E. Howard Negroponte,
INTERVIEWER: But when Castro arrived there were already demonstrations, the women were out with their pots and pans. There was this sort of first glimmers of protest against this regime not just from the people you would expect if from but from other sectors of the community. Do you remember how you reacted to that, and what you were telling Washington?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I remember that the march of the empty pots I got caught in it, in my car and that that the this was one of the very early signs, this was the housewives of course protesting, the dip down of the economic situation and so that what I was reporting for, as actually as luck would have it, Jack Anderson was able to purloin a copy of one of my earliest telegrams there and so that it is on the public record of what I was reporting at least in that instance and I, it certainly with the situation was complicated.
INTERVIEWER: To what extent was the, how much were you aware of both President Nixon and Henry Kissinger's antipathy to Allende and the regime. Did you go there feeling that your bosses as it were didn't like this regime.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I think that I would have been pretty obtuse if I felt that Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were fond of the Salvador Allende machine. Clearly they weren't.
INTERVIEWER: And were you aware of, at that time the funding that was, that had been for some time and continued to opposition groups whether they be political parties, opposition newspapers, whether they be via various agencies in American government, or by big business interests there.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: The phase in which American big business interests were active, ITT and the copper company and so on, was pretty well over by the time I arrived, so that I had no contacts for example with Henrichs and Borales of ITT and so on, they had long since left. Well not long since, but they were gone. Now the so far as track 2 was so-called. Which was the effort that Richard Nixon told our CIA people to mount. That by the time I went to Chile, had essentially petered out, it was no longer being pursued. Now what was being pursued when I went there, was the covert providing of funds for what the US government regarded as the democratic opposition parties, the Christian democratic parties and the national party and the covert funding to keep the great newspaper El Mercurio afloat. Now that was, was going on, and it was the conviction of the US government that if we did not help the democratic forces at that at the Univers popular, Allende's coalition was making a, a very concerted attempt to drive the opposition press into the ground and the great struggle over the immense paper company that provided newsprint for example to newspapers, was part of the effort of L'unidad popular, the popular unity forces to seize control of the newsprint so that they could withhold it from the opposition press, or they could drive, drive the prices up. And they could by their own efforts of course control both wages and salaries. And they could also control what a great newspaper could charge for its publication and they also could of course largely control advertising, which was falling increasingly in the hands of the government. So that the calculation of the US government was that without some assistance to keep the opposition parties and the opposition press afloat that they now can't stay afloat.
INTERVIEWER: How alarmed were you as you witnessed Cuban and to some extent Soviet influences at work in Chile?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: The, there were quite a few Cubans that were there assisting, the Salvador Allende's daughter Beatrice was actually married to a member of the Cuban embassy. And high level Cuban visits took place. The Allende at one point went to Moscow to try to get very substantial aid from the Soviet government. I believe the Soviets in the first place were finding the, amount of money that they had to pour into Cuba an awful lot, and the Soviets were not altogether anxious to take on a commitment of the magnitude that they had taken on in Cuba and so that Allende returned with some assistance but less than I think he had hoped for.
INTERVIEWER: I think it was on that trip that he also visited the United Nations and made by what are all accounts is a pretty spectacular speech. It is true isn't it, and could you therefore expand a little on it, that you tried to arrange for him to see, either Dr Kissinger or Nixon or somebody in authority on that trip.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I would have liked to have had that happen, yes and I'm sorry it didn't.
INTERVIEWER: But can you remember, how did you, did you propose that knowing that he was going to the United Nations, or did you, had you proposed it before you knew Allende was going to be travelling there?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I, my recollection is not absolutely clear in this regard. I think I knew that he was going to go to New York.
INTERVIEWER: And what was the response, was there a response, or was it just "don't even bother."
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Pretty clear that that was not something that my superiors in Washington welcomed as a suggestion.
INTERVIEWER: Do you think that was unwise?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: I would have liked to have, yes I think that we could have we could have perhaps done more than we did.
INTERVIEWER: So when, with the coming of the economic crisis in Chile I guess that would have been happening already, and the scarcity of food and what we call the vital elements of a reasonable life, like gasoline, bread, flour eggs etc., and therefore the rumors of coup or are the army going to do something. Talk to me a little bit about how you approached your days with this situation-gathering pace, what was it like trying to gather information and report back to Washington about the daily state of affairs?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Well Chile remained an open society until the 11th of September, so in that sense the, the job of embassy officers and my own job in terms of making contacts with people and trying to understand the situation and talking with people I had served earlier in Eastern Europe in both, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union and in both areas, and it was not that kind of a situation in Chile. Now if one is in a position where one can gain information then it became, it becomes a little like the situation of a foreign ambassador in Washington in which there is so much information that you are thrown back on their own resources of perception, analysis and understanding.
INTERVIEWER: And the coup rumors how were you treating those, how were they coming to you?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Every correspondent, everyforeign diplomat, the there were the place was awash in rumors of one kinor another for months.
INTERVIEWER: And from your own people in the Embassy, military attachés and other people, what was their information did they, were they equally unsure of what the army might do?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Well I think that it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that the actual decision to carry out the coup détat on the 11th of September as best we know right now as well, is that it was sealed at a meeting that Sunday which would have been the 9th of September, in General Augusto Pinochet's house. Which means that that this was not a plan that if we had smart intelligence that we would have known the date and that would have known the plans and the circumstances long ahead, that they, they themselves had really made up their minds long ahead.
INTERVIEWER: Because you, you have the unfortunate, sort of various people have written, because you were recalled to Washington, shortly before this date, it always looked like "well the American ambassador went home to discuss with his boss exactly what was going to happen in Chile." Can you tell me about that and why you actually were recalled to Washington.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Well I was recalled to Washington on probably about the 7th of September I think I flew up on Friday and the, this Henry Kissinger had been named Secretary of State he had not yet taken office and he was putting together a team of collaborators, and he was interviewing possible people that he would take onto his team and that included me and he did name me as Director General of the United States Foreign Service. And that was his reason for calling me to Washington. So that, the other thing I would have to say in that regard is that Henry Kissinger is a smarter man than to publicly as Secretary of State designate call the ambassador to Chile and to Washington to hatch plans for a coup d'état, two days before the coup d'etat is about to take place. It isn't the way the world works.
INTERVIEWER: But it is very good as a conspiracy theory.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Yeah, but it was not his reason for calling me out to Washington.
INTERVIEWER: On the day of the coup itself. Do you remember that day, how you heard the news.
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Vividly, we did have intelligence about the plans of the coup plotters, that we, had indications after I, I guess I flew back to Santiago, it was either Sunday night or Monday morning, I forget which, but the certainly the situation was getting more and more ominous and then we did have the possibility of learning something about it. Not because we were in touch with the plotters we were not, and General Pinochet, a Chilean officers are proud men and he said afterwards to Sy Salzburg of the New York Times that "I wasn't going to consult any ambassador, least of all the United States, because this is our business, it's not theirs". But we did learn something about it and made the arrangement that our two actually recently assigned officers of the of the anti-drug international, anti-drug effort who lived quite close to me that they could simply swing by and pick me up. And they did, and so in the morning we drove down and got about oh 5 blocks from our embassy offices, they there was already firing in the streets and tear gas and so on and so forth because of course the embassy is right across the square from the Mondeo palace, which is where the, the presidential office is. So we walked on foot to the embassy and got in and got up to the embassy offices which were on a rather high story in the office building, several high stories and then put mattresses against our windows. because there was a, our windows were being shot out, the glass was being shot out, and watched developments.
INTERVIEWER: What did you see going on?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: A lot of fighting in the street.
INTERVIEWER: Did you see the planes coming in?
NATHANIEL DAVIS: Yes we did, and I guess I am also reminded that my wife and our children were at the house and they had a marvelous view of the of these planes winging over and then dipping down and sending their bombs in to the Mondeo. We were not in a position to see them that clearly but
INTERVIEWER: [Coughs] I was hanging onto that. Are we at the end of the roll?
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