Bohlen Collection

Boettiger Minutes3

Thirty-three members of the American, British and Russian representatives [delegations?] at the Teheran conference gathered with Mr. Churchill for dinner on the occasion of his 69th birthday. A list of the guests, and the seating arrangment at the dinner-table, is attached.

It was clear that those present had a sense of realization that historic understanding had been reached and this conception was brought out in the statements and speeches. Back of all was the feeling that basic friendships had been established which there was every reason to believe would endure.

This strong feeling of optimism appeared to be based on the realization that if the three nations went forward together, there was real hope for a better world future, and that their own most vital interests dictated such a policy.

President Roosevelt sat on the Prime Minister’s right, and Marshal Stalin on his left. All speeches took the form of toasts, following [Page 583]the Russian custom and the policy established at the Stalin dinner at the Soviet Embassy on Sunday [Monday] night.

The President opened the proceedings with the first toast, an unusual departure from rote in that he, instead of the host, proposed the traditional toast to the King. The President said that as an old friend of King George he had requested of Mr. Churchill the privilege of offering the toast.

The Prime Minister then paid a warm official and personal tribute to the President, whom he characterized as a man who had devoted his entire life to the cause of defending the weak and helpless, and to the promotion of the great principles that underlie our democratic civilization. Following this with a toast to Marshal Stalin, he said the latter was worthy to stand with the great figures of Russian history and merited the title of “Stalin the Great”.

The President spoke of his long admiration for Winston Churchill and his joy in the friendship which had developed between them in the midst of their common efforts in this war.

Marshal Stalin said the honors which had been paid to him really belonged to the Russian people; that it was easy to be a hero or a great leader, if one had to do with people such as the Russians. He said that the Red Army had fought heroically, but that the Russian people would have tolerated no other quality from their armed forces. He said that even persons of medium courage and even cowards became heroes in Russia. Those who didn’t, he said, were killed.

The Prime Minister spoke of the great responsibility that rested on the three men who have the power to command some 30 million armed men, as well as the vast number of men and women who stood behind these men in their work in field and factory, which makes possible the activities of the armies. In a personal toast to Franklin Roosevelt, The Prime Minister expressed his opinion that through the President’s courage and foresighted action in 1933, he had indeed prevented a revolution in the United States. He expressed his admiration for the way the President had guided his country along the “tumultuous stream of party friction and internal politics amidst the violent freedoms of democracy”.

Among the many toasts of the evening was one by President Roosevelt to Sir Alan Brooke, the British Army Chief of Staff. Marshal Stalin stood with the others, but he held his glass in his hand, and when the others had drunk he stayed on his feet. He said he wished to join in the toast of General Brooke, but wished to make certain observations.

Acknowledging the General’s greatness, Marshal Stalin, with a twinkle in his eye, said he regretted that Sir Alan was unfriendly to the Soviet Union, and adopted a grim and distrustful attitude toward [Page 584]the Russians. He drank the General’s health in the hope that Sir Alan “would come to know us better and would find that we are not so bad after all”.

Some time later, in reply to Stalin, General Brooke rose and with some stiffness of manner declared that the Marshal had made note of the means used by the Russians in deceiving the enemy on the Eastern front. For the greater part of the war, he went on, Great Britain had adopted cover plans to deceive the enemy, and it was possible that Marshal Stalin had mistaken the dummy “tanks and airplanes” for the real operations. “That is possible” interjected Stalin, dryly, bringing chuckles around the table. His real desire, continued Brooke, was to establish closer collaboration with the Russians. “That is possible”, Stalin repeated, “even probable”. And there were more chuckles. It was thought that General Brooke would wind up with a toast to Marshal Voroshilov, the Russian chief of staff, but instead he broke away completely from his [this?] vein and abruptly proposed the health of Admiral Leahy.

Mr. Churchill took indirect note of the incident and seemed inclined to soften the effect of it, and in a subsequent toast he observed that he had heard the suggestions concerning changing political complexions in the world. He said that he could not speak with authority concerning the political view which might be expressed by the American people in the coming year’s elections, and that he would not presume to discuss the changing political philosophy of the Russian nation. But, he continued, so far as the British people were concerned, he could say very definitely that their “complexions are becoming a trifle pinker”. Stalin spoke up instantly: “That is a sign of good health!”

In what he declared would be the concluding toast of the evening, Mr. Churchill referred to the great progress which had been made at Teheran toward solution of world affairs, and proposed a joint toast to the President and Marshal Stalin.

But before the dinner could break up, Stalin requested of his host the privilege of delivering one more toast. Mr. Churchill nodded assent and Stalin then said he wished to speak of the importance of “the machine” in the present war, and to express his great admiration for the productive capacity of the United States. He had been advised, he said, that the United States would very soon be producing 10,000 planes every month. This compared, he said, with 2,500 to 3,000 planes which the Soviet Union was able to produce, after making every effort to speed the task, and with a somewhat similar number of planes produced monthly by Great Britain.

Without these planes from America the war would have been lost, said Stalin with emphasis. He expressed his gratitude and that [Page 585]of the Russian people for the great leadership of President Roosevelt which had developed the great production of war machines and made possible their delivery to Russia. He wound up with a warm toast to the President.4

Then The President sought the privilege of adding a last word, and he said these meetings at Teheran had raised all our hopes that the future would find a better world, an ordered world in which the ordinary citizen would be assured the possibility of peaceful toil and the just enjoyment of the fruits of his labors.

“There has been discussion here tonight of our varying colors of political complexion”, he said. “I like to think of this in terms of the rainbow. In our country the rainbow is a symbol of good fortune and of hope. It has many varying colors, each individualistic, but blending into one glorious whole.

“Thus with our nations. We have differing customs and philosophies and ways of life. Each of us works out our scheme of things according to the desires and ideas of our own peoples.

“But we have proved here at Teheran that the varying ideals of our nations can come together in a harmonious whole, moving unitedly for the common good of ourselves and of the world.

“So as we leave this historic gathering, we can see in the sky, for the first time, that traditional symbol of hope, the rainbow”.

  1. See also the Bohlen memorandum summarizing incidental remarks made at various meetings held during the course of the Conference, post, p. 837.
  2. See also the quotation from Stalin’s remarks which appears in the Log, ante, p. 469.