January 30, 2015

1943. The Third Moscow Conference

Moscow Meeting Under Way in Glow of Optimistic Cheer
"At the Moscow Conference in August 1942, W. Averell Harriman, President Franklin Roosevelt's special representative, met with Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin to discuss the Soviet proposal for a second-front assault on Germany and alternative plans for Allied landings in North Africa. Interpreter V. N. Pavlov (left) and Soviet statesman Vyacheslav M. Molotov (right) are also pictured (W. Averell Harriman Papers)" (W. Averell Harriman Papers - source)

From Newsweek, November 1, 1943:

Moscow Meeting Under Way in Glow of Optimistic Cheer

Speed and Smooth Schedule Hint at Progress Being Made by Allied Foreign Chiefs

By BILL DOWNS
The centerpiece on the table was in the form of three intertwined flags—American, British, and Russian. The symbolism was real and important. For around that table in the onetime music room of the Spiridonovka Palace gathered the foreign affairs heads of the United States, Britain, and Russia. Although the three countries had been linked by war for nearly two years, this was the first formal meeting of their representatives.

In Washington, London, and Moscow, statesmen had held their breath as the conference started. There were so many things that could easily wreck it But as the daily meetings went on between the delegations of the three powers, a distinct glow of optimism emanated from the Soviet capital. There was no sign of any serious dispute. Neither was there any news of exactly what was going on. But in the atmosphere, in the personal actions of the diplomats were all the indications of success.

The welcome accorded Secretary of State Cordell Hull and Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden on Oct. 18 set the tone for the meeting. At the very moment that Hull stepped down from his four-engined Douglas transport at the Moscow airport, a military band struck up "The Stars and Stripes Forever" and quickly followed with the "Internationale." British, American, and Russian flags whipped in the breeze. A crack platoon from the Moscow garrison snapped to attention. Foreign Commissar Vyacheslaff Molotoff advanced to meet the Secretary, and the two inspected the guard of honor. As they did so, a dozen Soviet cameramen began taking pictures. Hull turned to Molotoff and said: "I thought we had all the cameramen in America." The Foreign Commissar replied: "No, we have at least 1 per cent of them."

An hour later, Foreign Secretary Eden swept down out of the skies in a Liberation bomber. Wearing a brown felt hunting hat he stepped from the plane, and the band swelled forth with "God Save the King" and the "Internationale." Then when the guard of honor marched past—with a new parade step in which they stamped their feet on the ground—Molotoff remarked: "We diplomats must learn from the soldiers who are harmoniously keeping in step." This seemed to strike Eden as a good idea for he replied: "Yes, we must keep in step."

Business: The conference settled down to business as soon as the American and British delegations arrived. In deference to Hull, the Russians changed their usual practice of beginning talks at night and continuing them until dawn. The formal meetings were held in the afternoon, following a briefing session which Hull and Eden each held with their respective aides. Then they went to the Spiridonovka Palace, a onetime Moscow merchant prince's flat-topped mansion set behind a walled garden and a tennis court, which was converted into an official guest house by the Soviets.

Exactly twelve chairs were drawn up at the circular conference table in the music room. Three smaller tables flanked the main one. The light from a crystal chandelier shone on the green tapestry and oak woodwork and cast its rays on a painting of the signing of the Anglo-Russian alliance last year. Large Dutch stoves built into the corners of the room and reaching to the ceiling provided a warm glow of heat.

The aides assisting Hull, Eden, and Molotoff varied from day to day. In the first meetings the foreign chiefs were significantly accompanied by their military advisers: Lt. Gen. Sir Hastings L. Ismay, Churchill's tall, husky, square-faced chief of staff; Brig. Gen. John R. Deane, former secretary to the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington and slated to remain in Moscow as head of an American military mission; and Marshall Klementi Voroshiloff, Russian comander-in-chief up to 1940.

A good deal of the optimism about the meeting sprang from the fact that these first talks at which the military advisers were present apparently proceeded smoothly, for they were concerned with the explosive question on the second front. With that hurdle past, political discussions to get under way. In this field the advisers were James C. Dunn, political expert of the State Department, William Strang of the British Foreign Office, and Andrei Vyshinsky, Russian delegate to the Mediterranean Commission. The new American Ambassador, W. Averell Harriman, also acted as a personal adviser to Hull.

Something of the pace of the discussions was indicated when the dapper Jimmy Dunn walked into the lounge of the American Embassy, flopped into the chair, and said: "By god, I've got a vacation." A correspondent asked if the conference was over and Dunn wearily replied: "Hell, no. I've got 45 minutes off with nothing to do."

Precautions: All the foreign chiefs established offices in Spiridonovka House, with quarters for their principal advisers as well as for more minor officials. Thousands of words had to be copied from the minutes of the meetings and a flood of reports sent to London and Washington. Hull's staff was obliged to set up an additional office in the game room of the American Embassy, where the work table was a former table-tennis court and the staff sometimes took time off to shoot kelly pool on a pool table. The files were put up in a cocktail room and guarded night and day by two men who slept there.

As a result of all these precautions, American and British correspondents found themselves with practically nothing to write about. What they did have came mostly from press conferences held by Michael J. McDermott, chief of the current-information division of the State Department, who accompanied Hull. Mike McDermott astonished newsmen accustomed to Soviet methods by offering to hold four press conferences a day. Two were finally agreed upon, and McDermott so endeared himself to the correspondents that they voted to bestow upon him a wonderful title in the Russian style—"Hero of Journalistic Labor."

Hull: The pressure of work at the meeting did not seem to have any effect on Secretary Hull, whose health and age had nearly prevented him from coming. The weather was unseasonably fine for Moscow and the Secretary's health continued good, although he caught a slight cold just before holding a private discussion with Molotoff in the Kremlin. (Eden talked with Stalin, who donned a new uniform as marshal of the Red Army for the occasion of the meeting.)

Hull was given an upstairs bedroom in Spasso House, the American Embassy. There he managed every morning to have his accustomed eggs for breakfast. But in order to get oatmeal for him, his personal physician had to call on Lend-Lease authorities, who were able to draw on their stocks for this reverse transaction.

Other members of the American delegation were scattered over Moscow. One group was quartered at the National Hotel on a main downtown crossing near Red Square. At noon so many Americans scurried past the National Hotel corner that it looked like a bit of transplanted Washington.

On Oct. 23, when the conference had apparently reached about midstream in its deliberations, it received its final taste of what has become one of wartime Moscow's most characteristic features. On that night 224 guns fired twenty salvos in celebration of the surrender of Melitopol. As the guns rocked the city, the future looked as bright as the red, green, and blue flares that illuminated the sky.