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
February 21, 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 It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.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
February 21, 1968
By Jerry N. Hess
HESS: Mr. Snyder, the first thing down on our schedule for this morning pertains to the report of August 15, 1945. We have discussed this report a little bit but let's go into it in more detail, and question number seven in the report under the heading of "Production and Reconversion" is:
Will any munitions contracts be retained in order to cushion the shock of cancellations?
And the answer is:
No. The War Mobilization and Reconversion Act, as passed by Congress, prohibits continuation of any war contract merely to provide business or employment.
My question is, did you have any difficulty with high placed members of the Army and Navy who wanted to keep manufacturing implements of war contrary to the cancellation order?
SNYDER: Yes, Mr. Hess, we had quite a number of
requests from Congressmen and Senators asking us to try to keep certain plants in operation. They were requesting this because the transition from the war to peace was resulting in employment problems. For plants that were manufacturing heavily for the war program the time that was necessary for conversion was considered to be too short to take up the slack, and that by cutting off those contracts promptly it would throw a great many people out of work. Looking back over that period it looked like the regulation to extend no contracts that were for any materials that weren't to be useful in the peacetime economy was a very wise one because the quicker that we applied the pressure on industry to convert to peacetime, the quicker they, got the job done, and if we had kept on manufacturing certain war materials that were not going to be used it would not only have been wasteful of those
materials and of the work that was put in them, but it would have taken away from the main drive to get our economy switched back to a peacetime, full production for the labor force. The first evidence that I had that the Congress did not feel too inclined to give the authorities to the OWMR and to the President that had been delegated in the pressure of the war was the reaction of the Congress to the Mead Committee recommendations that more authority and more pressure be put on the OWMR office during the reconversion period. As you recall, I've told you that the Mead Committee wanted to make the OWMR quite an office of dictation and that the Congress did not pass the law recommended, fortunately. But there were a number of Congressmen who felt that their constituencies would be damaged in the loss of their working force and in the resulting unemployment. The one outstanding example was the case of the
cancellation by OWMR of a large number of ships for the Navy whose use after completion was definitely in doubt. As a matter of fact, I asked the Navy to give me a study on the ships that were under construction, or contracted for that they felt might never be used in peacetime, and it was from the Navy itself that I got the list of ships that could very appropriately be cancelled and no further construction expended on them. However, the Congressmen took a little different view from that because of the reasons I've just given about employment and so forth, and in this particular case the chairman of the Naval Affairs Committee exerted exceptional resistance to the cancellation and went so far as to introduce a bill in the Congress which required the cancellation to be rescinded and that the ships be finished. This was, of course, in contravention to the regulation that the Congress itself had provided that there should
be no work done that wasn't to be useful. The history of this case, of course, shows that not only was careful consideration given in advance to the cancellation order as to whether the ships would be used or not, but the record shows that the Navy was very positive regarding the nonusefulness of these craft after they were finished because of their specific wartime requirements in the construction. And the record further shows that after the war that these particular ships were run off the ways when completed and were put in the mothball fleet and were never used.
HESS: Under the heading in the report, "The Road to Reconversion," is the statement:
The armed services must be demobilized without delay.
Looking back, and with the benefit of hindsight, do you think it was wise for the United States to have demobilized its armed forces as quickly
as it did?
SNYDER: No, definitely not. Frankly, Mr. Hess, I was considerably opposed to such a hasty, ill considered, demobilization at the time because it not only added a greater burden to an orderly reconversion, it also resulted in some very uneconomic and unfortunate results from our ability, from the services' ability, to do their proper housekeeping regarding the great mountains of supplies that were left in warehouses and stockpiles throughout the world with the cessation of hostilities with other countries--in aiding them, in many instances, with those supplies--and in the transition of the supplies from Europe to the Far East. Of course, there were pressures both ways. The Congress was bringing tremendous pressure reflecting the pressure from the folks at home, from the troops in the field, and from the general
abhorrence that our country has always had for war (our soldiers fight valiantly and the whole citizenry is thoroughly behind the effort during the war), that the minute one of our wars is over there is usually great pressure put upon the authorities to get the people all back home as quickly as possible. Of course, I might mention here that there was great pressure also from many of the industries to leave the items in the field and to not bring them back home. That was particularly true of trucks and tires and a number of things like that.
HESS: They thought the market would be flooded with them?
SNYDER: Yes. They felt that they would be a depressant to the conversion and resupply of these needed items that had developed quite a demand during the war that could not be
fulfilled during the war activities.
HESS: How did you feel about that?
SNYDER: I was partially sympathetic in some areas where we could use these particular materials for rehabilitating the foreign countries, but I was very opposed and very discouraged when the failure to return some very fine materials to the United States left them in stockpiles and in warehouses where they deteriorated and where there was no use made of them whatsoever; particularly in the South Pacific, we had great quantities of supplies that were just swallowed up by the jungle for lack of care and maintenance. The jungle moved in and engulfed it just like an octopus swallowing the whole of the supply and this, of course, was such gross waste that I was opposed to it. But it could well have been that the cost of handling and returning the items and marketing them might have been
much more costly than the procedure that was followed.
HESS: Just roughly what percentage of the materials were given to the host country, more or less; the country where the items were stored?
SNYDER: Well, it all depends where we're talking about. You see, in the Pacific it wasn't a case of giving it to the "host country." We helped war torn areas a great deal. We helped the Filipinos the most, I suppose. We helped Nationalist China quite a bit. We helped Indonesia; we helped Australia and New Zealand and in Europe, of course, most of our materials were in France and Italy, and quite a bit in England and Belgium. Of course, we were extremely liberal in the disposition of those materials. We had some supplies that we gave to the people in Africa, too.
HESS: Do you think the disposition of those materials in those countries helped to further their reconstruction?
SNYDER: Oh, there's no question about it that it did that. The thing that I resented and was very much opposed to was the way it was done. The United States citizens and taxpayers got very little credit for having paid for those things and for having given them to the various countries. Usually the government of that country assumed the credit for having obtained them and it appeared that it was the foreign government that was the donor rather than the citizens of the United States.
HESS: I realize that this report covered the period of time that another man was in as director, and also in the letter of transmittal it says:
This report has been prepared in collaboration with the Office of War Information and other Government agencies.
But still this report went to the President over your signature, as we have discussed. Now when a report of this nature would go to the President and there were very obvious things in it with which you were in disagreement, would you tell the President of your disagreement at that time?
SNYDER: Oh, yes. I was always extremely candid with the President. Right after V-J Day there was great pressure to get a report or something out. V-J Day actually came a little quicker than Mr. Vinson and his office thought that it would, so as a result of that there was quite a pressure to get the plans of OWMR for reconversion before the public. There was that pressure plus the desire of Mr. Truman, and of myself to a great extent, that we didn't want to create any appearance of disagreement or lack of unity, coordination
and cooperation in the administrative side of the Government. The one point in the report that I was very much disturbed about was the emphasis on eight million unemployed, even though there were other agencies that were talking about even higher levels of unemployment. Governor Gardner, who was chairman of the Advisory Committee of the OWMR, and quite a number of us, including Hans Klagsbrunn, my personal assistant, had strong feelings based on knowledge of what industry was planning to do, and the absorption back into the operation of industry of the numbers of people that we felt sure would take place; we felt that figure was entirely too high and it would have a damaging effect on the morale of the country to think that we were going to have so much unemployment. The actual record later showed the peak unemployment was only about three and one half million. So it was evident that
it was somewhat overemphasized. There were other features of it that I think I've already mentioned that disturbed me considerably at the time, one was the over-emphasis on trying to move too rapidly from a procedure that we had followed in the United States in policy. We suddenly, overnight, because of the war, were trying to change the whole complexion of the philosophy and the policy of the United States. It seemed to me that that was taking advantage of an emotional situation, but after all when we look back, a great job was done in the transition period. I don't think that any of the items with which I would have taken exception in the report really caused any great damage in the long run.
HESS: In a book that I read yesterday by Herman Miles Somers, Presidential Agency: The Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, concerning
the eight million unemployment report, he said that when you were proved right that it made you a little hesitant on placing reliance in other staff reports that came in. What would you say about that? Since you had had a staff report, or certain members of your staff had come out with this eight million unemployed prediction, and you disagreed with it and you were proved right, it is Somers' contention that this may have made you a little bit hesitant about accepting other advice.
SNYDER: That was very nice of Mr. Somers to have taken that position, but by the time that I would have been proven right or wrong the job was finished and I was moving on to another job, so I didn't have much time to lose confidence in any of the work of anyone because the proof of it came after any use could have been made of it.
HESS: As you have indicated you just came back from a trip and haven't had a chance to look at the Xeroxed copy of the report, so when you do, there will be other items of interest, of course, that we will want to cover and we will do that at another time.
SNYDER: We'll bring them up at that time.
HESS: That covers all the questions that I had on the report. Now the next thing on our schedule was the text of the radio broadcast of the same date. What was the background for that broadcast? Why was it thought necessary to have that particular broadcast at this time, because of the end of the war?
SNYDER: Well, the war was over; the quicker we could get to the public the plans that were underway, the better. I refer to the ideas: (1) that the administration wanted to convey
to the general public; (2) that the administration was on top of the job and that (3) every possible human endeavor would be made to bring about a transition from the war efforts of the Nation to a peacetime operation and the restoration of the peacetime economy. The program was planned with that in mind. This program was designed under the auspices of the OWMR and to show you that we were trying to touch the sensitive spots we prepared a national radio hookup in which I, as director of OWMR, gave a resume of the plans of my office and the endeavors of the administration, and a statement made by William H. Davis, the director of the Office of Economic Stabilization stating in detail the steps that he planned to take to adjust the wages and salaries in accordance with peacetime operation as opposed to the conditions under which we had been working during the war. Then Chester Bowles, who was
the administrator of the Office of Price Administration, gave a report on how the OPA was going to function in this transition period. Mr. Bowles, however, was a little enthusiastic at the time and made statements in his presentation that he later modified somewhat in his actual performance of the job. At the time of his speech he emphasized that we were going to move as rapidly as possible from price controls and that we were going to release them as rapidly as materials came into supply. Later his policy was changed in that he felt by releasing any price controls it brought greater pressure on others and, therefore, even though goods were coming into supply and there was no longer a need for the price controls, he felt strongly that if you lifted any of them that other areas where materials were not yet in supply would demand the same treatment, and that it would weaken the whole structure.
It really caused some little debate. Then we had J. A. Krug, who was chairman of the War Production Board, outline how curtailment of contracts were going forward and that materials and labor were to be released from war production as rapidly as was possible stating that no items would be continued and manufactured that weren't specifically needed for the continuation of the windup of the defense program. And finally Paul V. McNutt who was chairman of the War Manpower Commission discussed the details of the plans for the shifting of manpower out of these large defense plant concentrations back into the more normal peacetime occupations.
HESS: I believe you mentioned the other day that the format for this particular broadcast was for these gentlemen to submit a transcript of their remarks ahead of time, is that right?
SNYDER: That was the plan, but we were under such
pressure that a number of items were included that appeared for the first time. This was a tremendous program. It was a nationwide, all-network program, so .we reached a great audience and I am certain that it was helpful--the President always felt so--that it was of value to have made this step.
HESS: Next week after you have gone over the transcript if you have any other further comments we will cover those. Now the next thing on our schedule for this morning is Executive Order 9599 of August 18, 1945, that became known as the "hold-the-line-order." This order actually was the one that came out of the report of August the 15th, is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, yes. It developed from that and from the reaction that we were getting. We didn't get quite the full cooperation in a number of cases that we had hoped for.
HESS: Who didn't cooperate?
SNYDER: Well, I won't go into that at this time. But the President felt that to come out with a restatement of the restraint that would have to be observed in the postwar period until we could get back into full production was vitally needed, that we needed a restatement so that the public would understand it wasn't a matter of turning on and off a faucet and redirecting the forces of labor and materials and construction from one direction into another, that it took a great deal more planning, cooperation, time and readjustment and so that was the purpose oŁ this particular order at the time.
HESS: In reading over the order I found one statement that sounded a great deal like your philosophy. I just wondered if you put this in, it's Section C of part Number 1:
To move as rapidly as possible without endangering the stability of the economy toward the removal of price, wage, production and other controls and toward the restoration of collective bargaining and the free market.
SNYDER: Yes, Mr. Hess, that was my sentiment at the time and my earnest desire to try to accomplish.
HESS: When I read the text of the Executive order and I hit that, I thought, "Well, there's something Mr. Snyder has put in." Now that Executive order was supplemented by another Executive order, but we have something that comes up in between that on our schedule. First let's talk about the supplemental report of September 4, 1945. That was the report that supplemented the August the 15th report.
SNYDER: Yes, the purpose of that was--you see the August 15th report had not contemplated the immediate Japanese cessation of Pacific activities so for that reason as soon as
the Pacific war was over, then it required a more careful consideration and analysis of the overall situation. Before the supplemental report came out we were in the war and we were not in the war. The European side had closed up and we were plunged into reconversion in Europe whereas we were still fighting a war in the Pacific with the Japanese, and so we were neither fish nor fowl, we were part of each.
HESS: Reconversion and redeployment on one hand and fighting on the other.
SNYDER: That's correct. So, when the Japanese surrendered, why, then we were switching to a full effort towards remobilization for peace.
HESS: The report had nine points, and I'll just read them off:
Cancellation of Contracts
Settlement of Contracts
Clearance of Plants
Release of Manpower
Release of Materials
Sale of Surpluses
So, as you say, this is what had to come out at the end of the fighting.
SNYDER: That's right. We immediately announced policies regarding the cancellation of contracts. We made it known what we intended to do in the use of facilities. I had even started that back in the Federal Loan Administration by laying plans for as rapid a turnover of the plants to the private enterprise as was possible under the options that had been given to the various industrialists. We put a great deal of effort, and it required a tremendous amount of effort, subsequently, in the settlement of contracts. We had anticipated this as a result of the delay in World War I settlements, and we realized that there were many companies that were badly
damaged by such a long delay in the settlement of their contracts. It's not just a matter of canceling a contract; you had partial work done that you had to pay for; you had equipment that was partially paid for that the Government had furnished, and disposition of that equipment had to be made and then a disposition of those partially finished items that were in the plant and of the stockpile of backup material that had been purchased to go into the filling of the contract. All those things had to be attended to as early as we could. In the Office of Contract Settlement, however, it drug on for quite a number of years and there was still a big backlog of it there at the time that I left the Treasury in 1953.
HESS: Mr. H. Chapman Rose was in charge of that during the time that you were there, is that right?
SNYDER: Well, towards the end, yes. He was making a real effort, and we accomplished a great deal. We finally put some genuine effort behind it and were able to settle up many of those contracts and particularly the tax angles that required a great deal of careful adjustment and settlement of the contracts required much pressure. We had to get all of the partially finished material out of the plant so it could be retooled promptly to make the things for the peacetime requirements, and many times the entire tooling of the plant had to be dismantled and entirely new equipment brought in--new production lines set up--that, of course, that was a tremendous job, particularly in the automobile plants. The clearance of the plants was a vitally important procedure and industry did a magnificent job in the conversion of their plants back to peacetime operations; and in the use of these enormous
plants that had been financed by the Defense Plant Corporation. We never had such huge plants before or so much floor space under one roof, but the ingenuity of industry to devise a use for that space was most commendable and encouraging. Then we had to give intense study in many sectors of the Government to the release of manpower. In many instances we had certain manpower that was in great demand in peacetime plants. We worked out plans such as the release of the experienced railroad men to get them back to help take care of the tremendous requirement for transportation that was put on the railroads by the end of the war, switching the flow of materials, picking up items at the east coast ports and carrying it to the west coast ports to go on out to the Pacific operation. We had a problem with coal miners; we had to get rapid release of experienced coal operators from the services to get them back to work.
We had quite a number of specific areas of labor that we had to shift quickly, as we had experienced such a huge dislocation of labor during the war. We had had train loads of labor go from the east out to the huge shipyards, light metals plants, and airplane plants on the west coast. They had to be either absorbed out there or reworked back where they could be properly employed.
On the material side, the war contracts had involved tremendous stockpiles of materials in reserve to be fed into the manufacture of items with great priorities in the war program. We had to devise release plans to redirect these materials into peacetime usage. This required a tremendous amount of readjustment of the processing and routing of these materials, particularly in lumber that was being cut for certain wartime uses which did not fit in at all with the peacetime uses. There were a
great number of alloys in the steelmills and in the aluminum and the magnesium plants that had to be reworked and a different flow of equipment and materials, the machine tool business particularly had to switch over to supplying machine tools that turn out fabrication of items that was entirely different from what they were doing during the war. Then, of course, we put great effort behind expanding production of the items in greatest consumer need that had been held back, been restrained, particularly gasoline, and action to quickly take off the gasoline coupons and let people freely buy gasoline for their private enterprise use was vitally important--transportation, of course, is always of great importance. We had a great built-up demand for houses that had been restrained; we wanted to flow as much material into that direction as possible, so all of these things had to be carefully coordinated to
attempt to make the transition as smooth as possible. Of course, with everybody wanting to look after their own interests--they had devoted so much of their energy and their patriotism and their time to the war effort that they felt that the minute the war was over they wanted to go their own way again and they resisted some of the disciplines that had to be observed, self-inflicted or otherwise, in that period.
HESS: They thought it was a time for a return to normalcy.
SNYDER: That's right--quickly. Then, of course, I've touched, I think, already on the finance problems of reconverstion. That was handled, I think, exceptionally well. The banks did a magnificent job and the Government cooperated with them. We did quite a bit of the financing
and encouraged financing with guaranteed loans of housing, farming and construction for plants.
Stabilization efforts cover nearly all of this we have been talking about and then, of course, we got down to one of the great problems which was listed at the end of the list that you just read, the sale of surplus property. That required a tremendous amount of study and research and planning, not only the relocation of the surplus items in many instances, but the proper usage of them and the proper conversion of the items that a market could not be found for, and there's no question but that always in the aftermath of the war there is great waste and loss in the disposal of surplus equipment. We experienced that in this war to a greater extent than any other because it was the largest war that has ever been waged in the world's history.
HESS: There was a lot of surplus equipment and it was scattered over a wide area.
SNYDER: That's right.
HESS: The next thing on our list is the Executive order that amended the one that we spoke of just a minute ago. This is Executive Order 9651 of October 30, 1945, that amended 9599 of August the 18th, and the main point of the order is stated in its first paragraph:
The Stabilization Administrator, designated pursuant to Executive Order No. 9620 of September 20, 1945, shall approve, under section 2 of part IV of this order, a wage or salary increase falling into any of the following three classes in any case in which such increase has been found by the National War Labor Board or other designated agency to be necessary to correct a maladjustment or inequity which would interfere with the effective transition to a peacetime economy.
Now we discussed this the other day, both the order and the idea of raising wages, granting a wage or salary increase without a price increase, but one question, when you told the
President in this particular instance how you felt, did he explain why he was going against your advice in this?
SNYDER: It wasn't so much a matter of going against my advice, it was weighing all the advice that he was being given at the time from various segments of the economy and coming up with a plan that he hoped would be the most effective. While he had great sympathy for many of the points that I made, it was a matter of compromise and in an operation of this magnitude you can't always insist that your position is right and hold up a solution--make a decision, move ahead and if it proves wrong then you can repair it and you're not suffering from inertia and inactivity. We had had a great lesson from the depression. That's one of the great things that Mr. Roosevelt did; he at least started doing something when he went into office against a background of
inactivity and paralysis of thinking; Mr. Roosevelt at least took some steps. That was a real lesson to me, and while I, many times during the war and during the aftermath of the war, had some very positive views about things, I was always willing to take a compromise position and try it out and if it didn't work, then to point it out and maybe get it amended later, but "start moving" was my principle.
HESS: Did the President explain to you in this instance why he thought a wage increase could be made without having a price increase?
SNYDER: Well, the President had been given all sorts of data and analysis and figures on how it could be accomplished and I think he was hopeful that it could be. There were so many convinced in their own mind, or at least by the figures that had been prepared for them, that this could be done. They completely
overlooked the fact that there were two sides of the working man and not on the side of the man who was investing the money and the direction and the administration to using the labor to convert raw materials into something that could be sold. There were two sides to be considered. Certainly the laborer was entitled to the best that could be done for him, but at the same time to encourage the flow of capital into these tremendous construction jobs and to these tremendous manufacturing programs you had to offer an incentive also in the free enterprise system, and when you measured the cost--costs were going up in other areas than in labor, material costs were going up, transportation costs were going up, so you couldn't take just a one-sided view of it, you had to measure all elements of it, and it was proved in a number of instances why rises in prices had to be permitted in order to get production.
HESS: Do you recall what Mr. Vinson's recommendation was at that time as Secretary of the Treasury?
SNYDER: No, I do not remember. I think that he somewhat leaned toward holding the line on prices and liberalizing the restraint on labor's wages.
HESS: I asked that question because at this time you two were his principal advisers on financial matters, is that correct--Secretary of the Treasury and director of OWMR?
SNYDER: Well, I wouldn't say that the Director of OWMR was particularly considered a counsel on finance. His job was so broad, naturally, a great deal of finance came into it and because of my background in the financial world and my work in the banks and in the RFC, Mr. Truman very kindly listened to a great many of my views; but I did not at that moment
consider myself specifically one of the financial advisers to the President. It was on a broader picture that I was devoting my efforts to.
HESS: I have read that President Truman consulted with the OWMR Advisory Board before issuing the order of October the 30th, is that correct?
SNYDER: Well, yes, it is because I wanted him to do so. We had a very outstanding group of people on that board. As a matter of fact, I think that I used the Advisory Board more than either of my predecessors. As I recall it, during the war period when Mr. Byrnes was director of OWMR he used the various members of the advisory group for individual consultations rather than as a board and that might have been the most expeditious way under the pressures of the wartime problems that had to be met promptly. Crises would come up in certain
areas and rather than to call a meeting of the whole board and spending a lot of time explaining this position, he found it much more expeditious to talk to the particular board member most qualified in that area.
Mr. Vinson, I think, swung a little away from that procedure. He had one or two meetings of the board. But, of course, he actually wasn't in the job long enough to have made a great deal of use of the board. Mr. Vinson, in spite of history as it's been written, was only in OWMR three or four months before he moved on to the Treasury, and so I don't know what in the long run would have been his attitude. I know he had high respect and regard for the members of this committee. For instance, just to give you an idea of what a tremendous organization this committee was remember that the Advisory Board members were drawn from all segments of
the economy. For instance, in the business sector there was Eric Johnston, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; George H. Mead, formerly on one of the boards of the National War Labor Board; Nathaniel Dyke, Jr., head of the Smaller War Plants Corporation; William Green, president of the AF of L; Phil Murray, president of the CIO, and T. C. Cashen who was head of one of the railroad brotherhoods. Also in agriculture there was Edward A. O'Neal, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation; James G. Patton, president of the National Farmers Union and Albert S. Goss, president of the National Grange. The public members were O. Max Gardner, former Governor of North Carolina and practicing lawyer in Washington; William H. Davis, chairman of the National War Labor Board and Anna M. Rosenberg, regional director of the War Manpower Commission. Mr. Max Gardner was chairman of the Committee
and devoted a great deal of time to the problems that I presented to the Advisory Board and to getting answers for OWMR about urgent matters. Mr. Gardner, as I mentioned before, and a large part of the Advisory Board were very much opposed to the eight million estimate of postwar unemployment. They took a genuine interest in the problems that were placed before them and I tried to use them as much as possible for counsel and guidance in policies and the procedures that we should follow, but I also hoped through their intimate knowledge of what was being done, that they would serve as missionaries in making known to the Nation as a whole, and to various segments of the economy, the efforts that were being put forth to try to accelerate the transition from war economy to peace economy.
HESS: On that particular subject, in his book on
OWMR Herman Somers said:
Increased attempts were made to use the group to help gain public acceptance of policy decisions, as in the case of OPA continuation, but without conspicuous success.
What would you say about that?
SNYDER: Well, my objective I still think was a good one. Here was a group of a cross section of the economy that could, I felt, be of great value to us. We were in such a great rush at the time, and each one of the board members--the reason I named them and gave their backgrounds was so you can see how they could be divided on those various problems, particularly those in the labor field, agricultural field, manufacturing field. They all more or less leaned towards their own position, and so it was hard at times to get them to accept a composite view and do much missionary work with it.
HESS: You mentioned just a minute ago about their
advice about the unemployment, but I'm not sure if I caught that. What was their general recommendation of their general stance, on the amount of unemployment that there would be at the end of the war?
SNYDER: It was very divided as you can well see by the composition of the board. I never asked the Advisory Board for a final recommendation because they were so divided that it would not have been possible to get a consensus.
HESS: What was their recommendation to the President on Executive Order 9651 of October the 30th, the one on prices and wages?
SNYDER: I don't think there was any final recommendation made as to what position should be taken.
HESS: Mr. Somers in his book states that in October of '45 there was a leak to the press concerning a confidential study by the staff
which indicated that industry should be able to grant these wage increases without increasing prices. What do you recall about that leak to the press?
SNYDER: Well, that was rather an unfortunate occurrence. It happened during the course of a meeting with the Advisory Board in which we were discussing the subject and no position had actually been taken. No decision had been made by the director of OWMR regarding the accuracy or the dependability of those studies. There had been many studies made on the subject. Mr. Wallace in Commerce came up with some figures, OPA came up with some figures, Wage Stabilization came up with figures and, of course, we had the individual segments--the labor organizations came up with some studies of their own.
HESS: Did Mr. Nathan have a study?
SNYDER: Well, some figures had been put together by the OWMR staff which had not been cleared. These were released, I think, at a very unfortunate time, because no decision had been made and we never quite recovered from the damage done to our whole picture from that premature release.
HESS: You used the word "released" rather than "leak." Was it "released?"
SNYDER: It was a leak.
HESS: Were leaks to the press much of a problem?
SNYDER: Oh, yes, constantly. That was part of the scheme of things, and still is around Washington as you know.
HESS: On that subject concerning this particular leak Somers says:
Snyder shared the general suspicion that staff members were responsible despite
their denials. An atmosphere of distrust developed which kept the staff from knowing what the director was planning or doing on vital matters. By the end of 1945 Director Snyder and Deputy Nathan had a much more distant personal relationship than their official posts required.
What would you say about that?
SNYDER: To a great extent that is true. You can't have the rapport between director and staff that you should have if you have continued evidence of lack of loyalty and lack of cooperation. You always have to consider when you're discussing the attitudes of men of strong opinions that they sometimes rise above the situation to press for something on which they themselves have formed an opinion, regardless of what their position is in juxtaposition to authority. The history of government and the history of business is replete with instances of that sort. One of the great examples is our great general out in the Pacific who felt that
he knew more about the operation than the Chiefs of Staff or the President. Many times you have individuals in your organization who if they can't get their ideas put forward through normal channels will resort to leaks or to public statements to try to stir up public opinion that would fortify their notions.
HESS: I believe it was not too long after this time that Mr. Nathan left, is that right?
SNYDER: Shortly after the time that you mentioned, the first of the year, yes.
HESS: Did you find that the functions of the office went somewhat smoother perhaps after he had departed?
SNYDER: Well, that office never ran smoothly. There were too many controversial problems there to have a smooth operation.
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