CHAPTER 29

Sniping

In Washington, Undersecretary Phillips called Jay Pierrepont Moffat into his office “to read a whole series of letters from Ambassador Dodd,” as Moffat noted in his diary. Among these were recent letters in which Dodd repeated his complaints about the wealth of Foreign Service officers and the number of Jews on his staff, and one that dared to suggest a foreign policy that America should pursue. The nation, Dodd had written, must discard its “righteous aloofness” because “another life and death struggle in Europe would bother us all—especially if it was paralleled by a similar conflict in the Far East (as I believe is the understanding in secret conclaves).” Dodd acknowledged Congress’s reluctance to become entangled abroad but added, “I do, however, think facts count; even if we hate them.”

Although Phillips and Moffat were disenchanted with Dodd, they recognized that they had limited power over him because of his relationship with Roosevelt, which allowed Dodd to skirt the State Department and communicate directly with the president whenever he wished. Now, in Phillips’s office, they read Dodd’s letters and shook their heads. “As usual,” Moffat wrote in his diary, “he is dissatisfied with everything.” In one letter Dodd had described two of his embassy officers as “competent but unqualified”—prompting Moffat to snipe, “Whatever that may mean.”

On Wednesday, January 3, Phillips, his tone remote and supercilious, wrote to Dodd to address some of Dodd’s complaints, one of which centered on the transfer of Phillips’s nephew, Orme Wilson, to Berlin. Wilson’s arrival the previous November had caused an upwelling of competitive angst within the embassy. Phillips now chided Dodd for not managing the situation better. “I hope it will not be difficult for you to discourage any further talk of an undesirable nature amongst the members of your staff.”

As to Dodd’s repeated complaint about the work habits and qualifications of Foreign Service men, Phillips wrote, “I confess I am at a loss to understand your feeling that ‘somebody in the Department is encouraging people in mistaken attitudes and conduct.’ ”

He cited Dodd’s past observation that there were too many Jews on the embassy’s clerical staff but professed to be “somewhat confused” as to how to resolve the issue. Dodd previously had told him he did not want to transfer anyone out, but now it appeared he did. “Do you desire any transfers?” Phillips asked. He added, “If … the racial question is one that needs correction in view of the special conditions in Germany, it will be perfectly possible for the Department to do this upon definite recommendation from you.”

THAT SAME WEDNESDAY, in Berlin, Dodd wrote a letter to Roosevelt that he deemed so sensitive he not only wrote it in longhand but also sent it first to his friend Colonel House, so that House could give it to the president in person. Dodd urged that Phillips be removed from his position as undersecretary and given a different sort of posting, perhaps as an ambassador somewhere. He suggested Paris and added that Phillips’s departure from Washington “would limit a little the favoritisms that prevail there.”

He wrote, “Do not think I have any personal axe to grind or any personal grievances about anything. I hope”—hope—“it is the public service alone that motivates [this] letter.”

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