“Peace means so much more than a cessation of hostilities! Peace is a state of mind. It is based on the sense of security. There can be no peace in the individual soul, unless there is peace in the souls of all with whom we must live and work. Jobs for all could well be the first slogan for a just and lasting peace.”
-Henry J. Kaiser, “Jobs for all” address before the Herald Tribune Forum, Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, October 17, 1944.
Although Henry J. Kaiser earned the sobriquet “Patriot in Pinstripes” for his industrial contributions to the war effort during World War II, he was no hawk. Kaiser’s moral compass always aligned with constructive cooperation rather than conflict, and as the war neared its end he looked toward a better new world.One of Kaiser’s campaigns was the United National Clothing Collection Committee, to which President Roosevelt had appointed Kaiser as the National Chairman in the spring of 1945. Kaiser spurred the month-long drive in April – collecting used clothing for refugees in Europe while the war there was still being fought – by saying: “Our people are going to demonstrate their gratitude for being spared from the horrors which have descended on other lands.” Five months later President Truman would ask Mr. Kaiser to repeat his service. His request stated: “I am…calling upon you again to lead the Nation in this campaign to alleviate incalculable hardships which will be endured next winter unless we act without delay. The results achieved under your leadership earlier this year were magnificent.”
Mr. Kaiser also played a smaller role in a much larger endeavor – the creation of the United Nations. Beginning on April 25, 1945, delegates of 50 nations met for two months in San Francisco for the United Nations Conference on International Organization. Those delegates, and their alternates, drew up the 111-article Charter. It was adopted unanimously on June 25 in the San Francisco Opera House and the next day they signed it in the Herbst Theatre auditorium of the Veterans War Memorial Building. Copies were printed by the University of California Printing Services in Berkeley.
The negotiations were challenging and tiring. On May 3, 1945, 25 members of the French delegation took a break and visited the Kaiser Richmond shipyards, and on May 5th a Cuban delegation came to see the famed yards, followed by representatives of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The war in the Pacific was still raging, and the enormous productive capacity of the yards was displayed in full view of our Allied colleagues. The USSR group included Foreign Commissar Vyacheslav Molotov and Ambassador to the United States Andrei Gromyko. The soviets were accompanied by American Ambassador to the Soviet Union W. Averell Harriman.
Historian Stephen Schlesinger, in Act of Creation: The Founding of the United Nations, described this break in the process: “[Secretary of State Edward] Stettinius…took Molotov to visit the Kaiser shipyards outside San Francisco to see the five-mile-long factory where ships were being manufactured at the rate of two or three a week.” And Mark S. Foster’s excellent Henry J. Kaiser: Builder in the Modern American West tells the story of Molotov’s reaction through an intermediary: “Mr. Molotov was profoundly impressed. You gave Mr. Molotov a splendid demonstration of the sources of our economic strength.”
Gromyko (1909-1989) would later serve as Minister of Foreign Affairs (1957–1985) and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1985–1988).
Molotov would become USSR Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1939-1949 and 1953-1956. He served as First Deputy Premier from 1942 to 1957, when he was dismissed from the Presidium of the Central Committee by Nikita Khrushchev. The popular term “Molotov cocktail” for improvised incendiary weapons was coined by WWII Finnish partisans, a pejorative critique of the ill-fated and despised 1939 Nazi-Soviet Non-aggression Pact.
The war had completely destroyed Soviet shipbuilding capacity, and Henry J. Kaiser began discussions with representatives regarding replacement ships and rebuilding of yards. However, as distrust quickly mounted between the two countries those plans evaporated.
Kaiser Permanente will be a co-host at the United Nations Foundation’s celebration of the UN’s 70th anniversary in San Francisco on June 26. Both Kaiser Permanente and the United Nations originated in the Bay Area in the summer of 1945, and share a common vision of a better world, especially in terms of the environment and its role in community health.
Thanks to United Nations Foundation historian Chris Whatley for help with this article.
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