Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Eugene H. Bird
BIRD: Yes, toward the end of 1943. So instead of marching directly into the trenches, they sent me to the Navy Officer Training Program—of all places, in Montana. I went to a little Jesuit college for a year and then to the University of Washington. I decided that I was going to be a journalist. I'd been editor of my junior high school and high school newspapers and had always been oriented toward journalism—as had my sister, to some extent. I intended to graduate from journalism school and probably go into newspaper work, which I did, too, eventually.
Meantime, during World War II, I was trained as a mechanical engineer. I always was good at mathematics. That affected my career in the Foreign Service eventually, because, as I could add long lists of numbers and get economic concepts into my head pretty easily, I ended up on what I would call the political-economic side of the “cone” in the Foreign Service. That's one of the reasons that I eventually became very much interested in petroleum economics and a lot of the basic reporting on OPEC [Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] in the early years of that organization. Everyone was sort of afraid of reporting on this “monopoly” organization that had obvious consequences for the most important of the American business firms overseas—the petroleum companies.
After receiving my commission in the Navy, I served only for about two years, after the war was over. I spent some time as editor of the “Navy News” in Guam and the Marianas Islands. I came back [to the continental U. S.] after putting in my required time and went to journalism school.
Q: Where did you go to journalism school?
BIRD: Right in town, in Eugene, Oregon, [at the University of Oregon]. Maybe that was one of the reasons that I went there. I knew all of those people. I'd been on the campus since high school days, as editor of the high school newspaper. I was also involved to a considerable extent in politics in Oregon. I became a member of the Young Republicans and, during my first stint as the editor of a real newspaper, a small town newspaper in Hood River, Oregon—surely one of the most beautiful little towns in the world—I became involved with Senator Wayne Morse. The publisher of the Hood River newspaper was one of his big supporters. That [relationship with Morse] lasted all during my Foreign Service career. Wayne Morse was always the kind of person I could go back to and talk to. He was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Q: One might cast him as being an internationalist, liberal Republican.