Q: When the Marshall Plan was announced there was a suggestion that maybe Eastern Europe would be eligible. Was it ever seriously considered thaStalin and Eastern Europewould be part and parcel of the Marshall Plan?
A: We decided that there should, our offer should be genuine and we should mean it. We thought it highly unlikely that Stalin would permit any part of Eastern Europe to become members. They toyed with the idea. I thought for a while that maybe Poland and Czechoslovakia would in fact break away from Stalin and accept membership amongst the recipients of Marshall Plan aid, but they didn't.
Q: Supposing Stalin himself had said yes to Marshall aid, what would have that done to the plan?
A: We would have been delighted.
Q: Why would you have been delighted?
A: Because he would have been caught in our web. It was our plan, and if he'd been a member of the, that group, we were running the programme, this would have reduced him to his legitimate role which was to be naughty nasty unattractive leader of a smaller part of the world.
Q: The Berlin blockade. What caused it?
A: It had to do with the currency problems. We had a dreadful man whose name I can't remember who - gave the plates from which you could print Berlin currency to the East Germans, and they've printed billions and billions and billions of German marks which were convertible into US dollars. And so you had this sudden hole into the US Treasury and that had to be stopped.
Q: So the United States with Britain set about bringing a new currency effectively for...
A: And therefore we had to bring in a new currency and it was a very difficult thing to do, 'cos here all these plates, all these marks were in existence and were convertible into the equivalent of US goods, and you couldn't cancel them, they'd already been issued and services rendered for them, and to introduce a new currency somehow or other was a very tricky operation. And we finally worked it out together with the British and the French - had a lot of difficulty with the French of course - but we finally got that done. But I was very proud of the effort we put into that.
Q: How important do you think the US nuclear monopoly at that time was in influencing strategy, that there would be an airlift? Do you think there was every a question that there wouldn't have been an airlift, that the West wouldn't have stood firm over Berlin?
A: I think there was that possibility, yes. Cos it was - those were difficult days. Now the situation was politically difficult in Europe, the Communists were strong in all those countries in Europe and the sentiment was more to the left than it was to the right. And so - they weren't all Communists but they were, they had been voting Communist particularly in Italy without understanding what it was they were voting for, and to get that turned around politically was a very tricky enterprise.
Q: Were you present at the meeting when Truman said, "Yes Clay, we'll get the planes that you want on July 22nd"?
A: My recollection is that I was. I was -
Q: Do you remember Truman's attitude yourself, or things that Truman said about the airlift.
A: Not about the airlift. I don't remember that.
Q: How strong were your fears and the fears in Washington that the USSR was 'up to something' immediately prior to the Korean War, and how great a shock was the advance of the North into the South?
A: I had a friend in Lehman Brothers, who was the man who carried to the President the letter urging the President to pay attention to Einstein when he first came to the United States - can't remember his name, but I had a very high regard for his knowledge of Russia and that part of the world, and his general good sense. - And he told me that he thought that the Russians were bound to undertake some kind of an initiative soon, that during the preceding year, you know, a) they'd tested a nuclear weapon, b) Chiang Kai-shek had collapse and c) something else had happened and, they would have - they must interpret all these things as being changes in the correlation of forces favourable to their side. And that their doctrine called for them to take the correlation of forces and changes therein seriously, and that when the correlation of forces had turned adversely from what it had been then the thing to do was to throw dust up into the air, trying to throw it to the enemies eyes and confuse them. But when the correlation of forces had turned more favourable, then one was duty bound to exploit that favourable change quickly before the opportunity evaporate, because the longer one delayed the more the other side would realise that something needed to be done, would do something about it. And that clearly the - changes during the preceding year had been all favourable to them, and they would so interpret it, and they would therefore feel obligated to - take action. And where would they take action? And there were a number of places that he thought they might take action, they were trying to limit the risk and maximise the possibility of gain, and he thought one of the most likely places was in fact Korea - and that we ought to do everything we could to put the South Koreans in better position to resist a potential attack from North Korea. And I took this feller seriously, and thought what he was saying was consistent with what I'd thought about Communist doctrine and their patterns of behaviour. And as I remember Muccio was our Ambassador to South Korea at the time, and he happened to be in Washington, so I called up Muccio and told him that my friend had taken a dim view of the situation out there, and thought it was possible that North Korea might attack into South Korea, and what would he recommend that one give the highest priority to in putting South Korea in a better position to deal with this potential threat. And he said, "I, I think that the greatest danger is that they will infiltrate the South with - through motor boats at sea." And that seemed to me to be an odd idea but he was convinced that this was right, and I believed in Muccio, I thought he was a very solid fellow. So we went to the people who dealt with aid and said that there, we think there's a real possibility of attack by North Korea into South Korea and one ought to give them some assistance so they will be better prepared for that, and we think they had very little money available, and we said we need some, some speed boats of one kind or another. And they gave them to us, and the speed boats turned out to be very useful, but they were - that was, what, hell it wasn't going to turn back an invasion, but it did do some good.
Q: The North Koreans invade the South, made very, very heavy initial advances. What was the atmosphere in Washington at that time? How seriously was it taken? Was there gloom?
A: Very great gloom, yes. And there were of course...
Q: What was the atmosphere in Washington as the North swept down into the South?
A: Well all of us in Washington thought this racing attack by the North Koreans down into South Korea was a very dangerous development. We didn't see how this was going to be stopped. Our forces were retreating rapidly down to a little point of land at the very tip of Korea. We thought that the - they were - maybe they could hold out for a few days or weeks there in that little tip, but that we couldn't see how they could really be driven back in, way back, and were surprised - by - General MacArthur's sudden very successful landing in Inchon and its vast success, it was, seemed to us to be a miracle so that I had not been a great admirer of MacArthur, I thought he was vain and arrogant. I'd spent a lot of time with him and he'd asked me come and work for him, but I found that not possible because I - he made it clear that nobody working for him was going to be authorised to have any contact with Washington at all because he considered everybody in Washington, the Government, were all traitors. So that there was a kind of poisonous atmosphere.