Why the Communists are Winning as of 1976...
An exciting chapter of how to cope with the Russian plans.
ASSIGNMENT IN SPAIN (1948)
Returning, as it were, to “civilian life,” after the peace-time wars of my diplomatic endeavors in Peru and Brazil, and as a veteran of the Bogotazo, I was unscarred outwardly if not inwardly. Edna and I spent the next few months of 1948 trying to relax at our farm “Belvoir” in The Plains, Virginia. It proved easier to relax physically than mentally.
Another black cloud of smoke signals had begun to rise over the Eastern horizon.
The Russians were kindling a new blaze in Germany by threatening to deny the Western allies access to West Berlin. Typically, they began testing our friendly disposition by minor harassments. On March 31, 1948, they had announced that they would turn back Western military trains unless Soviet inspectors were allowed to examine passengers and baggage. Their next move was to halt all passenger trains leaving Berlin.
Again, predictably, the British and French shied away from a head-on collision and took the precaution of evacuating wives and children from their occupation zones, while seeking a compromise. General Lucius D. Clay, whom Eisenhower had left in a key spot as commander of the postwar American Military Government, was a man of sterner stuff. Clay anticipated that the spectacle of American dependents scurrying over the side of a potentially sinking ship would only whet the appetites of the Russians for more outrageous demands and serve notice to the Berliners that we would back down. He announced that any American who wished to send his family home could do so, provided that at the same time he applied for his own transfer. 1
Sure enough, the “uncertain trumpet” sounded by the British and the French encouraged Stalin to force a showdown. On June 24th, he committed the Soviets to a cancellation of all rail traffic between Berlin and the Western zones for the indefinite future because of “technical difficulties.” In effect, this meant that two and one-half million Germans could expect to be marooned and starved until the Western powers agreed to surrender their right of land access through the narrow corridor to Germany’s largest city. The Communist plan left all rail, auto and truck traffic under Soviet supervision and control.
“If we handle it right,” I told Edna, “this crisis hands us a magnificent opening for the President to clear the air once and for all. He’s got to assert our rights and demand a permanent guarantee of our free access to Berlin. But I’m worried about some of his advisers may be telling him, I’d better try to see him at once.”
The President’s appointments secretary, Matt Connelly, ushered me almost immediately into the Oval Room.
“All right, Bill,” Mr. Truman greeted me, “what can I do for you?”
“Mr. President,” I answered, “I think the Soviets have just handed us a big opportunity on a platter. Now, why don’t we organize an unarmed convoy of around 1500 trucks, loaded with food, medical supplies, fuel and the other immediate and urgent requirements of the American Zone? In view of all this Soviet talk about ‘technical difficulties,’ I suggest that we send Army Engineer vehicles, equipment and personnel ahead of the convoy to clear blocked roads, repair bridges, if necessary, and assure ourselves of free access.”
“I’m not sure I agree with you,” he answered, “but I’m still listening. Go ahead.”
“Sir, I’d notify Stalin right now that we are going to honor our treaty obligations, publicly, and I’d insists on Stalin’s honoring the original agreement - a guarantee that we be allowed to supply our sector of Berlin with the necessities, and without any red tape of stalling tactics.”
“What if Stalin says ‘Nyet’?” he asked.
“Stalin knows damn well that he’s in no position to slug it out, Mr. President, either militarily or economically, after all of the ravages of the War. And add this to it: We have the Bomb and he doesn’t. That’s decisive.”
“But all my advisers, Bill, insist that the Bomb is a threat we can’t use!” Truman answered.
“But, Sir, he’s realistic. He can’t afford to bet that you won’t. After all, you are the man that ended the war in Japan. How can Stalin gamble that you won’t take similarly decisive action again, if absolutely necessary?”
I could see from his expression that he was not agreeing, that it was a replay of our meeting in 1945, in which I begged him to let our armies finish the job by continuing on to Vladivostok to liberate her people and win a genuine peace.
“I’ll concede that your idea has a lot merit, Bill,” he said with finality, “but I can’t afford to gamble, either, on the Russian reaction. The last thing I want to do is risk stirring up another world conflict. I’m in close touch with Lucius Clay and we’re working right now on finding the wisest solution.”
Shortly afterward, I learned that Clay and our political adviser for Germany, Robert Murphy, were summoned to the White House for consultation. Entirely independently of my recommendation, of which I presume they were unaware, both men pleaded with the President to follow the course I urged, including the use of military force, if necessary.
As in my case, Truman was not unsympathetic with their point of view, but he was listening also to powerful American voices, urging him all costs to avert a showdown. The JCS (Joint Chiefs of Staff), for one, maintained that our precipitate demobilization after World War II had left us ill-prepared, militarily, to react confidently - with the use of the atomic bomb, of course, ruled out. Dean Acheson favored a compromise course that was in fact adopted: It was The Berlin Airlift.
Robert Murphy, whose eyewitness account of this crucial meeting on July 20, 1948, in Diplomat Among Warriors, is, to my mind, the best available source, noted that throughout the discussion nobody observed that our exclusive possession of nuclear weapons gave us paramount military power. As a lifelong “pro”, Murphy had little patience with those tender skinned officials who resigned on supposedly high moralistic grounds whenever a policy was adopted which ran counter to their personal convictions. Nevertheless, he wrote concerning the Berlin Airlift decision:
“But the Berlin Blockade it the one occasion in my long career where I feel I should have resigned in public protest against Washington’s policy. My resignation almost certainly would not have affected events, but if I had resigned I would feel better today about my own part in that episode. I suffered anguish over the decisions of our government not to challenge the Russians when they blockaded Berlin, and I still deeply regret that I was associated with an action which caused Soviet leaders to downgrade United States determination and capability, and led, I believe, to the subsequent Communist provocation in Korea.”
The Berlin Airlift has been represented to the world as “a great American victory.” In one sense, it was. It demonstrated the stupendous power and brilliant organization of the American military under the leadership of General Curtis E. LeMay, who then commanded our forces in Europe. Moreover, it was an impressive demonstration of the solidarity of spirit of the West Berliners and the German people as a whole with the citizens and military forces of the United States. But in a larger sense, it was a crushing defeat. By not challenging Soviet flouting of our rights to unimpeded land access to Berlin, as agreed to by the Soviets themselves, we surrendered those rights.
Even though Truman allowed himself to be constrained into a weak course of action, it still might have been possible to snatch diplomatic victory from the jaws of defeat. By the spring of 1949, Stalin was trying to extricate himself from the Berlin impasse.
“Privately, the Russians admitted that they had gambled and lost, and the only thing to do was to liquidate the adventure,” the British diplomat Ivon A. Kirkpatick has recalled.
If Truman had dealt directly with Stalin, or if negotiations had been put in the hands of a tough bargainer like Robert Murphy or Lucious Clay, it might have still been possible to compel Russian recognition of our rights. Unhappily, the man chose was Dr. Philip C. Jessup of the Columbia University faculty, a protégé of Dean Acheson.
Jessup had been active in the leadership of the Institute of Pacific Relations, the academically respectable Communist front organization which propagandized for the Chinese Soviets. In 1940, Frederick Vanderbilt Field, a Communist agent, had resigned as Executive Secretary of the IPR so as to devote full time to running an open Red Front group which opposed all American aid to nations resisting Communist infiltration. Jessup opposed the resignation, preferring that Field be free to exert “the maximum amount of guidance and determination of policy” over the IPR.
In 1949, Truman nominated Jessup as American delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. Because of his long record of left-wing affiliations, Jessup was rejected by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whereupon Truman circumvented the Committee by naming Jessup as an “interim” appointee.
Even in 1948, all people who were informed on Communist tactics realized that Soviet Foreign policy was then, and forever will be, determined by unsentimental and impersonal considerations. Yet Jessup managed to persuade some of his superiors that his friendly relations with Soviet diplomats would help the United States in the forthcoming negotiations. He concluded an arrangement, all right, but one which failed to recognize our unconditional right of land access to Berlin. I agree with Murphy that we would have done much better had we dealt, and at a much higher level, with Stalin, and upheld our rights to the letter.
I turned my attention next to a highly confidential mission to Spain. It concerned establishing military bases, which General Marshall had asked me to consider undertaking when he saw me in Rio the previous fall. His thinking was that I should sound out Generalissimo Franco informally to ascertain whether or not Franco would be interested in some sort of treaty or agreement with the United States. I felt so strongly the strategic importance of the Iberian Peninsula that I welcomed the opportunity Marshall offered me. He then gave me a list of questions, covering important political and military matters, which I was to memorize and use in my conference with Generalissimo Franco. I would be carrying no papers or evidence of accreditation as a U.S. representative of any sort during my mission. Nor was I to disclose the nature of my assignment to anyone but Franco.
I was now free to proceed, and obtained a letter of introduction from my close friend, the unofficial Spanish representative in Washington, Jose Felix de Lequerica, to Alberto Martin Artajo, the Foreign Minister in the Spanish Nationalist Government.
What gave Marshall such serious concern was the French and British policy of ostracizing the Franco regime and attempting to bring about its downfall by nonrecognition and economic reprisals. To Marshall, none of this was in the best interests of our county.
The defeat and demilitarization of Germany had left France and Spain the only potential centers of military power on the Continent which could be expected to resist an attempt by the Red Army to overrun Europe. France was politically unstable. In terms of popular votes, the Communist Party was the strongest political force in the county, (and still is, at this writing in 1976).
The swift defeat of France in 1940 by Hitler’s Wehrmacht had revealed the dry rot inside the French national structure. These were not good auguries for a stratagem based on rebuilding Western European power with France as its core and guiding spirit.
In 1937 Nationalist Spain had defeated the forces of international Communism in a bloody civil war which had claimed a million lives. There was no doubt that Spain would go all out in support of the West in an armed struggle with the Soviets. Nevertheless, Spain was being treated as a leper because the Franco regime had supported the Axis in World War II and because a “Blue Legion” of Spaniards had fought with the Germans on the Russian front.
Conveniently forgotten was the superb diplomatic skill demonstrated by Franco in remaining neutral in the conflict, thus providing a sanctuary and repatriation for downed Allied airmen and place the barrier of Spanish territory between the Wehrmacht and a drive on Gibraltar.
“I look forward to increasingly good relations with Spain,” Churchill had declared in the House of Commons on May 24, 1944. “And an extremely fertile trade between Spain and this country ... 1
Unfortunately for Spain, however, Churchill was defeated at the polls immediately after the war and replaced by a Labor Government. Men of myopic vision, dominated less by their nation’s interests than by old rancors and ideological prejudices, were not at the helm of Great Britain. The Labor Cabinet was virulently hostile to Franco Spain. Harold Laski, a political theorist, a leader of the Labor Party and a man with clandestine Communist connections, went so far as to threaten armed intervention to overthrow the Franco regime.
De Gaulle’s regime in France, based on a left-wing coalition, was similarly anti-Franco. The United States, Britain and France had joined in a declaration that “full and cordial association” with Spain would not be possible until the Franco regime was ousted.
On March 4, 1946, Franco’s government was excluded from the United Nations. The United Nations passed a resolution introduced by Poland recommending that all member states withdraw their ambassadors and chiefs of diplomatic mission from Spain.
These rebuffs had been coupled with harsh measures of boycott and economic warfare. Bowing to British and French pressure, the United States had barred Spain from Marshall Plan aid. As a result, Spain was forced to develop local industries and to manufacture thousands of products which she had previously imported. But in the end, Spain was the beneficiary of an isolation which compelled her to strengthen her economy and create new industries. Politically, repressive measures from abroad backfired into a solidification of public opinion and nationalism behind Franco. 2
On top of all this, I knew that Truman was bitterly antagonistic to the Franco regime, concerning which he had only superficial and second-hand knowledge. Eleanor Roosevelt, who wielded enormous influence within the Democratic Party and on public opinion, had close reactions with some of the Spanish Republican exiles who had sought refuge in the United States, and whose venomous sentiments regarding the Nationalist regime she had happily embraced.
But there was one vital factor in our United States policy:
It was absolutely essential that the earlier - type bombers of our new Strategic Air Command have forward bases from which to extend their range to the important targets deep inside the Soviet Union. Spain was the logical place for those bases.
Edna and I arrived in San Sebastian, an important resort city where Franco often summered. The only distasteful part of my instructions from Marshall lay in being unable to discuss my mission with an outstanding Foreign Service Officer, my friend Paul Culbertson, out Charge d’Affaires.
The same restriction applied when I presented my card to Franco’s Foreign Minister, Martin Artajo, with whom I spent a pleasant hour. But apparently I was able to convey to him my keen interest in Spain’s welfare, for he soon invited me to lunch and inquired if I would like to meet the Generalissimo. So far, so good. Artajo arranged an appointment for me to meet his chief at five in the evening of September 11, 1948. The latter sent his car to fetch me to his residence on a hilltop.
Expecting to be granted an audience of perhaps a half hour, I was agreeably surprised when my host extended our meeting to eight o’clock that evening, during which we probed a wide variety of topics. As I plied him with my list of memorized questions, Franco impressed me as a man with a broad grasp of international politics, a quick and incisive brain and a great deal of ability.
“Sir, may I inquire about your Government’s policy toward political prisoners and how many there are in Spain?” I asked.
“None. The only persons imprisoned are those who have been convicted of some crime.”
“What is your policy toward religious services for Americans in Spain?”
“Whatever obstacles there have been are being removed, so that all foreigners may worship as they please.”
“What is your country’s attitude toward NATO and a possible pact with the United States?”
Franco prefaced his answer with a lengthy discourse on the necessity for European defense again Russian aggression. He said that Spain offered the United States maximum security in this context because she was the only positively anti-Communist nation in Europe. Should the United States conclude a bilateral pact of military assistance with Spain, he would be able to put a million-and-a-half man in the field, securing the entire Iberian Peninsula as a bastion against Soviet attack. He said that with the natural defense barrier of the Pyrenees, American need never fear another “Dunkirk,” trapped on some beach, as the British were in 1940.
Spain, he continued, had no interest in joining NATO nor any multinational military arrangement with the Western Powers. He was willing to allow his troops to serve under Spanish and American commanders in the defense of Western civilization against the Reds. But he would not agree to placing them under British or French commanders.
“How many troops,” I then asked him, “Could you furnish to repel a Soviet attack anywhere north of the Pyrenees?” “Half-a-million,” he answered. “Bear in mind that Spain is a poor country. You are the only country in the world with both the resources and the will to halt Soviet aggression. All I can give you is bases and men. You will have to furnish all military equipment, transportation, supplies and modern weapons. Time will be of the essence. Our entire rail and highway system will have to be renovated for Continental defense. After suitable negotiations, I will be prepared to provide you with whatever military facilities your Joint Chiefs of Staff decide that they need.”
After thanking Franco for his generous offer of cooperation, I reiterated that my presence in Spain was unofficial. However, I said, General Marshall had invited me to serve as adviser at the Third Regular Session of the United Nations General Assembly in Paris, which was already in session.
“When I report to General Marshall in Paris, is there anything I can do which would be of some service to Spain?” I asked Franco.
“There most certainly is,” he replied. “My chief concern at the moment, diplomatically, is the United Nations resolution of 1946 branding my country as an enemy of world peace. If you can persuade Secretary Marshall to use his good offices to have that resolution, which is a complete falsehood, repealed, I shall be most grateful to you,” he answered.
“I am sure that General Marshall’s reaction to your request will be favorable,” I told Franco. “Should that be the case, I feel confident that he will put me in charge of the effort to rescind the resolution of 1946. In that event, I would need two of your most capable English speaking diplomats in Paris to work with us.”
“I’d be happy to,” Franco said, then added: You realize, of course, that your President thinks I am a devil with horns!”
I reminded him that our elections would be in November and that most informed observers were convinced that Dewey would win. If so, our Spanish policy would probably be changed.
Personally, I was not at all sure that Dewey would be the victor. But regardless of the outcome, I believed that Marshall, as a military man, would be able to persuade the President of the wisdom of concluding the kind of arrangement we had been discussing.
Seeing me off in his car, Franco had one more question. It was a personal one.
“Are you a Cuban?” he asked.
I explained that my Spanish had been learned in Cuba as a child.
Following a brief trip to Italy and Switzerland, I reported the gist of my Franco interview to Marshall in Paris. He was extremely pleased with the initial success of my overtures to the Spanish Chief of State.
Marshall asked me to dine with him and John Foster Dulles at the American Embassy to examine all aspects of the Spanish situation. Like what seemed then to be a majority of Americans, Marshall assumed that Dewey would win the forthcoming Presidential election and that Dulles would be his Secretary of State. The latter was so pleased by the prospects for military cooperation with Spain that he decided to return to the States to inform Dewey of this favorable development. Marshall and I saw him off at the Orly airport in a snowstorm.
On his return to Paris, in October, Dulles informed Marshall and me that, if elected, Governor Dewey would shape a fundamental change in our policy toward Spain. Truman, of course, was to be the surprise victor in November.
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