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A Historical Retrospective:


by Robert K. Olson

·  Introduction
·  The Grady Mission
·  After the Pageantry
·  Aftermath
·  ABOUT Robert Olson

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The Grady Mission: 1947-1948

When Ambassador Grady arrived in New Delhi in May, he came with a strong brief to carry the Truman Doctrine to India, to align India against the communist world, to help to develop the Indian economy, and, of course, to promote American business and political interests. Grady was an old trooper, a friendly and open man who saw his task as getting acquainted, making friends, and disabusing the Indians of their suspicions and uncertainties about American good intentions. It was a dicey job. As the new boy on the block, he had to be very careful neither to defer to the British nor to appear to pressure the Indians. And they were a sensitive lot, all of them—Mountbatten, Nehru, Gandhi, and especially, Jinnah. The American ambassador had to watch his step.

Personally, Grady was an idealist with profound humanitarian concerns. "From my earliest youth," he wrote, "I had a fervent desire to have my life make some slight contribution to the betterment of human beings. . . . The shock of World War I turned my attention . . . to the problems of war and its prevention."1 He was a man who was able to walk with kings but not lose the common touch, to draw from Kipling. These were indeed becoming qualities in an American envoy to post-independence India.

Something of a mystery attaches to Grady's presence during the momentous events surrounding independence. The official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) includes no reports from Grady dated between July 11 and September 2, 1947. The author's own research in the National Archives reveals a similar gap. We can only surmise that the records have been lost or stolen, or possibly are still classified, perhaps pending release of the British archives scheduled for 1999. Fortunately, Grady wrote an account in his unpublished memories, "Adventures in Diplomacy," now invaluable as the only official American eyewitness account available.

Who was Henry Grady? Was he the right man for the job? All indications are that he was, personally and professionally. Professionally, he had a distinguished international background. He was an economist with a Ph.D. from Columbia University who became Roosevelt's chief trade negotiator (Grady was largely responsible for the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act under Secretary of State Cordell Hull). As a wartime troubleshooter, he had been the first American to head the League of Nations Economic Commission, had traveled widely for the President, and was no stranger to India. The summer before Pearl Harbor he led a US mission throughout Southeast Asia and India to locate strategic minerals. In 1942, Roosevelt sent him back to India to head up an American mission to spur Indian wartime industrial production. Thanks to the resulting Grady Report, he was already favorably known in Indian circles. The report itself went on to become the blueprint for postwar Indian industrial development. In later years, when the Middle East was becoming a cauldron of Cold War rivalries, Grady went on to become ambassador to Greece (1948-1950) and to Iran (1950-1951).

In his memoirs Grady wrote:
In the late spring of 1947, President Truman asked me to become the first American Ambassador to India . . . I was delighted to accept . . . . I had acquired a genuine interest in the Indian people and the subcontinent . . . . I sailed for India from San Francisco on May 4, 1947, and arrived at New Delhi in the latter part of June with the thermometer registering 118 degrees. When I left San Francisco, there was no serious talk of a partition of India. But by the time I arrived, one of the first things I had to do was to ask the State Department to arrange for the appointment of an Ambassador to Pakistan.

Grady held that American foreign policy had changed with the Truman Doctrine.
In a word, reconstruction has become our foreign policy. We have learned . . . that if steps are not taken to insure economic stability the likelihood of war will be enhanced and that once war breaks out we will inevitably be drawn in as we were in World Wars I and II. The leadership of the non-communist world has thus been placed upon our shoulders and, consequently, we have assumed great responsibilities in all parts of the world.
Grady spoke well of Mountbatten.
Mountbatten is an extremely personable man and has unusual drive and capacity as an administrator. He has broad knowledge of world politics and economics. [However,] in talking matters over with him I never felt he was profound. He reminded me very much of Franklin Roosevelt, not only in his handsome face but in his manners and technique of dealing with people.
Of Edwina, he remarked, "Lady Mountbatten makes an ideal partner for him and devoted herself to the welfare of the Indian people and was loved and respected as much as he was."

Describing the independence ceremonies, which Grady called "a deeply impressive occasion," he noted that "Earl and Lady Mountbatten [he became Earl as well as Governor General on Independence Day] conducted themselves on the occasion in a manner which reflected the highest credit not only on them but on Great Britain herself . . . ." Later, when he left India, Mountbatten invested Rajagopalachari as governor general with "extreme dignity and grace."
Although it could not have been easy for him, Mountbatten left the investiture hall with his head high and flags flying. Actually, Mountbatten achieved the well nigh miraculous feat of salvaging British prestige in India with the termination of the bitter struggle for independence.

Continue reading Olson: After the Pageantry


1. I draw this and all other quotations, with the one noted exception, from Henry F. Grady, "Adventures in Diplomacy," Harry S. Truman Presidential Library, Independence, MO.

2. U.S. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, Vol. VII, 1947, Washington, DC, p. 178.

3. Richard Alexander Hough, Edwina, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Weidenfeld and Nicolson (1983).

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