Tomorrow the battalions of allied forces from the USA, France and Great Britain will march down the Red Square together with the Russian regiments. For the first time in history they will take part in the traditional military parade to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Great Victory over Nazism.
The United States will be represented by the 2nd Battalion of the 18th Infantry, a unit that had landed in Normandy in 1944 opening the ‘second front’. The acting officers of the notable Normandie-Niemen squadron of the French Air Force that since 1943 had been fighting wing-to-wing with the Russians in the Eastern Front will march for France. Britain is expected to be represented by the Royal Air Force band and the 1st Battalion of the Welsh’s Regiment.
Those days it was a wonderful example of the combat brotherhood of the allied troops united against a clear and present danger. But if we take a look on higher political spheres, the picture appears to be not so bright…
As the Russian troops were fiercely rolling towards Berlin, the anti-Hitler coalition was increasingly getting political smell… The prime contributors were the British. Winston Churchill believed that ‘as far as military campaign is going to an end, the combat actions are acquiring political meaning. It requires interference of the political leaders in elaboration of operational plans’. (*)
Essentially these plans envisaged that the Nazi Germany would be definitely defeated by the Soviet troops and then, in the post-war period, ‘the German card’ will be played in full against the USSR.
Long before the end of the World War II the head of the US Office of Strategic Services William J. Donovan remarked: “A world to come should represent a constructive joint accord that would save Europe for the Western civilization. Since 1918 Russia ceased to be part of Europe. Henceforth Europe will end by the Russian border… It means that:
1. Germany will be occupied and save-guarded by American and British troops, which are the only ones fit for this function as both countries do not have territorial claims to Germany.
2. Initial assistance to Germany in supplies, healthcare and so on.”
Winston Churchill and other British and American politicians used this ‘initial assistance’ clause as a pretext to issue secret commandments requiring saving the armaments and munitions of the surrounding German units as well as their military structures. It would be a basis for reconstitution of the German army under Anglo-Saxon control as a bridgehead against Russia in Europe.
On April 22, 1945 the new American president Harry S. Truman gathered a secret meeting in Washington. Secretary of State Edward Reilly Stettinius, Secretary of War Henry Lewis Stimson, Secretary of the Navy James Vincent Forrestal, General George Catlett Marshall, US Ambassador to the USSR William Averell Harriman, Admiral William D. Leahy and few others were present. The future relations with the USSR were in focus on the meeting. Admiral Leahy wrote in his memoirs: “The group came to a conclusion that the time has come to take a strong position towards Soviet Union”.
Two days later Winston Churchill said that the relations with the USSR ‘are possible only in case Soviet people recognize Anglo-American force’. Exactly those days, when thousands of Russian were dying in the outskirts of Berlin bringing the Victory closer, the political course of our ‘Allies’ towards Russians had been drastically changed and the epoch of increasingly ‘tough approach’ to the USSR began.
On May 9, 1945 the Soviet people were rejoicing the Great Victory. George Frost Kennan, then a Counselor to the US Embassy in Moscow, was staying by the window looking at the triumphing mobs: “Celebrating… They think the war is over… But everything is just beginning…”
The US Joint Chiefs of Staff scrutinizing the balance of forces of the USSR and the United States make a conclusion just before the end the WWII: “Successful completion of the current campaign will lead to a profound shift of the global military might. There will be only two powers of the ‘first class’: the USSR and the US. None of these powers can unilaterally defeat another.”
United States and Britain desperately needed a ‘third force’ to prove that they are not only able to repel a ‘Soviet attack’ but to promptly crash USSR in a hypothetic war. Defeated German forces – well-trained and experienced with 6 years of combats in Europe, highly-disciplined and diligent – they represented ideal cannon fodder for Anglo-Saxons. Quantitatively they have been a serious military force as well.
According to Kurt von Tippelskirch, the commander of Army Group Vistula (Heeresgruppe Weichsel) retreating under Soviet strikes in early May 1945, the German and American commanders reached a separate agreement on the ‘safe surrender’ of Germans to the US Army. On May 2 the main forces of nazists have ‘disappeared’ behind the US front line thus escaping Soviet captivity. What happened then? The former German soldiers describe it the following way:
Gefreiter G.Vogt: “…now we have a new note in our service book: “Exempted from military service. Resides under protection of occupation forces.” They gave us British uniforms. It is in order Russians would not know the real situation. We are still living in barracks. The service is much stricter now. They punish us for slightest fault.”
Lieutenant E. Kleinman: “… we’ve got a new uniform, English style. So we are absolutely undistinguishable from British troops. Seems strange that we are obliged to wear this uniform as everything else is still the same…”
German aviators were sincerely astonished: “Where are we getting new German fighters and bombers from? Now we have much more machines than during the last months of war!” Two thirds of Nazi German aviators were back to service under British control.
German units were still efficient for the combat. They were being trained, officers possessed personal weapons. German and British officers used to talk to German soldiers that “soon England will declare war against USSR. That will be a war for reunification of Germany…”
To say the truth, many British officers and soldiers were opposing such treacherous alliance with the recent adversary.
Soviet commandment was aware of the maneuvers of the ‘allies’ in their occupation zone. To avoid mutual misunderstanding in October, 1945 Soviet Marshal Georgiy Zhukov has delivered a Memo to the Control Council expressing concern over the presence of organized units of the former Hitler troops within the British occupation zone. The major unit among those mentioned in the Memo was the so-called Nord Group that conserved all operational structures of the former Muller Group of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. It consisted of two 100 000-strong Corps Stockhausen and Witthoff. The detailed list of all former Wehrmacht units and its dislocations under British protection was attached to the Memo.
Under the conclusive evidence on November 30, 1945 when discussing the Memo with the members of Control Council, British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery was forced to recognize the presence of the armed and organized Wehrmacht units within the British zone. Marshal Zhukov final remark was: ‘I do not want to suspect Field Marshal Montgomery in intentions to unleash a war against the USSR, but as the Soviet top commander I want the comprehensive and definite disarmament of the Wehrmacht troops in full compliance with the decisions of the Potsdam Conference’. By the way, during that conversation Field Marshal Montgomery has blurted out that ‘the strategy we are following was established by the Joint Command under General Eisenhower’.
65 year passed since then. There was the famous Fulton speech by Winston Churchill, determining the Western policy towards Soviet Union for decades, ‘iron curtain’, Berlin Wall, Caribbean Crisis, Détente, Afghanistan, Reset…
Why do we remember old stories on the eve of the Great Victory and first joint parade? Not for mutual reproaches, no. It is for the mutual understanding. For elaborating truthful and balanced historical pattern for the future generations. For making right conclusions and not repeating mistakes and past intrigues. Because the future belongs to the honest and sincere.
(*) Here and below the citations are my back translations from the Russian sources. I would appreciate if my readers provide me with the original ones, which I failed to find in the Internet.
The post was written by ORIENTAL REVIEW basing on Strategic Culture Foundation publication in the Russian language.