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9-08-2015, 22:01

THE VICTORY OF THE ALLIES, 1941–5

The war that began in September 1939 was a European war, in contrast to the world war that ensued when the Soviet Union, the US and Japan became involved in 1941. Militarily there is an obvious reason for seeing 1941 as a dividing line. In Asia, the China War being waged since 1937 was a separate conflict until it was widened into the Pacific War by Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. In Europe Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union marks a turning point in the course of the war. But in a deeper sense the global implications of Hitler’s attack on Poland in 1939 were there from the beginning. Long before Germany declared war on the US, America was throwing its support behind Britain and actually engaging in warfare in the battle of the Atlantic. Then Nazi–Soviet ‘friendship’, affirmed in August 1939, was nothing but a temporary expedient. Hitler did not abandon his goal of winning living-space in the east and conquering ‘Jewish-Bolshevism’. In 1940 and 1941 Britain on its own was incapable of inflicting serious damage on Germany. Was its survival as a belligerent therefore of much importance? Without the war in the east, it is difficult to imagine how Britain could have launched even a destructive bomber offensive against Germany. Not only was much of the German air force fighting the Russians, but had the war against Russia not continued, and so frustrated his plans, Hitler would have diminished the size of his victorious continental army and transferred the main German war effort to building up an air force which, in sheer size alone, would have overwhelmed the Royal Air Force. Hitler was never able to realise this plan as Germany’s war resources continued to be fully stretched in holding the eastern front. Britain was the only Western European democracy left in 1940. Its refusal to accept the apparent logic of the military situation saved post-war Western Europe from suffering the fate either of continued German overlordship or of a future under Stalin’s Red Army if, as seems more probable, the Soviet Union had won the war. Instead democratic Britain provided the link, and later the base, for an Anglo-American counter-offensive in Western Europe that created the conditions for recovery free from the totalitarian control of the left or the right. Without Britain still fighting from 1940 to 1941, the likelihood of an American involvement in the European theatre of the war was remote. The powers victorious in the Second World War recognised that they would be faced with world problems and worldwide confrontations after the war was over. The future of the millions who were largely tacit observers of the war, the subjects of the colonial European empires, or under Japanese rule, would be dependent on its outcome. A new world was in the making and its history would have been different had Germany and Japan emerged as the post-war superpowers. The size and destructive capability of the armies that fought on each side during the Second World War exceeded even those of the Great War of 1914–18. Behind the fighting fronts, the industrial war was waged, pouring out guns, tanks, aircraft and ships. One of the most intriguing aspects of the war was that of spies and of science. Despite spectacular coups, the achievement of the spies in affecting the course of the war was less than might have been expected. The success of espionage and counter-espionage meant that they tended to cancel each other out. One of the bestknown illustrations of this was the failure of Richard Sorge, the master spy working for the Russians in Tokyo, to convince Moscow that his information from the German Embassy of Hitler’s intentions and the timing of the invasion of the Soviet Union was true. On the Allied side demonstrable vital espionage success, was the breaking of the German code machine Enigma, used by Germany’s armed forces. The Poles had built a replica and just before the start of the war passed its secret to the British, who continued the decyphering work at Bletchley Park. The intelligence data, codenamed ‘Ultra’, thus helped Britain and its allies in the air war, in the Mediterranean and in the North African campaigns, but most crucially in the battle of the Atlantic. The Allies derived huge advantage from their successful application of science to warfare. Radar was in use early in the war in both Germany and Britain; Germany was probably ahead in its development at the outset of the war. But during 1940–1 small airborne radar sets were produced in Britain which allowed night fighters to defend cities during the Blitz. Airborne radar also became an indispensable adjunct to the Allied bomber offensive, enabling the bombers to pinpoint their targets at night. At sea, advanced types of radar gave the Allies a decisive advantage against German submarines in the spring of 1943 and helped to turn the tide of battle in their favour. But the scientific breakthrough that did most to shape the future was the atomic bomb; the decision at the end of the war to use this weapon brought about the rapid Japanese surrender. Allied scientists from many nations, British, American, French, Danish, Italian and German too (for German refugees played a crucial role), made the construction of a nuclear bomb possible. It was eventually in the US that science was matched by the technical know-how and the production facilities necessary for its manufacture were provided. First tested in the empty spaces of the New Mexican desert, the bomb was dropped just three weeks later in August 1945 over Hiroshima. An early indication of Allied suspicions about the likely post-war attitude of the Soviet Union can be seen in the decision not to share the secrets of nuclear development with the USSR. Indeed, despite an agreement with Britain, the US sought to retain a monopoly on the manufacture of these awesome weapons. The Soviets were well aware they would need to develop their own atomic bomb and in 1942, despite the immediate German threat, pressed ahead vigorously with their own research. The Danish atomic scientist Niels Bohr advised Roosevelt that the Russians would succeed in building their own bomb some time after the Americans did so. Would it not be better to share secrets with them and to work for international control? The Russians made their own bomb in 1949. The atom spy Klaus Fuchs had provided some help but the Russians could eventually have built their own bomb in any case. It seems unlikely that the course of Stalin’s policy would have differed much even if the Americans had passed on the atomic secrets. German atomic research – despite the eminence of some of the scientists ready to work for the Nazis – lagged behind. Hitler, according to the armaments minister Albert Speer, was not prepared to earmark the vast resources necessary to make the bomb, regarding nuclear physics as ‘Jewish physics’. Instead, the Germans did devote great resources to the development of new rockets, which by themselves could have no decisive effect on the war. The outcome was the pilotless plane, the V-1, and the advanced supersonic rocket, the V-2, against which there was no defence when it came into use in 1944. In the summer of 1940 it was difficult to see how Germany’s victorious armies would ever be defeated. But by attacking the Soviet Union in June 1941 and then declaring war that December on the US the balance potentially swung against Germany. Allied superiority was only potential in the sense that it depended on Britain and Russia not being defeated. The US would make its military weight felt in Europe only in 1943 and 1944. For Britain the danger of invasion finally passed in 1941. With Germany fully engaged in the east, there remained no possibility of mounting an invasion of the British Isles as well. But this did not mean that there was no longer any danger that Britain might be forced to submit. It remained beleaguered, dependent for longerterm survival on supplies reaching it from overseas, above all from the US. Britain’s own resources, great though they were when fully mobilised, were not sufficient both to sustain the war effort and to feed all the people. For Britain’s success in mobilising its material and human resources much credit must go to Ernest Bevin, a leading trade unionist who had entered Churchill’s national government as minister of labour in 1940. The British people accepted an unprecedented degree of direction of labour and of rationing. Even so, supplies from overseas became increasingly essential. Lend-Lease made possible the purchase of war supplies in the US without payment of cash. But they still had to reach Britain. The conflict at sea, the battle of the Atlantic, was therefore as vital to Britain as the land battles had been to France in 1940. The sinkings by German U-boats in 1941 and 1942 could only be made good by the output from US yards. Before Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, Hitler had given orders that American vessels supplying Britain and their escorting US warships were not to be attacked. His hands had been tied. After Pearl Harbor he welcomed the outbreak of war between Japan and the US, and declared war on the Americans himself, removing the restrictions on the U-boat war in the Atlantic. Now, he thought, Britain would be forced to its knees. In November 1942 U-boats sank 729,000 tons, and for the year as a whole almost 8 million tons or 1,664 ships. These losses were inflicted by about 200 submarines and could no longer be made good. The tide was turned in the spring of 1943. By the end of May airpower, improved radar and ‘Ultra’ practically drove the U-boats from the Atlantic. The submarine had been the greatest threat. Germany’s surface fleet was not sufficiently strong to challenge Britain’s supremacy. Hitler’s battleships were eliminated after some spectacular engagements. The Graf Spee sank in 1939, the Bismarck in 1941 and the crippled Tirpitz by air attack in 1944. Supplies were carried across the Atlantic by convoys. By far the most hazardous route for these merchant vessels was from Scotland and Iceland to Murmansk to aid Russia. But by the end of 1943 not only had the Germans lost the battle of the seas, they had also sustained defeats on land from which there would be no recovery. The darkest years of the war were over for Britain. Churchill’s contribution to maintaining British morale would be difficult to overestimate. Britain’s warfare with Italy and Germany on land in 1941 and 1942, judged by the numbers of men engaged, was secondary when compared with the millions of German and Russian troops locked in battle in the Soviet Union. Yet strategically the region of the eastern Mediterranean, known loosely as the Middle East and lying between neutral Turkey and the Italian colony of Libya, was a vital one. During the inter-war years it was dominated by Britain and France not as outright colonial powers but as the powers holding League Mandates. Both Britain and France had problems with their Mandates. From 1936 onwards, Arab militancy forced Britain to station 30,000 troops in Palestine. But after the British government’s decision in 1939 to restrict the immigration of the Jews there was relative calm until 1944. Hitler’s Arab policy was ambiguous. While welcoming Arab hostility to Britain, the Nazis were not prepared to give unequivocal promises of future independence to the Arab states. But Arab attitudes were determined by Arab hostility to Britain and France as the occupying powers. Thus Egypt, nominally independent, and though being ‘defended’ by Britain, was pro-German during the war and was actually occupied by Britain. Iraq, Britain’s Mandate, achieved independence in 1930 under British sponsorship but was closely linked to Britain economically and militarily. What was important to Britain was that Iraq and its eastern neighbour, Persia, were the major suppliers of oil in the region. Britain’s Middle Eastern dominance was seriously threatened in 1941 by Germany. Germany’s victory over France stimulated Arab nationalism. The Vichy French authorities in the Lebanon and Syria, moreover, were not pro-British in their sympathies; while in Iraq, a group that favoured Germany staged a military coup and drove out the regime in power, which had been friendly to Britain. Turkey, fearful of German power, decided on neutrality and so did not, as expected, join Britain. If Hitler had followed his Balkan campaigns in the spring of 1941 by advancing into the Middle East, there would have been no sufficiently strong British forces to oppose the Germans. Instead, Hitler attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. Germany might nevertheless have reached Persia and the Persian Gulf by way of southern Russia. But Russia’s defence of the Caucasus blocked that path. Britain, meanwhile, despite its militarily weak position, decided on offensive action. Together with Free French troops, a relatively small British force invaded Syria and the Lebanon and overcame Vichy French resistance. Britain intervened in Iraq and restored the pro- British regime. Persia was also invaded in conjunction with the Russians. In Persia and the Arab world, including Egypt, Britain had secured its strategic interests by force against local political nationalist groups. From Britain’s point of view, Arab national feelings could not be permitted to jeopardise the war effort. In North Africa on the western frontiers of Egypt, British and Dominion troops fought the Axis. The fortunes of this desert war varied dramatically until October 1942 when the battle of Alamein finally broke the offensive power of General Erwin Rommel and the Afrika Korps. General Bernard Montgomery had built up an army of 195,000 men with a thousand tanks, almost double the size of the German–Italian army. At Alamein he outgunned and outwitted Rommel, who had to withdraw hastily. Britain’s Alamein victory ended the disastrous sequence of British defeats. A trap was sprung. Rommel’s line of retreat was being simultaneously cut off by Anglo-American landings in his rear. There had been much inter-Allied dispute on where an Anglo-American force could best strike against Hitler’s Europe in 1942. Roosevelt and the American generals favoured an assault on France. Their reasoning was political as well as military. Stalin was pressing for a ‘second front’ to relieve pressure in the east by forcing the Germans to transfer forty divisions to the west. But the Americans were quite unrealistic about the time needed for so difficult an undertaking. An unsuccessful commando raid on Dieppe in August 1942 showed how hard it would be to establish a bridgehead. Shortage of landing craft meant that no more than ten Allied divisions could have been sent across the Channel in 1942. Churchill and the British chiefs of staff were in any case opposed to a premature invasion of France. Agreement was eventually reached that an Anglo-American force should land in Vichy French North Africa in November 1942. General Dwight Eisenhower commanded this whole operation, codenamed Torch. At first the Vichy French forces resisted the landings but then agreed to an armistice. The Allies were thus able to occupy French Morocco and Algeria virtually unopposed. Hitler responded to the Allied invasion of North Africa by sending his troops into the hitherto unoccupied regions of Vichy France. Britain had always feared that this would happen and that the French fleet would then fall into German hands. In fact the French fleet in Toulon eluded a German takeover by scuttling itself. Hitler also sent in troops from Sicily to occupy French Tunisia in North Africa. Rommel, meanwhile, fought and retreated westwards from Libya. The real fighting between the Allies and the Italian and German forces then occurred in Tunisia and lasted until May 1943, when a total of 150,000 troops (both Italian and German) finally capitulated. It was a major victory for the Anglo- American forces. Even so, the scale of the fighting in North Africa cannot be compared with that of the Russian front. Here, the main war on land was being waged. On 22 June 1941 the greatest military force ever assembled invaded the Soviet Union with almost 3.6 million German and Axis soldiers, 3,600 tanks and 2,700 planes. This included fourteen Romanian divisions. With the Panzers racing ahead in best Blitzkrieg tradition, the Soviet armies in the west were to be smashed by a threepronged attack. The Germany army was divided into three groups – north, centre and south. The army of the north drove through the former Baltic states with Leningrad as its goal. The army of the centre made its thrust in the direction of Smolensk and Moscow, and the army group south invaded the Ukraine. The purpose of these deep thrusts was to encircle and to destroy the Red Army in western Russia, and to prevent a Russian retreat into the vastness of Soviet territory. The victorious German armies expected to control European Russia from the Volga to Archangel. A ‘military frontier’ could then be established against Asiatic Russia, where the Japanese ally later might be encouraged to colonise parts of Siberia. Territorially, Germany almost achieved her objective of conquering the whole of European Russia in 1941 and 1942. Yet the Soviet Union was not defeated and the Blitzkrieg turned into a war of attrition, during which the greater Soviet reserves of manpower and the increasing output of her armament industry turned the tide of the war against Hitler’s Germany. After the initial and spectacular victories of the battles of the frontiers during the first weeks of the war, when the Germans took hundreds of thousands of Russian prisoners and whole Russian armies disintegrated, the German generals and Hitler disagreed on which of the three offensives was to be the main effort. Thus already in August of 1941 the basic weakness of Germany’s latest Blitzkrieg became evident. Speaking to Goebbels on 18 August, Hitler bitterly complained about the failures of military intelligence before the war. Instead of the expected 5,000 tanks, the Soviets disposed of 20,000. Goebbels reflected that had the true strength of the Soviet Union been known: ‘Perhaps we would have drawn back from tackling the questions of the East and Bolshevism which had fallen due.’ What a momentous ‘perhaps’, on which the whole course of the war was to depend! During the first six weeks the Germans lost 60,000 dead; newspaper columns in Germany were filled with small black iron crosses announcing a son or husband fallen for Führer and Fatherland. As the Germans penetrated the Soviet Union the already vast front from the Black Sea to the Baltic of more than 1,000 miles lengthened even further. The same tactics that had worked in the ‘confined’ space of France failed in the vastness of the Soviet Union. Though Stalin was completely stunned by the German attack, not expecting it, despite all warnings, to be launched before 1942, huge Russian reserves of manpower and the setting up of industrial complexes beyond the Urals meant that the Soviet military capacity to resist was not destroyed. But Stalin’s fear of provoking Germany by taking adequate preparatory measures had left the Soviet armies unprepared and exposed to German encirclements at the outset. The Germans captured more than 3 million prisoners between June and December 1941. But if the Soviet Union could avoid actual defeat in 1941 and 1942 it would then become impossible for the German armies to defeat the more numerous Soviet armies, whose weapons matched, and in the case of the T-34 tank even outclassed, those of the Germans. First the autumn rains and the mud and then the winter weather caught the German armies unprepared. Not only did the troops freeze during the particularly severe winter of 1941–2, but much of the mechanised equipment became unusable in the Arctic frosts. Russia’s two greatest cities, Leningrad and Moscow, were the goals of the central and northern German armies. Leningrad was almost surrounded by the Germans and the Finns. The siege of Leningrad is an epic of the Second World War. It lasted from September 1941 to January 1944. During the siege 641,803 people died from hunger and disease alone. The Soviet spirit of resistance was not broken. Almost three-quarters of a million German troops were bogged down around the city for 900 days. The Germans were also denied the capture of Moscow, although they reached the southern suburbs. Germany’s defeats were not due to ‘General Winter’ alone, but to the skill and heroism of the Soviet forces facing the invaders. The German high command was forced to admit that for the first time a Blitzkrieg had failed. The war was not over in the east; the war of attrition that had defeated Germany in 1914–18 and which Hitler had done everything to escape, was just beginning. There are occasions when secret intelligence plays a crucial role in war. The Soviets had a spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, a German press correspondent who had predicted the date of the German attack almost to the day. The warning appears to have fallen on deaf ears. But when he passed on the information that the Japanese would strike south and not attack the Soviet Union just before his arrest as a spy, and Japanese military inactivity confirmed his tip off, Stalin, though still suspicious, gradually withdrew those troops facing the Japanese after the Siberian campaigning season was over (Sorge was imprisoned and executed in 1944). With the help of these troops and other reinforcements, Marshal Zhukov, the most outstanding general on the Soviet side during the war, organised the defence of Russia’s capital. In December 1941 fresh Soviet divisions counter-attacked and the Germans were forced to give up territory, but their own retreat was orderly. They were not routed or captured in huge numbers as the Russians had been. Although the Russians did not yet enjoy superiority in men or materials on the Moscow front, the Germans were severely disadvantaged by the length of and lack of adequate rail and road supply lines to their own troops. Stalin’s mistakes in carrying on the Russian offensives in the spring of 1942, believing the German armies virtually beaten, led to major military disasters on the Kharkov front in the south in May and June 1942 and in the Crimea. Hundreds of thousands more Soviet troops were lost. Stalin, expecting the Germans to renew their main drive on Moscow, concentrated Russian reserves on the central front. Instead the main German blow was delivered in the south. The Crimea, including Sevastopol, was taken. The Germans drove forward to the city of Stalingrad on the Volga, intending to cut off the whole of Russia south of that city including the oil-rich Caucasus, which formed the gateway to Persia. In the ruins of Stalingrad the Russians, fighting from house to house, made their stand. The battle lasted from mid-August to mid-November 1942. Stalin and Hitler were locked in a titanic proxy struggle for supremacy. Hitler decided that Stalingrad would be taken come what may and that Germany would not withdraw. Stalin sent Zhukov to mastermind the defence of the city regardless of casualties. Most of the city was taken by the Germans in October, and the Russian defenders’ reinforcements were limited as fresh divisions were being husbanded in preparation for a great counter-offensive. On 19 November 1942 the Russians launched their attack and encircled the 250,000 men of Germany’s Sixth Army fighting in Stalingrad. Hitler ordered the Sixth Army to stand fast. Losing the opportunity to link up with the German armies to the rear, it was doomed. Fierce fighting continued until 2 February 1943. A total of 91,000 survivors surrendered, including Field Marshal von Paulus who capitulated earlier, on 31 January. The Wehrmacht had been decisively defeated, and, more than that, the myth of Hitler’s infallible military genius had been exploded. The world knew Stalingrad marked a turning point in the war. Soviet strength would increase as Germany’s diminished. By the summer of 1943 the Russians had also won superiority in the air, with thousands of planes engaged on each side. Had there been wholesale defections from the forced union of Soviet socialist republics the whole prospect of the war might have changed. The almost unbelievable number of prisoners that the Germans took in 1941 suggests not only military defeat but also large-scale desertions. But Hitler resisted those of his advisers who wished to utilise this anti-communist and anti-Russian sentiment. The peasants hungered for land and for release from the collective farms. A captured Russian general, Andrei Vlasov, offered to raise an army from prisoners of war to fight Stalin’s Russia. But Hitler’s racist fanaticism stood in the way of winning the war by these means. European Russia was designated as colonial territory, eventually to be depopulated as necessary to provide room for the new German settlers. The Slavs were ‘subhumans’; nearly 3 million were sent to Germany to work as slave labour. With the Germans ransacking the Russian territories they occupied, the early welcome that they received turned to hatred. Partisan resistance increased behind German lines and was met by ruthless terror. Only too late in 1943 and 1944 did Himmler try to change a German policy bound to alienate the local population and to recruit for the German army from among the minorities. Meanwhile Stalin skilfully appealed to Russian patriotism and encouraged all the peoples of the Soviet republics to turn out the invaders. Hitler tenaciously clung to one hope even when surrounded in his bunker in burning Berlin in April 1945, that the ‘unholy’ and unnatural alliance between Britain, the US and the Soviet Union would fall apart and that the Western powers would recognise that he was fighting the common Bolshevik enemy. Though Churchill, more so than Roosevelt, foresaw that there would be post-war conflict with the Soviet Union, his conviction of the need to destroy the evils of Nazism was unshakeable. The holding together of the grand alliance was a precondition of victory. Was this also Stalin’s perception of British policy? Did Stalin, pathologically suspicious of the motives of all possible enemies, have any faith in Britain’s determination to fight Hitler’s Germany to the finish? Despite Churchill’s immediate and unqualified promise of support the moment the Germans invaded Russia, suspicion of any antagonist past, present or future was second nature to Stalin. The continuing delays in the opening of a second front in France through 1942, then 1943, must have confirmed his fears that the reason for delay was mainly political not military. He bitterly complained to Churchill, charging him with breaches of faith. He may well have concluded that the West was deliberately prolonging the war to weaken the Soviet Union in the bloodbath of the eastern front in order to dictate the future from a position of strength. The longer European Russia remained in German hands, the more difficult it would be to re-establish communist autocracy over the non-Russian peoples. Hence it became for Stalin almost a test of Britain’s good faith that Russia’s right to its 1941 frontiers should be accepted by Britain and the US and not become a matter of negotiation after the war was won. The 1941 frontiers included the additional territory the Soviet Union had acquired as a result of the deal struck with Nazi Germany: eastern Poland, the Baltic states, Bessarabia and northern Bukovina, and also the territories taken from Finland after the Soviet–Finnish War. The British position at first was to reject any frontier changes until after the war was over and peace negotiations took place. Roosevelt, mindful of his own Polish minority in America and of the condemnation of the ‘secret deals’ of the First World War, at first resisted even more firmly European frontier discussions. But Churchill and Eden were anxious to appease Stalin at a time when the Red Army was bearing the brunt of the war on land. An Anglo-Russian agreement for jointly waging war against Germany had been signed in Moscow on 12 July 1941; on 26 May 1942 it was replaced by a formal twenty-year alliance. Churchill also responded courteously to Stalin’s angry and wounding messages about the lack of a second front. But there was much apprehension in London that Stalin might lose confidence in his Western allies and strike a deal with Hitler. Everything was avoided that might add to his suspicions. This had one important consequence. Discussions with emissaries from the German resistance, or with representatives sent by Himmler’s SS to bargain over the lives of the Hungarian Jews, were avoided for fear that they would compromise Britain and lead Stalin to the wrong conclusion that a separate peace was being considered. Among Hitler’s entourage were advisers and allies who urged him to seek a separate peace with the Soviet Union. But the struggle against the Bolsheviks and Jews lay at the core of his ideology. He rejected peace with his arch-enemies though he admired Stalin’s ruthlessness. His barbarity in Russia and the carrying through of the Final Solution while the war was being lost militarily show that ideology ultimately dominated Hitler’s actions when Realpolitik would have served the interests of the Third Reich. As for Stalin it is possible that he welcomed the West’s belief that he had an alternative to war with Germany for it would make Britain and the US more willing to accede to Russia’s military and political demands. The question of the future of Poland was the most difficult for Britain and the US to solve. The Polish government in exile demanded that the independence of its state be restored within the frontiers of 1939, that is of pre-war Poland. But Stalin had already annexed and incorporated in the Soviet Union the portions of Poland occupied in September 1939 and insisted on a post-war Poland ‘friendly’ to the Soviet Union. With the Red Army inevitably overrunning Poland there was, in effect, little the US and Britain could do to force Stalin to renounce territory which he claimed as Soviet already. The Polish government in exile in London was in a hopeless situation. General Sikorski, who headed the Polish government in exile in London, had at first tried to work with the Russians. He had signed an agreement for Russo-Polish cooperation with Stalin in 1941 but, from the first, two issues clouded Polish–Soviet relations: the question of Poland’s eastern frontier and the thousands of missing Polish officers who should have re-emerged from Russian prisoner-of-war camps after the 1941 agreement had been concluded. The corpses of Polish officers found by the Germans near Smolensk in the Katyn forest provided a grisly explanation for their disappearance and ruptured relations between the Polish government and the Kremlin in April 1943. The Russians formed their own Polish military units and an embryonic rival Polish government, the Union of Polish Patriots. The fate of Poland was virtually decided at the first summit conference when Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin met in Teheran in Persia from 28 November to 1 December 1943. There was no formal agreement, but Churchill agreed on behalf of Britain, and Roosevelt personally acquiesced too, to the Soviet Union’s retaining eastern Poland as far as the Curzon Line (the armistice line between Poland and Russia proposed by the British foreign secretary Lord Curzon in 1920) and that Poland should be compensated with German territory east of the rivers Oder and Neisse. At the Yalta Conference more than a year later (4–11 February 1945), with Poland by then overrun by the Red Army, despite some ambiguities in the official declarations Stalin secured his territorial ambitions at Poland’s expense. For his part Stalin promised that he would allow all the liberated peoples in Eastern and central Europe to choose their own governments freely and democratically. Power had passed to a Polish provisional government which was based in the Soviet Union and which some ‘London’ Poles were permitted to join. At Teheran and Yalta, military needs and realities, as well as hopes for post-war cooperation, decided Churchill and Roosevelt to accept Stalin’s demands that Soviet conditions concerning the future frontiers of Russia be met in all but formal treaty form before the conclusion of the war. Until 1945 there was little link between the war waged in Europe and Africa and the war waged by Japan, Britain, China and the US in eastern and south-eastern Asia. The Soviet Union was not a party to the Pacific war until shortly before its end. Japan and the Soviet Union signed a neutrality treaty in April 1941 and the two countries remained at peace until Russia declared war on Japan just one week before Japan’s surrender. Roosevelt and Churchill never wavered from their early determination after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 that despite the military disasters in eastern Asia the defeat of Germany must come first. Japan’s victories came as a tremendous shock to British and Dominion public opinion. The Western empires of the Dutch, French and British and the American hold on the Philippines collapsed in just a few weeks and the whole region fell for the first time under the control of one power, Japan. In Malaya, Britain had constructed the Singapore naval base and Churchill had insisted on sending to it two battleships, the Prince of Wales and the Repulse, intending thereby to deter the Japanese from going to war. In Malaya the British commanded 89,000 troops, including 37,000 Indian, 19,000 British and 15,000 Australians. In the Dutch East Indies 35,000 Dutch regular troops were stationed. The Americans had posted 31,000 regulars to the Philippines. But the British, Dutch and American troops were poorly equipped. Air defence in particular was inadequate, which gave the Japanese a decisive advantage. Almost immediately after the outbreak of the war the Japanese sank the Prince of Wales and the Repulse from the air. There were now no battleships left to oppose them. The attack on Pearl Harbor had knocked out the capacity of the US fleet to challenge Japan’s offensive. The capture of Guam and Wake Islands denied the US naval bases beyond Hawaii. In Malaya the well-equipped and skilfully led Japanese army began the invasion on 8 December and, though only 60,800 in strength, overwhelmed the British defence forces, which finally capitulated in Singapore on 15 February 1942. Some 62,000 troops under British command surrendered, a stunning military defeat when added to the shock provoked by the sinking of the Repulse and Prince of Wales. The fall of Singapore was also a great psychological blow which undermined the faith of Asian peoples in ‘white’ superiority. General Douglas MacArthur defended the Philippines. The Japanese gained air control and their invading army defeated the Americans, who withdrew to the Bataan peninsula in January 1942; the Americans finally had to surrender their last fortress defence on 9 April with 70,000 troops, a disaster comparable to Singapore, except that the defence had been long drawn out and skilfully conducted. Simultaneously with the invasion of Malaya, another Japanese army crossed from Thailand into Burma and by the end of April had driven the weak British forces into India. The Dutch East Indies were captured between January and March 1942. Throughout these five months of victorious campaigns the Japanese had suffered only some 15,000 killed and wounded and had taken more than ten times as many Allied troops prisoner. The whole of south-east Asia had fallen under Japanese domination. British rule seemed to be threatened now at the very heart of the empire, British India. The position was regarded as sufficiently desperate for the British Cabinet to send out Sir Stafford Cripps with a promise to the leaders of the Indian Congress Party that India would be granted independence after the war. A constituent assembly would be called to decide whether it would remain within or outside the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, during the war, the Congress Party would be granted some participation in, but not control of, government. Congress rejected the proposals, partly because Cripps also offered to the Muslim League the possibility of secession for the predominantly Muslim parts of India (later Pakistan). Gandhi, India’s greatest voice of nonviolent opposition, now called on Britain simply to ‘quit India’. He expected non-violence to defeat Britain and Japan and to win India for the 385 million Indians. The viceroy of India reacted with repression and arrested the Congress leaders and Gandhi. India did not rise against the British, and the Indian army fought under British command against the Japanese. The Japanese also created an Indian ‘liberation’ army from prisoners of war mainly taken at Singapore and founded the Indian Independence League. In 1943 an Indian nationalist, Subhas Chandra Bose, expresident of the Indian Congress, took over the Indian ‘government’ operating with the Japanese. Though Bose had a good deal of success among Indians beyond British control, his impact within India was limited and never threatened British rule. The problem of Indian independence was now shelved until the war was won. Militarily the Japanese expansion in the Pacific and south-east Asia was checked by the summer of 1942. In the naval battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942 Japan’s thrust towards Australia was blunted when the Japanese attack on Port Moresby in New Guinea was called off as a result of the naval engagement. Far more serious for the Japanese was the failure of their attack in June on the American-held Midway Island. Admiral Yamamoto was in overall command of the most powerful fleet of battleships, aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and submarines the Japanese had ever assembled. Its task was not only to cover the Japanese landing force, but to destroy the remaining US Pacific fleet. Yamamoto had separated his fleet. It was a naval battle dominated by the aircraft carriers on both sides. The Japanese lost four of their eight carriers, the Americans only one, before Yamamoto’s main fleet could join the engagement. Yamamoto decided to break off the battle and from then on had lost the initiative in the Pacific. It was now certain that the American war effort, once fully developed, would overwhelm Japan eventually. Just as in Europe, where Hitler’s Blitzkrieg had failed finally in 1942, so did Japan’s oriental Blitzkrieg now fail in its purpose of forcing its principal enemies to accept Japan’s claim to predominance in eastern and southern Asia. The American counter-offensive in the Pacific began in August 1942 with the American attack on the tiny Japanese-held island of Guadalcanal, one of the Solomon group of islands. The fighting between the American marines and the defending Japanese was ferocious and casualties on both sides were heavy, until the Americans overwhelmed the fanatical defenders. This was to become the pattern of the remorseless Pacific war until Japan’s surrender. The Japanese war with Britain, the Dominions and the US brought relief to the Chinese, who had been at war with the Japanese alone since 1937. Chiang Kai-shek now avoided active battles with the Japanese as far as possible. His eyes were firmly set on the future when, with the Anglo- American defeat of the Japanese, he would gain mastery over all China, including the communists, his theoretical allies against Japan. Despite the growing corruption of the Kuomintang and the inefficiency of Chiang Kai-shek’s armies, the US based its hopes for the future peace and progress of eastern Asia on the emergence of a strong and democratic Chinese Republic linked in friendship to the US. Roosevelt did not wish to see the restoration of the pre-war special rights of Europe in China or the re-establishment of the European empires in eastern Asia. In January 1945 he expressed his hopes to his secretary of state that US policy: was based on the belief that despite the temporary weakness of China and the possibility of revolutions and civil war, 450 million Chinese would someday become united and modernised and would be the most important factor in the whole Far East. The problem during the last two years of the land war in Asia was to get Chiang Kai-shek’s armies to put up any resistance at all to the Japanese, who renewed their offensives and occupied large new areas of eastern China in 1944. The Japanese overran the American-built airfields from which they had been bombed. Chiang Kaishek, meanwhile, positioned half a million of his best troops in the north to contain the communists and was preserving his armies for a future war of supremacy in China after the Western powers had defeated Japan. Throughout 1944 the tension between Roosevelt and Chiang Kaishek grew. Roosevelt had little faith in the Chinese leader. He wished to force on him the appointment of an American general to command all the Chinese armies and to bring about effective cooperation between the communists and the Kuomintang against the Japanese. A China policy that would reconcile China and serve America’s global interests continued to elude the US. During the course of 1943 the tide of war turned decisively against Japan, Italy and Germany. The enormous industrial resources of the US alone, when fully mobilised for war, exceeded all that Germany, Japan and their allies could produce together. The Soviet Union and Russia were by now more than a match for the military strength Germany had built up in the east. It was only the tenacity and skill of Germany’s armies, despite Hitler’s disastrous interferences as at Stalingrad, that enabled Germany to stave off defeat for so long. Germany did not collapse even when the ordinary man in the street knew the war was lost and had no confidence left in Hitler’s promised ‘wonder’ weapons. They fought to the bitter end, until Hitler had shot himself and the crushing superiority of the Allied armies closing in from all sides made further resistance a physical impossibility. Until close to the end of the war, Hitler’s regime could still successfully terrorise and kill anyone who openly refused orders to fight to the last. Equally important was German fear of Russian conquest and occupation. Nazi propaganda had successfully indoctrinated the German people into believing that the Russian subhumans from the east would destroy, loot and kill and that it was better to die resisting than to fall into Russian hands. Early experiences of the Russian armies when they first invaded East Prussia appeared to confirm this belief. But a separate peace with the West, the principal hope of those who had plotted against Hitler during the later stages of the war, was not a possibility. In practice the Western Allies could follow no other policy than to demand that Germany must surrender unconditionally on all fronts simultaneously. The actual phrase ‘unconditional surrender’ emerged during discussions between Roosevelt and Churchill when they met at Casablanca in January 1943 to coordinate and agree on Anglo-American strategy. Roosevelt gave it official public backing in speaking to the press. It meant that Britain and the US would not entertain any bargaining over peace terms with Germany, Italy and Japan and would fight until complete military victory had been achieved. It has been argued that the call for unconditional surrender made the enemies of the Allies fight more fanatically to the bitter end and that the war might have been shortened by a more flexible Allied attitude. The evidence of Germany’s and Italy’s behaviour in 1944 and 1945 does not support this view. The Italians were able to overthrow Mussolini and in fact negotiate their surrender, whereas Hitler’s grasp over Germany remained so complete, and his own attitude so utterly uncompromising, that no negotiated peace was possible short of Germany’s total collapse, even if any of the Allies had desired to negotiate for peace. The advantages of having proclaimed as a war aim ‘unconditional surrender’ on the other hand were solid. Allied differences on how to treat a conquered Germany could be kept secret since the Allied public had been satisfied by the demand of ‘unconditional surrender’. Moreover, Roosevelt and Churchill hoped that the call for unconditional surrender would reassure Stalin in the absence of an early second front. In January 1943 Britain’s and America’s military effort on land did not compare with that of Russia, where the final phase of the Stalingrad battle was raging. Within the Grand Alliance, or United Nations as all the countries fighting Germany came to be called, there was an inner Anglo-American alliance. A joint strategic body, the combined chiefs of staff, was set up soon after Pearl Harbor to provide a forum for debate on strategy and eventual decision-making. Joint Anglo-American commands were created as necessary. There are no parallels in modern history of such close coordination of policy as was achieved by the US and Britain during the last three and a half war years. It was based on the trust and working relationships at the top between Roosevelt and Churchill. Stalin would never have agreed to a joint command, and the Soviet Union remained an outsider fighting its own war with Germany, which engaged in 1942 and 1943 two-thirds of the total number of German divisions. Joint Anglo-American planning bodies did not mean, however, that there was perfect harmony. The American military argued for a concentration of all effort on the earliest possible cross-Channel attack on France and so a blow at Germany’s vitals. Churchill and his British military advisers warned against any premature landings, which might fail. Roosevelt, fearful in 1942 of the possibility that the Soviet forces might collapse unless some of the German forces were diverted, was inclined to listen to Stalin’s appeals more sympathetically. Churchill mollified Stalin, convincing him that the projected landings in Vichy North Africa were a genuine second front. The successful completion of these operations in May 1943 was too late to allow for a switching of resources necessary to mount a cross-Channel attack in 1943. Churchill argued in favour of a Mediterranean strategy and attacking Italy, the ‘soft underbelly’ of the Axis. Churchill’s reasons were based on his appraisal of military alternatives. The Germans were weakest in the Mediterranean and if the Allies carried the war into the Balkans then the German armies would be trapped between them and the Russians. The Allies, moreover, would be able to link with Tito’s Yugoslav partisans. The Americans wanted to concentrate all forces on an attack on France, but agreed that the North African forces could be used to invade Sicily next. The rapid fall of Sicily to the Anglo-American forces in July 1943 marked the end of Mussolini’s hold on power. The fascist leaders and King Victor Emmanuel could see the writing on the wall. The way out for Italy was to jettison the German alliance and to change sides if possible. Military defeat and the imminent invasion of Italy had weakened Mussolini’s position sufficiently to make it possible to overthrow him. The duce was dismissed from his office not by a popular revolution but by the king and his fascist collaborators on 24 and 25 July 1943. He was then imprisoned until rescued by the Germans. The king appointed Marshal Pietro Badoglio as Mussolini’s successor. But Badoglio and the fascist leaders failed to save Italy from becoming a battleground. Despite the promise to continue the war, German suspicions were aroused and reinforcements were sent to Italy. The new regime held secret negotiations with the Allies, but did not persuade them to land in northern Italy to enable the Italians to avoid a German occupation. The Anglo-American plan envisaged occupying only southern Italy. This made it possible for the Germans to seize the remainder of Italy when Italy’s surrender was made public on 8 September 1943. Naples was reached by the Allies on 1 October. The Germans by then had established a strong defensive line across the Italian peninsula. The king and the Italian government fled south behind the Allied lines and then declared war on Germany, while Hitler restored Mussolini to act as a puppet dictator over the republic he had proclaimed. Until the close of the war in May 1945, the Allied armies had to fight their way gradually north, piercing heavily fortified lines which the Germans created in their path. Meanwhile, a guerrilla war was fought in the north by the partisans, whose aim was not only to drive out the Germans but also to bring about radical social change in Italy. Mussolini did not survive the military defeat of his ally. Captured by Italian partisans, he, together with his mistress, was hanged in public by them. The Italian campaign did not prove to be a rapid success and entailed some of the heaviest fighting of the war. But Hitler’s decision to defend Italy and so keep the Allies as far as possible away from south Germany diverted many divisions to its defence and to the defence of the Balkans, which had become vulnerable. While in July 1943 the British and American armies invaded Sicily, the largest tank battle of the war was being waged at Kursk on the Russian front. The German attack on the Russian salient was beaten back by Marshal Zhukov. It was the last occasion on which the Germans were able to mount a major offensive in Russia. Both sides suffered huge casualties, but the Russian armour had proved superior and the Russians, unlike the Germans, could make good such losses. Successive Russian offensives drove the German armies back in heavy fighting into Poland, but they halted the Russians on the River Vistula. The Warsaw rising (1 August–2 October 1944) did not induce the Red Army at all costs to reach the Polish capital. In mid-September Russian attempts to advance were repelled by the Germans, who remained in control of Warsaw until the end of the year. Further south, Russian armies advanced from the Ukraine into Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia and Hungary. As in Italy, new governments attempted to change from the German to the Russian side. But the Germans were still strong enough to remove the Hungarian Regent Admiral Horthy from power and to make a stand against the Russian armies. Budapest did not surrender to the Russians until February 1945. But Hitler could no longer in 1944 place the bulk of his armies to defend the eastern front. On 6 June 1944 under General Dwight Eisenhower’s supreme command the successful cross-Channel invasion of France began. The tremendous obstacles to this enterprise had been overcome by meticulous planning and brilliant execution. Beaches and bases were won and by the end of July 1944 1.5 million men had been landed in France. After the battle of Normandy, Paris was taken on 25 August and the German troops were pursued as they retreated from France. A landing in southern France against the depleted German forces there enabled the Allies rapidly to liberate most of France. The Allies reached the southern Netherlands and the northern Franco-German frontier between Aachen and Trier in September. Meanwhile Hitler had launched his promised wonder weapons, the pilotless aircraft-bomb, the V-1, and the missile bomb, V-2, against London. The attacks by these new weapons on London and Antwerp in the summer and autumn of 1944 did much damage but could not alter the course of the war. The last of these ingenious bombs hit Antwerp in March 1945. One problem that could not wait any longer for solution was who was to be recognised as representing the free government of France. There could be no question that Pétain’s Vichy regime had forfeited all its claims by collaborating with the Germans. Of all the countries that had been overrun by the Germans, France was the only indubitable pre-war great power. Yet ironically it was the one ally not represented by a government in exile in London. The Free French, who had rallied to General de Gaulle in 1940 and formed their own administration in London, were recognised only as the French Committee of National Liberation. De Gaulle felt his inferior status deeply. But his status corresponded to reality in that the majority of people in France and in the French Empire accepted Pétain’s authority. Not that this would have stopped the British and Americans in wartime from according recognition to de Gaulle. Expediency, however, persuaded them not to challenge Vichy France openly. A powerful French fleet after all was still in Vichy hands in 1942. When the Allies made their North African landings in November 1942, Operation Torch, it was with the Vichy authorities there that secret negotiations were conducted to avoid the hostility of the French army units stationed there. Admiral Darlan, who happened to be in Algiers, decided to support the Americans. Soon after that he was assassinated. De Gaulle was regarded as something of an embarrassment; but despite Allied intrigues he succeeded in reasserting his leadership over all the Free French. Roosevelt was particularly averse to committing himself to de Gaulle, who reacted by asserting all the more strongly his rights and those of France. The disparity between the reality of the French position and de Gaulle’s behaviour struck Churchill and Roosevelt at the time as incongruous. But Churchill, with more imagination, insight and sympathy than Roosevelt, urged after the Allied invasion of France in June 1944 that de Gaulle’s administration should be recognised as the provisional government of France. Such recognition nevertheless was delayed until October 1944. The manner in which de Gaulle had been treated by the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ powers made the deepest impression on him and still rankled years later. The restoration of France to great-power status, and its independence from Anglo-American dominance, became almost an obsession with de Gaulle in the post-war years. The war was clearly drawing to a close in the autumn of 1944. But stiff German resistance frustrated a quick victory. In the east, the Germans continued to fight fiercely. In the west, they were even able to inflict temporary reverses on the Allies. Montgomery made a bold attempt in September 1944 to cross the lower Rhine at Arnhem with the help of parachute divisions dropped in advance, but just short of Arnhem the Germans were able to halt his thrust. The Allied armies, however, were slowly pushing on to the Rhine along a broad front and had reached practically the whole length of the German frontier by mid-December. The Germans had still one surprise left. Powerful German divisions, led by tanks, together with what was left of the Luftwaffe in the west, opened an offensive through the Ardennes on 16 December 1944. The Germans advanced sixty miles before they were halted. It was their last offensive of the war. With the imminent collapse of Hitler’s Germany, agreement with the Russians on the military division of the territories the Allies would occupy, and on the post-war delimitation of frontiers and spheres of influence, took on a new urgency. In October 1944, Churchill flew to Moscow. Russian armies were by then already in Romania and Bulgaria and a British force was about to enter Greece. Churchill in Moscow proposed to Stalin a division of influence in the Balkan states. Stalin readily consented. But the resulting agreement was little more than a piece of paper. The Red Army would dominate Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary as it advanced towards greater Germany. But Stalin allowed Britain freedom of action in Greece, provided a broadly based government including communists was formed in that country. British troops who landed in Greece soon found themselves fighting the communistorganised partisans. The uneasy peace established by the British force was to be shattered two years later in 1947 by civil war. Despite Stalin’s promises to respect the sovereignty and the rights of self-determination of the nations of central Europe and the Balkans, in his mind there was always one overriding qualification: the free choice of the people would be forcefully set aside if it led, as was likely, to anti-Soviet governments. Greece, Albania and Yugoslavia were able after 1945 to assert their independence from Soviet control. The realities of Soviet ‘freedom’ were already apparent before the war with Germany was won. A division of Europe was emerging between the Soviet-controlled territory of eastern, central and south-eastern Europe and the West. Roosevelt’s hope of achieving some solid understanding between the three world powers, Britain, the Soviet Union and the US, was severely tested by Soviet behaviour in 1944 and 1945. He pinned his hopes on creating a new international organisation – the United Nations – under the tutelage and based on the agreement of Britain, the Soviet Union and the US. But Stalin was making unreasonable demands. All sixteen Soviet republics were to be among the founder members of the United Nations. He also insisted that the six permanent members of the proposed council of the United Nations should be able to exercise an all-inclusive veto, that is to say, have the right to a veto when disputes were being dealt with in which they themselves were involved. The Dumbarton Oaks Conference, which had met to organise the United Nations, thus, ended in September 1944 without agreement on these vital issues. What was seen as Stalin’s intransigence brought the US and Britain more closely together. In Quebec, Churchill and Roosevelt met that same month, September 1944, to devise their joint military and political strategy. Plans were made to move troops from Italy into Istria and Austria ahead of Russian troops. To help Britain economically, Roosevelt also agreed to continue Lend-Lease during the time that would elapse between the defeat of Germany and the defeat of Japan. Britain’s likely post-war economic weakness was thus foreshadowed: Britain would not remain an equal superpower with the US and the Soviet Union. Britain and the US next agreed to cooperate in the military and civilian development of atomic energy and, significantly, to exclude the Soviet Union from sharing this information. The future of Germany was another subject of primary importance discussed at Quebec. Roosevelt’s advisers had prepared both a ‘soft’ plan for peace terms and the famous plan associated with the name of the secretary of the treasury, Henry Morgenthau, which intended to deprive Germany of its major industries, reduce the German standard of living and turn it into an agricultural country. At first Churchill was violently opposed to this ‘hard’ option. It would too clearly be repeating the error of the First World War. A prosperous Europe could not develop without German economic recovery. But in return for concessions for the continuation of American economic aid to Britain he finally assented to ‘converting Germany into a country primarily agricultural and pastoral in its character’. What were Roosevelt’s motives in advocating a course that would have been so disastrous for European recovery? He spoke of punishing the German people for their wars of aggression; more important to him was to win Stalin’s cooperation by reassuring the Soviet leader that the Western Allies would not try to rebuild Germany as a bulwark against Russia. In the autumn of 1944 Roosevelt’s hand was strengthened by his re-election as president. He would not have to enter peace negotiations without the certainty of public support as Wilson had done in 1919. At Yalta in February 1945 Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill finally met together again for the first time since Teheran. Roosevelt and Churchill arrived with some 700 officials. The photograph of the three leaders in front of the tsarist Livadia Palace implied an equality that did not exist. Roosevelt as a head of state was seated in the centre flanked on his left by Stalin and on his right by Churchill. Roosevelt’s exhaustion and illness were plain to see, a shocking transformation from the confident president pictured only fifteen months earlier at Teheran. He was in a hurry and wanted the conference to be quickly over. He telegraphed to Churchill that it ought not to last more than five or six days. Churchill replied, ‘Even the Almighty took seven.’ In the event it lasted eight days from 4 to 11 February 1945. Roosevelt was determined to come to terms with the Soviet leader and saw in Churchill almost as great an obstacle to establishing a good postwar partnership between them as Stalin himself. He had been reluctant to meet Churchill in Malta before flying on to the Crimea for fear that Uncle Joe would interpret this as the Anglo-Saxons ganging up on him. The peaceful future of the world rested, as Roosevelt saw it, on a good Soviet–American understanding founded on trust. He regarded Churchill’s ‘Victorian’ imperialism and his lifelong anti-communism as outdated in the post-war world. As for Churchill, he felt keenly on the eve of Germany’s defeat that Europe was in danger from the overbearing, immensely powerful Russian bear. He was looking to a less rosy future than Roosevelt was, in a world in which a United Nations organisation could no more be relied upon to preserve peace with justice than the League of Nations had been. He wanted to dilute the bilateral relationship between the US and Russia that Roosevelt was trying to establish. Conscious of Britain’s comparative weakness, Churchill tried to bring in another European ally, France. He failed. De Gaulle was not invited and would henceforth refer to the Yalta carve-up with bitterness and blame the ‘Anglo-Saxons’ for it. The only concession Churchill did win, finally gaining Roosevelt’s support for it, was to secure for France participation on the Allied Control Commission for Germany, which was to coordinate Allied rule over the defeated Reich. France would thus have its own occupation zone and its own sector in Berlin. On reparations there was an acceptance that the Soviet Union had a special claim but the final amount was left to a commission to propose. Perhaps the most significant thing about Yalta was what was not discussed and agreed. The question of Germany’s future was really shelved. Churchill and Roosevelt had moved away from turning Germany into a ‘pastoral’ country. The dismemberment of Germany was not now determined. The destitute plight of the Germans, so Stalin may well have calculated, would strengthen communism throughout Germany. To gain material ends, he was ready to make promises that would appear as major concessions. He agreed to modify the Soviet stand on the organisation of the United Nations, whose success was closest to Roosevelt’s heart. But Roosevelt had incautiously told him that American troops would be withdrawn from Europe within two years. Stalin therefore knew that he had only to wait until 1947; no military threat would then be able to stop him from doing whatever he then deemed to be in the Soviet interest. The debate about Poland occupied much of the conference and was the most vexed. History did not have the same meaning for Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin. Stalin looked at the frontiers of post-Versailles Europe through different eyes. For the West, 1937 was the last year that was ‘normal’, when the political geography of Europe reflected the peace settlements reached after the First World War. After 1937, Hitler first blackmailed the West and then redrew the map of Europe by force. For Russia, international injustice pre-dated Hitler and had occurred after it had lost the war in 1917. The settlement then of the post-1918 Versailles era represented the humiliating acceptance of the superior force of the capitalist West at a time of Soviet weakness. From its own perspective, the Soviet Union had simply not in its infancy had the necessary strength to regain Russia’s ‘just’ frontiers. And so it had to acquiesce in the detaching of the Baltic provinces, which became independent states – Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. Large territories were also carved out of what was formerly imperial Russia to create the Polish state, which included many Ukrainians and White Russians. Bessarabia was detached and added to Romania. As Stalin saw it, the frontiers of 1918–20 were those imposed on Russia; they were neither ‘just’ nor settled. He took advantage of the war between Germany, Poland, Britain and France in 1939–40 to put right what he believed were past wrongs by first making deals with Hitler. By 1941, with the absorption of eastern Poland, the three Baltic states and Bessarabia, Russia had regained most of its ‘historic’ frontiers. Stalin claimed that the Russian frontiers of 1941 should be regarded as the settled ones and not those of 1921 or 1937; he was prepared to consider only minor concessions. With remarkable consistency, he took his stand on this issue in discussions and negotiations with his Western allies from the earliest to the last months of the war. The Czechs in 1943 had arranged their own settlement over the frontiers and future government of their country. Benesˇ, head of the exiled government in London, after the Munich experience of 1938 was not prepared to rely on Western support again. He did not allow a confrontati to develop between the communist-led Moscow Czechs and the London Western-oriented Czechs and accepted Soviet conditions and loss of territory. But the Poles in London had not made their peace with Moscow. On the contrary, relations between the Polish government in exile and Moscow were little short of outright hostility, and had been aggravated by the establishment in Lublin of a communist-dominated provisional government. Beyond Russia’s frontiers the smaller nations in an arc from the Baltic to the Balkans had recently acted, in Stalin’s view, as the springboard of aggression from the West against the Soviet Union. He insisted to Roosevelt and Churchill that they must not be allowed again to serve as hostile bridges to the heart of Russia. Soviet security, he emphasised, would depend on guarantees that they would be ‘friendly’ to the Soviet Union and would act in cooperation with it. What, however, did ‘friendly’ mean? To Stalin it meant that they could not remain capitalist, with anti- Russian governments based on the kind of society that had existed before the war; only societies transformed by a social revolution would be ‘friendly’ in the long term. The Western leaders rejected this link between the social and economic composition of the Soviet Union’s neighbours and its own security. They in turn insisted on free elections, meaning that the people of the nations in question should be allowed to choose the kind of government and society they desired. The prospect of reconciling these opposite views was slight. From Stalin’s point of view the West had no business to dictate the social and political reconstruction of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria or Hungary, any more than he himself wished to dictate the shape which the societies and politics of France, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands should take. In these countries, Moscow had instructed the communist parties to work constructively in coalitions dominated by non-communists. He expected a quid pro quo. The West saw the issue in simple terms of democracy and self-determination. For the Polish government in London the relationship with the Soviet Union was one of understandable enmity. The Russians had invaded Poland in September 1939 and now were annexing a large part of eastern Poland. The mass graves of 4,421 Polish officers, shot in the back of the head by the Russians, had been discovered in 1943 in the forests of Katyn by German occupying forces and exploited by Joseph Goebbels for Nazi propaganda purposes. This unforgettable atrocity tormented Polish–Soviet relations. During the Second World War, Poland had been the conquered nation which, with Russia, had endured the most. Should it also become the nation that would now be made to suffer the consequences of victory? Britain and the US agreed at Yalta to accept the Curzon Line, with some deviations, as Poland’s eastern frontier, thus giving a third of its pre-war territory to the Soviet Union. This, the London Polish government felt, was a betrayal. Churchill and Roosevelt had been driven to the reluctant conclusion that they had no realistic alternative. The Red Army occupied Poland and could not be forced to withdraw unless the Anglo-American armies were prepared to fight. Stalin for his part was well aware of the bitterness of the Polish government in London, which constituted an obvious danger to the Polish settlement he had in mind. The Poles were traditionally anti-Russian. They would not be allowed to assert their freedom at Russia’s expense. The major tussle was over the western boundary of Poland. Stalin had promised the communist Lublin government that the frontier would be marked by the western Neisse. It was agreed that Poland would receive Pomerania and the larger half of East Prussia. Churchill and Roosevelt held out for the eastern Neisse, which would not have assigned the whole of Silesia to Poland in addition. This question was left open to be settled later. These territories were only to be ‘administered’ by Poland until the conclusion of a final peace treaty with Germany. Despite these calculations Stalin signed the Declaration on Liberated Europe at Yalta. According to its provisions the Allies would act as trustees, reaffirming the principle of the Atlantic Charter – the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they would live – and ensuring the restoration of sovereign rights and self-government to those peoples who had been forcibly deprived of them by the aggressor nations. Interim governments representing all democratic elements were to be set up, followed later by governments established ‘through free elections’. This apparently unambiguous undertaking was ambiguous after all because it permitted only ‘democratic and anti-Nazi parties’ to put up candidates. The Soviet Union twisted this to suit its own purpose of securing communistdominated governments. Churchill and Roosevelt wanted more specific arrangements for Poland to ensure that the Lublin provisional government, subservient to Moscow, would be replaced by a broad coalition, including exiled Polish leaders from the London-based government. The British and American ambassadors in Moscow, together with the Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, were to facilitate negotiations between the rival Polish governments in Lublin and London. Once a unified provisional government had been established, free elections were to be held. The suspicious Stalin had agreed to this for the sake of Allied unity before the final defeat of Germany. As the Red Army was in occupation of Poland he held all the cards and believed that there were enough loopholes in the Yalta agreement to ensure Soviet control in reality. For the Soviet Union an independent Poland in the post-war world was likely to be a hostile Poland, so its future was, for Stalin, a critical issue. Yalta had only papered over the cracks between West and East. One reason why Roosevelt had been conciliatory in dealing with Stalin, frequently isolating Churchill, was his anxiety to secure Soviet help against the large Japanese armies deployed in China and in the Japanese home islands. The future of the atom bomb was still in doubt. Roosevelt told Stalin nothing about the progress that had been made. Actually, through agents, Stalin was already well informed. But it still appeared likely in February 1945 that the defeat of Japan would require bitter fighting, culminating in the invasion of mainland Japan, fanatically defended by the Japanese. Stalin at Yalta agreed to the Soviet Union’s entry into the Pacific war two or three months after the defeat of Germany, but he named his price. With American lives at stake, Roosevelt did not allow anti-imperialist sentiments to stand in the way. Stalin demanded that Japan should relinquish southern Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands and that China should concede the warm-water port of Dairen and use of the Manchurian railway. The former imperial rights that tsarist Russia had enjoyed in China before 1904 were to be restored to the Soviet Union. The Chinese were not consulted, though in one part of their secret agreement it was stated that Chiang Kai-shek’s consent was to be secured; but elsewhere, inconsistently, another paragraph was included: ‘The Heads of the three Great Powers have agreed that these claims of the Soviet Union shall be unquestionably fulfilled after Japan has been defeated.’ Stalin also promised to support efforts to bring about the cooperation of the Chinese Nationalists and the communists. For him this had the advantage of preventing the far more numerous Nationalists from simply attempting to wipe out the communists once the war with Japan was over. Although Roosevelt had conceded Soviet predominance in Manchuria, he believed he had done his best to strengthen the post-war position of a weak China and that he had reduced the risk of civil war. The actual consequences of his diplomacy turned out differently and Harry S. Truman, his successor, did not welcome the lastminute Soviet declaration of war on Japan. Roosevelt in public spoke of Yalta as a triumph and a new beginning that would see the replacing of alliances and spheres of influence by the new international organisation of the United Nations. In private he was far more doubtful whether Stalin would fulfil what he had promised. But the war against Japan was still to be won and in the new year of 1945 he would contemplate no confrontation with the Soviet Union in Eastern or central Europe. Cooperation with Russia was possible, he believed, but he was at one with Churchill in concluding that firmness in dealing with Stalin was equally necessary. Roosevelt was not duped by Stalin but he could see no peaceful future unless coexistence could somehow be made to work. It was best to express confidence rather than misgivings. Churchill’s conscience was troubled by the Yalta agreement, which had once again partitioned a brave wartime ally, Poland. The shadow of appeasement, of Munich and Czechoslovakia lay not far behind and there was discontent in the House of Commons where a hard core of votes were cast against what had been concluded at Yalta. Poland was potentially damaging politically, a sensitive spot for Churchill at home. Internationally that spring of 1945, with the defeat of Germany in sight, his apprehensions also grew, as he contemplated a prostrate Western Europe and Britain being left to face the Soviets alone. The Americans, he feared, would withdraw to concentrate on the war in the Pacific. At Yalta, he had not been able to influence the outcome as the third and equal partner, because Roosevelt and Stalin had negotiated directly with each other. The Soviets had secretly agreed to help defeat Japan so it was tempting, especially for the Americans, to appease the Soviet Union in Europe. In the war theatre, General Eisenhower also appeared too trusting of the Russians, ready to concert military strategy with his Soviet counterparts, rather than to occupy as much of northern Germany as could be captured and then to drive on to Berlin, as Churchill urged in March 1945. Stalin meanwhile was accusing the West of secretly arranging for the German armies to stop fighting on the western front while they continued to resist the Russians ferociously all along the eastern battle zones. This was indeed partially true. The German forces were disintegrating in the West, with many soldiers deserting. Cities and towns surrendered to Anglo-American forces, disobeying Hitler’s senseless orders to fight to the last, and the German high command would have liked to reach a separate military surrender in the West. This was rejected. This did not mean that Churchill was complacent about the threat he discerned from the Soviet advance deep into Western Europe. Churchill kept up a barrage of warnings in telegrams to Roosevelt. He urged that Stalin be treated firmly and made to adhere to the Yalta engagements. Churchill cabled Roosevelt, ‘Poland has lost her frontier. Is she now to lose her freedom?’ For Roosevelt, too, the Poles were a sensitive domestic political issue: there were 6 million Americans of Polish descent in the US. But at the time he was anxious to secure Soviet cooperation to found the United Nations. He was therefore inclined to more conciliatory tactics to avoid alienating Stalin and so jeopardising his vision of a new world order. He also wanted to make sure of the promised Soviet help against Japan. Nevertheless, he joined Churchill in firm appeals to Stalin. On 12 April 1945 Roosevelt suffered a stroke so severe that he died shortly afterwards. He had responded with a growing sense of urgency to the threat posed by the totalitarian states. He recognised that freedom and democracy were being endangered throughout the world. His ‘Quarantine’ speech in 1937 had marked an important stage in his realisation that domestic problems at home would have to take second place to world problems. Working within the context of an overwhelming isolationist sentiment, Roosevelt had provided the indispensable, if at times devious, leadership which placed on the American people the burden of accepting the role of the US as a superpower. In his post-war plans he worked for Soviet–American understanding, and for the creation of a viable United Nations organisation. He placed the US on the side of independence for the peoples of Asia, including the dismantling of the European empires. He pinned his hopes on China achieving unity and stability. In Western Europe he was ready to provide American support to bring about a recovery that would enable these liberated nations, together with Britain, to safeguard their own freedoms. But he was under no illusions that all this had already actually been achieved. The behaviour of Stalin’s Russia filled him with anxiety, yet it was an anxiety not without hope for the future. For all his limitations, Roosevelt’s contribution to the reorientation of America’s vision of its responsibilities in the world was all important. The news of his death came as a shock to the world. A half-crazed Hitler buried in his Berlin bunker saw it as the miracle that might save his Reich from defeat. By then the final offensives in the east and west were striking into the heart of Germany. In March 1945 the American and British armies crossed the Rhine. During April they passed well beyond the military demarcation zones agreed at Yalta. Suspicion of Russian intentions was high and Churchill urged that the Anglo-American forces should withdraw only when the Russians had fulfilled their undertakings. It had been agreed that Berlin, although deep within the Russian zone of Germany, should be occupied jointly by the US, Britain and the Soviet Union, as well as France. But would the Soviets, once they had taken Berlin, honour their obligations? The final Soviet offensives began in January 1945. Hitler ordered fanatical resistance on all fronts and the adoption of a ‘scorched earth’ policy. If Germany were not victorious, he concluded, the German people had not proved themselves worthy of the ideals of the Aryan race. He thus condemned Germany to senseless destruction. With Goebbels and Bormann at his side, he issued streams of orders from his underground headquarters in Berlin. But his orders were no longer unquestioningly obeyed. Armaments Minister Albert Speer attempted to prevent Germany’s industry from being totally destroyed. He was looking beyond Hitler and defeat to Germany’s recovery. Himmler tried to save his neck by seeking to negotiate an end to the war. Göring, who was in southern Germany, fancied himself as Hitler’s successor, but an angry Hitler ordered the field marshal’s arrest. The Reich ended in intrigue, ruins, bloodshed and shabby farce. Hitler concluded his life marrying his mistress, and on 30 April they both committed suicide. Goebbels and his wife then killed themselves with all their children. On 2 May Berlin surrendered to Soviet troops. Despite Germany’s rapid disintegration, Admiral Karl Dönitz, nominated by Hitler as new leader of the Reich, took over as head of state, observing legal niceties. He even formed a new ‘government’. It lasted but a few days. On 7 May Germany unconditionally surrendered on all fronts. Britain and the US now confronted the Soviet Union amid the ruins of continental Europe. Thus began a new era of international realities and conflict. The sudden death of Roosevelt was a great blow for Churchill. While the prime minister’s influence over the peace settlements had diminished, his special relationship with Roosevelt, an old friendship and appeals to past loyalties still counted for something. But would the new inexperienced president listen to the advice of the elder statesman, as Churchill now directed his warnings about Russia to Truman? He sent a cable to Truman expressing his foreboding that an ‘iron curtain is being drawn down on their front’, his first use of this phrase, which was to become famous later when he uttered it in public at Fulton in March 1946. He wanted Truman to come to London to coordinate a showdown with Stalin at a new conference. Truman rejected the idea as signalling to Stalin that the Anglo- Americans were ganging up against him. Churchill further urged Truman to delay implementing the agreements reached on the respective occupation zones of Germany and not to withdraw the Allied forces which held territory deep in the zone assigned to the Soviet Union. It would be a bargaining counter and at least force the Russians to relinquish control over the whole of Berlin. But Truman was his own man. He was not enamoured of the Russians, to put it mildly, yet he was determined to honour previous agreements, so that he could hold Stalin, so he thought, to what the Russians had undertaken. If Churchill had prevailed, the Cold War would have begun earlier, more of Germany would have been kept out of the Soviet sphere, and the West would not have become entangled in Berlin; alternatively, Stalin would have had to give way in central Europe. But a major difficulty of standing up to the Russians at this early date was public opinion in the West, where an unbounded admiration was felt for the Red Army, which had played the major role on land in the defeat of the Wehrmacht. Far from coordinating policy with Churchill, Truman sought a direct Soviet–American understanding on all the issues not settled at Yalta, to which end he sent Harry Hopkins to Moscow in May 1945. Churchill was upset by this move, which left Britain out in the cold. He was anxious to secure settlements with the Soviet Union concerning frontiers and spheres of influence before the British and American armies on the continent had been demobilised, for he feared that if such settlements were delayed the Russians would be able to do what they wanted. Truman and his advisers were more anxious to establish the United Nations as an institution that would ensure peace and solve all future world problems. It was a case of realism versus idealism. The conference to negotiate the United Nations Charter convened in San Francisco on 25 April 1945. The Americans feared that the UN would be stillborn unless Russian cooperation could be won. The problem of how the veto would operate on the Security Council had not finally been settled at Yalta, and Molotov’s widening of its application was creating difficulties. It was common ground that the five permanent members – the US, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China – could veto any action; the dispute was about whether the veto also applied to a discussion, an examination or a recommendation concerning an issue brought before the Security Council. If it did, any one of the permanent members could stop a dispute from even being considered. The Russian attitude, however, was understandable given that the West looked like enjoying a permanent majority in the General Assembly. In addition the question of whether any government could represent Poland raised the unsolved Polish question once more. It was to straighten out these and other differences that Truman sent Hopkins to Moscow in May. At their meetings, Stalin cleverly tried to drive a wedge between the US and Britain, while Hopkins listened sympathetically. Stalin certainly got the better of the bargain. His concession that the Polish government would be widened by the admission of some of the London Polish leaders still left the communists in a dominant position. Hopkins meanwhile accepted as sincere Stalin’s promise not to interfere in Polish affairs, especially during the holding of ‘free elections’, and to show respect for individual rights and liberties. Yet when Stalin refused to release Poles he had arrested for what he described as ‘diversionist’ activities, the reality behind the words became only too clear. Hopkins was also anxious to gain confirmation of the secret agreement concerning the Far East reached at Yalta. Stalin promised to attack the Japanese on 8 August 1945 and to respect Chinese sovereignty in Manchuria. On the veto issue which was blocking progress on the UN Charter, Stalin made genuine concessions and the final agreements reached in San Francisco represented a complicated compromise of the American and Soviet view. It made possible the completion of negotiations for the Charter on 25 June 1945. Hopkins returned from his mission in early June, with the way now clear for the summit meeting in Potsdam. Truman’s idea that he should meet Stalin alone before being joined by the British prime minister was angrily rejected by Churchill, who was adamant that he was not ‘prepared to attend a meeting which was a continuation of a conference between yourself and Marshal Stalin’. He insisted on a simultaneous meeting on equal terms. The Potsdam Conference was the final conference, and the longest, of the Grand Alliance. It lasted from 17 July to 2 August 1945, forming a bridge between the world at war and the coming peace. Churchill had hoped Britain would recapture its lost influence, that the inexperienced new president would listen to the elder statesman. De Gaulle was again snubbed; although France was to become a member of the Control Commission for Germany, French representatives were not invited to join in discussions over Germany. Agreement was reached on many post-war issues, especially the Allied treatment of Germany, but suspicion between the Allies had grown. The military necessity of holding together was gone. The relationship between East and West lacked trust and, in the personal contact between the big three, Churchill, later Clement Attlee, Truman and Stalin, the old sense of comradeship was lacking. Despite the rounds of dinners and receptions, there was a palpable absence of warmth. Averell Harriman, US ambassador in Moscow, tried to make a friendly remark to Stalin at Potsdam: ‘Marshal, you must be very proud now to be in Berlin.’ He received the rather disconcerting reply, ‘Tsar Alexander got to Paris’. Distrust was to widen as the agreements reached at Potsdam were broken. The West accused the Soviet Union of bad faith; this made little impression on Stalin, who faced the enormous task of rebuilding the Soviet Union and tightening the dictatorial reins once more so that his regime would survive the capitalist external threat which he perceived. Stalin did not trust the West and the West did not trust him. That was very clearly shown by the fact that Britain and the US had been building the atomic bomb in great secrecy, without sharing their knowledge with their Soviet ally during the war. The Russians, too, had been secretly engaged on making a bomb, but the Americans got there first. After hearing that an experimental bomb had been successfully tested in New Mexico on 16 July, Truman obliquely referred to this success in talking to Stalin, without specifically mentioning that an atomic bomb would soon be dropped on Hiroshima. Stalin did not betray his anxiety that the US had tilted the balance of power in its favour. Churchill was elated. The atomic bomb would redress the balance: despite the strength of the Red Army, Stalin no longer had all the cards in his hands. After Stalin had returned to the Kremlin, he ordered Soviet scientists to redouble their efforts to make a Soviet atomic bomb. Now that the world knew it could be done, the basic obstacles were more industrial than scientific, the difficulty of extracting the fissionable materials. Klaus Fuchs helped the Soviet scientists to reach their goal in 1949, but they would no doubt have solved the problems, without him, albeit later. On the whole Stalin could be well satisfied with the outcome of the conference at Potsdam. Churchill did not stay to the end. He returned to be in London when the outcome of the general election was announced. He was replaced on 28 July in Potsdam by Clement Attlee and the redoubtable Ernest Bevin, the new foreign secretary, who in the last days of the conference conducted most of the negotiations for Britain. Truman also left most of the critical bargaining to his secretary of state James Byrnes. The Polish issue once more proved highly contentious. There was much argument about Poland’s western frontier. To the end Stalin insisted on the western Neisse, facing the West with a fait accompli. Bevin and Byrnes had to accept this but did so with the proviso that these German territories were only to be ‘administered’ by Poland and a final settlement of the western frontier would have to await the signature of the peace treaty with Germany. In fact, the provisional was to prove permanent. The Polish agreement was part of a deal whereby the Soviet Union reluctantly accepted the American proposal on reparations. From a reparations point of view, Stalin had wanted to have Germany treated as a whole so that he could participate in spoils from the West and the industrial Ruhr as well as take away all that could be moved from the Soviet zone. But he had to be sat- isfied with a formula that left each of the occupying powers to take reparations from its own zone. The reparation claims of Poland, too, would have to be met from the Soviet share. In addition, the Soviet Union would receive 10 per cent of industrial capital equipment taken as reparations by the West and a further 15 per cent in exchange for food and raw materials from the east. The agreement soon led to bitter recriminations. Stalin did better on the question of the reconstituted Polish government. The London Poles were pressurised into accepting a settlement that incorporated some London ministers in the communist-dominated government in Warsaw. Poland would not emerge again from communist rule and Soviet domination for two generations. The redrawing of Poland’s frontiers only ratified what had already happened on the human level. Millions of Poles moved west to the Polish side of the Curzon Line. Millions of Germans, too, had fled westward from the Red Army and the Polish forces, as well as from the German territories now under Polish rule and from the Sudeten areas of Czechoslovakia. Young and old were driven out with only the possessions they could carry. The Russians, Poles and Czechs, after the way they had been treated under Nazi occupation, were now indifferent to the suffering of the Germans. Retribution fell on guilty and innocent alike and many Germans perished from the hardships of migration. When, at Potsdam, the Allies recorded their agreement that the ‘transfer’ of Germans from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary should be carried out ‘in an orderly and humane manner’, the West was therefore doing no more than expressing a pious hope largely after the event. A central issue at Potsdam was the need to reach agreement on the treatment of Germany. The idea of dividing Germany into a number of separate states was finally abandoned. But the principles on which control of Germany were based were contradictory from the start: the Allies sought to treat Germany as one while at the same time partitioning it into zones of occupation. The Allied Control Council was supposed to oversee Germany as a whole, but each of the commandersin- chief in his own zone had complete authority as well. The plan to establish ‘central German administrative departments, headed by State Secretaries . . . in the fields of finance, transport, communications, foreign trade and industry’, but under the direction of the Control Council, proved impossible to carry through as long as each occupation zone fell under the separate control of one of the four Allies. There was to be ‘for the time being’ no central German government, but local self-government and democratic parties were encouraged. On the one hand, the Allies agreed that during the occupation ‘the German economy shall be treated as a single economic unit’; on the other, reparations were a matter for each occupying power to settle in its own zone. In practice, the immediate consequence of all these decisions was to move towards the division of Germany into four separate zones. Four years later, the three Western zones would combine and create a democratic Western central government, and a communist regime would be imposed on the Soviet Eastern zone. There were some areas of agreement, however; the trial of war criminals, the destruction of Nazi ideology, the complete disarmament of Germany, and control of such German industry as could be used for war, led to no real differences at Potsdam. But already the West and the Russians were compromising these principles. German scientists were too valuable a ‘war booty’ to be punished as Nazi war criminals. Rocket scientists who had perfected the V-1 and V-2 in Peenemünde were, despite their past, seized by the Americans and bribed to contribute their know-how to Western military technology. Many who should have been convicted of war crimes prospered instead in the West and worked for the US in the space race. Other German rocket scientists were captured by the Russians and assisted in Soviet missile development. In the Cold War, ex-Nazis with expertise in military intelligence were recruited by both sides. Former Wehrmacht officers served both NATO and the Warsaw Pact armies. These were some of the darker aspects of what happened in the aftermath of the victory over Germany. Austria was separated once more from Germany and was fortunate to escape reparations. Austrian guards in concentration camps had not behaved with any less bestiality in the SS than their German counterparts, nor can a distinction be drawn between Austrian and German members of the Wehrmacht. Austria was allowed to establish a central government but was occupied, like Germany, and divided into four zones, American, British, French and Soviet, with Vienna under joint control. The Potsdam Conference established a Council of Foreign Ministers which, it was expected, would normally meet in London. Its main task was the preparation of peace treaties with Italy, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and Finland. A peace settlement with Germany was also mentioned, but it seemed a distant prospect in 1945 since it required the prior establishment of a German government with the consent of the Allies. Only those countries that were signatories to the terms of surrender of each state would be allowed to participate, with the exception of France, which was admitted to discuss peace terms with Italy. During the eighteen months of its existence and after much acrimony, peace treaties with all these states except Germany were agreed. The Council, which still represented the wartime alliance, came to grief over the German question, and the Cold War began. Potsdam marked the beginning of the end of any hope that the wartime alliance would outlast the defeat of Germany, Italy, Japan and the minor Axis allies and, as Roosevelt had hoped, continue to safeguard the peace. It had achieved victory over the most powerful and barbaric threat ever faced by Russia and the Western democracies in modern times. The year 1945 marks a division in world history. This side of it the West once more perceived the Soviet Union as its most dangerous enemy. But this division should not obscure what lies on the other side, what the civilised world owes to the sacrifices made by the Soviet Union, by China, by Britain and by the US, the great powers of their day which saw the struggle through together. No one expected that the Japanese would be forced to surrender within three months of the Allied victory in Europe. In fighting as savage as any in the Second World War, the US navy, the marines and the army, under the command of Admiral Nimitz, had pushed the Japanese back from one tropical island base to the next. By the summer of 1943 the Japanese had been forced on to the defensive. A year later the Americans were closing in on Japan, capturing Saipan, Tinian and Guam. Meanwhile a Japanese offensive from Burma into India was halted by British and Dominion troops. In October 1944 General MacArthur began the attack on the Philippines. There ensued the last great naval engagement of the Second World War – the battle of Leyte Gulf. The Japanese navy had planned a counterblow to destroy MacArthur’s supply line and then his army. With the defeat of the Japanese navy in Leyte Gulf the US had won command of the sea in Japan’s home waters. In the central Pacific, Nimitz advanced from Saipan to the island of Iwojima and then in the fiercest fighting of the war, lasting from April to June 1945, attacked and captured Okinawa, an island in the Ryukyu group just 500 miles from Japan. Japan’s cities were being systematically reduced to rubble by the fires caused by constant air attacks. In south-east Asia, Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten commanded the Allied forces which between December 1944 and May 1945 recaptured Burma from the retreating Japanese. But, skilfully as this campaign was conducted, it was secondary in its impact on the war. The Americans in the Pacific were thrusting at the heart of the Japanese Empire. In 1944 the Japanese military and naval leaders knew the war could not be won. Yet even as late as May 1945 they hoped that the evidence of Japan’s fanatical defence at Okinawa and elsewhere would deter the Allies from invading Japan itself, where the Allies, for the first time, would have to come to grips with large Japanese armies. Rather than lose thousands of men, might not the Allies be prepared to offer reasonable terms? Those advisers of the emperor who were in favour of an immediate peace were not strong enough to assert themselves openly against the military and naval leaderships. But war supplies, especially oil, were rapidly running out and Japan’s situation was deteriorating fast. By July 1945 even the military accepted that it was worth taking the initiative to explore what kind of peace terms the Allies might put forward. Approaches were made to the Soviet Union to act as mediators. The Soviets refused brusquely to help Japan to a negotiated peace. With the prize of Manchuria promised at Yalta, Stalin had his own reasons for wishing to prolong the war long enough to enable the Red Army to advance into Manchuria. Nevertheless, Stalin did inform Churchill of Japanese overtures when they assembled with Truman at the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, urging that the Allies should insist on ‘unconditional’ surrender. But Churchill pressed moderation on Truman to save American and British lives. The upshot was that Truman and Churchill on 26 July issued an ultimatum to Japan setting out basic conditions of peace. They called for the unconditional surrender of the Japanese military forces. The influence of the military and all those who had guided Japan, into the path of aggression would be removed. War criminals would be punished and reparations required. Japan would have to give up all its imperial conquests. Finally, Japan would be occupied. But, beyond this, the declaration went out of its way to promise Japan a future: ‘We do not intend that the Japanese shall be enslaved as a race nor destroyed as a nation.’ Japan’s industries would be preserved, its soldiers allowed to return home, and democracy and justice would be established under the guidance of the occupation. Once this was securely rooted in Japan, and a freely elected Japanese government could safely be given responsibility, the occupation forces would withdraw. In short, imperial Japan with its divine emperor would be transformed into a Western-type democratic state. What was not clear, and it was a critical point for the Japanese, was whether the emperor would be permitted to remain on the throne. Japan’s 80-year-old prime minister, Admiral Suzuki, responded to the ultimatum with a noncommittal statement. He was temporising in the face of the powerful military opposition; mistranslation unfortunately made his reply sound contemptuous. But was it really necessary to drop the atomic bomb or would a few more days have given the upper hand to the peace party in any case? The evidence suggests that only after Hiroshima – realising what terrible havoc would result from more such bombs – did Emperor Hirohito conclude that he could no longer merely accept the decision of his leading ministers and the military, but that he would have to assert himself and overrule the military who still were inclined to continue the war. Ironically it was the last act of the emperor’s divine authority, soon to be destroyed, that saved countless American and Japanese lives. President Truman was therefore right in believing that only the atomic bombs could shock Japan into immediate surrender. On 6 August an American plane dropped just one small bomb on a Japanese city still untouched by war. ‘Hiroshima’ henceforth has become a byword for a nuclear holocaust, for a threatened new world. There was instant recognition that the nature of war had been transformed. Scientists had harnessed the innermost forces of nature to a weapon of destruction that had hitherto been unimaginable. In one blinding flash the humans who were instantly vaporised were perhaps the more fortunate; 66,000 men, women and children were killed immediately or succumbed soon after the atom bomb had struck. Another 69,000 were horribly injured – they were found to suffer from a new illness, radiation sickness, and many died later in agony. Even future unborn generations were affected, deformed by the mutation of genes in the sick. The suffering has continued for decades. Four square miles of the city were totally destroyed on that terrible day. Three days later Nagasaki was the second and mercifully last city to suffer the effects of an atomic attack. It was not the end, however, of the development of even more destructive nuclear weapons of annihilation. The single Hiroshima bomb possessed the explosive power of 20,000 tons of TNT. Later hydrogen bombs were tested in the 1950s with a power many times greater than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. There was and is no effective system of defence in existence that can stop the missile delivery of a destructive power that can wipe out civilised life on whole continents. The Japanese were the first victims and the last, if the world is to survive. Ever since the horror of Hiroshima the debate has raged whether a weapon so indiscriminate in its mass destruction of human life should have been used. It has been argued that the main reason why it was dropped was to warn the Soviet Union of the new invincible power of the US. No doubt the possession of the atomic bomb made it possible for the US to feel that it was safe to demobilise even in the face of the superior weight of the Soviet armed forces. But the bomb would have been dropped even had the Soviet Union not existed. The investment in the construction of the two nuclear bombs available for use in 1945 had been huge. It was thought that using them would prove decisive in ending the war without more fighting and the expected further losses of Allied lives from storming the Japanese home islands against fierce resistance. The killing of enemy civilians in order to shorten the war was seen as justified after so much death and destruction. No one thought in terms of drawing up a balance sheet of losses of enemy men, women and children as against the lives of Allied soldiers. That is shown by the devastating raids on German and Japanese cities with conventional weapons. Loss of civilian lives was greater in Tokyo and Dresden than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Soviet Union’s declaration of war on Japan on 8 August and its invasion of China were fresh disasters but not decisive factors in forcing Tokyo’s leader to make a decision. Messages sent by the Allies and received in Tokyo on 13 August 1945 indicating that the emperor would not be removed from the throne were more important in the final deliberations. On 14 August the emperor broadcast Japan’s surrender. Over the radio he spoke for the first time to the Japanese people, saying that the unendurable had to be endured. The Second World War was over.

 

 

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