Sir Freddie






Q: How did the situation deteriorate politically in Berlin between the allies? I'm thinking of the British and the Americans and the French on one side and the Russians on the other?

A: I think partially on - it was the arrogance of the Soviet. Such things as building war memorials to themselves all over the place, as being recalcitrant in every respect in the allied command de tour or the Allied Control Council. The inability to meet on a social level with their senior officers. And each and every agreement we made with them through the summer of 1945 was immediately violated. Such small things as a parade to celebrate the victory over Japan, which occurred on September 16th I believe 1945, each of the allied nations - France, Britain, the United States and the USSR, were to parade a battalion of soldiers. The western allies paraded a battalion of infantry. The Soviets paraded a battalion of infantry and then followed it up with a battalion of heavy tanks, to the consternation of everyone who was there including our General Patton and your General Robertson. From such small things to very large things, such as refusal to hold a political election, or to recognise a political party other than the Communist Party, and the pretences that were made. The agreement at Potsdam, the agreements at Potsdam had been that all democratic parties would be recognised political parties. The Soviet Union recognised only one democratic political party. The others were not democratic of course.

Q: How did the German politicians like Reuter who later emerged deal with this situation and was there any encouragement coming from the British and the Americans for these politicians?

A: It took a while. It was really not until the Communists threw the non-Communist political parties out of the Central Rathaus or the governing building, which was located in the Soviet sector. Reuter had emerged because Reuter was a unique person. He had been a Communist after the First World War; he was a close associate of Lenin, he knew Stalin personally. He had returned from the Soviet Union in 1918 to form the KPD, the Communist Party Germany, and then bolted from the Kommunistischs, defected and became a democrat, a Social Democrat, a member of the Reichstag and in due course had to flee Germany, went to Turkey, became, I believe, a Professor at Ankara and with the help of the British Labour government returned to Germany in 1945, about the same time Willy Brandt did.

Q: If Reuter had not been there, how well do you think the Berliners would have been able to organise themselves politically?

A: There was such apathy, such disinterest in all things political - such fear of things political, that I doubt very much they would have gotten organised as quickly as they did. Doctor Otto Suer of the SPD, who was very powerful in Berlin, and very influential, still did not have the charisma that was necessary to cause the people to take new renewed interest the way Reuter did.

Q: We come to talk about General Clay. What kind of General, what sort of man was he?

A: Clay was an administrator, a top flight administrator, a manager. I think this is shown by the fact that after he became General Clay he became president of a great American corporation. He was a great manager. Clay was a West Pointer, well up in his class; an engineer. Spent most of his life not in command but in staff and administrative planning jobs under the New Deal in the period 1933, 1939 particularly here in Washington. He was well acquainted with President Roosevelt and with the people who surrounded Mr Roosevelt. He was respected by them. He was promoted to, I believe, the rank of Colonel by the time the war began and his jobs involved administration rather than command, and it involved close liaison and understanding with politicians and political processes.

Q: What was his attitude towards the Soviets in this first early period we're talking about, 1945/1946?

A: In that period I think General Clay shared the opinions and attitudes of his colleagues in Washington during the war-time period who had very little, if any connection with the Soviets what so ever. He was determined that we would 'get along', quote, unquote, with them, that we would be able to find a way to co-operate, to work together, to principally to de-Nazify, disarm and define the German state. This was the principal job that he saw. I'm putting words in his mind perhaps, but I did work very closely with him and particularly in the 1945, 1949 period and I saw him change from acceptance of the Soviet point of view - I don't mean to infer that he accepted that point of view, but he understood it, to a point where he failed utterly to understand what the Soviet ambitions were going to bring about. He saw them as potentially of enormous danger to United States policies in Europe. Particularly such things as the Marshall Plan and the rebuilding of western Europe.

Q: There was one particular incident in which Clay was disabused of any benevolent intentions the Soviets might have had and that was involving a shooting incident outside his headquarters. Could you describe that?

A: Oh, it was a perfectly terrible thing happen. Two young women were riding their bicycles down - I think it's Argentina - no it's now called Clay Allee and it was immediately in front of his headquarters where the American PX was located and the American mess halls were located, and it was the noon hour, a warm, balmy day in Berlin and two young women in their late teens riding bicycles were stopped by two Soviets in a Soviet jeep and murdered on the spot and their wrist watches stolen and their bicycles stolen in full view of hundreds of American employees who were going to lunch. Clay could not believe the story when he heard it. Was outraged. Took the matter to Sokolovsky, Marshall Sokolovsky, his opposite, who assured him that this was not the work of Soviet soldiers but bandits in Soviet uniform. What ever it was it horrified Clay, as it did everyone else. Not too long after that the same thing occurred on the lake, on the Bodensee when two young women were murdered by a Soviet guard near Bobosberg.

Q: Were there other instances of Soviet bad behaviour like kidnappings?

A: Oh my goodness, yes. These were things which we had very little control over and were an enormous problem for the new German police forces. There was an excellent German Chief of Police, Doctor Johannes Stumm who had been head of the KRIPO, the Criminal police. One of the Europe's finest policeman. He was confronted, constantly, with calls for help from people who were being threatened or had been actually kidnapped by Soviet Intelligence personnel, police personnel or just thugs. There were incidents at the railroad stations. A famous one at the Anhalterbanhoff which resulted in three Soviet soldiers being shot by an American captain who was a former police captain from Detroit Michigan. The incidents were almost constant, they were epidemic.

Q: We come now to Colonel Howley. What sort of man was Colonel Howley?

A: One of my favourite people, I think, that I have known. Howley was a dramatic fellow. A football player from New York University. An advertising man in Philadelphia. A National Guard Officer who could not perform active military service, combat service because he had raced his motorcycle (laughs) at a very high speed, had been thrown from it, broke a lot of his bones and was then forced to limited service. A dramatic sort of man. Lean and hungry looking Irishman. Very popular with all the military personnel with whom he was in contact. He commanded a detachment called A1 Military Government, which was the first American detachment to be used in service at Cherbourg after we had captured that city. He was selected for the Berlin job and did a splendid job during the difficult days of the blockade. A dramatic person. Totally different from General Clay. They almost never saw eye to eye but they got along very, very well indeed and at the end of the blockade Clay had made Howley a Brigadier General and given him the Distinguished Service Cross.

Q: You told me how Howlin' Mad FranHoas he was known had a particular way of dealing with the Russians and the Kommandantur meetings. Could you tell me about that?

A: Yes. It was a bit shocking, when I first heard it. Howley's technique with his Soviet opposite, General Kutokov, was largely the Commandant of that period, a handsome, very dignified Soviet officer by the way. Howley would take issue with the Soviet position and his statement would be something like this: 'Well of course I don't expect you to tell me the truth, you lie. You always lie, and no matter what you're going to tell me it's not going to be the truth.' Well the Soviets thought this was highly amusing and they respected Howley, I think more because they they knew that he - he never lied to them. Even when he was telling them that they lied.