Today’s post is written by Robert Fahs, a processing archivist who works with civilian textual records. This is the second post in an occasional series. For the first post, go here.
W. Averell Harriman, Jr. (1891-1986) played a leading role in President Truman’s Point Four agencies, first as the United States Special Representative (1948-1950) responsible for coordinating the implementation of the Marshall Plan with European governments through the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC); and then as the administrator of the Mutual Security Agency (MSA) (1951-1953).
The son of railroad magnate E.H. Harriman (1848-1909), Averell Harriman advanced through positions in business before he managed U.S. foreign assistance programs. In 1922, he established his own Wall Street banking firm, which in 1927 formed the partnership of Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., where he served as senior partner from 1931 to 1946. Among other ventures, he developed interests inherited from his father, and served as the chair of the Union Pacific Railroad (1931-1946) and the Illinois Central Railroad (1931-1942).
Harriman entered the government of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, working as an administrative officer of the National Recovery Administration (1934-1935) [For example, see: NARA RG 9 Reading Files of W. A. Harriman, compiled 1934 – 1935 , ARC Identifier 1102630]. Briefly during World War II he joined the Office of Production Management [See NARA RG 179: Records of the War Production Board, 1918 – 1947], before serving the alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union, first as the head of President Roosevelt’s Special Mission to Moscow (1941-1943), and then as the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union (1943-1946) [For example, see: NARA RG 84, Telegrams Maintained by Ambassador W. Averell Harriman, compiled 1944 – 1945 , ARC Identifier 1756124]. As a diplomat he personally handled communications between Roosevelt and the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and he attended the “Big Three” conferences between Roosevelt, Stalin, and Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. After the war, President Truman appointed Harriman as Secretary of Commerce (1946-1948) [See NARA RG 40: General Records of the Department of Commerce, 1898 – 1996].
Harriman’s familiarity with Stalin and the Soviet system, as well as his background in business, shaped the roles that he played under President Truman. After serving as President Roosevelt’s envoy to Stalin, Harriman promoted resistance to Soviet political influence abroad, and he advocated the use of U.S. foreign aid to reinforce Western Europe against potential Soviet expansion. Indeed, while Harriman still served as Ambassador in Moscow, State Department Foreign Service Officer George F. Kennan (1904-2005) wrote the historic “long telegram,” which first presented the rationale for what became the American Cold War doctrine of “containment” [For a digital image of the original telegram in NARA RG 59, click here.
Secretary of State George C. Marshall’s speech on European recovery at Harvard University on June 5, 1947 drew Harriman into the process of implementing the call for aid to Europe while he still served at the Department of Commerce [A recording of Marshall’s speech as provided by the George C. Marshall Foundation is available here]. On June 22, President Truman appointed Secretary Harriman to chair a non-partisan committee of 19 business, labor, and academic leaders responsible for reviewing foreign-aid proposals. The President’s Committee on Foreign Aid, popularly known as the “Harriman Committee,” also established a precedent for the private-sector Public Advisory Boards that subsequently advised the Point Four agencies [For an introduction to the PAB records in RG 469, see: Records Relating to the Public Advisory Board, compiled 1948 – 1954, ARC Identifier 1663635].
Harriman argued in committee meetings against granting aid to socialist governments [For Harriman’s views on launching the Marshall Plan, see a transcript of his oral history interview at the Truman Presidential Library]. However, on November 7, 1947, the final report issued by the Harriman Committee explicitly rejected any conditions on economic assistance that would impose “the American system of free enterprise” as “an unwarranted interference with the internal affairs of friendly nations.” The report also recommended the creation of “a strong and flexible administrative organization” to develop a program for European reconstruction (pgs. 4-5).
In response to the Harriman Committee recommendations, Congress and the President established the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA, 1948-1951), effective April 3, 1948, as an agency separate from the Department of State and under its own cabinet-ranked administrator. Furthermore, ECA mission chiefs abroad served independently from the U.S. Embassies, and they reported directly to the ECA administrator in Washington, D.C. With his appointment as the U.S. Special Representative to Europe (1948-1950), Harriman received ambassadorial rank and worked in the ECA’s Paris office directly with David K. E. Bruce (1898-1977), the ECA mission chief in France. From Paris, Harriman oversaw the work of ECA mission chiefs throughout Europe, and coordinated the implementation of Marshall Plan aid with European governments through the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC).
The Korean War (1950-1953) and growing tensions with the Soviets led the U.S. government to more closely link foreign assistance with military security than originally recommended in the Harriman Committee report. On October 10, 1951, Congress passed the Mutual Security Act, which abolished the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) and created the Mutual Security Agency (MSA), effective December 30, 1951, pursuant to President Truman’s Executive Order 10300 of November 1, 1951. From MSA’s inception in December 1951, Harriman chaired the agency’s Public Advisory Board (PAB) [For an example of PAB records under Harriman, see: Public Advisory Board – General, ARC Identifier 1752183]. From April 1951, Harriman administered the new agency as Director for Mutual Security (DMS).
NAMES AND KEYWORDS in RG 469: President Harry S. Truman; Secretary of State George C. Marshall; the Marshall Plan; European Recovery and Reconstruction; W. Averell Harriman; Foreign Assistance Act of 1948; Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA); ECA country missions; ECA Paris office; ECA France mission; David K. E. Bruce; Mutual Security Act of 1951; Mutual Security Administration (MSA); Director for Mutual Security (DMS).