Leahy Papers: Telegram

No. 4
Prime Minister Churchill to President Truman 1

top secret

Prime Minister to President Truman. Personal and top secret. Number 41.

Following is text of telegram referred to in my immediately preceding telegram.2

I consider that the Polish deadlock can now probably only be resolved at a conference between the three heads of governments in some unshattered town in Germany, if such can be found. This should take place at latest at the beginning of July. I propose to telegraph a suggestion to President Truman about his visit here and the further indispensable meeting of the three major powers.
The Polish problem may be easier to settle when set in relation to the now numerous outstanding questions of the utmost gravity which require urgent settlement with the Russians. I fear terrible things have happened during the Russian advance through Germany to the Elbe. The proposed withdrawal of the United States Army to the occupational lines which were arranged with the Russians and Americans in Quebec3 and which were marked in yellow on the maps we studied there, would mean the tide of Russian domination sweeping forward 120 miles on a front of 300 or 400 miles. This would be an event which, if it occurred, would be one of the most melancholy in history. After it was over and the territory occupied [Page 7] by the Russians, Poland would be completely engulfed and buried deep in Russian-occupied lands. What would in fact be the Russian frontier would run from the North Cape in Norway along the Finnish-Swedish frontier, across the Baltic to a point just east of Lübeck along the at present agreed line of occupation and along the frontier between Bavaria to Czechoslovakia to the frontiers of Austria which is nominally to be in quadruple occupation, and half-way across that country to the Isonzo River behind which Tito and Russia will claim everything to the east. Thus the territories under Russian control would include the Baltic provinces, all of Germany to the occupational line, all Czechoslovakia, a large part of Austria, the whole of Yugoslavia, Hungary, Roumania, Bulgaria until Greece in her present tottering condition is reached. It would include all the great capitals of middle Europe including Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia. The position of Turkey and Constantinople will certainly come immediately into discussion.
This constitutes an event in the history of Europe to which there has been no parallel, and which has not been faced by the Allies in their long and hazardous struggle. The Russian demands on Germany for reparations alone will be such as to enable her to prolong the occupation almost indefinitely, at any rate for many years during which time Poland will sink with many other states into the vast zone of Russian-controlled Europe, not necessarily economically Sovietised but police-governed.
It is just about time that these formidable issues were examined between the principal powers as a whole. We have several powerful bargaining counters on our side, the use of which might make for a peaceful agreement. First, the Allies ought not to retreat from their present positions to the occupational line until we are satisfied about Poland and also about the temporary character of the Russian occupation of Germany, and the conditions to be established in the Russianised or Russian-controlled countries in the Danube valley particularly Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia and the Balkans. Secondly, we may be able to please them about the exits from the Black Sea and the Baltic as part of a general settlement. All these matters can only be settled before the United States armies in Europe are weakened. If they are not settled before the United States armies withdraw from Europe and the Western world folds up its war machines, there are no prospects of a satisfactory solution and very little of preventing a third world war. It is to this early and speedy showdown and settlement with Russia that we must now turn our hopes. Meanwhile I am against weakening our claim against Russia on behalf of Poland in any way. I think it should stand where it was put in the telegrams from the President and me.4
  1. Sent by the United States Military Attaché, London, via Army channels.
  2. Document No. 3. The text of the message which follows was communicated to the Secretary of State by Leahy in a memorandum of May 11 (file No. 860c.01/5–1145).
  3. The records of the Second Quebec Conference are scheduled for publication in a subsequent volume in this series. Soviet representatives were not present at the Quebec Conference. Following Anglo-American agreement at Quebec with respect to zones of occupation in Germany, an agreement on the subject was signed at London on November 14, 1944, by the United States, British, and Soviet representatives on the European Advisory Commission (Department of State, Treaties and Other International Acts Series No. 3071; Department of State, United States Treaties and Other International Agreements, vol. 5, pt. 2, p. 2087).
  4. For the messages referred to, see Truman, Year of Decisions, p. 254; Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, p. 499; Stalin’s Correspondence, vol. i, p. 338, and vol. ii, p. 228.