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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - The Twisting Path to War
Chapter 2 - The War in Europe
Chapter 3 - The War in Asia
Chapter 4 - The Beginnings of the Cold War
Chapter 5 - The Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan
Chapter 6 - Containment Tested
Chapter 7 - Korea
Chapter 8 - Eisenhower, Dulles, and the Irreconcilable Conflict
Chapter 9 - From Hungary and Suez to Cuba
Chapter 10 - Kennedy and the New Frontiers
Chapter 11 - Vietnam: Paying the Cost of Containment
Chapter 12 - Nixon, Détente, and the Debacle in Vietnam
Chapter 13 - America in the Middle East and Africa
Chapter 14 - Carter and Human Rights
Chapter 15 - Reagan and the Evil Empire
Chapter 16 - The End of the Cold War
Chapter 17 - Bush and the Gulf War
Chapter 18 - Clinton and Democratic Enlargement
Chapter 19 - Clinton and the New Post-Cold War Order
Chapter 20 - The Tragedy of September 11, 2001
Chapter 21 - After the Attack and Into Iraq
Suggestions for Further Reading
RISE TO GLOBALISM
STEPHEN E. AMBROSE (1936-2002) was born in Decatur, Illinois. He received a B.A. from the University of Wisconsin in 1956, an M.A. from Louisiana State University in 1957, and a Ph.D. in history from the University of Wisconsin in 1963. A longtime professor of history at the University of New Orleans, Ambrose wrote numerous books on military affairs and foreign policy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including biographies of Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon. His most recent books—D-Day, Undaunted Courage, and Band of Brothers —were mainstays on the New York Times bestseller list.
DOUGLAS G. BRINKLEY is a professor of history at Rice University and a fellow at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy. He is the award-winning author of twenty-five books, including The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House; Wheels for the World: Henry Ford, His Company, and a Century of Progress; Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War; Gerald R. Ford; and The Reagan Diaries. A longtime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he lives in the Texas towns of Austin and Galveston.
WORKS BY STEPHEN E. AMBROSE
Upton and the Army
Halleck: Lincoln’s Chief of Staff
Ike’s Spies: Eisenhower and the Espionage Establishment
Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors
Eisenhower and Berlin, 1945: The Decision to Halt at the Elbe
Duty, Honor, Country: A History of West Point
The Supreme Commander: The War Years of Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower: Soldier, General, President-Elect, 1890-1952
Eisenhower: The President
Pegasus Bridge: June 6, 1944
Nixon: The Education of a Politician, 1913-1962
Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972
Nixon: The Ruin and Recovery of a Politician, 1973-1990
Eisenhower: Soldier and President
Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from
Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle Nest
WORKS BY DOUGLAS G. BRINKLEY
Jean Monnet: Path to European Unity (ed.)
Dean Acheson: The Cold War Years
Dean Acheson and the Making of U.S. Foreign Policy
Driven Patriot: The Life and Time of James Forrestal (coauthor)
The Majic Bus: An American Odyssey
FDR and the Creation of the United Nations (coauthor)
The Unfinished Presidency: Jimmy Carter’s Journey Beyond the White House
Gerald R. Ford
The Boys of Pointe du Hoc
The Reagan Diaries
Wheels for the World: Henry Ford and a Century of Progress
The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade of America
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Rise to Globalism by Stephen E. Ambrose first published in Penguin Books 1971 Eighth revised edition by Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley published 1997 This ninth revised edition by Douglas Brinkley published 2011
Copyright © Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley, 1997
Copyright © Douglas Brinkley, 2011
All rights reserved
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING IN PUBLICATION DATA
Ambrose, Stephen E.
Rise to globalism : American foreign policy since 1938 / Stephen E. Ambrose
and Douglas G. Brinkley.—9th rev. ed.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
eISBN : 978-1-101-50129-0
1. United States—Foreign relations—1933-1945. 2. United States—Foreign relations—1945-1989
3. United States—Foreign relations—1989- I. Brinkley, Douglas. II. Title.
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For Alexander, Cornia, and Stephen Riley.
May they know only peace.
IN 1939, ON THE EVE OF WORLD WAR II, THE UNITED STATES HAD AN army of 185,000 men with an annual budget of less than $500 million. America had no entangling alliances and no American troops were stationed in any foreign country. The dominant political mood was isolationism. America’s physical security, the sine qua non of foreign policy, seemed assured, not because of American alliances or military strength but because of the distance between America and any potential enemy.
A half century later the United States had a huge standing Army, Air Force, and Navy. The budget of the Department of Defense was over $300 billion. The United States had military alliances with fifty nations, over a million soldiers, airmen, and sailors stationed in more than 100 countries, and an offensive capability sufficient to destroy the world many times over. It had used military force to intervene in Indochina, Lebanon, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Central America, and the Persian Gulf, supported an invasion of Cuba, distributed enormous quantities of arms to friendly governments around the world, and fought costly wars in Korea and Vietnam. But despite all the money spent on armaments and no matter how far outward America extended her power, America’s national security was constantly in jeopardy.
By 1993, however, the Soviet Union was gone, there were no military threats to the United States, and the American armed forces were shrinking. America’s overseas concerns were no longer the armies and missiles of the communist superpower, but access to raw materials and markets and concern over small nations causing major upheavals, plus the trade policies of its World War II enemies, Germany and Japan. America had won the Cold War and was once again, as in 1939, turning away from the world.
Shifts in attitudes accompanied these bewildering changes in policy. Before World War II most Americans believed in a natural harmony of interests between nations, assumed that there was a common commitment to peace, and argued that no nation or people could profit from a war. These beliefs implied that peace was the normal condition between states and that war, if it came, was an aberration resulting from the irrational acts of evil or psychotic men. It was odd that a nation that had come into existence through a victorious war, gained large portions of its territory through war, established its industrial revolution and national unity through a bloody civil war, and won a colonial empire through war could believe that war profited no one. Yet most Americans in the 1930s did so believe.
During and after World War II, Americans changed their attitudes. They did not come to relish war, but they did learn to accept it. They also became aware of their own vulnerability, which supported the post-Pearl Harbor belief that threats had to be met early and overseas. After World War I, the United States had adopted a policy of unilateral disarmament and neutrality as a way to avoid another war. After World War II, the nation adopted a policy of massive rearmament and collective security as a way to avoid another war. That meant stationing troops and missiles overseas.
Technological change, especially in military weapons, gave added impetus to the new expansionism. For the first time in its history the United States could be threatened from abroad. High-speed ships, long-range bombers, jet aircraft, atomic weapons, and eventually intercontinential missiles all combined to endanger the physical security of the United States.
Simultaneously, America became vulnerable to foreign economic threats. An increasingly complex economy, coupled with the tremendous economic boom of the postwar years maintained by cheap energy, made America increasingly dependent on foreign sources.
And so, the irony. America had far more military power in the early 1990s than she had had in the late thirties, but she was less secure. America was far richer in the nineties than she had been during the Depression, but also more vulnerable to economic blackmail.
It was an unexpected outcome. At the conclusion of World War II, America was on a high. In all the world only the United States had a healthy economy, an intact physical plant capable of mass production of goods, and excess capital. American troops occupied Japan, the only important industrial power in the Pacific, while American influence was dominant in France, Britain, and West Germany, the industrial heart of Europe. The Pacific and the Mediterranean had become American lakes. Above all, the United States had a monopoly on the atomic bomb.
Yet there was no peace. The Cold War came about because the United States and the U.S.S.R. were deeply suspicious of each other, and with good reason. Economic rivalry and ideological differences helped fuel the rivalry, but another important factor was the pace of scientific and technological change in the postwar period. Nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them became the pivot around which much of the Cold War revolved. The fear that its opponents would move ahead on this or that weapons system drove each nation to make an all-out effort in the arms race. In the United States the resulting growth of the armed services and their suppliers—the military-industrial complex—gave generals, admirals, and industrialists new sources of power, leading to a situation in which Americans tended to find military solutions to political problems. Not until the late sixties did large numbers of Americans learn the costly lesson that the power to destroy is not the power to control.
The United States of the Cold War period, like ancient Rome, was concerned with all political problems in the world. The loss of even one country to Communism, therefore, while not in itself a threat to American physical security, carried implications that officials in Washington found highly disturbing. In the early sixties, few important officials argued that South Vietnam was essential to the defense of the United States, but the attitude that “we have to prove that wars of national liberation don’t work” (a curious attitude for the children of the American Revolution to hold) did carry the day.
America’s rise to globalism was by no means mindless, nor was it exclusively a reaction to the Communist challenge or a response to economic needs. A frequently heard expression during World War II was that “America has come of age.” Americans had a sense of power, of bigness, of destiny. They had saved the world from Hitler; now they would save the world from Stalin. In the process, American influence and control would expand. During World War II, Henry Luce of Life magazine spoke for most political leaders as well as American businessmen, soldiers, and the public generally when he said that the twentieth century would be “the American century.” Politicians looked for areas in which American influence could dominate. Businessmen looked for profitable markets and new sources of cheap raw materials; the military looked for overseas bases. All found what they wanted as America inaugurated a program of expansion that had no inherent limits.
Americans launched a crusade for freedom that would be complete only when freedom reigned everywhere. Conservatives like Senator Robert Taft doubted that such a goal was obtainable, and old New Dealers like Henry Wallace argued that it could only be achieved at the cost of domestic reform. But most politicians and nearly all businessmen and soldiers signed on as crusaders.
While America’s businessmen, soldiers, and politicians moved into South and Central America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, her leaders rarely paused to wonder if there were limits to American power. The disorderly expansion and the astronomical growth of areas defined as constituting a vital American interest seemed to Washington, Wall Street, and the Pentagon to be entirely normal and natural. Almost no important public figure argued that the nation was overextended, just as no one could suggest any attitude toward Communism other than unrelieved hostility.
But ultimately, military reality put limits on American expansion. At no time after 1945 was the United States capable of destroying Russia or her allies without taking on totally unacceptable risks herself; at no time was the United States able to establish an imperial dominion. The crusade against Communism, therefore, took the form of containment rather than attack. As a policy, containment, with its implication of an acceptance of a permanently divided world, led to widely felt frustration. These frustrations were deepened by self-imposed constraint on the use of force in Korea, Vietnam, and elsewhere.
The failure of containment in Indochina led to another basic shift in attitude toward America’s role in the world. It was not a return to isolationism, 1939 style—the pendulum did not swing that far. It was a general realization that, given the twin restraints of fears of provoking a Russian nuclear strike and America’s reluctance to use her full military power, there was relatively little the United States could accomplish by force of arms. President Reagan showed an awareness of these limits in Poland, Afghanistan, and even Central America, and in withdrawing from Lebanon.
Following the involvement in Vietnam there was also a shift in the focus of American foreign policy, especially after 1973, when the Arab oil boycott made Americans suddenly aware that the Middle East was so important to them. Nixon’s 1972 trip to China, the emergence of black Africa, and the discovery of abundant raw materials in both Africa and South America helped turn American eyes from the northern to the southern half of the globe. This shift emphasized the fundamentally changed nature of the American economy, from self-sufficiency to increasing dependency on others for basic supplies. America in the 1990s was richer and more powerful—and more vulnerable—than at any other time in her history.
But this cozy global arrangement didn’t last long. On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists. The World Trade Center towers in New York City collapsed and the Pentagon was severely damaged by terrorists using commercial airliners as suicide bombs. Although U.S. intelligence services had warned of a Pearl Harbor-like sneak attack throughout the first months of 2001, President George W. Bush claimed innocence. “Had I known there was going to be an attack on America,” he said, “I would have moved mountains to stop the attack.” As historians we have the luxury of hindsight; our policymakers never do.
I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise nor riches to men of understanding, but time and chance happeneth to them all.
GEORGE H. W. BUSH
GEORGE W. BUSH
The Twisting Path to War
I hate war.
FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT
THE UNITED STATES FELT FAIRLY SECURE IN THE WORLD OF 1938. Neither of the great totalitarian political forces of the century, Fascism nor Communism, was a threat. So long as Britain and France continued to stand against Hitler and the Nazis, the United States had nothing to fear militarily from Germany. Elsewhere, anti-Communism was triumphing in Spain, while in Central and Eastern Europe governments hostile to the Soviet Union continued to contain Communism.
On the other side of the world the United States, in combination with the British, French, and Dutch, still ruled the Pacific. American control of Hawaii and the Philippines, Dutch control of the Netherlands East Indies (N.E.I., today’s Indonesia), French control of Indochina (today’s Laos, Cambodia [Democratic Kampuchea], and Vietnam), and British control of India, Burma, Hong Kong, and Malaya gave the Western powers a dominant position in Asia. Japan, ruled by her military, was aggressive, determined to end white man’s rule in Asia, and thus a threat to the status quo. But Japan lacked crucial natural resources, most notably oil, and was tied down by her war in China.
On the great land mass connecting Europe and Asia, Russia was relatively weak and nonexpansive. In the Middle East and Africa, European colonialism dominated. In Latin America, American economic imperialism guaranteed cheap raw materials for American industries and a dependable market.
The United States in 1938 saw no pressing need to play any great role in the world. Isolationism reigned in Congress, reflecting a national mood. The Nye Committee, conducting a Senate investigation, had “proved” that Wall Street had dragged the United States into World War I. The aftermath led many to believe that entering World War I had been a mistake—so many as to make disarmament and neutrality the dominant factors in American foreign policy in the 1920s and 1930s.
The attitude of the President himself reinforced isolationism. Unlike Winston Churchill, Hitler, or the Japanese leaders and unlike his cousin Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt saw neither glory nor romance in war, nor did he feel that it strengthened the national fiber. If not a pacifist, FDR was certainly no militarist. On a number of occasions he declared, with deep emotion, “I hate war.”
American foreign policy in 1938 was to support the status quo, but only through vaguely worded statements. Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and a majority of the American people did not want a German domination of Europe or a Japanese domination of Asia, but neither were they ready to do much to stop it. Least of all were they willing to improve the armed forces so that the United States could threaten to punish aggression.
In mid-March of 1939 Hitler’s armies overran Czechoslovakia. Roosevelt failed to support a Senate resolution that would have repealed the arms embargo (required in case of war by the neutrality acts of the mid-thirties) and allowed American industries to sell war goods to France and Britain on a cash-and-carry basis. Although FDR and a majority of the people had declared that their sympathies lay with the democracies, they had also demonstrated to Hitler that in the immediate future he had nothing to fear from the United States. On August 23, 1939, Hitler announced the Nazi-Soviet Pact, which provided for the division of Poland between Russia and Germany and relieved Germany of the nightmare of a two-front war. On September 1, 1939, the Nazis struck Poland; two days later Britain and France declared war on Germany, and World War II was under way.
Americans split sharply over the question of how to react. Isolationists resisted any steps that might lead to aid for the democracies, fearing that the United States would thereby become so committed to an Allied victory that, as in 1917, she would be drawn into war against her will. Interventionists, meanwhile, wanted to abandon neutrality and give military aid to Britain and France. Roosevelt took a middle ground. In a speech to a special session of Congress, FDR declared four times that his policy was designed to keep the United States out of war. He then asked for repeal of the embargo on arms and approval of a cash-and-carry system. Congress agreed in November 1939.
Cash-and-carry symbolized much that was to follow. It aligned the United States with the democracies, reiterated American concern and friendship for Western Europe, and made it clear that the country would resist any attempt to upset the balance of power in Europe. But it also indicated that the United States was unwilling to pay a high price to stop Hitler. America would sell arms to the democracies as long as the democracies picked them up and carried them off. America was taking uncommonly large risks by not doing more.
Just how great those risks were, Roosevelt knew as did few others in the world. On October 11, 1939, world-renowned physicist Albert Einstein, a Jewish refugee from the Nazis, warned FDR that the Germans were working on the problem of harnessing atomic energy into a bomb. If Hitler got an atomic bomb, he would surely conquer Europe. Roosevelt was impressed by Einstein’s message. He conferred privately with key congressional leaders and together they started the Manhattan Project. This secret project was designed to build an atomic bomb capable of being dropped from an airplane, and to get it built before Hitler could complete his own plans.
The Manhattan Project was the beginning of the marriage between science and government in the United States, and thus one of the most important legacies of World War II. It was also the first use of extreme secrecy about government activities, justified on the grounds of national security. In the case of the Manhattan Project, most members of Congress did not even know where the funds they had appropriated were going.
But although Roosevelt was willing to act decisively in the race for an atomic bomb, there was otherwise a distinct limit on the American contribution to stopping Hitler. After German armies overran Poland in the fall of 1939, a period of stagnation set in on the western front. Americans called it a “phony war” and saw no pressing reason to strain themselves to build up their strength. FDR increased the regular army from 210,000 to 217,000 and asked for an army budget of $853 million, which Congress cut by nearly 10 percent. These paltry figures constituted an announcement to Hitler that the United States did not intend to fight in Europe in the near future.
The German spring offensive of 1940 brought forth a tough verbal but limited practical response from the United States. The President asked for a supplemental appropriation to raise troop strength to 255,000; Congress, after hearing Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall’s desperate appeals, raised the force to 375,000. The Nazis, meanwhile, rolled on. On May 15 the new British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, urgently requested forty or fifty American destroyers to protect Britain’s Atlantic supply line. Churchill called it a matter of “life or death.” Roosevelt was reluctant to act. On June 5, with the fall of France imminent and Britain about to be left standing alone, he told a Cabinet official that it would require an act of Congress to transfer the destroyers to England and implied that he was not ready to ask for such a bill.
He was ready to speak out. On June 10, 1940, the President told the graduating class of the University of Virginia that the United States would follow “two obvious and simultaneous courses,” extending to France and Britain “the material resources of this nation” and speeding up the development of these resources so that the American armed forces could be strengthened. The speech was hailed by interventionists in the United States as setting a new course, but the French quickly discovered its limits. On June 14 French Premier Paul Reynaud appealed to Roosevelt to send American troops to Europe in France’s hour of need. Roosevelt refused. Even had he wanted to act, he had no troops available to send overseas. Within the week the French signed an armistice with Germany.
The fall of France was a shattering blow. No one had forecast it. The United States now faced an entirely new situation. No longer could the nation comfortably expect that the British and French would stop the Germans. The British, standing alone, might survive, although even that was questionable, but would never be able to roll back the Nazis by themselves. The best-disciplined and most highly educated and productive nation in Europe now dominated the Continent. The balance of power was gone. Hitler posed no immediate military threat to the New World, but if he could conquer England and get control of the British fleet, then overrun Russia—suddenly real possibilities—he would command the greatest military might the world had ever known. What could happen then was anyone’s guess, but it was becoming increasingly apparent that it behooved Americans to do something more than sit by and watch. Hitler could be stopped and some kind of balance could be restored in Europe only if others came to Britain’s aid.
Isolationism was obviously an obstacle to forthright presidential action, but FDR had an inner conflict that reflected the public confusion. He was very much of his time and place, sharing general attitudes on the mistake of entering World War I. In a famous campaign speech in Boston on October 30, 1940, FDR declared: “And while I am talking to you mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.”
Neither, it seemed, was a great deal of American equipment. The British still obtained supplies only on a cash-and-carry basis and they lacked the destroyers necessary to protect the convoys transporting those goods they could afford to purchase. On July 21, 1940, Churchill made another eloquent plea for destroyers: “Mr. President, with great respect I must tell you that in the long history of the world this is a thing to do now.” The British were losing merchant shipping in the Battle of the Atlantic in appalling numbers, the Battle of Britain was reaching its peak, and the German General Staff was preparing plans for an invasion of the British Isles. The President allowed private groups to work out the details of a destroyer-for-bases deal, which eventually (September 2) gave the British fifty overage American destroyers in return for rent-free bases on British possessions from Bermuda to British Guiana.
There was, meanwhile, a growing tension between the War Department and the White House. General Marshall reasoned that the only way to defeat Hitler was to fight and defeat the German army in northwestern Europe. To do that Marshall needed a mass army; to get that he needed conscription. But given the tenor of Roosevelt’s third-term campaign, there was no possibility that the President could give public support to a conscription bill.
Congress proved more willing to act than the President. Private groups, led by Republicans Henry L. Stimson and Elihu Root, Jr., persuaded Congressmen favoring intervention to introduce a selective-service bill in both houses of Congress. Roosevelt remained aloof, but he did give General Marshall permission to support the bill; the President also helped by appointing Stimson, an interventionist, Secretary of War. In late August of 1940, Congress authorized the President to call the National Guard and other reserves to active duty for one year, and on September 16 it provided for selective service for one year. Both measures limited the employment of troops to the Western hemisphere.
In November 1940 Roosevelt won the election. Churchill, among others, thought that the reelected President would be willing to assume a more active role in the struggle against Hitler. The Prime Minister sent FDR a lengthy and bleak description of the British situation, emphasizing that his nation was running out of money. Cash-and-carry would no longer suffice, for “the moment approaches when we shall no longer be able to pay cash for shipping and other supplies.”
Roosevelt responded sympathetically. On December 7, 1940, he called in the press, outlined the British dilemma, and said he believed that “the best defense of Great Britain is the best defense of the United States.” Seeking to avoid the mistakes of Woodrow Wilson and the long controversy over World War I war debts, Roosevelt said he wanted to simply lend or lease to England the supplies she needed. He compared his scheme to the idea of lending a garden hose to a neighbor whose house was on fire.
In a radio address to the nation a few days later, Roosevelt justified lend-lease as essential to national security. If England fell, “all of us in the Americas would be living at the point of a gun.” He said the best way to keep the United States out of the war was to “do all we can now to support the nations defending themselves against attack by the Axis.” He declared again that he had no intention of sending American boys to Europe; his sole purpose was to “keep war away from our country and our people.” He would do this by making America the “great arsenal of democracy.”
The isolationists were furious. They charged that lend-lease was a most unneutral act, placing the United States squarely on the British side. Senator Robert Taft found the idea of loaning military equipment absurd. He said it was rather like loaning chewing gum: “Once it had been used, you didn’t want it back.”
By early March 1941, however, the administration had overcome the opposition, and the lend-lease bill went through Congress with an initial appropriation of $7 billion. Secretary Stimson correctly called it “a declaration of economic war.” But it was hardly enough to sustain a Britain on the defensive, much less give Hitler cause for concern.
What was needed was a more extensive American involvement. Realizing this, Roosevelt declared an Atlantic neutrality zone that extended almost to Iceland, ordering the Navy to patrol the area and report the location of German submarines to the British. In April 1941 American troops moved into Greenland. In July, following Hitler’s invasion of Russia, his first big mistake, American troops occupied Iceland, which released British troops for the Middle East, and the U.S. Navy began escorting convoys as far as Iceland. By September the U.S. Navy was fully at war with Germany in the Atlantic. When a German submarine fired a torpedo at the American destroyer stalking it, FDR brazenly denounced the “rattlesnakes of the Atlantic” for the supposedly unprovoked act and ordered the Navy to shoot on sight at all German submarines they encountered. In October FDR persuaded Congress to remove nearly all restrictions on American commerce; henceforth, American merchant vessels could carry goods to British ports. He also extended lend-lease to Russia.
Roosevelt’s tone, in public and private, was by November of 1941 one of unrestrained belligerency. German advances to the gates of Moscow made it impossible to underestimate the threat. Roosevelt seems to have reasoned that Hitler could not long permit American ships to transport goods to Britain. The Germans would have to order their submarine captains to sink the American vessels. FDR could then overcome isolationist opposition in Congress and obtain a declaration of war.
Whether he was right or not will never be known. It is clear that by December 1941 American foreign policy in Europe had failed to make any significant contribution to stopping—much less overcoming—Hitler. In retrospect, the steps the President and Congress took to protect American interests in Europe were halting and limited. Everything hinged on Russia and Britain. If they kept going, America could—eventually—supply them with the tools and men to do the job. The United States, in the meantime, was taking great risks.
The American ship of state was drifting, without a rudder or power, in a storm. The world’s greatest industrial democracy could not stem the tide of Fascism. Roosevelt’s caution was so great that in September 1941, when the original selective service bill ran out and had to be repassed if the soldiers already partly trained were to be retained in the Army, he refused to pressure Congress, either privately or publicly. Working behind the scenes, General Marshall was able to get the draft bill passed—by one vote. Even this left the U.S. Army ridiculously small (1.6 million men) if the nation ever intended to play a role in the conflict raging in Europe.
Fortunately for the United States, the British and Russians held out against Germany, making it possible for America to later exert her power to help win the war. Fortunately, too, the Japanese solved Roosevelt’s problem of how to get fully involved in the war.
Japan was the aggressor in the Pacific, as Mussolini was in the Mediterranean and Hitler was in Europe. Since the mid-thirties, Japan had been involved in a war of conquest in China. From the beginning the United States had protested, but because FDR had not supported his demands with action, the Japanese ignored him.
The overall Japanese program called for Asia for the Asians (although some Asians were going to be more equal than others). The Japanese proposed to substitute themselves for the white rulers in China, Indochina, Malaya, Burma, the Philippines, and the N.E.I. It was essential to the Japanese that they control these areas if Japan were to be a great power, for despite her human resources Japan was almost devoid of critical raw materials, especially oil, which was available in Southeast Asia.
The American colony of the Philippines lay directly athwart the Japanese proposed line of advance. Whether correctly or not, the Japanese were convinced that the United States would never allow them to advance into Malaya or the N.E.I. without striking against their lines of communications. More fundamentally, they believed that the United States would never willingly allow them to become a great power and would consistently oppose their advance southward. Thus, although the Japanese realized that they were doomed if they goaded the United States into war and the United States chose to fight it to a finish, they felt they were also doomed without war. “Japan entered the war,” a prince of the Japanese imperial family later wrote, “with a tragic determination and in desperate self-abandonment.”
The fall of France in 1940 and Britain’s preoccupation with Germany opened the door to Southeast Asia for Japan. Bogged down in her war with China, Japan decided to overcome her crippling shortage of oil through a program of southward expansion. Only the Soviet Union and the United States were potentially strong enough in the Pacific to interfere; Japan moved politically to minimize these threats. In the late summer of 1940 she signed a five-year nonaggression pact with the Soviets, an agreement that Stalin, fearing Hitler, was happy to sign.
Japan also entered into the Tripartite Pact with the Germans and Italians, a defensive alliance that pledged mutual support if any one of the three signatories were attacked. The German invasion of Russia in June 1941 opened new possibilities for Japan, and a great debate within Japan ensued. Should Japan take advantage of Russia’s desperate position vis-à-vis Germany and attack the Soviets through Siberia? Some military leaders thought so. Others argued that because of Hitler’s involvement in Russia, Germany no longer posed so much of a threat to England; this strengthened the Anglo-American position in the Pacific because Churchill was now free to send part of the fleet from the home isles to Britain’s Asian colonies (as he in fact did do in 1941). Japan, therefore, should seek to reach an agreement with the United States, making such concessions as were necessary to stave off war. Still others held out for the long-planned conquest of Southeast Asia.
Roosevelt listened in on the debate through the medium of MAGIC,1 the code name applied to intercepted and decoded Japanese messages, and characterized it as “a real drag-down and knock-out fight... to decide which way they were going to jump—attack Russia, attack the South Seas [or] sit on the fence and be more friendly with us.” The decision was to reject war with Russia and instead move south immediately, meanwhile trying to avoid war with the United States by carrying on negotiations as long as possible. The first step was the unresisted occupation of French Indochina, which gave Japan possession of air and naval bases stretching from Hanoi to Saigon.
The U.S. Navy did not wish to provoke the Japanese. It wanted time, not only to bring about Hitler’s defeat but also to build a first-class striking force. The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Harold R. Stark, advised the President to do nothing when the Japanese moved into French Indochina. But whatever the military realities, FDR also had political realities to deal with. The polls indicated that nearly 70 percent of the people were willing to risk war in the Pacific rather than let Japan continue to expand. FDR froze all Japanese assets in the United States. The British and Dutch supported his move. The effect of the freeze was to create an economic blockade of Japan. She could not buy oil, steel, or other necessities without Roosevelt’s permission.
The embargo made it clear to the Japanese that they either had to pull back from Indochina and China and thereby reach an agreement with the United States that would provide them with access to oil, or go to war. The one slim hope remaining was that America’s fear of a two-ocean war would impel Roosevelt to compromise. From August until November 1941, the Japanese sought some form of acceptable political compromise, all the while sharpening their military plans and preparations. If the diplomatic offensive worked, the military offensive could be called off, including the planned attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor.
In essence, the Japanese demanded from the United States a free hand in Asia. There were variations through a series of proposals, but the central points always included an Anglo-American promise not to “meddle in nor interrupt” a settlement between Japan and China, a recognition of Japan’s “special position” in French Indochina, an agreement not to reinforce Singapore and the Philippines, and a resumption of commercial relations with Japan, which included selling oil.
Although the Americans were willing to go part way to compromise, they would not consider giving the Japanese a free hand in China. Since it was precisely on this point that the Japanese were most adamant, conflict was inevitable. Neither side wanted war in the sense that each would have preferred to gain its objectives without having to fight for them, but both were willing to move on to a showdown. In Japan it was the military who pressed for action, over the protests of the civilians, while in America the situation was reversed. Prime Minister Fumimaro Konoye of Japan resigned in October when he was unable to secure military approval of a partial withdrawal from China in order to “save ourselves from the crisis of a Japanese-American war.” His successor, General Hideki Tojo, was willing to continue negotiations with the United States, but only until late November. If no progress was made by then, Japan would strike.
In the United States, Roosevelt stood firm, even though his military advisers strongly urged him to avoid a crisis with Japan until he had dealt with Germany. Secretary Hull made one last effort for peace, suggesting on November 21 that the United States should offer a three-month truce. Japan might have accepted, but Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese leader, protested vehemently, and Roosevelt would not allow Hull to make the offer. “I have washed my hands of the Japanese situation,” Hull told Stimson on November 27, “and it is now in the hands of ... the Army and Navy.”
A little over a week later, on Sunday, December 7, 1941, the Japanese launched their attack, hitting Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, Malaya, and Thailand.2 They soon added the N.E.I. to the list. On December 8 the Anglo-Americans declared war on Japan, but the United States still had no more reason to go to war with Germany than it had had on December 6, so even in the excitement over Pearl Harbor, FDR did not ask Congress for a declaration of war on Germany. All earlier war plans had assumed that the United States and the United Kingdom would concentrate their efforts against Germany; suddenly it seemed that the war would take an entirely unexpected course, with the Americans fighting only the Japanese. On December 11 Hitler ended the uncertainty by declaring war on the United States.3
The United States was finally at war with the Axis. The status quo in Europe and in Asia had been challenged and was being upset. America had been unable to preserve it short of war. The need now was to defeat the Axis on the field of battle, a task of staggering proportions but one that carried with it great opportunities for the extension of American power and influence. The United States was quick to grasp them, even while saving the world from the unimaginable horror of being ruled by Hitler and the Japanese Army. The historic equality of friendship between the United States and Great Britain was now the world’s bulwark against global fascism.
The War in Europe
Give me allies to fight against!
THE GRAND ALLIANCE OF WORLD WAR II, SOMETIMES CALLED THE “Strange Alliance,” joined together Britain, the world’s greatest colonial power, led by Churchill; with Russia, the world’s only Communist nation, led by Stalin; with the United States, the world’s greatest capitalist power, led by Roosevelt. Only Hitler could have brought them together, and only the threat of Nazi Germany could have held them together through four years of war. The Big Three mistrusted each other, but each of the partners knew he needed both of the others. No combination of two was powerful enough to defeat Germany. It took all three to do the job.
So the Grand Alliance was both harmonic and successful. Despite many stresses and strains, it held together to the end, a great achievement. In the process, however, nerves and resources were stretched almost to the breaking point.
The process began in January 1942 when Churchill and his military leaders came to Washington to discuss strategy. Churchill advocated a series of operations around the periphery of Hitler’s European fortress, combined with bombing raids against Germany itself and encouragement to Resistance forces in the occupied countries, but no direct invasion. He called this “closing the ring.”
The American military opposed Churchill’s policy. Marshall felt that the concept was risky rather than safe, and that it would waste lives and material rather than save them. To leave the Red Army to face the bulk of the Wehrmacht, as Churchill advocated in effect, was to court disaster. Marshall was not at all sure that the Russians could survive unaided, and he thought it would be the greatest military blunder in all of history to allow an army of eight million fighting men to go down to defeat without doing anything to prevent it. For the Allies to avoid a confrontation with the Germans on the Continent in 1942 and 1943 might save British and American lives in the short run, but it might also lead to a complete victory for Hitler. Even if Churchill was right in supposing that the Red Army would hold out, Marshall believed that the effect would be to let the war drag on into 1944 or even 1945. The end result would be higher, not lower, Anglo-American casualties.
Marshall therefore proposed that the Anglo-Americans set as a goal for 1942 a buildup of American ground, air, and naval strength in the United Kingdom, with the aim of launching a massive cross-Channel invasion in the spring of 1943. Only thus, he argued, could the Americans bring their power to bear in a decisive manner, the Allies give significant help to the Russians, and the final aim of victory be quickly achieved.
There were two specific problems with Marshall’s program of a 1942 buildup and a 1943 invasion. First, it would be of little help to the Russians in 1942, and second, it would mean that the United States would spend the whole year without engaging in any ground fighting with the Germans. The second point worried Roosevelt, for he wanted to get the American people to feel a sense of commitment in the struggle for Europe (well into 1942 public-opinion polls revealed that Americans were more eager to strike back at the Japanese than fight the Germans). The fastest way to do it was to get involved in the European fighting. The President therefore insisted that American troops engage German troops somewhere in 1942. But Roosevelt was also drawn to Churchill’s concept of closing the ring, with its implication that the Russians would take the bulk of the casualties, and he was determined that the first American offensive should be successful, all of which made the periphery more tempting as a target than northwestern Europe.
Marshall proposed, as an addition to his program for a 1943 invasion, an emergency landing on the French coast in September 1942. The operation, code name SLEDGEHAMMER, would be a suicide mission designed to take pressure off the Russians. It would go forward only if a Russian collapse seemed imminent. But although Marshall had no intention of starting SLEDGEHAMMER except as a last resort, he could and did hold it out to FDR as an operation that would satisfy the President’s demand for action in 1942. The obvious difficulty with SLEDGEHAMMER was the risk, and Churchill countered with a proposal, code name TORCH, to invade French North Africa. This was certainly much safer than a cross-Channel attack in either 1942 or 1943, especially since it would be a surprise assault on the territory of a neutral nation. (North Africa was ruled by the French government at Vichy, under Marshal Henri Pétain; it was Fascist and pro-Nazi, but had declared its neutrality in the war.) TORCH dovetailed nicely with British political aims, since it would help the British reestablish their position in the Mediterranean.
Roosevelt had to choose between Marshall’s and Churchill’s proposals. The pressures on him, from all sides, were as tremendous as the stakes. Soviet Foreign Minister V. M. Molotov had visited him in the spring. Although the President had tried not to be specific about where it would be opened, Molotov, like the rest of the world, thought of a second front only in terms of the plains of northwestern Europe. Roosevelt also knew that the hard-pressed Russians—facing nearly 200 German divisions on a front that extended from Leningrad to the Caucasus, with huge areas, including their prime industrial and agricultural lands, under occupation, with millions of dead already, and with a desperate need for time in which to rebuild their industry and their army—regarded a second front as absolutely essential and as a clear test of the Western democracies’ good faith. If the Anglo-Americans did nothing soon to draw off some German divisions, the Russians might conclude that it meant the Allies were willing to see Hitler win, in the East at least.
EUROPE IN 1997
Roosevelt was never foolish enough to believe that anyone but the Nazis would benefit from a German victory over Russia, but he did have other concerns and pressures. America was far from full mobilization. Whatever Marshall’s plans, the U.S. Army could not invade France alone. Even in combination with the British the United States would have taken heavy casualties. Churchill and his military were insistent about not going back onto the Continent in 1942, or indeed until everything had been well prepared, and they made North Africa sound attractive to the President. Churchill was willing to go to Moscow himself to explain TORCH to Stalin, and said he could convince the Soviets that TORCH did constitute a second front. Given British intransigence, it seemed to FDR that for 1942 it was TORCH or nothing. He picked TORCH.
On July 28 Roosevelt gave his orders to Marshall. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander of the American forces in Britain, commented bitterly that it could well go down as the “blackest day in history.” Eisenhower and Marshall were convinced that the decision to launch a major invasion of French North Africa in November 1942 would have repercussions that would shape the whole course of the war, with implications that would stretch out far into the postwar world.
They were right. Once TORCH was successful, the temptation to build up the already existing base in Algeria and Tunisia and use it as a springboard for further operations was overwhelming. By far the greater part of the Anglo-American effort in 1942 and 1943 went into the Mediterranean, first in North Africa, then Sicily (July 1943), and finally Italy (September 1943). Impressive gains were made on the map, but there was no decisive or even significant destruction of German power.
The practical problems involved in launching a 1942 or even a 1943 invasion were enormous, perhaps insurmountable. It is quite possible that the British were right in arguing that a premature cross-Channel attack would simply result in a bloodbath. But political motives were paramount in the TORCH decision. Churchill wanted a strong British presence in the Mediterranean, while Roosevelt wanted a quick and relatively safe American involvement to boost morale at home. Both got what they needed from TORCH.
When TORCH was launched (November 8, 1942), the Americans scarcely knew what to anticipate. Because they believed that the French Army in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia was at heart anti-German, they hoped the invasion would be unopposed. American spies and secret agents had been operating in North Africa for two years. They were members of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), an organization created by FDR at the beginning of the war, modeled after the British Secret Service. In setting up the OSS, Roosevelt told the man he selected to head the organization, William Donovan, that this was a no-holds-barred war and that the OSS must fight the Gestapo with Gestapo techniques. Roosevelt then gave Donovan an unlimited budget (literally) from blind Congressional appropriations. Nevertheless, by European standards the OSS was woefully amateur in its methods, techniques, ideology, and politics. Its agents represented a political rainbow of reactionary Ivy League sportsmen, radical Jewish intellectuals, members of the Communist Party, U.S.A., and every shade in between. All they had in common was a hatred of Hitler.
Later in the war the OSS did do much good work, especially in combination with the British and Resistance behind German lines in Europe. But in 1942, in North Africa, the OSS was out of its depth in the complexity of French politics. When Pétain had surrendered to the Germans, General Charles de Gaulle had refused to obey the Vichy government and instead had flown to London, where he denounced Pétain as a traitor and claimed that he, de Gaulle, was now head of a new French government that would continue the war. De Gaulle called his organization the Free French. Few Frenchmen in the colonial armies of France rallied to de Gaulle, however, because it was easier and safer for them to remain loyal to Pétain.
The Americans, although they were invading North Africa, did not want to fight the French. They preferred to make a deal. But Pétain had ordered resistance to any invasion, from whatever direction.
Admiral Jean Darlan, the commander in chief of Vichy’s armed forces, was in Algiers when the invasion began. Thanks to clumsy OSS work, his own secret service was fully informed of the American plans. Darlan was bitterly anti-British, author of Vichy’s anti-Semitic laws, and a willing collaborator with the Germans, but he was ready to double-cross Pétain. He agreed to a deal, which required the French to lay down their arms, in return for which the Allies would make Darlan Governor General of all French North Africa. General Henri Giraud would become head of the North African army. Within a few days the French officers obeyed Darlan’s order to cease fire, and a week after the invasion Eisenhower flew to Algiers to approve the agreement. FDR gave his approval to the Darlan deal on the basis of military expediency.
The result was that in its first major foreign-policy venture in World War II, the United States gave its support to a man who stood for everything Roosevelt and Churchill had spoken out against. Darlan was the antithesis of the principles the Allies said they were defending.
The Darlan deal raised a storm of protest. Critics raised serious questions: Did it mean that when the Allies went into Italy they would make a deal with Mussolini? If the opportunity presented itself, would they deal with Hitler or the German generals? Roosevelt rode out the storm by stressing the temporary nature of the deal. Darlan, increasingly indignant, complained that the Americans regarded him as a lemon to be squeezed dry then thrown away when its usefulness was over.
The controversy ended on Christmas Eve 1942, when a young Frenchman in Algiers assassinated Darlan. The assassination was part of a widespread conspiracy that involved more than two dozen men, but no positive evidence exists to show who was ultimately behind the plot to kill Darlan.
Whoever did it, the embarrassment of dealing with Darlan was over. As Eisenhower’s deputy, General Mark Clark, put it, “Admiral Darlan’s death was... an act of Providence... His removal from the scene was like the lancing of a troublesome boil. He had served his purpose, and his death solved what could have been the very difficult problem of what to do with him in the future.”
But deep-rooted Russian suspicions about American political intentions for liberated Europe increased. At the conclusion of the Casablanca Conference in January 1943, Roosevelt tried to allay them. He announced that the Allied policy toward Germany and Japan—and by implication toward Italy—would be to demand unconditional surrender.
What did this mean? Roosevelt did not spell out the details. Presumably, unconditional surrender meant the Allies would fight until such time as the Axis governments put themselves unconditionally into the hands of the Allies, but beyond that nothing was known. What kind of governments would replace those of Mussolini, Tojo, and Hitler? Obviously there would be a period of military occupation, with control invested in an allied military governor, but then what? FDR did not say.
He did not because in all probability he did not know himself. A self-confident pragmatist, he was sure that he could handle situations as they arose. He would continue to make most of his decisions on the basis of military expediency. Meanwhile, he had assured Stalin and the world that there would be no deals with Hitler and his gang, and that the Allies would fight on until the Axis governments surrendered, at which time he would settle everything and satisfy everyone. It was a brilliant stroke. By keeping war aims vague, he prevented bickering among the Allies.
Roosevelt’s self-confidence was immense, but not always justified, as Franco-American relations soon demonstrated. At the beginning of 1943, Giraud was still leader of France’s North African forces but even with American support he would not remain so for long. With British encouragement, de Gaulle came to Algiers, organized the French Committee of National Liberation, and joined Giraud as co-President. Giraud was a political innocent, however, and despite Roosevelt’s efforts de Gaulle soon squeezed Giraud out of the French North African government altogether. By the end of 1943, FDR’s French policy was a shambles and de Gaulle was in power.
The major Anglo-American military operations in 1943 were directed against Italy. The invasion of Sicily began in July; the assault on the Italian mainland followed in September. Even though Italy quit the war, it was not until mid-1944 that the Allies reached Rome, and the spring of 1945 before they controlled the whole of Italy. Heavy military commitments had been made for limited results. The Allies had tied down twenty German divisions in Italy, and they had obtained some additional airfields from which to send bombers against Germany.
Two weeks after the landings at Sicily, the Allies bombed Rome for the first time. As a result of the raid, and because of the deteriorating military situation, the Fascist Grand Council overthrew Mussolini. Marshal Pietro Badoglio replaced him. Badoglio’s sole objective was to double-cross the Germans. The Anglo-Americans were willing enough to oblige.
The Italians wanted protection against the Germans for the government in Rome, and to be allowed to declare war on Germany and join the Allies as a cobelligerent, thus, avoiding the humiliation of signing an unconditional surrender.
Churchill and Roosevelt gradually gave Eisenhower permission to concede the central Italian demands. They wanted both stability in Italy and a neutral Italian army and were thus willing to deal with Badoglio to avoid social upheaval and possibly chaos. They finally allowed the Italian government to surrender with conditions, to stay in power, to retain administrative control of Italy, to retain the Italian monarchy, and eventually to join the Allies as cobelligerent.
The result was that by 1945 the same political groups that had run Italy before and during the war were still in power, backed by an Allied Control Council from which the Russians had been systematically excluded. Stalin had protested initially but did not press the point, for he recognized the value of the precedent—those who liberated a country from the Nazis could decide what happened there. He was more than willing to allow the Allies to shape the future in Italy in return for the same right in Eastern Europe.
American foreign policy in World War II was too complex and diverse to be encompassed by any generalization, no matter how sweeping. In lieu of a policy, most political decisions were dictated by military necessity. If, for example, the Americans tried to promote a right-wing government in French North Africa and Italy, and allowed the British to do the same in Greece, it was equally true that the United States dropped arms and equipment to the Resistance in France, which was decidedly left wing, and to Marshal Tito in Yugoslavia, who was leading a Communist revolution. Within occupied France the Americans had to deal with the Resistance, since there was no one else fighting the Nazis, but in Yugoslavia there was an alternative to Tito in the form of a guerrilla force under General Draja Mikhailovitch, who supported the monarchy and the London-based Yugoslav government-in-exile. Eisenhower and the Americans followed the British lead in giving aid to Tito, however, because he was supposedly more effective than Mikhailovitch in fighting the Nazis. Actually the civil war was as much Croatians versus Serbians as it was Nazis versus Communists.
In January 1944 the confusion and drift that had characterized American policy came to an end. America was more fully mobilized than it had ever been. Eisenhower took command of the Allied Expeditionary Force (AEF) in the United Kingdom and began the preparations for Operation OVERLORD, the cross-Channel assault. From that point on, a single question dominated American thought: Will this proposal help or hurt OVERLORD? OVERLORD had top priority and subsidiary operations geared to it. America was now concentrating exclusively on the defeat of Germany. Postwar problems, for the most part, could be decided in the postwar period. In general, this was true until the very last day of the war.
And rightly so. OVERLORD was not only the supreme military act of the war by the Anglo-Americans, it was also the supreme political act. It was the ultimate expression of a permanent and fundamental goal of American foreign policy—to maintain the balance of power.
Examples of America’s newly developed leadership and single-mindedness abound. Most involved the British, practically none the Russians, partly because the Americans had a close working relationship with the British and almost no contact with the Red Army, and partly because the British were more concerned with long-range questions than were the Americans. Three issues were especially important: What to do in the Mediterranean, what form the advance into Germany should take, and whether the objective should be Berlin or the German Army. On all three issues the Americans had their way. American preponderance in the Allied camp had become so great that, if necessary, the Americans could insist upon their judgment, while the British simply had to accept the decision with the best grace possible, for their contribution to Anglo-American resources was down to 25 percent of the whole.
American domination of the Alliance reflected, in turn, a new era in world history. The United States had replaced Great Britain as the dominant world power. By 1945 American production had reached levels that were scarcely believable. The United States was producing 45 percent of the world’s arms and nearly 50 percent of the world’s goods. Two-thirds of all the ships afloat were American-built.
On the question of what to do in the Mediterranean, the Americans insisted on slowing down operations in Italy and using the troops instead to invade the south of France in order to provide a covering force for OVERLORD’s right flank. The British objected, advocating instead operations into Austria and Yugoslavia, but they dared not argue their case on political grounds for they realized that Roosevelt would turn a deaf ear to their political case. As FDR told Churchill, “My dear friend, I beg you to let us go ahead with our plan, for purely political reasons over here, I should never survive even a slight setback in OVERLORD if it were known that fairly large forces had been diverted to the Balkans.” (That year, 1944, was an American presidential election year; FDR was running for a fourth term.) On June 6, 1944, OVERLORD was launched. It was staggering in scope, with 5,000 ships, 6,000 airplanes, and 175,000 men landing in France. The warriors came from 12 nations, led by American, British, and Canadian forces. It was a grand show of Allied unity, and for that reason successful.
Churchill hoped to secure the British position in the Mediterranean by taking all of Italy and the Adriatic coast. He later declared that he was also interested in forestalling the Russians in central Europe, but he never used such an argument at the time. To the contrary, he repeatedly told Eisenhower—who bore the brunt of the argument on the American side—that he wanted an extended offensive in the Adriatic strictly as a military proposition. Eisenhower was convinced Churchill had Britain’s postwar position in mind and told the Prime Minister that if he wished to change the orders (which directed Eisenhower to strike at the heart of Germany), he should talk to Roosevelt. On military grounds Eisenhower insisted on a landing in the south of France.
Churchill could not persuade Roosevelt to intervene, and the landing took place in August 1944, ending the Allies’ opportunities to extend operations into Eastern Europe or the Balkans. The Americans had been willing to go as far east in the Mediterranean as Italy, but no farther. The possibility of the Soviet Union’s postwar expansion into the Balkans or Eastern Europe did not seem to the Americans to be important enough at the time to justify a diversion from Germany.
A second great issue, fought out in September 1944, was the nature of the advance into Germany. Eisenhower directed an offensive on a broad front, with the American and British armies moving toward Germany more or less abreast. General Bernard L. Montgomery, commanding the British forces, argued for a single thrust into Germany, insisting that his plan promised a quick end to the war. Churchill supported Monty, partly because he wanted the British to have the glory of capturing Berlin, mainly because he wanted the Anglo-Americans as far east as possible when they linked up with the Red Army.
Eisenhower insisted on his own plan. He was absolutely convinced that the broad front was militarily correct. Whether he was right or not depended upon one’s priority. If the main goal were to ensure a German defeat, Eisenhower’s cautious approach was correct. But if the goal were to forestall a Russian advance into central Europe by an Allied liberation of Berlin, Prague, and Vienna, Monty’s audacious program was better. Roles had been reversed. Eisenhower and Marshall, who in 1942 had been willing to accept any risk to go across the Channel, now adopted a dull, unimaginative campaign. The British, who earlier had hesitated at the thought of confronting the Wehrmacht on the Continent, were now ready to take great risks to get the war over with and occupy Berlin.
In the early spring of 1945 the Allies moved across the Rhine into Germany on a broad front. As immediate objectives Eisenhower ordered the encirclement of the industrial Ruhr and a drive to Dresden to link up with the Red Army in central Germany, which would cut Germany into two parts. Montgomery and Churchill objected. They wanted Eisenhower to give priority to supplies and air support for the British drive to Berlin, in order to get there before the Russians.
There has been much confusion about Churchill’s advocacy of Berlin as a target. It is commonly asserted that he wanted to keep the Russians out of eastern Germany, to retain a united Germany, and to maintain Berlin’s status as the capital, and that if only the Allies had captured the city there would have been no Berlin problem. This is nonsense. Aside from the military factors (it is probable that Eisenhower’s men could never have taken Berlin ahead of the Red Army), these views do not remotely reflect the policies Churchill was advocating. He never thought in terms of denying to the Russians their position in East Europe generally or eastern Germany specifically, a position that had been agreed to much earlier. Once the 1943 cross-Channel attack had been scuttled, there never was the slightest chance that the Russians could be kept out of East Europe. Churchill realized this: His famous agreement with Stalin during their Moscow meetings in the fall of 1944 signified his recognition that Russian domination of East Europe was inevitable.
What Churchill did want from the capture of Berlin was much less grandiose. His major concern was prestige. He told Roosevelt that the Russians were going to liberate Vienna. “If they also take Berlin, will not their impression that they have been the overwhelming contributor to our common victory be unduly imprinted in their minds?”
Roosevelt’s major concerns, in the weeks before his death on April 12, were to create the United Nations (the San Francisco Conference to draw up the Charter began its sessions shortly thereafter), to insure the participation of the U.S.S.R. in the United Nations, and to maintain cordial relations with Stalin. He refused to take a hard line with Stalin on the Russian occupation of Poland or on Stalin’s suspicions about the surrender of the German forces in Italy to the Western Allies. The President was not an experienced diplomat, and right to the end he had no clear goals for the postwar world. His sponsorship of the United Nations indicated that he had adopted Woodrow Wilson’s belief in collective security, but the nature of the United Nations Roosevelt wanted, dominated as it was by the great nations on the Security Council, indicated that he retained a belief in spheres of influence for the great powers. So did his frequent remarks about the “Four Policemen” (China, Russia, Britain, and the United States).
But if much of Roosevelt’s policy was cloudy, mystifying even his closest advisers, one thing was clear. To the exasperation of some members of the State Department, not to mention the ambassador to Russia, W. Averell Harriman, the President refused to become a staunch anti-Soviet. Harriman, Churchill, and later Truman assumed that Russia would be unreasonable, grasping, probing, power hungry, and impossible to deal with except from a position of great strength and unrelenting firmness. FDR rejected such assumptions. Furthermore, he seems to have felt it was only reasonable for the Russians to be uneasy about the nature of the governments on Russia’s western frontier, and therefore was willing to consider Stalin’s demands in East Europe. There was also an assumption, shared even by Churchill, that Stalin was stating the obvious when he remarked in early 1945 that “whoever occupies a territory also imposes on it his own social system.” Churchill, who had taken the lead in establishing this principle in Italy and Greece, later denounced Stalin for practicing it in East Europe, but the evidence indicates that Roosevelt was realistic enough to accept the quid pro quo.
The nature of the alliance with Russia was generally confusing. After the Nazi invasion the Red Army became heroic, and Stalin appeared as a wise and generous leader in the American press. Whether this had a deep or lasting effect on a people who mistrusted and feared Communism as much as they did Fascism is doubtful. Behind the scenes, meanwhile, and especially in the State Department, anti-Soviet feeling kept bubbling up. George Kennan, though a rather minor functionary in the State Department at the time, best expressed the mood two days after the Nazis invaded Russia in 1941: “We should do nothing at home to make it appear that we are following the course Churchill seems to have entered upon in extending moral support to the Russian cause. It seems to me that to welcome Russia as an associate in the defense of democracy would invite misunderstanding.” Kennan felt that throughout Europe “Russia is generally more feared than Germany,” and he implied that he agreed with this estimate of the relative dangers of Communism and Fascism.
The sentiment that Kennan expressed in 1941 may have been dominant in the State Department, but the department was not setting policy. Roosevelt extended lend-lease to the Russians and gave moral support to Stalin. Bending to State Department pressure, he did refuse Stalin’s request in 1941 for an agreement that would recognize Russian territorial gains under the Nazi-Soviet Pact, remarking that territorial questions could be settled at the end of the war. But beyond that issue Roosevelt concentrated on working together with Stalin against the common enemy. Kennan continued to protest. In 1944, when the Red Army had driven the Germans out of Russia and was preparing for the final offensive, Kennan argued that the time had come for a “full-fledged and realistic political showdown with the Soviet leaders.” He wanted to confront them with “the choice between changing their policy completely and agreeing to collaborate in the establishment of truly independent countries in Eastern Europe or of forfeiting Western Allied support and sponsorship for the remaining phases of their war effort.”
By this time Kennan was the chief adviser to the American ambassador in Moscow, Harriman, who accepted Kennan’s views. Harriman advised FDR to cut back on or even eliminate lend-lease shipments to Russia. Roosevelt refused and the aid continued to flow, providing Russia with essential equipment, especially trucks. The West needed the Red Army at least as badly as the Russians needed lend-lease. Although Kennan had failed to see this, Marshall and Roosevelt were clear enough about who needed whom the most. Their greatest fear was precisely Kennan’s greatest hope—that once the Red Army reached Russian borders, it would stop. The Germans could then have turned and marched west, confronting the Western Allies with the bulk of the Wehrmacht. Britain and America had not mobilized nearly enough ground troops to batter their way into Berlin against such opposition.
Further, there was the frightening possibility of new secret weapons. Germany had made rapid strides in military technology during the war, German propaganda continued to urge the people to hold on just a little longer until the new weapons were ready, and FDR knew that the Germans were working on an atomic bomb. The V-weapons,4 jet-propelled aircraft, and snorkel submarines were bad enough. To halt lend-lease to the Russians would slow the Red Army advance, giving the Germans more time to perfect their weapons, if it did not cause Stalin to withdraw from the war altogether.
The central dilemma of the war was embodied in these considerations. Until the end almost no one in power wanted Russia to stop its advance, but few Americans or British wanted Russia to dominate East Europe. It had to be one or the other. Roosevelt decided that the greater danger lay in an end to Russian offensives, and he continued to give Stalin aid and encouragement for the Russian drive to the West.
At his own level Eisenhower made his decision about Berlin on military grounds. He thought it was madness to send his forces dashing toward Berlin when there was little, if any, chance that they would arrive before the Red Army. He also needed a clearly recognizable demarcation line, so that when his forces met the Russians there would be no unfortunate incidents of the two allies mistakenly shooting at each other. He therefore informed Stalin that he would halt when he reached the Elbe River. Churchill kept pestering him to push on eastward; finally Eisenhower wired the Combined Chiefs of Staff: “I am the first to admit that a war is waged in pursuance of political aims, and if the Combined Chiefs of Staff should decide that the Allied effort to take Berlin outweighs purely military considerations in this theater, I would cheerfully readjust my plans and my thinking so as to carry out such an operation.” He was not, in other words, willing to risk the lives of 100,000 or more men for no military gain. The Combined Chiefs made no reply, and for Eisenhower, military considerations remained paramount.
While Eisenhower’s forces occupied southern Germany, the Russians battered their way into Berlin, suffering heavy casualties, probably in excess of 100,000. Herbert Feis points out that they gained “the first somber sense of triumph, the first awesome sight of the ruins, the first parades under the pall of smoke.” Two months later they gave up to the West over half the city they had captured at such an enormous price. At the cost of not a single life, Great Britain and the United States had their sectors in Berlin, where they remained through the Cold War.
More important, the war ended without any sharp break with the Russians. There had been innumerable strains in the “Strange Alliance,” but the United States and Russia were still allies, and in May 1945 the possibility of continued cooperation was, if frail, alive. Much would depend on the attitude of the United States toward Soviet actions in East Europe. It was as certain as the sun’s rising that Stalin would insist on Communist dictatorships controlled by Moscow. The economic and political leaders of the old regimes would be thrown out, along with religious leaders and editors. With them would go some of the most cherished concepts in the West—freedom of speech, free elections, freedom of religion, and free enterprise. The men who ran the American government could not look with any approval on the suppression of precisely those liberties they had fought Hitler to uphold. President Harry S. Truman (FDR had died in April 1945), his advisers, and the American people would never be able to accept the forced communization of Eastern Europe.
But the experience of World War II indicated that the United States still had alternatives, that hostility was not the only possible reaction to Stalin’s probable moves. The United States had demonstrated an ability to make realistic, pragmatic responses to developing situations. America had aided Tito and supported the French Resistance, had refused to get tough with the Russians, had made major decisions solely for the purpose of bringing about the fall of Nazi Germany.
In the spring of 1945 America had enormously more power, both absolutely and in relation to the rest of the world, than she had possessed in 1941. To a lesser degree, that had also been the situation in 1918, but after World War I America had disarmed and for the most part refused to intervene in affairs outside the North American continent. She could do so again, and indeed Roosevelt had privately confessed to Churchill that he doubted if he could keep American troops in Europe for more than a year or so after the conclusion of hostilities.
America was the victor. Her decisions would go far toward shaping the postwar world. In May 1945 she did not have a firm idea of what those decisions would be. It was still possible for the United States to travel down any one of several roads.
The War in Asia
When the first atomic bomb went off, at Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945, the temperature at Ground Zero was 100 million degrees Fahrenheit, three times hotter than the interior of the sun and ten thou- sand times the heat on its surface. All life, plant and animal, within a mile radius of Ground Zero simply vanished. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project, turned to his deputy and said, “The war’s over. One or two of these things and Japan will be finished.”
GORDON THOMAS AND MAX
MORGAN-WITTS, ENOLA GAY
ONE OF THE CHIEF FACTS ABOUT THE WAR IN THE PACIFIC WAS THAT when the shooting stopped the Americans did not have troops occupying the major nations of mainland Asia—Indochina, Korea, Burma, India, or China.
America failed to get onto mainland Asia because she did not have enough manpower to carry on a large-scale land war in both Europe and Asia. There were other military limitations. It was approximately twice as far from the United States to Asia as it was to Europe, which meant that it took two ships going from the United States to Asia to do as much as one to Europe, and until the very last months of the war merchant shipping was in short supply. The United States devoted nearly 40 percent of its total effort in World War II to the Pacific Theater, but much of that effort was eaten up in shipping, and the amount of force the Americans could bring to bear was much smaller in Asia than in Europe. As a result, the strategy in the Pacific was to avoid Japanese strong points and to initiate operations that would conserve men and materiel.
America pursued a peripheral strategy in the Pacific, never coming to grips with the main forces of the Japanese Army. There was a political price. In Europe the process of closing in on the Germans carried with it the dividends of putting American troops in Antwerp, Paris, and Rome. In Asia the process of closing in on the Japanese only gave the United States control of relatively unimportant islands.
American military policy in the Pacific was geared only in a negative way to the nation’s foreign-policy aims. The military effort was dedicated to the destruction of Japan. That was a goal of the first magnitude, to be sure, but just stopping the Japanese was not enough. It became increasingly clear as the war went on that it would be difficult, perhaps impossible, to restore the old order in Asia. Nor did Roosevelt want to return to business as usual, for he was a sincere opponent of old-style colonialism and wanted the British out of India, the Dutch out of the N.E.I., the Americans out of the Philippines, and the French out of Indochina.5
For the Americans the question was what form independence would take, and here, as in Europe, power would reside with the man on the spot with a gun in his hand. Except in Japan, the Philippines, and the N.E.I., that man would not be an American. This fact opened the possibility that Communists would replace the old colonial rulers and that they might shut the Americans out of Asia just as thoroughly as had the Japanese. The challenge for American policymakers was how to simultaneously drive out the Japanese, prevent the resurgence of European colonialism, and foster the growth of democratic, capitalist local governments, all without actually making the effort necessary to put the man with a gun on the spot. In China, Indochina, and North Korea, it proved to be impossible.
In Asia, American priorities combined with military necessities to shape events. The first priority, as in Europe, was the defeat of the enemy. Next came the elevation of China under Chiang Kai-shek and the Kuomintang Party to great power status, which required establishing Chiang’s control in China, a control that was contested by the Communists under Mao Tse-tung and by the Japanese, who held most of the China coast. Chiang was corrupt, inefficient, and dictatorial, but he was also friendly to the West. No matter how badly the Americans wanted Chiang to rule China, however, there was little they could do to support him without troops on the scene, and the military realities precluded sending large numbers of American troops to China.
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