Yuri Ivanovich







INT: I'll just ask you to say that again, if you don't mind. You actually said, "I happened to be in Turkey when they asked me to cut the ribbon."

GM: I'll correct it. It'd be better if I...

INT: It'd be better if you just say that again. So just tell me about the opening of the Corinth Canal and the Piraeus Harbour.

GM: Well, this was a very interesting experience for me. I just happened to be in Greece on one of my regular visits as co-ordinator for aid to Greece and Turkey, and the Government allowed me to come and (2-3 unclear words) was the first to go through the Canal, and the Prime Minister was there, and then I was allowed to participate in the cutting of the ribbon that opened the Corinth Canal for the first time after the war to the commerce of the nations. In addition to the Corinth Canal and Piraeus, of course, the Germans also destroyed the bridges, the roads and the highways in so far as they could, anything to make it difficult for the Allies in taking over Greece.

INT: Right, we'll just wait for that aircraft to go by.

GM: And if you want to ask me about the building of the docks, I can tell you a little story about that.

INT: Oh, please, yes, tell me about the building of the docks in Piraeus.

GM: (.?.)

INT: Yes, we're OK, yeah.

GM: When we first started the Greek programme, we made a decision that the work of building the Piraeus docks and harbours and the bridges and... some of it could just be done by American firms who had the organisations to do it. And so I went to the... Can you stop...? Corps of Engineers - I couldn't think of the word.

INT: Yes, right. But let's go back and start again, let's start again.

GM: When we first started planning how we would help restore the economy of Greece, we saw the necessity for rebuilding the harbour in Piraeus and opening the Corinth Canal and building the bridges required. And so I got together a consortium of American companies who wanted to participate, and I asked the Corps of Engineers to help me conduct the negotiations so that we would do it in accordance with the way they usually dealt with government contracts. And we were just ready then to sign agreements covering 50 million dollars' worth of these... these agreements. I took it to... (Pause) It's funny... Could I just start back, saying "I took it to..."?

INT: (Overlap) Yes, "I took it to..." Do you want me to look up the name, or...?

GM: Well, it's... I've given his name before - he was deputy to Marshall... Lovett.

INT: Lovett, Lovett, yes, right, right. So if you just want to pick it up from "I took it to..."

GM: I took these contracts up to Lovett, who was deputy to Marshall as under secretary, and I said, "Well, this is the result of our negotiations, and all this is approved by the Corps of Engineers, and I hope very much that... that you will accept it and either you or the Secretary sign it on behalf of the US Government." And he said, "You mean the State Department is going to build bridges and harbours? They've never done anything like this before." Well, I said, "We are responsible - Congress has given us the money and the responsibility to do this, and the Corps of Engineers, who represents the Government in this type of negotiation, has participated, and the basis of it is cost plus fee, which is the only type you can... could make. And I feel that I've personally committed the State Department to these contracts with the... they've now been agreed." "No way. You're not going to get the State Department into building bridges. There'd be so much criticism of us, and they'd say there was malfeasance and cheating all along, and we'd never get over it. Never." (Laughs) I went back... I didn't... I didn't have a very good evening and thinking about, "I've gotten us into this situation." So I called the head of the Corps of Engineers the next day and said... explained the situation and said, "What I've done, you approved, because you had your men with me all the time. I would like to put this proposition to you, that you take over all these contracts - we'll give you the money, and you treat them as you would a normal Corps of Engineers project." And he didn't hesitate - he said, "Sure, we'll do it." The net result was to delay the thing almost a year, and then to make it cost 10% more, but there was never any criticism. (Laughs)

INT: Can I ask you about the mule shipments to Greece, to tell me a little bit about the thinking behind them and the importance of the mules?

GM: Mm. Well, this was rather an interesting... occurrence. It was interesting to me because they came from Texas, where I come from, and to everyone, considering that mules were probably invented for use in Greece and that we had to bring them from Texas, was humorous. But this wasn't a terribly big project; it was was just an interesting project. Because they needed ... hauling the supplies up in the mountains, and there were no roads there, and only by mule could you get things there. And perhaps by destruction by the Germans or the normal wear and tear of war, the mules had greatly decreased in number. I think we only brought in 2- or 300 mules, but it made a very good story.

INT: And did they... do I remember you saying that they had a military background, they had brought in for military purposes before?

GM: No... I don't believe I said that. Let's see...

INT: No, I must have just misremembered that.

GM: No, this was... this was for hauling equipment in the mountains.

INT: Can I come on just to ask you about Marshall aid to Yugoslavia towards the end of the Marshall Aid scheme?

GM: Well, I don't believe I can speak very concretely about that - myself wasn't in the administration of the Marshall Plan, and after I finished with Greek-Turkish aid I became Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, South Asia and Africa, so that would have been rather distant from our own activities.

INT: Right. Let me just ask you then to sum up overall the place of the Marshall Pin Cold War history - how important was it in those years?

GM: One might say that it saved the world. The net effect of all of these measures we took in the post-war - and I think this is something we as a nation are entitled to be proud of - was that they faced up to the consequences of war and what might happen had we not been willing to pitch in and take the leadership. And if Europe had, for example, fallen to the Communists, it's possible that as a dictatorship, it would be very difficult ever to get them free from Communism. Italy and France both became very close. But because of the Marshall Plan, because of the other efforts that we took and they took, and all these things, the tide was turned. And it took a long time before the Cold War was over, but there was never, during that time, the threat of Communism that existed then. We've had some bad times since, but no one, I think, during the Cold War would ever have been willing to admit that we were likely to lose the allies with whom we had won this war. They may have taken over vast areas of the world, but not Western Europe.