Water Resources People and Issues
Your role is not to make decisions but to bring the critical decisions up to the
top and to present the information in a concise, incisive way so that the folks
at the White House could make an informed political judgment. There would
be one person that was responsible for budget estimates for a major agency.
There were two or three that were handling Defense, Interior, and so on, and
just a small handful in the legislative group. We were not to get out and tell
people how to manage their business. We were there to see to it that they
knew what others were doing and if there were conflicts, the conflicts were
resolved so far as possible at the executive level.
Q: Beginning in 1940 the President began to issue some executive orders dealing
with national defense, and I forget when the War Production Board was
established, '42 perhaps. In any case, how did the coming of World War II
affect the water resources business while you were there in Washington?
A: The water resources activity became less important, of course, particularly in
`41. After Pearl Harbor (I am a Quaker and a conscientious objector to
military service) I told Harold Smith that I didn't feel I should stay with the
Executive Office after the declaration of war and that I would like to go do
volunteer service with the American Friends Service Committee. His position
was that he would not like to see me leave; I could remain on nonmilitary
matters. Under the Selective Service regulations I was doing work classified
as of "national importance. " If the draft board asked him, he would say no.
But if the draft board didn't ask him, I could go ahead. My draft board in
Washington told me they would give me permission to work with the Friends
Service Committee on relief work in Europe, and to consider it as work of
national importance. There was then a legislative stricture against COs
serving overseas, and I therefore was not classified as a CO.
So I left the Bureau of the Budget and in the closing months I worked with
Milton Eisenhower, with whom I had been associated through his being land-
use coordinator in the Department of Agriculture, in setting up the new War
Relocation Authority. I simply was sort of a general utility person to check
out the suitability of prospective personnel for his agency.
Q: What did you do overseas?
A: I did relief work for French children, for refugees, and for people in
concentration camps in Vichy, France.