Yuri Ivanovich







INT: So could I just ask you to sum up the last part of that answer again? How important in the long-term development of American policy towards Europe was that weekend at the end of February 1947?

GM: Well, this decision, I'm not sure that all of us recognised the importance of it at the time, but unquestionably was one of the decisive decisions that the Government had ever made, and its effect on the future of... world security, the continuation of the free democracies of Western Europe and ourselves to continue their way of life, may have been decided. ... we were in such a critical situation that the French at one time had accumulated two million members of the Communist Party. , Greece was just about ready to fall. And if we had not made this decisive, very clear,... not... not-holding-back decision that Truman pronunciated... Truman was a man that never failed to meet things head-on; he didn't like to equivocate, he didn't like to hesitate: if he was right, he took a strong position. And his statement which he later made to the Congress was so firm, that we had to come to the aid of people who were being threatened internally by subversion from... by a foreign power, or threatened from the outside by these powers; that we had to save them for their future as a free country. And many people thought this was a much broader commitment than we perhaps should have undertaken, and some people think that maybe this led to Vietnam even. But in any event, it was what was needed at this time.

INT: So just to sum up, was this the weekend that started it all?

GM: Yes, it was. As I was saying earlier, the point of view of our top officials had been adjusting to the realities of this situation; and had you not approached us, we perhaps would have reproached you, because we realised the danger that Europe faced; and the fact that it was met in this way, and the fact of our own very strong relationship as allies, had a decisive influence on all the ensuing events, which actually lasted much longer than we ever thought they would.

INT: Just one point, Ambassador: if you could... although I'm British, who you're talking to, of course the audience is going to be international - American, British and other Europeans - so try not to say "you" if you could... if you could just talk about "the British".

GM: Most people know this was a British-made...

INT: Yes, I think so - yes, yes, I'm sure.

GM: I'll say "the British" instead of "you" then.

INT: So was there a sense, a sort of early sense of the domino theory almost, that if Greece and Turkey went Communist, then other countries were likely to go Communist?

GM: I'm not sure "domino" is the word for this situation. As I would describe it, it was to preclude their being drawn behind the Iron Curtain, because neither Greece nor Turkey were Communist countries, and there were no adjoining countries that were in the position of following as a domino might in falling. They were at the edge of the Iron Curtain, and the analogy really should be to being pulled back into the... behind the Iron Curtain into the Communist orbit. And had that happened, it would have been a very thing... very, very difficult thing to remove; just like we found it very difficult when the Russians had seized most of Eastern Europe, to take any very effective action to save them from being a part of the Communist world.

INT: I'd like to ask you a little bit about Marshall's character himself. What sort of a man was he, and how did he work and how did he treat his officials?

GM: That's very interesting. I reported to him directly when I ran the Greek-Turkish aid programme, and saw him often...

INT: Sorry, I'll just stop you again there. If you could say "I reported to Marshall directly" rather than "him", because we won't know who the "him" is going to be.

GM: I'm sorry.

INT: No, no, that's all right. I'll ask the question again. So can you again just tell me a little bit about the character of Marshall and what sort of a man he was?

GM: Well, Marshall was an extraordinary man. I've never known anyone like him. He, in many respects, was a very austere and unapproachable man. He never allowed anyone to call him George Marshall, including the President. When the President asked him if he should, he said, "No, General Marshall will do." He... (Laughs) It's interesting - his closest associate, his deputy for over many years, told us at a staff meeting in the State Department that he had had a letter from Marshall saying that he was retiring from the State Department; and he said, as he started reading the letter: "It says: 'Dear Lovett' - he never called me anything else." He exuded leadership and character. I mean, no matter whether you felt it hard to... to come close to him, he... you knew that he was honest in what he was doing and for... (2-3 unclear words) for his country and not himself, and that he would call it the way he saw it, no matter what. I had an interesting little personal experience with him. When the second year of the Truman Doctrine, they wanted to eliminate 10 million dollars to Turkey to build roads, because the Marshall Plan was coming on, and the Ambassador said, "Well, that's going to be a long delay," and this was the most valuable part of the programme, "See if you can't keep it in." And so I took it to Lovett, and he refused and he didn't like it, but took it directly then to Marshall. And I remember the words we both said. I was saying to Marshall, "Our Ambassador in Turkey, we look to him to tell us what he thinks, and I'm sure we would like to support him, just like you would like to support one of your generals in a far theatre who told you he needed something." And he looked me square in the eye and he said, "They all asked me for everything. I usually gave them very little. Good day, McGhee." And I left. (Laughs) You don't go through an experience like that without realising what (Laughs)... what a tough fellow this is... was.

INT: So the point was that... just to go back a stage, then... he never called anybody by their Christian names, and he would never be called by...

(Interruption in b/g)

GM: But he was... (Overlap) he could be a charming man. He lived very near us in Middleburg, and we lived in... he lived in Leesburg, a few... short distance away, and we were often in his home, and he came up once and had lunch with us in our home, and he could be very agreeable if he chose to. But as a commanding general, he was tough.

INT: So did he run the State Department almost like a military machine? Again, if I could ask you to reply by almost repeating the question, as it were. So did he run the State Department like a military machine, or...?

GM: Yes. I think his habits of leadership in the military carried over into the Department. Military commanders perhaps have to be different from the foreign ministers; but he never wanted to see a paper morthan about one page - that was his limit - and if they couldn't boil it down to one page, then they didn't know the problem well enough, "Try it again." But it's rathinteresting: one time his aide, General Crocker, called me about 2 o'clock in the afternoon and he said, "Can you come up and give some sort of report about Greece and Turkey to the General? He hasn't got anything to do." (Laughs) And usually he left early and drove to Leesburg and would ri...ride his horse on a normal working day.

INT: Did you hear or get a sense of his reaction... this is Marshall's reaction... when he went to the Soviet Union for the Foreign Ministers' Conference in March-April 1947? Did that affect his thinking about the situation?

GM: Yes, very much. I think that most analysts... research students studying the Cold War think that it really started with the decision of the Soviets not to accept Marshall Plan aid and not to permit the Communist countries to do that. And in the discussions at the conference you... that is referred to,... they came in very sharp dispute and... back and forth, and you can see from the wording that Marshall used, that he was very deeply affected by the obstinacy on the part of the Soviets. And I think at that point he must have given up any hope that we could ever really work with them as an ally, and that we must prepare ourselves for that.