Mills, Scott - Oral History Interview
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After three years in the Navy, Mr. Mills came back to Grinnell College in Iowa for his senior year of college. When he was in the last weeks before graduation, he looked in the administrative office and saw a poster for SAIS. He decided to check it out even though he wasn’t sure what he would be doing next year. He wrote SAIS a letter to SAIS and that’s he got there. Mr. Mills remembers that the students met at a big house on Florida Avenue and found out soon that most of the students lived there and ate there too. Mr. Mills was assigned a roommate from Puerto Rico whose name was Angel Gonzalez. They soon ate together and got acquainted with each other. It seemed to Mr. Mills that there were only 35 or 40 students, most of whom were living right there and most of whom had roommates. Mr. Mills remained friends with a number of classmates. What Mr. Mills remembers first is that everybody was assigned research papers that involved using the Library of Congress, which was convenient with public transportation. Many of the students did research on their own for the first time in their lives. He also remembers that one of their professors was Donald Hiss who was in the news because his brother, Alger Hiss, was caught up in Senator McCarthy’s accusations. But nobody brought up any comments of Donald Hiss, but what was rumored was that what probably bothered his brother bothered him. Professor Grove Hanes taught diplomatic history and was very scholarly. Mr. Mills remembers with gratitude that Professor Hanes wanted Mr. Mills to continue studying with him and go for a doctorate. Mr. Mills did not think so much of this then but he realizes now that it was quite a complement. Professor Hanes did give Mr. Mills the contact that got him the job with Army Intelligence at the Pentagon. Mr. Mills did not want to go on for his doctorate. He had never had a job other than being in the Navy. Harry Truman won his upset victory shortly after Mr. Mills graduated from SAIS in 1948. The Chicago Tribune printed a “Dewey Victory” headline already. All the time, Truman himself predicted victories in all the states he won, which was plenty to win. Mr. Mills was at his first job in the Pentagon and he got off to see Truman get back from his parades from his election and come Pennsylvania in his triumphant motorcade. He saw a couple of teen-aged kids up in a tree watching so he climbed up too so he could get a good look. It was quite fun for him because he wanted Truman to win and because to get so close to it seemed great. Mr. Mills describes his job at the Pentagon as hum-drum, but says it was easy to do and paid well. He enjoyed it for awhile because he had been in the Navy and studying his whole life and here he was getting paid for something. Mr. Mills stayed at that job for some time, but got a little more responsibility. He then got another job from them called the Army Corellation Center which was a way to obtain intelligence by sound. It was a way to detect Soviet launch sites because of the blast it made when it penetrated the atmosphere. Mr. Mills got a civilian job for a couple of aerospace companies out in California. He came to DC supposedly to help sell some aerospace equipment. During that time, he got in touch with one of his old officemates in the Pentagon who was working for NASA who got Mr. Mills a job there. Mr. Mills then came back to Washington and worked at the Goddard Space Flight Center. There, Mr. Mills had fun doing different things. He ended up being the editor of design criteria manuals that were given to companies that got contracts with NASA to do things. He edited and put out about 15 different environmental criteria manuals for a particular project. For example, Mars would be the particular environments that a contractor would have to design against. This gave him a chance to contact other NASA centers to get the experts in a particular parameter that had to be put together. That was the job he ended up with and that he liked the most. He was there for 10/12/15 years. Mr. Mills’ favorite part of the job was contacting different scientists and writing up the best estimates of what they were doing. Mr. Mills was about 55 when he retired. He started working on a book the day after he retired. His daughter had been going to West Nottingham Academy in northern Maryland that was founded before the Revolution and it had been going ever since. It had never been written up as a history so Mr. Mills did a history of the academy. Its founder was a Presbyterian minister and the school educated two signers of the Declaration of Independence. Mr. Mills says it was a fun project to follow all the way through. Mr. Mills next book was connected with the Pacific War. Don Bell wanted Mr. Mills to write the book which became Stranded in the Philippines. Don Bell was the son of the family stranded there. They had finally been rescued by a submarine. Mr. Mills went to a reunion they had of all the people who had been rescued by that submarine. He ran into some American soldiers there who had been rescued and who had been prisoners of war. So Mr. Mills wrote one book on each for them. Mr. Mills is currently working on a book about the memoirs of the American diplomat in Berlin during the Wall crisis. Mr. Mills notes that SAIS has a piece of the wall at its current location. The diplomat had an interesting career going back to the Soviet Union before the Soviets even got into the war. The diplomat was then sent to Norway after the Germans had taken it so he observed the German occupation of Norway. Mr. Mills has written a total of 4 books and is currently working on his fifth one. Mr. Mills applauds SAIS when he goes down there for their lectures and other programs. He thinks that it’s so valuable for students to have that kind of experience and he is very conscious of how important American policy has been since the war. Right now Mr. Mills is interested in the Berlin Wall and the crisis the US had with the Soviet Union. He is interested in how American policy has continuously had to balance itself against Khruschchev and Stalin—each different, but each a big challenge. Yet, the US never gave up on Berlin even though there were two very critical times. One was right after the war when the Soviet-occupied territories surrounded Berlin and Stalin wanted to drive the US out but Truman, who turned out to be a big hero, authorized General Clay to send in fleets of airplanes to keep a city of over a million and a half or two million alive for a year even though they had no ground transport. The Soviets finally gave up on trying to block all ground transport. And then 10 years later, the diplomat about whom Mr. Mills is writing was in London part of that time as a less important, lower-ranked diplomat, though still important. In the Berlin Wall crisis, 10 years later the Soviets under Khrushchev were still trying to drive out the US and still unable to. So the diplomat was imprisoned and all that kind of thing. But in the bigger picture, Mr. Mills thinks it is so important the United States since World War II has tried to stay in Europe and hold back from an aggressive Russia and bolster Europe. After World War I, the US couldn’t even get started or join the League of Nations because of the refusal of the Republican congress to let President Wilson join the League of Nations and start doing what Truman and Marshall did after World War II. Mr. Mills would recommend that SAIS students stay flexible intellectually…and be challenging in their own minds and not hesitant in taking on new projects and challenges.