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 has been 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 5, 1969
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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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 5, 1969
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Secretary Snyder, what do you recall about the background of what
came to be known as point 4?
SNYDER: We've mentioned that one of the salient features of the Marshall
plan was the incorporation into the program of technical assistance. This
type of aid later came to occupy a special place in the Truman administration's
plans, and has played a vital part in American foreign policy. In his
inaugural address in January of 1949, President Truman spoke out for a
bold, new program for making the benefits of our scientific advances and
industrial progress available for the improvement and growth of underdeveloped
countries. This was the fourth point the President enumerated in discussing
United States international policy, and thus it became the
point 4 program. The proposal created great expectations and was widely
hailed around the world. Although the program was implemented by Congress
in 1950, the funds made available for it, and the funds expended were
disappointing in comparison with the hopes that had been raised following
the President's speech. The Congress authorized thirty-five million dollars
for the program in 1950, and nearly thirty million was actually appropriated
for it; but of this sum, expenditures under the program that year amounted
to only fourteen million dollars. Full details of the recommendations
of President Truman for the point 4 program appear on pages 114 and 115
of the Public Papers of the Presidents, Harry S. Truman, 1949.
One of the reasons for the disappointment of the point 4 program was
a misunderstanding of the nature of the program. To the President, it
had seemed vital that countries which desired to carry out economic development
projects be given the benefit of our technical know-how, but he did not
propose in his inaugural speech that the United States bear the entire
financial burden of such development projects. I realized this distinction
and made efforts to clarify it at the time. While I thought that technical
assistance should be on a grant basis, I was opposed to having the United
States undertake wholesale grants to finance development projects in underdeveloped
countries at that time. I very pointedly drew a line between reconstruction
involved aid of a type which the countries would be able to repay only
by depriving themselves of much of their ability to become self-sustaining
again. Development projects, on the other hand, would or
should create the means to help pay for themselves in the future.
I felt that not only could underdeveloped countries undertake their development
projects on a loan basis, but it was to their benefit to do so in most
cases. This point was emphasized in a memorandum which I had my staff
prepare and completed on July 14, 1949. I quote from that staff report:
It is clear that effective utilization of American know-how in the
backward areas will require the assistance of American capital. To
the greatest extent possible it is agreed that this financing should
come through the normal flow of private investment. However, it must
be recognized that many of the requirements of backward areas, such
as those involving transportation, communication, and agricultural
development, are of such a nature as to require public financing.
Adequate facilities and funds for financing this aspect of the point
4 program are already available through such agencies as the International
Bank and the Export-Import Bank.
To me it seemed with some exceptions, that it was both unnecessary and
unwise for the United States to embark on a program of making grants for
development projects to these undeveloped areas. In spite of all this,
the point 4 program,
however, did perform some very valuable services in many parts of the
world. Through offering grants of technical assistance it made United
States' aid possible to many areas that could not handle, or did not need
recovery assistance, and which rejected or denied military aid. In addition,
the program had a salutary effect on the problem of getting private investments
flowing into backward areas. The Congress passed legislation liberalizing
income tax provisions on income earned abroad, and treaties were negotiated
with some nations in an attempt to assure U.S. investors that they would
not be discriminated against or treated unreasonably.
I think, Mr. Hess, that pretty well gives you the background for the
point 4 program. Do you have any questions?
HESS: One question, do you know where the idea came
from originally to have such a program?
SNYDER: Well, it developed in the preparation of the President's speech
as defining what our foreign policy was to be, and it happened to be number
4 in the various items enumerated, and it was spelled out rather clearly,
I thought, although it was misinterpreted later. And so, therefore, that
is how it developed.
HESS: Did you ever hear the name of a gentleman by the name of Benjamin
Hardy mentioned in this context?
HESS: All right. What were some of the misunderstandings that arose?
You touched on that awhile ago.
SNYDER: Well, all of a sudden there were pressures put on the United
States to furnish all of the
funds necessary for this on a grant basis, and all sorts of projects
were envisioned with the United States footing the bill. Pressures of
this type came from countries all over Latin America particularly, and
some in Africa and a few in Asia, but the large part of it came from Latin
America where they came up with some rather grandiose projects, and they
wanted the United States to pay the bill for the entire program.
HESS: What were a couple of those grandiose projects, do you recall offhand
at this time?
SNYDER: I don't recall.
HESS: You say that you were more in favor of these funds being used for
the development of these countries, is that correct?
SNYDER: No, I tried to point out that there are two phases: One is the
reconstruction aid which
I did favor, largely in grants, because most of those countries that
were eligible had been involved in the war and had been devastated, just
couldn't get back on their feet by being loaded with a debt to pay for
the damage that was done to their country by the war devastation. But
the point 4 program was to help countries who were not necessarily
destroyed or damaged by the war, but were economically undeveloped; and
it was those countries, which through development loans you could help
to raise their standard of living and help them put in productive plants
to manufacture things that would give them employment, or to put in railroads
or highways that would help them bring their products to market or take
manufactured products back out into the interior. The facilities created
by loans would create trade, would create employment, would create an
ability to repay loans that were advanced for the purpose of this development.
And that is on the development side of it, don't you see, to take a country
that had not been affected particularly by the war, but to give them a
lift to improve their standards of living, and to improve their living
conditions and to improve their economic conditions, by using those funds
for private projects that would enable them to pay it back as they developed.
HESS: Do you recall if there were those in the administration who thought
that the emphasis should be placed in other areas, who you may have had
some disagreements with?
SNYDER: Yes. If you will let me go into that a little.
The subject of foreign aid to the Far East was a controversial matter
throughout and after the Truman administration. One of the consistent
cries of a group in Congress, and from many other
sources, was a Marshall plan for Asia, for a program which would link
together the economic recovery and development of these countries. Such
a plan might have been politically attractive, but I had grave doubts
about its economic value. I pointed out the fact that in Asia a Marshall
plan would be almost entirely devoted to development, rather than to reconstruction,
since the economies of those countries, with the exception of Japan, was
still relatively primitive. Furthermore, I doubted that the Asian countries,
with their lack of an industrial background, would be able to successfully
absorb any large-scale economic aid from this country at that time. There
were, also, such considerations as the lack of established financial or
even government systems in some of those countries, and the likelihood
that such a program, if it was successful at all, would be prohibitive
in cost to the United
States. Nevertheless, individual Asian countries did receive economic
aid from the United States. Japan, which was under military occupation,
received its aid through the civilian supplies program run by the armed
forces. The United States continued to furnish relatively large amounts
as aid to the Philippines. In that, I took a direct interest in the dealings
with that young democracy, and did quite a bit of work to help put its
economy on a sound footing. I sent a number of task forces over to try
to help them work out a tax system, to work out a better accounting system
at the time.
HESS: Who did you work with at that time?
SNYDER: Well, it was usually through President Elpidio Quirino, the President
and the minister of finance, Pio Pedrosa, largely. (Carlos P.] Romulo
was very active at the time, and I received
assistance from him. He has somewhat become estranged in recent years,
and is not as strong a friend of the United States as he used to be.
HESS: Why do you think that has developed?
SNYDER: I don't know. I really would like to know. I haven't seen him
in a number of years. It just may be the general trend over there. Unhappily,
in recent years, the Philippines possibly ranks second today to South
Vietnam in corruption. It's become very unstable.
HESS: Has it become any worse than it was, or is that just an Asian way
SNYDER: It's an Asian way of life. It's just something that we have never
become accustomed to, although we have been aware of it. It's true in
Latin America, it's true in practically all of the African, Asian, and
Latin American countries. There is sort of an understanding that everyone
that those in charge, "To the victor belongs the spoils," and whoever
is in charge, whoever is in control, has the inalienable right to pocket
benefits from the job.
HESS: The Andrew Jackson philosophy.
SNYDER: I'm sure that Andrew Jackson didnít advocate such a program.
HESS: Did you think that the corruption in the Philippines was as rampant
at the time that you were dealing with them as it seems to be now?
SNYDER: In a certain fashion it was, although there were a lot of very
fine patriots, leaders, who were trying to get the Philippines on their
feet, to try to develop a good, strong government, and there are great
statesmen and heroes that I would not want to cast a shadow on. But we
tremendous amounts of surplus goods, and surplus property and equipment
that were stolen out from under our eyes -- and blatantly. They would
take jeeps particularly. They appeared on the streets as taxicabs. They
would decorate them and drive them right around town, and we knew the
only place they could have gotten them was to have stolen them from the
store parks, where we had our military equipment in storage.
HESS: I have read that probably the cause for the anti-American feeling
in the Philippines is their close proximity to Asia and their understanding
that they must get along with the people that are closest to them. What
do you think about that?
SNYDER: Well, that's a strong element. The same is true from most all
small countries in the world. They keep a sharp eye out for who is going
to be on top, and they want to be on that side with
whoever is going to be on top. They are very acutely sensitive to a change
in administration or a change in leadership, and they are constantly jockeying
in Asia as between Russia and the United States. Cambodia is one example
as between Communist China and the United States, or Russia and the United
States. They are just jockeying to see who is going to come out on top.
And the one whom they believe is going to come out on top is the one on
whose side they will swing to. It's one of the problems that unhappily
are aware of it, but we just keep thinking that we are going to be able
to come out of this and win them over to our way of doing. This was our
real problem with the Chinese. When General Marshall went over on his
inspection tour in an effort to try to work out something with the Generalissimo,
he quickly found that much of the aid and assistance that we were shipping
turned up within forty-eight hours in the hands of the Communists. And
the Generalissimo's own generals were doublecrossing him. They were two-timing
him. They were bowing and scraping and swearing allegiance, but they were
taking the material that was turned over to them and selling it, or trading
it for some quid pro quo to the Communist forces.
But to get back, the United States gave and is continuing to give to
the Republic of Korea, a great deal of assistance. The Treasury Department
took a continuing interest in financial discussions and agreements with
China. I'm speaking now of Nationalist China. As early as August 30, 1946,
in a letter to the then Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, I turned down
a proposal by the Chinese that the United States advance one hundred million
ounces of silver to China for introduction as coins in their currency.
I pointed out that one result of the proposal might be a hoarding of
coins, but that in any event, the coins would further push down the value
of China's already hopelessly inflated paper currency. In this letter
I pointed out that China's currency problems were a result, not a cause,
of her economic difficulties, which were due to the war with Japan, the
civil war with the Communists, and the deficit spending as a result of
both of these circumstances.
Present throughout the Truman administration, in varying degrees of emphasis,
was the military aspect of American foreign aid. And if you would like
for me to touch on that in a moment, I will do so.
Political developments largely determined the role of armaments in the
foreign aid programs. In 1950, when the world seemed threatened with the
outbreak of war, and war actually did begin in Korea, rearmament became
overshadowed the recovery and development aspects of foreign aid. We
have discussed the military assistance to Greece and Turkey, but even
earlier the Truman administration had furnished such aid to the nationalist
government of China, which was attempting to put down a civil war. In
the period of the Marshall plan, military assistance was offered under
the Mutual Defense Assistance Program. It was this program that led in
1949 to the formation of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Total
funds appropriated for the Mutual Defense Program amounted to about eight
and three tenths billion dollars, and of this total, countries that were
or became members of NATO received seven billion seven hundred million
dollars. Military aid was by its nature a subject of prime concern to
the Defense Department and the State Department. But even here such assistance
had to be
fitted into overall budget and financial plans, and the Treasury Department
had an overriding interest in those matters. In NATO the importance of
the position of the Secretary of the Treasury in the foreign military
programs was recognized when he was made a member of the NATO council
by President Truman. It placed me in a position where I could take part
in discussions of projected actions of NATO before they became obligations,
which the United States would be expected to meet.
It so happened that NATO countries acquired a great many misleading notions
of what the United States would and could do to assist them in building
up their military strengths, and by being associated with the NATO organization
I was able to straighten that out on many occasions.
In September, 1951, the NATO council met
in Ottawa, Canada and one of the general points up for consideration
at this meeting, as it was at all NATO meetings, was how much money the
United States would make available to the NATO countries so that they
might rearm without upsetting their own economy. Before leaving Washington
for Ottawa, I learned that some members of the State Department staff
had let it be known that the United States was prepared to back them financially
in this military build-up, to a greater extent than the Treasury had thought
appropriate in discussing the matter on the budget. Later I found out
it was sort of "Oh, don't worry, we'll pick up the tab for whatever it
is you can't handle." After conferring with the President and making certain
that I had his support, I went to Ottawa, and on the first day of the
conference, addressed the delegates. At that time I reminded
them that the United States was then in the midst of the Korean war,
that our foreign obligations were already heavy, that our resources were
naturally limited, and as a result the United States was not likely to
assume large foreign military aid burdens. This speech seemed to have
the desired effect, because while it jarred the delegates from their false
hopes, it did get the State Department staff members to face realities
as to our capabilities.
Amusingly, Secretary of State Dean Acheson frequently referred to the
Ottawa meeting in a sort of a good-humored way by saying that at the time,
when talking with the President, he would remark, "Well, it's always good
to have the Secretary of the Treasury along to watch the financial side
and not let us spend ourselves into poverty." Acheson and I, happily,
always maintained very good relations. Whatever differences that did develop,
we were able to work
out by sitting down and talking the problems over. And we were together
on many conferences after that in Europe and always seemed able to team
up and work together.
HESS: One question on that. Did you feel during the Truman administration
that there were times when Mr. Acheson came up with schemes that were
a little too grandiose, that may have been a little too expensive, that
you had to cut back on just a little bit?
SNYDER: Probably. He was inclined to try to get the job done, you know,
and in that way he would press for the fullest assistance that he could
give. But he was never arbitrary about it.
HESS: Without worrying too much about the cost.
SNYDER: Well, as he said, it was good to have me around, because I kept
my eye on that.
HESS: He liked to have you along to do that.
SNYDER: Well, at least he said it was good.
With the enactment of the Mutual Security Act of 1951, Mr. Hess, the
foreign aid program of the United States entered its third postwar phase,
the phase of the supremacy of the military type of assistance. This was
a necessary change, necessary in the light of world political conditions,
but it was not taken without some reluctance since it meant relegating
economic recovery and development to a slightly lower position. However,
the formal change, which came in 1951, had been foreshadowed by the development
in the previous year when the Korean war necessarily required the United
States to put far greater emphasis on military preparedness at home, as
well as abroad. The Mutual Security Act of 1951 lumped nearly all of the
foreign aid programs of the United States under one Mutual
Security Agency administrator, the MSA administrator, and marked the
beginning of, in the words of the act, "A program of military, economic
and technical assistance to friendly countries to strengthen the mutual
security and individual collective defense of the free world, to develop
their resources in the interest of their security and independence and
to facilitate the effective participation of these countries in the United
Nations system for collective security."
In 1951 Congress appropriated a total of seven billion three hundred
million dollars for the Mutual Security Program. Of this amount more than
five billion, seven hundred and fifty million dollars was for military
assistance. The following years saw appropriations of just over six billion
dollars for MSA, of which nearly four and a quarter billion went for military
aid and the balance for economic, technical
and relief assistance. It might be remarked that five years later the
foreign aid programs of the United States were still in this military
phase. In 1957, the fifth year of President Eisenhower's administration,
it was estimated that nine-tenths of our foreign aid went for military
Now, I might point out that the Mutual Security program represented a
reshaping of American foreign aid to fit a changed political situation.
It appeared in 1950 and 1951 that the cold war, which had occupied the
attention of the world for a number of years, might well become a hot
one. Unquestionably, this change of emphasis from economic recovery and
development to military strengthening, had the effect of cutting off such
programs as the Marshall plan before they had completely reached their
goals. Yet, European recovery was so well on its way by
1950, and the beneficial results of the Marshall plan were abundantly
in evidence by that time.
From the end of the Second World War, through 1952, the United States
provided a net total of thirty-eight billion dollars in grants and loans
to other nations. This is a peace time, foreign aid program without precedent
or parallel. The American taxpayer bore this heavy burden to achieve humanitarian,
political and economic objectives. The effect of this foreign aid outlay,
which has been largely continued in the administrations which succeeded
President Truman's, will be felt for many years to come, and the full
story of its impact on the world will be a long time in the writing. But
it is possible to say now what the results might well have been without
American foreign aid. From the humanitarian point of view, millions of
people would have suffered for crimes that were not their
own. Politically, the Soviet Union might well reign today over parts
of Western Europe, and over those Asian nations which have remained free.
Economically, a period of prolonged material distress in most of the world
would inevitably have had repercussions here in the United States.
Discussing this subject, I recall pointing out that we would undoubtedly
have been in an untenable position with Europe in chaos. I think the loss
of European export markets could have well depressed our own economy,
but that, of course, was a secondary matter. Primarily aid to Europe was
necessary in a political sense to keep Western Europe from falling completely
to the Communists.
It was the most selfish thing that we could do for our country and for
the world. But at the same time, it was a pretty unselfish thing
too. We really, though, wanted to help the world in order to help ourselves.
We've got to bear that in mind. Even though it was a marvelous act upon
our part, it was a strain on our taxpayers. But we have to be realists
and realize that what we were actually doing was to protect ourselves.
That the Truman administration, faced with the political and economic
situation that prevailed following the war, made a humane and essentially
correct decision in the granting of foreign aid, of course, is very clear.
It is perhaps significant that in 1957, when two special committees made
reports to President Eisenhower, they emphasized this very point. The
Fairless Committee (Fairless was the former president of U.S. Steel Corporation
-- Benjamin Fairless), headed by Ben Fairless, stated that foreign aid
must be looked upon as a continuing
cost of the United States international position for an unknown number
of years to come. The International Development Advisory Board, addressing
itself to another aspect of the foreign aid picture, recommended an expansion
of the existing programs to include a major new program of assistance
to underdeveloped countries. Thus, we can pretty clearly see that contrary
to the opinions of many, foreign aid was not an aberration of the Truman
administration. It was something that was well planned, well organized,
and well thought through. But it was definitely a program designed to
meet in the best possible way a dangerous situation in our international
Do you think that pretty well sizes up that?
HESS: That's pretty good, and that's a good appraisal too of the foreign
I have a few notes that I was making as we
went along. You mentioned Latin America, and there has been some criticism
of the Truman administration for not giving enough attention to Latin
America. What is your reaction to that? Would you agree with that or not?
SNYDER: Well, yes and no. I agree with it because it's true. We had such
a tremendous burden before us, coming out of World War II. The United
States had, somewhat unwillingly actually, become the number one world
power, and many new responsibilities and new burdens, new problems were
thrust upon us that required some time to work out and think about, to
adjust ourselves to. While it is true that we had always given a great
deal of assistance and attention and had bought a great deal of imports
from Latin America, we had somewhat taken it for granted that they were
going to be our friends, and if anything happened to them we would get
around to help
them but we were trying to get what seemed to be the bigger problem solved
first. And of course, with these billions pouring out of this country
towards Europe and Northern Africa, Asia, the Latin American diplomats
here in Washington observed these instances, and they observed these tremendous
grants and loans that they were being made and they began to feel, "Now,
what about us who have always been friends, and who have always
gone along with the United States. Why haven't we a program like
the Marshall plan? Why hasn't something been developed to help us get
on our feet, not for reconstruction, but for development?" And that, unhappily,
has been true of all the administrations since Mr. Truman. There has not
been a workable, genuine assistance plan developed yet for Latin America.
HESS: Did you discuss this with Mr. Truman, or the
possibility of having such a program?
SNYDER: Yes, many times, and he was very sympathetic to the discussion,
but it was a question of our ability to do it, it was our limitation at
the time in what we could do. Mr. Truman, in spite of all the reputation
that some people tried to give him was a pretty sound man. He wasn't the
"give away, spend, spend, spend Harry" that they claimed he was. Of course,
in reflection now, he looks pretty modest in his taxing and in his spending.
At that time, the opposition did try to build up a case against him. He
was a pretty sound administrator.
HESS: Mr. Truman, as you know, took a trip to Mexico, and then he was
also in Brazil. Were those trips taken with the thought in mind, perhaps
to a degree, of seeing what the conditions were?
SNYDER: That and a goodwill objective. I think whenever our President
goes to a foreign country, it has an important effect on him, because
it always gives him an opportunity to see conditions firsthand. That,
of course, is not always true, because there's a great deal of dressing
up with what he actually gets to see. But he gets to talk with people,
he does get some contact, and he establishes a rapport that is helpful
in his international dealings. I don't know whether either of those trips
actually led to any greater assistance, but it certainly increased his
appreciation of the advisability of the desire to work out something.
Of course, subsequently, they attempted to work out a sort of a type of
Marshall plan, but it never succeeded very well. OAS has been working
awfully hard to try to work out some mutual credit and so forth.
And so far the real leadership, the dedicated
leadership in the Latin American countries, has not developed
except in a few rare cases. Mexico is an outstanding example of where
it has worked well, beginning with [Miguel] Alemán. I think that
Mexico has stabilized their economy, they have built up a middle class
which is the strength of the economy of any nation. They have built up
a higher standard of living in Mexico. The government is stable. As a
matter of fact, I think it is probably the only viable country in all
Latin America right now. Venezuela should be very strong, they have great
resources. Peru should be one of the outstanding countries, but they just
seem to always get themselves in economic and political troubles. Chile
is another one. They have a good president, but he has a difficult time
controlling his parliament down there. One of the great promising countries
is Argentina right now. If they could continue for another four or five
years the fine government
they've had for the last three, I see great hopes for the Argentine coming
back into a very strong economic situation.
HESS: You mentioned that there were some of the Latin American diplomats
here in town who were pointing out the imbalance between the aid that
we were giving to Europe, and the aid that they were receiving or were
not receiving. Do you recall which of the diplomats felt that way?
SNYDER: The Brazilian ambassador, the Mexican ambassador, the ambassador
HESS: He's the dean, is that right, the dean of the ambassadors.
SNYDER: Yes. Of course, he took the lead in saying -- even the Peruvian
ambassador. They were all tuning in with the times. The Mexican ambassador
was quite a frequent caller at the State Department, and the White House,
pleading for his
HESS: Did he come in to see you?
SNYDER: Oh, frequently.
HESS: Who was he?
SNYDER: [Dr. Don] Antonio de los Monteros.
HESS: What was the main crux of his argument when he would come in, "We
need your help too?"
SNYDER: Well, "We need the United States' help," and because I was Secretary
of the Treasury -- you see, Aleman had invited me to be his guest at his
inauguration, and so I had early established myself as a friend to Mexico,
same way with Brazil, same way with Peru, and a great many other countries.
I had very fine relationships with the Latin American countries and I
am happy to say, as long as I was in the Treasury
and in the World Bank and in the Monetary Fund, that I could always count
on 100 percent cooperation and support from the Latin American bloc.
HESS: To what would you attribute that?
SNYDER: Because I paid attention to them, and treated them as peers.
Every year at the World Bank and Fund meetings, I always gave a luncheon
to which no one but the Latin Americans were invited, and for the United
States, which was the largest financially and the strongest of the countries
at that time, to have pointed out that recognition to them, they were
very proud of it. My successors haven't done it so much since, which I
think is unfortunate, because they loved that recognition. I would visit
their countries, I would go down to see them. I would go to their embassies.
I worked on it because I felt it was extremely important.
HESS: But it was just one of those things, we couldn't do everything.
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: Earlier today we mentioned China and the difficulties that were
going on in China, and the civil war. Now, General Marshall was sent to
China at this time.
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: It was about '46.
SNYDER: Very shortly after Mr. Truman became President he asked General
Marshall to go over and act as liaison with the Generalissimo, and see
if he could make any rhyme or reason out of the chaotic conditions that
were existing there, and to make a report to the President. We were getting
all sorts of pressures from different blocs to send unlimited aid and
to do all sorts of things. To
send agricultural aid, and great industrial aid, and all sorts of things
of that sort -- pour the money in there. So Mr. Truman asked the General
to go over and study the situation and advise him on what his findings
HESS: Did you ever speak to the General after his return?
SNYDER: Oh, many times, many times.
HESS: What did he tell you in private were his findings?
SNYDER: No more than what has been made public. He found that there was
absolutely uncontrolled corruption among the generals of the Generalissimo,
and that the loyal, dedicated ones were in the minority, that the big
military leaders that controlled the most people were the less faithful,
they were squandering what we sent over there. It was like pouring sand
in a rathole,
the more you poured, the more disappeared, and so the Generalissimo had
no actual control over his organization, and it was just futile. General
Marshall was castigated severely for having muffed that, but actually
he did the only thing he could do. Just report the truth, and let Mr.
Truman take whatever position was necessary. We had many groups go over.
One of them was the man who later became head of the Marshall plan, he
went over there and came back with a very pleading story about the --
Paul Hoffman I'm talking about -- about that all they needed was just
a world of agricultural experts and plenty of money to go in and organize
the agrarian reform and that sort of thing, and of course there were just
no facts about it at all. He put up a plaintive plea that he had talked
to knowledgeable people in China, but the truth of the matter was that
there was no one there that could take hold and do anything of that sort,
And then the
Generalissimo made the decision to pick up those that he could trust,
those that were faithful, those that were dedicated, and move over on
Formosa, and set up a Nationalist government there, in the hope of someday
HESS: Do you think he'll ever get back?
SNYDER: He won't, in his time. Whether China will ever -- I'm
not going to attempt in our talks to go back and take up the Chinese problem,
but our relationship with China from the very beginning left a lot to
be desired. We sent missionaries over and we did a lot of training, but
our relationship was one in which we built up individual friends but not
national friends. China was just too big a project for us to undertake
the type of assistance that the leaders were demanding for their friendship.
So, we had had, you might say, islands of influence in
in China, but it's a rare person that ever fully understood and could
evaluate the oriental mind. We have had people -- these missionaries would
go over there and spend their lives, and felt that they understood them
thoroughly, and their heads were cut off, or their wives violated. Of
course, there are many Chinese who are just wonderful, grand people, but
we forget the fact, we mistreated the Chinese as persons. We treated them
as coolies. We treated them as the scum of the earth. Whenever the immigrants
came over to this country, we forgot completely the great culture
that had been in China long before the Western World ever had any. And
that those great sages, those men of tremendous knowledge were there all
the time, but the country lacked the type of leadership that the Western
World had, and they were overpopulated, and they just missed the opportunity
even with their
great culture, and with their, great early civilization, they
just missed the boat on economic development. But at the same time, that
mental feeling was there, and disdain, really, for the upstart Caucasian,
that we never fathomed. We were so full of ourselves and blustered around
and got the notion that we were the greatest of the greats, and they never
thought so, and never did, and still don't.
HESS: Was one of the reasons for the Marshall mission to get the Nationalist
government and the Communist government together in a united front type
SNYDER: Well, there was a hope to see if a sort of a composition for
a unified government could come about, but certainly not to the point
of succumbing to Communist rule. And when it was clearly developed that
the Communists were not thinking of any such thing -- you see, we kept
in this "People for Action," "People for Democracy," "The People's Government"
-- it wasn't the people's government at all, it was the Marxist idea that
was back of all this. We had great hoards of people in this country that
were just swept along, that we ought to go over there and try to work
out something for those dear people, the "People's Democratic Government."
The Chinese Communist leaders' ideas of democracy and our accepted ideas
of democracy were quite different.
HESS: Who were some of the notables in that movement? Henry Wallace?
SNYDER: Henry was one of them, and Bowles. There were all sorts of folks
-- we were just going to straighten out the whole world. We were going
to handle it single-handedly. All Asia, all Africa, all Latin America.
We were just going to do a remarkable job of taking over the problems
of the world and straightening them out.
HESS: As you have mentioned, that was at the time when the phrase, "agrarian
reformers" was used by many people instead of "Communists."
SNYDER: That's right, and the "people's Government." Those two things,
"agrarian reformers," and "the people's Government."
HESS: They just weren't recognized for what they were, is that right?
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: One other subject, bringing us up to today, we have mentioned today
about spending for military reasons. I'd like to ask your views on a current
subject, just what are your views on the spending as it seems to be going
today, and what I have reference to is the thick and thin
anti-ballistic missile system. It looks like the Pentagon wants billions
and billions of dollars spent for this, which it seems to me would cut
us down a great deal in what we can do in other areas, is that right,
or how would you see that?
SNYDER: We've got a very delicate balance there. And bear in mind, for
me to attempt to discuss that without having all the briefing and background
information that is highly classified would be rather presumptuous. From
my impressions, I would feel that this massive anti-ballistic program
is a futile one, and would be disastrous. It would just be spending tremendous
amounts of money and going into deficit financing for something that would
do us no good in the long run. Our greatest problem now is that this anti-ballistic
thing, but my impression is -- and I may live to rue the day I make this
to you, but it is my belief that the Russians are no longer interested
in the moon exploration or interplanetary exploration. They have been
using that for a cover up to get their platforms, space platforms, into
orbit and from that position put them in an orbit that would cover the
United States, and be under constant control there for dropping missiles
and so forth onto specific points, which no anti-ballistic missile program
could ever meet or face. And all this great expense to stop something
coming from Europe or coming from the ocean is utterly ridiculous, because
they are going to be right on top of us, and that is what, in my opinion,
they are trying to develop.
HESS: Do you think that's what they've had in mind all along?
SNYDER: I really do, and it's covered up by all this great business,
this race for the moon, and so
forth. They were gaining the information they wanted from these
trials and these developments and these missile projects and the Sputniks
and all those. They were picking up the information for this orbiting
HESS: This is purely conjecture and neither you or I know, but do you
think that the United States may have also been orbiting platforms of
the same type?
SNYDER: Neither the Russians or the United States has actually orbited
HESS: At least that we know of.
SNYDER: At least that we know of. No, we would know it. There's no question
about that. I don't want to attempt to say something that I don't know
about, but we would certainly be stupid and neglectful if we hadn't been
giving it a lot of consideration as we went along.
HESS: All right, I think that's about everything on foreign aid. Did
you think what we have already covered pretty well gives your appraisal
of foreign aid?
SNYDER: I think so, unless you can think of something else.
HESS: I thought so as I was listening to it. I scratched it off from
my pad here.
SNYDER: All right, where do we go from here?
HESS: Do we have a little more time this morning?
HESS: All right, we'll shut it off.
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