Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Albert E. Hemsing
In October 1955 I shipped off to Washington the original negatives of the 260 films ECA/MSA had produced since 1947, closed the shop, and left for Washington myself to work for IMS, the motion picture service of USIA.
Some years later, in Berlin, I got to know Ted Streibert better, when he made several trips there on behalf of the General Mills Company. I not only came to appreciate his prowess at the piano, but found that he had learned a good deal about the world since the days when he had been catapulted into USIA, fresh from the Mutual Broadcasting Company. I told him then how I thought he missed a bet in 1953. A smaller version of our ECA/MSA information shop would have served USIA well. We could have become the Agency's media service center in Europe. Our group had learned how to communicate with Europeans on their own terms, something the Agency's Washington-tied media staffs never quite got the hang of.
My four years in Paris have remained for me a unique and rewarding experience, even after 28 years in the Foreign Service.
Winston Churchill called the Marshall Plan “the most unselfish act in history.” So it was, one that redounded to our immense credit and, of course, one that also promoted our own prosperity. Unfortunately, in the years that followed, our policy-makers drew many a false conclusion from the experience. The Marshall Plan was very much a success of a given time and place, a success that depended as much on the Europeans as on ourselves. Failure to grasp that fact, and our subsequent Cold War emphasis on military aid, led us into many a blind alley around the world.
But First: Hemsing's Bio-Sketch Before The MarshallPlan Experience
Q: This means that when you were drafted into USIA, you were already an experienced overseas information officer, in effect. What took you to that point? How did you get from New York City, where you were born, into the overseas information business?
HEMSING: Actually, I had not yet learned what a regular USIS information officer does. I did know that the USIS officers I met around Europe during my Paris assignment had nothing like 5 million dollars a year at their disposal. That was the size of our film budget. These were counterpart funds, of course, local currency which the aid recipients put up to match our aid dollars.