Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Robert L. Nichols
Mindanao happened to be a place where there was less of a Huk (Hukbalahap) threat in the Philippines. Today it's quite a different story, but then it was the one area of the Philippines where the threat of the Huks taking over was minimal. I liked the positive programs, and I kept saying, “Let's do some more with the positive programs.” So we got involved in helping what was then called ECA, the AID type of programs of today, working with them information-wise on positive things in Mindanao. And that helped a lot.
Q: The early 1950's were also the time of Senator McCarthy. Did you have some fallout from that?
NICHOLS: Yes, at the latter part of my stay in the Philippines, during the Cohn-Schine visits to the European USIS libraries. They didn't visit the Philippines, fortunately, but there was fall-out. We began to get orders to take certain books off the shelves. I refused to take Howard Fast's books off the shelves in Davao. There were also some articles in certain magazines and we were told to remove those magazines. Again it was something that I just refused to do. I was in a one-man post, and nobody really ever checked up on me. But it had an effect on me, very definitely.
AMERICAN SUPPORT IN MAGSAYSAY ELECTION
This was also a period—you asked me about Magsaysay. Well, he ran for president of the Philippines in 1953, and if ever the United States interfered in a foreign election, it was that year. It's interesting because there was an organization called NAMFREL, National Movement for Free Elections. An organization of the same name was involved in electing Mrs. Aquino here a couple of years ago. But in 1953 we were providing the financial support for NAMFREL, the leaflets were printed at the RPC (our press and printing center) in Manila. I remember being confronted by the mayor of Davao, saying, “The Americans are supporting Magsaysay. They're participating, interfering in the elections.”
I said, “No, we are just supporting NAMFREL, the National Movement for Free Elections. We support free elections.” Well, of course, supporting free elections in the Philippines was support to Magsaysay.
This was also the period when the Philippines became the training grounds for the whole Vietnam experience. Colonel Ed Lansdale, who later became well known in Vietnam for directing the psy-war campaign, was running Magsaysay's behind-the-scenes campaign in the Philippines. So it was a period which predated all of this counterinsurgency type of win-the-hearts-and-minds-of-the-people sort of thing.