Saturday, March 26, 2016

History of the Cold War #6

"We waited for them to come ashore. We could see their faces. They looked like ordinary people. We had imagined something different. Well, they were Americans!" Liubova Kozinchenka, Red Army, 58th Guards Division

"I guess we didn't know what to expect from the Russians, but when you looked at them and examined, them, you couldn't tell whether, you know? If you put an American uniform on the, they could have been American!" Al Aronson, US Army, 69th Infantry Division

From: The Cold War by John Gaddis

April 25th 1945, two great armies traveling from opposite directions met in the east German city of Torgau. Because of the ideological war started years ago, what should have been a great celebration was a cautious meeting.

Five years earlier:

We are all familiar with December 7 1941-- Pearl Harbor. Shortly thereafter, Hitler declared war on America and invaded the USSR. Previously, in August of 1939, the USSR and Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, but Hitler later revealed it was only temporary. He'd long had his eye on the USSR's rich land, and he'd had a determination to eliminate the communist threat too close to his own borders.

Because of Hitler turning on Stalin, the USA, UK and USSR were now allies fighting the same enemy. All three powers knew they couldn't defeat Hitler without each other. The USSR urged America to invade sooner; America held off, and the Soviets resented its delay.

Roosevelt had high hopes for post war relations. In his plans for the United Nations, which included the USSR, he proposed a consultive general assembly and an executive security council with powers to act.

Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met for the first time in Tehran on November 1943. Different photos show a serious group of men, another photo shows a spirit of camaraderie. However, Stalin had their rooms bugged and read the transcripts each morning.

On June 6, 150,000 American troops landed in Normandy. Three million more British, American and Canadian troops would follow. As agreed, six million Red Army troops started the offensive march in June too.

All looked well until the Soviet troops betrayed the quest for freedom in Poland. When the Nazis were fleeing, the Soviet troops paused--just long enough for Polish citizens to rise against the Germans. They knew the Soviets were close and erroneously assumed they would have their support--but it never did. The pause was long enough for the Nazis to return. For sixty-three days the Poles held on to Warsaw. With only rifles and small arms, they were soon crushed by the enemy. Two hundred thousand Poles murdered--nine out of the ten were civilians. The allies had asked for the use of Soviet airfields to aid the Poles from the air. The Soviets had refused. Their purpose was to take over Poland, so why not let the Nazis finish them off? In the past 30 years, they had been invaded by the Germans through the corridor of Poland. This move destroyed hopes for a post-war, peaceful collaboration. "Hopes for genuine democracy in Eastern Europe after the war were destroyed in the ruins of Warsaw." Isaac and Downing.

The three powers, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt, met again in Yalta on February 1945 and it is clear that their only cohesiveness was in defeating Hitler. Stalin fears the UN will have too much power. The allies do agree to divide up Berlin into four sectors, each country in charge of one: France, England, USA, and Russia.

My friend Lori was a little girl when Berlin was divided. As German citizens, her family was told to stand in the French line-they would be under rule of the French, but her father knew their best chances were with the Americans, and stubbornly, he moved his family into that line and refused to do otherwise.  Years later as an American citizen, she looks back on her father's stubborness as a great blessing to her life.

On April 12 1945, his relationships with Churchill and Stalin solid, Franklin Delano Roosevelt dies.  Churchill loses re-election. Would the course of history been different had both men lived? Vice President Harry Truman had been kept out of the negotiating loop; he'd only met with the president twice in the past five months. Consequently, what a mess he stepped into. It was this president who would decide whether or not to use the first atomic weapon in history.

How much did the atom bomb cost to develop?

Two billion dollars. That's what it took to end a war and to begin another.