Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Eugene H. Bird
BIRD: There was dual loyalty, I suppose. Acheson was very highly thought of in the Foreign Service. He was considered a very professional, high class person. Dulles was viewed by many people as being a sort of political “hatchet man.” There was that aspect to it. People who had worked with Dulles had a lot of respect for his abilities but also viewed him as something of a “bull in a China shop” in terms of our relations with some of our allies and some of our programs. Of course, the programs were being slashed right and left at that point. There was a major re-thinking of what we should do with this massive bureaucracy that had been put together over the years by the Democrats. So there was that aspect.
But the other aspect, I think, was, “Thank God that we've got a tough champion, close to President Eisenhower, who might do something about the situation on the Hill.” Well, of course, Dulles brought Scott McLeod in, Bill Knowland was a friend of his...
Q: Bill Knowland was a Senator from California who was an arch supporter of Chiang Kai- shek—often known as the “Senator from Formosa.”
BIRD: Right. So there was a feeling that, “Well, if we have to have a son of a bitch, we've got a good one here. And he's a person who isn't going to be run over by a lot of people.” Dulles had been a politician and had a good relationship with the President. That also was very important. But people in the Department felt that Dulles lacked to some extent the savoir faire to do some of the things that the old Foreign Service would like to see him do.
In a sense, from 1924 to 1950 the U. S. Foreign Service—and you could read that in the files of retired Foreign Service Officers—attempted to achieve an autocratic and aristocratic [outlook like that of] European diplomats. You had the “traditionalists” and you had the “morning coat boys.” Suddenly, we'd built up to this group of 700 officers, many of whom, incidentally, came from small villages. Loy Henderson was from the State of Kansas, for Heaven's sake. We had a couple of people from Oregon who had a background similar to mine. And so on. You had people like George Venable Allen, whom I worked for, and who was the closest thing to a Southern aristocrat [that you could imagine]. But if you looked at his background closely, you would see that his background was not very aristocratic. He'd gone to the “right” schools and he had the “right” friends. He was always, I think, more comfortable with people who had gone to schools in the Eastern part of the United States than in the West. But we had lots of people from California. There was a sort of false feeling of being an American and part of an aristocracy. One of the things that people used to say around Washington at that time was, “If the Foreign Service was ever turned loose on the rest of this government, [it] would dominate it.” In some respects there may have been some truth to that, I suppose. There were some very bright people in the Foreign Service. But there were also people who were not very “modern” in their outlook.