With the seventieth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter on June 26, the Archives has received a timely donation of papers and photographs from the estate of Andrew De Metriff, a translator at the San Francisco conference that established the charter.
De Metriff, a twenty-five year-old soldier stationed at Fort Ord and a veteran of the Kiska landing during the Aleutian Islands campaign, was ordered to a special assignment in San Francisco in the spring of 1945. Because of his fluency in Russian and with a year of college under his belt, this son of Russian emigrants to the California Valley joined a select group of military and civilian translators in Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese working for the United Nations Conference on International Organizations (UNCIO) meeting in the War Memorial Opera House.
De Metriff spent three months at the conference, translating and supervising the work of support staff, watching the world’s most prominent statesmen and collecting scripts, drafts, photographs, work schedules, directories, and organization charts, probably more as personal souvenirs than with the thought of saving them for posterity. He had a wonderful time in San Francisco, as he recalled during an interview with a reporter from Fort Ord Panorama. After the war, Andrew took advantage of the GI Bill and completed his college education at the University of Maryland. He returned to California, where for the rest of his life he worked in a variety of small business ventures, some successful and some not. His UNCIO papers were kept all those years in a suitcase, the contents of which have been donated to Hoover by his brother Jimmie, some fifteen years after Andrew’s death.
The De Metriff Papers are a useful complement to other collections already held at Hoover. The first collection, the United Nations Conference on International Organization Proceedings, includes sound recordings and conference proceedings recorded by the National Broadcasting Company, the second is the Charles Easton Rothwell Papers. Rothwell was an educator and high State Department official who was the executive secretary of the conference, and a close associate of Alger Hiss, its general secretary. Several years later, Hiss went to prison as a convicted perjurer and suspected Soviet agent; Rothwell, much to the chagrin of President Herbert Hoover, was appointed director of the Hoover Institution, a post he held until 1959.
Other ironies were associated with the conference. The prominent place accorded to Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister, was in direct contradiction to his past role as one of the chief architects, along with the Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, of the Soviet-Nazi agreement that led to the outbreak of World War II. Finally, of the fifty-one nations that by 1945 had signed the original 1942 Declaration by the United Nations, only fifty were seated in the San Francisco Conference. The place of one, Poland, was vacant, although it had been the original victim of the war that began in 1939 and, along with France and the United Kingdom, one of the three original Allies. At the end of the war Polish forces made up the fourth largest Allied army in Europe, after the Soviet, American, and British. Unfortunately for Poland, and its London-based government in exile, in early June 1945, the United States and the United Kingdom found it expedient to switch their recognition to the Soviet-dominated government in Warsaw. Thus, the first country to resist Hitler, one that lost nearly six million of its citizens during the war, was not represented in San Francisco.
For additional information, contact Maciej Siekierski at siekierski [at] stanford.edu.