Interview with Hugh Lunghi, 1/7/96
INT: Just going back on Roosevelt moving into the Russian premises - how much do you think the security people realised that it was going to be bugged?
HL: This is very interesting, because of course those of us who had come from Moscow, we took it for granted that our premises were bugged. If we wanted to say anything very confidential, we'd either go outside or we'd tap the table and so on. And I assumed, certainly, as did one or two other people who had come from Moscow, that the premises into which Roosevelt had moved would be bugged - and they were, they were. We have heard this directly now from someone who was involved in Teheran, that all the conversations which Roosevelt had had, not just with Churchill, but with anybody, were bugged, and the transcripts were on Stalin's table in the morning, so he knew what had gone on. I think Roosevelt must have suspected this, but he just ignored this, just as he used to ignore any inserts that Stalin put into agreed documents. You know, he... Ambassador Harriman said, "Oh, the President doesn't want to make a fuss about words." So he was sort of rather happy-go-lucky. And after all, he had said to Churchill before the conferences, "I think I can manage Uncle Joe" - Stalin - "better than either my State Department or your Foreign Office," and he went on this principle. He was going to... I suppose on the same basis as he'd managed to jolly people along in the American political sphere, he thought he could do the same with Stalin. Of course, as far as the move to the Soviet Embassy was concerned, we discovered afterwards, of course... well, he told... Molotov, Stalin's Minister of Foreign Affairs, told the American Ambassador in Moscow afterwards, Harriman, that of course this was all put up, it was phoney. I mean, he admitted it afterwards.
INT: And that's in the middle of a war...
HL: This was in the middle of the war, yes.
INT: Well... you can understand that there might be some excuses for a certain degree of naivety in 1943, but I want to ask you about one of the major events which...
(Interruption - helicopter overhead. A bit of talk about this.)
INT: ... But I'm working up to the Warsaw Uprising, that to those who had eyes to see, how much the non-intervention by the Soviets in the Warsaw Uprising was really a very serious clue as to what relations would be post- war. So could you give us sort of an assessment of what that failure to intervene in the Warsaw Uprising suggested to you and people like you?
HL: It wasn't the first sign of Soviet official obstructionism, by any means. We had suffered from this for... well, at least the year I had been there, and even before that; our military mission, the American military mission, had suffered the same obstructionism, rudeness from Soviet officials. When it came to Warsaw, we had heard that there had been a broadcast from Moscow, from the Polish division in Moscow, which was under Soviet control, that the time had come to rise. We also learned that there had been all the time a Soviet radio operator in Warsaw who was calling for help. So when we went to the Soviet Ministry for Defence, our Air Force people and I myself took some of these messages saying "It is urgent to help the insurgents in Warsaw with drops of arms, ammunition, food into Warsaw", and we asked for the co-operation of the Russians. In what sense? Simply that they would allow our aircraft who had to come from Italy, cross over enemy-held territory, drop their supplies on Warsaw and then land in Russia. Stalin, because of course ultimately it was Stalin who had the final say, refused, refused us landing rights, which we thought was absolutely appalling. Similarly, he refused the Americans, who had a base in Poltava, in... down in the Ukraine, in sort of central Soviet Union, where they had planes for shuttle-bombing - he would not even allow those planes to leave Poltava to drop supplies in Warsaw. And it really was grim; it was the agony of Warsaw, and we felt it there, because it went on from August till, as far as I remember, yes, the beginning of October, by which time Stalin hadn't exactly relented, but he pretended that he was going to help them and allow the Polish division under Soviet control to cross over. But it was a failure. It was a terrible muddle; and in spite of our incessant appeals, constantly - I used to go daily, more or less, with messages, and our Air Force people even more often, perhaps two or three times a day at one time, asking simply to allow our aircraft, which of course were under severe strain in doing this flight from Italy and returning with enough fuel, simply asking for that - and yet we had a refusal all the time. And one learnt afterwards, of course, that Churchill was extremely distressed by this. It was a sort of breaking point. I think, as far as Roosevelt was concerned, judging by what transpired later at the Yalta Conference, for example, he must have been very annoyed by this, but he was prepared to take the Soviet version of events, which was that the front under a marshal, a Soviet marshal called Rokossovski, who was partly Polish, who was in charge of the advance of Warsaw - Roosevelt was prepared to accept the story that his armies had outrun their supplies, had come to the Vistula River front in Warsaw, and that the Germans had put up a very heavy resistance, which may have been partly true, may have been partly true, but one doesn't know even now, I think. But nevertheless, that still didn't alter the fact that we could have helped to a certain extent by dropping supplies early on. Later on, we did... well, we did drop supplies, of course; unfortunately, they fell to the Germans, a lot of them; the Poles got a few of them. But clearly, the Soviet obstructionism, Stalin's refusal, meant that that operation failed to help the Poles as much as we could have helped them.
INT: How did you feel about that? Because you were part of the mechanics which could have helped.
HL: Absolutely. Well, we were distraught, and as I say, we felt the agony of Warsaw. It was very, very frustrating and cruel,we thought, terribly cruel, particularly as we knew the background, that it...
INT: What did it tell you about Stalin's overview of the war?
HL: Well, we realised, because there were articles appearing in the Soviet press, in the Soviet media, that they were really... what they were wanting to do by this was to chop off the head of the Polish future government, future resistance, some of the flower of the Polish nation, and we realised that what Stalin wanted to do was to have the lot decimated. They were a thorn in his side, the Polish Home Army, as it was called, which was resisting the Germans. The Russians claimed and sort of hinted, and may have even said in the media - I can't remember - in the Soviet press... oh, they did say later on, certainly, that the Home Army, which was under the control of the legitimate Polish government in London, were actually helping the Germans and fighting the Russian partisans, as they called them, who were operating in Poland by that time, beginning to operate in Poland. And it was quite clear that the Russians wanted them wiped out, so we realised later on what the game was. But the interesting thing was that the Poles - and I met one or two of the Poles from this Polish army, and they were almost in tears, because they said, "Well, here we are, here are our Russian allies, and they were supposed to be helping us, and we wanted to liberate the city of Warsaw, and part of our division..." this was afterwards... "part of our division was thrown over," but clearly the operation conducted as far as the Soviet army was concerned, was insufficient, and they obviously thought - they didn't say so - they thought that this was deliberate on the Soviet side.