Q: In retrospect, some historians have complained that it was a case for the prosecution, and there was no case for the defence, that maybe the Soviet Union's had some legitimate security interests ... Would that be, in retrospect, a fair criticism, or was that nor your brief?
A: It would have been very difficult for any one of us to have made a brief for the Soviet behaviour in Poland or in any of the Eastern European countries. Their absolute disregard for, for human rights; their unwillingness to have any political opposition in any of the countries they were occupying - I don't see how any one of us could have defended that.
Q: Was the -
A: Then or now.
Q: Was there really a fear that parts of Western Europe would fall to Communism? How strong were those fears and how did they show themselves?
A: There was concern that some of the Western countries could fall under Soviet domination. Italy was a matter of very great concern and there was huge sigh of relief in April '48 when very narrowly the anti-Communist [sic] forces were defeated in Italian elections. It was nip and tuck given the prostrate nature of the economies of many of the Western European countries. They could easily have the balance could have been tipped in the Communist direction.
Q: In February 1947 Britain sends a telegram to the State Department: "Forget it. In six weeks time we can't pay any more. We're quitting from Greece, we're quitting from Turkey." What was the effect of that telegram and how did it affect both the Presidency and your own work?
A: This British announcement that they no longer could remain in Greece, support Greece and Turkey, came as no real surprise. It was a shock that it happened quite as abruptly and quite as quickly as it did, but all the straws in the wind had pointed in that direction for some time. This simply crystallised the opinions in the executive branch that the United States had to move and move very, very quickly to reassure Greece and Turkey, the British and all of Western Europe for that matter that we were not going to stand idly by and let Communist subversive efforts, particularly in Greece succeed; we weren't going to allow, any more than we had a year earlier when the Battleship Missouri had been sent to Turkish waters, to allow Turkey to be pressured into making any kind of submission to Soviet advances. This led President Truman to go to the Hill, to the Congress, on March 12th and make his speech which later became known as the Truman Doctrine address: that we would help countries and our help would be primarily through economic means to resist aggression from foreign sources.
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Q: Delivery of the Truman Doctrine speech. Was Truman aware of just how important it was, and was the House aware of how important a moment it was?
A: President Truman took the Truman Doctrine speech - he didn't call it that, of course - he took that speech very, very seriously, knew it was a momentous step in American foreign policy, in American relations with the rest of the world. He delivered it in a joint session of Congress, I was there in the balcony listening, and I was struck by the absolute concentrated attention of the Congress. Usually a President is interrupted many times by applause ordinarily by the people of his Party on whatever the occasion is there is unnecessary applause and commotion and so on and so forth. On this occasion everyone in the hall realised that this was a major historical event. He was interrupted very rarely by applause. By the end he got a polite applause, but mostly it was the riveted attention on 'here is a great change in the direction of the country', a commitment that's of major importance. Congress took it very seriously, as did the President. He was fortunate in that Republican leader of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate was Senator Arthur Vandenberg, a very broad-gauged internationalist - he'd been an isolationist in earlier year, but he had swung around, and Vandenberg led the Republicans in support of this approach of the President's.
Q: Was the President surprised at the bi-partisan approach, the fact that there really did seem unanimity which carried on of course for fifty years, was he surprised at that?
A: I think he was highly gratified by the bi-partisan support, but not really surprised. After all it seemed so self-evident to him that this is what the United States had to do. He would have been more surprised if he hadn't been able to persuade the Congress, "Gentle- Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a major step that the country absolutely must take."
Q: The Marshall Plan. Why the Marshall plan came out of the Truman administration, and how important was Marshall in getting this whole plan ... going?
A: The Marshall Plan was logical next step from the Truman Doctrine speech. In March of '47 the President had said that our assistance to other countries must be primarily economic. Well how do you do economic assistance to other countries, particularly when they are so beaten down that their infrastructure is in shambles, when Western Europe had just gone through one of the worst winters in history? Everything was in chaos. General Marshall in June of that year proposed a mechanism, a way by which the United States and Western European countries could jointly co-operate to rebuild the economy of Europe. It was again another step forward in the direction that we'd been pursuing for sometime. Why was it called the Marshall Plan? Very simple: President Truman had been mildly concerned about the labelling 'Truman Doctrine', he thought, 'After all, there's a risk I can bring the Republicans only so far, if we start calling everything after Truman I'm going to lose some, some troops.' and he had great veneration for George Marshall as a man, as a soldier, as a statesman, and he thought this should be called the Marshall Plan: 'If it's named for General Marshall everyone will support it; if it's called the Truman Plan, right away I'll begin to lose some Congressional and political support. It's going to be the Marshall Plan.' - and it was.
Q: Was it ever seriously believed that the Soviet Union would come on board as part and parcel of the Marshall Plan?
A: There never was any thought that the Soviets would actually join the Marshall Plan. It would have been impossible for them. They would have had to open up their society, they would have had to come clean with all sorts of detailed statistics on their industry, their whole social structure, which was inconceivable. But it was a desirable step to persuade the world that we really were being altruistic here, this was not basically an anti-Communist, anti- Soviet measure, and should by some miracle the Soviets themselves join, or some their satellite countries, we would have welcomed them in it. But we didn't think that was a realistic possibility.