Progressive Politics Research and Commentary by Janette Rainwater

Origins of the Cold War, Part One,1917-1945

Excerpts from Janette Rainwater's book-in-progress, From the New Deal to the Raw Deal: An Annotated Chronology of the Events that Have Changed the United States

November 7, 1917

The Bolsheviks seize power in Russia in the "October" Revolution.
(The country was still using the Julian calendar.)

March 3, 1918

The Bolsheviks sign a separate peace treaty with the Germans at Brest-Litovsk on very unfavorable terms, giving up 1/3 of the population and 1/3 of the productive lands of the old Russian Empire--- including the Baltic states (Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia), Georgia, Finland, and the Ukraine.

March, 1918

The first troops of the Allied Expeditionary Force leave for Murmansk and Archangel to help the White Russians in the civil war against the Bolsheviks hoping, in Winston Churchill's phrase, to "strangle Bolshevism in the cradle".

[By the end of the year there were nearly 200,000 troops there from the USA, Britain, France and Japan plus Italian, Greek, Serb and Czech contingents, some of whom remained into 1920. Additionally several hundred thousand anti-Bolshevik Russians were armed and supplied. This occupation was responsible for much of the Soviet paranoia toward the West. An angry Krushchev said in Los Angeles in 1959: "Never have any of our soldiers been on American soil, but your soldiers were on Russian soil." Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1991.]

March 14, 1919

Lenin makes an offer to William C. Bullitt (who is in Moscow on a secret mission sponsored by the British and Wilson's Colonel House): In return for a peace conference with the Allies, the removal of all foreign troops and cessation of military aid to the insurgents, the Soviets would accept responsibility for the repudiated Tsarist debt and allow all de facto governments to remain in control of the territory they occupied, thus relinquishing the Urals, Siberia, Finland, the Baltic states and most of the Ukraine.

[This extraordinary offer was good until April 10. But thanks to the strong anti-Bolshevik sentiments that were prevalent, Wilson and Lloyd George never seriously considered the proposal. Also Admiral Kolchak's troops had just made asurprising 100-mile advance in eastern Russia which led to predictions that Kolchak's White Russians would be in Moscow in another two weeks.

The refusal of the West to accept Lenin's offer solidified the Soviet feeling of isolation and hostility. The history of the rest of the century might have been quite different if the Bullitt-Lenin plan had been accepted by the Allies, the blockade lifted, the starving people fed.
The threat of a new blockade might have been sufficient to cause the Russians to adopt a communist government less threatening to the West.

Bullitt, disappointed with the dismissal of Lenin's offer, resigned as a member of the American peace delegation to the Paris Peace Conference and later was bitterly opposed to most of the provisions of the Versailles Peace Treaty, correctly predicting that it would encourage German irredentism and Japanese imperialism and ultimately war between Japan and the United States. His testimony before Lodge's Senate Committee on Foreign Relations aided the defeat of the treaty and the ultimate resignation of Secretary of State Lansing. (1)

Notes and Sources for Origins of the Cold War, Part One

November 17, 1933

The United States recognizes the Soviet Union-- 16 years after its revolution. William C. Bullitt is appointed ambassador.

[Recognition was finally achieved due to the rise in power of the Japanese Empire. (2)
In the agreement the USSR agreed to protect the freedom of worship of American nationals in the USSR and to refrain from sponsoring revolutionary activity against the American political system. Russia had not recognized the infant USA until 33 years after its revolution. Catherine the Great, like many other European monarchs of her time, had feared the "republican virus" might be contagious.]

September 29, 1938

At the Munich Conference Hitler, Mussolini, Chamberlain (U.K.), and Daladier (France) agree: The Sudeten German areas of Czechoslovakia will be ceded to Germany in exchange for Hitler's pledge of no further German territorial demands.

[Chamberlain felt he had won a victory of "peace in our time"; many others, including the future British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, charged "appeasement". The Czechs, who were not consulted, felt they had been sold out by the Allies. The Soviets were also not included in the conference despite the fact that they had offered to support the Czechs.

A poll taken the week after the conference showed that a majority of Americans approved of the Pact. It was thought for many years that the Munich Agreement had given the Allies a badly-needed year in which to re-arm; later scholarship has shown that Hitler's war machine was not ready in 1938 and that the year's delay in the outbreak of war helped Germany more than Britain and France. (3)

Joseph Kennedy, the US Ambassador to Great Britain, claimed credit for the treaty forhaving influenced Chamberlain to trust Hitler. (4) Actually Chamberlain was influenced by a report from his Secret Intelligence Service: "What Should We Do?" stated that a deal with Germany "might not prove to be uncongenial", as Hitler was proposing to "disintegrate" the Soviet Union and would guarantee Britain's supremacy overseas. (5)

Prior to the conference FDR had assured Hitler that the US had "no political involvements in Europe". This declaration from the nation that had entered World War I "to keep the world safe for democracy" undoubtedly strengthened Hitler's hand in dealing with the Allies. (6)

As in Austria Nazi agents had infiltrated the country and helped create a demand to join Germany; and as with the remiltarization of the Rhineland in 1936, Hitler's generals had advised against Hitler's threatened invasion: the Czech army was well-trained and well-equipped and the German army was not yet ready for all-out war.] (7)

Notes and Sources

August 23, 1939

Germany and the USSR sign a five-year non-aggression pact which contains a secret agreement in which they fix their two spheres of interest in Eastern Europe (8) including the partition of Poland. In an accompanying commercial agreement Germany extended the Soviets a credit of 200 million marks and Stalin guaranteed to ship huge quantities of grain, oil and metals.

[The world was stunned; Britain was especially surprised by this von Ribbentrop-Molotov non-aggression pact, as Stalin had recently approached the British to make a defensive alliance with them and the French against Nazi Germany. That possibility was foundering because of British lack of enthusiasm and Polish antipathy for the Russians.

France and Great Britain mobilized in expectation of war. Japan had not been consulted and now felt vulnerable to her old enemy, Russia. Britain announced that she would come to the defense of Poland. Chamberlain repeated his offer to mediate the German-Polish dispute about the alleged mistreatment of ethnic Germans living in Poland and the possible return of the Polish Corridor to Germany.]

September 1, 1939

Germany invades Poland under the phony pretext that their border forces were attacked by Poles.

[The alleged "Polish army troops" were German concentration camp inmates who were forced to put on stolen Polish uniforms, then trucked to the border, given lethal injections, placed in the position of "attackers" and shot. This was Operation Canned Goods, conceived and directed by Reinhard Heydrich. The ruse succeeded in initially confusing the world as to which country had fired first.

Two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany and a German submarine torpedoed and sank the British passenger liner Athenia; 28 American passengers were lost. A week later Americans were polled: Should we declare war and send our army and navy abroad to fight Germany? "NO" was the answer given by 94%.] (8-1)

September 17, 1939

The Soviet Union invades eastern Poland with 40 divisions. Some troops carry white flags and claim to be coming to help their Slavic brothers fight the Germans.
[Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland along the lines agreed upon in the vonRibbentrop-Molotov treaty.]

November 30, 1939

The Russians invade Finland to gain territory to protect the approaches to Leningrad.
[The fascist government of Baron Mannerheim had been colluding with the Germans to fortify the Aland Islands located in the Gulf of Finland just in front of Leningrad, islands which they were treaty-bound not to fortify.

World opinion was immediately on the side of Finland, especially when news was received that Stalin's air force had bombed civilian centers and then machine-gunned the fleeing citizens. FDR called for a world embargo on the sale of military planes to countries who bombed civilians. The League of Nations, which had refused to take any action on Japan's invasion of China nor Italy's invasionof Abyssinia, condemned the Soviet Union's action and expelled the country from the League.

The Russians had expected to subdue little Finland within a month. However, Swedish cryptologists were able to decode the Soviet Union's military messages and forwarded the results immediately to Field Marshal Mannerheim who was thus able to anticipate every military move. (9)

Many Americans felt more sympathy for "gallant little Finland" in its three-month struggle than for the combatants in the Sino-Japanese War or the conflict in Europe, as Finland had fully paid its World War I debts to the US, unlike the British and the French. In February, 1940 the House of Representatives came close to refusing to allocate funds for the US Embassy in Moscow--- which would have caused de facto severance of relations with the Soviet Union. (10)]

June 23, 1940

The Soviet Union completes the takeover of the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, territory that had belonged to the czars and became sovereign states after World War I. [FDR froze their financial assets. (11)]

Notes and Sources

June 22, 1941 at 3:15 AM

Three German armies--- 3.3 million soldiers--- pour across the Bug and Niemen Rivers to invade the Soviet Union in violation of their "Peace and Friendship" treaty. German bombers attack 66 Soviet airfields, destroying one-fourth of all Soviet airplanes.

[Within six days five Russian armies were destroyed. Operation Barbarossa's success was partly due to Stalin's initial paralysis and to the fact that he had decimated the upper ranks of the military with his political purges in the previous decade. (12)

Three days after the start of the invasion Hitler confided to Baron Oshima, the Japanese Ambassador to Germany: "I knew that if I left Russia alone and continued my fight against England, [Russia] would stab us in the back when we were least able to resist." (13)

For three years, until mid-1944, 95% of the German ground forces were engaged on the Eastern Front. Three-fourths of all German casualties were suffered there. Four years of bitter fighting and Hitler's scorched-earth retreat caused the destruction of...

1700 Soviet cities and towns
70,000 Soviet villages
three-fourths of the industrial plant of the USSR (which President Kennedy later compared to the "destruction of this country east of Chicago")
An estimated 27 million Soviet citizens died.--- American and British deaths combined were less than a million. (14)

Stalin had been amply warned that the invasion was coming. Die Rote Kapell (Red Orchestra), the Soviet spy network in western Europe, as early as January had sent intelligence that the Germans had cancelled preparations for a Channel invasion of England and were moving troops to the east. Later the Brussels, German and Swiss branches of the Red Orchestra had each sent the exact date of the invasion--- May 15---and then its postponement to 3:15 AM of June 22. Also he had received warnings from the US and British governments and from Richard Sorge, the Soviet spy in Japan.

Stalin believed that the German build-up in the East was designed to pressure him into delivering more supplies to Germany and to conceal Hitler's real plan-- to invade England. He also suspected the British of sending phony warnings designed to induce him to mobilize his troops, thereby provoking Hitler to attack him and so avert an invasion of Britain. (15)]

June 24, 1941

FDR promises to give aid to the Soviet Union. Senator Harry S Truman (D-MO):
"If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany. And that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don't want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them think anything of their pledged word."

[At this point in time, the world was mostly unaware of the 17-22 million deaths in the Soviet Union caused by Stalin's policies of forced collectivisation of farms and purges of his "enemies".] (16)

August 14, 1941

FDR and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, meeting on a warship off Canada, announce their "Atlantic Charter" for the world:
open trade
economic cooperation
freedom of the seas
abandonment of the use of force
self-determination for the people in the countries then occupied by the Axis powers.

[Nothing was said about self-determination for people in the colonies of France and Great Britain! And, more fatefully, nothing was decided about Stalin's determination to retain the territories of eastern Poland and southern Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Roumanian Bessarabia which had been absorbed into the USSR since September, 1939 and had been part of Russia's empire under the Tsars. Stalin considered control of these areas to be vital to the Soviet Union's security.]

December 8, 1941

FDR asks Congress to declare war against Japan: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941— a day which will live in infamy— the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan."

In less than an hour the Senate votes approval 82-0 and the House 388-1.

December 11, 1941

Germany and Italy declare war on the United States; Congress responds with a declaration of war on them.

[This was foolish on Hitler's part; there was so much American anger at the Japanese over the Pearl Harbor attack that public opinion would not have permitted a declaration of war against Germany and especially not the concentration of war effort in Europe rather than Asia.]

December 17, 1941

Aviation hero Charles Lindbergh speaks to an America First group: "There is only one danger in the world-- that is the yellow danger. China and Japan are really bound together against the white race. There could only have been one efficient weapon against this alliance . . . Germany . . . the ideal setup would have been to have had Germany take over Poland and Russia, in collaboration with the British, as a bloc against the yellow people and Bolshevism. But instead, the British and the fools in Washington had to interfere." (17)

Notes and Sources

July 12, 1942

Soviet General Andrei Andreyevitch Vlasov defects to the Germans.
[Vlasov, who had been personally decorated by Stalin the year before for his successful defense of Moscow, forms a "Russian Army of Liberation" made up of Russian POWs.

He and his army later betrayed the Germans, went to the assistance of Czech partisans, and then surrendered to the Americans. The US, as was legally required, turned Vlasov over to the Soviets who tried him for treason and executed him in 1946. In the early years of the Cold War, veterans of the Vlasov Army were recruited by the US for guerrilla actions and espionage against the Soviet Union despite knowledge of their Nazi allegiance, virulent anti-Semitism, and the crimes they had committed within the camps for displaced persons. (18)]

August 12, 1942

In Moscow Prime Minister Churchill breaks the bad news in person to Stalin: There can be no Anglo-American "second front" in Europe in 1942, as FDR had unwisely promised.
He cites military unreadiness to launch an invasion by September, the last month of favorable weather. He proposes landings in North Africa and continued saturation bombing of Germany as a substitute for the second front to help ease the burden of USSR on the Eastern Front.
[There was considerable speculation and demand from those on the left in the United States for a second front. (19)]

February 2, 1943

The last remaining units of the Sixth German Army surrender at Stalingrad after an heroic five-month defense of the city by the Soviets.

[This was the turning point of the war and the beginning of the German defeat. They are pushed back 250 miles, almost back to the starting point of their summeroffensive, before their line is stabilized at the beginning of March. (20)]

April, 1943

The Russians break diplomatic relations with the Polish government-in-exile.
[The Nazis had revealed the burial in Katyn Forest of thousands of Polish officers who had disappeared during the Spring of 1940, naming the Soviets as perpetrators. The Soviet Union denied responsibility for the massacre, saying the Nazis did it in 1941. The Poles asked the International Red Cross to investigate the affair.

Stalin regarded this as an act of hostility and installed a puppet regime in Lublin. The Soviet Union maintained its innocence of the Katyn atrocity until 1990 when the world learned that the NKVD, on Stalin's direct order, had systematically murdered 15,000 Polish officers in Kalinin, Katyn and Starobelsk and buried them in mass graves.] (21)

May 22, 1943

The Soviet Union announces that it has abolished the Comintern, or Communist International, which had been organized in 1919 to foment communist revolutions in other countries.

[This brings favorable comment from most Americans, including Joseph Davies, ambassador to the Soviet Union, Eric Johnston, president of the US Chamber of Commerce and even Rep. Martin Dies (D-TX), chairman of the House Committee to Investigate Un-American Activities. The major skeptics were prelates of the Catholic Church, William C. Bullitt, former ambassador to USSR, and die-hard isolationists such as Rep. Hamilton Fish (R-NY). (22)]

July 17, 1943

The KGB in Moscow receives a coded message from the Soviet Embassy in Washington that four German officers have recently arrived in England from Switzerland with an offer to arrange the assassination of Hitler in exchange for a negotiated peace with Great Britain and America, leaving out the Soviet Union.

[The information had been supplied by Maurice Halperin, an analyst with the Latin America division of the OSS, who was also spying for the Soviet Union. As a result Stalin became very distrustful of the true intentions of FDR and Churchill despite their repeated statements to him that their governments would insist on Germany's unconditional surrender. This event could be cited as one of the major sources of the Cold War.

Halperin was later accused of espionage by his courier Elizabeth Bentley, but he denied the charge and was never brought to trial. However, after the war the FBI began cracking the Soviet code and decrypting messages from the Soviet consulates to Moscow; in July 1995 the National Security Agency started releasing these TOP SECRET documents to the public, including the one about this plot. (23)]

Notes and Sources

September 8, 1943

General Eisenhower announces the unconditional surrender of Italy.

[Nazi troops quickly occupied the northern part of the country and freed Mussolini from the Partisans who had captured him. The Americans and the British excluded the Soviets from participating in the negotiations for surrender. Churchill: "We cannot be put in a position where our two armies are doing all the fighting but Russians have a veto and must be consulted on any minor violation of the armistice terms."

This set a precedent, and the Soviets did not consult with the other Allies about armistice terms for Rumania, Hungary and Bulgaria when they liberated these countries in 1944.
The American Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged that this was "only natural and to be expected" since it was the Red Army that had achieved their surrender.

The Italian armistice had been secretly signed by Prime Minister Pietro Badoglio on the 3rd, the day of the first Allied landings from Sicily. (24)]

November 5, 1943

Ambassador Harriman discusses a postwar loan from US to USSR with the Soviet commissar for foreign trade, disclosing: "It would be in the self-interest of the United States to be able to afford full employment during the period of transition from wartime to peacetime economy."

[Secretary of State Hull had earlier told the Russians that the United States wanted "to cooperate fully in the rehabilitation of war damage in the USSR." Prominent in the motivations of economic advisors promoting the idea of a loan had been the fear of another Great Depression once the impetus to the economy of war production was removed. But if America's commodities and surplus industrial equipment could be sold to the Russians in exchange for raw materials, then full employment could be maintained.

The United States government continued with the expectation of such a loan through 1944. (25)]

November 28-30, 1943

Teheran Conference: Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in their first face-to-face meeting agree on the timing for an American-British landing in northern France to create the long-awaited second front. Future Poland will include German lands west to the Oder; the "Curzon" line of 1919 will be the Eastern border.

Stalin informally agrees that FDR need not make a public declaration of these agreements until after the 1944 elections; the Polish-American vote must not be jeopardized!

There is a tentative agreement that Germany will be partitioned after the war.
They reaffirm the territorial integrity of Iran (where British and Soviet troops have been since 1942 to protect the oil fields from seizure by the Nazis). (26)

January 11, 1944

Several days after the Red Army enters Poland, the Soviet government issues a public statement that Ukrainian and White Russian territories that had been part of Poland now belong to the USSR and that Poland may expect compensation through the return of "ancient Polish lands" in the West taken centuries before by the Germans.

(This conforms to the Big Three agreement in Teheran.) Because of the unfriendly relations demonstrated by the Polish government-in-exile, the USSR may be forced to sponsor a different government in Warsaw more sympathetic to Moscow.

A public opinion survey indicates that only 42 per cent of Americans believe that Russia can be trusted to cooperate with the United States after the war--- a decline of 12 points in two months. (27).

July 1-22, 1944

Representatives from 44 nations meet for a financial conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. They agree to form an International Monetary Fund (IMF) and an International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank).

[This represented a victory for FDR who believed that postwar prosperity for the US was dependent on open markets abroad, and also that the consequent rise in living standards worldwide would prevent future wars. Britain's agreement was secured because of their dependence on American aid to win the current war.

The Soviet Union, angry about the Anglo-American refusal to publicly guarantee its new western boundaries, refused to participate despite Secretary of the Treasury Morgenthau's best efforts and the promise of a large postwar reconstruction loan. (28)]

August 2, 1944

Prime Minister Winston Churchill to Parliament: "It is the Russian Army that has done the main work of ripping the guts out of the German Army . . . In the air and on the ocean and the seas we can maintain ourselves, but there was no force in the world which could have been called into being except after several more years that would have been able to maul and break the German Army and subject it to such terrible slaughter and manhandling as has fallen upon the Germans but the Russian Soviet Armies."

[This was a typical remark at that time; it was only after the Cold War got under way that politicians and the media started minimizing the role of the Red Army in the defeat of Nazi Germany.]

August 4, 1944

FDR's Executive Committee on Economic Foreign Policy approves a plan for a "moderate peace" in the postwar treatment of Germany: restitution and reparations for Germany's victims, prohibition of manufacture of armaments and elimination of "German economic domination in Europe", but integration of the defeated Reich into the world economy with a decent standard of living and retention of her industrial capacity.

[This document and other efforts for a "soft peace" provoked a reaction from Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr, who advocated eliminating Germany's industrial plant completely, turning the country into a primarily agricultural nation. FDR was initially much in favor of the Morgenthau Plan: "I see no reason for starting a WPA, PWA or a CCC for Germany when we go in with our Army of Occupation . . . . The German people as a whole must have it driven home to them that the whole nation has been engaged in a lawless conspiracy against the decencies of modern civilization."

A distorted version of the Morgenthau Plan was leaked to the press in late September, resulting in public disapproval and FDR's disavowal. Basic attitudes toward the Soviet Union colored the split in the differing opinions on postwar treatment of Germany. I. F. Stone charged the proponents of a "soft peace" with wanting to rebuild Germany quickly as a "bulwark against Bolshevism". (29)

Dorothy Thompson, the erstwhile castigator of Hitler's regime, was one of the earliest opponents of a "Carthaginian peace" for Germany, thus garnering much criticism from many who had been her stalwart admirers before. (30)]

September 5, 1944

The Soviet Union declares war against Bulgaria which, up until this time has been at war only with Britain and the US and has been attempting to negotiate a surrender to British and American officials in Cairo.

[The Red Army then occupied the country without resistance, and Bulgaria declared war against its old ally, Germany. The Soviet Union excluded Britain and the US from any control in the surrender negotiations, citing as precedent the exclusion of the Soviet Union from any decision-making in Italy the year before. (31)]

September 19, 1944

At the urging of Prime Minister Churchill, FDR and Churchill sign a secret memorandum that "the world" is not to be told of the atomic bomb before its use and steps should be taken to see that there is no leakage of information from Professor Bohr "particularly to the Russians". Full collaboration between the two countries "for military and commercial purposes" will continue after the defeat of Japan. (32)

[To the dismay of the British, President Truman would simply abrogate the agreement for joint authority for nuclear weapons and claim that no copy of such an accord could be found. The 1946 McMahon Act which he signed barred the US from sharing atomic secrets with any country, even the United Kingdom which had initiated the research. (33)]

Notes and Sources

October 9, 1944

Prime Minister Churchill and British Foreign Minister Anthony Eden meet with Stalin in Moscow and--- in violation of the principles of the Atlantic Charter--- make the following offer to Stalin: after the war Russia may have 90% predominance in Rumania, 80% predominance in Bulgaria and Hungary in exchange for Britain's having 90% predominance in Greece with Yugoslavia split 50-50. Stalin agrees. (No mention is made of Poland, the country over whose fate Britain had entered the war.) (34)

[British troops arrived in Greece that month, the Germans having been driven out by ELAS, the People's Liberation Army. (Its political counterpart, EAM, embraced the entire left---communists, socialists, many priests, a few bishops--- and numbered nearly two million people out of Greece's seven million.) (35)]

December 4, 1944

Civil war breaks out in Athens.
[Churchill sent in more British troops to preserve the Greek monarchy and crush the rebels, members of ELAM-ELAS, the Communist-dominated partisan group that had been most active in defeating the Germans. The British were assisted by remnants of the Nazi Security Battalions. This while the Allies were still fighting the Germans!

The Greeks did NOT want their King George back, so Churchill was forced to accede to the establishment of a regency by the end of the month. Stalin, true to his October agreement with Churchill, did not interfere and no word of criticism appeared in Pravda, the Communist Party's official newspaper. In fact, the January armistice agreed to by ELAS may have been prompted by Moscow.

Much of the American public protested the British action, showing more concern for events in this region than in Poland. Stalin later took over Bulgaria and then Rumania, but with far less blood than was shed in Greece. (36)]

December 30, 1944

One-third of the American public is dissatisfied with the extent of Big Three cooperation; of these, 54% blame Great Britain, 18% blame Russia. (37)

January 3, 1945

The Soviet Union asks the US for a loan of $6 billion at 2.25% interest for the purchase of capital equipment in the United States to be repaid by the exports of gold and other raw materials.

[Morgenthau suggested to FDR that the US make it for $10 billion at 2% over 35 years.
On January 27th the State Department indicated to the Russian government that "necessary legislation" would have to be passed, but that "longterm credits constitute an important element in the postwar relations between our two countries." Meanwhile lend-lease materials continued to flow to Russia, including much goods that could be used for postwar reconstruction.

In March Rep. John Vorys (R-OH) succeeded in placing an amendment onto the lend-lease extension bill that would prohibit the use of lend-lease for postwar relief, rehabilitation, or reconstruction. The question of a postwar loan was not discussed at the Big Three meeting in Yalta, and no loan was ever given to the Soviet Union.] (38)

January 12, 1945

Five Russian army groups break through the German lines and begin their advance toward the Oder River and Berlin.

January 28-31, 1945

The American and British chiefs of staff meeting in Malta are in bitter conflict about the strategy of the endgame in Europe. The British want to make costly spearheads to occupy Berlin, Vienna and Prague before the Red Army can get there. The Americans refuse to incur such major casualties for political reasons. General Marshall declares he would ask to be relieved of his command should the British plan be adopted. (39)

February 4-11, 1945

Yalta Conference: Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin agree:
--- Germany will be partitioned into occupation zones, there will be reparations in kind limited to ten years, territory ceded, and factories dismantled.
--- "Free and unfettered elections" will be held in Poland and the Balkans. (There are seven million Polish-Americans of voting age, so this is an area of tremendous political sensitivity.) (40)
--- The Soviet Union will declare war on Japan within three months of the end of the war with Germany (41);

--- the five permanent members of the Security Council of the UN (US, UK, USSR, France, China) will have the right to veto.
--- Almost half of Poland's prewar territory will be given to the Soviet Union--- less than a quarter of the 1931 population of this area had been Polish, most were Ukrainians, "an unhappy and rebellious minority before the war" plus some "equally dissatisfied" Belorussians. (42) Poland's western boundary will be moved west to the Neisse River, a territory containing approximately nine million Germans.

--- The southern part of Sakhalin Island (lost to Japan in 1905) shall be returned to USSR; Japan will also give the USSR the Kurile Islands.
--- Without consultation with Chiang Kai-shek, the Western Allies agree that USSR will jointly operate the Chinese Eastern Railway in Manchuria with China and that USSR will have a predominant interest in Dairen, Manchuria's chief port.
--- Stalin is given permission to use the labor of German prisoners of war as part of the reparations due the USSR.

[FDR has been bitterly criticized by the Republicans ever since for "giving away" Eastern Europe and the Far East to Stalin. The fact is that the Red Army had already occupied all of what would be called the "Eastern bloc" with the exception of Czechoslovakia and the Allies had not yet reached the Rhine in the west.

FDR made concessions to Stalin in the Far East to achieve a promise to enter the war against Japan. This was at a time when the Americans were experiencing heavy casualties in the Pacific, each island being won at great cost and the atom bomb was five months away from being tested. Chiang Kai-shek later approved of the deal FDR had made, and the Sino-Soviet treaty signed in August formalized the agreement of the two governments.

American public opinion was quite favorable to the results of the Yalta Conference; only 9% of Americans felt the agreements reached at Yalta would be unfavorable to the United States.] (43)

Notes and Sources

February 25, 1945

Allen Dulles, the head of the OSS in Berne, Switzerland, is contacted by an Italian businessman and a Swiss schoolmaster about the possibility of opening a channel for the unconditional surrender of the German troops in the Southern front.

[The Germans were losing the war, a fact obvious to everyone but Hitler. Various peace feelers had been made since November, many of them from Himmler offering a joint war against the Soviet Union.

The approach made to Dulles began a series of meetings and negotiations code-named Operation Sunrise that culminated two months later in the surrender of the German and Italian fascist forces signed on April 29th. (Dulles would become director of the CIA 1953-1961.) (44) ]

February 28, 1945

Andrei Vishinsky, Soviet deputy commissar for foreign affairs, meets with the King of Rumania, gives him two hours to dismiss the current fascist government of General Radescu and to form one more to the liking of the USSR.

[King Michael was forced to accept the Popular Front government of Peter Groza.
There was little or no disagreement from the West. The government had been one of
the most repressive in Europe, and their peasants some of the most poverty-stricken.
And, according to Fleming, "the Soviets were doing in Rumania what Churchill had already done in Greece, with more justification and with little bloodshed."] (45)

March 12, 1945

Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov, having been informed of the prospective meeting in Switzerland of an American and a British general with German military as part of the Operation Sunrise maneuvers, tells Ambassador Harriman that the Soviet government has no objection to the talks but wishes to have three Soviet officers at the meetings.

[This request is refused on the grounds that the talks are only exploratory and Soviet participation would delay the proceedings. And since the proposal was for a surrender on the Anglo-American front, the Americans and British should be the ones responsible for the negotiations just as the Soviets were in charge of German surrenders on the Russian front.

An angry exchange of notes followed in which Molotov accused the Americans and British of negotiating "behind the back of the Soviet government which is bearing the brunt of the war against Germany" and threatened to boycott the United Nations organizational meeting in San Francisco.

On April 3rd Stalin sent a long letter to FDR accusing the Americans and British of having promised "to ease the Armistice terms for the Germans" in exchange for their opening up the front and allowing the Allies to "move to the east". He semi-apologized after receiving an indignant reply from FDR who told him: "I cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment toward your informers, whoever they are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted subordinates."] (46)

March 27, 1945

"Who do you think will be into Berlin first, the Russians or us?" General Eisenhower is asked at a news conference. Ike answers--- the Russians on the basis of mileage. They are 33 miles away while the Americans and the British are 200 miles distant.

[General Omar Bradley had estimated that a mad dash towards Berlin by the British would cost 100,000 casualties for a "prestige objective" that would be within the occupation zone assigned to the Soviet Union. Churchill was pushing such a venture so the Russians couldn't say that they had "done everything".] (47)

April 12, 1945

FDR dies of a cerebral hemorrhage while vacationing at Warm Springs, Georgia. Vice-President Harry S Truman (HST) becomes president.

[FDR's last message to Stalin on the Operation Sunrise controversy was written that morning, a note thanking him "for your frank explanation of the Soviet point of view of the Bern incident, which now appears to have faded into the past without having accomplished any useful purpose." ] (48)

April 18, 1945

Prime Minister Churchill, who had earlier urged that the Anglo-American troops attempt to beat the Red Army into Berlin, suggests to the new President Truman that General Eisenhower not withdraw the troops from the Elbe to the agreed-upon boundary of the future zones of occupation until the Soviets made certain concessions.

[HST and officials of the War Department refused all of Churchill's increasingly importunate demands on the grounds that it would impede rather than promote Russian cooperation and compliance with agreements. General George C. Marshall, commenting on Churchill's wish for the Anglo-Americans to beat the Russians into Prague: "Personally and aside from all logistic, tactical, or strategic implications, I would be loath to hazard American lives for purely political purposes."] (49)

April 20, 1945

Ambassador Harriman, formerly an enthusiastic backer of the USSR, returns hurriedly to Washington, fearing that Truman does not understand that Stalin is breaking his agreements. He warns HST that Russian occupation of a country would mean the control of that country's foreign policy, the institution of a secret police and the loss of freedom of speech. (50)

April 23, 1945

In his first presidential meeting with a Soviet leader, HST bluntly tells Foreign Minister Molotov that the United States would recognize no government in Poland that did not provide free elections. When Molotov protests that he has never been talked to this way before, HST rudely replies: "Carry out your agreements and you won't be talked to like that."

[In his memoirs Molotov stated that he believed that Truman's "stridently pugnacious" attitude was due to his knowledge of the nearly-ready atomic bomb. In actuality, FDR had never included him in any discussions of atomic research and HST was still as ignorant of atomic secrets as the average American citizen.

Truman's cabinet was divided on how the new president should deal with the Russians.
At a crucial meeting earlier that day Stimson and Marshall advised against provoking a "collision" with the Russians and perceived a genuine Soviet need for security in setting up a puppet state in Poland.

The others--- Harriman, Forrestal, Leahy and Stettinius--- wanted a showdown and pointed out that the Russians were moving in on Romania and Bulgaria as well as Poland. Historians differ on whether HST took a tougher line than FDR would have. Indeed, Truman immediately reversed Roosevelt's policy.) All agree that FDR would have phrased things more diplomatically.] (51)

April 24, 1945

The Soviet armies meet southwest of Berlin, completing their encirclement of the city.

April 27, 1945

American and Soviet troops meet at the Elbe River near Torgau, Germany.

May, 1945

At the United Nations conference in San Francisco the United States manipulates to achieve the admission of Argentina to membership despite Argentina's fascist government and past support of the Axis powers. This violates the agreement made by the Big Three at Yalta to deny membership to Argentina.

[Molotov rightfully objected and appealed to world opinion, but was voted down 31-4 in the UN's first major action. The vote had the effect of isolating and humiliating the Soviet government, as Argentina had sponsored the expulsion of the Soviet Union from the old League of Nations.

Former Secretary of State Cordell Hull, a member of the American delegation, but in too poor health to attend the meetings, warned Secretary of State Stettinius that if the US was "not careful we could get Russia into such a state of mind that she might decide that the United Nations organization was not going to furnish adequate security to her in the future" and might instead rely on "a federation of nations close to her."

At the same conference Britain and the US frustrated the USSR's wish to have Poland admitted to the United Nations. I. F. Stone complained in the Nation that "too many members of the American delegation conceive this as a conference for the organization of an anti-Soviet bloc under our leadership."

Argentina, although technically a neutral country for most of the war, had been a non-belligerent favoring Germany in much the same manner as the US had been a non-belligerent favoring Britain in the months before Pearl Harbor.

According to Maurice Halperin, in 1942 the Latin America division of the OSS and the Joint Chiefs of Staff were sufficiently concerned about Argentina's complicity that a preliminary survey for a full-scale military invasion of Argentina was undertaken. By the time the survey was completed, the Germans were retreating from Stalingrad, and any reason for invasion had ended.

Argentina was the last Latin American country to declare war against Germany and Japan--- on March 27, 1945. After the war thousands of Nazis and high-ranking SS officers escaped the dragnet and were taken to Argentina through the "rat line".] (52)

Notes and Sources

May 7, 1945

German General Alfred Jodl signs surrender documents in Reims, France. Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower wires Washington and London: "The mission of this Allied force was fulfilled at 0241 local time, May 7, 1945. All fighting was to cease the next day at 11:01 PM.

May 11, 1945

HST precipitously signs an order for the curtailment of Lend-Lease to Great Britain, France, and the Soviet Union. Only supplies needed for Soviet operations in the Far East or for completing industrial plants already partially supplied should be shipped in the future.

[The Lend-Lease administrator, mindful of congressional opposition to the use of Lend-Lease for postwar reconstruction, interpreted the order rigidly and ordered ships then at sea carrying supplies to turn back to port.

The USSR was outraged and Truman ordered those ships to continue on to their Soviet destinations.] (53)

May 22, 1945

Brigadier General Reinhard Gehlen, the head of Nazi intelligence against the Soviet Union and the East, surrenders to US Army officials with his aides, telling them, "I have information of the greatest importance for your supreme commander."

[In the last months of the war Gehlen and his top staff had moved their intelligence files on Eastern Europe and the USSR to a burial site near their secret (and well-stocked) retreat in the Bavarian Alps where they hid out during the last days of the war. As early as December, 1943 Gehlen had planned to offer his information and expertise to the United States, knowing of their lack of intelligence on the East and hoping for a US-USSR rupture.

Initially Gehlen was treated as just another Nazi officer POW until the Army learned that Red Army forces were searching for him. Then Generals Edwin Sibert and Walter Bedell Smith began developing a relationship with Gehlen without informing Eisenhower, who had forbidden fraternization with the Germans. Gehlen and his staff were released from POW status and given VIP private quarters from which they wrote reports on the Red Army for the Americans.] (54)

July 7, 1945

Emperor Hirohito initiates a request for Moscow to mediate a peace settlement and to receive a special envoy from the Emperor.

[The cable to Moscow was intercepted and decoded by American intelligence and immediately relayed to Truman. The Japanese ambassador was unable to make an appointment to see Molotov until August 5th.

When they met on August 8th, Molotov read him a brief note: "From tomorrow, that is from August 9th, the Soviet Union will consider herself in a state of war against Japan".
On August 9th the Soviets invaded Manchuria.]

July 17- August 2, 1945

Potsdam Conference: Stalin, Truman and Churchill agree to the elimination of nationalism and militarism, the partition of Germany into four occupation zones (UK, US, USSR, France), the dismantling of industrial plants, and reparations.

Poland's new western boundary will be the Oder-Neisse rivers (the point reached by the Red Army), Poland gets part of East Prussia and the port of Danzig (to be renamed Gdansk), and the Soviet Union receives Polish territory in the East.

No decisions are made about the future of Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania or Italy. Stalin promises that by mid-August the Soviet Union will have entered the war against Japan.

July 21, 1945

Truman at Potsdam receives word of the successful test of the atom bomb at the Trinity site in New Mexico.

July 24, 1945

HST, Churchill and their chiefs of staff discuss the atomic bomb test and agree to drop one on Japan no later than August 10. Later in the day Truman casually mentions to Stalin that the US has "a new weapon of unusually destructive force". Stalin replies that he is "glad to hear of it" and hopes the US will make "good use of it against the Japanese".

[Stalin displayed no curiosity about the news; he had been well-informed of American progress in building the A-bomb from a spy physicist at Los Alamos, the nationalized Briton, Klaus Fuchs. However, the next day he had Molotov cable the Soviet nuclear physicists to accelerate the work on the Soviet atomic bomb--- which had been underway since 1942.] (55)

July 28, 1945

At Potsdam Stalin informs Truman that his government had received a message from the Japanese emperor asking that the Soviet Union serve as a peace intermediary. (This Truman already knows from intelligence reports.) Stalin indicates that he intends to send a negative reply and Truman thanks him. (56)

August 6, 1945

The US military drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan— this city being chosen because it was the "largest untouched target" on the bombing priority list.

[80,000 people were killed instantly and another 50-60,000 died of burns and infection in the next few months. General Groves, head of the atomic bomb project, ridiculed the stories of "radiation sickness" among the Hiroshima survivors as "hoax or propaganda". An untold number would die through the years from the effects of radiation received.

The United States had detailed plans for the use of chemical weapons on Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama and nearly two dozen other Japanese cities with the prospect of killing 5 million people and injuring another 5 million. This from the country that had condemned the Soviet Union in 1939 for bombing and machine-gunning civilians in Finland!
(Japan had used chemical weapons in China and Southeast Asia.) (57) ]

August 8, 1945

Stalin informs Ambassador Harriman that the Soviet Union has declared war against Japan and Soviet troops are already moving into Japanese-occupied Manchuria, as per the terms of the Yalta agreement.

[He had wanted to enter the war earlier, but the Chinese had been stalling since the end of the Potsdam conference--- in response to Harriman's conniving--- in their negotiations about the exact concessions the Russians would receive at war's end.] (58)

August 22, 1945

Reinhard Gehlen, in the uniform of a one-star US Army general, and 6 aides disguised as US Army captains are secretly flown to the United States.

[Housed in very comfortable accommodations at Fort Hunt, Gehlen made an agreement with the US military. He would head a secret unit in Germany funded and supported by the US to continue gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries. (Their first year's budget was about $3.4 million.)

This "Gehlen Org" would operate under German leadership, giving its intelligence findings to the US, with the understanding that if ever German and American interests should diverge, the Gehlen Org would put the interests of Germany first! In 1955 the Gehlen Org was incorporated into the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) of the New Federal Republic of Germany.

There were two sinister outcomes of this pact of the military with Gehlen:

The Gehlen Org became a cover for ODESSA in helping many SS officers escape justice. Among these were: Franz Six and EmilAugsburg, who had both led extermination squads that sought out Jews and communists in eastern Europe and who had been associated with the Wannsee Institute, the Nazi think tank that created the formula for the "final solution" of the Jewish problem. And also Klaus Barbie, "the Butcher of Lyon."

Some of the worst of the ODESSA refugees went to work for Gehlen. These totally unrepentant Nazis became the major suppliers of information about the aims and strength of the Soviet Union to the US, West Germany and NATO. It was in their interest for the US to become militantly anti-communist and their distortions of their "intelligence" made the Cold War inevitable. (59)

September 12, 1945

In a long memorandum Secretary of War Stimson urges HST to share the secrets of the atomic bomb with Russia. "If we fail to approach them now, and merely continue to negotiate with them, having this weapon rather ostentatiously on our hip, their suspicion and their distrust of our motives and purposes will increase . . . The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him."

Under-Secretary of State Dean Acheson supports his proposal; the rest of HST's cabinet disagrees. (60)

November 19, 1945

LIFE's lead story, "The 36-Hour War: Arnold Report Hints at the Catastrophe of the Next Great Conflict", features a drawing of the United States with rockets carrying A-bombs hitting 13 US cities from rocket-launching sites that were built "quickly and secretly" in the jungles of equatorial Africa by an unnamed "enemy of the US".

After 40 million Americans are killed and all cities of 50,000 or more are leveled, enemy air-borne troops arrive. However, after all this, the US "wins the atomic war".

December 6, 1945

The United States loans Great Britain $3.75 billion.

[In March, 1946 when told that the French government of Léon Blum was on the verge of being replaced by a Communist one, the United States averted this catastrophe by a loan of $1.3 billion and a write-off of $2.7 billion of war debts, taking the funds that had been appropriated for the Export-Import Bank for trade credits that would be extended to Moscow.

Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary also failed to receive loans from the World Bank in this period.] (61)



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