Charles Cook Interview:
This is jean McMillen interviewing Mr. Charles Cook at his home Pondfield, 181 Interlaken Road, Lakeville, Ct. He is going to speak about the Institute of World Affairs. The date is Monday, august 15, 2011.
JM:What is your full name?
CC:Charles David Cooke, with no”e”.
JM:What is your birth date and place?
CC:Born in Saginaw, Michigan, April 5, 1924, the only child of Charles Christian Cook and Grace Robins Cook.
JM: Now would you give me some of your personal background, please?
CC:As you know I was born in Michigan, the great state of Michigan, as they would say. I went to public high school and entered the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. My first year after high school which was 1943, I then was enrolled into the Army ROTC at the University of Michigan. Then I was drafted into the service; the process ended up being sent into the Navy because their quota for the day to enroll people into the (Army?) had been filled. My original involvement with the US Army came to an end, and I joined the Navy to see the world.
I can cut short the next few years. I went to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station, north of Chicago at Waukegan, Illinois. From there, after finishing boot camp, I was assigned into their college officers’ training program in the Navy called the V-12 Program. Low and behold I ended up back in Ann Arbor where I had been the academic year before. This was the start of Sept., 1943. I went through the number of semesters that the Navy required there and then was sent to what you might call the finishing admissions school for officers which was midshipmen’s training at, in this case, Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. That was a four month training program after which, if one survived, was given a commission as an ensign in the US Naval Reserve. The last few weeks before we were to depart and be reassigned to some new part of the navy, I discovered that there was a program for oriental language training, and in particular Russian that the navy offered. I knew that the training took place primarily on the East coast in New York City. The footnote there is that my future wife was a student at Juilliard and to get to New York would have accomplished being close to her, as well as achieving my objective of getting into the Russian language program. However, this was the Navy. As I walked into the office of the Lt. Commander Hindmarsh, the one who recruited people for the oriental language program, he looked up and said, “So you want to study Japanese?” The obvious answer was “Yes, Sir” since one didn’t contradict your superior officer. That meant that I’d be sent to their main Japanese language training program in Boulder, Colorado. The University of Colorado also had classes in Chinese, Malayan, and Russian, but I was not to go to the Russian. I was to go to the Japanese. For comparison sake the Russian program was a 6 month program; the Malayan was a 4-6 month program or something like that.
The Japanese program was 14 months and the Chinese program was 16 months. So I could look forward to 14 months of training, reading, writing and speaking Japanese.
JM:What a wonderful experience.
CC:Well, it turned out to be, of course. A life changing experience in many respects; it made me much more aware of the western interests of the United States. I say the western interests because it’s western from Michigan or the East coast. Asia and the Asian war in many respects weren’t as much in the minds of people here in the East coast as the European war was. The European war was winding down; we still had to defeat the Japanese. So I continued in that program which involved one transfer of location to Stillwater, Oklahoma. A decision had been made to concentrate all Japanese training which came from various other places, as well as Boulder, Colorado, into one big group at the Oklahoma A & M, Stillwater, Oklahoma.
This was the summer of 1945; it was hot. I remember taking a shower, stepping out of the shower, and immediately being drenched in perspiration. It wasn’t too long thereafter that the first atomic bomb was dropped, and then the second. Today is the anniversary of all that; today being August 15. Everyone went into Tulsa which is the nearest city of any consequence. We celebrated in the city. Oklahoma then, maybe still is a dry state. That means they do not allow alcohol to be sold in stores or bars. Naturally there are violations of such restrictions. A well-known one was if you wanted a bottle of something, you got a hold of a taxi driver, and he would find one for you. Most of my fellow students had bottles of something or other stashed in their rooms. When we came back after celebrating in Tulsa, we found the University authorities had gone in and cleaned out every single room of its alcoholic content.
The big question for all of us was what happens now? The war is over. There is still a mess to clean up in the Far East. Are they going to need Japanese language officers? They gave us three alternatives: one was to complete our program the remaining number of months that were required for the minimum of graduation, or join something called the Foreign Service of the United States, and thirdly was to take your chances and be assigned to a fleet somewhere, presumably in the Pacific. I made the calculation as did a lot of my fellow students that once we had gone to the fleet, so to speak, we would begin to accumulate the number of points that were necessary to be eligible for being mustered out of the service. I have no idea what those numbers were anymore, but it seemed I would have reached that in a reasonable period of time; I could go back being a civilian and complete my education.
So I was sent off to California where we waited around for a while and discovered that General McArthur, who was in charge of all the Armed forces of the United States in Japan and the area of japan, did not want any more naval personnel sent in. That meant our orders had to be rewritten because we were destined to be flown into Japan and work at what we called civil census; in other words censoring the civilian males which we would be able to do because we would know how to read their letters and so on. Whether I ever felt I was up for that, I’m not sure. In any event that was not in our future
because of General McArthur’s superior order. My group ended up being sent to Pearl Harbor for further dispersal throughout the naval establishment in the Pacific. My lot was to be assigned to the Island of Saipan in the Marianas. We were flown in what are called PBYs-the flying boats that landed on the water and not on land. We flew from Pearl Harbor, Honolulu, to Johnson Island, refueled, and flew out to Kwajalein which is in the Marshall Islands. From there our group was scattered around. One of my buddies went to Guam, another went to Tinian, and I flew to Saipan.
JM:Is this where you got associated with the Institute of World Affairs?
CC:No, it simply turned my interest into international affairs. This is perhaps more that you wanted to record as far as my background is concern. You have to fast forward to after the war. The fact that I came back, once we were all released, we turned to whatever educational institution we wanted to. I went back to Ann Arbor; in one semester I completed all the requirements needed for my Bachelor Degree. I promptly applied to law school and I ended up being able to get into Columbia Law School in New York City in the middle of the year because Columbia had wisely revised its curriculum so that people could go three semesters or a year, instead of 2 semesters with the summer off.
While I was in law school studying, I was beginning to wonder whether I really wanted to be a lawyer. I had one of my classmates sitting near me in the library. He was reading from something called “World Union”. It was a magazine, and I asked him about it. This individual was Sterling Black who was the son of Justice Hugo Black of the United States Supreme Court. He was a good friend of mine at that point. I once went down to Washington with him. In any event, what he was reading was a publication of something called” The Institute of World Affairs”. I asked him about it, and he said, “It is an organization which has a summer program in Connecticut. They raise money to finance it through wealthy donors in New York City and in Palm Beach.” He asked if I wanted to be introduced to them and I said, “Sure.”
JM:What year was this?
CC:This was in the spring of 1948. I met the lady who was in charge of the institute, Mrs. Maude Miner Haddon. She granted me a scholarship to attend her institute or world Affairs that summer up in Twin Lakes, Ct. That was my original introduction to it.
JM:Can you tell me when the Institute of World Affairs started and where it started?
CC:Yes, the institute was begun in the early 1930’, or middle ‘30’s I guess. Mrs. Haddon and her husband were just married in a later stage of life. They decided to take their honeymoon in Geneva, Switzerland. When they arrived this was a time when the League of Nations was very active. The United States was not a member of the League of Nations; it had decided against such foreign involvements. Those who felt the world was a unit thought the US should be involved in all of this, or at least know about it. She persuaded her husband to set up an institute in Geneva that would invite college level students from the United States and from other countries to participate in one big
apartment house, taking their meals together and studying together. The outcome would be that people would get to know the people from other countries and what they were like. They were anxious to be friendly with each other. The institute flourished for several years on that basis, drawing talent or speakers from the League of Nations and from institutions that favored this point of view. They sent their professors to Geneva to be a party to all of it. So many people, who later turned through World War II and afterwards, into prominent personalities in their own countries could trace their origins to this interests back to the Institute of World Affairs. It was called something else at that time; the name it was known by was similar to the name of an organization that was Communist or a Communist –fronted organization. As the war made it impossible to bring students to Geneva, a decision was taken to move the institute to Connecticut. They changed the name to Institute of World Affairs to avoid any confusion with the Communist –fronted organization that had turned up.
JM:What connection did Mrs. Haddon have with this area to bring the IWA to the Salisbury area?
CC:Mrs. Haddon owned a substantial amount of property around one of the Twin Lakes (375 Twin Lakes Road Ed.) In addition, she was very much involved with an organization that was designed to look after what I would call, “wayward girls”. (Hillcrest School for Wayward Girls See O’Hara tape 130). It had a substantial building, a dormitory, a kitchen and dining room and so on. It had pretty well ended its existence and was sitting there with availability. The Institute took it over and made it into the girls’ dorm for the Institute; the men’s dorm was back down the road a bit. We had to walk for our meals to the other place. There were a couple of wonderful old farmhouses on the property; later these were expanded. All our academic work took place in this one area where Mrs. Haddon had her house. She did have another place on another part of the lake. She was very much devoted to this area and to her creation. She also did spend her winters in Palm Beach and to some extent in New York City.
JM:How many students would be at the Institute in Connecticut during the summer?
CC:At the time of my being there as a student in 1948, there must have been about 18-20 students, half of whom were more or less Americans. Then we had people from other countries: South American, Canada, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
JM:What would the seminar comprise? Was it strictly lectures or?
CC: We had an academic director who would start off in the morning; mind you these are relatively young college-aged students. He would take the “New York Times” or “The Washington Post” and go over the main stories of interest in the area of international affairs. He would analyze the story, show people how to read a newspaper article, and consequently they would learn how the article had been constructed in the first place. Then he had prepared a number of subjects for the several weeks in the summer. We were divided up into groups; each subject was to be explored by one of the groups. A good deal of the afternoon time was taken up with students doing research to the extent that they had access to written material there at the Institute. He had tried to limit the areas that we were being assigned to to look into that for which we had source material to explore. He would work with each
individual group for a certain amount of time during the day. He would often times give a lecture on a particular subject.
We were also fortunate that Mrs. Haddon, with her connections, was able to entice leading educators from Harvard and Yale to come and talk with the students, as well as people who were connected with the United Nations. One in particular was Dr. Ralph Bunche who was just recently given the Nobel Peace Prize. He was able to come with his wife and son and spend a little time with the students. He and his boy Ralph Jr. went out in an aluminum canoe. The fore and aft ends of the canoe had air contained in it so it wouldn’t sink. Unfortunately they turned it over while they were out on the lake; they had to fish the canoe back to shore.
JM:What an introduction to Connecticut! How many summers did you attend?
CC:I attended as a student the summer of 1948. The summer of 1949 Mrs. Haddon had decided to temporarily conduct the seminar in Geneva, thereby attracting people back who had gone to it before. It was an alumni seminar. Therefore the summer of 1949, my wife and I took off for Geneva by going on a student ship that the Holland American Line ran. They used old boats that had been used in their Dutch hostilities in Southeast Asia, and these ships were no longer needed. These were hardly luxury ships; the accommodations for the students were bunks, three deep one just underneath the ceiling, one above and one on the bottom. They weren’t hammock, but they were pretty close to it.
JM:It was a little primitive.
CC:It was quite an experience, but we were young and what the heck, it was interesting.
JM:Did they have a Mission Statement or a purpose at the time that you were involved in the 1940’s?
CC: I don’t recall any specific Mission Statement as such; the purposes of it were clear that in the post-war era we needed to learn to live with the other peoples in the world. A perfectly acceptable way of doing that was by taking individuals from various cultures, backgrounds, races and so on and gender and having them spend a summer learning about each other and devoted to a general educational program as I have described.
JM:How did they recruit their various people?
CC:It was somewhat haphazard. The New York office of the Institute had maintained contact with consulates and UN delegations and sought students from the various countries through their diplomatic establishments in these countries. I think it was more through the New York office that anything done in Washington. But in educational institutions throughout the country, we send announcements, brochures; as a result we always seemed to fill the quota of students.
JM:What was the quota at that time?
CC:It was the same about 20, more or less 20. It was a matter of physical housing among other things, and I would say the total size was an important governing feature. By comparison I noticed because I had lived at International House in New York City when I first was in law school, it was a big institution. There were lots of people from each of the different sources, lots of Indians, lots of South Americans, and they tended to congregate amongst themselves. Whereas if you kept the total number down, they had nobody else; they had somebody different from themselves.
JM:How long were you involved with the Institute?
CC:After the summer of 1949, I did come back up in 1950 because my then wife was singing at the Sharon Play House acting in their productions, so it was convenient to zip over to Twin Lakes from Sharon and participate in various events and hear various speakers and so on. My professional life began to keep me from doing any more of it as I get more and more involved with the United Nations. I really lost track of the Institute for several years. Then there were problems of continuity and the fact that there were other institutions that had if not identical, but similar purposes in life. It was getting harder to recruit students and it was costly to maintain the Institute. I was put on the Board of Directors of it by Mrs. Haddon. She still had the ability to control things pretty well, but and I got to know local people who were very much involved with it, such as Mrs. Baldwin and Chico Aller. Mrs. Mary Lou Estabrook was very active with the Institute. I knew her better than I knew Bob at that point.
JM:Such a lovely lady.
CC:The decision had been made to try to sell off some of the agricultural land that Mrs. Haddon owned that would help to finance another year and from time to time. It was hardly a long term strategy because we would end up with nothing but a couple of houses. The decision was taken by the board at the time when I was a member to seek affiliation with some other institution that would take advantage of their liability.
JM:About what year was this?
CC:This would have been I guess the very late 1960’s or early 1970’s. Finally an agreement was reached with an institution based in Hanover, New Hampshire, that had scholars posted around the world doing research who they wanted to bring them back from time to time to have them sit down and write up the results of their research and have a place to do it. They were convinced that the Institute was a place where they could have such repose and complete their creative work, and still conduct a seminar of some sort without interfering with the purpose of the other institutions. It didn’t last for more than 2 or 3 years. Finally it was decided to move the headquarters to Washington, D.C. and to change the major effort into something that was quite different. That all happened after I was no longer involved with it. So I lost track of what is going on up there.
JM:Is it still in existence in some form?
CC:I believe it is in some form incorporated in the District of Columbia, and more than that I can’t say at this point.
JM:Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t asked you about the Institute?
CC: I am thinking. I think it is symptomatic of the world that we live in. It was a reflection of the period between the wars, when the United States was reluctant to be involved. In having fought WW I and that was the War to End All Wars, according to Woodrow Wilson. Then we got into the world-wide Depression and the economics of what was going on in the world affected our attitudes toward foreign trade and dealing with other countries in many respects . Then with the rise of Hitler and WW II we found ourselves dragged into a situation that brought us into the world with both feet. We were responsible for creating the United Nations or trying to make a success of it and fight the Cold War at the same time. The objectives, if you will, of the Institute could still be valid but the world, particularly the revolution in information that has come about in the last 10 or 20 years, has made the sort of group that we had obsolete.
JM:Technology has its place, but sometimes it overtakes the human aspects.
CC:Yes, I guess so.
JM:Thank you very much for your time.
CC: Good luck with your transcription.