LINK TO AUDIO HERE
What we are going to talk about today is one of the biggest disasters in world history. We are talking about the decision by U.S. President, Franklin Roosevelt, to announce that the policy toward Germany in World War II at the Casablanca conference in early 1943 would be one of unconditional surrender.
This policy has been correctly criticized by a good part of the military leaders in the West as being a total disaster because it completely undermined any incentive for the Germans and the Japanese to end the war under any reasonable circumstances. In particular, in Germany, you had opposition to Hitler at the highest levels of the German military (people such as Admiral Canaris, head of German military intelligence and others).
BY ANNOUNCING UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER
ROOSEVELT UNDERMINES RESISTANCE TO HITLER
However, by announcing that surrender would be unconditional, Roosevelt in one move completely undercut the entire structure of the military resistance to Hitler. After all there's no real reason why someone should risk overthrowing Hitler if there wasn't any guarantee about their survival if the allies should win. You might as well just stick with Hitler and get killed and so on, which is what they basically did.
IN 1943, THE WAR WAS BASICALLY OVER
UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER MADE IT DRAG ON
Now it's important to step back and understand what was going on. In 1943 World War II was to a large extent over. The destruction of the giant German sixth army at Stalingrad by the Soviet Union with very little aid from the West had completely destroyed any of the already very slim chances of Germany winning the war. Indeed, even in early 1942 Dr. Todt (then head of German armaments production) told Hitler that the odds of winning the war were pretty close to nil. Meanwhile in the Pacific at the battle of Midway the core of the Japanese fleet had been sent to the bottom of the ocean, so there was absolutely no chance whatsoever—not a snowballs chance in hell— that Germany or Japan was going to win the war. The odds were 100% that they were going to be defeated. Thus there was an enormous reason to present a reasonable proposal or at least keep open the options of a proposal to get both these countries out of the war.
In our view, the war would've come to an end in 1943 had unconditional surrender not been announced. Obviously no one can prove that because it's a supposition but that is an extremely logical conclusion. Now unconditional surrender started having disastrous results right away. The Italians were about to get out of the war. Negotiations had already proceeded very well. In order for this situation to work, the negotiations had to be kept secret and had to be conducted quickly so that Western forces could enter Italy and occupy key areas before the Germans sent forces south. Needless to say, the unconditional surrender announcement completely destroyed all that and sabotaged the negotiations. The end result of that was very predictably. The Germans sent very large numbers of troops south and basically occupied Italy. This would turn into an utter disaster for the allies and the invasion of Italy was a complete mess which never really got cleaned up until the very end of the war. This was supposed to be this quick affair. It was not. So these are important facts that need to be considered. We could discuss some other issues here as to the whole functioning of the Casablanca conference.
Admiral Leahy he was sort of Roosevelt's baby sitter. The mental state of Roosevelt during the war is very much in question. But Leahy was sick and couldn’t go. How Roosevelt came about to put this thing isn’t very clear. The records of the conference are a mess and there’s a lot of evidence that Roosevelt sort of just popped this thing in at the last minute. Now some people dispute that. The records are such a mess that we’re not going to speculate on that. Roosevelt had talked about an interest in something similar to this earlier but the bottom line is the decision was a total and complete catastrophe.
AMERICA’S RELATION WITH THE SOVIET UNION
One of the issues in relationship to Roosevelt's disastrous declaration of unconditional surrender is the relationship between that announcement and America's relationship with the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, a lot of the historiography about Franklin Roosevelt is written in the form of hagiography. Franklin Roosevelt can do no wrong among liberal establishment historians. There's also a problem with many of these historians who don't bother reading Russian archives and Russian records. Some of them don't seem to read much of anything at all but that's a whole other matter. However, there's been the illusion that Roosevelt did this to please Stalin or to keep Stalin in the war. In reality's Stalin was not notified and was absolutely furious when he heard about it.
You got to understand that the Soviet Union was doing the majority of the fighting and the majority of the dying in World War II. Russia lost 20 million people in World War II. America lost 400,000 on both fronts. So that will give you a perspective of who was doing the fighting and the dying. After Stalingrad, Stalin had General Paulus, who had basically just about enough of Hitler, go on the radio and broadcast to the German military that surrender could be very conditional. This is important because the Russians were taking enormous casualties and would lose millions upon millions upon millions of soldiers as the war went on. So it was very urgent that the war be concluded in some kind of rational orderly manner. So unconditional surrender was not done to please Stalin and was not done to encourage better relations between the Soviet Union and America.
THE TEHERAN CONFERENCE
Now at the Teheran conference, which is probably the single most important conference of the war in 1943, Stalin brought up his objections to unconditional surrender. Now again, there are a lot of problems with the records of Roosevelt and so on of things being scrambled and confused the evidence seems fairly clear that when Stalin brought it up at a dinner organized by Roosevelt, Roosevelt had left the room due to what was claimed to be indigestion or might've been just another aspect of Roosevelt's disastrous health problems that were hidden from the public. After the conference Stalin again brought up the issue of unconditional surrender and asked that Roosevelt change it. Roosevelt flatly refused.
The end result of all this is that millions upon millions of people would die of because there was no plan for any intelligent negotiations.
BROKEN PROMISES TO STALIN
This has to be put against the backdrop of the broken promises of Roosevelt and Churchill to Stalin. At great personal risk in 1942, the Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov made a trip to the West. We said great personal risk because his plane he had his plane flyover Nazi occupied Denmark to get to England and eventually America. Now when Molotov met Roosevelt (the transcript is on our website). Roosevelt with the hearty support of General Marshall very specifically promised Molotov that an invasion of Western Europe would take place in 1942. Now the court historians and the advertising agents of Roosevelt try to say that Molotov misunderstood this and didn't understand maybe that this might mean Torch in North Africa. You just have to read the transcript. There was no misunderstanding about this. None whatsoever.
CHURCHILL’S PROBLEMATIC DECISIONS
On the other hand, Churchill, a person who was drunk throughout a good part of the war, adamantly opposed launching an invasion of Nazi occupied Europe and instead wanted Western troops diverted to prop up British colonial possessions in North Africa via Operation Torch. So that was done and most of the aid to Russia before Stalingrad was cut off, which led to very negative feelings on the part of the Russians. Churchill in 1942 went to Moscow and emphatically unconditionally totally promised Stalin that an invasion of Europe no if ands or buts would be launched in 1943.
This goes back to the whole mess of the Casablanca conference and the whole mess of Allied policy. One of the biggest battles in World War II was between the U.S. military leaders and Churchill and his cronies. U.S. military leaders favored a policy of strategic bombing aimed at the German military facilities and industrial key industries. Churchill favored bombing and incinerating entire German cities. In other words, a policy of civilian mass murder, which was euphemistically described as “area bombing.” That was problem number one.
Problem number two is that Churchill— because he believed the area bombing would bring the Germans to surrender—Churchill opposed any kind of serious action in Western Europe and did everything possible to sabotage that, including diverting British war production away from landing craft toward bombers to bomb German civilians. The diversion of the Western forces to Operation Torch was an invasion of a neutral country Vichy France. People forget Vichy France really was neutral. They were not actively supporting Germany. This had the predictable result. The diversion of enormous amounts of forces to that project basically drastically undermined the ability to build up these forces in England for an attack across the channel. The other disaster of the Casablanca conference was the decision to move toward Italy rather than bringing the forces north to attack across the channel. So that's also a factor that needs to be mentioned here.
So these are some basic facts and we see the policy of unconditional surrender for what it was, a totally idiotic disaster that killed millions of people and extended the war.