No. 462

Editorial Note

In the fall of 1951 President Truman decided to name General Mark W. Clark as Ambassador to the Vatican.

In an interview in March 1976, General Clark recalled that he had been summoned to the White House sometime in September 1951 for a secret meeting with Truman. According to Clark, the President had completely surprised him by stating that he wanted to appoint Clark as Ambassador to the Vatican. The reasons, the President had said, were that Clark was a Protestant and that he had met the Pope at the close of World War II. Clark had asked that he be allowed to think the matter over, to which Truman had agreed. Truman also had requested that their discussion be kept in [Page 1003] the strictest confidence, except that Clark could discuss the matter with his wife and with Myron Taylor. (Memorandum of conversation among General Clark and John Bernbaum and Ronald Landa of the Historical Office of the Department of State, March 13, 1976, 611.65A/10–2051)

On Saturday, October 20, the White House announced that President Truman had sent Clark’s nomination as United States Ambassador to the Vatican to the Senate for confirmation. In Present at the Creation (page 575), Secretary of State Acheson remarked that he had known nothing about the Clark nomination until the afternoon of Friday, October 19, when he had been informed by telephone that Senator Tom Connally had already received the President’s nomination of Clark. The White House statement reads as follows:

“The President has decided that it is in the national interest for the United States to maintain diplomatic representation at the Vatican. He has therefore nominated General Mark W. Clark to be Ambassador to the State of Vatican City.

“During the war, the late President Roosevelt appointed Mr. Myron Taylor as the Personal Representative of the President to His Holiness the Pope.

“During and after the war the Taylor Mission performed an extremely useful service not only in the field of diplomacy but in the amelioration of human suffering. That service is set forth in official correspondence published from time to time.

“The President feels that the purposes of diplomacy and humanitarianism will be served by this appointment.

“It is well known that the Vatican is vigorously engaged in the struggle against communism. Direct diplomatic relations will assist in coordinating the effort to combat the communist menace.

“Thirty-seven other nations have for a great many years maintained at the Vatican diplomatic representatives.” (Department of State Wireless Bulletin, October 21, 1951, page 17)

The White House statement came on the final day of the first session of the 82d Congress; the Senate therefore did not have time to act on the nomination before it recessed. According to Clark, he had first learned of the announcement of the appointment the day before it was issued, when he had been telephoned by a Department of State official, whose name he could not recall, while he was on a trip visiting military bases in the South. Extremely upset, Clark had returned to Washingtron to seek an appointment with Truman. Clark told the President that he was still unsure whether he would accept the appointment since he wanted to look into the effect of the appointment on his military status. Truman had indicated that he would take no action until Congress reconvened early the next year. Clark also recalled that, in the days following the announcement, he had received a great quantity of mail, most of [Page 1004] which had been strongly against the appointment. (Memorandum of conversation among General Clark and John Bernbaum and Ronald Landa of the Historical Office of the Department of State, March 13, 1976, 611.65A/10–2151)

In a letter of October 22 to President Truman, the United States Ambassador in Spain, Stanton Griffis, said that he was delighted at the announcement of Clark’s appointment. Griffis pointed out that he himself had represented Truman in three Catholic countries, “and whatever you or I may think of Catholic intolerance, the church still represents one of the most powerful existing anti-communist forces in the world. This move should be of great help to us here.” In his brief reply of October 30, Truman said that there was “a great deal of ballyhoo being stirred up by some of my bigoted Protestant friends but I still think we will be able to get the Ambassador to Vatican City through. Mark Clark is well thought of, both here and in Italy, and is a personal friend of the Pope.” Copies of these letters are in Truman Library, Truman papers, PSF subject file.