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Chapter Ten Ending the War After the Truman administration had been assembled, its first task was to preside over the end of the war. For Europe the work was fairly easy, although after Germany's surrender another Big Three meeting became necessary , in the tradition of those attended by FDR at Teheran and Yalta. But this did not address the problem of ending the Japanese war. And for both Europe and East Asia the president's task was made vastly more difficult by Roosevelt 's appalling failure to tell him anything about foreign affairs. In domestic matters he was well informed; of all twentieth-century presidents he may have been the best prepared. In foreign affairs he knew little more than what he read in the newspapers. "I know nothing of foreign affairs," he told his first postmaster general, Frank Walker, "and I must acquaint myself with them at once."1 The new president was a lonely figure as he sought to prepare himself for his high office. Every night he took a briefcase full of documents over to Blair House, to which he and the family had moved temporarily from the Connecticut Avenue apartment. He had hoped to stay in the apartment while Mrs. Roosevelt packed the accumulation of more than twelve years and arranged for movers to transport the trunks and boxes and furniture to Hyde Park, but other people in the apartment house would have been necessarily inconvenienced by the secret service men checking identifications and the general confusion of turning an apartment house into a presidential residence, and so the move to Blair House. After Mrs. Roosevelt left the White House, Truman and his wife had minor redecorating done; Mrs. Truman and Margaret were surprised to see how shabby the private quarters were, how the Roosevelts had let things run down. Eventually the Trumans moved in, and then the president could carry his briefcase from the west wing to the second-floor private quarters, where he continued to pore over memoranda from officials everywhere in the government , trying to sense the concerns of his predecessor and what to do 198 199 / Ending the War about them. He later said he read a stack of papers six feet high, in installments of thirty thousand words, a small book, every night, and very nearly damaged his eyes permanently-those eyes that were none too strong to begin with.2 1 The end of the European war was a formality: documents were signed in Rheims, followed by a ceremonial signing by the German military with the Russians and a simultaneous release of the news in Moscow, London, and Washington. The Germans fought to the bitter end, in accord with the Rooseveltian pronouncement at Casablanca in 1943 that there could be nought but unconditional surrender. The pronouncement itself had the partial purpose of affirming the Western Allies' alliance with the Soviets; it guaranteed no separate peace. Beyond that it held the liability of fighting to a finish. Upon coming into the presidency Truman might have tried to modify that arrangement , for Germany's plight was hopeless: the quicker the surrender the better . But such an effort would have required herculean diplomatic discussions with the Soviets, after the Allies, Western and Eastern, had fought the war largely on separate fronts with little coordination. In Truman's personal papers is no evidence he even thought of a negotiated peace in Europe. Roosevelt , if in good health, might have done so. And so the European war wound down to its weary end on May 8, 1945. The first presidential act of importance in foreign relations thereafter amounted to a fiasco. The president quite simply made an egregious error in signing his name to an order restricting lend-lease that Undersecretary of State Joseph c. Grew and Foreign Economic Administrator Leo T. Crowley handed him on May 11, three days after announcement of the German surrender . The order stopped all lend-lease items not needed for military operations in the Far East or completion of industrial plants already delivered in part. The Soviets created an uproar, and it was necessary to turn ships around at sea once again, reload, and make the best of what looked like disloyalty to Allies, notably the USSR. Truman later said he had not read the order when he signed it. He probably had not read every word, but one suspects he knew more about it than he liked to remember. Grew and Crowley both had warned him the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826260451
Related ISBN
9780826210500
MARC Record
OCLC
533178060
Pages
519
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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