(September 4, 1997)
I believe this is the fourth interview and it is at
Mr. Gardner’s home in Washington, D.C. During the last
interview, we talked about the time you spent at the
Department of Labor and about leaving the Department of
Labor. Let’s start this interview with my asking what
the circumstances were that led you to go to work as The
Solicitor at the Department of the Interior.
The primary circumstance was that I did not want to work
at the Labor Department. In those days Washington’s
legal fraternity was a very small group; you could tell
one or two people that you weren’t happy where you were
and within a month or two there would be a variety of
suggestions of other things to do. The Interior
Department seemed to be the most attractive of the
suggestions that were made to me. It was in many ways a
remarkable and invigorating contrast to the Labor
What were the main attractions of the Department
of Interior?
Harold Ickes.
Tell me about Harold Ickes.
I could go on for quite awhile. I would start with the
interview I had with him before I agreed that I would go
to the Interior Department. At the end of a moderately
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satisfactory conversation, I said to him, “Mr. Secretary,
you ought to know that I’m not getting along very well
with· Frances Perkins.” And he said, “Grrr, wouldn’t have
you if you were.” Which seemed to me a good candid first
approach. He was a man of great courage, complete
integrity and no patience whatever for anything of which
he disapproved or a person of whom he disapproved. It
was fun being around him.
What years were you at the Department of Interior?
Not too many. I went there in September of ’42 and I
left in September of ’43 to go into the Army. Came back
September of ’45 and Ickes left the next February in a
blaze of acrimony, and I left in June of ’47. All
together I was there maybe a total of three separated
Are there examples of Ickes integrity or courage
that stand out during the time you were there?
Oh, my yes. One grew out of the whole hysteria of
subversive employees created by the Dies Committee and
Senator McCarthy. Even the good people in the moved
with extreme caution when opposing McCarthy or Dies .
. Dean Acheson was one. He was a perfectly splendid man,
but did not in any way undertake to defend the employees
of the Department who were under attack unless he knew
them personally, in which case he was brave enough, as he
was with Alger Hiss. Many others,
some of whom I had represented, encountered a lofty
indifference. John Service being one. He was the
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best of his class in the Foreign Service and had his
career ruined by reckless McCarthy charges. In any
event, in the midst of all of that timidity, Ickes would
descend upon the Dies Committee, the Dies Un-American
Committee, and testify that the most Un-American thing
that even happened was the Dies Committee.
He would say that in the hearing?
Oh yes. As for the FBI reports that were sent out, the
FBI put its youngest and, I believe, stupidest agents on
the search for subversives and they were remarkably
naive. They were a group of people whose ears would perk
up and they would gasp whenever anyone would mention
anything connected with Communist or left-wing influence.
They were like a horde of locusts descending without any
thought or discrimination. They’d send over their
reports including raw, unevaluated gossip and suspicions
to the Departments, and the Departments would agonize
over them. In the Interior Department, as Solicitor,
they came to me and I would glance at them and send them
to the file room. Nobody cared one thing about them, a
most refreshing attitude.
The main event that led to the parting of the ways
between Truman and Ickes was one which I have since
thought that I should have stopped somehow, but didn’t.
Ed Pauley, an oil man, had been nominated as Under
Secretary of the Navy, not a position of momentous
importance, but Pauley had, a year or two before, had an
interview with Ickes — Ickes and Fortas, as a matter of
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fact (Fortas was then the Under Secretary), in which he
said that there was $400,000 available for the Democratic
National Committee if the , i.e., the Interior
Department, abandoned its claim that the United States
owned the offshore oil. Ickes had a habit of making a
daily diary entry, not all of which were temperate or of
sound judgment, but he recorded this whole conversation.
When Pauley was nominated, the Committee, I think, on
Naval Affairs, maybe Armed Services, I can’t recall the
title at that time, knew that Mr. Ickes had a grudge
against Pauley and asked him to testify. On the part of
caution, or of reason, I should have insisted, as
Solicitor, that he take flight from it, saying that his
job didn’t include the Navy Department, or passing
judgment on the President’s nominations. But, instead,
he marched up there and said that Pauley was a man trying
to subvert integrity. He had cleared with Truman, he
said, after a cabinet meeting. Ickes said that he had
been called by the Senate and wasn’t entirely clear what
to do. Truman had said, “Tell the truth, Harold, but be
charitable.” (Laugh) He told the truth, but being
charitable was a trait that he had not
learned. So Truman was furious. Ickes, in turn, was
furious. Fortas, who had by that time resigned, with
an instinct for compromise or an instinct for
preservation, as you view it, said yes, he had been at
that meeting, and Pauley’s words could have been
construed to mean an offer of money, to withdraw
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the claim to offshore oil, but it wasn’t all that clear
to him.
·Well, I could go on almost on any topic you can
think of. Ickes’ course was always belligerent, and I
think almost invariably on the right side. He and I got
along pretty well. I had reached the point that I could
write a blustering speech that was a little hard to tell
from the original. I did a fair amount of his speech
writing, but I was defeated once. There was a meeting in
Chicago to honor Senator George Norris, a very great
liberal from, I believe, Nebraska or North Dakota who was
close to retiring. And Ickes went out to give an
encomium at that dinner honoring Norris. He felt
strongly enough about this one to write his own draft.
I can remember even the pagination. It was thirteen
pages long. The first half-page praised Norris and down
at the bottom of the page he said Norris was not like
Mayor Thompson. Ickes came from Chicago and had a yearslong
feud with the then Mayor Thompson. For the next
twelve pages he denounced Mayor Thompson. On the last
page he said, “As I said earlier, George Norris was not
like Mayor Thompson. He was a great Senator.” There
followed the requisite praise for three-quarters of the
last page. He asked me to go over it and smooth it down.
I found it impossible to do anything with it, other than
just scrapping it and starting out with a brand new
speech and I wasn’t anxious to take on that. Beyond
offending Ickes, it would take a day’s time we
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didn’t have. I regret to say that I told him I thought
it was so good a talk that I couldn’t do anything to
improve it.
I don’t know of anything in the law work at the
Interior Department that was a particular attraction.
The lawyers there, with a few exceptions, were
indifferent. I had a good time principally because of
Ickes and also the Interior Department was doing a lot of
important things often contradictory to each other.
There were about a dozen bureaus each wit? its own agenda
and the internal conflicts were momentous and therefore
it was an interesting place to be. Ickes’ abrupt
departure, through a series of accidents, left me largely
in control of the Department for a few months and highly
influential for my final year under Secretary Krug. So
it was a good experience.
Now what about Abe Fortas? What are your
recollections of him?
Brilliant. Very good judgment on most things, but rather
self-consciously cast in the street-wise tough category,
which wasn’t always very attractive.
What do you mean by that?
He would take a very cynical view of almost anything both
in general and in particular to the specific issue.
Nothing that he did at the Interior Department gave me
any concern and there were a lot of things that I
thought were entirely good and efficient. It was largely
the Supreme Court experience that rather soured
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me on his general nature. One, at a dinner party or two
he would be very outspoken in cynical criticism of the
Supreme Court Justices. They were sort of degraded in
his thought and his conversation.
Was this when he was on the Court?
Just after he was on the Court. When he was on the
Court, I was offended, but did not then appreciate quite
the degree to which he continued as an advisor and a
disastrous advisor to Lyndon Johnson. He gave perhaps
the most influential of the vastly mistaken “hawk” advice
on Vietnam. I had a fair amount to do with him when he
was the Under Secretary and I was Solicitor. Until I
left for my own war, we had a completely satisfactory
relationship. He never interfered in any way with the
law work that was being done, neither appointments, nor
opinions and so on. He was very helpful on the policy
issues in which the Department was engaged.
How did his brilliance come through? You said he
was brilliant. How did you experience that?
Largely the quality of his mind. The quickness in which
he grasped issues, cut to the heart of them. There was
almost nothing that he didn’t understand. Very effective
Very effective?
Very effective man. I guess I was closest with him in
our little war with the Army over Hawaiian martial law.
We had about a six-month campaign to restore a civilian
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government. The Army and the Navy lost a large a portion
of our fighting forces at Pearl Harbor, but they captured
one Japanese sailor and gained control of the civilian
government and they were not going to give it up. The
Army training is to expect, to be prepared for the
absolute worst and the population of Hawaii was, to a
very large extent, of Japanese-origin and so, therefore,
by Army wartime standards, they ought to be kept in close
and unflinching control.
Now why was the Department of Interior involved in
that issue?
Hawaii was not a state but was a territory and among the
Interior responsibilities were the territories and
possessions of the United States.
Now in 1942 there was a coal miners strike. Did
you have some involvement in those issues?
At a little before 5:00 p.m. one afternoon, Ickes called
a meeting of two or three division heads and himself and
said that the President had decided to seize the coal
mines in order to prevent a strike by John Lewis which
would have been exceedingly unfortunate in terms of war
production, and of our whole war effort, and that he had
asked Mr. Ickes to take control of the nations 3,000
mines the next day. That’s a rather formidable
assignment to get done.
In a day?
In a day. Everybody fell to, and I and one or two other
lawyers drafted a series of regulations not having the
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faintest idea of what the problems were or what we were
dealing with, but put some together overnight. The
publicity man got the Government Printing Office to print
overnight and delivered 5,000 or 10,000 big posters
saying, “This Mine is Now Property of The United States.”
A skeleton supervisory operation was set up based on
largely Bureau of Mines offices, and some regional
offices were established in the space of — not the next
day; it was two days later before the alleged takeover
took place. And the whole thing, of course, was a
semantic fraud in one sense. The same management
continued under the name of — I forget what we called
them — in any event, they were theoretically agents of
the United States. Lewis was happy enough to have a
face-saving arrangement, and sent the men back to work
and everything went along nicely.
When I came back to Interior after a two-year
absence at the end of the war, there had been another
takeover during another coal strike during the war which
I had nothing to do with, then the third one came along
and we — I may have been Assistant Secretary by that
time, at least I was acting in that capacity, and — were
right back in the same old swamp, but it eventually
worked again. It started to unravel when Lewis decided
he’d breach a contract he’d made with the Interior
Department and we finally forced the Department of
Justice to file suit for an injunction and then for
contempt because of his violation. They were very
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You were saying the Department of Justice brought
a contempt action and Lewis ignored the
Yes. And, the Union was fined, I think, $3.5 million
dollars and Lewis had a personal fine which I later
learned was paid with a United Mine Workers check. It
turned out alright in the end and I learned not put my
feet up on the table. That was a painful instruction,
but effective. The Navy Department was asked to do the
mechanics of running the mines and Captain Collison, a
splendid fellow, who had been running seized industries
during the war, was given the job.
I’m sorry, say that again?
The would seize the plant.
Or I think not, outside of coal, not the industry, but
if there was a recalcitrance or if there were labor
problems threatening the shutdown of a plant which was
considered indispensable to the war effort, the would
seize it and Collison was one of the most professional
seizors. He was a very good man, and we ended up, he and
I, two short, not very commanding men negotiating with
the mine workers who would arrive
twenty strong. They had a negotiating tactic which was
terribly demoralizing though I’m not sure that it ever
produced anything for them. The other side would say
something, then there would be a dead silence for ten
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minutes, fifteen minutes, all twenty men sitting there,
not moving, no expression, just frozen. It’s a nervewracking
experience. The expectation was that Collison
or I, after a time would break down and say something.
Who knows what it might be. Once, about ten minutes into
that silence, there came a deep rumble from the other
side of the table which as I recall went roughly this
way: The miners of this nation, in their soot-covered,
blood-stained bodies and their widows grieving for their
deaths do not in any way appreciate seeing a young lawyer
from Harvard sitting around with his feet on the table
making light of their desperation. I could reply only
that I went to Columbia not Harvard, and I left my feet
on the table until I saw an appropriate moment when I
could inconspicuously remove them. I guess I did, when
we next got to talking about something. But, I think
I’ve never put my feet on a desk or a table in the 50
years or 60 years since then.
Was John L. Lewis at any of these negotiations?
Oh yes. To my recollection he was one that improved my
manners — my feet on table manners.
And what was your impression of him?
Remarkably effective. Uneducated, but he’d married a
schoolteacher who had sort of engrafted a large
acquaintance of Shakespeare and the Bible into his
vocabulary. Fearless, and in many ways an honorable man.
In general, unless it were too important, what he said
he would do, he did. By and large a good man and
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unquestionably an effective labor leader.
What prompted your decision to go into the Army?
It didn’t require much prompting. It was unique among
our wars and adventures in my lifetime, in that I totally
agreed with the need for war. On the personal side, my
wife, a British girl, had a brother who was a doctor in
the British Army who had stayed behind at the Dunkirk
evacuation to care for the field hospital. He was a
German prisoner for a good bit of the war, and I wasn’t
comfortable being a employee at a safe little desk.
Beyond that, the social pressures were obviously very
high and one did not want to be sitting at a safe
comfortable place simply because he was a official. I
had given Ickes advance warning before joining the
I am reminded, when I was stationed in England
during the war, of a lovely little tale which I believe
to have been true, that standing in the Underground
awaiting a train there was a British colonel in full and
ostentatious uniform and a young man in civilian clothes.
The colonel addressed him, “Why aren’t you in uniform,
young man?” The young man said, “I am in the foreign
office and you don’t wear uniforms.” The colonel
proceeded to denounce him and the young man said,
“Colonel, if it weren’t for the foreign office, you
wouldn’t have your bloody war.”
I had, as a matter of fact, nearly a year long
battle with Ickes and Fortas. I felt that I had to get
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into the war, but on the other hand I had no desire to
get in and be treated as unfit for combat service. I
quite agreed that it would be foolish to climb into a
soldier’s uniform in order to do typist work, but on the
other hand I did not want to avoid the prospect of combat
duty simply because I was a employee. Ickes could not
conceive that anything in the Army was more important
than being a useful member of his administration. At one
point we had worked out a compromise that I would go
through a physical examination with a group being
drafted. If I came out lA which meant fit for duty, he
would not object to my going, if I came out lB, I would
not object to staying. So I marched over to Ft. Myer one
day having made arrangements to be examined with that
day’s group of draftees.
The Army was then deeply segregated, there was no
black and white mixture whatever, and it happened to be
a black day at Ft. Myer and I was an object of
considerable curiosity and one of the doctors began to
wonder, black doctors of course, wondered about my
psychiatric stability coming over on a black day to be
examined. Well, in any event, I turned out to be lB.
But, then the Draft Board subjected me to a fairly
perfunctory physical examination and ended up
classifying me lA. I wanted two months to clean up
things and the Draft Board wasn”t going to give me
two months. So there was an appeal on that by the
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Department. The Draft Board was reversed and then the
discussion at the Department continued .
. At some point, we put it up to the White House. I
drafted a letter for Ickes, one of the few times in his
life he’d ever presented two positions. His view, that I
should stay and do important work where I was and my
view, that a young man ought not to avoid draft with a
convenient job, and sent it over to the White House. I
am quite sure that I fell into a trap on that one,
because on the same afternoon the reply came back saying
that I had to stay with Ickes.
Then, a friend of mine, Telford Taylor, undertook to
recruit me. He had gone into something called the
Special Branch in the Army intelligence, in charge of a
man named McCormick who was a laivyer at Cravath; he had
been Stone’s first law clerk as a matter of fact. He
built up a staff largely by hearsay and not accidentally
it was largely composed of lawyers. They were a very
talented group whose job was to organize and disseminate
information that was being derived by intercepting and
deciphering messages of the Japanese and occasionally of
the Germans. We specialized on the Japanese and Britain
specialized on Germany. Britain was actually far ahead
of us in the business.
In the Pentagon the task was to get out a daily
summary of the intercepted information which went to a
very selective small group, starting with the President
and going dovm to particular generals and admirals in
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the armed services. It was a closely held, deeply held
secret, for obvious reasons: once suspected by the
enemy, the advantage was gone. So Taylor joined in as
McCormick’s principal assistant, I think. He didn’t tell
me what it was but gave me a general notion that it was a
job in which I would enjoy and in return would be useful.
We didn’t get very far the first time because Ickes
said he would release me only if he could be shown that
my work would be more important there than at the
Interior. Well, there were two obstacles, nobody could
persuade Ickes that anything was more important than his
own work, and the second thing was they couldn’t begin to
say what they were doing. That impasse was in the
Spring, I guess of ’43.
Then, we were left alone for a,;,-.rhile, until the Draft
Board, which had a very strong prejudice against anyone
avoiding the draft for reasons as frivolous as work, got
into the act again. They classified me lA with almost
immediate induction, and I and Interior agreed on a
limited appeal, this was then about June, I guess, to
delay induction until September 1. I’d been assigned a
little task of — I forget what that job was, but it was
something I couldn’t very well stop.
The Special Branch came back at me again and I was,
by this time, more than a little anxious to join them,
because I did not want to end up being an Army typist
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and I wasn’t at all sure how far I would get in my
bloodthirsty dreams of being a combat soldier. So I said
yes,. I would. But they had a rule, the Army had a rule
that they wouldn’t commission anyone who was subject to a
draft call. Ickes wouldn’t let me go, but one way or
another McCormick worked it around so the Army waived its
rule and Ickes more or less gave up at that point. So, I
then had two orders for September 1, one from the draft
board to show up for induction and one from the adjutant
general to report for duty as a Captain. I obviously
chose the latter over the former, and just wrote the
draft board a letter about a week before the time saying
I would …
Accept another offer?
Yes. I was lacer told that the appeal board in the
District distrusted the local draft board, actually
“watching” it before appeals were taken, and had things
ready to reverse it again in my case, but happily didn’t
have to.
So where did you spend your time in the Army?
The army experience was a remarkably good one. There
were only a handful of people in the 7 million brought
into the Army that were in the job for which they were
well adapted and which they liked and that was my case.
After training in the Camp Ritchie Intelligence Camp up
in the mountains here and in the Pentagon for a couple of
months, I was sent over to England to join the British
group at Bletchley that was decoding the German
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messages. The job there was to decipher the intercepted
message, translate it, separate the important from the
unimportant, file them, send out the important messages
immediately to the Prime Minister, to the defense
ministers and to a few of the military commanders. It
required a very large degree of imagination and
intelligence and ability to decipher the messages and
somewhat lower requirements for my work, to organize the
material and do short understandable messages to the
I got along with the British pretty well. They were
bringing in Americans as a gesture of goodwill and also
in order to ensure that they got the Japanese intercepts.
When Europe was invaded, Bletchley started sending out,
to the American units as well as the British, selected
reports of the decoded German messages. They would go to
Allied Headquarters, down to Army group and to Army
level, but not below Army level and not to anyone who
stood in any danger of being captured. In our Army group
I think there were five generals and one colonel who were
made aware of it and who received the briefing based on
the messages from Bletchley. The messages were similarly
restricted elsewhere. With the Prime Minister and the
Ministers for Navy and War and two or three other people
in the civilian government added in the total circulation
would be probably about fifty people.
The work got through the entire war without the
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Germans ever suspecting it. It failed only one time, at
the Battle of the Bulge. There was quite a build up of
German divisions between the Rhine and the Ardennes,
apparently of divisions withdrawn for rest and refit and
anything we could tell from the intercepted messages
showed that’s what they were doing. But actually the
Germans, not because of fear of decoding, but because of
fear of leaks in the officer corps of the German Army,
did not use their usual coded wireless transmissions, but
had sent out personal couriers to the commanders to
protect against the Ardennes breakout being known too far
down in the German ranks. Well, they not only protected
it from the Germans but from us as well.
How many people worked on this project?
It got to be a fairly large number. In the Sixth Army
group there were two people, Les Rood and me, on the,
what you might call, front line of talking. We got the
messages and organized them and briefed the generals
every morning — I on the ground war and he on the air.
And then there was a British signals detachment who came
along with us. Ten or fifteen men who managed the
technicalities of the transmission of messages between
Bletchley and our headquarters. And, that would be
repeated to five Army and Air groups and there would be a
similar but smaller detachment, without the Air, at
the Army level. So in the American and the British
field groups there will be maybe fifty officers, 150
British technicians and in Bletchley there was a much
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larger operation.
Bletchley which was the center of the decoding with
several hundred people. The technical cryptanalysts were
pretty rigidly separated–! was never even in the
building in which the cryptanalysis was done–and then
maybe a hundred people on the straight intelligence side
using the material as it was given to them. In any
event, it was a good experience and one to which I was
fairly well adapted, getting the information in, and
organizing it. Keeping the generals’ attention was a
little like a kindergarten class in some ways and an
appellate court in other ways. I was completely happy
and I think reasonably effective.
Are there other high points of your service in the
Army that you would like to talk about?
Well, let’s spend a moment on what was probably the peak
of my wartime briefing of the generals. Just after the
Battle of the Bulge, the start of which I had mistaken,
though it wasn’t our business, it was just a casual look
at somebody else’s sector. General Devers, a lovely man
whose intelligence I didn’t greatly respect, said that he
was worried about those German troops assembled for rest
and refit because Germany had traditionally burst out of
the Ardennes when they started WWI and again in WWII. I
explained to him rather patronizingly that it was quite
different now because then they could gather in the
wooded area and break into the open. But, here
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they would have to fight their way into the Ardennes.
You’re saying here they had to break into the
Yes, which had only one road going through it and where a
troop movement could be decimated by the air. And he
agreed, “Well, I guess you”re right Major.” Well, he was
right and I was wrong. But at the end of campaign the
Germans went to an enormous effort to persuade us that
when retreating from the Bulge they were going to go
south and into the 6th Army Group territory. We were
much weakened because we’d sent off two or three
divisions to Bradley and the 12th Army Group. The
Germans sent false messages, they left plans in the
pockets of dead officers, went through the whole routine
of undertaking to persuade us that we were about to be
attacked by the German army pulling back. Eisenhower and
his Intelligence Officer, a General Strong, a Britisher,
came down to talk to Devers about it. They took a train
overnight, and the next morning Eisenhower and Devers and
Strong and I debated the matter. Strong was of the view
that the Germans were going to strike south as a logical
last gasp for them and I was of the view that they were
not. I had the advantage over him in that he had not
received that night’s decryption because he had come down
on a train but by and large I had I thought a much better
case anyway. We debated it for a couple of hours and
then …
With Eisenhower?
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Yes, he and Devers and nobody else. They sat there
without a comment while Strong and I carried on our long
debate. At the end, Eisenhower without hesitation,
without consultation, just said “Well, I think they”re
not coming south,” got up and left. Devers said,
amiably, that he would not have believed it if somebody
had told him that a civilian major who can’t even stand
up straight had cost him three divisions. Three
divisions and perpetual glory as well. Because if he had
those three divisions, and no major German opposition, he
could have cut across the Rhine and the southern part of
Germany and the glory of winning the war would have been
his. On the other hand, every American general detested
the British and he was delighted to see the British
general done in. In any event, was probably my
Wow, that is a high point.
It left me with considerable admiration for Eisenhower.
And then at the end of the war you came back to
the Department of Interior for a short time and
then in 1947 went into private practice.
That’s right.
Let me just ask you to look back at your service
in the , just reflect on it for a
minute, what jobs did you like the most, what were
the high points — just some of your reflections
about working in .
Well, on the civilian side I had a steady downhill run
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from the Solicitor General’s office which was one of the
most interesting and maybe in a way the job to which I
was best adapted. That required high-speed work of
considerable consequence using all of the legal ability
that I had. The business of oral argument — where I was
adequate, not outstanding I don’t believe — was
engrossing. For six years there I was completely happy,
but I think that it’s well that I left. People get stale
and get numb. No other civilian job was as interesting
nor where I was as completely sure that I was as
effective as I would like to be.
The Army job was absolutely engrossing and to the
extent that military intelligence could ever be fatal or
helpful, I suppose it was in that sense the most
important job that I ever had, as thousands of lives
could well turn on a conclusion that I had developed.
When you were in the Army, in Intelligence, how
did you spend your time? Did you spend a lot of
your time briefing generals or did you spend it
interpreting messages?
You keep tempting me into long explanations.
little bit in the Pentagon and at Bletchley.
It ?aried a
The job
was to receive the decrypted raw material and in both
places every fragment was filed. I was not concerned
with the filing but it was a tool of great importance,
because one fragment here one fragment there and so on
often added up to something important. But the
immediate objective at both places was getting the
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information compressed into intelligible form and out to
the people who would act upon it. In the Pentagon when I
was there which was the fall of ’43, operations were just
getting underway. We weren’t sending it out to the field
units but only to the President, the armed service
Secretaries. I don’t know how far down we went,
certainly the Chief of Staff and probably to the Chiefs
of Staff of the several services but that was as far down
as we went. In any event, it was a daily publication of
about three to six pages which we would put together and
circulate. Circulate by an armed officer who would stand
by while it was read, collect the paper after it was
read, bring it back and destroy it. Security was very,
very close and, in the long run, necessary but often
In Bletchley we did much the same thing except we
didn’t put out a magazine. We sent out messages directly
to the civilian leaders of the war and to the service and
unit heads. These were individual messages based upon
something that we thought ought to go to them so they
would go out and not be organized into a general
discussion. That was essentially selection,
condensation, composition and sending out a message that
people could act upon. In the Army group, our job was to
receive the messages from Bletchley that came in,
organize and compress them and primarily to tell the
commanding generals.
We had a 15 or 20 minute briefing each morning at
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Mr. Schultz:
9:00 a.m., to get that information into the head of
commanding general Devers and his chiefs of operation and
supply, a group of about half a dozen people. That
required a fair amount of plain showmanship. Generals
were ordinarily not much interested in the detail of
intelligence, but after a very slow start at which for
the most part they ignored me, once they tried the daily
morning briefing, at the end of October, not one of them
ever failed to show up for the rest of the war. I had a
fairly interested audience. We’d have a large map about
the size of that bay window and stick on tabs that
represented what we considered to be the daily position
of the German divisions and our own divisions. When the
headquarters moved we would just take the plywood map,
cover it over and put it in a heavily-armed truck, go to
the new office, and set it up.
My job there was essentially collecting this
information, organizing and presenting it briefly and as
effectively as I could in 15 or 20 minutes. Our office
was the only secure place in the Army group because
nobody could come in without being cleared for Ultra.
The generals sort of enjoyed their hiding place and this
made it a doubly interesting job. They’d often stay on
for half an hour and informally talk and plan as they
couldn’t do in a larger meeting. So it was not a happy
life but a very good life.
Did you do all the briefings or most of them? How
was that divided?
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Mr. Gardner:
Mr. Schultz:
Mr. Gardner:
Mr. Schultz:
Mr. Gardner:
Mr. Schultz:
Mr. Gardner:
I did all of the Ultra.
All the what?
The decoded or decrypted material was called Ultra. I
did all of the Ultra. My colleague Rood at the start
would do it on the air side but the German air force got
to be so unimportant — it was largely destroyed by the
last half year of the war — he then launched a
substitute topic, the German supply situation. There was
in addition an, by no means unimportant, intelligence
briefing by the regular intelligence staff from the
conventional sources of air reconnaissance, prisoner
interrogation, secret agents reports, and so on, the
production of which I had nothing to do with.
And then you would do the briefing on Ultra
Intelligence affecting the ground war?
Was that every day?
It would take the better part of the day and the evening
before to get on top of the messages, selecting,
organizing and so on. I was also supposed to send back
to Bletchley the material from the open intelligence that
I thought Bletchley might be interested in. That was a
secondary job. I had all the open intelligence coming
into me as well as Ultra, but I didn’t do very much with
it. I tried to keep a notebook ready containing all
German troop data, from all our intelligence sources,
“open” in blue and “Ultra” in red. One rather
entertaining bit arose when a prisoner of war
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Mr. Schultz:
Mr. Gardner:
or an agent, I can”t remember which, had said that a
named German armored division had stopped in Strasbourg
to get gas. I thought that was interesting information
so I sent it back to Bletchley and then within a half an
hour had an anguished message in reply. We had been
sending poison gas over to Europe in the event the
Germans started using it. We stored much of it in
Marseilles, as we didn’t have the train space to move our
urgent supplies plus a contingent asset such as poison
gas. When I said that the 15th, just to use an arbitrary
number, the 15th armored division had stopped in
Strasbourg to get gas that triggered a vast activity.
People immediately replanned train movements from the
Mediterranean up to the front and started to prepare
protective troop directions. Back came a message asking
when I’d said “gas” did I mean “gas” or was I using a
vulgar Americanism for petrol?
So the Solicitor General’s office and the Special
Branch of military intelligence were the two places I
felt were probably the best part of the public part of my
working life, and automatically the best overall, since
the next fifty years were somewhat less impressive to me
than the first thirteen.
In 1947 you went into private practice. What were the
circumstances of that decision?
They were multiple. One, I had a general feeling that it
was time I got back to the law. I hadn’t really been
doing law work as opposed to administrative work since I
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left the Solicitor General’s Office. I had taken a few
cases arguing before the Supreme Court from the Labor
Depa?trnent and from the Interior Department. That was
only sport and not extended work in the law. Secondly, I
had a suspicion, though this was not an important factor,
that the Democratic days were about over and I had got to
a point where I could not reasonably expect to stay on
after a change in Administration.
Third, I didn’t like Oscar Chapman. After Ickes’
quarrel with Truman he submitted a resignation in rnidFebruary,
resigning as of March 15. Truman accepted it
effective at once and made Oscar, the only remaining
Assistant Secretary, Acting Secretary. Well, no one,
much less Oscar, was able to discharge that job. So
Chapman and I, as Solicitor, had to do a lot of fancy
work persuading Justice, and 0MB finally, of the need for
executive orders so I could also act as Assistant
Secretary. We worked out a jury-rigged compromise so I
could be Acting Secretary in the absence of Chapman. I
construed “absence” very broadly, so that I disposed of
unimportant matters as Acting Secretary and sent
important matters on to Chapman with my recommendation.
When Krug was appointed Secretary, he naturally made
Chapman Under Secretary. But we preserved our “Acting
Secretary” arrangement, eventually succeeded by a more
accurate title when I became an Assistant Secretary.
That is, papers corning in to the Secretarial level would
come through me and I would dispose of unimportant
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matters. If important, I would send it on to the
Secretary or Under Secretary. I would thus have as
gateKeeper adequate knowledge, and usually control of
what happened in this Department and I was relatively
content. I had a few episodes with Chapman which I found
distressing but I don’t think I need go into that. I
wasn”t anxious to keep working under him and so I thought
well it’s time to give up life as a bureaucrat.
Columbia had been regularly after me to come back and
teach as had a fair number of other law schools on one
occasion or another. I just assumed I would end up
teaching law. So, I told Columbia that I would by fall
be prepared to leave the and to teach. They said they
couldn’t offer me a good teaching schedule for a while
until people retired. The professor who had the courses
that I would particularly want would retire in two or
three years. But, in the meantime I would have to teach
commercial law or take charge of moot courts or do things
I didn’t particularly want to do.
While I was debating that, Frank Shea was putting
together a law office with Fred Greenman. They had
envisioned two small offices, one in New York and one in
Washington, Greenman in charge of the New York one and
Frank in charge of the Washington one. Frank set out to
recruit me.
When Frank got something in mind, he pursued it with
full vigor. He and I had known each other for all the
time I had been in Washington. We hadn’t been
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Mr. Schultz:
Mr. Gardner:
particularly close and had never, for example, so much as
lunched together. Indeed, we had some splendid quarrels
at the Justice Department. We had lunch together in midFebruary,
and I believe every week thereafter until I
succumbed. By the end of the month I concluded that I
did not want to move a large family to New York in order
to teach commercial law, and I agreed with Frank to try
it. I had never before set foot in a law office and had
never expected to. As you have discovered, in the you
expect lawyers to come to your office. I had never set
foot in a law office; I had no idea what they did and I
didn’t expect to stay in one too long.
You didn’t stay too long, only fifty years.
It’s getting on to fifty-one.