In March 2015 I started a new book, Special Envoy to Churchill and Stalin, 1941-1946, by W. Averell Harriman. He wrote the book with Elie Abel, a foreign affairs correspondent, in 1975.
The book starts with Harriman’s assignment by Franklin Roosevelt in February 1941. Roosevelt sent Harriman to Great Britain to determine the aid short of war that the United States could provide that embattled nation. Harriman recounts his initial meeting with Roosevelt, in which FDR was vague about the people in the administration with whom Harriman would work. Lend-Lease was not set up yet, so Harriman’s departure waited on that.
Harriman first tells about the exploits of Harry Hopkins, who first traveled to England to meet Winston Churchill. It was Hopkins who proposed to FDR that Harriman take on the mission to England. Harriman was a strong supporter of Lend-Lease and wanted quick action to help Britain fight Hitler.
Harriman prepared by interviewing every high Washington official whom he could find. With the military leaders he encountered a reluctance to give Great Britain the munitions and material that it needed desperately because they thought that the United States might soon need those weapons for its own defense.
After a five-day air journey, Harriman arrived in England and met with Churchill. He told the prime minister that he would need to learn all about Britain’s war plans and needs before he could make the case that the British could make better use of war materiel than could the United States. Churchill assured Harriman that nothing would be kept from him.
I left off blogging about the Harriman book while I have been taking a class on grant writing. I have continued reading the book, so that I am past the Yalta Conference in February 1945. It is April 15 as I write this, so we just passed the 70th anniversary of FDR’s death.
After reading several memoirs and a book devoted to Yalta, I have recognized that Harriman’s book is more a history than a memoir. Since he wrote it in 1975, he has many primary sources to draw on, and these are cited in the notes. I have only glanced at the notes so far, and it seems that he mined these primary sources, such as the Foreign Relations of the United States papers, for much of the story as well as calling on his own recollections or papers.
As noted, the book covers to 1946, so it will discuss the first years of the Truman administration and the onset of the Cold War. I intend to blog about the remainder of the book, so please visit my blog again.