The Third World War
|The cover art of Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, depicting a fictional World War III ending with the occupation of the Soviet Union (Illustration by Richard Deane Taylor)|
This literary narrative by Robert E. Sherwood outlines the full history of this war. The story begins with an assassination attempt on Marshal Josip Tito in Belgrade.
From Collier's magazine, October 27, 1951, pp. 19-20; 22-31; 68-78:
THE THIRD WORLD WAR
By ROBERT E. SHERWOOD
Resulting from a terrible Kremlin miscalculation, it plunged a whole world into incredible horror. But the outcome was inevitable: a smashing victory for the West, and the promise of a better era.
Since the end of hostilities in 1955 the UN Historical Commission has been preparing the history of the War with the U.S.S.R. The completion of this massive work is many years distant, but Collier's at this time has asked Robert E. Sherwood, one of the American delegates, to write a broad outline of the findings to date. — THE EDITORS
The most unnecessary, most senseless and deadliest war in history—the third World War—reached the shooting stage at exactly 1:58 p. m. G.M.T., Saturday, May 10, 1952.
At that moment, Marshal Tito smiled benevolently at a delegation of 120 Serbian peasants whose leather-thonged moccasins scuffed on the forecourt of the White Palace in Belgrade as they rushed toward him cheering and singing: "Tito our little white violet."
They were peasants of the state farm at Bavanište, one of the first collectives established in Yugoslavia. They were on hand to receive the marshal's personal thanks for their seven years of above-quota production. Tito had been coming ever closer physically to the people. In recent public appearances he had often been engulfed by crowds of admirers—once at the opening of an art exhibit and again at the ceremony celebrating the linking of two branches of the Youth Railway in Bosnia.
This had been a source of extreme worry to General Alexander Ranković, the devoted officer who was responsible for Tito's security. But Tito scoffed at the general's fears and constantly sought to wave away the secret police when they intervened between him and the enthusiastic crowds.
Ranković infiltrated several of his own policemen, dressed in peasant costumes, among the delegation from Bavanište. He did not know that the MVD in Moscow had also infiltrated two of its secret agents into this crowd. They were Dushan Petrović and Luka Borlic, Moscow-trained fanatics who knew only one god, and that one god was Stalin.
In the past four years they had been extremely clever in giving the Yugoslav secret police no cause whatsoever to suspect them. Their mission in life was the assassination of Tito. They were careful never to depart from the peasant routine. They came to Belgrade only when groups of other coworkers visited the capital. Then they made contact with their MVD liaison in Topčider, the park to which the people of Belgrade flock when the weather is good.
The Bavanište delegation arrived in Belgrade on the evening of May 9th and were installed in the Balkan Hotel in the center of the city. They were welcomed by Ministry of Agriculture officials and told to enjoy themselves in their weekend visit to the capital, the high point of which would, of course, be their reception by Marshal Tito himself.
Petrović and Borlic persuaded several of their comrades to join them in a trip to Topčider's crowded restaurant. As the slivovitz flowed freely, Petrović and Borlic left the table for the washroom, where they were hailed by a friend who greeted them warmly and gave them a handful of cigars, a rare luxury in Yugoslavia at that time. When the assassins returned to their table, they did not share the cigars with their comrades.
The following afternoon, as Petrović and Borlic advanced toward Tito, two of these cigars, unlighted, were clenched in their teeth. There was nothing unusual about this. Other peasants who were lucky enough to have cigarettes or cigars were smoking as they carried baskets of fruit and vegetables for presentation to their leader. It was not considered social awkwardness nor a mark of disrespect.
The assassins maneuvered themselves into positions behind little Maria Serdic, eight years old, who had been selected from Bavanište to present a bouquet of spring flowers to the marshal.
Ranković's policemen were joining in the exuberant shouts of "Zivio Tito!" ("Long live Tito!") and the chanting of "Tito our little white violet." But they were keeping their eyes on the peasants around them.
When they were approximately 20 feet from Tito, first Petrović, then Borlic tossed the cigars at the marshal and, as they did so, flung themselves to the ground.
Two explosions ripped the court and screams reverberated throughout the suburban Dedinje district which the White Palace dominates. The cigars which Petrović and Borlic had obtained in the washroom of Topčider's restaurant were lethal Soviet adaptations of the so-called "Bouncing Betty" pocket grenades developed by the Nazis.
• • •
In Belgrade's magnificent new broadcasting station, the Yugoslavian Symphony Orchestra had just completed the third movement of Beethoven's Fifth. As the sweeping second hand of the studio clock touched 2:00 p. m. G.M.T., six members of the orchestra left their seats. They were armed. One of them advanced to the microphone. The others took up strategic positions around the studio. At that same instant an armed man appeared in the engineering control room. Yugoslavia and monitors throughout the world heard this: "Tito is dead! Tito is dead! The Yugoslav people have arisen and put to death the Fascist, Trotskyite bandit Tito!"
This was the signal for the start of 32 months of unlimited catastrophe for the human race, in the course of which millions of innocent people met violent deaths—millions of people who had asked only for the right to live among their neighbors in peace. Among their scorched, shattered graveyards were the atomized ruins of Washington, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, London and eventually Moscow.
At 2:00 p. m. G.M.T. (it was 9:00 a. m. E.S.T., in Washington) the President of the United States arrived at the Anacostia naval base to board the Presidential yacht Williamsburg for a weekend cruise on Chesapeake Bay. As he boarded the ship he chided the Secretary of the Treasury, who accompanied him, on the "excessive" number of Secret Service men assigned for his protection.
The British Prime Minister at that same moment was driving from London on the Portsmouth Road to the races at Sandown Park. The night before, in the House of Commons, he had listened to speeches by extreme left-wing Socialists demanding drastic reductions in rearmament expenditures.
The President of France was finishing lunch with General Eisenhower in the latter's home at Marnes-la-Coquette, a sleepy suburb of Paris, preparatory to inspecting the latest French armored division to join NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) forces.
In Moscow, at 2:30 p. m. G.M.T., Lavrentiy Beria, head of the MVD, raised his glass and wished long life to Joseph Stalin, who remarked humorously that his life would now be easier with Tito a corpse.
But Tito was no corpse. Petrović made one mistake: when he took the cigar from his mouth, he drew back his hand too deliberately, as though it were not a cigar but a heavy grenade he was hurling. One of Ranković's men who was behind the assassins noticed this odd gesture and shouted "Haida!" ("Watch out!"). There was an instantaneous, long-practiced rush of policemen about Tito's person.
Few eyewitnesses have ever been able to agree in their descriptions of what happened. Five policemen and four innocent peasants lay dead in the forecourt of the White Palace; three other policemen and nine peasants were dying or maimed. The mangled body of little Maria Serdic was covered with the spring flowers from her bouquet.
Petrović and Borlic were also dead, their bodies riddled with bullets from the guns of the police.
Tito was stunned by the explosions, but not so badly that he was unable to give immediate orders for medical aid for the victims of the outrage.
• • •
Within the hour, uprisings organized by the Cominform took place at key points in Yugoslavia; communications were sabotaged throughout the country, including the dynamiting of the radio transmitters, directly after the announcement had been broadcast to the world.
"Yugoslav guards leap to protect Tito as Soviet murder attempt fails. Despite careful Kremlin plotting, incident misfired, set off war" (Painting by Walter Richards, p. 26)
For months, tension had been building in the country over the Macedonian, Albanian and Hungarian minority questions and the Croat-Serb differences. All of this had been carefully fostered by the Cominform, whose agents had been given precise instructions for action when the flash came.
Intense confusion and despair prevailed throughout the nation. The silence of Radio Belgrade was terrifying. To the Yugoslav people—and to the rest of the world— the words "Tito is dead" meant that "Yugoslavia is dead," that the country would now become a slave camp, deprived of independence, dignity and hope. This, of course, was precisely what Moscow had counted on; Stalin, the dictator, had reason to know the overwhelming importance of the person of Tito, the dictator.
Moscow broadcast to the Yugoslavs that not only was their former leader dead, but their country was in a state of revolt "to wipe out the last vestige of Tito's treachery and to liquidate the people's enemies, the lackeys of Wall Street imperialism."
At the height of the terror, the following hurried report was cabled from Belgrade by Collier's correspondent Seymour Freidin:
"A huge mass of humanity, jabbering excitedly, packed the center of the city. Coffeehouses on the Terazije emptied magically and the wicker chairs on the sidewalk cafes were trod to bits by thousands of tramping feet as the crowds milled in search of news at the hub of the capital.
"Office workers—their day completed at 2:00 p. m.—hailed freshly arrived peasants from the outlying districts of the capital, while oxcarts careened into the jammed streets. The screech of automobile brakes could scarcely be distinguished above the rising crescendo of shouts and screams from the hysterical, bewildered Yugoslavs.
"The lone policeman who usually directs traffic in the capital's main square had given up. His light khaki uniform and white-visored cap could be seen occasionally among the dark brown of the army, the blue of special police off duty and the patchwork of frayed civilian clothes and brightly hued peasant dress.
"Among these apprehensive people, agents of Moscow, the agit-props (agitator-propagandists), spread their messages of defeat. To the news-starved population they passed along rumors, which became distorted from mouth to mouth. A cargo plane from Zemun airport, circling the city on a routine flight, was singled out:
"The tragic memories of mass German bombing of Belgrade 11 years before hadn't been effaced from most minds. Hoarse shouts echoed from the crowds. Mothers screamed for their children. On the corner leading toward the domed Parliament building, a group disentangled from the crowd and began to run.
"The streets became a shrieking scene of thousands seeking to fight their way in a wild, aimless dash for safety. 'Russian bombers!' The cry was taken up by 50,000 throats.
"Men, women and children trampled on one another. Horses and oxen snorted in fear and plunged through the hysterical crowds.
"Suddenly, sirens keened above the shouting crowds. The noise only heightened the impression of an air raid. But these were armored cars sealing off the square. Helmeted police and soldiers, tommy guns and bayonet-fixed rifles cradled in their arms, took up positions at every intersection.
"From microphones on the armored cars boomed the message: 'Remain tranquil. Calm yourselves. We are prepared to meet the enemy. Do not help them with hysteria.'
"The soldiers blocked exits from the square. Crowds hurled themselves at the human roadblocks. 'Behave like true Yugoslavs,' the microphones thundered. 'Become quiet! Proceed peacefully to your homes! Otherwise—face the consequences.'
"A wrecked wicker chair was heaved at an armored car. Bottles flew at the police and soldiers. Pandemonium increased. Rifle shots went into the air, but the crowds were beyond control. They flung themselves at the armored cars and armed men.
"Bursts of machine-gun fire raked the square. But the security force was soon swallowed up by the crowd. They fired at one another and at the terror-stricken people. Some were torn to pieces in the nightmarish dash for safety. Within a few minutes the streets were deserted and silent except for the dead that littered the square and the agonizing screams from the wounded and injured."
Within two hours radio broadcasting had been restored in Belgrade and Tito himself went on the air to assure his people and the world that he was very much alive. But it was too late.
At 2:19 p. m. G.M.T. the first Bulgarian tanks thrust across the frontier. In the next 70 minutes Yugoslavia was invaded by satellite troops from Romania, Hungary and Albania. Backing them were 15 divisions of the Red Army (a total of approximately 160,000 men) to be used only in the unlikely event that the satellites would meet with formidable organized resistance from the leaderless Yugoslav forces.
The Moscow propaganda machine was now in full blast, informing the world that this Yugoslav revolt was purely an "internal" matter and that the "People's Democracies of Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania have intervened at the invitation of the patriot leaders of the new People's Republic of Yugoslavia."
At first this misinformation from Moscow was the only news that reached the Western World. Correspondents of the great press associations were unable to transmit the true story, even when they got it, until communications were restored. However, those three words, "Tito is dead," were sufficient to convince the heads of every government that the world had reached another crisis of historic proportions.
The Presidential yacht Williamsburg had not even cast off from the dock when the news came. The President immediately returned to the White House for a meeting with the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Chiefs of Staff. A crowd began to gather outside the White House in Lafayette Square. They were silent; they knew that the biggest news of all would come from the building across Pennsylvania Avenue.
• • •
The British Prime Minister did not see the second race at Sandown Park. There was a crowd, also silent, in Whitehall as his car and those of other Cabinet ministers turned into Downing Street.
Nor did General Eisenhower see the French armored division—not at any rate on this ceremonial occasion. He rushed to the teletype room at SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers, Europe). The President of France dutifully stood to attention while the troops rolled past; he wondered sadly where this grim procession would end.
When Marshal Tito went on the air, he said:
"We have been attacked. Our country has been invaded, without warning, without provocation, from four different points. Many of the invading troops are under direct Soviet command. All of them are under the control of one man, Stalin, the betrayer of the people's trust, the murderer of the great principles of Marx and Lenin.
"I call upon the conscience of mankind to bear witness to this imperialistic act of rape.
"The following Yugoslav towns have been invested: Debar, Yablanitsa, Đakovica, Bezdan and Subotica. Our magnificent army is moving into action and will inflict frightful punishment on these dupes of the Kremlin.
"However, behind the forces of Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Albania are 15 Red Army divisions, ready to come to the rescue of these unfortunates who have been pushed by their Soviet masters into this criminal aggression.
"We have no war with our neighbors to the north and the south. We have no cause for war with Russia herself.
"But war has been made on us and we shall fight it to the death, as we so gloriously fought the Nazis of Adolf Hitler."
Later, Belgrade broadcast the confessions obtained from several ringleaders of the "revolt" who had been quickly rounded up by the police.
Allowing for the obvious colorations of the speeches and bulletins from Belgrade, there was no doubt in the White House, Downing Street or the Quai d'Orsay of the basic legitimacy of Tito's accusations. The deployment of the 15 Soviet divisions close to Yugoslavia's borders was well known to intelligence agencies of the West. It was obvious that the timing of the assassination attempt and the movement of satellite troops could have been ordered only from Moscow.
The very glibness of Radio Moscow was in itself suspicious, to say the least. Within 20 minutes after the first flash from Belgrade, the Soviet propagandist, Ilya Ehrenburg, was broadcasting a speech which appeared to have been long prepared and well rehearsed. (Subsequently we learned from Ehrenburg himself that this speech and many others on Radio Moscow that day had been recorded a week or more previously.)
When the news came that Tito was not dead—indeed that he was talking on the radio—Moscow ignored it for a long time. This was one development that had not been foreseen and rehearsed. Eventually the Kremlin issued orders as to how this was to be handled: the original broadcast of the assassination was to be described as a deliberate fraud by Tito, egged on by the "Western imperialist warmongers, for the purpose of promoting strife in the Balkans and destroying world peace."
During the next few days Tito made good his promise to inflict "frightful punishment" on the satellite invaders. The organization of his command had long been prepared, whereas his immediate attackers were woefully lacking in co-ordination. The highly efficient Yugoslav army of nearly half a million men, a large proportion of whom had been seasoned in actual combat, proved to be more than a match for their bewildered adversaries, who had been propagandized into the belief that they would be welcomed in Yugoslavia as "liberators" and were unprepared psychologically for fierce combat.
The Western World was thrilled by the news of heroic and successful Yugoslav resistance to aggression. The Russian and satellite propaganda agencies tried to claim victories, but there were many reliable press correspondents with the Yugoslav forces (among them Homer Bigart of the New York Herald Tribune, Cyrus Sulzberger of the New York Times, Sefton Delmer of the London Daily Express, Robert Sherrod of Time-Life and Andus Burras of the Oslo Arbeiderbladet) who dramatically verified Tito's claim.
• • •
Yugoslav morale rose to the seething point. This people, who had never capitulated to Hitler, now felt eternally unbeatable, and fought with an exultant ferocity. And as Yugoslav morale ascended, so did Tito's prestige throughout the anti-Communist world. He was the hero of the hour, comparable to the R.A.F. fighters in September, 1940, and General MacArthur and the "Battling Bastards of Bataan" in the grim winter of 1942.
The Communists in Western Europe and in the United States strove submissively to organize public sentiment against intervention in what they termed "this local Balkan revolution," but their clamor was drowned out by the popular cries for aid for "Heroic Yugoslavia."
On Sunday night, May 11th, President Truman broadcast his famous demand to Stalin: "If, as you say, you really want to make peace, the time to make peace is now—it is now or never."
He added that it was "clear to the whole civilized world that these acts of brutal aggression by your satellites have been made at your command. The fighting can be ended also at your command."
The only answer from the Kremlin was a curt restatement of the propaganda line that this was merely an "internal" matter in Yugoslavia.
Forty-eight hours later the 15 Soviet divisions moved into this "internal" matter to take over the war from the disorganized satellite forces. They were supported powerfully by the Soviet air force, which began a systematic bombing of Yugoslav cities. Within eight hours after that, the citizens of Belgrade saw the first dusty tanks of the enemy rumbling through the capital.
Tito's army retreated from Belgrade and the plains of Croatia and the Voivodina to take up the positions in the Bosnian and Serbian mountains from which the Germans had never been able to dislodge them in World War II, and from which they never ceased to harry the Russian left flank in World War III.
By May 14th the United States and all other countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization were committed to the aid of Yugoslavia and the utter defeat of Stalinist Communism. Greece had already entered the war by attacking Albania in support of the Yugoslavs. Turkey's entrance was immediate. Israel joined the UN as a belligerent 10 days later. The most important neutrals at the outset were Sweden, Switzerland, Ireland, Egypt, India and Pakistan. Spain, after considerable delay and indecision, eventually joined the West, but not until one year later.
The branding of the U.S.S.R. and the satellites as aggressors was backed by the overwhelming majority of the United Nations. The Soviet and satellite delegations in New York, together with their diplomatic representatives, were returned to Russia on the Swedish ship Gripsholm.
Strong detachments of U.S. Marines guarded the departing Soviet and satellite diplomats and their truckloads of electric refrigerators, 20-inch television sets, calculating machines and other devices, which they had acquired in America—but all of which, of course, had been invented by the Russians.
When World War III became an inescapable reality the first reaction of the American people was one of relief; whatever horrors were to come (and few people had any real conception of the nature or extent of these horrors, as Americans still felt safe behind the oceans), at least the long period of suspense was ended. There had been a strong sentiment for a "preventive war," a feeling that could be expressed in the weary words, "Oh—let's drop the atom bomb now and get it over with. Let's for once get the jump on the aggressors."
This dangerous policy—which could truthfully be described as "un-American"—had been resolutely rejected by the U.S. government and by the principal leaders of both political parties. But it was still there, beneath the surface, and now it erupted in an outburst of "holy war" hysteria which was fanned into fury by such callous and stupid acts of sabotage by Soviet agents as the bomb planted in New York's Grand Central Terminal which killed 22 innocent people and did no damage whatsoever to the UN war effort.
The more skillful and effective acts of sabotage were carried out by the secret organizations under the directions of the MVD, which the Kremlin had been building up in the U.S. throughout the years. Among their spectacular failures was the attempt to poison Baltimore's water supply and to destroy the Soo Locks in Michigan on the Canadian border. More successful was the sabotage of the electrical supply lines from the plant at Niagara Falls, which stopped a substantial part of U.S. chemical production for a period of nearly a week. The remnants of the American Communist party knew less about these special MVD organizations than the FBI did; they were given only scanty information from the Kremlin, which regarded them with suspicion and contempt. American Communists made some attempts on their own but these were largely amateurish and bungled.
• • •
|"In an effort to terrorize people, Soviet agents planted bomb in New York's Grand Central Terminal, killed 22. Americans were outraged" (Illustration by Birney Lettick, p. 31)|
There was no period of "phony war" as there was at the beginning of World War II—certainly no long years of trench warfare when the front line fluctuated only a few hundred yards one way or the other, as between 1914-1918. Nor were there months and years of sparring while the U.S. made up its mind whether to come in or not, and further months and years for the U.S. to develop its war potential. This time the U.S. was ready and willing to strike immediately—and to strike with the most terrible weapon of all.
Despite Russian expectations, the first American atom bombs did not land on Moscow. In fact, no deliberate attacks were made on Russian population centers until more than a year later. We were not at war with the Russian people and we had no intention of unifying them by bombing any target which might be symbolic of Russian nationalism; therefore, so far as was humanly possible, we aimed at strategic targets only.
Our bombers delivered a concentrated attack of atomic bombs, the like of which had never been dreamed of by the most fanciful author of scientific fiction and which will never be repeated, pray God, again! On that night—May 14th, 1952—atomic bombs fell on the long-range air base outside Smolensk; on the headquarters of the second long-range air army near Vinnitsa-Uman; on the airfields near Warsaw and Sevastopol; and on the Asiatic bases of the Soviet Union at Vladivostok and Petropavlovsk.
These atomic bombings were continued on a round-the-clock basis for a period of three months and 16 days.
All of these raids were made from bases in Britain, France, Italy, Greece, the Middle East, Japan and Alaska. Starting with that first night, we hit A-bomb manufacturing and storage facilities, oil installations, industrial plants and troop concentration areas.
• • •
Now it was World War. The all-too-familiar process was again in operation—but it was to achieve a pattern which had been familiar to no one except the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the goats and guinea pigs at Bikini and Eniwetok.
Such was the start of the consummation of the Atomic Age, the triumph of Man's genius over Nature, and over himself.
Such were the beginnings of the destruction of many of the noblest and least selfish works of Man.
Let us repeat and remember that it was senseless and unnecessary. It accomplished nothing but the defeat of the instigators. It ended several years of an "armed truce." We know now that this armed truce could have been prolonged indefinitely; it should have been resolved peacefully—except that in all history it has never worked out that way.
The bombing raids were costly for the UN. The young men who gave their lives in the first stages of the first phase of the third World War were members of the same generation that Stalin had tried to recruit as members of the "Youth Movement for Peace." Many lives were sacrificed needlessly because of the traditional tendency of politicians to put political expediency first. The late and greatly lamented Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg had said, shortly before he died, that in his devotion to a bipartisan foreign policy he was thinking of the next generation rather than the next election, but his words of wisdom were not sufficiently heeded by some members of the U.S. Congress, who chose to chisel when they should have built. It is a matter of record that when this war started, in May, 1952, the United States had fewer than 97 operational B-36 bombers with which to insure our ability to bomb any point in the Soviet Union from bases in North America.
Although the UN air forces during this first phase of the war had a slight qualitative edge over the Reds, our planes were outnumbered in the principal combat areas by a ratio of five to three. This Soviet advantage was of great importance over the battlefields of Europe. American, British and French infantrymen who were veterans of World War II, with memories of complete Allied supremacy in the air, were particularly bitter that now they had to fight under skies dominated by the enemy. (The same was true of the last remnants of the UN occupation forces in the Korean "Dunkerque," who were subjected to unremitting air and submarine attacks before they could reach the comparative safety of Japan.)
The Reds pushed forward with powerful ground forces of half a million men across the north German plain. This massive movement was orderly and deliberate. They did not seek to duplicate the speed of the German blitz of May, 1940. They were properly aware of the dangers to their lines of communication through Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, northern Yugoslavia and Germany. They knew all too well that these areas between the U.S.S.R. and the theater of operations were to a very large extent hostile territory. The mounting spirit of revolt in the satellite countries was now being fanned into flames by Tito's indomitable resistance and by numbers of secret agents from the Western democracies. No road, no railroad track, no bridge of strategic importance could be considered safe from sabotage.
The heavily outnumbered UN forces could wage only a war of attrition—a strategy of "hold and retreat"—to impose upon the Reds the maximum cost in men and materiel for every yard that they gained. Our own costs were enormous. The UN was compelled to trade precious lives for precious time. The heavy battle casualties were by no means limited to the troops. The miserable masses of refugees were pushed ahead of the Red Army to detonate the mine fields. When these plodding refugees blocked the roads, thereby obstructing the Soviet advance, they were massacred.
Throughout this first phase of the war, from May to December, 1952, the UN buildup of arms continued unceasingly. The Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel were themselves major battlefields as they had been in 1942. The Soviet schnorkel submarines inflicted severe losses in tonnage and in human lives.
On September 4, 1952, a Red Army task force landed in Alaska and succeeded in capturing Nome. It was by no means a major operation indicating serious invasion, but it was extremely effective at the time as propaganda and as a strategic diversion. It caused many people in the U.S. to demand that we withdraw all of our forces from Europe, the Middle East and other points overseas for the defense of our own continent. For this was the first time in 91 years that hostile troops had landed on the North American mainland.
Two days after the landings in Alaska the Red air force delivered the first atomic bomb on American territory. Previously, its main bombing emphasis had been on our overseas bases.
The first atomic target was Hanford, a village on the Columbia River in the state of Washington, a dot on the map, of which few people had ever heard although its identity as the site of an atomic bomb plant had been no secret. Immediately, the American people jumped to the frightened conclusion that this bombing had been done from newly established bases in Alaska. Such was not the case. The base for the raid was on the Chukotski Peninsula in Siberia.
Nine Tupolev bombers, the Soviet copy of the B-29, participated. Only three of these carried atom bombs, the others serving as decoys. One of these three was destroyed in mid-air, another was turned back and dropped its bomb near Vancouver, British Columbia, then crashed into the Canadian forest wilderness. Some of the bombers actually returned to their Siberian bases. The crews of badly damaged planes bailed out and not all of these men were captured or accounted for. We eventually learned that some of them were secret agents equipped with civilian clothes, fake papers, plenty of dollars and a good working knowledge of the English language (in fact, two of them, captured later, were American Communist bail-jumpers).
The bomb which was dropped on Hanford was two and a half times greater in explosive power than the original American bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.
• • •
Having achieved this spectacular strike on a remote, pinpointed military target, the Soviets next aimed to produce unadulterated terror. They wisely selected the most famous industrial city of all—Detroit. This time only one plane carried an atom bomb, but that one reached its target with perfect precision. This bomb exploded above Twenty-third Street and Hancock, West. It visited fearful destruction, devastation and death on an area of about 28 square miles. The annihilating effects of the bomb covered an area of two square miles, about the Lincoln and Cadillac plants, while fire caused extensive damage to the huge Ford plant three and a half miles away. Among the plants outside the radius of damage was the huge Kaiser-Frazer works 23 miles to the west.
The attacks on more distant points, such as Detroit and subsequently on New York, Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago, were all "suicide" raids, as the Soviets had no bombers with sufficient range for returning to home bases. However, as in the case of the Hanford raid, those crews which had to bail out included a number of trained MVD agents for espionage and sabotage.
Casualties were immeasurably greater than they should have been because of the failure of civil defense. This failure was not due primarily to lack of intelligent planning. The trouble was that the plans had remained on paper. The American people had not bothered to learn that civil defense involves the active, instantaneous participation of every able-bodied man, woman and child.
When an atom bomb hit northern London in October, 1952, the casualties were less than half those in the first raid on New York, although the area of destruction was more than twice as large. (In New York the area was nine square miles with the first bomb, 12 square miles with the second, the radius of the blasts being restricted by the concentration of steel-constructed skyscrapers; in London the area was 27 square miles, extending from Kensington to Golders Green.)
The explanation of the difference in the number of casualties was obvious: the experienced Londoners knew how to behave themselves under fire.
It was not the deficiencies of civil defense which proved most shocking to the Americans; they felt they could remedy that themselves and intensive training started in deadly earnest in every city, town and crossroads village.
The real wave of fear that swept over the U.S. and threatened for a time to have disastrous consequences to the whole war effort was caused by the seeming failure of national defense. How had the Soviets got through? Were the operators of those far-flung radar stations all asleep at the switch, as on the morning of Pearl Harbor? Where were all the interceptor planes at the secret airfields in Alaska, Canada and Greenland? There was a widely held belief that the Soviets were beating us at our own game, or what we had been kidded into imagining was our own game.
It took the American people a long time to realize that the Communists were not outdoing us in atomic bombing—in fact, the ratio was roughly 100 to 1 the other way round. But every bomb that they delivered loomed huge in the headlines and the known casualty lists, whereas no word came out of the Soviet Union as to the effect of any bomb dropped by us. To the average American, or the average Briton, the announcement of a bomb dropped on a steelworks in the Caucasus was as impersonal and uninspiring as an explosion on the planet Jupiter.
The American people were given plenty of cause for alarm in those days. The first bomb on New York fell between Grand Central and Pennsylvania Stations (the actual point of detonation was above Madison Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street), taking a particularly heavy toll of lives in the concentrated garment district. The blast sheared off the entire tower of the Empire State Building and gutted the UN Building with its 5,400 windows through which people of all races had looked in the hope of seeing a better world.
In Chicago the area of greatest damage stretched from the Lincoln Park Zoo on the North to Thirtieth Street on the South Side, from Sacramento Boulevard in the west to the breakwater of the Outer Harbor. The awful concussion of this first A-bomb attack on Chicago released hundreds of crazed animals from the stockyards into the streets, which impeded considerably the rescue work.
The day after the first attack on Chicago, the President flew to that stricken city and broadcast a speech which had a reassuring effect on the entire nation. He explained the enormous problems involved in making entirely secure "the new frontiers of freedom, which cover thousands of miles of arctic wilderness all the way from the Bering Strait to the island of Spitsbergen."
He revealed figures on the number of Soviet heavy bombers, bound for American targets, which had been detected by radar and shot down by the U.S. and Canadian air forces. He said, "These are achievements which cannot be dramatized from day to day in the news. I cannot reveal where or how these interceptions have been made, since this would be information of utmost value to the enemy, but I can tell you that our defenses are strong and getting stronger by the minute."
The President said that the Red Army which had landed in Alaska had been "written off" by Stalin. "Our Navy and Air Force," he said, "have made it impossible for the Soviets to maintain supply lines to the troops whom they so rashly sent onto American soil."
The President spoke with biting scorn of "those patriots who, at the first hint of approaching danger, loaded up their cars and station wagons with provisions and fled from our great cities." He shrewdly used this scathing reference as an introduction to the announcement of extremely rigorous gasoline rationing.
The President dropped his own bombshell near the end of the speech. He broke the news that General of the Red Air Force Vasily Stalin, son of the Communist Czar of all the Russias, had been shot down by French antiaircraft batteries while on a reckless reconnaissance flight over the Saar. The bomber that he was piloting made a belly landing and young Stalin and the members of his staff "are now prisoners of the United Nations."
This was not considered a serious loss to Soviet armed might, but it made pleasant reading.
• • •
|"Stalin's son, on a reckless Saar reconnaissance flight, was shot down and captured—in full regalia as General of the Red Air Force" (p. 30)|
In general, the President's speech expressed a sober optimism which was justified by subsequent developments. The Soviets had paid a heavy penalty in strategic bombers for their accomplishments in the raids on American cities and on London. (They never atom-bombed Paris, Rome or any other capital on the European continent because the military advantages would have been negligible and the political liabilities very great indeed, for such bombs would have obliterated the Communist parties in France, Italy and other Western democracies.) Furthermore, in this first phase of the war the relatively small stockpile of Soviet atom bombs was largely depleted.
But, production of these weapons was being stepped up; the world had not yet seen the end of Soviet atomic bombing—not by any means.
The first phase of World War III ended on the morning of Christmas Day, 1952.
This was D day for the great Communist offensive which was intended to complete the conquest of Western Europe and to make the British Isles untenable as bases. The time seemed favorable for crushing conquest. The U.S.S.R. air force was still superior in strength. By the spring of 1953, this superiority might be wiped out. Furthermore, the next five months would bring formidable reinforcements of ground troops and armor to the UN armies in Europe.
So they started the big decisive push, and on that morning, the birthday of the Prince of Peace, the UN defenders opened up for the first time with atomic artillery.
Many writers and many soldiers have attempted to describe the havoc of these battles but nobody has come close to the terrible reality. The massed forces of the Soviets, depending as they constantly did on heavy concentrations of docile flesh and blood, provided tragically large targets. In the space of 15 minutes the UN's atomic artillery inflicted on the Communist infantry an atomic barrage equal in power and intensity to a barrage of 1,000,000 shells from the heavy howitzers of World War II.
To this day, more than seven years later, we can make no more than wild guesses at the extent of the losses suffered by the Soviets during the week that followed Christmas, 1952. We do know a great deal, from interrogation of Russian soldiers captured at the time, and from much of Russian literature that has been written since the war, of the demoralization that was produced by the first tactical atomic weapons.
Here was another historic instance of propaganda acting as a boomerang; the Soviet troops had been so stuffed with word pictures of the unutterable horrors of the atomic bombs with which the peace of the world was being "menaced by war-mongering imperialists" that when these simple soldiers had atomic energy hurled at them from close range they believed they were involved in the ultimate calamity, the end of the life of mankind here on earth.
The Red Armies were stopped, at least temporarily, on the ground in Western Europe. However, the mounting optimism in the U.S. was blasted in April, 1953, when it became apparent that the Reds had produced a new stockpile of atomic bombs and were ready to use them with increased fury against American targets. New York, Chicago, Detroit, and Hanford, Washington, were hit again; Philadelphia was hit with disastrous damage to the Navy Yard across the river in Camden and the obliteration of Independence Hall—"the Cradle of Liberty."
Albany, New York, was hit by a bomb which we learned later was intended for the General Electric plant at Schenectady. The atomic bomb that was earmarked for delivery on Pittsburgh actually hit the tiny village of Unity five miles away, a community of 513 souls, 472 of whom were killed. A few days later the few survivors had put up a crudely lettered signboard on Route 80 which proudly told passing military convoys, "Nobody ran out of Unity in station wagons."
After the second atomic bombing of New York (this time the bomb hit the lower part of the city between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges), Moscow exultantly announced that the crew of the lead bomber had been returned safely to the U.S.S.R. This statement seemed incredible at the time, but it was later proved to be true. The Red pilot had flown 50 miles to sea, successfully ditched his aircraft, and he and four others of the crew of 12 were picked up by a U.S.S.R. submarine. The Soviets evidently attempted to repeat this stunt at other points, but they soon realized that the lives of their airmen were of far less importance than the risks run by their submarines.
• • •
On May 10, 1953, the first anniversary of the start of the third World War, a Soviet atomic bomb was detonated over Washington. Originally aimed for the Capitol, the A-bomb exploded approximately one mile away at 11th and D Streets, S.W.
The Capitol, the Senate and House office buildings, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution, among many other buildings in the center of Washington, were shattered. The White House, the reconstruction of which had only recently been completed, was a scorched shell. So was the National Gallery; but of course its priceless art treasures had long since been removed to points of safety, as had the contents of all the great galleries and museums of the Western World and of the U.S.S.R.
It is needless now to enumerate the details of the appalling destruction of our national monuments. It is impossible to appraise the profundity of the insult thus conveyed to American national pride.
The sense of outrage that swept over the entire nation of 150,000,000 people—and through the American armed forces in combat on every sea and every continent—was most eloquently expressed by one photograph: it was a picture of the statue of Abraham Lincoln catapulted forward so that Lincoln's stone face was lying on the crumbled steps of the Lincoln Memorial and, in the shattered background, were legible the remnants of an inscription: ". . . for the people, shall not perish from the earth." The bomb on Washington destroyed 18 square miles.
One of the gigantic mistakes made by the late Adolf Hitler was the pathologically vicious bombing of London, the "cathedral cities" such as Canterbury and Coventry, and most particularly, the attacks on Buckingham Palace. These were attacks on the centers of the unity of the British Commonwealth: they served no military purpose, except to solidify and perpetuate that unity in the face of the enemy who inflicted them.
It must be remembered that at this time, a full year after the start of World War III, the UN had dropped no atomic bombs on or near Moscow. The Kremlin, the Museum of the Church of St. Basil the Blessed—all of the historic buildings treasured by the Russian spirit long before Stalin was born—were still completely intact. The UN grand strategy had been firmly fixed; we were not making war on the Russian people, our limitless destructive powers were to be directed at the centers and the instruments of Soviet militaristic aggression and not against the humble, simple, peace-loving Russian peasants and workers whom we wanted eternally to be our friends.
For six months past there had been chalked on walls in the ruins of New York, London, Chicago, Detroit and other targets of the Soviet atom bombs the ominous demand, "BOMB MOSCOW!" Now, with Washington in ruins, the popular clamor for violent retaliation against the Soviet capital was far more vociferous.
At this point in the second phase of the war American morale was at its lowest ebb. Rationing and controls of all conceivable items from clothing to cosmetics had far exceeded the worst restrictions of World War II. There was little in the news to indicate that the war could be won within the foreseeable future. Even though the advance of the ponderous Red Army ground forces had been halted in Western Europe, the UN had not yet been able to mount forces of sufficient strength to launch any appreciable counteroffensives.
• • •
The Soviets introduced a new weapon, which had more propaganda value than military destructiveness. They propelled atomic-headed missiles from submarines against San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and the naval bases at Norfolk, Virginia, and Bremerton, Washington—and on the other side of the Atlantic, at Brest, Cherbourg and Southampton. The destructive area of these missiles was limited to approximately 1.5 square miles and the attacks were inaccurate and mainly ineffective. The submarines had to stand offshore at a distance of 30 miles and to expose themselves by surfacing.
By now, the civil defense training had improved so greatly in the U.S. that casualties were measurably reduced, and so was the attendant damage by fire.
The peak of Red submarine warfare was passed in the middle of the summer of 1953 when the UN carrier-based atomic bombings of Soviet submarine bases began to take full effect. At this same time the UN achieved superiority in the air.
The UN bombing offensive against European and Asiatic Russia had been sustained from the outset, gaining in power as aircraft production increased. Atom bombs were used on the larger installations, such as hydroelectric plants.
Factories, marshaling yards in or near Moscow and other large cities and the smaller installations in more remote areas had been attacked with what were known as "conventional bombs." This strange use of words led one young American pilot to ask, as he watched a 20,000-pounder being loaded into his aircraft, "Just how 'conventional' can a bomb get?"
The widespread demands for the atomic bombing of Moscow could no longer be ignored. On the night of July 18, 1953, a flight of B-36s flew over Moscow dropping leaflets which warned that between July 21st and 26th more B-36s—flying from bases in the United States—would drop an atomic bomb on the Kremlin. The people of Moscow were urged to evacuate the city so as to reduce the toll in human life. During the next four days this same message was broadcast to Russia every hour on the hour from all the transmitters of the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, the British Broadcasting Corporation and every other available United Nations facility.
The emphasis on the fact that these B-36 bombers would fly from American bases was of utmost psychological importance. It informed our Allies as well as our enemies that the President of the United States was taking full responsibility before history for this action.
The bomb was dropped at midnight on July 22nd. More flights of B-36s were ready with more bombs in the event that the first bomb missed the Kremlin.
• • •
Of course, Moscow had not been evacuated, except by some of the upper echelons of the Soviet hierarchy, who, as we now know, had left for the Urals at the outbreak of war. The people, terrified by the warnings of the leaflets, would have surged out of the city immediately and gone as far from the Kremlin as their legs could carry them, but every street was heavily patrolled by the armored cars of the police. And not one individual who was not on authorized government business was allowed to leave. The area of destruction covered 20 square miles, from the Dzerzhinsky district in the north, to the Kirovsky district in the south and from the Pervomaysky district in the east to the Krasnopresnensky district in the west.
The Lubyanka Prison, the grim monument to long years of tyranny and injustice under the czars and the Soviets, stood within a few hundred yards of the dead center of the area of utter annihilation. Very little of it was left visible above the level of the ground. But as the towering column of radioactive dust which had been Moscow was blown eastward toward Siberia, wretched figures began to crawl from the Lubyanka Prison, political prisoners who had never expected again to see the light of day.
One of them was Professor Nikolai Orloff, a biologist who had made the mistake of disagreeing with the Lysenko theory of inherited characteristics. He told us recently: "As I looked about me with my weak eyes I did not know what had happened. I did not know why. Strangely enough it did not even occur to me for some time to wonder what had become of the Kremlin. All I knew was that, for some inexplicable reason, for one moment, I was free . . . It is an ironic thought that the only reason I am alive today is that I was one of the few fortunates in the underground dungeons of the Lubyanka."
It was at this time that psychological warfare began to be a potent factor. The mounting UN air superiority made it possible to drop millions of leaflets a day on U.S.S.R. and satellite territory. In World War II the dropping of leaflets on Europe achieved a total of 11,000,000 a day. In World War III this figure was more than quadrupled.
The emphasis in these leaflets was not on fabricated propaganda but on straight news—and now the news from the United Nations point of view was getting more and more favorable.
Not only leaflets were dropped. Thousands of agents were parachuted into the satellite countries for purposes of sabotage, propaganda and general disruption of the Soviet system of communications. The great majority of these agents had been refugees from the countries to which they were now returned.
It was not until late in 1954 that adequate co-ordination of UN psychological warfare was achieved; before then, listeners to the radio in Poland might hear one version of a story from British sources, another version from the Americans and still another from Italy. But the major events spoke for themselves and the most eloquent of all was the bomb on the Kremlin.
• • •
|"Destroyer (left center) is firing at torpedo bomber, while also attacking with charge of hedgehogs against rapidly diving schnörkel submarine" (Painting by Fred Freeman, p. 25)|
Another event of gigantic psychological impact was the historic exploit of "Task Force Victory," the most daring and imaginative airborne operation of this or any war, in which more than 10,000 American and British paratroopers, Rangers and Commandos attacked and destroyed the Soviet underground atom-bomb storage facilities in the Ural Mountains.
The bases from which this operation was launched were in the Middle East, 1,800 to 2,000 miles from the target. These were the types of planes used: Douglas C-124 Globemaster, Boeing C-97A Stratofreighter, Chase C-122 and C-123 Avitruc, Fairchild C-120 Packplane, Fairchild C-119B Packet, B-47 and B-50 bombers, jet fighters and converted B-29 aerial tankers from which planes were refueled in midair.
Participating, apart from the Air Force personnel, were two airborne regimental combat teams which totaled about 8,000 men, two airborne infantry battalions of 1,600 men and a special task force of about 500 experts and technicians. The first attacks immediately followed intensive atomic bombing of the area, which cleared it of Red troops except those in heavily protected defenses around the perimeter.
The first objective was the airstrip. The Fairchild and Chase planes did not have range enough without aerial refueling to fly back to their bases, but these planes, particularly the Packet, were required for lifting the initial paratroopers and advance elements.
The proportion of paratroopers in the task force was relatively small. The rest of the airborne forces were air-landed by Avitrucs, specially designed to land on short, rough runways.
The first paratroopers were dropped 11 minutes after the last A-bomb burst, the transport planes avoiding the atomic clouds. They were followed closely by the air-landed troops and engineers to improve the airstrip. Then the heavy four-engined Globemasters and Stratofreighters came in to disgorge heavy equipment. Several of these heavy aircraft were assigned to wait to fly back any Soviet A-bomb material that could be seized.
Another drop was made near the underground storage depots some miles away in the foothills of the mountains. This, too, followed hard on atomic bombing. The immediate casualties were considerably heavier here as strong Red detachments had remained safe from the bombing in the deep concrete shelters. The objective was to seize the entrance to the storage depots and hold them until the main forces from the airfield could come up.
This objective was successfully achieved. It required speed in every phase of the operation—tremendous speed and perfect timing.
During the entire, furious fight, there were incessant battles between jet fighters in the air.
Of the task force of more than 10,000 men, 38 specialists, including nuclear physicists, technicians (and six press correspondents who later filed their breath-taking stories from Tel Aviv), were returned safely to the Middle Eastern bases. They carried with them some Soviet fissionable material.
Otherwise, of the entire task force there were less than 1,000 survivors. The final achievement of "Task Force Victory" was the detonation of the underground A-bomb stockpiles, an act of suicidal defiance.
General Eisenhower expressed the virtually unanimous sentiment of the United Nations when he said, "Each and every one of these valiant men deserves the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Victoria Cross and the gratitude of history."
There was no more atomic bombing by the Reds in World War III—nor, we may now believe, will there ever be.
• • •
Early in September, 1953—one month after the astonishing exploit of "Task Force Victory"—the General Assembly of the United Nations convened in Denver, Colorado, and produced its momentous Statement of War Aims, usually known as the "Denver Declaration." Where Wilson's Fourteen Points and the Roosevelt-Churchill Atlantic Charter had dealt in noble but broad generalities, this document, subscribed to by 49 nations, provided in detail the pattern of the postwar world.
The Denver Declaration stated that the primary war aim of the United Nations was, simply, "the establishment and pегpetuation of world peace." It affirmed that "no peace can long endure unless it is firmly founded on universal friendship, respect for the rights of others, determination to rise above the interests of selfish nationalism in world-wide co-operation to enforce justice, secure equity and raise the standard of living for all peoples everywhere."
To expedite the achievement of genuine peace, the Declaration assured the peoples of Russia, China and the satellite states that there would be no demands for reparations, no war-crime trials, and immediate return for them to full and honorable membership in the United Nations, with no "probationary period" such as was imposed on the vanquished after World War II.
Above all, there would be no attempt to force any arbitrary systems of government or religion on any people, so long as all peoples accepted and respected the basic concepts of human rights and the brotherhood of man, with no Iron Curtains anywhere.
A passage in the Declaration relative to this was largely the contribution of one of the American delegates, George F. Kennan: "Forms of government are forged mainly in the fire of practice, not in the vacuum of theory. They respond to national character and to national realities. There is great good in the Russian character, and the realities of that country demand a form of administration more considerate of that good than the present imperialistic regime."
It was a vital principle of the Declaration that whereas the rights of the individual must be ensured, the rights of governments must be restricted to obedience to the common code of international morality, and the common code prohibited that form of tyranny known as "totalitarianism."
"Ancient concepts of national sovereignty," said the Denver Declaration, "must never again mislead any nation into the arrogant belief that it has the right to lower an Iron Curtain between itself and its neighbors. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of communications are essential to international understanding and world peace." Of historic importance was the fact that this was stated not as an expression of pious hope; it was laid down as a principle to be incorporated as enforceable law.
To the Chinese people were guaranteed the restoration of their rights in Manchuria, including Dairen and Port Arthur, and in Inner Mongolia. The future government of Korea would be determined by the free votes of all the Korean people.
• • •
The Declaration provided the blueprint for the United Nations Temporary Occupation Commission (UNITOC). The area of occupation of European Russia was limited to the Crimea, the Ukraine and Moscow—and, in the Far East, to the Primorsk, between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk.
UN forces would remain in the former satellite countries and the liberated Baltic States only for as long as they were needed to ensure law and order and the holding of free elections.
Provision was also made for the revival of UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) and the establishment of UNIHOPE (United Nations Housing and Providing Enterprise) and the other benevolent, unarmed agencies which have been in operation for the past five years.
The statement in the Denver Declaration which was probably of greatest interest to the peoples of the Western democracies was this:
"The United Nations will establish and maintain an international police force of land, sea and air components; the primary objective of this force will be the attainment of total disarmament by all nations within a period of 10 years from the cessation of hostilities."
The UN would maintain a commission for international control of atomic energy in accordance with the provisions of the Baruch-Acheson-Lilienthal Plan—which, it is melancholy to recall, would have been adopted many years previously had it not been for persistent, insistent Russian obstructionism at Lake Success.
"The progress made in nuclear fission," said the Declaration, "has been a closely guarded military secret. This condition will end. Full knowledge will be shared by scientists of all countries. Thus, we can greatly expedite the advance of atomic energy for industrial purposes, including a vast increase in the world's supply of food."
The new UN Atomic Energy Commission was described as "the cornerstone for the building of world federation for the safeguarding of peace."
What was said in the Denver Declaration was what men of good will had been saying, and hoping and praying for, throughout all the centuries. It told the parents of little Maria Serdic, in Yugoslavia—and all the families of all those who had died since she went forward to give some spring flowers to Tito—that these lives had not been sacrificed in vain.
• • •
The Denver Declaration had an instantaneous and profound effect in all parts of the world, but most significantly, perhaps, in China, where the assurances relating to Manchuria and Inner Mongolia were received with surprise and delight.
(Painting by Birney Lettick, p. 28)
The Chinese Communists had played their own devious game in World War III. They had driven the last of the United Nations forces out of Korea. They continued to foment internal strife in Burma, Malaya, Indochina, Indonesia and the Philippines. They had joined with the Soviets in only one actual operation: the seizure of the island of Hokkaido in northern Japan, in which they were aided by the Communist-trained Japanese insurgents.
The UN had wisely refrained from attacking Chinese population centers either with atomic or "conventional" bombs. But they expected the eventual delivery of these bombs upon their cities, and they had no means of retaliation. They made repeated demands on Moscow for bombs and bombers, but they were given the deaf ear. In fact, Soviet supplies of all kinds to China were steadily reduced to the vanishing point as Soviet desperation increased.
Late in November, 1953, the Red agents in Peiping reported to the Kremlin that Chinese leaders were holding secret meetings with the Swiss Minister, and then Stalin knew that Mao Tse-tung was hitting the trail to Titoism and negotiating with the UN. (It may be noted that this was 10 years after Stalin privately told Roosevelt, at Tehran, of his deep mistrust of the Chinese Communist leaders.)
The Chinese leaders throughout the war listened most attentively to the UN information services as broadcast from San Francisco and London. Thus, they got the true story of what was actually going on, as contrasted with the versions furnished them by Moscow—and the contrast was very great indeed.
The third and final phase of the war began at the end of April, 1954, when the UN had at last amassed sufficient strength to mount a counteroffensive on all fronts. This final phase depended—as do all final phases of all wars—on the brains of the generals and the feet and the guts of the infantrymen. Modern wars may start in the air, in the wild blue yonder, but they end like ancient wars in the bloody mud. They may start with the fission of uranium, but they end with bayonets fixed.
As the UN spearheads drove forward to the Pripet Marshes, to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, and into the Crimea, it was obvious that the monolithic Soviet state was disintegrating. Fierce revolt flared up in the satellite states.
On September 21st a Red Army general, captured near Warsaw, made the startling announcement that Joseph Stalin had disappeared and that Lavrentiy Beria, the ruthless head of Russia's secret police, was now the dictator of the crumbling Soviet Union. UN intelligence officers assumed that this was one of the wild rumors that afflict all soldiers, even generals. But it was no rumor. Stalin had indeed disappeared—so completely that we do not even know today whether he died quietly in bed, of old age, or was murdered, or committed suicide, or is still alive in some obscure hide-out.
We have been given very complete information by the aged Andrei Vyshinsky (he's now seventy-seven) after he escaped into Turkey before the final disintegration of Soviet power. Some of this evidence may be revealing, but all of it is necessarily suspect. We cannot forget that Vyshinsky was once a right-wing Menshevik, militantly anti-Soviet who, after his forced conversion to Stalinism, attempted to seek atonement for previous ideological sins by being one of the most vehement and uncompromising exponents of Stalinism.
After his flight from Russia he tried to clear himself in the eyes of the civilized world; indeed, he offered to testify against his former Soviet colleagues at the trials of war criminals. (These trials, of course, were never held, but the people of Russia and the former satellites visited their own vengeance on the Communist leaders who survived.)
• • •
There were no records of importance left in the Kremlin at the time of its obliteration, and such official documents as have been discovered in the ruins of Moscow, or in the various points to which the government was dispersed in the Urals, have shed little light on the conferences held and decisions taken on the highest levels—and no lower levels mattered in the top-heavy Soviet state.
As one of the executive secretaries of the Party Central Committee told the commission when we were starting our investigations in 1955, "I was taught that it was safer to keep a nest of vipers in my desk than to keep a diary."
However, the record of Stalin's major miscalculations is clear. Its ultimate, disastrous phase began in 1945, immediately following V-E day in World War II.
Then the Soviets enjoyed unprecedented prestige. They had and deserved the admiration and gratitude of their allies in victory. The Western democracies wanted friendship and peace; they wanted to demobilize and disarm and they did so with almost frantic rapidity.
But then the Reds made the great shift to a policy of open hostility toward their former allies; they broke their pledges right down the line—they doggedly obstructed all attempts at amiable settlement of difficulties, either through the UN or other means—they steadily sabotaged the UN with their vetoes and made it appear impotent—they lowered the Iron Curtain and did all in their power to make it more and more impenetrable. The results were the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Schuman Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty, Korea and World War III.
As one of my colleagues on the commission, Hamilton Fish Armstrong, has pointed out in Tito and Goliath there is no doubt that Stalin was reluctant to kill Tito when the latter was at the summit of his glory. Stalin would greatly have preferred to have discredited and disgraced the Yugoslav "heretic" before putting him to death in the cellar of the Lubyanka Prison. But this had proved impossible.
It was the mounting tension of discontent and disobedience in the satellite countries that finally forced Stalin to his fateful decision that Tito must die. The seeds of rebellion against the reactionary, imperialistic Soviet tyranny had sprouted and flourished in Yugoslav soil. They had been carried by the irrepressible winds across frontiers, particularly into Czechoslovakia and Poland, two countries with long experience in passionate devotion to freedom and defiance of tyranny. These same seeds had penetrated even into Russia itself, and were sprouting in the fertile soil of the Ukraine.
The plan for Tito's assassination seemed reasonably foolproof on paper, and with Tito dead it was extremely unlikely that the Western democracies would precipitate world war by rushing to the aid of a Yugoslav government which had ceased to exist. But the greatest miscalculation of all by Stalin was based on the fact that the intelligence which came to him from all over the world was made to fit the pattern of Communist propaganda, and Communist wishful thinking, as opposed to the real truth.
He completely misjudged the essential unity and determination of the United States and of the vast majority of free peoples everywhere. Like other dictators before him, he had been misled into believing his own propaganda. Again and again he had said, "The trouble with Hitler was that he did not know when to stop—he went too far. I will never go too far."
But the juggernaut that he had created ran away with him. Stalin in the beginning counted on the Yugoslav forces being leaderless and consequently disorganized. Now it was the forces of what had been the Soviet Union who were leaderless and disorganized. The result was widespread revolt and a whole series of civil wars across the entire expanse of Russia—civil wars in which the political prisoners in Siberia eventually played an important part.
The tragedy of 1952-'55 came to a confused conclusion. No over-all armistice was signed; there was no need of one; Russia had disintegrated into complete chaos. By January, 1955, formal hostilities had ceased. It was just as well: the U.S., after four years of intensive development, had just begun to mass-produce atomic-powered planes and submarines.
• • •
It is not within the province of the UN Historical Commission to delve into the events of the past five years since the war ended, so I shall not attempt to describe the chaos and anarchy that prevailed for so long in many parts of Russia and China, the relapses in some regions into a state of feudalism, and the gradual, wondering realization by the bewildered masses that a new day of civilization was dawning for all mankind.
But I cannot close this summary without a word of admiration for the remarkable qualities of the Russian people, among whom I have been living and working these past five years. These people have been oppressed and enslaved, tortured and massacred, through countless centuries of barbarous tyranny; but all the czarist and Communist tyrants could not destroy the essential Russian spirit. Now this spirit is being given limitless opportunities to flourish in the climate of freedom and peace.
Thoreau once wrote: "There is no ill which may not be dissipated, like the dark, if you let in a stronger light upon it."
The light is now shining in Russia, and in all other darkened places of the earth.
It is the light of hope—and today, in the year 1960, hope surges not from man's wishful dreams, but from the reality of his God-given strength. — THE END