Sir Freddie Lochner,
INTERVIEW WITH EDLOE DONNAN - 26/11/95
Q: Can you tell me, what was General Clay like when he was running his office in Germany. What sort of person was he?
A: Well he was a very, very tough person. But he had a brilliant mind. And, he was a great detail man, he wanted to know everything. He didn't want anybody to try to second guess him on anything. He was tough. But everybody respected him for his ability because he worked 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Q: How did he get on with people like Sir Brian Robertson or Marshall Sokholovsky? How did he get on with those?
A: Good. Very, very fine as a matter of fact. He had great respect, for the British. Don Weir, General Robertson. The Russians. He wasn't too keen about the French because the French always made things difficult for him. But all of them respected him. Since he knew everything and he was a great detail man, they couldn't help but respect him. And he was brilliant, he wasn't brilliant at West Point or anything, but he had enough experience with civilians and Washington and they all liked him. And Mr Readman thought the world of him. I was trying to think of, President, Truman's right hand man, I should say President Roosevelt, I can't think of his name right now. But anyway, they trusted General Clay. What he said was always up and above board. With no shenanigans about him. He called it as he saw fit. And if they didn't believe in him, he would quit. He used to resign two or three times every week in the years that I worked for him, which was five years, because he felt that he was right. And the Pentagon building was wrong. And he had Ambassador Murphy, who was a political advisor, to have him along with the State Department. But the General always took his orders from the Pentagon building.
Q: You surprised me when you say he got on well with the Russians. Why did he respect the Russians and how did he get on with Marshall Sokholovsky? Can you tell me something about that?
A: All I know is that at the Allied Control Council meeting, where each one of them took turns in conducting the meeting, which was held once a month. And they got along well and the Russian leader was smart. And he was Zhukov's, Chief of Staff during the war on the move to Berlin. But he was a main guy for the Russian and General Clay respected him. He never said anything that would jeopardise relationship between the USA and Russia. They always happened to say the right thing. And what he said, it usually stood up.
Q: There was one Allied Control Council meeting where Marshall Sokholovsky walked out. Can you tell me about that. Was it a bad tempered meeting? Can you remember that day....
A: It wasn't a bad tempered meeting, it was a very well conducted meeting. And, usually when they ended a meeting at the Allied Control Council, it was always done in a businesslike manner. And the Russian just stood up, went - and he had about five or six of them on the left and the right of him, and they just walked out which was not called for because when they closed the meeting it was always done in a professional manner. And the General just told everybody to stay put cos the meeting wasn't over. So the Russians were the only ones that, walked out of that meeting. I think deep down General had a feeling that something like that was going to happen, a gut feeling.
Q: Did he have any comments after the meeting was over? Did he...
A: No, he just said that, they shouldn't have walked out of that meeting. And, course, that was the first step towards the - the Berlin airlift.
Q: Tell me about the blockade, what do you remember about the start of the blockade and how did General Clay respond?
A: Well I'm sure, and I can remember fully, he never checked with the Pentagon building, where he took his orders. And, he'd call up General LeMay and said General, we're gonna haul coal into Berlin. Coal? General LeMay said. He said yeah, we're gonna keep this city alive. So at that time we didn't have more than, I don't know, maybe 50 C-47s, and, so they started hauling coal. And the General was very cool and collected. He made up his mind that during the Potsdam meeting with Mr Truman, the rest of them, that the American flag was going to stay flying in Berlin. And so he started that coal movement, that was the first thing. And then he finally got some more planes. But, that's how Curt LeMay said, coal? you mean I gotta deliver coal to Berlin? And the General saying yes Curt, that's what we're going to do. And the General was very calm and collected, was no beating on the table or no profanity or anything like that. We are going to keep that flag flying in Berlin and we're going to keep the Berlin people in coal, fuel and what have you.
Q: I gather at one point the General wanted to do more than that. He fancied sending an armoured brigade into - can you tell me about that. How did that come about?
A: The General felt that he could run a convoy of constabulary troops through the corridor, right into Berlin and call the Russians' bluff. But the people in Washington had some reservations about that cos they did not want to start a war. So the General kept flying energy into Berlin by the planes. But he needed more planes in order to keep the Germans in survival. So that's when he had to go back to Washington and ask for more planes.
Q: Tell me about that meeting in July. I believe you were there, yes, with General Clay and President Truman. Tell me how that meeting started and what happened.
A: Well Mr. Truman was asked to meet with General Clay and other officers, General Vandenberg, Secretary of the Army Royal, to come to the Oval Office and meet with him and talk about. So we went over there, and course I sat sort of behind everything, and Mr. Truman started off the meeting, said gentlemen, we're going to stay in Berlin. And course, the President saying that the other officers and so forth couldn't say nothing. So then he turned around and said now you give General Clay everything that he needs to keep that city alive. So they brought planes from Alaska, from the Far East, and C-54s because C-54s were bigger planes and could haul in more material than a C-47. But Mr Truman said we're staying there. And - and so thanks to Mr Truman, the Berlin lift was able to function. But it took a lot of planes and General Turner commanded the Berlin Airlift who was under General Curt LeMay in Weisbaden. So they set it up and they flew planes in there every minute. If a plane miss the air - field, they just kept on going back to Frankfurt or where have you.