Listen: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Churchill Stalin discussed on John Batchelor
"Day that is earned. Imaginations that the American people because on that day America lost its champion. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is dead. The presidency in the hands of Roosevelt through the war. And through the depression came to be understood as an institution that could not shake and in April of nineteen Forty-five. Everyone could read the headlines and see that the United States was on the eve of victories. Not only in Europe over the hitlerites, but also in the Pacific over the imperial Japanese. However Roosevelt is dead. What happens now is part of the story of modernity. This is the moment that the powers the great powers. America britain. And Russia must decide what is to be done with the rest of the twentieth century and well into the twenty first century, a new book Potsdam the end of World War Two and the remaking of Europe by Michael Nyberg takes us to the three men who are most important at this moment. Churchill prime minister of Great Britain since nineteen forty Stalin. The head of the communist party and really in charge of what you'd have to say is a ruthless. Autocracy since the nineteen twenties and Harry Truman, suddenly not only a new man to the presidential office. He was chosen as vice president the summer of nineteen forty four out of nowhere. According to the reports, but suddenly he is the leader of the United States of America. And he's not well briefed. I learned this from Michael Michael, a very good evening to you. Congratulations. And let's go to mmediately to those three men. I the way. The way Truman. Here's the news. He's both stunned and at the same time, it points out the inadequacy of his preparation, why wasn't he prepared to be president? Good evening. Michael good evening. It's really an astonishing thing to look back distort record and see just how unbelievably unprepared Truman was when he was nominated to become vice president everybody saw that. This is not the man that you want taking the range of government in the event of an emergency. Nobody took the time either. When he was a candidate. Or when he was president to really try to build him up to try to explain to him some of the things that were going on. It's just remarkable. He had never been allowed into the map room. Which is what we've now called the situation room in in the White House. He barely met with Franklin Roosevelt. The cabinet advisers around Roosevelt took almost no effort to try to brief term. And and it's a remarkable thing to look back. But the way the law was written in the way the constitution was written in nineteen Forty-five. When Roosevelt died in Truman became. President. There was no constitutional requirement to name a vice president. So part of it is is just the lack of thought that the father had given to this office and part of it. I really think was the kind of cognitive dissonance. As you noted Roosevelt had been in that office since nineteen thirty three longer than anybody else helped the presidency. He hit personified that office for so many millions of Americans and people overseas, the idea of him, not being there was just something that I think people psychologically could not get their heads around. And yet there was anti you quote, MacArthur, having met him saying in six months, he will be gone. The Roosevelt who appeared at Yalta shocked people who hadn't seen him for a while the quotas. He looked like Haiti's that he looked like a sick, man. So there was much anticipation that he was not strong. Did they expect him to recover and what accounts for Roosevelt not preparing Truman? What was Roosevelt's thinking? It's really remarkable. You're absolutely right about people looking at Roosevelt. Elton really seeing how how he looked? There were other people who said look, it's just about of pneumonia. He's gonna be fine his own doctors gave him really very moderate medical advice. They told him, you know, quit smoking drink a little bit less. Really nothing radical nothing to suggest just how sick Roosevelt was why Roosevelt didn't bring Truman more into his confidence is a really profound question. And I'm not sure that I have a very good answer. Remember Roosevelt, kind of kept his own secretary of state at bay like to do a lot of things himself that may be part of it part of it may also be that he just didn't know term, and he just didn't feel very comfortable around German. It's it's really a remarkable thing. There was another man up for that nomination in nineteen forty four who later became secretary of state James Byrnes, who if if the Democratic Party leaders thought that Roosevelt was going to die. Burns would have been the obvious choice. He had been supreme court Justice. He had been in the Senate. He had been. In the house of representatives. He was a very experienced very well known figure they didn't pick him. They went for Harry Truman for a number of reasons. But one of them has to be that they thought that Roosevelt was gonna live out that that fourth term Churchill when he heard the news the quote here he was in profound shock did he go into a depression? I know he'd been drinking heavily, but did he drink more heavily? I think it has to things that are that are happening in this time period. One he knows what Great Britain has lost Roosevelt. Now, he and Roosevelt had their disagreements at Yalta Roosevelt had insisted on a degree of separation. The special relationship wasn't always special, but Churchill had someone in Roosevelt that he could talk to someone he thought he understood. And now we had this complete unknown in Harry Truman he had a man Truman did not go to college. He was a very different background from Roosevelt and his people most of whom had Ivy league backgrounds. So not only is he dealing with another person. He's dealing with another kind of part of America. And the second thing that's going on. And this is what I think really drove Churchill. Is his awareness that Great Britain is in deep. Trouble deep financial trouble. Deep political trouble. There was to India to deal with it the end of the war. There was still Hong Kong and Singapore places where Britain had been either kicked out or come under severe pressure during the war. And he was aware that the United States was probably not gonna help in in Britain recovering their imperial assets. And I think that's really what drove him into the sense that Britain was entering a real crisis. Even though Britain had come out of this this war, victorious Stalin. And when he heard the news, you have a note here that FDR did not understand Stalin did Stalin understand that Churchill was that Roosevelt was sick to death. I think two things are going on here as well. I think stolen understood that that Roosevelt is the devil that he knew. And I I don't mean that to pejoratively he he looked down on Churchill Stalin. Daddy. He didn't think very much of Churchill, but he had a deep respect for Roosevelt. He had seen Roosevelt obviously, Yalta he had seen the decline in in Roosevelt's health. I haven't seen anything to indicate that he expected Roosevelt to die by all accounts Stalin was deeply shocked when he when he found out the other thing that's playing and we don't know for sure that knew about it. But my guess is that he did in nineteen forty Truman had made some very anti Russian very anti Stalin comments that were reported any American media and the New York Times not hard to find not hard to find at all. And so my guess was stolen was saying that you know, that that Roosevelt is going to be replaced or succeeded by men who could be very very difficult to deal with indeed. And that must have been playing on his mind as well this enough uncertainty in the world. Now, you lose Franklin Roosevelt as well. It just compounds the uncertainty. Yes, let's underline what Truman had said in nineteen forties. A member of the Senate, but he said a looking at the invasion, invasion of the imminent, invasion or conflict between Russia and Germany. They were loggerheads nineteen forty forty one. We all know, the Germany invaded Russia to the surprise of Stalin in nineteen forty one. I will paraphrase Truman said if Germany's winning two big will side with Russia if Russia's winning to big will side with Germany. We want them to kill each other. That's the new president of the United States. One more person is important here. Eleanor roosevelt. She says to Harry Truman when he arrives back at the White House. He'd been drinking with Sam Rayburn in the board of education room in the capitol. He rushed back and Harry Truman gallantly said. Is there anything I can do for you? And Eleanor said is there anything I can do for you for you are the one in trouble. Now, he was in trouble the recognize that right away. Michael he knew it. He knew it. He knew how much trouble he was in. He knew he wasn't prepared for this. He also knew that the advisers that Roosevelt had around him where people that didn't fully trust chairman. So there's going to be this process. Even before trimming goes to Europe for the Potsdam conference where Truman is gonna going to have to completely reshuffle that cabinet. I'm gonna have to get people in there that he understands people can understand him and people that he feels he can get the right advice out of. And I you know, Eleanor Roosevelt certainly knew the inside world of Washington and new what trimming was stepping into. And it's again, it's remarkable to think of somebody stepping into that after having been a relatively obscure Senator all of a sudden finding himself vice president and virtually no preparation for what was undoubtedly the most dangerous point in world history. As you noted in the intro of trying to put the world back together. And here is Harry Termine with no college education. No, real background in the executive branch of government at all. And no advisers around him that he trusts and about ninety days to trinity Michael Nyberg is a professor of history. The Henry L stems and chair of history security. Studies of the department of national security strategy at the US army war college. The new book is pasta some the end of World War Two and the remaking of Europe when we come back Harry Truman chooses a cabinet and."