A two part bowdlerized rehash of World War II/FDR court history by Virgil (here; here) seeks to help us “understand,” allegedly, POTUS Trump’s “controversial policy toward Russia.”
My colleague, author Diana West, has asked, with appropriate acid, “‘Who is ‘old-timer’ Virgil?’ @BreitbartNews posts Da-Da-Soviet/Court History op-ed w/o revealing author’s name”.
Unsurprisingly, “Virgil” omits any discussion of the very germane and avoidable Second Front catastrophe—which help cede control of Eastern Europe to the brutal Soviet Communist empire—as discussed at length in West’s American Betrayal and encapsulated here, through the prism of war correspondent and military historian, Hanson Baldwin’s 1950 monograph, Great Mistakes of the War.
By late 1943, Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke—Churchill’s most trusted advisor (via Arthur Bryant’s 1959, “Triumph in the West, 1943-1946,” pp. 62-63)—based upon direct meetings with Stalin and his military coterie, grew to appreciate Stalin’s personal military acumen, including the Soviet Communist dictator’s views on the “problem” of the Second Front:
“Stalin was now evidently far better satisfied with his defensive position. He was beginning to feel that the Germans had shot their bolt; immediate pressure on the West was no longer urgently required…He had by then pretty definite ideas as to how he wanted the Balkans run after the war; British and American assistance was therefore no longer desirable in the Eastern Mediterranean…[T]here was now no longer pressure on our forces to push up on the leg of Italy. Such an advance led too directly towards Yugoslovia and Austria, on which no doubt he had by now cast his covetous eyes. He approved of Roosevelt’s proposal to close down operations in Italy and to transfer six divisions to invade southern France on April 1st, whilst the main Channel Operation would take place on May 1st. I am certain he did not approve such operations for their strategic value, but because they fitted in with his future political plans. He was too good a strategist not to see the weakness of the American plan…I feel certain that Stalin saw through these strategical misconceptions…his political and military requirements could now be best met by the greatest squandering of British and American lives in the French theater. We were reaching a very dangerous point where his shrewdness, assisted by American shortsightedness, might lead us anywhere…Here we were with the Americans determined to start Operation Overlord on the wrong leg if they possibly could, and Stalin inwardly hoping they would do so.”
Robert Nisbet’s 1988 monograph, “Roosevelt and Stalin—The Failed Courtship,” includes his observation (p. 66), that
“Churchill apparently was very close to resignation as Prime Minister over his disappointment, even bitterness, in the President’s [FDR’s] repudiation of the Mediterranean-Italian peninsula strategy of meeting the Germans—and the Russians—in central Europe.”
Indeed a June 30, 1944 entry from the Alanbrooke diaries (p. 168) records this dark humored appeal to a disconsolate Churchill:
“Just back from a meeting with Winston. I thought at first we might have trouble with him; he looked like wanting to fight the President [FDR]. However, in the end we got him to agree with our outlook, which is: ‘All right, if you insist on being damned fools, sooner than fall out with you, which would be fatal, we shall be damned fools with you, and we shall see that we perform the role of damned fools, damned well’”
Even Churchill’s (apparently toned down) letter to Roosevelt the next day, July 1, 1944 (from “Churchill and Roosevelt—The Complete Correspondence, III. The Alliance Declining, edited by Warren F. Kimball, 1984, p. 229) includes the following geo-strategic lament:
“On a long term political view, he [Stalin] might prefer that the British and Americans should do their share in France in the very hard fighting that is to come, and that east, middle, and southern Europe should fall naturally into his [Stalin’s] control. However, it is better to settle the matter for ourselves and between ourselves. What can I do, Mr. President, when your Chiefs of Staff insist on casting aside our Italian campaign, with all its dazzling possibilities, relieving Hitler of all his anxieties in the Po Basin, and when we are to see the integral life of this campaign drained off in the Rhode Valley in the belief that it will in several months carry effective help to Eisenhower so far away in the north?”
Finally as Nisbet wrote in 1988, the views of Churchill and Alanbrooke were not “totally bereft of American support”. Ranking American commander in Italy General Mark Clark made this rueful observations in his 1950 memoir, “Calculated Risk” (pp. 538 ff):
“A campaign that might have changed the whole history of relations between the Western world and the Soviet Union was permitted to fade away…The weakening of the campaign in Italy in order to invade Southern France, instead of pushing on into the Balkans, was one of the outstanding mistakes of the war…Stalin knew exactly what he wanted…and that the thing he wanted most was to keep us out of the Balkans…It is easy to see therefore why Stalin favored ANVIL [Allied invasion of southern France] at Teheran.”