Yuri Ivanovich Sum,
INT: Just asking you to summarise again for me, just in a few sentences, Marshall's attitude, not towards "it" buttowards the use of covert operations.
MW: Yes. General Marshall's stand, I think, was most admirable, and it showed that he had a certain flexibility to the exigency of the times. Certainly the crisis was critical. The facts were there, and I think he felt that he was really in a box, as the Secretary of State, to be able to do something to truly help democratic parties to maintain power in Italy, and frustrate the Communist efforts that seemed to be successful... are succeeding and are showing that may have the edge in the elections of '48. And as a result, working with his closest colleagues, the Secretary of War Patterson and Forestal and Dulles. I think they all, the four of them... it was easier for the other three to say, "Well, we have to do something covert; but it was not easy for a Secretary of State standing there to sanction that sort of thing. But it was clear that he said, "Well, we must explore the meanof getting authority to carry out a covert action programme that would challenge this tremendous Communist expansionist thing, this threat to taking over the government." And, because he felt very strongly, even though his colleagues said, "Well, you know, General, you have articulated the problem so well and how we must rectify it - then you must handle it," and he said, "No. I'm Secretary of State - no way will I handle it. I'm most interested in its progress, but if we do have... even if it's a new and young inteagency, we must explore the possibility of having authority for him to carry out a covert action programme to meet the challenge of the Communists in this critical election that's coming up only a few months from now." And that was, to my mind, a brilliant decision. And thanks to the team, and particularly Larry Huston that worked on it, we worked out the language precise enough to give the authority to Admiral Hillenkoetter to start the programme forthwith, because if it was going to be effective we had to start tomorrow.
INT: And how did Marshall see the covert operations against the plan which will forever in history be associated with his name?
MW: (Sighs) I think that it was very easy for him to keep them completely separate. The operators, many of them retired American industrialists, captains of industry that were recruited by Mr Zellerbach, the head of the Marshall Plan for Italy, to do this, but they were in no way involved in these operations, but they were very much alerted to the fact that the Communist labour unions had penetrated into some of the biggest industries in Italy, and that they had to be aware and alert for that, and that their work could be of help. But I don't think there was really a problem for General Marshall there. He made the right decision on pushing for a covert action operation to win those elections, and I think he was very much pushed, not only by his colleagues but very much so by America's number one expert on the Soviet Union, who was head of the Policy Planning staff, and that was very important.
INT: Did he have a view that in a sense you have to advance on two fronts, that economic aid was essential, but occasionally, at specific times, some other form of operation was also important to keep Europe democratic?
MW: I think that it was very important for General Marshall, in his high position, to look upon the plan that carried his name as economic rebuilding of Italy. Italy, from the outset, started to do the right things; a country that didn't have the wealth of raw materials, but had great ingenuity in its people, building in all types of industries. And I believe that he really felt that the plan that carried his name, the Marshall Plan, was very important to success of Italy, stability in Italy, and ergo democracy would survive in Italy with... and he felt that. But at the same time, unquestionably, and partly it was the rush of time, that we could not take a chance that the country would go Communist, and that we had to build a covert action plan to frustrate the Soviet advance. In municipal elections ever since the war, they were winning, and they were pretty much favoured. I'll tell you: in CIA headquarters at that time we were scared to death, and we realised how important it was. And for prominent Italo-Americans to say, "Well, I wouldn't worry too much about it - we'll have a coup d'etat"... you don't have a coup d'etat in a democratic country. I mean, talk about risk - that's really risky. (Laughs) And so... I mean, if you'd mentioned that to General Marshall, (Laughs) he would have thrown you out of the office: "We don't want a coup d'etat in Italy." That's desperation.