How FDR Dragged Out WW II for Stalin
War is the continuation of politics by other means. Carl von Clausewitz
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? -- John Dombrowski
Suppose the United States had been presented with the opportunity to end World War II in 1943 on far more favorable 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 we 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 on this web site.
The fact is that we 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 our country. In fact I look upon Russia as our strongest ally in the years to come. As I told you when you began your investigation, 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, our 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.”
What follows is a long excerpt from Appendix III of the little-known 1976 book by Hamilton Fish, FDR, The Other Side of the Coin: How We Were Tricked into World War II entitled “Interview between Curtis B. Dall and Former Governor George Earl [sic] of Pennsylvania Regarding Secret Efforts of High German Officers and Officials to Surrender Eighteen Months before the End of the War”:
Colonel Curtis B. Dall, the author of FDR, My Exploited Father-in-Law, very kindly gave me permission to use parts of his interview with former Governor George Earl of Pennsylvania, a close friend of President Roosevelt and his appointee as minister to Austria and minister to Bulgaria. In 1943 Earl was the special envoy of the president as naval attaché to neutral Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey, to keep the White House informed of what was going on in the Balkans and in Germany.
Colonel Dall lunched with Earl many years after the war. The latter opened the conversation by saying, “Dall, I told your father-in-law, FDR, when I was his naval attaché in Istanbul, how we could greatly shorten World War II. The governor then proceeded to unfold an amazing story.
Governor Earl arrived in Istanbul in the spring of 1943. He told me one morning there was a knock on his hotel room door. He opened it and there stood a broad-shouldered, medium-sized man in civilian clothes who requested an informal conference. He presented himself as Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the German Secret Service. The gist of the conversation was, there were many sensible German people who loved their fatherland and who greatly disliked Adolf Hitler, feeling that Hitler was leading their nation down a destructive path. Admiral Canaris continued, saying that the unconditional surrender policy recently announced by Roosevelt and Churchill at Casablanca was something the German generals could not swallow. He said, however, if President Roosevelt would merely indicate he would accept an honorable surrender from the German army to American forces, such an event could be arranged. That the real enemy of western civilization (Soviet Communism) could then be stopped. The German army, if so directed, would move to the eastern front and stop the Communist army’s march into eastern Europe. The Soviets’ main objective was to establish themselves as the supreme power in Europe.
The governor remarked that at first he was staggered, but was extremely cautious of his reaction to the admiral and to the startling proposal.
Then followed a meeting with the German ambassador Fritz von Papen, a devout Roman Catholic and strongly anti-Hitler in his feelings. The governor told me that he soon became convinced of the sincerity manifested by the anti-Nazi Germans. Becoming further informed concerning the hidden designs of the Soviet forces, he promptly dispatched a coded message to FDR in Washington via the diplomatic pouch reporting the whole matter. He then waited for the requested prompt reply. None came. Thirty days later, as agreed, Admiral Canaris phoned him and asked, “Have you any news?” The governor replied, “I am waiting for news but have none today.”
The same question was again posed to Governor Earl by Baron von Lersner, who headed the Orient Society. If the anti-Nazi forces in Germany delivered the German army to the American forces, could they then count on allied cooperation in keeping the Soviets out of central Europe? Hence, if Roosevelt would merely agree to an “honorable surrender,” von Lersner stated, even if Hitler was not killed by his group, he would be handed to the Americans. Furthermore, the Soviet army could be held in check and contained in suitable areas.
Again, the governor said, he dispatched an urgent coded message to the White House, pleading with President Franklin Roosevelt to explore what the anti-Nazis had to offer. Still no reply came back to him!
Then followed another meeting with von Lersner, who came up with an added plan to surround Hitler’s remote eastern military headquarters, then move the German army to the eastern front until a ceasefire could be arranged.
Governor Earl said he then prepared and sent a most urgent message to Roosevelt in Washington, not only via the diplomatic pouch but through Army-Navy channels, this time to make sure the important message got through to FDR. He said he felt that FDR and his top advisers were under the spell of Joe Stalin, or that he, Roosevelt, mistakenly felt that he could “charm” Stalin.
A plane had been readied in Istanbul, he said; upon receipt of the hoped-for favorable reply from Roosevelt Governor Earl was to fly to an undisclosed spot in Germany, there to receive more details leading to surrender terms to be sent at once to the White House for further action. The plane near Istanbul awaited the next step—and it waited and waited.
The governor said he was getting more and more discouraged and frustrated when no reply came from Washington in response to his urgent messages.
Finally, in effect, a purported answer did come. It was the he should take up with the field commander in Europe any proposals for a negotiated peace. Could any procedure have been more impractical or tragic?
Governor Earl continued, “I was shocked, greatly disheartened, and felt my usefulness was about over. So I returned to the U.S.A., came back home, and World War II proceeded along its scheduled course until the Soviets sat astride Europe.”
He then added, after a while, “However, I decided to make known some of my views and observations about our so-called allies, the Soviets, so as to wake up the American people about what was really going on. I contacted the president about it, but he reacted strongly and specifically forbade me to make my views known to the public. Then, upon my requesting active duty in the Navy, I was ordered to Samoa in the distant South Pacific. There my extensive experience with the double-faced Soviets and our lost opportunity to stop needless carnage, to prevent a great Soviet victory in Europe would not make any impression on the friendly Samoans.”
Here is a truthful account by former Governor Earl of Pennsylvania, a friend and supporter of FDR, as to how he conveyed to President Roosevelt, eighteen months before the end of the war, a direct offer from the German army to surrender to the American army and kill Hitler or turn him over to American control. In return the German army offered to fight to prevent Stalin and the Communists from taking over the free and independent eastern European nations and bringing communism [sic] into central Europe. What a tragedy!
The freedom and democracy for which we fought was destroyed in eastern Europe. FDR refused to accept a black-out of Nazism, the protection of Poland and eastern European nations from Communist domination, and to save the lives of scores of thousands of American, British and French soldiers and enormous additional war costs.
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…. (pp. 237-241)
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, both Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin opposed it. 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 we simply paid too little heed to the von Clausewitz dictum and lacked a clear vision of our political objectives in the war. The preponderance of evidence indicates, however, that Forrestal’s suggestion to McCarthy was right on the money, that we 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.
October 31, 2012
A reader has sent me information both fleshing out Governor Earle’s account, and showing that the Roosevelt administration followed up a bit more than Governor Earle knew, but still ended up passing up this golden opportunity to end the war earlier on very favorable geopolitical terms for no very good reason. The fleshing out was in two articles: (1) One based on an extensive interview of Earle in the January 30, 1949, Philadelphia Inquirer and (2) most revealingly in the August 1958 issue of the now defunct Confidential magazine in an article by George Earle himself titled “F.D.R.’s Tragic Mistake!”
“The President,” Earle concludes, “forbade this ‘betrayal of an ally’ (The Soviet Union). To make sure I obeyed orders, he sent me to Samoa, in the South Pacific, as an assistant governor to 16,000 island natives. I remained there in exile until recalled by President Truman, four months later.
“’If’ is the biggest two-letter word in the English language. If President Roosevelt had accepted Papen’s peace offer and agreed to its one condition, it is my firm conviction that the war would have ended by January, 1944, at the latest!
“Without Germany, Japan would have collapsed. Thousands of lives and billions of dollars would have been saved. Entire cities, later bombed to ruins, would have escaped destruction. The red threat of Communism would have been beheaded in its infancy, long before it engulfed Europe and Asia, long before its rule-byterror imperiled every freedom-loving nation on earth.
“Finally, and most important of all, without the help of the German scientists they ultimately captured, the Russians would never have been able to develop long-range missiles or nuclear weapons. The military supremacy of the United States would be clear and unchallenged.” (emphasis added by Earle)
The follow-up and confirmation of Earle’s account of the German peace offers come from the originator of the offers, himself, General Franz Von Papen. They are found in General Von Papen’s Memoirs, published in English translation in 1953. Later in 1943, according to Von Papen, he had a meeting set up by a trusted intermediary with a man, whom he does not identify by name, in his late thirties and carrying a Portugese passport who said he was an emissary from FDR. He proposed a peace agreement with the only condition being that Hitler must be arrested and turned over to the allies, who would give him a “fair trial.” The visitor to the German embassy in Turkey brought with him a microfilm with proposals for restoring German influence in Eastern Europe that looked very promising as a basis for a settlement. After a follow-up meeting outside the embassy the next day in which the Germans attempted to get a guarantee of a written commitment from FDR to hold up the U.S. end of the bargain and the man futilely attempted to get Von Papen to come to Cairo for a direct meeting with FDR where he was coming for a conference.
“We parted on the understanding that he would come to see me again as soon as he had got in touch with the President.”
But that was the last they saw of the man. “I was left entirely in the dark,” writes Von Papen, “as to whether there was any alternative to ‘unconditional surrender’ as a basis for peace.” (pp. 504-505)
December 6, 2014