After a couple of months of neglect, I am returning to my blog on United States history and other topics that interest me.
Since covering Averell Harriman’s Special Envoy, I have finished two other books and started another. The first was Speaking Frankly, by James F. Byrnes, who was a South Carolina senator and Supreme Court justice during Franklin Roosevelt’s tenure and secretary of state under Harry Truman.
The book, published in 1947, deals with Byrnes’s involvement in foreign affairs. FDR took Byrnes with him to the Yalta Conference as an advisor. FDR said that he wanted Byrnes’s expertise on domestic and economic matters. The second chapter covers Yalta, and Byrnes notes that the main topic of the conference was intended to be the creation of an international peace organization. Because Allied and Russian armies were advancing so quickly, however, the conference also needed to discuss the political situation in Europe after the war.
Stalin wanted to discuss the future of Germany, reparations and the allocation of an occupation zone to France. Byrnes discusses Stalin’s rather negative feelings toward France and then turns to the discussions on the possible dismemberment of Germany. He notes, however, that the Soviets primarily were concerned with securing reparations from Germany.
Byrnes’s account of the Yalta talks does not vary significantly from the other sources that I have read. One original contribution that he makes is to quote at some length exchanges between FDR, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin for which the source is Byrnes’s own shorthand notes.
While Byrnes refers to Yalta as the “High Tide of Big Three Unity,” he then recounts the conflicts over Poland and other areas of eastern Europe. When Harry Truman became president, he appointed Byrnes secretary of state. Byrnes describes the Potsdam conference between Truman, Stalin and Churchill. This and most of the book takes me beyond my current period of interest, that of Franklin Roosevelt.
I still found it interesting, however, to read Byrnes’s account of the Paris peace conference and the several conferences of the foreign ministers during 1946. For now, though, I will leave this reporting on James Byrnes’s memoirs until I have read other sources on the topics that he covers.