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Journal of Cold War Studies 4.1 (2002) 89-91

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Book Review

Victory in Europe 1945: From World War to Cold War

Arnold A. Offner and Theodore A. Wilson, eds., Victory in Europe 1945: From World War to Cold War. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2000. 308 pp. $39.95

The editors, Arnold Offner and Theodore Wilson, both distinguished historians of American foreign relations, have done a good job of turning the proverbial sow's ear into a silk purse. This book is a collection of papers presented at a 1995 conference and, like most conference volumes, it is uneven. Not surprisingly, two of the best essays [End Page 89] are written by the editors. Wilson opens with a thoughtful piece on the issue of war termination. Offner provides the penultimate chapter, a state-of-the-art discussion of Truman and nuclear diplomacy.

For most American scholars, the freshest presentations are on subjects that, unfortunately, have nothing to do with the Cold War. Roan Fanning writes on "Dublin: The View from a Neutral Capital" and recounts Ireland's role in World War II. He reminds us of allied apprehensions that Dublin would be hostile and provide a backdoor for German espionage and perhaps even a German invasion of Great Britain. The reality proved to be quite different, as tens of thousands of Ireland's young men volunteered to serve in Allied forces with the acquiescence of their country's leaders. Irish and British intelligence operatives cooperated regularly during the war. Fanning notes that benevolent neutrality, designed to preserve Ireland's hard-won independence, did not satisfy either American or British leaders. Much of the world was appalled when Irish Prime Minister Eamon de Valera inexplicably chose to call on the German envoy in Dublin to offer his condolences on the death of Adolf Hitler.

Hal Wert tells the terrible story of near famine in the Netherlands as the Allies postponed the liberation of the country to concentrate on forcing a German surrender in late 1944. Allied military leaders miscalculated both the extent of food deprivation in the Netherlands and the likely date of the war's end in Europe, allowing widespread suffering among the Dutch during the winter of 1944-1945. Massive starvation was averted when the German officer overseeing the occupation of a heavily afflicted region agreed to allow food drops. Negotiations with the Germans were undertaken with Josif Stalin's approval and the participation of a Soviet representative, unlike Allen Dulles's games at Bern. Serious Allied efforts to feed the Dutch came only after unrelenting pleas by Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands finally galvanized Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.

More closely related to questions about the origins of the Cold War are David Hogan's contribution on Dwight Eisenhower's decision to halt Allied forces at the Elbe River and permit the Soviet army to capture Berlin and Mark Stoler's discussion of the American Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and Soviet-American relations in the spring of 1945. Hogan offers a well-written, perceptive historiographic essay and finds a consensus in support of Eisenhower's decision. Stoler brings to bear his extraordinary knowledge of the inner workings of the JCS, showing their increasing mistrust of the Soviet Union in early 1945, a mistrust that was held in check by their determination to avoid a confrontation while the Red Army was carrying the greatest burden of the war in Europe and was still slated for the battle against Japan. He concludes that it was not until October 1945 that the JCS clearly defined the Soviet Union as an adversary.

Randall Woods, who has written eloquently about J. William Fulbright, and Warren Kimball, the leading authority on the Roosevelt-Churchill relationship, make perfunctory appearances in the volume. Woods looks at "Congress and the Roots of Postwar American Foreign Policy" in an essay that contrasts Fulbright's liberal internationalism with Senator Robert Taft's traditional isolationism and Senator Arthur Vandenberg's conservative internationalism. Kimball reminds us of the Anglo- American [End Page 90...