Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with John H. Holdridge
HOLDRIDGE: Yes, just arrived with much “sturm und drang.” I had just come onto the NSC staff, which was preparing for Nixon's round-the-world trip, and had noticed that the President and Mrs. Nixon were to stay at Malacanang Palace. There was going to be a presidential election coming up that same fall, November, in the Philippines. Roxas was the opposition candidate and I thought, gosh, if the President stays at Malacanang he's going to be taken over by the Marcoses, he will be used by the Marcoses for political advantage. I wanted to remove the President entirely from any scent of being involved in internal Philippine politics, and put him in the Intercontinental Hotel, where I was and the NSC staff had its headquarters. But, oh no, we found out very shortly from Madame Marcos that if no Malacanang, you might as well just overfly the Philippines. So the President didn't want to offend old friends. That was his big problem. He stayed at Malacanang with Henry Kissinger, and a couple of staff aides on the other side of the Pasig River in the state guest house on the edge of the golf course. The Pasig River was an open sewer and going across this damn river in a boat, which I did in one the Philippine Navy launches, you had to hold your nose it was so terrible.
Q: Obviously you were just on board but did you get involved in the Guam...
HOLDRIDGE: That came to me as a complete and utter surprise, I have to tell you. Dick Kennedy (a close staff aide to Dr. Kissinger) didn't know anything about it either. We had become pretty good buddies on this trip. We went to the Guam Naval Officers Club, and there was a big press conference there, and then out comes the Nixon Doctrine, or the Guam Doctrine, whatever you want. I was astonished. I thought, gee whiz, the internal defense of a country is up to that country itself, the United States will supply the equipment, but it's up to the country concerned to come up with a determination and the manpower to fight its own battles. We would defend, we said, against an external attack, period. Great! So that was another ground breaker for the Nixon administration. The other one being the decision to open up a contact with China, which I may have mentioned to you.
Q: That was in your book. Let's walk around a bit around the area. With the Philippines this Marcos regime was still held in some repute at that time?
HOLDRIDGE: That is correct. They had not gone into martial law. That came the following year in 1970. As far as we could tell, Marcos was a legitimate political candidate. The President, to give him credit, did make an effort to get ahold of Roxas. I remember seeing him in the elevator at the Intercontinental Hotel. The President had his office there. He would drive the hour or so through Philippine traffic to get over there and join us.
Q: Did you have much to do with the Philippines or was your plate pretty much full of other things?