740.00114 EW/3–1445: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Harriman) to the Secretary of State 85

738. I assume the Department has been informed by the War Department of the great difficulties General Deane and I have been having with the Soviet Government in regard to the care and repatriation of our liberated prisoners of war. In the beginning it appeared that the Soviet authorities were going to interpret our agreement substantially as we did, namely that we be allowed to send our contact officers to several points within Poland to which our prisoners first find their way, to fly in emergency supplies and to evacuate our wounded on the returning trips of the planes, although in Soviet planes rather than United States planes. We obtained authority for one contact team of an officer and doctor to go to Lublin with one plane load of supplies and they have done extremely useful work there. No other teams or supplies have since been permitted and authority for the Lublin team to remain has recently been withdrawn. The Soviets have now contended that Odessa is the only present “camps and points of concentration” referred to in the agreement to which our contact officers are to be permitted. The Soviets are, however, planning also to establish camps at Lwow, Bronnitz and Volkowisk which are just east of the present Polish border and will be accessible to our officers, but even these camps are a long way from the original points of liberation.

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Our prisoners have suffered serious hardships from lack of food, clothing, medical attention, et cetera, in finding their way to concentration points in Poland and on the long rail trip to Odessa because we have been stopped from sending in our contact teams and emergency supplies. A considerable number of sick and wounded are still hospitalized in Poland. I have been urging for the last 2 weeks that General Deane be permitted to survey the situation with a Red Army officer. This was first approved in writing with the qualification that arrangements must be made with the Polish authorities. An officer of our Military Mission informally approached the Polish Embassy here and was advised that no Polish authorization was necessary as it was entirely within the competence of the Red Army. We have been unable, however, to get authorization for Deane’s trip.

It seems clear that the Soviets have changed their point of view during the last several weeks and are now rigidly determined that none of our officers shall be permitted in Poland.

I saw Molotov again today about the situation. He maintained that the Soviet Government was fulfilling its obligation under the agreement and both the Red Army authorities and the Polish Provisional Government objected to the presence of our officers in Poland. When I pressed him on what valid objection the Red Army could possibly have, he pointed out that we had no agreement with the Polish Provisional Government. In spite of my contention that this was a Soviet responsibility he kept reverting to the above fact. I then directly asked him if he was implying that we should make such an arrangement with the Poles and if so, whether the Red Army would remove its objections. He did not answer this question directly but left me with the impression that he wished me to draw that deduction.

I am satisfied that the objection comes from Soviet Government and not the Provisional Polish Government as our military mission has been in informal contact with the Polish Embassy here who have been extremely cooperative as have all Polish authorities including the Polish Red Cross to our prisoners in Poland.

I feel that the Soviet Government is trying to use our liberated prisoners of war as a club to induce us to give increased prestige to the Provisional Polish Government by dealing with it in this connection as the Soviets are doing in other cases. General Deane and I have not been able to find a way to force the Soviet authorities to live up to our interpretation of our agreement. We have used every argument to no avail. Unless some steps can be taken to bring direct pressure on the Soviets our liberated prisoners will continue to suffer hardships, particularly the wounded and sick. I recommend that the Department [Page 1081] consult with the War Department with a view of determining what further steps might be taken here or elsewhere to induce the Soviets to change their present uncooperative attitude.

It is the opinion of General Deane and myself that no arguments will induce the Soviets to live up to our interpretation of the agreement except retaliatory measures which affect their interests unless another direct appeal from the President should prove effective. We therefore recommend that the first step be a second request from the President to Marshal Stalin along the line of the suggestion I have already made in my Army cable March 12,86 perhaps now amplified in light of developments since.87 In the meantime, however, we recommend further that the Department and War Department come to an agreement on what retaliatory measures we can immediately apply in the event an unfavorable answer is received by the President from Marshal Stalin.

Consideration might be given to such actions as, or combination thereof: (1) That General Eisenhower88 issue orders to restrict the movements of Soviet contact officers in France to several camps or points of concentration of their citizens far removed from the points of liberation, comparable to Lwow and Odessa; (2) that Lend-Lease refuse to consider requests of Soviet Government additional to our Fourth Protocol commitments for such items as sugar, industrial equipment or other items that are not immediately essential for the Red Army and the Russian war effort;89 (3) that consideration be given to allowing our prisoners of war en route to Naples to give stories to the newspapers of the hardships they have been subjected to between point of liberation and arrival at Odessa and that in answer to questions of correspondents, the War Department explain the provisions of our agreement and the Soviet Government’s failure to carry out the provisions of the agreement according to any reasonable interpretation.

I request urgent consideration of this question and the Department’s preliminary reaction. General Dean requests that this cable be shown to General Marshall.

  1. A copy of this telegram was transmitted to President Roosevelt by the Secretary of State under cover of the following memorandum: “I believe you will be interested in looking over the enclosed message from Harriman in which he describes the difficulties we are encountering in facilitating the evacuation from Poland of liberated United States prisoners of war. It would appear that the Soviet authorities may be endeavoring to use our desire to assist our prisoners as a means of obliging us to deal with the Warsaw Government.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, N.Y.) At the time of this telegram, the United States Government was in the midst of negotiations regarding the establishment of a Polish Provisional Government of National Unity; for documentation regarding these negotiations, see pp. 110 ff.
  2. M–23174, p. 1077.
  3. In telegram 781, March 16, 7 p.m., from Moscow, Ambassador Harriman and General Deane set forth the draft of a considerably longer and more detailed message to be sent by the President to Stalin (740.00114 EW/3–1645).
  4. General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander, Allied Expeditionary Force, and Commanding General, European Theater of Operations, United States Army.
  5. For documentation regarding the conclusion of wartime assistance from the United States to the Soviet Union, see pp. 937 ff.