Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Eugene H. Bird
BIRD: Yes. The confrontation was already set. You didn't try to compromise with these people. You tried to organize yourself to defeat them. It was a game. I was still a reserve officer in Naval Intelligence at that time. We used to meet up at the Naval Observatory, now the Vice President's residence. I remember one day that we were all but told that we were flying U-2's over the Soviet Union. Our briefer there didn't quite admit this at the time. We knew that we were in a semi war situation. The Foreign Service was [felt to be] inadequate in this context. The Foreign Service was viewed as not being able to orchestrate all of the agencies. The great discussion, among other things, was whether we should have a number of separate Foreign Services—[for example], one for Commerce and one for the intelligence community. Essentially that is what ended up. We eventually became more than just an umbrella. We became a separate service reporting to the President, with very little effect on what was happening in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what's happening in Commerce, and so on. The extent of the authority which the Department had in the old days was far greater than it was in the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's. Maybe we have begun to reassert our authority and coordination function in the 1980's.
But I'm not quite sure. Today there are people in the White House who say that foreign policy is going to be made in the White House and carried out by the Department of State. So the old argument is still going on.
Q: What was the feeling about the McCarthy charges?
BIRD: I remember that all work stopped when the McCarthy hearings were going on. You could walk down the hallways and...
Q: Were these televised?
BIRD: No, they were on the radio. All or a great deal of the work [in the Department] stopped. You could hear radios on and see people clustered around them up and down the halls of the State Department, particularly when there was a foreign policy personality being interrogated. I don't recall that Secretary of State Dulles ever said anything, but there was a feeling, right from the start, that he was protecting the Foreign Service as best he could—protecting his “turf,” quite frankly.