Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank



Q: Was there perhaps a hope that it might lure some of the Eastern European countries more in towards the Western sphere of influence? ...

A: Oh there was sort of wistful thinking that maybe one of two of the Eastern countries, but you only thought that for a few moments realising that they were so firmly under Soviet control that they might want to, but it would be impossible for them to do so.


Q: At the same time a climate of fear going on, fear of subversion, of worries about secrets that are slipping away. How important did Truman believe the danger was of spies and internal subversion? How much did that concern him?

A: Well, President Truman was naturally concerned at any indication that there had been spying in the Manhattan project of anywhere else in our military establishment, but he thought it was minimal, the danger to United States was minimal. Worrisome, troublesome, to be eradicated, tracked down wherever possible, but as a major matter, no. And he thought it was the propaganda from some of the journalists and political opponents which was vastly exaggerated, over done, over blown.

Q: In retrospect to someone like myself it seems amazing that even someone like General Marshall or Secretary of State Acheson should be labelled and branded in this way as crypto-Communists or fellow travellers. Did the President ever take anything of this seriously? Did he ever offer any comments?

A: Oh, he took none of these exaggerated claims about Acheson, Marshall or others seriously. No, not at all. He took them seriously only in the sense they indicated a pathological frame of mind of the political opponents who were uttering such nonsense. But as to any, ever any basis, no. Absolutely not.

Q: What effect did the Hiss trial have on the climate of that time, and the activities of Richard Nixon?

A: Alger Hiss had been a middle level officer in the Department of State. He had retired from State, was working for a private foundation in New York when he was accused of having passed documents to Soviet handlers back in the 1930s. There was a lot of confusion, confused evidence, confused testimony. I think President Truman personally thought that Hiss had done some things he should not have done, but Hiss was no great threat to American security. He was long since out of the government, and whatever his transgressions were they'd been in the 1930s; they were not affecting any, anything of the current nature. Truman regarded this as simply politics as usual, or rather gutter politics as usual on the part of Nixon and other persons who were using them to belabour the administration.

Q: The loss of China. To what extent were people like Nixon able to use this as an attack on the administration, and how did Truman and the administration respond to that?

A: There was a lot of commotion about the so-called 'loss of China'. Dean Acheson answered that directly: 'We didn't lose China; China was never ours to lose.' But it was, it became an increasingly troublesome question for the administration. There was a great sentiment for pro-China sentiment in the United States. The United States had long had missionaries in China, trade with China, great sympathy for the Chinese people and the Chinese culture; we had sympathised with them through the brutal attacks of the Japanese beginning in the late 'thirties: so there was much pro-Chinese sentiment and it was very disturbing to the American public at large to see China falling into the hands of Communists. And at that time there was the attitude everywhere that Moscow and the Chinese Communists were tightly linked, hand in hand. This was perceived by many to be part of a world-wide conspiracy and hence was, was somewhat frightening. And the opponents on the Hill made good use of, of this malaise to create some political points.

Q: What about things like the loyalty oath, and things like that that were taking place? Do you think there was a justification for them? ... Difference between Truman's approach to the situation and FBI and Hoover's approach...

A: I don't really think I can respond very easily to that one.

Q: Okay. Now...

A: It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I'm not sure that I, I'd have to think about that a while before I could give you a concise, clear answer.

Q: Were you personally yourself aware of any casualties, or people were really adversely perhaps unfairly affected by the whole 'McCarthy era' ... Could you see this in action?

A: The McCarthy attacks on State Department and other government officers were totally unfounded. He was preposterous in the magnitude of his lies, and he lambasted individuals by name completely unfairly and unjustly. I knew two people who figured at one time or another in McCarthy's wild charges, both had to undergo long ordeals of exams and reviews by boards. Both were cleared. They had nothing in their record. The ludicrousness of it was that one man was accused by McCarthy in two different senses, he didn't, he realised he was talking about the same man: he made two cases out of one person. It was - one of the most despicable eras in our political life.