short supply in Europe for that coming winter. Did you at this time make any recommendations about what additional things should be sent from the United States?
SNYDER: Yes, President Truman immediately invited former President Hoover to undertake a similar job to the one he did in World War I. Hoover was delighted and went over to Europe and made studies and, of course, his work, because of his experience and because of his stature, worked out to our great advantage, as we knew the tricks that the citizens and the governments had worked in the past, and, so, he dug out a tremendous amount of stored food and black market
supplies that we probably would have missed had we not had his knowledge, background, understanding and acquaintance with the communities themselves.
HESS: That's right. He'd been through the mill before.
SNYDER: And he, because of his experience, knew the essential items needed, and we quickly got down to the essentials that would be required to be sent over from here. And then, of course, we started UNRRA, and two or three other relief organizations.
HESS: Did Mr. Hoover talk to you about your trip?
SNYDER: Mr. Hoover and I were very good friends and I saw him frequently both at that time and up until he died. I met Mr. Hoover, I think maybe I've told you, in World War I and so we had a background of friendship that gave me a great opportunity
to learn from him--his impressions and so forth. Yes, we conferred any number of times.
HESS: After you came back did you discuss with the President about what additional things you thought would be needed?
SNYDER: Well, it wasn't that sharp at that time except in principle, but it was obvious that a great quantity of certain supplies would be required and particularly in the machine tool area and, of course, initially, in clothing and food, because the war damage had been very severe. In Berlin there were over two and a half million people still living there, although when you flew over and looked down, you didn't see how a rabbit could live there. And yet they had made living places, or at least they lived in them--in cellars and in lean-tos, rubbish piles--and so those people had to be helped.
They were just foraging and, doing the best they could to hold life and limb together and that situation had to be taken care of. And so it was larger questions that were touched on rather than specifics.
HESS: On the subject of lend-lease, shortly after President Truman took office he was advised that lend-lease to Europe should be stopped after the war had ceased there, and the nations...
SNYDER: That was in the law.
HESS: Well, the nations that were receiving the aid thought that was somewhat premature, is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, naturally you would. Just put yourself in their position. They were thoroughly aware that when it was first set up it was for the purpose of supplying them with
essential war materials and equipment for which they did not have the money to pay, and so they understood that thoroughly, but we're all human, and when the war was over they still wanted much equipment, such as trucks particularly, and bulldozers and construction equipment and machinery. They wanted those things to keep on coming.
HESS: Did we cut off all of Russia's lend-lease at this time? We were expecting them to enter the Pacific war later than this, were we not?
SNYDER: At the time I was in Europe the Pacific war was over. As you will recall, shortly before V-J capitulation the Russians rushed in and declared war on Japan. They actually took very little part in it except to rush in and seize Manchuria and a number of places which they still have.
HESS: Wasn't that a so-called concession that
Roosevelt had got from them probably at Yalta though, that they would...
SNYDER: Well, the concession he wanted was that they would enter the war against Japan within three months. That was before we dropped the bomb, you see, and we weren't sure what the bomb was going to do. President Roosevelt was foreseeing a long battle with the Japs and wanted Russia to come in and draw off some of the forces pressing our troops.
HESS: A second front, more or less.
SNYDER: Yes, but, of course, the wily Russians acted promptly after we dropped the bomb. They then rushed in then and declared war on Japan.
HESS: They were probably glad to come into it because they knew the war was going to be over and they could occupy a certain amount of
SNYDER: And they shipped trainloads of equipment out of there.
HESS: Stripped those Manchurian factories, that's right.
Now, one question on the matter of reparations. After World War I Germany was required to pay high reparations to the Allied countries. Was there much thought after the Second World War of also demanding reparations?
SNYDER: Not by anyone except the French and the Russians.
HESS: Did the French try to bring very much pressure on us to allow them to get reparations?
SNYDER: Yes, but our experience had shown how futile it was and, how it kept open sores and
that it was better to forget it and to go about other postwar business. The United States claimed none; Britain claimed no reparations but the Russians, though, did and grabbed material and ran with it before we could stop them.
HESS: Well, we're about down to the end of our reel of tape. The other day we covered a little bit about the effect that the surplus property had in the rehabilitation of the countries in which it was left.
SNYDER: That, of course, was a matter that did not fall strictly within my purview because this operation was largely handled through the surplus property operation and the State Department, and, so, therefore, I didn't follow so closely on those things. And for the purpose of your discussion you probably would
like to talk about things I personally had something to do with rather than something in which I would have to tell you third handed.
HESS: That's right. That pretty well winds up that particular subject.
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