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Jean Edward Smith
Jean Edward Smith
Lucius D. Clay:  An American Life
ISBN: 0805017879
Lucius D. Clay: An American Life
Jean Edward Smith, a professor at Marshall University, discussed the life of General Lucius D. Clay, chronicled in his book, "Lucius D. Clay: An American Life." Mr. Smith credits General Clay with rebuilding Germany, following World War II, into a prosperous and democratic nation. General Clay was the American overseer of Germany from 1945-1949, serving as the military governor. He is most noted for his role in the Berlin airlift of 1948 when he told Washington that the Russians were bluffing and that America must not budge against communism. The son of a U.S. Senator and a graduate of West Point, General Clay's other accomplishments included running President Eisenhower's first presidential campaign, working for Fortune 500 companies, and raising over $750 million for political and charitable organizations.
Lucius D. Clay: An American Life
Program Air Date: November 18, 1990

BRIAN LAMB, HOST:Professor Jean Edward Smith, author of "Lucius D. Clay, An American Life," why have you devoted 20 years of your life to this former general?
JEAN EDWARD SMITH, AUTHOR, "LUCIUS D. CLAY: AN AMERICAN LIFE": I served with the United States Army in Berlin many years ago, and I think my attachment to Berlin traces to that time. It's true that my first interview with General Clay was in '69 when I began working on it, but I really took out about 12 years, so it's really about eight years' work.
LAMB: When did you first meet him?
SMITH: I first met him at the time of the Berlin crisis in 1961.
LAMB: What were you doing?
SMITH: I had just left the Army, and I was writing a book at that time called "The Defense of Berlin," and General Clay was very helpful to me in writing that book.
LAMB: What was your first impression of him, and had you known about him before you met him?
SMITH: Well, I think any student of history has known about General Clay and the Berlin Airlift and the postwar period in Germany. I had not met him before then. My impression was of a very decisive man -- a very decisive man who knew what he was doing, who was a very generous man and a man far different from most military men I had met. I had served in the regular United States Army in the field artillery. General Clay was a much broader-gauge person, much more politically astute, I thought, and certainly much more articulate.
LAMB: In your introduction, you quote Paul Cabot, managing director at First Boston Corporation, as saying, "Lucius was the most arrogant, stubborn, opinionated man I ever met."
SMITH: He was that, too. There is no question about it, and I think I go on to say at some place in there that he was most stubborn about his own snap judgments. When you command in the Army for 30 years and then run Lehman Brothers and Continental Can, as General Clay did, your doubts seem to be filtered out by that experience. He was stubborn and decisive. Ninety percent of the time that was beneficial. Ten percent of the time I think he probably blew it.
LAMB: General Clay died in 1978.
SMITH: That's correct.
LAMB: What was he doing then?
SMITH: He had retired. He was senior partner, the managing partner, of Lehman Brothers until 1973, and he simply retired at that point. He was 75 years old at that time when he retired, and he was simply living on Cape Cod.
LAMB: For those who have never heard of General Lucius D. Clay, give us a thumbnail sketch of why he's important, and then we'll come back and talk about the specifics.
SMITH: I think he's important for a number of reasons. Let me begin with the earliest ones. During the New Deal, he was a key player in the Corps of Engineers here in Washington -- yes, that's General Clay in Berlin -- in the 1930s, at a time when Harry Hopkins was having great difficulty getting the CCC and the WPA operational. General Clay levered the Corps of Engineers onto Mr. Hopkins' side and became very close friends with Harry Hopkins and very instrumental in providing the basic cadre to get the WPA moving.
LAMB: OK, we'd better stop because there could be people who've never heard about the WPA. What was that?
SMITH: Works Progress Administration. It was a public works effort to employ people during the depths of the Great Depression. It was one of the principal New Deal programs to get the United States back on its feet.
LAMB: What was the CCC?
SMITH: Civilian Conservation Corps. This was an organization designed to put young men to work. They lived in military barracks, and it was simply a program to get them out into the open, get them out of the cities, get them working in the fields and the woods. The military played important roles in organizing both, and Clay was one of the principal operational figures in the Army at that time.
LAMB: Who was Harry Hopkins?
SMITH: Harry Hopkins was Roosevelt's right-hand man, in many respects, up until Mr. Roosevelt's death. He had been a relief activity worker in New York State, came to Washington with Mr. Roosevelt and was a principal enemy of the Right Wing--one of the whipping boys of the Right Wing when they would attack the New Deal.
LAMB: Okay, go back to where General Clay was a member of the Corps of Engineers. What was his rank at that time, and how old was he, if you can remember?
SMITH: Well, he was actually between 35 and 39. His rank was a captain. That same job is held today by a major general--some idea of the United States Army at that time.
LAMB: We have a picture here of when he was a major, I believe, in civilian clothes.
SMITH: That's right. That's when he was building the Denison Dam in Texas-the Denison Dam on the Red River in Texas in Sam Rayburn's district. Sam Rayburn was House majority leader at the time. He and Captain Clay, Major Clay, were very close.
LAMB: Maybe it's easier, before we go into some of the other things that you write about, to go back to the beginning. Where was General Clay born?
SMITH: He was born in Georgia in 1898, and, if I could, when General Clay was appointed to West Point in 1915, he lied about his age. He thought he was too young, and so he changed his birth year to 1897, rather than 1898. It wasn't uncommon in those days. The Southern states, in particular, kept very few birth records, birth certificates, and so Clay and his mother simply changed his year of birth. It's interesting because neither General Clay's wife nor his sons nor any of his descendants really knew that. I found out about it by going to Marietta where he was born trying to look up the date of his birth in the local newspapers. The date of his supposed birth, Mrs. Clay, his mother, wife of a U.S. senator, was hosting a gala banquet. I decided that wasn't the right year, so I checked years on either side, and, sure enough, he was born one year later.
LAMB: Did you ever catch him lying anywhere else in his career?
SMITH: Never, never. And, indeed, when I asked the general about this, it's the only time, really, I ever saw him turn white, and he must have been 70 years old at the time. He said, "Gee, do you really have to put anything like that in the book? My whole professional life, Social Security, everything that I've ever done is tied up with that birth date, and do you really have to include it?" I allowed as how really I probably thought I did, but, as I say, neither his wife nor his children nor anyone else knew it.
LAMB: Born in Marietta, Georgia. You just mentioned that his father was a senator. What was his name and what was the senator's party and how long did he stay in the United States Senate?
SMITH: Alexander Stephens Clay was his father. He was elected to the United States Senate in 1896 and he stayed there until his death in 1910. In addition to being--that's Sen. Clay the junior United States senator from Georgia at that time, he was also the chairman of the Democratic Party in Georgia. Sen. Clay was strongly in favor of reconciliation and bringing Georgia back into the Union.
LAMB: What kind of a childhood did General Clay have?
SMITH: His father was already in the Senate at that time. General Clay had four older brothers and a sister. He was the youngest by far. His mother was in her late 30s when he was born. I think General Clay was neglected as a child. His parents were already in a busy social whirl, and he was left pretty much to his own devices.
LAMB: We've got a picture here that looks like it, although it's not named. Is this his mother?
SMITH: That's his mother, and that's one of our goofs in the book. As you see, the caption is not there, but, yes, that's she.
LAMB: What was she like?
SMITH: Apparently a very domineering person. After the senator's death, she became postmistress in Marietta. But it's a little interesting facet -- Senator Clay was a very strong believer in the United States, in the Union. Mrs. Clay, his mother, was a rabid unreconstructed Southerner. She hated Yankees, she hated the United States, she came to Washington as little as she could, and she was the president of the Daughters of the Confederate Veterans' Association and organized, through her husband's legislation, to have the Stars and Bars fly over the cemetery in Marietta.
LAMB: When did General Clay leave Marietta, Georgia?
SMITH: When he went to West Point, 1915.
LAMB: How did he get that appointment?
SMITH: His father had died in 1910. The family was not independently wealthy. He had dissociated from the plantation Clays down in South Georgia, lived up in the hill country, Cobb County, Marietta. The congressman from his district simply gave it to him. I think he was a son of a United States senator, and it wasn't uncommon in those days.
LAMB: How did he do at West Point?
SMITH: He was a maverick. He was always a maverick, a little like General Grant. He finished at the bottom of his class in conduct, in discipline, and he finished at the top of his class in English and history. General Clay said that after his first year he never opened a book. He was an extraordinarily intelligent man, like General Grant, but simply didn't like the rigmarole at West Point, didn't like the rote exercises, the excessive attention to detail, the chicken shit that goes along with West Point, and he rebelled against it. I think two weeks before graduation, two more demerits and he would have been kicked out. That type of person.
LAMB: What's the most trouble he ever got in while he was at West Point?
SMITH: I guess the one that netted him the most demerits was when he stole the date away from an unmarried officer who was part of the cadre, who was, in fact, his company commander, who took that as a personal affront and, I think, proceeded to give him something like 40 or 50 demerits for various things in the next several weeks.
LAMB: When he left West Point, where did he go?
SMITH: He went to Camp Humphreys, Virginia, now Fort Belvoir, in the Corps of Engineers. Clay had wanted to be in the field artillery because, he said, he thought the field artillery was exciting. He thought that the field artillery offered a chance for combat. Clay's class graduated one year early in 1918, rather than 1919, and instead of going to the field artillery as he wanted, the Army simply took the first 30 or 35 men in the class and put them in the Corps of Engineers and sent them to Fort Belvoir for basic engineer officer training. Clay finished World War I at Fort Belvoir.
LAMB: Jean Edward Smith, we'll get back to General Clay in just a moment. You're at the University of Toronto.
SMITH: That's correct.
LAMB: What do you do there?
SMITH: I'm a professor of political science.
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
SMITH: I grew up in Washington, D.C.
LAMB: How did you get to Toronto, and are you still an American citizen?
SMITH: Yes, I'm an American citizen. I'm a also a Canadian citizen. I grew up 15 blocks from here, went to McKinley High School, went to Princeton, and from Princeton went in the Army. Left the Army in 1961, got my doctorate at Columbia, and from there taught at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. Went up to Toronto to give a couple of papers, and they made me a job offer in 1965. I accepted it, and I've been there since.
LAMB: How can you be an American citizen and a Canadian citizen?
SMITH: As a result of Supreme Court rulings back in the 1960s. The leading case is Afroyim v. Rusk, which is basically based on the premise that citizenship precedes government, that the American Constitution was written by its citizens, that the government is formed pursuant to the Constitution, and that, as a result, no government can strip citizens of their citizenship. Now, the reason you asked the question, the historic American rule was that American citizenship was exclusive, and if you did this, that or the other thing, you forfeited your American citizenship. The Afroyim case holds that the only way an American citizen can lose his citizenship is if he renounces it. It's an entirely different way of looking at it, and, as I say, it begins in the late 1960s.
LAMB: It's a little early, I guess, but do you plan to retire in Canada? Have you chosen Canada as your country of preference?
SMITH: No, I consider myself an American as well as a Canadian. My son is a helicopter pilot in the Navy, graduated from the Naval Academy in 1989. My daughter is a first lieutenant in the field artillery, graduated from Princeton in 1986 and is now in Augsburg, Germany.
LAMB: General Clay, 20 years of your life in and around General Clay. Do you devote most of your thinking now to General Clay or is this behind you?
SMITH: No, that's behind me, really. I edited two volumes of his papers in the early 1970s, which is part of this project, so it's the biography and two volumes of papers.
LAMB: How much time in your life did you spend around the general?
SMITH: Eight years for the papers and the biography.
LAMB: What I mean, not years so much, how much actual time were you in his presence? Did you interview him? How many hours, how many pages of transcripts?
SMITH: About 2,500 pages of transcripts. Beginning in 1969, when I suggested the project to him, until 1974, during a period of several years I saw him almost weekly at his home for an hour or two-hour interview.
LAMB: You use a technique in your book where you have the actual question-and-answer format. Why did you do that?
SMITH: I did that because I thought General Clay was so articulate and his answers were so precise that the reader would get a better feel for the man himself if they could see him thinking extemporaneously and responding to a question.
LAMB: How much of this did you do in the book? How many . . .
SMITH: Oh, I would say maybe 10 percent of the book is . . .
LAMB: And the rest of it is narrative?
SMITH: Yes, I'd say maybe 10 percent is question-and-answer, but, if I could, on the question-and-answer bit--extraordinarily articulate, and, as you know from interviewing people, each person is different. With Willy Brandt, for example, if you have one hour you ask him two questions, and you're lucky if he gets to the second one because he simply takes the first question and runs with it. With Clay, if I had a 50-, 60-minute interview, I would have to have probably 40 questions.
LAMB: Here's a picture of Willy Brandt and Lyndon Baines Johnson and General Clay in the forefront. What's this from?
SMITH: That's in 1961 when the Berlin Wall was built. You can see it's a very young Lyndon Johnson and a young Willy Brandt. They were there on the Sunday after the wall was built in an attempt to restore West Berlin morale.
LAMB: Why was General Clay there?
SMITH: For two reasons, because he was the savior of Berlin. There was a serious crisis of morale in West Berlin at the time. The West Berliners thought they were being abandoned by the United States. The most effective symbol of American resolve to send back to convince the Berliners that they were not being forsaken was to send General Clay back. That's the first reason. I think the second reason he was there was because Sam Rayburn, speaker of the House, told Vice President Johnson that if he was going back to Berlin, he should take someone with him who knew what the situation was and strongly suggested that he take Clay with him. Don't forget, Rayburn and Clay had known each other for almost 30 years at that point.
LAMB: This picture you just saw had General Eisenhower in it, but let's go back to the first time that General Clay ever went to Berlin.
SMITH: It was 1945, just after the war was over. Clay was named to be General Eisenhower's deputy for military government. General Clay was among the first to go to Berlin where the seat of the Allied government was in 1945. If I could pick up a thread concerning General Clay's contributions, as I mentioned, to the New Deal. World War II, Clay was not a combat general, but he was in charge of all military procurement in World War II.
LAMB: Where was he based?
SMITH: Based here in Washington. As a result of his efforts for the New Deal in the 1930s and his contacts with Mr. Rayburn and others, in 1939 and '40 when it looked like war was coming, Clay was called back from the Denison Dam in Texas, called to Washington and placed in charge of an emergency airport program. Most of the earlier airports that were constructed in the United States were constructed under Clay's direction in 1940 and '41 -- National Airport here was built under Clay's direction -- 450 airports throughout the U.S. I think it was as a result of doing such a good job getting those airports built that after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor when the War Department was reorganized, Clay was plucked out and simply placed in charge of the entire military procurement program for the Army, which included the Air Force at that time.
LAMB: And so how many years did he spend in Washington? The entire wartime period?
SMITH: Up until April 1945. He was in charge of military procurement during that period.
LAMB: What was his rank at the end of the war?
SMITH: At the end of the war he was a lieutenant general. He was made a brigadier general and was placed in charge of all military procurement as a brigadier general. That's a four-star general's rank today. One of the most interesting aspects of Clay is that despite the fact that he was in charge of all military procurement during the war and then military governor of Germany, later in his life after he retired from the Army, he refused to work for a defense contractor. He refused to have anything to do with any company that did any business with the Pentagon, simply because he said he thought it was unseemly for an officer in the Army to take advantage of that connection.
LAMB: We're jumping all around here. We'll get back to Berlin, but you do have a chapter on military-industrial complex. Is that the reason? How does that track with what General Eisenhower is often most quoted as saying, "Beware of the military-industrial complex" -- his last speech when he left the presidency.
SMITH: I title it that really sort of to make the point that Clay would have nothing to do with defense contractors when he left. He retired in 1949 after he had been military governor of Germany. Really, for the last ten years, for the ten years prior to that, he had been head of military procurement, military governor of Germany. He was offered the executive vice presidency of General Motors, the executive vice presidency of IBM. Turned them both down because he didn't want to, as I said, work for a defense contractor, and eventually was signed on as a chief executive of Continental Can Company.
LAMB: What was the reason? Did he have an aversion to the military-industrial
SMITH: He didn't think it was right for a military officer to do that. He didn't think it was right for him to profit personally from his government service. He believed that very deeply.
LAMB: Well, he was very close to General Eisenhower many times in his career. Did he influence General Eisenhower on that or did it come the other way?
SMITH: No, he didn't influence him on that. I think that they more or less shared those views -- Clay much more strongly than General Eisenhower. Clay, I think, was a little surprised at Eisenhower's statement, because Clay was a major figure in the industrial and business world at the time. But Clay was constantly concerned about the effect of the military on the U.S. economy, but, I think, really for General Clay it was primarily a personal matter. He thought it was personally corrupting, and he didn't want to take advantage of those ties that he had for personal profit.
LAMB: Jean Edward Smith is our guest, and we're talking about this book. It's an 835-page book about Lucius D. Clay, who died in 1978, was in the United States military for how many years?
SMITH: Counting his West Point service, for 31 years.
LAMB: What was his favorite job?
SMITH: The job he had at the moment, I think. I don't think he ever looked beyond that. He did the job that he was given. I think I once asked him that question, and he said, "I was never asked my opinion about any job I had in the Army. I was simply told a job and told to go do it." In fact, after he was given the job to be in charge of all military procurement, he went up to General Somervell, head of Army Service Forces, and told General Somervell how disappointed he was, how he really wanted a combat job. He said Somervell said, "That's too goddamn bad!" I asked, "Well, how did General Somervell explain it?" He said, "He didn't. He never explained anything. The only instructions I had, really, was to find out what the army needs and get it."
LAMB: He was born into a Democratic family in the South in Georgia. He was a top aide to Dwight David Eisenhower. You say in the book that he even was responsible for building the interstate highway system for General Eisenhower?
SMITH: That's right.
LAMB: How did that work?
SMITH: Well, he was always very close to Eisenhower. They had met in the Philippines in 1937 when Clay was assigned to General MacArthur's staff in the Philippines. It was a very small staff, and he and Eisenhower became very close at that point. In 1945, when he went back to Germany, he and Eisenhower became close once again. Eisenhower was politically very astute but not well informed in terms of U.S. domestic politics, and he used Clay, I think, as the conduit through which American politics was explained to him and personalities and whatever. Clay urged Eisenhower to leave Germany quickly in 1945, and whenever there was a presidential boomlet for Eisenhower, General Eisenhower discussed it very closely with Clay.

It was Clay who led the move under Governor Dewey and Tom Brownell's direction to get Eisenhower to run in '52, and so they had a really very close relationship. I would say that General Clay felt General Eisenhower was among his very closest friends, and I think General Eisenhower did as well. But to the interstate highways question, after the Korean War was over, the economy looked like it was going into a downturn. Eisenhower's advisors believed that some type of public works program would be useful to reinvigorate the American economy. When General Eisenhower accepted that, he simply told Sherman Adams to get General Clay and bring him down to Washington and then he talked about it with Clay, asked Clay if he would head the committee to organize a public works program. Clay then struck what was known as the Clay Committee, consisting of himself, William Bechtel, Dave Beck of the Teamsters, the head of Allis-Chalmers and a prominent banker -- a five-person committee. They designed the interstate highway program.
LAMB: I started to say he was born into a Democratic family, he worked for a Republican president. You say here throughout the book that he was nonpartisan, and then I read on page 666 a quote from Leonard Hall, Republican national chairman back in earlier years, "I would say you would have to color Clay a Rockefeller Republican."
SMITH: Yes, he was talking about General Clay in 1964. Clay himself said that he was a Democrat. He considered himself a Democrat. President Nixon always considered him a Democrat because Clay and Nixon were not close at all. Clay said he became a Republican because he wanted Eisenhower to become president, so Clay thought that he was really an Eisenhower Republican to the extent that he was Republican, although he later became the financial chairman of the Republican Party after the Goldwater defeat in '64, paid off the debts that the Republicans had incurred at that time. But I think, fundamentally, he was a liberal Democrat. I think he was most comfortable with liberal Democrats--with Harry Hopkins, with President Roosevelt, with Eleanor Roosevelt.
LAMB: How tall was he?
SMITH: He was not a tall man.
LAMB: We have a picture here of General Clay and Mrs. Roosevelt. Is this deceiving or is she taller than he is?
SMITH: No, she is taller than he is. Mrs. Roosevelt was quite a tall and stately woman. General Clay was, at the most, 5 feet 10 inches.
LAMB: What would he be like if he were sitting right here with us and we were trying to have a normal conversation? Would it be easy or difficult?
SMITH: It would be difficult for you and for me to have a normal conversation with him. If we were asking him questions, we could do that and he would respond very articulately and very crisply and very fully. But you never really had a normal conversation with General Clay. His people at Continental Can often observed that. They would say, "Either he's telling you something he wants you to know or you're telling him something that he wants to know." But there was no free-and-easy intercourse.
LAMB: What was the most memorable conversation you ever had with him?
SMITH: I think his birth date. I think when we were discussing his real birth date that's the only time I really ever saw him not in control of the situation.
LAMB: Did he have many personal friends?
SMITH: He had a few very close friends. Everyone else was kept at arm's length. Averell Harriman was a close friend. Dean Acheson later became a close friend. William Bechtel of the Bechtel Construction Company. Harold Boeschenstein, the chairman of Owens-Corning Fiberglas. Very few close friends, relatives. Not many. Most other people were held at arm's length because he was a very disciplined person.
LAMB: Let's go to your book that you spent all these years on. I want to ask you, what did you draw out of this experience that you would tell others about how they could live their life and be successful?
SMITH: Self-discipline. I think self-discipline was the principal thing that I learned from Clay, and I think that that really was one of the important keys to his success, aside from the fact that he was naturally gifted with an extraordinary intelligence.
LAMB: So he was a smart man?
SMITH: He was a smart man.
LAMB: IQ of . . .?
SMITH: Very high, very high. Almost a photographic memory, could read very quickly and never forgot anything he read. I would interview him about cables that he'd written 25 years ago, and he could recall them and quote them almost verbatim. This is a man who must have written 20 or 30 cables a day. He had an extraordinary memory, extraordinary intelligence, but that memory and that intelligence were made useful because of this tremendous self-discipline that he had. I mentioned earlier that he had four brothers and a sister. They had the same intelligence, I think, as General Clay and the same native ability, but they totally lacked self-discipline. They burned out quickly, they went haywire, they drank too much, they partied too much.
LAMB: All of them?
SMITH: All of them. All of them, and I think he learned from that. He learned . . .
LAMB: Were they older?
SMITH: They were all older. He was by far the youngest, and I think he learned from their self-destruction that the only way that he would succeed would be by tremendous self-discipline. Some of it, of course, was necessary. His parents neglected him. He came along much later and probably was unexpected. Their busy schedule didn't have time for him. When he was a student at West Point, he never received any visits from anyone in his family, never received any letters. No one ever asked him about his grades.
LAMB: Did you talk to him about this?
SMITH: I didn't know that at the time. His relatives told me that. That's not the type of thing he would have said.
LAMB: You say that he saw the first 25 chapters of this book?
SMITH: In draft form, yes, he did.
LAMB: What was his reaction to what he read?
SMITH: I saw him after he read them. I went to his apartment. We had an interview, and he gave them back to me. They were in a box. He gave them back to me and said, "That's very interesting. Do you really have to tell the date of my birth?" He was still on that. And he said, "Let's go and have some dinner." It's the only time he ever invited me to dinner, and we went down to a place in New York where he took me to dinner. Never said any more about it. I interpreted the fact that he took me to dinner to mean that he liked it.
LAMB: Henry Holt published this book?
SMITH: That's correct.
LAMB: Was it hard to get published?
SMITH: No. I don't know. I submitted it to an agent in New York, and . . .
LAMB: How long ago?
SMITH: Oh, I would say 1987. I submitted a draft in '87. Within six months I had a positive answer.
LAMB: Who do you want to buy this book?
SMITH: Anyone concerned with American politics, I think. Anyone concerned with the military-industrial complex, I think, with the defense industry, with defense contracting. I think that's an important story here--the ironclad integrity that Clay brought to it. People concerned with Europe, people concerned with Germany, people concerned with American-Soviet relations today or in that postwar period.
LAMB: Are you concerned with the $35 price tag it's going to be a little difficult to sell?
SMITH: Sure, and, in fact, when we started, the price tag was $24.95. About halfway through it jumped to $29.95, and when it came out, I saw it was $35. Yes.
LAMB: Why did they put it so high?
SMITH: I don't know, and I wish you could ask them. I notice that the biographies that have come out this fall and during the summer all seem to be carrying that price tag.
LAMB: Let's go back to the main story in here, and that's Germany. He went to Germany, as you say, after World War II was over. What was his first assignment?
SMITH: He was deputy to Eisenhower for military government.
LAMB: Where was General Eisenhower?
SMITH: General Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander, but he was also the commander of Allied forces, and his headquarters were in Frankfort. Clay insisted when he went over that military government was not really something the Army should be involved in very long. He, therefore, organized with Eisenhower's approval a command structure in which the military government reported to General Eisenhower on a parallel basis with the military forces. So, in effect, General Eisenhower had two deputies. Bedell Smith for the military forces was his chief of staff, and General Clay was, in effect, his chief of staff for military government.
LAMB: Who is Bedell Smith?
SMITH: Bedell Smith was Eisenhower's chief of staff. He was a lieutenant general. He'd been Eisenhower's chief of staff throughout the European campaign.
LAMB: What was the significance of having this reporting mechanism?
SMITH: Traditionally, the Army has a staff section they call G-5 -- like G-1 to G-5, for military government -- which reports to the normal command structure. It's useful to have that staff section if you're fighting a war. If you're fighting a war and dealing with an indigenous population, a commander of troops -- division commanders, corps commanders--need some staff section that can handle the civilians in the area in which they're fighting. Clay's point was that that was totally inappropriate for a long-term military occupation, that the questions were no longer military, that they were political, and, therefore, military government had to be placed on a different footing. It had to be made equal to the military forces reporting directly to Eisenhower and then to the secretary of war.
LAMB: What would General Clay's reaction be to what's happened in the last year in Germany?
SMITH: Oh, I think he would be delighted.
LAMB: Would he be surprised?
SMITH: Well, he'd be surprised like all of us were surprised, but Clay strongly believed in German unity. Clay, in 1945 and 1946 and through most of 1947, kept pressing for German unity. He was against dividing East and West. He was really the last hold-out from the Roosevelt administration. He was still Rooseveltian in his views toward dealing with the Soviets. In fact, in late 1946, he and Marshal Sokolovsky, his opposite number from the Soviet Union, had reached an agreement whereby in return for raising reparations payments to the Soviet Union, the Soviet Union would agree on free elections and a unified Germany. In some respects, it's not much different from the deal consummated last year. The Soviets in 1946 were just as interested in economic reconstruction as they were today.
LAMB: You have a map that you published in the middle of your book, and I want to ask you to explain it if you would, please.
SMITH: Well, that shows prewar Germany--the shaded portions--and it shows the military lines of occupation that were drawn during the war and the area that each army would occupy when the war was won. The Americans in the south, the British in the north, the Soviets in the east, and the French with two minor portions in the extreme west.
LAMB: How long did General Clay stay in Germany?
SMITH: From 1945 until the establishment of the Federal Republic, the West German government, in 1949.
LAMB: Did he have the same job the whole time he was there?
SMITH: Well, he was originally Eisenhower's deputy for military government. Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander. Eisenhower was succeeded as Supreme Commander by General McNarney for a brief period, and then in early 1948 Clay became Commander-in-Chief U.S. Forces Europe and military governor.
LAMB: Where did he go after that?
SMITH: He retired. He retired from the Army in 1949 with the establishment of the West German government and the lifting of the blockade, and he became, within a short time, president of Continental Can Company, chief executive officer of Con Can.
LAMB: If I can find the page here, there's an interesting page of photographs here that we'll see. Explain what all this art is doing in your book.
SMITH: I think it's appropriate with the Texas art treasures that they found from Germany most recently. Those are great European masterpieces that were part of the Kaiser Friedrich collection in Berlin. During the latter days of the war--and these are some of the great masterworks of art--they were evacuated by the Nazis and placed in salt mines in Thuringia. They were liberated by General Patton's Third Army, and it became a serious question as to what to do with them in 1945. The Russians were removing a large number of works of art from Germany to the Soviet Union.

The Western powers who had been defeated by the Germans -- the French, the Belgians, the Dutch -- who had lost a great number of their art treasures, wanted German art treasures to replace them. Clay was concerned that these works of art, which came from the Kaiser Friedrich Museum which was part of the Soviet sector in Berlin, would either go back to the Soviet Union or would be taken by France and Belgium and Holland as restitution for paintings they'd lost. So to prevent that from happening, he organized the shipment of them back to Washington to be placed in safekeeping for the German people and had to fight the State Department and a number of other government agencies to ensure that they were held in trust for the German people.
LAMB: And where are they today?
SMITH: They are back in Berlin. They are in West Berlin at the Dahlem Gallery. I understand that they're probably going back to their original home in the old Kaiser Friedrich Gallery.
LAMB: General Clay went to work for Continental Can, but his days in Germany were not over.
SMITH: No, that's correct. In 1961, when the Berlin Wall was built--we mentioned that picture earlier.
LAMB: This is another picture.
SMITH: That's the airlift in 1940. I'd like to, if I may . . .
LAMB: Sorry, I'm jumping back on you here. He was involved in the Berlin Airlift, though.
SMITH: He was the organizer of the Berlin Airlift, and if I can say a word about that. You'll see the picture on the top of the other page of General Clay and Gov. Dewey and Francis Cardinal Spellman. That's at the Al Smith dinner just before the election in 1948. When the Russians blockaded Berlin in '48, the leadership in the Defense Department and the State Department felt that Berlin was untenable. The military, in particular, felt that they were holding a situation that the Russians could take if they wished and, to avoid that embarrassment, the city should be evacuated. General Clay, on his own authority as military governor, organized the airlift.

He called Curtis LeMay, who was in charge of the Air Force in Europe at that time and simply told LeMay to start flying supplies into Berlin. I asked General Clay if he had cleared that with Washington, and he said, no, he thought that was in his authority as commander-in-chief, and so he never asked Washington for permission to organize the airlift. Problems arose that summer, though, and in the fall because he didn't have enough airplanes. In order to mount the airlift effectively, he really needed just about every plane the Air Force had in its strategic reserve. He came back to Washington in August of '48 to try to get the planes.

President Truman invited him to come to a meeting of the National Security Council. Clay made his pitch. According to Clay, every member of the National Security Council -- the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Air Force generals, General Bradley, everyone -- spoke against it. Talked about the risk involved in deploying everything, and Clay said he thought he'd lost, that he thought it was over --I'm sorry, this was in late October -- that he'd lost, that he was not going to get the planes that he needed. He said President Truman simply overruled them, gave him the planes and authorized him to announce it that night.

Well, that night happened to be the night of the Al Smith dinner in New York, that very important political dinner. You can see how elated General Clay is at that dinner announcing the airplanes, and you can see Gov. Dewey, who was President Truman's opponent, and it looks like Dewey can see the election sliding away from him. He couldn't, of course, but it's a very pained Gov. Dewey who was applauding Clay at that point.
LAMB: There are other pictures in here, including this one, that have to do with around the Berlin Airlift and the popularity of General Clay. There are pictures also of his ticker tape parade, returning to New York. Why was he so popular both in Berlin and in the United States?
SMITH: Because he was the savior of the city in 1948 and '49 in the airlift. The airlift, defeating the Berlin blockade, was really the decisive turning point in postwar Europe. The Berlin blockade in the beginning of 1948 marked the Soviet furthest thrust of Communist imperialism, if you want. Clay had stood up to that and, by so doing, reversed the momentum in postwar Europe. I think that's certainly why he was respected in Berlin and I think here as well.
LAMB: Is there any general today that could get a ticker tape parade anywhere in the United States?
SMITH: Not at this point, I would think. I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Those were extraordinary circumstances. Clay was given a ticker tape parade not because he had won a military victory, but because he had won a victory without going to war.
LAMB: There's another unusual picture here. The gentleman up here in the back is Sam Rayburn, former speaker of the House, now deceased, but here's General Clay addressing the U.S. House of Representatives in 1949. This is something you don't see very often, either.
SMITH: When he came back from Germany, he addressed both the House and the Senate -- not in a joint session. He addressed each one separately. Actually, he wasn't told he was going to until he was half way back on his flight, so he prepared his speeches and gave them extemporaneously as he always did.
LAMB: Okay. Now, I got ahead of myself, and I apologize to you. Let's go back to 1961 and General Clay is asked to go back to Berlin. Why?
SMITH: The Berlin Wall, when it was built on August 13, 1961, succeeded in stopping the refugee flow from East Germany and arrested the hemorrhaging that was taking place. No one here -- no one anywhere really -- anticipated what the result would be in West Berlin. An absolute panic set into the city of West Berlin at the time. The West Berliners thought they were being abandoned by the United States, and really it was to arrest that panic that Clay was sent back. He had written to the president offering his services. He had supported Nixon in the 1960 election, but he wrote to President Kennedy to offer his services.

General Maxwell Taylor, who was in the White House as Kennedy's principal military assistant at the time, called Clay immediately and invited him down to Washington. He came down and met with the president, and as the situation went from bad to worse in Berlin, the administration decided the best way to bring it under control was to send Clay back. They were reluctant to do that for a couple of reasons. Clay was prominently identified with Eisenhower, and to pick a Republican like Clay and send him back -- one of Eisenhower's old war horses -- it looked like at first maybe there was some plausibility in the Republican claim that Kennedy was in over his head, turning to someone like Clay.
LAMB: Here's another photograph. Again, mixed signals that you keep getting as you read your book. Here's General Clay with JFK in 1963.
SMITH: Yes, that's when Kennedy went back to Berlin. There's Adenauer on the left and Brandt on the right.
LAMB: Willy Brandt all the way over here, on the screen to the far right of your picture.
SMITH: When Kennedy went back to Berlin in 1963, he took General Clay with him. When Clay went back in '61, he really did what he was sent back to do. He convinced the Berliners that they would not be abandoned and by the spring of that year had brought a very difficult situation under control.
LAMB: We've got another picture here I want to ask you about. Not this one, James, the other one down at the bottom right there. What's this?
SMITH: That's when the Berlin Accords in 1971-72 were being discussed. That's Clay and Governor Dewey, and you can see the trouser legs of Dean Acheson and Mr. Kissinger, who was President Nixon's national security advisor at the time, meeting with President Nixon in the White House.
LAMB: Why was he there?
SMITH: Clay and Acheson and John McCloy, who was not there, and Dewey were sort of the elder statesman advisory group that Nixon felt it was important to touch base with before agreeing to anything about the two Germanys.
LAMB: Do you like General Clay, or did you like General Clay?
SMITH: Well, I think that's obvious.
LAMB: I don't mean professionally. I mean personally.
SMITH: He's a difficult man to really -- we were not buddies. We were not friends, but I liked him, yes.
LAMB: I notice that a lot of the reviews of your book are very positive about it, but they all say that you obviously cared for this guy and what he had done very much. Were you worried at any point that you were overdoing the positive view of him?
SMITH: Oh, I think I was worried about that repeatedly, and I did my best to contain that and to point out the flaws as I can see them. He was very decisive. Frequently he was decisive when he should have been reflective -- not often, but occasionally -- and that often got him into trouble.
LAMB: What was his marriage like?
SMITH: He and Mrs. Clay were devoted to one another. Mrs. Clay is still alive.
LAMB: Here's a picture that you have from a newspaper article in the Washing ton Star.
SMITH: I said, "General, isn't it unusual for a captain in Washington who's going to the Philippines to have his picture on the society page of the Washington Star?" He said, "Yes, but the society editor lived next door, and that's why I was there." They lived out in Bethesda at the time.
LAMB: Where is she today?
SMITH: Mrs. Clay is in a nursing home here in McLean, Virginia.
LAMB: And where did he meet her?
SMITH: At West Point. She was a student at Barnard. She came up to West Point as a date of one of Clay's friends. He was in the infirmary so Clay became her date, and they saw each other regularly from that time.
LAMB: Here's one other picture. What was his own personal family like? Here's a picture from, I believe, Berlin.
SMITH: He had two sons, and you see them there. Lucius D. Clay, Jr., on the left, who became a four-star general in the Air Force . . .
LAMB: You're talking on the screen to the right. It's confusing for the audience, but the far right, the gentleman in the uniform was his son?
SMITH: Both are his sons. The one in the sport shirt is Lucius D. Clay, Jr. He went to West Point and became a four-star general in the Air Force, now retired and living in Alexandria. The young man in the uniform is Frank B. Clay. He became a major general in the Army and retired and is now living in Bethesda.
LAMB: How about that little fellow?
SMITH: That's our second mistake there in the pictures. We misidentified the little boy. I thought it was Lucius D. Clay III. It turns out to have been the son of Frank Clay. It's Frank B. Clay III.
LAMB: He didn't go on to be a general, too, did he?
SMITH: The young man? I don't know. I did three generations, and I felt that was . . .
LAMB: If you just joined us, and we only have a few short minutes left, we're talking about this book by Jean Edward Smith, a professor at the University of Toronto and also, by the way, you are professor with the Free University of Berlin.
SMITH: Yes, I've been a visiting professor at the Free University. In fact, the final draft of the book was done in Berlin in 1989 when I was there at the John F. Kennedy Institute.
LAMB: The reason I ask you about that is because you mention in the book that General Clay had something to do with starting that university?
SMITH: Yes, he did, just before the currency reform in 1948. The traditional Berlin university, the principal German university, the Humboldt University, was located in the Soviet sector.
LAMB: Over in East Berlin?
SMITH: Over in East Berlin. At that time they were being placed under considerable political pressure, and so dissatisfied students and professors wanted to found their own university in the West. Clay's university staff, his staff in German education and military government, said, "You can't do that. The problems of establishing German universities are so complex that you can't really do it."

Well, Clay didn't accept that and commissioned the people who wanted to. They met him, and he said, "Fine, go ahead," and gave them permission as military governor to do so. He checked it out with Herman Wells, who was another of Clay's aides, president of the University of Indiana, and Carl Friedrich from Harvard, and they suggested to Clay to go ahead and do it, so he did. Clay, on his own authority as military governor, authorized these dissident professors and students to organize a new university, and he found the money for them in the military government. Walter Heller, who was one of Clay's aides at that point, organized the funds, and Clay simply told them to go ahead. Again, I said, "General Clay, did you clear that with Washington?" He said, "Oh, no, that was in my authority as military governor."
LAMB: Just time for one or a maximum of two questions. What did he think in the end of the German people?
SMITH: Clay admired them. There's no question about it. He admired them, but during his entire time there he kept them at arm's length. He refused to have any social contacts with even the highest-ranking Germans in military government or the administrative presidents of the provinces, because, knowing the Reconstruction period in the South, I think he thought they would be termed collaborators. He thought he was doing them a favor by keeping them at arm's length, although he said, "I don't really think they understood that."
LAMB: If he were alive today, would he have any warning for us about the German unification and the worry about anything like what we saw happen over there in World War II happening again?
SMITH: I think not. I think that Clay, as I say, was firmly convinced that German unity was the appropriate organization for Germany. I think he was deeply committed to teaching democracy in Germany by his own personal style. I think he was convinced that that had been successful, and I think he would have no doubts whatever about the political future of a united Germany.
LAMB: Again, this is General Lucius Clay, and this is the book, published by Henry Holt, in your bookstores, and written by Jean Edward Smith, professor at the University of Toronto. Thank you very much for talking with us.
SMITH: Thank you.
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