Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
Once more W.D. Pawley has a special assignment to help save people.This time in India.
Political intrigue at its best....or is it the worst? Read on!
FOR STATE IN INDIA - FOR DEFENSE IN EUROPE
After I had been in the State Department for a short while, President Truman asked me to help George McGhee, Assistant secretary of State, to persuade the Senate to make the wheat available to India which that country so desperately needed to avert famine. McGhee know that I had not forgotten the terrible spectacle of hundreds of corpses being gathered up daily in the streets when I was building aircraft and producing ammonium sulphate fertilizer in India. He needed all the help he could get in enlisting the support of such powerful figures as Senator Tom Connally, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Prime Minister Nehru of India had asked the United States to provide 200 million bushels of wheat to avert starvation. Although about 90% of the Indian people were farmers, the country was running millions of tons short of its grain requirement.
The root causes were legion. Among them were overpopulation, religious beliefs that ruled out the culling and slighter of animals, lack of modern agricultural knowhow, equipment, fertilizer and seeds. All of this in an environment of appalling ignorance and superstition. Many, if not most, of these deficiencies were the accumulated heritage of age-old institutions that could be altered only gradually, and as of this writing still prevail.
One crucial plague of Indian agriculture I felt could be remedied quickly, given good will and a practical and constructive attitude on the part of those ruling India. That shortcoming was the lack of adequate fertilizer production. And that was uppermost in my mind when I climbed the steps of the Capitol to attend the hearings of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee which concerned India.
I discovered that American business interests were indignant over an Indian embargo of monazite sands, which the United States needed for its content of thorium and rare earth compounds. Other American concerns were complaining about difficulties in importing jute and bagging. Some business groups were demanding to know why it was up to us to feed India when she seemed to be going out of way to give us a hard time.
On top of this, India was unpopular with both Congress and the public at large. Nehru had been accepting our aid then kicking us in the teeth with attacks on our alleged “imperialism,” aping the Communist line. His powerful and sinister representative at the United Nations, Krishna Menon, was an outspoken Communist mouthpiece who lost few opportunities to take a jarring fall out of Uncle Sam. Given these circumstances, it was not surprising that many Senators were inclined towards a view of “to hell with India,” which would not make my mission any easier.
I began searching for some approach by which I would carry out Mr. Truman’s desires by softening the anti-Indian Government attitudes in the Senate sufficiently to gain approval for the needed shipments of wheat. It occurred to me that one solution might lie in proposing to the Senators that we tie the wheat loan to procurement of Indian monazite sands for our atomic energy and aircraft jet engine programs. The idea stemmed from the years when I was building the Travancore ammonium sulphate plant, and Indian industrialists and scientists had endeavored to extract the thorium and seventeen rare earths from the black sands of the beaches of Travancore.
Distasteful as it might be to deal with a ruler with a penchant for biting the hand that fed him, George McGhee and I agreed that the United States could not stand idly aside while millions of innocent Indians died of hunger. Therefore, I asked Senator Brian McMahon, the distinguished chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, to invite McGhee and me to a dinner so that we could discuss the Indian problem with members of the Foreign Relations Committee. About ten senators attended.
I suggested that we make the wheat available to India, not as a loan, but under the Economic Cooperation Act of 1950. This meant that we would provide the Indian Government with 200 million bushels of wheat, worth approximately two hundred millions dollars or one billion rupees, which the Government would acquire by selling the wheat in the Indian market. Under the ECA program, we would have a veto over how this money was spent. The purpose of handling the transaction this way rather than as a direct loan as requested by Nehru, was to give the Indian Government sufficient funds to initiate a much needed agricultural development plan. The program would provide farmers and peasants with the tools, seeds, technical know how and fertilizers, from plants to be built in India, necessary for a substantial increase in their grain production.
Seldom far from my thoughts was a consideration that transcended the immediate specter of famine. India’s vast territory was a strategic area which the Soviets were determined to attract into their orbit. Grain could be more than a pawn in the international poker game, as we shall see.
I reminded the Senators that I had tried some five or six years before, to launch substantially the same program that now put forward, with the ammonium sulphate plant as a launching pad. At that time, we had given Indian farmers fertilizer on credit and shown them how to bring new acreage into cultivation and dramatically increase yields on existing land. We had obtained repayment of our loans from the sale of the farmer’s crops. As the Indians saw the advantages of our scientific farming methods, they came to us for more tools, advice and fertilizer.
The program had started so auspiciously that it looked like the entering wedge in a basic transformation of Indian agriculture. To carry it on, however, we had needed dollars to import machinery and equipment, to buy tools and to pay our American staff. For reasons of its own, the Indian Government refused to permit us to obtain this foreign currency in exchange for our rupees, and, consequently, that plan had to be abandoned.
With adequate counterpart funds, I argued, I believed India could now forge ahead and carry out essentially the same plan on a scale sufficient for a fundamental modernization of Indian agriculture. There was a reasonable hope that India could be made self-sufficient in food and this avert the constant nightmare of hunger and famine. From an economic standpoint, it made more sense to provide the Indians with the equipment they needed to feed themselves than to ship two million tons of wheat halfway around the world.1 The Indian demand on us for wheat meant taking thirty-five of our obsolete World War II vintage freighters out of mothballs.Shipping charges on the grain along would be higher than the cost of the grain itself.
I expressed my willingness to fly to India and do my best to get the program off the ground if the Senators would agree to authorize it. Additionally, I would work to crack the embargo which Nehru and his advisers had imposed on the export of monazite sands and derivatives, on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission.
The Senators like the approach and suggested that I appear next day as the sole witness to testify before their Committee on the Indian question. I accepted, talked for several hours, and McGhee and I left the Committee meeting with a unanimous vote of approval. The full Senate quickly followed suit, approving this vast shipment of wheat!
On May 1, 1951, Nehru dropped the first of a salvo of verbal bombs, manufactured, at least partially, in the Soviet Union. He denounced the American offer. Admitting that “the specter of famine certainly hovers over the land,” he had the gall to proclaim to the world that he would not accept food from any country if it had “any political strings” attached. “We would be unworthy,” he added, “if we bartered away in the slightest degree our country’s self-respect or freedom of action even for something which we need so badly.”
Nehru let it be known that India took “strong exception” to the conditions which we had suggested and which had been incorporated in the Senate bill. These requirements, which he considered, or pretended to consider, offensive to this country’s “self-respect,” were threefold. He took umbrage at our insistence on specifying the manner in which India would distribute our food. He also objected that the source of the gift to the Indian government be adequately publicized.
My own hunch was that Nehru’s third, and true concern, centered on the question of conceding to the United States the power jointly to allocate the billion rupees of funds in projects for the benefit of the Indian people. What he wanted, I was sure, was sole control over these vast funds for his own political ends. This was incompatible with having American observers on the spot, which would be one of our requirements. Further, it soon became quite obvious that he had no intention of giving us any more credit than he had to, for our philanthropy.
When Nehru’s bomb landed on the floor of the Senate, which was close to a vote, it immediately derailed the wheat bill. Even The New York Times slapped Nehru’s wrist editorially and went so far as to characterize his rejection of the grain as “unnecessary, tactless and injudicious.”2
Rather than accept total defeat in seeing through to a conclusion President Truman’s desire to help feed the starving people of India, George McGhee and I were compelled to fall back on a compromise stratagem: To give the wheat to India on a 50 year “loan” basis. Everyone in Washington knew, of course, that the leaders of India would never make even a token effort to repay such a loan. Under the new proposal Nehru would have what he wanted, namely, control of the billion rupees for his socialist aims. If we did not give this to him, he would apparently be willing to live with the death by starvation of millions of his subjects. We Americans had thinner skins. The Committee went along with us, approving the 50 year loan with reluctance.
Nehru quickly provided us with a demonstration of the speed of his political footwork. He withheld any public announcement of the new agreement until May 12th, when he first revealed to the press that Moscow had come to the rescue, and that Russian grain was already on the way to save the starving.
Waiting for an hour, and almost as an afterthought, he threw away the really big story that the new American wheat-for-India bill appeared acceptable to his Government. Informed Americans shared the indignation which can be read between the lines of The New York Times dispatch on the subject, May 13, 1951:
“U.S. AIDES IN INDIA SEE PRESTIGE LOSS:New Delhi, May 12 -- U.S. officials are chagrined at the pro-Soviet feeling engendered here by the shipment of Russian wheat to the nation announced on the same day that Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru announced the terms for much larger U.S. aid. Mr. Nehru himself contributed to a major Communist propaganda gain among India's hungry millions by the dramatic announcement in Parliament Thursday that ‘Russian ships with wheat have started for India.’ He referred to a relatively minor 50,000 ton purchase.
“Only an hour later did he tell Parliament that he saw no political strings attached to the famine relief bills in the U.S. Congress to supply India with 2,000,000 tons of wheat. The result was that the American move was obscured by the start of the Russian shipment.”
The Soviet’s token shipment actually amounted to less that three percent of the U.S. commitment and was only one half of what our country had already been delivering every month, even in the absence of special legislative authority. Yet the Soviet’s drop in the bucket was hailed as India’s salvation. While Moscow got credit, we averted the famine.
On the way to India for the discussion of the wheat and monazite sands programs, accompanied V. Lansing Collins, my assistant, and J. Bruce Hamilton, a top State Department expert on atomic energy, I stopped over in London and Paris and made the brief detour to Madrid mentioned in a previous chapter.
We arrived in New Delhi on June 18 and promptly opened negotiations with Prime Minister Nehru on the food, fertilizer and monazite sands problems. Mindful of Nehru’s antagonistic attitude toward our original plan, we were pleasantly surprised by the apparently fruitful results of our exploratory fencing. But we were unpleasantly surprised in the mundane matter of our personal comfort - a small matter in the abstract, but a very real factor for us humans as a distraction from the business at hand.
It developed that when Ambassador Roy Henderson and his wife left New Delhi for the States a few days before our arrival, he had neglected to leave word with his staff that we could stay in his pleasant, well-staffed, air-conditioned Embassy. Consequently, we repaired to a stifling hotel, minus air-conditioning. Neither was there any relief at the Chancellery, where the air-conditioning system consisted of grass mats hung from the ceiling of the one story building, watered all day like a “desert cooler,” in the 110 degree heat. The breeze provided some relief from the heat, but the humidity was something else. It was unbearable. It seems that we were the innocent victims of a feud between the ambassador and Fritz Larkin, who had the final say on foreign buildings for the State Department.
In this intolerable situation, I brought three good sized air-conditioning units in New Delhi and ordered them installed in the ambassador’s office, in his secretary’s office and in the code room where the staff had to work long hours in maximum discomfort and, understandably, with minimum efficiency. Happily, Larking was my friend, and I am sure that he was too intelligent an administrator to have visited cruel and unusual punishment on the toilers in any American Chancellery in a tropical country without provocation. So I sent him a wire, telling him what I had done, along with the bill, for reimbursement.
Our mission accomplished, so far as was possible at this stage, we returned to the States via Hong Kong and Taiwan, with stopovers in Japan, Burma and Thailand, to obtain first-hand information on the Chinese situation and to appraise CIA activities in the Far East. In Hong Kong I had the pleasure of spending some time with my old friend Walter McConaughy, consul-general and soon to become ambassador. He had served on my staff in Rio.
Fate now dealt me a blow to which there was no counter punch. I learned that my 25 year old son Clifton had been suddenly stricken with polio in Mexico. I flew there, arriving just before he died. Needing to take a “long count,” I accepted a leave from the State Department and returned to the sanctuary of my home in Miami Beach.
But a new challenge gave me the strength to get up off the floor. It came from Bob Lovett, Secretary of Defense.
Any profile of Robert M. Lovett, an Ivy Leaguer from Yale and a Wall Street financier, would have to emphasize that he was a blood brother in many ways to George Marshall, whom he served brilliantly during World War II as his Assistant Secretary of War for Air. Like Marshall, he was gifted with an acute mind, the courage to make decisions, almost invariably wise and with true humility. Faced with any problem, he had a killer instinct for penetrating to its jugular vein. Thus it is not surprising that I welcomed the following letter, inspired by a suggestion made to me by Marshall while he was still Secretary of Defense:
“Personal and Confidential, 25 September 1951.
Dear Bill:You will recall our conversation with General Marshall some time prior to his resignation. I understand that you are about to take a month’s leave from your present duties in the State Department, and before you get too heavily involved in other matters, I wish you would consider the following:
“For some time both General Marshall and I have felt the need for having readily available a trouble shooter that did not normally fall into appropriate staff channels, or to whom we could look for assistance and guidance and action on a complicated matter involving delicate negotiations. I have in mind such things as searching out and recommending remedial action on occasional industrial bottlenecks or production slowdowns, special projects in other countries, and, in general, keeping me out of trouble in certain areas where my regular staff would not normally operate. I don’t know whether this sounds attractive or not - in any event I can assure you it will be varied and certainly not dull.
“I would appreciate your reaction to the foregoing suggesting, and would like to talk to you about it when you return from leave. With warm personal regards, I am very sincerely yours, Bob L.”
On November 20, 1951, I submitted my resignation to Acheson by letter, since he was absent from Washington, adding:
“The only pending matter in connection with my work in the Department of State has to do with certain negotiations with the Government of India. Should you wish me to participate in the closing of this matter, I am sure the Secretary of Defense would have no objections and I would be very happy to do so.”
On the 30th, Acheson wrote me a “Dear Bill” letter from Rome, in which he thanked me for my offer to follow through on the Indian matter and graciously added that I had been a “tremendous help” to him.
I had already received a letter from Eisenhower applauding my decision to join the Department of Defense. On November 24th, he wrote:
“There will never be any lack of opportunity for a devoted, intelligent public servant in that Department to find plenty to occupy his entire attention.”
I was particularly looking forward to working again with General “Pat” Carter, previously Marshall’s right-hand man.
A hectic five months were indeed in store for me at Defense. My first few weeks were devoted to unjamming bottlenecks in procurement of military hardware, which required flying visits to all of our major contractors. Next, I acted on the extremely challenging order which Lovett had put into the following letter, dated January 10, 1952.
“1. As you know, I am greatly concerned about the responsibilities of the Department of Defense in Western Europe, with particular references to France, and wish to assure myself that our politico-military efforts in that area are so organized and so executed as to produce the maximum result and at the same time get the maximum possible return for the U.S. defense dollar expended.”
“2.In your capacity of Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense and as my personal representative, I wish that you would look into all aspects of the U.S. defense effort in Western Europe with this objective in view. As a result, you may care to make recommendations to me on this subject as you go along.I would be delighted to have your views on any aspect of the situation.”
Along with this assignment, Lovett wanted me to look into such specific matters as the “procedures and methods” by which we were providing tactical airfields in France and Germany for support of our NATO ground forces, logistic support facilities, cost-sharing arrangements being negotiated with European NATO members, and the extent to which we should use French construction firms rather than those of other European NATO countries and of the United States. All these areas were extremely technical and sensitive, involving many aggressive personalities.
After considerable preparation, Edna and I left for Paris. My aide, Colonel Ed Harris and I installed ourselves at the Chancellery in offices provided by General Richards, head of Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) in Paris. I conferred with Ambassadors Dunn and Draper, and carried out my instructions from Lovett “to endeavor to secure a more concrete and detailed agreement with the French relating to the joint venture (American-French contracting) for the construction program in France.”
Lovett wanted the airfields needed during 1952 to be built as quickly as possible. Our American Air Force in Europe was operating dangerously close to the Russian border, hence the urgency of moving back to the eight air bases planned on French soil.
In general, I would be free to assign construction contracts of up to a certain amount to U.S. firms at my own discretion. On larger projects, no action would be taken unless the contractor designated by the French Government was behind schedule thirty days after the work started. In that case, I was empowered to “assume direct supervision and management of the contract,” recontract with another French firm, preferable one associated with an American enterprise, or employ NATO engineering troops in France.
I was given two priorities:the construction of the eight air bases, and the creation of a single line of communications from the coast into Germany for the three military services. And I was authorized to inform the French Cabinet that while NATO was supposed to pay for the bases, America was willing to absorb the whole cost as part of our contribution to NATO’s “infrastructure.”
Junior American officers, for some time, had been negotiating, but accomplishing nothing, with their French opposite numbers. Their lack of rank deprived them of the necessary “muscle.” I relieved them (in more ways than one) and assumed the reins personally, following to the letter Lovett’s instructions not to deal with anyone below Cabinet rank. It was the only way to get anything done in France.
George Giles, an engineer and a real “doer” who had worked with me in India and was still associated with me, supervised designs and specifications and handled all technical matter with the architects and builders. His responsibility was to insure that the Air Force got exactly what it wanted.
After working for several months in Paris on planning, we requested bids. I smelled a rat when the quotes were so close as to suggest rigging. I suspected that the contractors were in cahoots to stick Uncle Sam with exorbitant prices. After several unheeded complaints to the French minister of defense, I left Lovett know that I was ready to solicit bids from firms in other NATO countries, Belgium, Holland and Italy.
Closing my ears to the anguished pleas of the French, who were, of course, vociferously opposed to the importation of foreign material and equipment, I broke the news to them gently that they had ganged up on the wrong person. I would award the contracts to the lower bidding non-French firms.
The resultant savings for the American taxpayer were enormous. Instead of an estimated cost of between $35 and $40 million each for eight bases, quoted by the French, our final cost came closer to $20 million. (On March 27, 1953, George Giles wrote me from Paris that the last base constructed was costing 65% of the figure originally budgeted, and that “The money saved through our efforts means the Air Force can have the operational facilities originally visualized and not be affected by the current freeze and cutbacks.”
I met with General Eisenhower, head of SHAPE, and showed him my instructions with regard to the single line of communications. He expressed surprise that Lovett had had to send me over to undertake a job for which the Joint Chiefs of Staff had failed to reach agreement on how to proceed. He gave me his complete support.
Thus fortified, I called a meeting of the three top officers of the services with their staffs in Paris, namely, General Thomas T. Handy, commanding American ground forces in Germany; Lieutenant General Lauris Norstad, Commander-in-Chief of American Air Forces in Central Europe, and Admiral Robert B. Carney, Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean, stationed in Italy.
Handy and Norstad, with their staffs, attended our first meeting at Ike’s headquarters, and we accomplished a great deal. The Navy, however, was a “no- show”, necessitating a strongly worded telegram to Admiral Carney, requesting his presence with his staff at our next meeting ten days hence.
Everything went smoothly next morning, with the Army and the Air Force going along with the unified communication line. Then Admiral Carney gained the floor, delivering his presentation personally. Eisenhower, Handy and Norstad looked on with me from the front row, while Carney’s staff tacked up large sheets on an easel, displaying organizational charts and diagrams of a communications system. Behind us sat some 35 to 40 fairly senior officers. It soon became evident that the burden of Carney’s presentation was that the Navy couldn’t go along. When he was halfway through, Ike interrupted him with the suggestion that we all sit down and examine the matter more informally. After hearing Carney out, Ike leveled with him.
“Mick,” he said, “We’ve got to have one line of communications, and I know we can count on the Navy to cooperate.”
We could now work out details to maximize our savings in cash, manpower and equipment. When Ike left SHAPE, General Matthew Ridgway replaced him, and shortly after his arrival in Paris, watched the consolidated communications line become a reality.
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