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Interview with Edwin P. Putzell, Jr. [3/12/2003]

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- as March 12th, 2003. My name is Mary Jane Robinson and I am seated with Edwin J. Putzell, Jr., at his home in Naples, Florida. I'm here to record the oral testimony of Mr. Putzell's experiences in World War II to be submitted to the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress. I usually begin by asking where you were in the prewar years. From what you told me you were born, Ned, in 1914?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

'13.

Mary Jane Robinson:

1913. So by the time the second World War came around you weren't the, you know, the 18-year-old. What had you been doing in the prewar years? Let's say, 1936 on.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

1936 on?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yes, where did you position --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

After I got out of law school in 1938 --

Mary Jane Robinson:

And graduated from where?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Harvard Law School. Actually the summer before '38, 1937, I did a daring thing. In those days, I was -- it was the depression era and there weren't any jobs as law clerks available in the big law firms in Wall Street, New York. And on a dare, one night in the spring of '37, I went down there, never having been to Wall Street, took a sleeper down on Thursday night and I walked the streets on Wall Street all day Friday and all day Saturday and to my pleasant surprise I got five job opportunities as a law clerk for the summer of '37.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Was it truly a dare?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And a dare by whom?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

The secretary of the law school who was a friend of mine and had been in a law firm in New York named White & Case and he, allegedly, assumed he knew the market situation. So I went down on this day, on a Thursday night, walked Wall Street all day Friday and all day Saturday, got five opportunities, one of which was with General Donovan, Wild Bill Donovan in his law firm at 2 Wall Street.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Were you looking to be in a law firm that would have something to do with investment situations or what kind of law were you looking for?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I was not interested in the criminal law because I'd had a little experience in that. So I was looking for the civil law field and corporate law and banking and antitrust and commercial law, things of that sort. And as I say, there were five job opportunities. One of them was with Donovan's firm. And since he'd been a hero in this country and in my family's home since World War I, I chose to go there. And he was nice enough to attach -- let me attach myself to him. And there was sort of a father/son relationship which I will always treasure.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Was it a name that you had grown up hearing?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yes, I knew about him in Louisiana.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

He was very famous in those days. He was the only American to receive all of the Medals of Honor this country gives starting with the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum. He got that?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, and he was an incredible guy. He is the only one in my limited experience who had both physical and intellectual daring in one person.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Now usually you see one or the other but not both, at least I --

Mary Jane Robinson:

That's a very interesting comment to say about a person. Both physical and intellectual daring.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, and he was highly regarded everywhere. Being a republican, he was of opposite party to Franklin Roosevelt. They both came from New York State. But Donovan had made three round trips around the world in the late 1930s at Roosevelt's request because Donovan was so well known. And he came back and he said the United States, in 1939, is like a prizefighter going into the ring blindfolded. Because at that time, we had no strategic intelligence, we didn't know the capabilities or the intentions of other countries. And we were ill-prepared for any kind of a situation having just been in and hopefully through, a depression.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right. Had you had -- did your father serve in World War I?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, he didn't. He was an electrical engineer.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Uh-huh.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And he built most of the first electric plants in the south.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did he? And you mentioned that your home is Louisiana. Where were you born in Louisiana?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I was born in Birmingham, Alabama, but we moved to Louisiana after I was about six months old. And so --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Your actual birth date would have been?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

September 29th, 1913.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Well, when you landed that job in Donovan's firm, didn't that seem like the luckiest thing in your life?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, no doubt about it. And when I went back to law school, fellows asked me how did I do it. It was pure luck.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Well, you know, saying that there were no jobs, no clerkships available, when you walked in to these places they obviously must have had openings.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That's why I had five job opportunities.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

It shows you how ill-informed they were at the law school.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Or how little daring.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Not knowing what you're getting into can be daring.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Not knowing can be daring. So did you go right away? You started right away?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I spent the summer before my last year as a law clerk and he asked me to return when I graduated. And I did.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Where had you done your undergraduate?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I went to Tulane in New Orleans.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Okay. Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And that began a 20-year relationship which I'll always treasure.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. When I was here the other day you showed me the book.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And how long has he been gone?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Since 1959.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you feel closer to him even than your own father?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, I didn't feel closer. I felt a different relationship. A very warm and a very affectionate one. He was blue-eyed and had typical Irish personality and he wooed everybody.

Mary Jane Robinson:

With the gab.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

He wooed everybody, male and female. And my affection for him was there, but it didn't -- my -- that with my father was totally different.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Perhaps Donovan was a mentor?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's a good way to put it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So we're, right now you're in the period where things are beginning to rumble in Europe and Hitler is surfacing. And what were you hearing in the United States at the time? Were you thinking we would go to war eventually?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I tell 'ya, our relationship with the British was very close, as you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Uh-huh.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And Donovan was intimate with Churchill and some of the other key people there. And there was a lot of messaging back and forth. So his sympathy for Britain was building. And as the Germans took initiatives, hostility in one way or another, like the Coventry raid and all of that, Donovan's feeling increased, of course. And he told the President this who sent him on those trips I mentioned and then the President suggested that he create within the Executive Branch of the government an office called The Coordinator of Information. And that became the OSS a little later on. About a year later.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So the story of you and the OSS began with Donovan?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. At the very beginning of the COI, which is the forerunner of the OSS, and I was there until the night of September 30, 1945, at midnight Donovan and I locked the office up and walked to his home in Georgetown.

Mary Jane Robinson:

My gosh. Wow!

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I sat through the whole thing.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Well, tell me how you began to become involved in the OSS. Or before we do that, where were you at the time that Pearl Harbor was struck?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I was in the Polo Ground Stadium with Donovan watching the Army/Navy football game and a man came from the White House and said the President wanted Donovan to take his plane and fly down to Washington on an emergency. So we left and went down there. We learned about it, you know, in a couple hours.

Mary Jane Robinson:

A person like Donovan that Roosevelt was calling upon the way he was, had there been any thought that he would have been a secretary of defense or something like that? Because he was really in private practice, wasn't he?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

He was at that point. He had been the Assistant Attorney General in charge of antitrust in the Hoover Administration. His ambition had been attorney general but Hoover didn't see fit to appoint him to that so he then went back to private practice and was in it when Roosevelt summonsed him.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Do you remember having very engaging discussions with Donovan about what might be coming down the road?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I mean, you yourself?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, many, many times.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, it happened often.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

We were quite close, as I say. My office was next to his. I was privy to just about everything that went on.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You were a very young man, though.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I was, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You were still in your 20s.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That's right. And people like Little Bill Stevenson, a fellow who, about whom a book, The Man Called Intrepid, was written, he was the head of British Secret Intelligence and whatnot in the U.S. They called him Little Bill and my fellow was Big Bill. And they came together regularly to talk about what was going on and strategy. And I was fortunate enough to be privy to it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you feel like his closest aide? Were you --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- performing things for him that would have been in that capacity?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, absolutely. And he formed a thing which I called -- which was called a secretariat and I had a bunch of very talented of males and females in it who did everything that he wanted.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Well, all of this is Greek to me, you know, I don't understand OSS or any of it and for anyone that's listening to this sometime, that would be great to establish how you got involved in that.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I had been in his law firm.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And he invited me to go down to Washington with him when the President offered the job of Coordinator of Information. And we set up office in the basement of the White House. Then moved to 25th and E Streets, Northwest, to a public health service building that had been evacuated.

Mary Jane Robinson:

What did it mean, Coordinator of Information? What did that encompass?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, it encompassed the opportunity to obtain foreign-source intelligence.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

There is a fellow named Hoover in those days and he, of course, J. Edgar Hoover, he aspired to be the source of all information. But the President assigned the domestic end to him and his group.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Uh-huh.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And Donovan and the COI, ultimately the OSS, got the foreign end of it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Had there been any thought, because of your age, you know, you were still under 30, were you completely free of the thought of serving in the military?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I was -- I was -- I was a Naval officer.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You were. Okay.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. My wife called me up. We were living in Summit, New Jersey, and I used to go up there on the weekends often when I was in the country. And my wife called me up one day and said, there's a notice here from the draft board for day after tomorrow you're to report. So I went in and saw Donovan. He said, what the hell are you talking about? I can see him to this day, he snatched his glasses, he said, what the hell are you talking about. I told him. He says, you have always tried to get into the Navy. And I had before Pearl Harbor but my eyes had prevented it, nearsightedness. In those days they wouldn't take you. This was before the all out effort, before Pearl, he says, you still want to get in the Navy? I said, yes! So behind him was a bank of phones. One to the President, one to the Secretary of the Navy. He picks it up and he called Frank Knox.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Oh, yes.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Who was a fellow republican.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yes.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

He said, Frank, I got this young guy here, something like this, who is about to be drafted and I want to hold on to him. And can you get him into the Navy?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

So Donovan wrote an address on pad of paper, 16th Street, Northwest, to the Naval Officers' Recruiting Center, told me to get in his car and to get his chauffeur to take me to it. So we arrived at this place and it was on the second floor above a drugstore.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And as I walked up, there was a full Navy captain sitting behind a desk with two telephones and as grim a face as you can imagine because he'd been told to swear me in to the Navy which was totally out of order.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right, he didn't like that.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

He didn't like it a bit. And so I was sworn in. And then I said -- with these two telephones sitting there -- may I use your phone and call the draft board up in Summit to tell them I'm in the Navy? He said, no way. There are two pay phones on the wall downstairs, go use one of them.

Mary Jane Robinson:

He wasn't going to let you take that one. Well, go back for a minute to trying get into the military. At what point did you first try to do that?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, it was early on. I had, may still have, pictures of drilling on Constitution Avenue. I had been to military prep school so I knew a little about marching and squads right, squads left, so they put me in charge of a group of Naval ensigns and lieutenants and we drove up and down there in Washington for a long time. And I had said from day 1 that if I was going to get into the service I would want to be in the Navy. But I also wanted to be assigned to OSS. And fortunately both things worked out.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Why the Navy?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I had sailed all my life and I loved the water. And frankly, the Naval life is quite different than the Army life. And I remember one time flying with Donovan over the Atlantic and we landed on the western-most Isle of the Azores. And we were going to spend the night there and get refueled. And so we had to find a place in which to sleep. And there was the British Army, the American Navy, the American Army, all there. And the American Navy had the finest quarters of all. So we went there.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So that was a good reason for choosing the Navy. I always find it interesting when I speak to gentlemen about what they chose.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And why they chose to do what they did.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I had sailed all my life and my normal reaction would be to that.

Mary Jane Robinson:

What military school had you gone to?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I had gone to the prep school, the New Orleans Academy run by a retired Army officer.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. So you're born in September 1913, you go to Tulane, when it's time to go off to school after having been in prep school, and you went on to Harvard. Had Harvard been a long-time aspiration? Had that been --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- I want to end up at Harvard?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, I, at one point, I thought I wanted to be -- teach at the university level. And I did for two years while I was there. But I observed that everybody who'd gone to Oxford -- I was a Rhodes Scholar so I had the opportunity -- everybody that had gone to Oxford ended up teaching. And having done a couple of years of it I felt tempermentally it wasn't for me at that point. So one day the dean of the law school, he was going back to Cambridge through New Orleans from California and he stayed with us and asked me what I wanted to do. And I said I had this scholarship and it looked like I was going to have to go, but I wasn't too happy about it because everybody I had known who had been there had ended up teaching. I had done a little of it and I just didn't think I was temperamentally right for it. So he said come up to the law school for a year and I'll have your scholarship postponed. So I had nothing to lose so I went up there. Then after a year of seeing the most brilliant legal minds in the world who were teaching or who came there, I decided that was for me. And I never got to Oxford.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Well, to listen to just this much of your story, you've had incredible good fortune.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I have, all the way. More opportunities that were unexpected than you can imagine, and I'm aware of it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right. You're the son of an electrician. You had wonderful opportunities in going to the prep school and Tulane is wonderful and then having someone just invite you to the law school and try it for a year and then walking with daring down Wall Street and running into Donovan.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That's right.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And then having him take to you.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Right.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And then being privy to the inside of World War II.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, it was incredible. It really is as you look back at it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And I'm so grateful. I can't tell you. I literally truly am. I don't attribute that to my doing it. It just happened.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum. Well, when the war began for us after Pearl Harbor, you began to tell me where you were on Pearl Harbor Day. You were on a polo -- at a polo match?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

We were, no, we were on the Polo Grounds in New York. There was an Army/Navy game going on.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Okay.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And a courier came from the White House and told Donovan that the President wanted him to get back immediately, which he did. And that's when he set up the COI.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Can you tell me about OSS to someone who might not know anything about it.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

The Office of Strategic Services was the first effort by this country at unorthodox warfare and strategic intelligence. Prior to that time the Army and Navy had what we call tactical intelligence. That had to do with battlefield operations and the like. But Donovan felt and convinced the President that we had to know what the capabilities and the intentions of other nations were from a strategic point of view called strategic intelligence.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And Roosevelt bought the idea. And Donovan said the other thing that we need to do is to consider what we call an unorthodox warfare sabotage. I could tell you any number of stories of things that we --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Now that it's such a buzz word for us, would that have included biological?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, we didn't do that, no.

Mary Jane Robinson:

That wasn't included?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, no. In fact, in my recollection, it wasn't even thought of.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Huh!

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Interesting.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And we didn't have nuclear either, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

So, no, but there was plenty of other activities involved.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So when was it started, OSS?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, the COI --

Mary Jane Robinson:

With the COI when it all came about?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

COI started in '41, before Pearl Harbor. And the OSS was in early '42, as I recall it. I can't remember the exact dates, but I remember appearing before the -- with Donovan, of course -- before the house committee, led by, appropriations committee led by a man named Clarence Cannon from Missouri. And we needed money, of course. Big money in those days. And Donovan, being the kind of warm personality he was, he got Cannon on his side very quickly and so we got what was called unvouchered funds both from the President, who had money he didn't account for, and then the funds from the House of Representatives, and that's what funded the initial parts of our operation. And after -- I can't recall how long now -- but in 1942, by Executive Order, we moved from the aegis of the President, to reporting directly to the U.S. joint chiefs of staff and did that the rest of the war.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You're a person that's still here that was familiar with Roosevelt.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Sure was.

Mary Jane Robinson:

How would you describe him? personality. He gave you the impression of being an aristocrat. He -- anybody who -- anybody who walked into his office, regardless of party or sex or anything else, was taken by him, just the warmth of his nature. He knew how to approach and hale people.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you like him immediately?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yes, after just a couple of visits, I was quite impressed. Though I never, ever had a liking for him before.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Oh, really? You had a dislike for him?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No. My father was an active republican in Louisiana. I never, I just never cared for him, because ever since 1932, you know, he had been a prominent -- the most prominent democrat.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So had you not voted for him?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I never did.

Mary Jane Robinson:

In all of this, Ned, were you intimidated? You know, you're young, you're so young and you're in the presence of these people. Do you remember being awe struck or intimidated?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I was impressed. I don't feel that I was intimidated. I -- I am what I am.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And sobeit. And I was absolutely impressed by any number of these big-name people. Very much so. I admired them. I did not envy them. I have never envied anybody and I don't to this day. I admire a hell of a lot of people, but I have never envied anybody.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Was that because you're self-satisfied?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, I am what I am and sobeit. And why try -- why be unhappy with myself? I can't change it, you know. And that's been my attitude all my life. And the good Lord has given me unexpected opportunities all the way. And, well, take for example down here. I was playing bridge down in -- we had a house in Ft. Royal that we just completed, playing bridge with three guys, one of which was on the city council. And in the course of it he asked me if I was interested in community activities. And I said, yeah, and told him a little bit of what I had done in St. Louis. And the next thing I knew, without asking me, I was appointed by the city council head of the Naples Airport Authority. Just like that!

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And I spent four years there. And then while there, the principal tenant of the airport was Provincetown Boston Airways which the van Airsdale family owned and ran, John and Betty, Peter's mother and father, and they none of them -- they always sat in the front row of the airport authority. They were the biggest tenant there in those days. And one day he came up to me and asked me if I'd be willing to be Chairman of the Board of PBA, so I said yes. I didn't know a damn thing about running an airline, so I did it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Well, obviously this can't have been good luck. They obviously are seeing something in you to want to have you do all of these things.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I don't know. I can't tell you the answer, but I did it. And life has been so good to me.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I can tell.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

One opportunity has led to another. While I was chairman there, on the second time I did it, two four-year terms with a space between, a fellow named Bill Merrihue, who had founded the Conservancy --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yes.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

-- was in the audience in Miami. He came up and he asked me if I would move over to the Conservancy. So he made me the President of the Conservancy. He had been the founder. I was the second one to run the thing. I stayed there five years. And finally there was a fellow named Steve Swenserude here, then head of the Standard of Ohio, a real nice guy, lived down the street, very wealthy, and he -- I announced that I just couldn't continue on a volunteer basis. That there was nobody in town that would do it eight-hours a day, five days a week for more than five years. So he came to me and he said, Ned, I'm going to set up a million dollar trust with $50,000 a year maturity that will pay you to stay on the Conservancy.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Again --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, pure luck. Pure luck.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Have you ever done anything that you did not like?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, no, I don't let myself do that.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So had you felt that you would have left it?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

The opportunity was so great, as I saw it, and it turned out to be true. So I ran the thing and then one thing led to another. My wife was one of the founders of the community school here, and we met -- and I knew several of the other founders, and one of them asked me to -- at that point, I was going to do something. Anyway, some little community service. We were headed for Europe, I remember very well, we were coming to the airport, the two factions here asked me to do it and I said, well, I'll talk to my wife. They said, well, we want you to for mayor. And I said, I've never been in politics before or since. And before I asked my wife, who I knew didn't want to get involved in public affairs and never has, really, a number of conditions have to be met. And they said, what are they? I said, well, the first is I not have any opposition because you guys are asking me to run.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right, and you don't want to fight for it.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, I wouldn't do it. Next was that the media support me. Next was I get somebody who knew something about political-- [END OF TRACK ONE, BEGIN TRACK TWO]

Mary Jane Robinson:

Something about politics.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

-- media.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And then the next, media, political.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Media, political, all this before my wife I would ask her. Because I'd never been in political life and she never had and it never dawned on me, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

So I remember so well what had happened we were heading for Europe. I told her all this had occurred and wondered how she felt and we talked it over and she said, as long as you don't involve me, I don't want to -- I think it's if you're going to do it do it on your own but don't expect me to go to evening --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Be the first wife.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That's right. And I agreed to that. And she wasn't.

Mary Jane Robinson:

She sounds like me.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, she had no interest in it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Go back. You made a comment a few minutes ago. You said all of these people that I met firsthand back in the '40s because of your association with OSS and Donovan. We mentioned Franklin D. What about Eleanor?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I sat next to her on an airplane once flying from Washington to St. Louis and I'll never forget it, we finally got into conversation and she was very interesting. And despite her nonbeauty, she was attractive.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yes, probably totally engaging.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

To have that kind of intelligence.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, very savvy. So it was, what, a two, three hour flight but I was impressed.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Do you remember anything you talked about?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, I don't at this time. It's been a long time, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah, She was quite a lady.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I don't think the average American today who has grown up post war who really appreciates either one of them.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Who else were those people that you mentioned as being the big names, who else made an impression?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, the two Dulles brothers, Allen and John Foster were very impressive. General Arnold, Hap Arnold, very impressive. General Marshall. Oh, there are any number of them. And I was so blessed, you see, to be in a position to run Donovan's errands for him. And I got to know Alger Hiss.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Eisenhower. Eisenhower?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I didn't know him. He was overseas.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum. What did you think when Pearl Harbor occurred, personally, what were your thoughts?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, naturally as a warm-hearted American, I was just taken aback and shocked and felt we had to do everything we could. I had been with Donovan before Pearl Harbor when he went out to Honolulu and then to Hilandia which Mac Arthur was landing at and that's quite another story. But while at Honolulu, he stayed in the residence of General Short. Short was the General and Kimmel was the Admiral when Pearl Harbor occurred. And so I heard their versions of what happened and that really sank in with me because they both, you know, were reviled and ridiculed here in the U.S. and relieved of duty. And from what I heard it sounded like a very unfair treatment.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Well, I think it would be really valuable to share that, if you can share that, what their version might have been that wasn't known by the American people.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, they were promoting preparedness and were meeting deaf ears. It's just that simple.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So they were seeing it coming?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, they felt so. You see, they knew that the Japanese fleet was on the way and it was doing, as I recall it now talking some 60 years later, as I recall it, while they were headed, the fleet was headed, I think it was north/northeast, toward, if they'd kept going it would have been toward Alaska, he suspected, or they suspected that they had to get ready to protect Hawaii and ultimately the Pacific coast of this country. And they were given no aulsrume (sp). People didn't take them seriously enough.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And they were relieved of duty?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Were they reassigned?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Well, they retired.

Mary Jane Robinson:

They left?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

They never came back, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Did they ever, did they ever get restored once the facts came out?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I don't recall it if they --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Because that would break a man. That would kill a man.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, sure would. I don't recall it. It could well have been. But I don't know whether, if I had been in his shoes, whether I'd have wanted it, you know, when the facts came out. They spoke for themselves as far as I'm concerned. But you never know. I wasn't in their position.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And grave as all of it was, it had to have been a very exciting time.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, it was.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Unbelievably exciting.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, in many ways the same way, you know, for people in it, it's just so memorable.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I worked with, it seems, more men who were in the Pacific Theater for whatever reason and this past summer I interviewed a great guy who was on deck when the peace was signed. He was on the MISSOURI. And he gave me a lot of insight into the Navy's thoughts about MacArthur. And he said that they were all incensed that MacArthur came on board, Dugout Doug, instead of Admiral Halsey and did the signing. But he said once that man got on board he had so much command --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And charisma.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- and felt it was right. But when they knew it was going to happen, he also told me MacArthur used three different pens and he did that because his wife wanted one --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No kidding.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- that the peace was signed in.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That's interesting.

Mary Jane Robinson:

This is Jack R.L. Williams. He's in Windermere. Great guy.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I'll be darned.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And I only share his name because right after we did it he did something for the radio

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, good.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So he's come out.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, good.

Mary Jane Robinson:

But anyway, it's amazing what you learn of little things like that that were going on --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That really are insights into personality.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- to people, with all of that. So what were your responsibilities then? You knew right away that something was going to happen after Pearl Harbor. What were you motivated -- what was your role, what were you doing? You said you were running errands but you're not running errands. What were you doing?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, you know, I happen to be a very warm-hearted, patriotic individual and I feel very strong about that. There are things happening in our times now that I think aren't being dealt with adequately, tough enough, penalties, penalty wise. And, of course, the minute, right after Pearl Harbor it was all out gung-ho as far as I was concerned. There was just no question about it. And my wife had to be accepting of it because I just told her that I felt I was like every other warm-blooded American, obligated to do what I could for my country.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And it meant that you would be away from home?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah. That's right. That was one of the parts of the discussion. And my daughter was born in '42, so my wife knew, she was pregnant then, and it was tough for her.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Were you in uniform?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yes.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You were in your Naval uniform?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, sure was.

Mary Jane Robinson:

If I understood correctly you had met Donovan when you were in New York?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, I worked in his law firm.

Mary Jane Robinson:

But when this happened were you still in New York with Donovan? When Pearl Harbor was struck, you were still --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Okay.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah. And this is just an aside, but years later when I was over standing by Roosevelt while he read this "for eyes only" paper, I lifted up the jacket of my Naval uniform to get my watch out of the fob pocket, because that's what we had to do in those days and he saw my Phi Beta Kappa key and he said something like that he always envied it or whatever. So I wrote to William and Mary where they founded it and recommended he be given an honorary. And you'll see that early photographs during his era he had a gold chain with nothing on it. But once he got it, it was hanging right here.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And was that one of those -- did he ever know what you'd done?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No. And no need to, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

No. But what a pleasure for you personally.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

It really was. And he deserved it, in my book.

Mary Jane Robinson:

When we knew we were going to go to war with the Japanese, were all of you who were privy to more than that aware that we would be heading to Europe soon?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Actually, actually, there was a 40-destroyer deal, do you remember that?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Tell me about that.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, what happened was, the merchant ships which were headed for Britain and for Russia for the Murmansk or whatnot were being torpedoed right and left by the German submarines, and the British said they needed 40 destroyers in order to protect the transports and all that.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And there was a fellow who was in charge -- who owned the Chicago Tribune named McCormick who was a very conservative, well-known republican. And he was a friend of Donovan's. And he asked Donovan for help in getting the public sensitized to what was happening. And they felt that it was going to get worse rather than better. So Donovan said, sure. And because of his relationship with Roosevelt, things moved on from there very quickly.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I think, at least in my experience, and I really feel this way, that the people even in my generation, and I just turned 50, we didn't have any idea --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- even in our history books, that the U-boats were up and down the coast off of the United States. That they were off the shores of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And, you know, some landed, a U-boat landed on Long Island, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And they were using -- I'll never forget one vision where there was an amusement park in New York and they used, the lights from this park perfectly silhouetted those merchant ships. And --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Coney Island, was it?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah, they'd sink them off of that silhouette --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah. Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And I don't believe that any of us really knew the danger we were in here.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, we didn't.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And what was being lost. And I guess we were truly woefully unprepared.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

We were, mentally and materially.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you sense any concern ever amongst the people that knew what was going on real trepidation that could we handle this?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, I tell you the truth, the determination, the optimism, the grit was all there. They just wanted to get geared up at the fastest rate and take them on, they really did, and save England which was a big motivation.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, I think, typical of American personality, they were aggressive or thought aggressively in terms of doing something with an opportunity that had been thrust upon them.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Well, what you have that's different than anyone else that I've interviewed, you had knowledge that others didn't have. You were behind the scenes where vital things were being discussed. And carrying a lot of information that no one should know.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

That's true.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So when you were gone from home, I know that you weren't serving overseas or in the Pacific, where did you find yourself?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I spent a lot of time in the European Theater.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So you were overseas?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Okay.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

We, in fact, I remember very clearly, flying with Donovan in his plane and it was at night we were going across the Atlantic was the first time, and the two of us sitting in this plane, all the windows had black curtains and there were two pilots and just the two of us rattling around in back of it. And we had the curtains drawn. There was a bright moon shining on the water below. And all of a sudden there was this tremendous hit and I thought, oh, my Lord, we hit the sea. The plane has hit the sea. Turned out we had hit the western-most island of the Azores.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You actually had?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You were landing?.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, scared the daylights out of me.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And that's where the big meeting is going to be this weekend.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

President Bush, they're all heading there for this summit or whatever they're doing. I just heard that on CNN.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, it was quite an experience. And we went from there -- I won't go into all of the details. We had some interesting times there.

Mary Jane Robinson:

But, yes, go into the details.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, well, there were British on the island as well as American Army and Navy units. And, of course, all traditionalists they didn't know what unorthodox warfare was and so we would have opportunities where Donovan would, or I would to a lesser extent, get up and tell them what we thought could be done to engage in psychological warfare in an effective way. And they all liked the idea but it was totally novel to them. And we then went on from there and hopped over to Algiers where we had a big base outside the City of Algiers with God knows how many GIs packing canisters of food, medicine, communications equipment, counterfeit money, camouflage, you name it, which we dropped to the groups, resistance groups behind the lines. And then we went from there to Sicily and from Sicily on to the mainland. And went on up -- I'll never forget being in Anzio and Mark Clark, General Mark Clark and his group got into such a bloody fight. I was -- we were there then, and we worked our way up past Anzio and all the rest of it. And Mount -- what was name of that place? I've forgotten now. But the Germans were looking down on the Americans. It was brutal. And eventually we landed in Rome and the airfield was full of German planes still burning. The Germans in retreating so recently before our occupation had set fire to their airplanes and they were still burning.

Mary Jane Robinson:

The Germans were really something, weren't they?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you know about Normandy, all about that and the invasion?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

You mean beforehand?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, I didn't. I knew -- I didn't know the location. I knew they were gathering the troops. And there was a code name for it that I was aware of. But I didn't know the precise location. But having been there since, I can see why they did it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I interviewed a woman just doing her life story and she had married a Frenchman after the war who had also served in the U.S. Navy. And they went back to execute the Marshall Plan for GE and she said -- this was 1947, 1948 -- and she said that she would take her two small children to the beach at Normandy and they'd play on the beach and they'd have picnics and the children would run up and find the bunkers overgrown with dune grass. And it seemed like such a sacred place for that kind of simplicity that when she was speaking of it I thought to myself, I don't think I could do that. Go and have --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

It's very moving.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And run along and play in the water. I'm not sure I could do that.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I don't know that I could either.

Mary Jane Robinson:

No.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And if you go up on the cliff and go to some of the cemeteries with a chapel and rows of crosses as far as you can see, just straight lines, it's moving, I've got to tell you.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Overpowering.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

It really is.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I can't imagine just running in the waves. It just wouldn't be something --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No, not for me, I'll tell you.

Mary Jane Robinson:

No, very difficult. I want to know if you're willing to share the type of psychological warfare that you were talking about?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, we did a lot of things. For example, we would get a newspaper from a village from which one regiment or one company or whatever came and we would take that newspaper and, in effect, delete one of the leading articles on the front page and replace it with one that said that there was some sort of an epidemic at home or fires were killing people, burning them all alive, something to get these people all excited, the Germans, and we added on to it that if they wanted to go back home to come across the line with the article and we would see that they would get back home.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Who was the brain behind it?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

There was a gal Barbara -- I'd have to look it up. But there were two or three people. There was one guy who deserves a lot of mention, his name was Harry Murray. And he was a professor of psychology at Harvard. And he first established what we call the Assessment School where everybody who was going overseas, male or female, had to be tested emotionally and physically and they had a staff of people who were trained to frustrate you so that your reactions could be observed. And it was the beginning of some of this that has been in effect later on in this country. But Murray started it. And we all had to go through that school. And a lot of people were weeded out, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I've never heard this, that there would be psychological testing.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

It seems like such an obvious thing. But I --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, sure, both physical and psychological, yeah. Oh, I remember well these two guys that every damn time I would tie two bamboo poles together they'd find some reason for breaking them and we'd start all over again. And of course, I would start cussing at them or doing something.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you know what they were doing?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, I found out pretty fast.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You figured what they were doing.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, there are too many of them going on, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

But there were probably -- there were more than the example you gave me.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Umhum.

Mary Jane Robinson:

What else comes to your mind as a psychological --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, well, again, the rumor factory was all over the place. For example, very infectious diseases were being spread by the Germans.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And among the Germans.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And among the Germans, yeah, and things like that. There were all number of items that would upset you and make you concerned about your own and your fellow man's welfare.

Mary Jane Robinson:

My 12-year-old asked me a good question the other night and I think you'll be able to answer it: When we captured that secondhand man to Bin Laden, and we're talking about how they would get information, he said, do you think that Americans torture people for information? Does America --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Are you talking about physically or --

Mary Jane Robinson:

In any way, when interrogating an enemy.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I don't know whether it's done deliberately, but if you keep questioning somebody, sooner or later I think, I think he's going to suffer from it. And it's human nature, you know, you can resist things so long but if you're sitting in a room with a white light hanging down on you and two or three guys are questioning you one after another for two or three hours, I would think that sooner or later it would get to you.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yes. But not pushing toothpicks up fingernails and smashing hands--

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, no. Oh, no, no. I don't think anyone that I know of ever thought of doing that.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Because it's what we see and hear --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. And I don't put it beyond others, but I just, I just can't visualize an American doing that.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. It doesn't seem that it's something we could do.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

No. It's not the American style, you know? We have a personality, a national personality that's different from others, thank God.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Did you then see your mission as bringing alternative ways of fighting --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

-- to people.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

That was your mission in the war?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

We, well, we -- we, Donovan and finally the President, everybody was convinced that unorthodox warfare was as important as the troops standing against each other in trenches or whatever, on battlefields, that because of the effect of psychology on one or two people into their own larger group, that it was terribly important. And again this was Donovan's thesis which is why he was asked to do it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

How old a man was Donovan at this time during World War II?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I forgot now when he was born, but that was, World War II was in the '40s, he had to be in his 50s. He died --

Mary Jane Robinson:

So he died early then?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yes. Well, you see, he had been wounded so many places during the war, World War I, he had plates, silver plates which they put into him all over him. And --

Mary Jane Robinson:

What -- go ahead.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I was just going to say he was an incredible man. He had an apartment on Beacon Place, New York, and I'll never, ever forget walking into his little room he had apart from his family's, on a military cot, he was lying on his stomach, and a pillow propped up and a book on it. In his left hand was a telephone and on top of him was a masseur and all of this was going on at one time. Reading a book, turning the pages, talking on the phone.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Multi-tasking. It must have been fascinating for you to read that book.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, it was.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did it capture him?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

To a certain extent, I'd say.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Were there things in it you thought were wrong or that they left something out?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I felt that things could have been added. Little anecdotes, little experiences. But, you see, I told you I knew the guy that wrote it and he came after the event. He didn't live with it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right, right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

So recreating it is totally different.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Were you called upon in any way to offer your knowledge for that book?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. In fact, didn't I tell you? I had him over here fishing down in the 10,000 islands.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Okay, that escaped me.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. In fact, he -- well, we can't get it now -- but, in fact, I think he autographed the book to that effect.

Mary Jane Robinson:

There was an autograph in the front. I did not read that.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, was-- oh, yeah came over here two or three times.

Mary Jane Robinson:

What I'm not clear on is the chronology of that period. Pearl Harbor happened and then you're in the United States working on the OSS mission. Then you're in the European Theater. Was that for a short while or were you there for a long time?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

I went -- I was back and forth a good bit. I can't tell you the time spans now, but I remember I was over there in Italy, actually, and Donovan sent for me, sent a message to get the hell back. And I did and then he and I flew back over there. So it was, it was, you know, there were intervals between.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Was, though, what you were introducing to them, were they always receptive?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, the groups we worked with were. There was the Vichy French, you know, who are antiAmerican. They had aligned themselves with the Germans. But they really disappeared quickly when the allies began moving in, I think, both from the south, from the Mediterranean as well as from the Channel. And I think they realized that their time was up. So they began trying to switch colors pretty quickly, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. What about the effectiveness of the alternatives, did you have any way of knowing if the psychological warfare and the ploys that you were seting upon were effective?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah, some of them were. We had Marlena Detrick who sang to them and she got letters galore from them. This gal I was telling you about who was doing the psychological warfare down south, I wish I could remember the name, Barbara something or other, she told them, you know, that these newspapers with coupons in it from their own town or site were going to be infiltrated, to cut them out and come through the lines, and they did. And, oh, her--the figure 600 stands in my mind from one village. Oh, it's---- quite effective.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And you mentioned Marlena Detrick, what was it that she was doing?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

She broadcast to the Germans and sang. And appealed to them that they were on the wrong side.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Huh. Is that so? What a thing!

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. And you saw results?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, absolutely.

Mary Jane Robinson:

You knew it was --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

All the psychological warfare I was aware of sooner or later produced results.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Was there "the most" effective? Was there--

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, that's kind of hard to measure from where I was. Maybe those who were testing it, monitoring it, evaluating the results could tell you, but I wasn't involved in that kind of thing.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And what about the Pacific, what was going on there with what you were doing?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I went over there with Donovan on several trips. He -- there was a general, and I'm trying to remember his name now, who had the 14th Army based in India. I can't think of it at the moment. MacArthur was over there, of course, and Donovan and MacArthur had been friends. [END OF TRACK TWO, BEGIN TRACK THREE]

Mary Jane Robinson:

Talking today you said Donovan was one of the only ones who had received every medal, every citation. What is every one of them? What would he have received?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, have you seen his photograph?

Mary Jane Robinson:

I only saw it on the photo you showed me.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Uh-huh.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

The--oh, Lord the next one is, uhh -- Distinguished Service Cross. The -- oh, geez.

Mary Jane Robinson:

The Silver Star, the Purple Heart --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, all that. Everything that America gave. There's one, though, right under the Congressional Medal that I was trying to remember. And it will come to me, of course, at midnight. But he got them all.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Were you also friendly with his wife?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So you knew --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, I lived with them at one time.

Mary Jane Robinson:

So you knew members of his family also --

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Ruth. Oh, yeah, I knew of their relationship and I knew she loved to sail. She went around the world seven times. And but she was not -- she didn't get involved in officialdom at all.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Somewhat like your wife.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, yeah.

Mary Jane Robinson:

They were similar, yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah, she just didn't want to be involved in it. She did host dinners. I remember one time we were at dinner and all these important people, Donovan had a table that sat maybe 14, and he had an Army sergeant as his butler and this guy had a white napkin on his arm. Come time to clear the table, he piled up each of the 14 main dishes and on top of that all of the salad plates, and he gets halfway out and there's a crash.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Oh, no.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And Mrs. Donovan exploded. It embarrassed the daylights out of him. It embarrassed, she felt. Not a damn think she could do about it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you lose people that were close to you?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Did I do what?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Did you lose friends in the war?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Lose friends? Oh, you mean because of the war?

Mary Jane Robinson:

Because of the war.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, of course you do. In fact, there's a cemetery in Southern France where a number of my friends are buried. They went ashore in Hyton (sp) and they were just slaughtered. Oh, yeah. And I had several guys out in the Pacific who lost their lives, a couple in China, behind the lines in China. And --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Go ahead.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, I was just going to say I've got a friend who lives in St. Louis half the year and the other half of the year in France but he was behind the lines in China with the Japs and that was quite an experience, too.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah. Now, we knew that we, had the European war won as we were getting into the '44, '45, I guess, or after D-Day. And do you remember thinking that the Pacific Theater was something we were going to continue with for quite some time and, what, did you have any knowledge of the bomb?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

The answer to the bomb is that there was a thing called the Manhattan District which was dedicated to creating the American atomic bomb. And the general running it -- it was very secret, by the way -- the general running it was a good friend of Donovan's and he asked Donovan to find out where the German atomic bomb development stood at that point in time because he felt we were in a race with them.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Truly?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Yeah. Absolutely. And there's a place called Penamonde in Germany, still is, I guess, to which heavy water made in Norway was sent and they used it on the V-1 and V-2 missiles that they ran in to England, Coventry and all of that, and where they were developing their atomic bomb. And we found out that they were way behind us. But we, for that reason, we knew about it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yeah.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Big secret, though. Oak Ridge, there was a laboratory at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they were developing some of the uranium, refining it or whatever, I remember that. And then there was a lab in Dayton, Ohio, which was involved. I have limited knowledge.

Mary Jane Robinson:

But I am imagining you thought it was the right thing?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. You know, human civilian life is going to take a toll no matter what. Right now over in Iraq I'm sure that despite every effort human beings are suffering.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

You know, innocent people. And it's one of the tragedies of war. And when they hide soldiers and artillery in a residential area, as they do so often, they're just encouraging it.

Mary Jane Robinson:

I'd like to know when you found out about the Holocaust and what your reaction was, and do you believe that -- all the men that I've talked to who were on the frontlines and so forth, they all say to man that they truly did not know what was going on until they went in and began liberating. Was there any knowledge of it among those who knew everything such as yourself and Donovan and the President?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Well, we knew, we knew that there were trains of Jews who'd been collected, shepherded, and who were going to their ends.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

lot of them were cremated or burned, you know.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Yes.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And we knew of some of the prisons over there. That knowledge was in Washington. Some of the details I didn't know. But there were those who knew a lot more of it than I, I am sure. Like for example, what unit was running a camp that they went to, and a lot of things I wasn't privy to but I did know the general facts of the Holocaust situation and, of course, for those of us who knew it it simply was fuel on the fire against the Germans. And some strong feelings about it. A gentleman named Ralph that I talked to, and I thought this was great, he was an officer in the vicinity of Dachau and the commanding officer who went and liberated it, sent out an order for every officer in the United States Army that was nearby to report there and he assembled them behind the gates of Dachau and Ralph said that he said, "this is why we fought this war, don't ever forget it." And I felt so good that that was said and that's the way that was handled. And I wish the succeeding generations that have been born after World War II learned about these things. I think that, unfortunately, the World War II is now ancient history, and that's too bad. [Telephone ringing.] Excuse me, a second.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Let me unhook you, Ned.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oops. yeah, you better.

Mary Jane Robinson:

There you go. [Interview interrupted by a telephone call.]

Mary Jane Robinson:

We were talking about the Holocaust. And because of all of your life experience, Ned, do you really believe that there is more evil now than there was then or is it that we know all about it and we have dramatic stories about it? Is it really that this world is worse for my children?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

In one sense, yes, I think so. But I think one has to realize that human nature is pretty much the same. We have hates, we have likes. Our emotions, I think, are the same regardless of generation. Now different, there may be different things that excite one's emotion. But the human being, I think, has progressed very rapidly in the technical fields of life, but not in what I'd call the social fields. And I think it's regrettable but, you know, in this country technology moves so fast it's hard to keep up with it emotionally and what I call socially. I tell you one thing: I think the need for leadership in this country in the future is going to be so great because again, as I may have mentioned before, for me, everything flows from the top down. And without good leadership, the masses aren't going to be able to handle it. The big question to me is and has always been, do times create the leadership or is leadership there and just there and available when the times get tough? Now, you take this thing over here -- over there in Africa now. The Middle East. You've got a guy who is President of the United States and you can only pray that this fellow's policies are going to be in our interest because we're all subject to them. We have no -- we have no influence as far as I'm concerned. And as far as children go, I don't know, I think it's so important to learn that all human beings are the same regardless of color, race, creed or anything else. They have the same emotions. They all want to live. They all want to have families or whatever. And I think one has to learn, to allow one general, to accept that reality around the world they're fellow human beings. And the fact that their skin is dark, their religions are different, doesn't really matter. We have extremists here in this country and in the Christian world just as there are extremists within every other faith and area, but that doesn't mean that the mass of mankind is that way.

Mary Jane Robinson:

There was an article in the Jerusalem Report last summer and in it a man named Amos Davidowitz wrote a letter and it was much like an ethical will to his children. And he said what you're saying in that he said that Palestinians and Israelis don't want to kill each other. He said the importance of this whole issue is that our children can't sleep at night and their children wake up every day in fear. And that was the bottom line, that we really just want to live.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Exactly. Exactly.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And he brought it down to that basic of our children can't sleep at night and theirs wake up in fear and that really is the very bottom.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

It is. It is. And I just think more people ought to understand this. I really do. And let some other emotions subside. Let these take second place.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Well, I always like to end with do you have a most memorable good moment of those years where there was a time of great celebration or something wonderful happened? The end of the war, the bomb was dropped. Does something come to your mind in that period of '40 to '45?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Oh, okay. '40 to '45.

Mary Jane Robinson:

A very big moment for you.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Right. That's a good question. I think the time we overcame Hitler and Nazism was, to me, the greatest moment. Mussolini was nothing. And then Hitler and his group disappeared. So did the Italians. In the Far East, Chiang Kai-shek took off and went to Taiwan, you know. And I was over there once and I didn't seem to have much feeling for him. He didn't impress me. But I think that bringing to a close the European war with the Holocaust and all the other blood-letting that occurred and sorrow and heartache, hardship, you know. --

Mary Jane Robinson:

Misery.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

-- oh, I don't think the average American realizes it. We have been protected by two oceans. We've been safe. We've lived, until recently, we've lived a very comfortable life and we don't really know what it's like to be invaded, have my village taken over, occupied, run out of your home, have some enemy sleeping in your bed and using your home.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Right.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And we just have been so blessed as a people.

Mary Jane Robinson:

And that's why where we are now is so difficult for us, we all feel violated.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

And this is why leadership is so important.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Umhum.

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Because they've got to communicate with the average person.

Mary Jane Robinson:

For the record, because personal history affords such a wonderful view into world history, for the record, we could be on the eve of the next great war. Do we have the leadership?

Edwin P. Putzell, Jr.:

Time will tell.

Mary Jane Robinson:

Diplomat! [Laughter]

 
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  October 26, 2011
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