Roosevelt Papers: Telegram
The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the President 1
(Personal and Top Secret for the eyes only of the President from Harriman)
At a military conference last night General Brooke assisted by the Prime Minister presented the military situation and the allied plans on the Western and Italian fronts. Stalin expressed his opinion that the attack on the Ruhr was the knockout blow for Germany but again argued for the turning of the Siegfried Line to the south through Switzerland. Churchill explained the impracticability of such a move and expressed confidence that Allied preponderance of strength resulting from United States reinforcements gave promise of success for the drive in the north. In connection with the Italian campaign Stalin showed great interest in the proposed amphibious operations on the Istrian Peninsula, indicating the possibility of Allied and Soviet forces joining hands in Austria. General Antonov, Deputy Chief of the Red staff, presented the Red Army position. An offensive is now under way in the extreme north. The Red Army is only 2 miles from Petsamo, which is expected to be taken very soon. Remnants [Page 365]of the 3 German divisions in this area may withdraw to Norway. An offensive is planned against the 5 German divisions in North Central Finland who may also attempt to withdraw to Norway. Stalin suggested a joint British and Russian operation against Norway to cut these units off. The Prime Minister explained that the British have no ground forces available but was ready to discuss naval cooperation. Antonov explained that about 30 divisions were now isolated in the Western Latvian Peninsula which will take some time to liquidate. Next he explained the developments in Hungary and Yugoslavia, stating that the Red Army would not advance further west in Yugoslavia after Belgrade is captured and would concentrate on occupying Hungary and encircling as much as possible of the German force of 23 divisions in Hungary. Stalin explained that the drive in this sector will be their immediate major offensive, advancing through Austria to take Vienna. This will open a new route into Germany to the west of Czechoslovakia and then to the northwest in the direction of the Oder at Breslau. On the central sector from Lithuania to the Carpathians, where the Germans have some 120 divisions, the Russians are maintaining constant pressure. The timing of the attack against East Prussia and the encircling of Warsaw will depend upon the progress of the operations on the 2 flanks. Stalin emphasized that the developments in the south had offered a new approach to Germany which appeared attractive because of the lack of German prepared defences in that area. The final outcome may be a drive from both the central sector and penetrating of Germany from the south or from either of them depending on the developments of the situation. Stalin stated he had in all 300 divisions at his disposal in the European theater. In discussing when Germany might be expected to be defeated he stated that after the campaign in January “we will be able to judge”. Going back to an earlier inquiry of Churchill, Stalin said that Churchill could now see that the Germans would be unable to withdraw forces from the east to reinforce the west.
General Brooke described the situation in Burma. General Deane then outlined the developments of the war in the Pacific and the role that Russia might play.2 He asked for the information desired by the Chiefs of Staff as to Russian intentions and capabilities. The Prime Minister limited his remarks to explanation of the forces the British would be able to place at the disposal of the United States command in the Pacific after the defeat of Germany. Marshal Stalin showed great interest, grasp, and general approval throughout General Deane’s presentation. Lieut. General Shevehenke [ Shevchenko ], Chief of Staff to the Far Eastern Commander, was present. As the hour was late even for Moscow, it was agreed that the Russian position in the Far East should be presented at a meeting today.