740.0011 P. W./911

Memorandum by Mr. Joseph E. Davies, of Washington2

Memorandum of Conference Had With Ambassador Litvinov3 Upon His Arrival December 7, 1941

When Ambassador and Mrs. Litvinov were lunching with me alone, word came of the Japanese attack. Litvinov asked me how I felt about it. I replied that it was a terrible thing, but it was providential. It assured unity in this country. It also assured a united battle front of the non-aggressor great nations. It was now “all for one and one for all.”

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I asked him how he felt about it. He said that had the United States come into the war earlier it would have undoubtedly thwarted Hitler. He was not so sure that it was advantageous now. I gathered that what was in the back of his mind was that this development would prevent the delivery of vital war materials to Britain and Russia.

I asked him if that was what he thought would be the reaction of his government. He said that he could not say. He had been out of touch with his government for three or four weeks. He intimated that his government had been handling Japan gingerly, under the non-aggression pact, to avoid war on two fronts.

Madame Litvinov expressed great concern over Moscow. In reply to my question she said that if Moscow fell it would have a bad effect on the morale of the Soviet people. I did not press the discussion further.

The matter of air bases in Siberia and Kamchatka and the question of Soviet bombing of Japan from Vladivostok is vital. Hitler will decide it. If by his direction the Jap forces in Manchukuo attack Russia the problem becomes academic.

If on the other hand, Japan may have been able to prevail upon Hitler not to require such a pincer movement against the Soviets because of the bombing danger, then the problem will be vital. The question of policy will then arise as to whether it is better to try to get the Soviets to attack and aid us or not. We might win the battle, but hazard the war.

If the Soviet should be defeated by an attack on two fronts; or if they should lose heart, it might affect the ultimate issue.

The Soviets, if attacked by Japan and Germany, might be in a desperate plight, or think that they were. Particularly is this true if the Germans cut the Murmansk rail line of supply. Shipments by way of the Persian Gulf in the Caspian sea are also dubious. The limited rail facilities are accentuated because of lack of harbor equipment on the south shore of the Caspian.

  1. Copy transmitted to the Under Secretary of State (Welles) in covering letter dated December 8 from Mr. Davies, former Ambassador to the Soviet Union. In a telephone conversation on the evening of December 8 Mr. Davies told Mr. Welles that the original was being sent to President Roosevelt that evening. Mr. Welles on December 9 forwarded the copy to the Secretary of State.
  2. Maxim M. Litvinov, newly arrived Soviet Ambassador in the United States.