tv The Presidency Harry S. Truman Russia the Cold War CSPAN August 20, 2018 12:00am-1:51am EDT
october 6 and seven on c-span.org, or listen on the free c-span radio app. presidency, the annual harry truman legacy symposium focuses on russia and the cold war. analysts talk about the 33rd president's relationship with british from mr. winston churchill, the u.s. position in berlin, and the origins of nato, which researcher may considered a signature accomplishment. the harry truman the white house and harry truman foundation both in key west florida cohosted the event. this is the first of two parts. it is about two hours. >> well, thank you, and thank you all for being with us this morning. thank you for inviting me. it's my second trip to the little white house and it's very good to be back here in key west.
my presentation today is entitled "the iron curtain speech: the sinews of peace and the power of prose." in the spirit of looking at original documents, randy, we're going to look at the near final draft of the iron curtain speech. this is the draft of the iron curtain speech that is in the collection of the national churchill museum, his train raid -- it was the day before he left on his famous train ride from washington, d.c. to missouri. he is working with the secretary making final edits and refinements to the great speech. we have this in our collection and we had it on view in an exhibition called the power of prose. this talk builds upon the exhibition and gives us a chance to see churchill's mind, a great
mind a great master of rhetoric , and the great visionary when, about his thoughts of the cold war by looking at the primary source document. before we do that, i thought it would be appropriate to set the stage. before we talk about the cold war, it's probably good to start with the ending of the last war, world war ii before it. winston churchill led the allies to victory together with the americans and the russians, the big 3, the alliance and there was a terrific -- pageantry in may 1945 on v.e. day giving the sign v saying the victory is yours, the triumphant end of it world war ii in europe and churchill took a victory lap on that occasion. many americans forget that shortly thereafter there was a general election in britain and
churchill arguably, the most visible and popular figure perhaps in the world who won the war lost an election. but before that, he attended the potsdam conference outside of berlin with harry truman, the first time that harry truman and winston churchill met with marshal stalin. the photograph of the 3 looking very stoic. it's a chilly photograph, a precursor to the cold war. the conference is interrupted when the election results were announced and churchill's party loses the election and another becomes prime minister. of course, the conference ay is the newlt
number three in the big 3 at potsdam. the loss of that general election for winston churchill was quite a blow. he really didn't think he would lose the election. he was nervous at the end, but he did, in fact, lose and this is a prime minister who had devoted five long years to the war effort in world war ii, led his nation, rallied his troops to victory and lost the election. his wife clementine said, "winston, i think it's a blessing in disguise." he replied, "well then it's very well disguised." churchill moped about a little bit. took a painting holiday in italy to refresh his batteries and began to receive invitations to speak about world affairs from people all over the world, including this invitation in the form of a typewritten letter, one page from the president of westminster college, frank mcclure. frank mcclure was a westminster alumnus, class of 1918 who rose up to the president and invited
winston churchill to participate in the college's green foundation lecture, the john finley green foundation lecture. it was a bold move to be sure to ask the former prime minister to the middle of america in fulton, missouri, to speak and i think that this letter would have been given to a secretary, politely said, i can't possibly come, tell them thank you, save for perhaps the most famous post-script in history and that post-script here you can read in harry truman's hand, "this is a wonderful school in my home state. if you come, i will introduce you." that post-script caught his attention. he immediately knew if he was on the stage with the president of the united states, he would be back in the game. he accepted. the formal courtesy would to reply to the president of westminster college, i would be glad to come. churchill didn't do that, he
wrote directly to the president of the united states who in turn let the college know he is coming. this is the letter from the archives from harry truman to frank mcclure saying get ready, march 5 is when winston churchill will descend upon fullton. winston churchill is a smart man. he comes to this location, south florida, in january 1946. he books passage on the queen elizabeth, the great cunarder to new york and makes his way down to miami beach where he relaxes, refreshes, paints, he was an avid painter. here is a painting he did of miami beach, the venetian causeway. he stays at the home of colonel frank clark and treated royally and uses the sunshine to refresh, relax and rejuvenate very much as harry truman did here in key west.
churchill writes to frank mcclure finally from miami beach in january, so we're about a move out from the speech, the speech was march 5. this is the last part of january and he says, mr. mcclure, i'm looking forward to coming. i don't really know what i'm going to say, but it will be a speech of considerable importance. and it will be about world affairs and i'm going to discuss it with the president, thank you for the apples, they were delicious, as you can see in the letter. churchill was very kind. then the speech happens. i have never met mr. churchill personally until the berlin conference, mr. stall in, mr. churchill and myself. i became very fond of both of them. they are men and they are leaders in this world today when we need leadership. it's a pleasure to me to introduce mr. churchill. he is one of the great men of the age.
he is a great englishman. [applause] president truman: he is a great englishman, but he is half american. [applause] president truman mr. churchill : and i believe in freedom of speech. i understand that mr. churchill is going to talk on the sinews of peace. i know that he was have something constructive to say to the world in that speech. i am happy that he came here to deliver it and it's one of the great -- of my lifetime to be able to present to you that great world citizen, winston churchill. [applause] >> so harry truman kept his promise and he accompanied winston churchill via train from washington to jefferson city,
then by motorcade to fulton. there was a lot of poker played on that train, i know for sure. harry truman showed his prowess in that arena. they arrived in westminster college on march 5 to a packed auditorium. on campus, thece gymnasium, 2700 people here to winston churchill and the president of the united states for this address. churchill by this time has decided that his lectured will be entitled "the sinews of peace," even though up to two weeks before, he said i think it's going to be something like "world peace." that's how it's published in the program, but at a final rhetorical moment of inspiration, he changes his title to "sinews of peace." and now as i mentioned, i would like to look at the original document. here it is. his secretary, the presentation copy that she gave to colonel clark, churchill's host in miami beach.
we see this is a document that churchill was working on in the embassy in washington the night before they got on the train. as you can see, this is his presentation format. he loved to read from texts in this prose style, poetry, one of reasons he is such a great orator. he is working on the speeches. this speech is the carbon copy. you can imagine churchill reading the typewritten secretaryand the frantically taking notes in shorthand making last minute additions to the speech. here is one of the first things of interest to churchill in the cold war. remember, he is a private citizen now, not prime minister, so he is free to say almost anything. that gives him power. in fact, he wants his audience to know that. winston churchill let me make it : clear that i have no official written or statement of any
kind. i only speak for myself. there is nothing here but what you see. [laughter] [applause] >> of course, the backdrop is this is what they see. they see the former prime minister of great britain on stage. sitting next to him is the president of the united states, harry truman. it certainly is a world platform and what you see is something of great significance. in the speech, he outlines the united states and british alliance and says that even in peace time, we must continue the anglo-american relationship. he outlines his strategic concept, as he puts it. this page in the speech is very interesting. it's the only original typewritten speech. it's not a carbon copy with notes on it. we can only speculate. this is the thesis of the iron curtain speech outlining the strategic objective, too many notes at the last minute that
she had to retype it in total. that's why there are slightly different type fonts. churchill talks about war and tyranny, the two marauders and the destruction of war. he outlines and gives a history of world war ii, the aftermath, the lingering impacts in his great rhetorical style. he talks about methods for achieving peace through the united nations in his speech, he outlines that's the way to go moving forward. he talks about the anglo-american alliance and also the need for that alliance and nato to have an armed air force. it's very clear that churchill says nato must have an air force where we can combine and share military resources to protect the freedoms and securities in the world. and churchill talks about this was a concept he originally thought of after world war i, it never materialized the way he had hoped.
this was a chance to do it again and again, he says that nuclear weapons, now in the hands of the allies, canada, britain, and the united states ought to remain in those hands, not nato. he is very clear that the english-speaking peoples as he called them should be the custodians of the new nuclear arsenal, not nato. so he says air force for nato, but not nuclear capability or capacity. he says that nuclear weapons should not under any circumstance fall into the hands of fashionists or communists. this is the first part of the iron curtain speech. mentions page 15 brady communism. he is setting the same time. we must do whatever we can to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the communists. here he means russia and the soviet union. he talks about the merits of anglo-american values and says
that through the magna carta, the habeas corpus the trial by , jury, the english common-law, they find our most famous expression in the declaration of independence. he notes here at the last minute, he puts the american declaration of independence. he knows his audience here in fulton. again, he is buttering up the audience with talk, very flourishing talk about freedom, democracy, and justice which found a welcome remarks in the fulton audience. and i'll skip ahead here to where he begins to say that there is risk of nuclear war without what he calls the special relationship. the term special relationship, the relationship between britain and the united states was coined in the iron curtain speech in fulton. he says without that special relationship, without these two
super powers, churchill surely thought of great britain, even in its weakened position post-world war ii of being a super power because they had the nuclear arsenal, without the special relationship, there might be risk that the nuclear arsenal would fall into the communist hands. and here is where he begins to really put russia in the cross hairs. presidenblessed churchill nobody : knows the soviet and the communist international organization intends to do in the future, the limits if any to their expansive and proslytizing tendencies. >> nobody knows what russia is doing. churchill has a good idea. he goes on to say, some platitudes to stalin and the russian people but also some warnings. here is the famous phrase that
-- for which the speech is commonly known. churchill: and iron curtain has dissented across the continent. line, why all the capitals of the asian states of central and eastern europe, warsaw, berlin, prague, vienna, budapest, belgrade, bucharest, all of these famous cities and the populations around them lie in the soviet sphere. and all are subject in one form or another, not only the soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from moscow. >> the one change, the last-minute change to this part of the speech is the short-hand, it originally said the
population surrounds them lie in the soviet sphere and churchill personalizes this in what i must call the soviet sphere. churchill is taking this upon himself. if moscow's influence again is unchecked following the u.k. withdrawals and american withdrawals, stalin didn't take his troops back when the allies did and that was the iron curtain and here is when he appeals to the united states directly warning that in previous conflicts, they sent troops overseas and if there was not an important alliance, that would surely happen again. winston churchill in our own : lifetime we have seen the united states against arguments , the thought of which is
impossible, it is impossible not to comprehend. twice we have seen them drawn by irresistible forces into these wars. in time we secure victory, but what cost? only after devastation have -- has occurred. interesting note about that passage in the speech. you hear churchill stumble across the words. he had a ferocious memory. he had them mostly committed to memory. here with such a last-minute change the night before, he is almost as if -- this is not what i originally wrote. he is stumbling through those sentences there on page 37. and here is where churchill begins to really build to the great climax of the speech. he says the situation will not solve itself.
winston churchill the longer : this is delayed, the more difficult it will be and the greater our dangers will become. from what i have seen of our russian friends and allies during the war, i am convinced that there is nothing they admire so much as strength, and there is nothing for which they have less respect than weakness, especially military weakness. >> this thought was one that was adapted by the truman administration a year later. and finally, churchill uses his celebrity and his vision and remarks that during the 1930's before the outbreak of world war ii, he warned the world of the nazi menace. once in: -- winston churchill i : cried aloud to my fellow countrymen and to the world, but no one paid any attention.
up till the year 1933 or even 1935, germany might have been saved from the awful fate that has overtaken her and we may have all been spared from the miseries hitler let loose upon mankind. there's never been a war of the time reaction that desolated such great areas of the globes. it could have been prevented in my belief without the firing of a single shot. >> so he is reminding that in the 1930's, it could have been prevented if they only listened to my observations and here he is making observations again warning that the soviets are the next threat to world peace. and now is the time. winston churchill this can only : be achieved by reaching out in 1946, this year, 1946, by
reaching a good understanding on all points with russia under the general authority of the united nations organization. and by the maintenance of that good understanding through many peaceful years by the world instrument supported by the whole strength of the english-speaking world and all its connections. that is the solution which i respectfully offer to you in this address which i have given the title, "the sinews of peace." >> note that the night before he leaves on the train, last minute, he puts that section into the speech, so much as he is finally titling it in the last moment. and it's that sinews of peace, the strength, muscles, things that join things together, sinews are things that bring things together, the anglo american relationship, the
special relationship is what churchill is striving. that is the way to defeat tyranny and communism. that is outlineuped in the iron -- outlined in the iron curtain speech. that is what churchill in his rousing finish says together, the two nations, britain and the united states can solidify and strengthen their existing alliance to meet the threats of the cold war ahead. winston churchill if we had faithfully and walked forward incident and sober landgth, thinking no one's , seeking no delay of arbitrary control on the thoughts of men. if all moral and material forces and convictions are joined with your own in association, the high roads of the future will be clear.
not only for us, but for all. not only for our time, but for a century to come. [applause] >> and so that's how winston churchill ends his iron curtain speech. immediate reaction was mixed. there was still some looming concerns that the soviets were our allies. even truman distanced himself. he was clapping on the stage, the newsreel, he said i didn't see a copy of the speech beforehand. i didn't know he was going to say all that. by a year later, truman and the rest of the world have fallen in line and begun to follow some of the outlined provision for the special relationship, but strengthen nato and a policy of deterrence which outlined the policies of the cold war in the remainder of the 20th century.
i can argue in some ways that the cold war began in earnest in a gymnasium at westminster college in fulton, missouri, on march 5 with the president of the united states and the former prime minister of great britain, both of whom were honorary degree recipients that day, westminster's most proud alumni, i might add. it did set into motion a number of things in this country and throughout the world that still have rippling effects today. so thank you for allowing me to do some archeology of the iron curtain speech and share it with you today. we'll take questions i think after the panel. once again, thank you. [applause] >> that was outstanding. thank you, tim. i think we're all reminded just by listening to churchill's
words -- that must be a thrill to give a talk like that. you just get to play churchill's speech which, i mean, to be reminded there was a gentleman here who had such a history of public service, he was an accomplished writer, he had written many books, had he won the pulitzer prize book yet? an accomplished artist. the power of or tray which i -- of oratory which i myself , had, none of you would be sleeping right now. what i find really interesting that was the relationship of those two men which is fascinating to me. churchill and fdr of course were great friends. npr dies and truman who was this -- fdr dies and truman who was this interloper. they meet for the first time at potsdam and the fascinating thing to me about when they first met is right on that same day, almost at the exact same moment, because of the time difference, they're meeting for the first time at potsdam and the trinity shot is going off in new mexico. that would say a lot of the portents of what would happen because of that relationship. outstanding talk, thank you very much.
i think we are going to do the questions later, so we are up now. who is next? rob, would you like to -- randy is next? randy, already introduced him, terrific archivist and some helpful to me throughout the years. i'm proud to introduce randy, please. [applause] >> thank you very much. i am randy sole, i'm an archivist at the harry s. truman library in missouri, a long way away from here. my topic is the berlin airlift but it is more specifically harry truman and the berlin airlift. i know a lot more about truman than i do about the airlift.
they obviously are connected. this summer as you may know, this will mark the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the berlin airlift in 1948. it was quite likely the greatest achievement in the history of military aviation with the land and water routes into berlin, the divided city of berlin blocked by the russians, some 2,300,000 tons of coals and food and other supplies were carried in cologne and related, mostly by the united states air force with help from america's british and french allies. 77 persons lost their lives in the course of that operation. to this day, many of the streets in berlin are named after the men who died on behalf of the citizens of berlin. the airlift was truly the work of thousands of people, german civilians as well as military
officers, crewmen and pilots, supply people. but the decision to carry it out was made by a single man. even in his lifetime, president harry s. truman was celebrated and criticized for his ability to make difficult decisions without delay and apparently without a second thought. dean atchison, his secretary of state wrote that truman was completely without that most enfeebling of emotions, regret. truman himself was proud of his reputation for decisiveness and regarded a capacity for prompt decision-making as a crucial facet of leadership. as he wrote in retirement and i quote, the most dangerous course a president can follow in a time of crisis is to defer making decisions until they are forced on him and thereupon become inevitable decisions.
events then get out of hand and take control of the president and he is compelled to overcome situations which he should have prevented. when a president finds himself in that position, he is no longer a leader, but an improviser who is driven to action out of expediency or weakness." imageeinforces truman's as a golden a china shop -- as a bull in a china shop as far as international relations. truman telling off poor molotov in the oval office and supposedly starting the cold war. truman dropping atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki without losing a night's sleep. truman committing military forces to korea with no declaration of war. " -- truman responded and i
quote, tell the son of a bitch he'll have to shoot his way in. this blunt form of statecraft may appeal to many of us, but to the rest of us, it may seem impulsive, reckless, belligerent and even potentially dangerous. the popular image of truman as a knee-jerk button-down hell dispenser who treated the world as if it given of his daughter's singing does not coincide with the thoughtful man was worshipped by the men in his truman certainly had a temper. but usually, he kept it in check. more importantly, he did not relish interpersonal conflict. as an example, early in his presidency he wanted to replace francis biddle as attorney general. even though he was president, he did not want to confront him face-to-face.
he had a member of his staff call the attorney general and ask him to resign. biddle was insulted and insisted on a personal meeting with the president. truman invited francis biddle to the white house and apologized for the way he handled the whole thing. at his request, the attorney general agreed to resign. when their meeting ended, francis biddle went up to the president and touched his shoulder. he said, "you see, it's not so hard." but it was always hard for truman to fire people. he would face discomfort getting rid of subordinates like the commerce secretary henry wallace and defense secretary johnson. when we examine his actions in 1949, superficially, they are in keeping with his reputation as a tough and defiant decision-maker. the record of his private
statements in the first weeks after june 24, 1948 when the russians cut off access to berlin leave little room for doubt. he met with robert lovett, the defense secretary and the secretary of the army. as he would record in his diary, when a specific question was discussed as to what our future policy in germany was to be, namely were we to stay in berlin or not? the president interrupted to say there was no discussion on that point. we were going to stay, period. a state department reiterated determined steps should be taken by the u.s. to stay in berlin. that same day, secretary of state george marshall set a bash sent a telegram to the u.s. embassy in london summarizing u.s. policy as determined by the president. the first point -- we stay in berlin.
truman ordered the air force to begin carrying supplies to west berlin. the airlift was underway, but was only providing a portion of the city's daily needs when the president met with secretary of state marshall on july 14, 1948. also present, forrestal , lovett, royal, and the under secretary of the army. truman's diary entry for that day is worth quoting in its entirety. practically words bristle on the page, but conclude with right amusement and self-pity. the meeting with marshall and jim forrestal on the russian situation, marshall thinks the facts in the situation we are faced. i made the decision 10 days ago to stay in berlin. and he underlined to those three words. jim wants to hedge. he always does. he is constantly sending me out
alibi memos which i return with directions on the facts. we will stay in berlin, come what may. royal, draper and jim come in later. i have to listen to a rehash of what i know already and reiterate my stay in berlin decision. i do not pass the buck or alibi out of any decision i make your -- i make. on that fiery note he turns to discuss something else that happened that day, the funeral of general john pershing. "went to pershing's funeral at the marble amphitheater in arlington. the hottest damn place. an impressive ceremony. this is the 10th time i planned to attend the general's funeral. it came off this time." now he starts to feel sorry for himself. "beth and margaret went to
missouri at 6:30 p.m. god's time. i was sorry to see them go. i came back to the great white jail -- that would be the white house -- read some papers and wrote this. it is hot and humid and lonely. why in hell does anyone want to be the head of the state? dammed if i know. i do not pass the buck nor do i alibi out of any decision i have to make." it empathize his pride, but also his resentment toward advisors who were suggesting perhaps a more cautious approach to the berlin crisis. note to the variations of that same phrase -- "we stay in berlin" -- appear no fewer than six times in the documents i have cited. the only inconsistency is that he made the decision 10 days ago about july 9 when in fact he
stated this basic principle as far back as june 28, at the beginning of the crisis. it appears truman was making his position on berlin as clear as possible in private meetings, secret cables, and in his personal diary, but what was he saying about the berlin blockade in public? the answer, absolutely nothing. or almost nothing. on a july news conference, the president was asked what he thought about the berlin blockade. "i have no comment," he replied. he did not refer reporters to a statement by the u.s. secretary of state the previous day, reaffirming the u.s. commitment to stay in berlin. on july 15, truman went to the democratic national convention in philadelphia, and delivered a fiery speech accepting the nomination for president. this seemed to be a dramatic -- to be an ideal occasion for
the denunciation of the russians. but truman did not even mention the berlin crisis in his speech. on july 22, it was time for another news conference. the first question -- mr. berlin -- mr. president, what you make of the situation in berlin? truman's response, "no comment." he was asked if he would discuss the berlin crisis in his upcoming speech to congress. "i will not," he said, and again repeated "i will not." in answer to a further inquiry, he referred reporters to a statement by the secretary of state. it is a remarkable for during the first three months of the berlin crisis, late june to late september, while the air support was increasing in intensity, negotiations between russia and the western allies dragged on. president truman never mentioned berlin in public statements. when repeatedly asked about the
crisis, he responded by referring reporters to statements made by his secretary of state. that does not sound like give 'em hell harry. his public reticence in the face of what he must have regarded as russia's outrageous violation of hard-won american rights in germany is not in keeping with his popular image. it may be consistent with an interpretation of his actions offered by some historians. according to this view, when truman said, we stay in berlin, he did not really mean it. he was playing for time. keep in mind, we know his military advisers warned him the allies could not hope to supply berlin by air alone, at least not during the winter months that loomed ahead. there was an alternative, as you may know, by the tenant general -- tenacious lieutenant general
lucius clay. armed convoy. even clay admitted the use of an armed convoy raised the risk of war, and truman rejected that option the time being. so, the airlift was seen, at least initially, as at best a temporary solution. if it failed, truman knew he would be faced with a terrible choice. abandon berlin or run the risk of war by resorting to more aggressive military action. the airlift, according to this view, allowed truman to postpone making a decision he did not want to make. but truman was lucky. the spectacular success of the berlin airlift, the success of pilots meant that he never had to make that decision. against all expectations, the western allies were able to fly
in enough supplies to sustain the population in west berlin 1948during the winter of -1949. recognizing the failure of the gambit, the russians called off the blockade in may of 1949 to build up supplies in the city. the americans and their allies continued to supply until may 30 of 1949. truman was still waiting his -- weighing his long-term options. even while saying we stay in berlin, he was holding in his mind the position of abandoning the u.s. position in berlin if forced to abandon it. but why did he keep reaffirming to one adviser after another his determination to stay in berlin ? why would he repeat and underlying this words in his personal diary, which he
regarded as a historic document. it has been suggested by some historians that truman was kidding himself. according to this interpretation, his private bluster about staying in berlin was in marked contrast to his public reticence on the subject. it reflected a personal obsession with appearing to because and decisive. and decisive. some scholars have traced this obsession to the conditions of truman's early life and the circumstances under which he became president. his father was a farmer and mule traitor. aung truman was a bit of sissy, by his own admission, a scholarly boy who took piano lessons. a need for his father's approval may have led to a need to appear tough and masculine. in 1945, this little man from missouri, who had never even
attended college, was called upon to succeed a legendary political leader during a period of great crisis. he tried to conceal his feelings of inadequacy. from others, and perhaps from himself as well, by projecting an image of toughness and confronting every challenge with a show of bellicose defiance. thus he has been described as "a man who compensated for his insecurities with calculated displays of decisiveness." more to the point, daniel harrington has suggested that "truman believed that presidents must take charge of events, and his deep psychological need to see himself as a decisive leader caused him to exaggerate the firmness of his berlin policy, thin and later." this psychological interpretation of harry truman as a little boy whistling past the graveyard of his own
insecurities may be satisfying to those of us who disagree with decisions he made as president, but we must face the fact that truman probably would have made the same decisions even if he had been perfectly secure in his masculinity and free of self-doubt, if there was ever a president entirely free of self-doubt. for a political leader, what is the real distinction between being tough and pretending to be tough? it may be worthwhile to recall the words of kurt vonnegut. "we are what we pretend to be, so we must be very careful about ." thee pretend to be consequences in berlin were similar. leaving aside posthumous psychoanalysis from moment, the fact is truman repeatedly said the u.s. would stay in berlin a matter what. the evidence that he really didn't mean it is, frankly, pretty flimsy. admiral william leahy, the
military chief of staff, remembers truman telling him on june 29, a few days after the blockade began, that the u.s. would stay in berlin "as long as possible. cap -- as long as possible. on july 19, the secretary of defense recorded in his diary a statement to the effect that truman would stay in berlin and till all diplomatic means had been exhausted in order to come to some kind of accommodation to avoid war. a little more ambiguous. but these are recollections or interpretations by others of our -- what truman said or meant during the first weeks of the crisis. they were obliged to point out to the president the limitation of american resources in europe and the hazards involved in any allied response to the russian blockade. i should also note that leahy, though he was greatly liked by truman, was the same man who predicted a few years earlier it would never go off.
spoke as an expert of armaments. i think truman never had the same amount of confidence in him after that. is a different story. truman was beginning to lose confidence in the man he selected as secretary of defense in 1947. he saw him as a increasingly unconfident. and he resigned and subsequently committed suicide, but truman did not know the extent of his problems in 1948. but he was beginning to lose confidence in him. their advice may not have meant that much to truman anyway. the recollections certainly confirm that truman did not want
to go to war with russia over berlin. this did not mean he would abandon the city without further military action, including possibly the use of armed convoys to resupply the city. it seems to me the following scenario is more plausible. truman's immediate reaction to the blockade is the position in west berlin would have to be maintained at all costs. this reaction was reinforced by the advice he received in the events that occurred over the next five weeks. the meeting of the national security comes along july to any -- 22nd, 1948. general clay told the president the abandonment of berlin would have a disastrous impact on american plans for western germany and therefore the economic reconstruction of western europe. clay went on to say "if we move out of berlin, we have lost everything we are fighting for." "the president stated that this was also his opinion." truman did not want a war for berlin,
but he a good reason to believe the russians did not want a war either. he received a secret memo from the director of intelligence reporting on a recent meeting between a group of russian officials headed by a russian and a group of german industrialists. how the cia got this information, i have no idea. the germans warned the russians that the blockade would have a devastating effect on sugar refining, fishing, and other industries. according to the memo, sokolovsky expressed consternation, having been led to believe that the used could -- east could be independent of the west. the russians warned that the steel mills could not undulate produce supplies to the west. the russians appeared greatly shocked, and one general declared, if we had known this,
we would not have gone so far. one of the russians in the memo is quoted as aiding flatly that -- saying flatly that a war with the western allies would be impossible because of economic conditions and bad harvest prospect. general clay agreed with this assessment. july 22, he told truman that he did not think the russians were planning for war, noting there had been no troop movements are -- or other signs to indicate they were preparing for war. in the event of hostilities, clay told the president the russians have about 360,000 ground and air personnel in germany compared to an ally force of 210,000. obviously a disadvantage from ally.a. point of view -- point of view. but not an overwhelming one. and the allies, specifically the united states, possess the weapon the russians did not have. truman understood, as kennedy did during the cuban missile crisis, under tents -- tense circumstances, an
action could lead to war even if neither side wanted it. this caused him to reject clay's proposal. he did approve a proposal that dispatched b-29s to europe. they were well known as the airplanes that dropped atomic bombs on hiroshima and nagasaki. they were not equipped with atomic weapons, but those know what the russians to know this. -- there was no way for the russians to know this. he was determined to stay in berlin, as truman said repeatedly. he did not flail at the russians with defiant rhetoric, however tempting it may have been to do so. surely he was not reticent because he was holding out the possibility of abandoning the city. rather i think he was hoping negotiations would go forward. even a few public statements about the crisis. very few public
statements about the crisis. he believed the russians were bluffing, using the currency in sectors of western religion as an excuse to force the western allies out of the city without an armed conflict -- western berlin as an excuse to force the western allies out of the city without an armed conflict. he had made his decision about berlin. he also wanted to avoid war, and he had good reason to think it could be avoided. ultimately, the success of the airlift enabled the president to achieve both of his objectives. in all likelihood, truman's actions during the blockade would have been the same if his father had been an interior decorator instead of a mule traitor. -- trader. we will never know what would've happened if the airlift had failed to supply west berlin, anymore than we would know what kind of emails truman would
exchange or whether tweets between truman and stalin would have made things worse. it was a different time. truman, in his response to be berlin blockade was seeking to employ all measures short of war -- not in impulsive, reckless manner, but at the same time, not wavering from his commitment to maintain the allied position in berlin. -- a contributed to a successful outcome of the berlin crisis 1.0, i guess we would call it today. thank you. [applause]
>> outstanding. thank you. i will say from my own research, it is such a fascinating thing to look back and will us, at -- realize at the time all of this is happening, the cia is a brand-new organization and all these brilliant people in washington are creating think pieces and singing them to the -- sending them to the president. i have some of them with me today. they are interesting. i will make this brief because i know we have to move on, but just how close, what did they think what was going to happen was something you just addressed. in 1948, this is what the cia said. the preponderance of evidence derived from the logic of the situation supports the
conclusion that the ussr will not resort to direct military action during 1948. if you turn the page, however, you will read what the cia thought of the soviet military, exactly how strong it was, and how bad it would be if things went the wrong direction. we talked about james forrestal. i would say the most interesting thing i pulled from his diary just in my own head was looking at the situation and thinking if things went wrong. he said in his diary we had the bomb and the soviets didn't. but if we had a war, even our possession of the atomic bomb could not stop the soviet military from conducting operations against us. that is how bad things could have gotten. thankfully it did not go that way. let me see who we have next. pardon me for a second. i'm sorry.
dr. leffler? ladies and gentlemen, melvin leffler of the university of virginia. [applause] prof. leffler: it is a pleasure to be here again. the comments i have today about truman and the united states in the origins of nato follow-up on my remarks in a longer address about the origins of the cold war. once again, i am going to focus on the origins of nato, the united states, and the origins of nato, and sort of a big theme i want to argue, a big theme i want to emphasize -- nato, of course, was one of truman's major accomplishments.
one of his greatest achievements was nato. the point i want to stress is he entered the alliance. he signed the north atlantic treaty reluctantly, even almost grudgingly and under relentless pressure from the british and the french. let me create the context for this. truman was not eager to incur strategic commitments in europe or anywhere else in the world. truman was imbibed with the basic american tradition. what was the basic american tradition? no entangling.
warnedwashington had against entangling alliances. thomas jefferson had warned against entanglements. of course, the united states had been an associated power during world war i -- and associated power, not in ally -- of france and britain during world war i. the united states had been part of the great alliance that had triumph over the nazis in world war ii. at the end of the war, most americans, including president truman wanted to be free of obligations. when he went to the potsdam conference in summer of 1945, when he first met churchill, the talk we heard about a few minutes ago, read truman's
diaries. he was suspicious, not only of stalin, but also churchill. basically, he did not like foreigners. he wanted to promote american interest, and he said that again and again and again. and as was indicated, when churchill gave that remarkable address at westminster college in february 1946, president truman was unhappy about the invitation to join an alliance with great britain. he always suspected the british, whether it be churchill or bevan, were trying to trick the united states into doing something that might not comport with basic american interests. so, truman wanted to be free of engagements and obligations and in that respect he represented
the will of most americans. this was accentuated in the fall of 1946. won a smashing the electoral victory and gaining control of the house of representatives and the united states senate. the republicans definitely did not want commitments in europe. the republicans did not embrace any degree of the american alliance. one of the important things the truman administration had done in early 1946 was to extend, the u.s. government extend a major loan to great britain. something that was really important to the british, facing a major financial crisis. truman did embrace the loan.
he supported the loan. but it engendered tremendous amounts of republican criticism, and truman took this electoral victory for what it was, and it was a commitment by the american people and the republicans to focus on what we will now -- what we would now call "america first." but as i claimed in my talk last night, in early 1947, truman became aware of the huge transformation of conditions going on in the world. he understood the need to shore up the anglo american presence in the eastern mediterranean. when the british announced they were pulling out of the eastern mediterranean, and would not support greece or the turks, both of whom were under pressure, truman understood the worsening economic situation in
western europe in early 1947. and of course, he announced the truman doctrine in march 1947, and he followed this up in june of 1947 by supporting marshall's famous commencement address to help expedite for the united states to provide huge loans to europe, to expedite the economic recovery of western europe, and undercut the support that local communist parties in france and italy and greece had, capitalizing upon the misery that existed in those countries.