March 1, 2000
Eisenhower Library Release of Additional Oval Office Recordings
Washington, DC. . . The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced that the Eisenhower Presidential Library in Abilene, Kansas, is making available on March 1, 2000, cassette tapes of seven dictabelt recordings of Eisenhower White House Oval Office conversations that occurred in 1955. A total of ten Eisenhower Oval Office dictabelt recordings are known to exist; three of which were opened in 1997.
The seven cassettes will be available on March 1, at 9 a.m. (CST) from the Eisenhower Library and at 10 a.m. (EST) from the National Archives Public Affairs Staff in the National Archives Building, Washington, DC. The Eisenhower Library is located at 200 SE 4th Street, Abilene, KS. The NARA Public Affairs staff is located in Room G-5, Pennsylvania Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW. Each cassette will cost $16.00 and be accompanied by a written summary and transcript prepared by archivists at the Eisenhower Library. (Because tape #7 is only two minutes in length, it will be given free of charge when purchasing the set of tapes 4,5,& 6.) The cost of each packet of supporting documents, corresponding to the tapes is $10. Checks should be made payable to the Eisenhower Library. Payment by credit card is also acceptable.
The dictabelts include a January 19, 1955, conversation between President Eisenhower and Representative Frances Bolton [R-Ohio]. The discussions focus on educational matters and the need for self-discipline among American youth. After Congresswoman Bolton leaves the Oval Office, President Eisenhower discusses his upcoming press conference with Press Secretary James Hagerty. China is the main topic of this brief conversation.
Two of the dictabelts record the March 5, 1955, conversation between President Eisenhower and Paul G. Hoffman, Chairman of the Board of Studebaker-Packard Corporation. The discussion centers on Department of Defense contracts and the role of Secretary of Defense Charles Wilson, (former chairman of General Motors) in the letting of those contracts. Hoffman complains that General Motors is receiving more than its share of defense contracts. Eisenhower appears to sympathize and warns of the dangers of an anti-trust situation:
"Remember this, when Standard Oil was broken up. It wasn't that Standard Oil wasn't bringing coal, oil, and gasoline at that time to the people of the United States cheaper than they could get it any other way, but, by golly, the thing was that the only way you could get any coal, oil, or gasoline was from Standard Oil and it was broken up. . . Now the thing is if we keep going on to get the General Motors position you're talking about they're going to be broken up too. . . "
The President also speaks of his desire to create a new position of Special Assistant for Disarmament. He indicates that he wants Harold Stassen for the job, despite congressional opposition.
On January 4, 1955, President Eisenhower had two separate Oval Office meetings concerning the reappointment of Oswald Ryan, a member of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) whose term had expired five days earlier, on December 31, 1954. The first of three dictabelts dealing with the situation at the CAB records his conversation with Leonard Hall, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. As they discuss the issue, Eisenhower states "I'm so sick of that goddamned body. It must have been doing a horrible job or there wouldn't be so damned much fighting." They discuss possible replacements for Ryan at the CAB, and also local Republican election campaigns in Florida, where Hall complains about the need to "find some way of getting control of the Negro vote."
The recording resumes later in the afternoon of January 4, 1955, when Eisenhower greets Secretary of Commerce Sinclair Weeks and Assistant Secretary of Commerce Robert Murray. Weeks and Murray have come to the Oval Office to discuss and defend Ryan's work at the CAB as "long and honorable." Possible successors to Ryan are discussed along with airline route cases before the CAB. Sherman Adams, Assistant to the President enters the Oval Office and disagrees with Secretary Weeks' assessment of Ryan, saying that agency administrators should not permit problems to be put "in the lap of the President of the United States." After his visitors leave, Eisenhower can be heard remarking to his secretary, "If they don't get that damn Ryan thing settled, I'm going to go nuts."
The final dictabelt is a very brief conversation between Eisenhower and two staff members. Secretary Ann Whitman tries to teach the President to operate the dicatbelt machine.
The Dictaphone Corporation of Melbourne, Florida assisted in the recovery the conversations from the original dictabelts that are 45 years old and were recorded on machines that are now obsolete. The quality of the recordings is often poor and large portions of the conversations are indecipherable. These are the only known recordings of Eisenhower Administration Oval Office conversations.
In 1997, during routine processing of the papers of Brig. General Robert L. Schulz, aid-de-camp to General Eisenhower, a staff archivist discovered 38 additional dictabelts. The undated recordings appear to be from the 1950-52 time period, when Eisenhower served as president of Columbia University and later as commander of NATO in Paris. These newly discovered belts, which record conversations of approximately 14 meetings, are currently being prepared for release. It is anticipated they will be opened in late 2000.
For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.