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The Diplomacy of Restraint: The United States' Efforts to Repatriate Greek Children Evacuated During the Civil War of 1946-49* Howard Jones In early 1948 the Department of State began receiving reports that Greek communist guerrillas were evacuating thousands of Greek children from the country and relocating them in neighboring communist states in East Europe. Stories of atrocities during the Greek civil war were not new, of course, but these revelations seemed particularly shocking. The government in Athens charged that the rebels were kidnapping youths aged three to fourteen, causing the entire episode to take on the sinister appearance of a calculated effort to destroy Greece as a nation. Indeed, the Greek government accused the rebels of genocide and appealed to the United Nations for help. Afterward it turned to the United States, which had earlier announced the Truman Doctrine of military and economic aid to prevent the spread of Soviet communism into Greece and Turkey. This seemingly new communist threat, which the Greeks called paedomazoma or "gathering ofthe children," aroused indignation within the Truman administration because it violated the fundamentals of humanitarianism; more importantly, some American observers suspected that the evacuations were a device for undermining the Truman Doctrine by deepening the chaos in Greece and making the country a breeding ground for communism (U.S., Dept. of State, Athens Post Records, Embassy to Sec. of State, 17 April 1948). Although numerous writers have referred to the displacement of Greek children, they have been unable to determine motive for obvious rea- *The author wishes to thank the Earhart Foundation, Truman Library, and University of Alabama for support in the preparation of this article. He also expresses appreciation to Richard V. Burks, Robert H. Ferrell, and Hugh Ragsdale for their advice and encouragement. 65 66 Howard Jones sons: the files in the East European states and in Greece remain closed to researchers. The accessibility to American documents permits only a onesided examination ofthe question, but even this approach raises important implications that extend beyond the immediate issue of the children. The evidence demonstrates that at least in this instance the Truman administration was less rigid in its response to foreign policy matters during the Cold War than usually appeared to be the case. Despite pressure from many sources, the government in Washington refused to engage in a propaganda campaign against the communists , attempting instead to make a dispassionate decision about whether there was proof of kidnapping. There were reasons for this restraint. The purpose of the Truman Doctrine in Greece was to wind down the war and establish internal stability— not to aggravate further relations between the Athens government and its neighbors to the north. Furthermore, the Cold War itself would soon have an effect on these incidents relating to the children. The Truman administration was aware of the growing troubles within the Corninform (Communist Information Bureau), and would try to exploit Yugoslavia's break with the Soviet bloc in June 1948. Undoubtedly this move by Yugoslavia's leader, Marshal Josip Tito, had an impact on the manner in which the United States dealt with the kidnapping allegations brought before the United Nations. State Department materials show that the Truman administration was so interested in the overtures made by Tito shortly after the rift became public that by 1949 it was sending economic assistance to Yugoslavia (Lees, 407-22; Coufoudakis, 417, n. 47). Such a policy strongly suggests that Secretary of State George C. Marshall and others in Washington could not have wanted to criticize the Yugoslav government (or any other potential dissident in East Europe) over the fate of the Greek children. With these realities in mind, the purpose of this essay is to explore the delicate diplomacy exercised by the State Department in dealing with this new twist in the Greek situation. The White House suspected that both sides in the child controversy had exaggerated the issues, and yet it also knew that the matter was part of the ongoing civil war in Greece and for that reason could affect the outcome of the Truman Doctrine. Supporters of the Athens government complained that Yugoslavia was attempting to undermine the Greek nation as part of an effort to construct...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 65-85
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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