Exposing the Third Reich
Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler's Germany
Publication Year: 2013
As World War II recedes from living memory, there remain untold stories of important behind-the-scenes operatives who provided vital support to the leaders celebrated in historical accounts. Colonel Truman Smith is one of the most compelling figures from this period, but there has never been a biography of this important and controversial man. In Exposing the Third Reich, Henry G. Gole tells this soldier's story for the first time.
An American aristocrat from a prominent New England family, Smith was first assigned to Germany in 1919 during the Allied occupation and soon became known as a regional expert. During his second assignment in the country as a military attach? in 1935, he arranged for his good friend Charles Lindbergh to inspect the Luftwaffe. The Germans were delighted to have the famous aviator view their planes, enabling Smith to gather key intelligence about their air capability. His savvy cultivation of relationships rendered him invaluable throughout his service, particularly as an aide to General George C. Marshall; however, the colonel's friendliness with Germany also aroused suspicion that he was a Nazi sympathizer.
Gole demonstrates that, far from condoning Hitler, Smith was among the first to raise the alarm: he predicted many of the Nazis' moves years in advance and feared that the international community would not act quickly enough. Featuring many firsthand observations of the critical changes in Germany between the world wars, this biography presents an indispensable look both at a fascinating figure and at the nuances of the interwar years.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Series: American Warriors Series
During World War I, Truman Smith acquired a distinguished record as an infantry officer commanding a company and later a battalion in combat. After the war he served in the occupation troops stationed in Coblenz. Then, in the twenty years between the world wars, he spent two four-year tours in Germany as an assistant military attaché and, then, as the military attaché. ...
Preface and Acknowledgments
This book began with several straws blowing in the wind that landed on my desk. One was awareness of rich sources conveniently located. Another was readiness for a new project. Yet another was appreciation of the personal story of Truman Smith’s dedicated service to this country, which parallels the general decline of the patrician class, ...
1. Patrician Heritage
Truman Smith, born to a prominent family at West Point in 1893, was well educated, confident, and responsible, and, while he never used these words to describe himself or his class, he was an American aristocrat. Like European gentry, his Yankee patrician class knew without saying that the price of economic well-being and high social status ...
2. Over There
The war years of 1917–1918 were a formative time for Truman. His marriage to Kay began a long and loving relationship that was also a professional partnership. Her charm, wit, and high intelligence enabled her to keep pace with her talented husband as he matured and became first a good soldier and later a skilled reporter and analyst. ...
3. Deutschland and Yearning
Smith had distinguished himself in a campaign that was brief, intense, and conclusive. As the American Army demobilized and diplomats engaged in the preliminaries to peacemaking, Truman’s regiment remained in Europe to become part of the occupation force in Germany. ...
4. Civil Affairs and Romance on the Rhine
Neither Smith nor his superiors knew how the Germans would react to occupation by foreign soldiers, nor did they know how long the occupation would last. The first question was answered early on as the Germans accepted the American presence without incident, despite the general anxiety that pervaded Germany, now defeated, hungry, and leaderless. ...
5. Berlin, Munich, and Hitler in Weimar Germany
The Smiths arrived in Berlin in June 1920, when both they and the Weimar Republic were young. Everything about Berlin seemed tenuous, provisional, improvised, and ad hoc, including the American representation in the German capital. ...
6. Years of Preparation
The Smiths’ European adventure of the early 1920s was a rich personal and professional experience; the same cannot be said of their next assignment. Truman later wrote, “The ensuing year and a half spent at Fort Hamilton was altogether the dullest and least professionally rewarding of my whole army career. ...
7. Marshall's Men
The people and the work made Smith’s Benning assignment “most pleasant.” Kay was relaxed, and Truman thoroughly enjoyed his job. Many of their friends, colleagues, and students became the top army leaders during and after World War II, and there was an unexpected bonus. ...
8. Army War College and Command
Smith’s gratifying years at Fort Benning with Marshall, Schell, and other first-rate professionals were focused on training and tactics. That assignment was followed by a year at the Army War College, where his focus was on national strategy, military strategy, and an expansion of his already considerable expertise regarding Germany, ...
9. Hitler Takes Power
The chief of staff’s enigmatic pronouncements must have puzzled Smith as he prepared to take up his post as military attaché. After all, MacArthur had been a brigadier general when just thirty-eight and superintendent at the United States Military Academy a year later. ...
10. Hitler's Germany
Smith had thought through Hitler’s influence and Germany’s future in his 1924 article, “The German Fascisti,” which remained unpublished until 1984. In it he warned that “critics and scoffers” who proclaimed Hitler’s doctrines as artificial “bunkum” “may well be too optimistic.” ...
11. Kay, Germany, and Ambassador Dodd
Katharine Alling Hollister Smith used Alling, her mother’s maiden name, and Hollister, her own maiden name, on the title page of her memoir, “My Life,” presumably to make it clear that she was not just another Smith. She describes her and her husband’s second tour of duty in Berlin in a single-spaced document of 286 pages.1 ...
12. Hitler Arms, Smith Reports
In 1935, Smith knew with absolute clarity that he was in Berlin in Hitler’s time to observe and report on German rearmament. In retrospect, he realized that he had been close to the center of world-altering events in the decade after 1935, a period covering his assignments in Berlin and in Washington from 1939 to 1945. ...
13. Smith's Trojan Horse
In the summer of 1953, seven years after his retirement from active military duty, Smith was approached by the Intelligence Division of the General Staff with the request that he furnish them all pertinent facts regarding the connection of then-Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, Army Reserve, with Smith’s office in Berlin between 1935 and 1939. ...
14. The Lindbergh-Smith Friendship
Truman Smith was enormously grateful to Charles Lindbergh for the air intelligence gained by the aviator’s visits to Germany in 1936 and 1937. Later Lindbergh visits in 1938 and 1939 were icing on the cake, but Smith singled out his 1 November 1937 report on Nazi air power as his crowning achievement. ...
15. Hitler Is Ready
Truman Smith’s promotion to lieutenant colonel in 1938 was good news, as were two more visits to Berlin by Charles and Anne Lindbergh, during which they were once more guests of the Smiths. The visits were a source of personal pleasure for both couples. ...
16. Welcome Home
Despite the discovery of diabetes in the course of his physical examination, Smith was promoted to lieutenant colonel with a backdated effective date of rank of 1 July 1938. Date of rank in the interwar U.S. Army of slow promotions was important to Regulars. ...
17. Smith as "Strategicus"
Retirement meant that Truman and Kay were no longer nomads subject to relocation on receipt of orders from duly constituted military authority. They showed no hesitation in selecting their place of permanent residence. ...
18. Wartime Washington
It is inconceivable that Truman Smith could have chosen to sit on the sideline as friends and comrades from twenty-six years of military service marched off to the great crusade, many to serve with distinction. One imagines the visceral reaction of the professional soldier and combat veteran in the charged atmosphere of the days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, ...
19. The Road to German Rearmament
The Smiths’ 1945–1946 transition from active duty to retirement— again—was bridged by a year of sick leave at home in Connecticut. General Marshall’s appreciation of Truman’s decade of outstanding performance of duty in Berlin and Washington accounts for the unusually long leave. ...
20. Politics, Travel, and Writing
Smith had some creative notions about the U.S. Army’s personnel policies, at least one of which came to fruition in part due to his friendship with Clare Boothe Luce. Both Smiths knew and liked Luce from Berlin and Washington days, and Kay enjoyed telling amusing stories ...
21. Retrospective and a Graceful Exit
Germany remained a magnet to Truman Smith to the end of his life. He returned with Kay to meet with old friends in September and October 1963, the best time of year to be in that part of the world, as he knew. Then-and-now comparisons were unavoidable as they toured the land they knew so well. ...
Appendix A. Losses in Smith’s 4th Infantry, October 1918
Appendix B. Smith to His Sister on the Death of His Daughter, 1923
Appendix C. Marshall on Smith’s Berlin Reporting and Dignity
Appendix D. The German-British Bombing Pause, Christmas 1940
Appendix E. Marshall on Smith’s Assessment of the Balkans, 1943
Appendix F. Smith on the Situation in Europe, May 1944
Appendix G. Marshall Saves a German General
Appendix H. Smith on the German Army, 1963
Appendix I. Smith’s Letter to Brigitta von Schell, 1967
Appendix J. Smith to Marshall on Smith’s Retirement
Appendix K. Obituary, Katharine Alling Hollister Smith
A Note on Sources