Elsey, George

Kane, Jim


Lunghi, Hugh

Roberts, Frank


Interview with Hugh Lunghi, 1/7/96


INT: What was the atmosphere at that conference, and the kind of anticipation that all would be well, with goodwill, the failure to see any flaws in the Soviet Union?

HL: It depends who you're talking about. Churchill arrived in a rather bad temper, not surprisingly, after that five-hour, six-hour drive from Saki, but he was rather annoyed that apparently accommodation had not been left for his daughter Sara in his quarters. But he soon cheered up. But on the whole, he looked, I thought, a bit miserable, except of course when he was talking, when he was explaining in his map room, which had been set up in the Vorontsov Palace, to Stalin what was going on on the fronts, and then of course he cheered up. Roosevelt, of course, looked desperately ill, so ... sometimes I suppose you could say that he looked cheerful, but he was there... although he was quite lucid for periods, not for very long periods, was my impression, but at other times he would just sit there with his mouth open, staring ahead of him, with these waxen yellow cheeks of his, which he had at that time. I remember the shock I got when he stepped off the aircraft - he didn't step off, he was brought down a ramp off the aircraft at Saki Airport - he was wearing his black cloak, fastened on his left shoulder, as far as I remember, with his trilby hat turned up in the front, but my goodness, he did look ill even then, coming off the aircraft, and then he was put on to a jeep and he inspected the guard of honour. But at other times, at the dinners, he was quite cheerful, for a period. The most cheerful of the lot was Stalin, who of course knew that the war was won at that time. After all, the Russians were only 40 miles from Berlin at that time; they were on the point of capturing Budapest, they'd swept through parts of Eastern Europe, not the whole lot yet, so he was very cheerful and he was playing the genial host, teasing Churchill from time to time as he had done at Teheran, after he had realised that there was this division between Roosevelt and Churchill. So on the who...

(End of roll)

CR #10261

INT: Can you describe the degree of unity, or even the lack of it, among the Big Three at Yalta?

HL: What one noticed most, I suppose, was that Roosevelt certainly seemed closer to Stalin. That sounds absurd in a sense, because of course his closest ally was Churchill, and Churchill was always very friendly towards Roosevelt - I mean, he clearly almost wanted to cherish him, you felt, sometimes. As far as Roosevelt was concerned, however, although at the time we didn't know it, he had been talking to Stalin behind Churchill's back, and had been saying all kinds of things about Churchill being an imperialist and all that - well, actually it wasn't only behind his back: he made these jokes sometimes at the dinners about Churchill. He was teasing Churchill, and of course Stalin went along with it. Stalin saw... I mean, possibly at the beginning he thought that Roosevelt was playing a trick on him, because after all, Stalin had done this all his life, playing one person against another. But the terrible mistake that I think... I mean, in hindsight, obviously, and at the time I felt a bit uneasy ... the terrible mistake that Roosevelt made was that he was trying to ingratiate himself into Stalin's favour by stressing the divisions between Churchill and himself, so he made it quite clear to Stalin that there were real divisions as well as imaginary ones, as far as Stalin was concerned, between Churchill and himself. Of course, in the public occasions there was just bargaining going on between all three, but Roosevelt at the plenary sessions, of course, as I have said, was dreaming about this dream of the United Nations. What he wanted above all from Stalin was to get a promise to enter the war against Japan, after the end of the war in Germany, and Stalin had already made ... half-made this promise. And Stalin, however, at Yalta held out for his pound of flesh, and this consisted of claiming that territories which Japan had taken over during the war and before the war, were Russian territories. The first of these was southern Sakhalin. Well, southern Sakhalin, in the Far East, had been ceded to Japan after the 1904 war. But going back before that, the Kurile Islands, over which there's tremendous tension between Japan and Russia even to this day - the Kurile Islands, Stalin claimed, had belonged to Russia. Well, they in fact had been ceded to the Japanese under the Treaty of St Petersburg in 1875, I believe, and there was an earlier treaty as well where other islands had been ceded to Russia, but the Kuriles were definitely ceded to Japan, so they were Japanese territories. Roosevelt had briefing on this, but it was never given to him at Yalta, for one reason or another. Even if it had been, I don't know whether he wouldhave, you know, held out against Stalin. So he was quite prepared to go along with whatever Stalin demanded. And Stalin said at Yalta that this was to be unconditional, unconditionally agreed, that if the Soviet Union came into the war against Japan after the end of the war in Germany, those territories should be, as he put it, returned to Russia. On the other hand, when the declaration on the liberated countries in Eastern Europe was signed, Stalin gave no such promise that the promises made there... Stalin gave no such assurance...

INT: I'll just introduce it by saying: how much was Roosevelt looking towards a post-war world where Russia and America would be leaders, and how much attention was he paying to the future of Eastern and Central Europe?

HL: Right, right. Roosevelt was thinking about the post-war, the peace. First of all, he... his pet subject was the United Nations. Secondly, he did say to Stalin, although not openly, but we know this subsequently, that he hoped that the Soviet Union and the United States would dominate, would police the Far East. For example, he said the British should hand over Hong Kong immediately to China, that, Korea should be under a trusteeship of the Soviet Union and the United States, France should be kicked out of Indochina, the British and the French should be kicked out of the oceans there. I'm putting this crudely, but he did put this to Stalin. So he envisaged a world perhaps in the West where the United States would take the lead, obviously, but in the Far East certainly a major role, if not an equal role, for the Soviet Union with the United States. He even talked about India, that the British should be kicked out of India, and that India should be reformed on the Soviet model, from the bottom up. Stalin actually, according to the records, got rather a shock at this, and he disagreed with Roosevelt. So... as far as Eastern Europe was concerned, he more or less wanted nothing to do with it; he said he wasn't prepared to risk more American lives over Eastern Europe, for real or imagined British interests in Eastern Europe. And it appeared that he couldn't see the strategic significance of the vacuum that would be left in Europe after the defeat of Germany. For example, he went along with Stalin over denying a place to France in the control commission of Germany, post-war Germany; even of allowing France to have a zone in the control of Germany. Churchill, of course, fought very hard for the restoration of France. Stalin was... very insulting about France and said France should be punished after the war for her collaboration with Germany, as he put it, for helping the Germans. He said de Gaulle was hopeless because he didn't really know what the real French were like; they were helping the Germans, and de Gaulle was a non-entity. A remarkable attitude towards France, which Roosevelt went along with. At the end, by the end of the conference, of course Stalin did actually say that of course he understood why France would have to have a role in Germany and in Europe in general, because Churchill had said, well, Britain would be too weak to control Europe against a resurgence of German militarism. So Stalin sort of accepted that towards the end; but to begin with, he was very much anti-French.

INT: At the time... talking about the disunity, a lot of that comes out later, but when you were there at the time, you and your colleagues, how much were you aware that there was disunity among the Big Three?

HL: One got an impression of the atmosphere. Of course, there was unity in the sense of wanting to finish the war as soon as possible. For example, I was very much involved in the talks about the bombing of Dresden, which the Russians had asked for, both at the plenary session, the opening plenary session, where General Antonov, the Soviet Deputy Chief of Staff, laid out the military position and mentioned this; because Dresden was an important junction, they didn't want reinforcements coming over from the Western front and from Norway, from Italy and so on; and similarly on the following day, where there was a meeting of chiefs of staff in Stalin's quarters in the Kareis Palace, where Antonov very clearly said, "Well, we want Dresden... the Dresden railway junction bombed because we are afraid the Germans are putting up a resistance, a last-stand, as it were." And we agreed to this, we agreed to pretty well everything - yes, everything in the military sphere. So there was agreement, certainly, as far as the tactical and strategic military were concerned. On other things, like Poland, of course, there was disagreement, very strong disagreement. Roosevelt wanted to go along with Stalin all the time, more or less. I mean, there was the argument over the acceptance of the Curzon Line; that had been more or less settled. But the British and the Americans wanted Stalin to allow Poland to have a new provisional government. Stalin had set up a puppet government, the so-called Lublin Government, and they wanted a new provisional government to include the London Polish government, who as far as we were concerned was still the legitimate government of Poland. And Churchill fought for this; he made the point that after all we had gone to war for the sake of Poland, and it was a matter of honour, and also anyway it was important, he said, for Russia to have a properly independent Poland, and so on. Stalin didn't want this at all and refused; he played this trick of refusing. When both Churchill and Roosevelt, to be fair, asked that some representatives from the Lublin committee and from London should come down to Yalta, Stalin said, oh, he couldn't get them on the phone because they'd moved, and so on. And he also played this other trick of, when they were discussing Poland, and it was a pretty heated discussion, he suddenly said, "Oh, well, we've got proposals which Molotov has taken away, and they're being typed up"... the previous day... "and they're being typed up, and a translation made for you. But meanwhile, while we wait for this translation, let's talk about the United Nations. I agree with your proposals." This was a sticking point between Stalin and Roosevelt, over the voting procedures in the United Nations. And Stalin said, "Oh, we can agree to this." And of course, this made... lightened the atmosphere and sort of won Roosevelt round, and when they came back with the Soviet proposals for Poland, the Lublin Government, Roosevelt seemed to have forgotten about all this, about any problems. Churchill didn't. But really, the pass had been sold and there was no further argument.