Yuri Ivanovich







INT: Was there a sense then, in all of this, of trying to modernise the Greek economy, to make it a mirror of... an advanced economy like the American economy?

JW: Surely, if I were to put book-ends to the question of what happened during the Marshall Plan/Truman Doctrine chapter in Greece, I would perhaps work backwards, and I would say that from 1954, which is the end of the Marshall Plan in Greece, until 1967 - roughly a decade and a half - the Greek economy took off; it took off without foreign aid. It was referred to in those days, because it had the highest per capita economic growth rate of any country outside Japan, as "the Greek economic miracle". That would be one book-end, if you will. Looking back, however, when the Americans arrived in 1947, you had an economy and a socthat was shredded. The balance of payments in those days showed an import requirement, a fexchange requirement, of close to $500 million a year, in 1947 dollars, and an earning capacity of only 150 million. The reserves in the Bank of Greece to pick up that difference, that deficit, was only $36 million. Greece would have gone down the tubes; Greece was bankrupt at that moment. So in between those book-ends, there is the chapter called the Marshall Plan and the Truman Doctrine, and one could say that for six years America fed and fuelled and clothed the Greek nation. For three of those years, it invested, America invested, in the reconstruction of the pre-war economy. And in the three succeeding years, it invested in the expansion of that pre-war economy. What it wo... was a bankrupt economy, to the point where, by 1954, it was operating at a level at least 50% greater than that which had been achieved before the war. It was not simply reconstruction, it was major development, and that is visible. So it was, if you will, enlarging the economic pie... it was certainly the radical modification of a notion which had long been part and parcel of Greek society - namely the zero sum game: if I win, you lose; and that was really the way Greece had operated for centuries. So the Americans came, and they taught and spoke and did all of that which we... would put together in the phrase "enlarging the economic pie", and it was successful.

INT: I want to ask you about a couple of details, sort of micro-stories within the macro setting you've just given us. Can you tell us a little bit about the thinking behind the supply of the Texas-Missouri-Oklahoma mules for Greece? This is an odd story, because of course the donkey probably came out of Greece thousands of years ago, and here is the Americans taking mules back into Greece. What's the story behind this?

JW: Certainly during the war, and during the civil war, one of the major elements destroyed was the (Clears throat) farm draught animal. And to get agricultural production back into a better condition, we had to absolutely import draught animals. One of the decisions was to import that which we were accustomed to, which was the Missouri mule; and the Missouri mule is not only cantankerous, he's big. And many of those Missouri mules were destined to do service for the Greek army up in the mountains, on small paths, carrying howitzers, carrying ammunition, carrying supplies for that Greek National Army which was engaged in a very rough guerrilla war in the mountains. Well, they found that those great big...

INT: Sorry, I'll just stop you there, just for a moment - we had some truck or something... ... Right, so we'll continue. Just if you could pick up at that point.

JW: So those great big Missouri mules, they found were too big for the tiny trails in Greece. When they got them up in the mountains, they simply couldn't use them. And so, one of the (Laughs) first learning experiences for the Americans was that they had to take these big Missouri mules out of the mountains, bring them down to the valleys, trade them for the traditional donkey, and get the donkeys to do that military work. But that was only part of the story. Part of the functioning of the Marshall Plan's agricultural division in the mission in Athens was to teach animal husbandry, so that a draught animal industry could indeed grow and prosper in Greece, in a period when the guerrilla war was behind the country. The... that which followed the mules was, first of all, something that the Greeks called "tudzaims" - it was the US Army 6 x 6 truck. This had eight driving wheels in the back, it had two driving wheels in the front, it had a winch on it, and it could go anywhere, and it was truly a revolutionary item in the Greek mountain economy. Another revolutionary item in that extraordinary change that was brought about in the Greek economy - and the Greek social structure, I should add - was the Adams grater. Greece was then divided into administrative units, something resembling a... say the French prefecture - they were called the 'nomos' or 'nomi' - and we brought in 48 Adams graters for the 48 'nomi' or counties or prefectures. And out that one programme, a revolution occurred in the mountains, and a pre-war structure of provincial roads, of farm-to-market roads, village roads, a pre-war structure was literally quadrupled simply by having these pieces of equipment down at the level where decisions could be made on connecting villages to market centres.

INT: The film... just going back to the mules again... the film we've got shows civilian farmers, rather than the military, struggling with these very large, cantankerous beasts, trying to get ploughs on them, trying to get them to plough in a straight line, and so on. Was it thought by you and others that the civilian use of these mules was a success or a failure, as an operation within the Marshall Plan?

JW: The provision of mules was the highest priority to the settlement of the displaced villagers, the villagers who had been made into refugees by the civil war. They had to be returned to their villagers - there were 700,000 of them - and this was the highest priority certainly in 1948 and '49. And they had to be equipped with building materials to rebuild their houses, which were in all likelihood burnt to the ground, or at least partially burnt; they had to be given tools, including ploughs; and they had to be equipped with a draught animal. So that was the priority for them; and that's where that particular programme had its focus. And this meant converting freighters travelling across the Atlantic... it meant converting those freighters into floating stables, and that was no easy task.

INT: Can you tell me something, then, also about the psychological importance of projects like clearing the Corinth Canal or reopening the Piraeus Harbour?

JW: I think that the clearing of the Corinth Canal was surely a project whose impact was more important in psychological terms than in economic terms. It is the kind of project which did, however, give an important lift to a society which was still very, very nervous, and a society in which there was almost no faith in the future. To know that America had come in and had done something tangible, palpable, visible like that, was important. And here I should mention that not only was there a sense of fear in the country - fear of what was happening to the north, beyond the borders, in the Balkans - but a fear elsewhere, of events elsewhere in the world: the Korean War; the election in Italy in 1948 was a key element in the psyche of Greek society. And these fears were expressed in... what became an addiction, and that was the addiction for the security and the store of value which was the British gold sovereign. And the store of value in Greece was the sovereign; it was the basis for pricing olive oil, it was the basis for buying and selling anything of significant value, it was the basis for dowries; it was the barometer of how people felt about the future. And the final chapter of the Marshall Plan experience in Greece had to be a fundamental change in that kind of psychological view; it had to be a stabilisation of the currency, so that people could have a faith in the Greek drachma itself, rather than this disease of importing sterile gold.

INT: Tell me something about your own role in these days. What did it feel like... Tell me something about where you come from; was this your first job; what did it feel like to be carrying the American flag to a country like Greece in these troubled times?

JW: Well, I was the youngest member of the Marshall Plan mission in Greece, and I arrived there at the age of 23. And to my astonishment, a year later, at age 24, there I was in charge of the Greek import programme. And I worked like hell. I also played like hell. It was an interesting way to construct two days out of one. Our office hours were from 7.30 in the morning until 2.30 in the afternoon, six days a week; and that allowed me, at 2.30 in the afternoon, to explore the countrand to explore the riches of a very poor country... and to educate myself. It was indeed an education. But it... ... the way we worked - as I say, we playehard and worked hard at the same time, and got two days out of one.