(Sept. 24, 2021) This week, 80 years ago, the First Moscow Conference convened.
At the meeting between British Prime Minister Sir Winston S. Churchill and American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in August of 1941, at Placentia Bay in Newfoundland, aboard the British battleship Prince of Wales, the president and the PM drafted a message to Stalin, which was delivered to him on Aug. 15, at 6 p.m., by Ambassadors Laurence Steinhardt and Sir Stafford Cripps, of the U.S. and U.K..
The message proposed a conference be held in Moscow between representatives of the three countries. Stalin immediately dictated a reply, which according to Radio Moscow, said that he requested the ambassadors to convey to their respective leaders the heartfelt thanks of the peoples of the Soviet Union and of the Soviet government for their readiness to aid the USSR in its war of liberation against Hitlerite-Germany.
The representatives of the United States and United Kingdom, H. Averell Harriman and Lord Beaverbrook, arrived at the northern Soviet port of Archangel aboard the British heavy cruiser London. It had departed, on Sept. 22, 1941, from the Royal Navy’s base at Scapa Flow, Scotland, and was escorted to its destination by Soviet and British destroyers, arriving five days later.
From Archangel, the two emissaries flew to Moscow, where they were greeted by Vice-Commissar Andrei Vyshinsky (former prosecutor in the Moscow Show Trials), and the staffs of the British and U.S. embassies. The following day, the two envoys met with Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Chairman (to Stalin) of the State Defense Committee.
That evening, accompanied by their countries’ ambassadors, the two envoys joined Stalin for dinner at the Kremlin. Also present were Commissar Molotov and his predecessor as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Maxim Litvinov, who acted as translator.
On Sept. 29, the delegates got down to business at the Spiridonovka Palace. An official statement released by the conference said that, “The formal opening of the Three-Power Moscow Conference took place this morning under the presidency of Molotov. In his opening address he paid high tribute to Lord Beaverbrook and to Mr. Averell Harriman, saying ‘I hope that the Conference will be guided by the high ideals expressed by President Roosevelt and Mr. Churchill on August 15. I would suggest that today we appoint six committees - army, navy, aviation, transport, raw materials, and medical supplies. Time is precious. Let us get to work.’”
The conference reconvened on Oct. 1. The US and UK promised to deliver to the USSR 400 aircraft, 500 tanks and 10,000 trucks a month, in addition to other supplies.
The British Ambassador to the USSR, Sir Stafford Cripps, was a lawyer by trade, who some said was the highest paid lawyer in England, before he entered public service. He was elected to the House of Commons from the Labor Party in 1931. Because of his leftist leanings, Churchill appointed him ambassador to the Soviet Union in 1940, thinking that he could negotiate with Stalin. Upon his return to England in 1942, he became a member of the War Cabinet.
Lord Beaverbrook, was the head of a publishing empire, which owned the Daily Express, the newspaper with the largest circulation in the world. He had become a millionaire by the time he was 30. He was elected to the House of Commons in 1910, and served until he was made a peer, following which he joined the House of Lords. On becoming prime minister, Churchill appointed him Minister of Aircraft Production, a position he held until May 1, 1941. On June 29, 1941, he was appointed Minister of Supply, a position he held until February 4, 1942.
The American Ambassador to the USSR, Laurence Steinhardt, was a native of, and lawyer in, New York City, until 1932, when he began work on the presidential campaign of Franklin D. Roosevelt. After Roosevelt’s election, he became a full-time diplomat, serving as U.S. Minister to Sweden, Peru, and the Soviet Union from 1939 until 1942, when he was appointed Ambassador to Turkey, where he served until 1945. President Truman then appointed him Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, and in 1948, to Canada.
W. Averell Harriman was the eldest son of E. H. Harriman, who, at the time of his death in 1909, controlled the Union Pacific, the Southern Pacific, St. Joseph and Grand Island, Illinois Central, and Central of Georgia, Railroads.
In addition to the railroads inherited from his father, he was also a principal in the Wall Street firm, Brown Brothers Harriman & Company. Harriman had been present at the meeting of the president and the prime minister at Placentia Bay on the Prince of Wales, in August 1941, and would attend almost every important conference with FDR.
In 1943, FDR appointed him Ambassador to the USSR. He served in that position until April 1946, when Truman appointed him Ambassador to the UK, where he served until his appointment as secretary of commerce. He later served a term as governor of New York.
Following the conference, Harriman and Lord Beaverbrook became convinced that the Soviet Union would prevail over the German Wehrmacht, in contrast to Ambassador Steinhardt, who had been predicting the demise of the Soviet Union and advising that any aid would be wasted. Gen. George Marshall was also telling the president that the Germans would win and that the Wehrmacht would be on the shores of Lake Baikal, in southern Siberia, by the end of the year!
Harriman and Lord Beaverbrook returned by plane to Archangel, where they boarded the British minesweeper Harrier, which transported them to the London for the return to Great Britain.
On Nov. 6, Stalin announced that, “...the Three-Power Conference in Moscow, with the participation of...[Lord] Beaverbrook, the representative of Great Britain, and Mr. Harriman, representative of the United States of America, decided upon systematic assistance to our country with tanks and airplanes. As is well known we have already begun to receive tanks and airplanes on the basis of this decision. Even previously Great Britain had guaranteed the supply to our country of deficit materials such as aluminum, lead, tin, nickel, and rubber. If, to this is added the fact that a few days ago the United States of America decided to grant a loan of one billion dollars to the Soviet Union, one can say with assurance that the coalition of the United States of America, Great Britain and the USSR is a reality which is increasing and will increase for the good of our common cause.”
Before the war ended, the United States would supply its Soviet ally: 400,000 jeeps and trucks, 14,000 airplanes, 8,000 tractors, 13,000 tanks, 500,000 blankets, 15 million pairs of army boots, 107,000 tons of cotton, 2.7 million tons of petrol products and 4.5 million tons of food.
Next week: Second Battle of Changsha
Mr. Wimbrow writes from Ocean City, Maryland, where he practices law representing those persons accused of criminal and traffic offenses, and those persons who have suffered a personal injury through no fault of their own. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.