For more than half a century, every sixth of June, countless patriotic Americans, Britons, Canadians and others gather to pay homage to thousands of young men who “gave their lives for their country” on the beaches of Normandy. More than 200,000 American fighting men were killed in World War II, together with 375,000 British and millions of other nationalities.
Most of these deaths occurred after mid-1943, when it was clear to all concerned that the Axis and Japan had lost. Why did the fighting continue for two years after the issue had been decided?
Suppose the United States had been presented with the opportunity to end World War II in 1943 on far more favourable terms than it was able to get after the sacrifice of so many lives in the subsequent two years. The countries of Eastern Europe, Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Albania would have been kept out of the hands of the Communists.
Perhaps even the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia would have regained their independence from the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler would have been deposed and either killed or turned over to allied authorities, and a united, non-Communist, anti-Nazi Germany would have peacefully given up its European conquests.
That they would have passed up such an opportunity is next to inconceivable to anyone who has received the standard education in American history. It would not be at all shocking, though, to anyone familiar with what has been revealed about the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration.
The fact is that they were given just such an opportunity, but the president didn’t so much as give it a second look. The conveyor of the message from the German power brokers to FDR, his friend and special envoy to neutral Turkey, former Pennsylvania governor George Earle, was as dumbfounded and disappointed as most Americans would have been. He didn’t know what we now know-but most Americans still don’t-about Roosevelt and his administration. Governor Earle had no way of knowing, for instance, that FDR had been told on good authority in 1939 that his government was laced with Stalin’s agents, throughout the State and Treasury Departments and right up to the White House, and he did absolutely nothing about it. He even allowed the named agents to rise to positions of greater power and influence.
Governor Earle would not have known that when Rep. Martin Dies had similarly presented the president with evidence of wholesale Communist infiltration of the government in 1940, Roosevelt had responded:
“I do not regard the Communists as any present or future threat to any country, in fact I look upon Russia as our strongest ally in the years to come. As I told you before, you should confine yourself to Nazis and Fascists. While I do not believe in Communism, Russia is far better off and the world is safer with Russia under Communism than under the Czars. Stalin is a great leader, and although I deplore some of his methods, it is the only way he can safeguard his government.”
Governor Earle would not have known that FDR had also told Dies, “I do not believe in Communism any more than you do, but there is nothing wrong with the Communists in this country. Several of the best friends I have are Communists.” Neither would Earle have known that FDR had confided to then Archbishop Francis Spellman that when the war was concluded he thought that the Communists would control about 40 percent of the world and that was pretty much as it should be.
Most importantly, Governor Earle would not have known that Roosevelt’s closest adviser on both foreign and domestic matters, Harry Hopkins, was, in all likelihood, an espionage agent for Joseph Stalin.
It may be a novel idea these days, the US Middle Eastern policy being what it is, but when Governor Earle went to Turkey he no doubt thought he was representing a government that put the interests of his own country first. Any foreign policy moves that appeared to run completely counter to U.S. interests he would have probably chalked up to stupidity. He would not be aware of what would lie behind the statement that then Navy Secretary James Forrestal would make to the newly elected Senator Joe McCarthy in 1946, “McCarthy, consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor.”
The American public has probably never heard of Governor Earl’s repeated attempts to end the war against Germany through the surrender of the German army and the trial and execution of Hitler by our armed forces.
If Roosevelt had accepted this capitulation, practically on his own terms, it would have been the end of Hitler and Nazism. Freedom and democracy would have been restored to Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and other nations. It is enough to make you weep….
This 1943 peace overture was far from the only one made by high German officials to the U.S. government. John Dombrowski, in his December 1997 Culture Wars article, “The Greatest War Crime,” lists a number of them. Canaris, himself, as Dombrowski notes, hardly put all his eggs in the George Earle basket. He also made contact with the head of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor of the CIA, William J. Donovan, through a subordinate of his who was an old friend of Donovan. Donovan received about the same reaction from Roosevelt that Adolf Berle had received in 1939 when he brought the revelations from Whittaker Chambers of massive Communist infiltration of the government. “In spite of Donovan’s pleadings ‘President Roosevelt… flatly declined to negotiate’” with key men such as Canaris whom he characterized as “these East German Junkers.”
Standing as an obstacle to any negotiated surrender, as noted by Admiral Canaris, was Roosevelt’s stubborn adherence to the “unconditional surrender” demand that he had announced at the Casablanca Conference in January of 1943. But what could have lain behind a policy that made the achievement of the political aims of the war so much more difficult for the United States? Roosevelt’s fundamental anti-German prejudice has been offered as one explanation. But that would not explain the rigid application of the same policy toward Japan, as well. Maybe one could credit that to the anti-Japanese attitude of Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, but no one forced Roosevelt to put the Republican war hawk Stimson in that position.
When FDR propounded his “unconditional surrender” policy at Casablanca, it was opposed by both Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. Looking at who benefitted from it most, one can’t help but suspect that Stalin’s objections were insincere and cosmetic. Communist gains and American military costs both human and material in the Pacific theater rivaled those in Europe from our adherence to the “unconditional surrender” doctrine. Advised by the same people who advised FDR, President Truman responded to his own Secretary of the Navy, James Forrestal, and his peace efforts the same way that Roosevelt responded to George Earle.
One might conclude from all this that too little heed was paid to the von Clausewitz dictum and lacked a clear vision of America’s political objectives in the war. The preponderance of evidence indicates, however, that Forrestal’s suggestion to McCarthy was right on the money, that they weren’t just bunglers. The objectives of those with the power were all too clear in their minds; they just weren’t those that served the best interests of the American people.