Howard C. Petersen
Howard Charles Petersen (1910, East Chicago, Indiana – 1995) was an American government official. He graduated from DePauw University in 1930 and the University of Michigan Law School in 1933. From 1933 to 1941, Petersen was an associate in the New York law firm Cravath, deGersdorff, Swaine & Wood (the predecessor firm to Cravath, Swaine & Moore).
While at the Cravath firm, Petersen was introduced to Grenville Clark, through which connection he came to be a principal drafter of the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. In 1944 Petersen served as Executive Assistant to the Undersecretary of War. In December 1945, Petersen was appointed the Assistant Secretary of War by President Harry S. Truman, a position he held until August 1947. He was the last person to hold that title, since the Department of War became part of the new Department of Defense in 1947.
He worked on the economic recovery of occupied Germany and the Western Allies and supervised U.S. military occupational activities in Germany, Japan, Korea, Austria, and Italy. One of his significant contributions was to help prevent famine in Europe by laying the groundwork for the Marshall Plan.
Meanwhile, from 1961-63, Petersen served as Special Assistant to President John F. Kennedy for International Trade Policy, in which he managed Kennedy's controversial campaign for a new foreign trade policy. His main task was to assist with the passage of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962, and he also negotiated the conclusion of the 1960-62 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) negotiations with the European Economic Community.
Petersen was chairman of the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and the Marshall Foundation, and chairman and advisory committee member of Export-Import Bank.
- Howard C. Petersen Files, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
- Howard C. Petersen Papers at Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library, Princeton University