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

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 13 14 15 16                          p.12

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 HST 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. HST'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)

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© Janette Rainwater 1997-2001

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