The final volume of Churchill's incredible history of WW II. He claimed to know nothing about it, which Churchill believed, but it later turned out that he'd had a spy in place who'd passed out all the secrets. He could already see that Eastern Europe was going to be carved up between Soviet and Anglo-American forces, and he wanted to get as large a slice as possible. As Churchill bitterly complains, if only they had taken his advice then a substantial amount of Eastern Europe would have avoided becoming Soviet satellite states for the next 50 years. With hindsight, it's clear that Stalin would never stay allied to the US and Britain longer than necessary.
This is the last volume in Winston Churchills war memoirs. This volume is brilliant on the origins of the Cold War. It all started in August 1944, when Stalin withheld his troops from liberating Warsaw. Churchill (and Roosevelts) letters to Stalin to intervene and help the Polish resistance were ignored. After the Yalta Agreements in February 1945, Churchill pleads passionately for the Soviet Union and Stalin to adhere to them, particularly for Poland, but to no avail. Having now read these six volumes (over 4,000 pages) one does gain insights into this man Churchill. Significantly the writing can be majestic, for example in this last volume his tribute on the death of Franklin Roosevelt and his victory speech at wars end on May 13, 1945. Also in every volume Churchill writes page after page on the importance of Turkey in the war effort, and there were meetings with emissaries and government leaders but nothing came of this. But Churchill and Roosevelt were two very different personalities and governed in divergent ways. And Roosevelt was pragmatic, he knew at wars end that the game was to be between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and Britain relegated to becoming a junior player.
With that sentence, Churchill neatly summed up this last volume of his massive WWII collection...the coming victory of the Allies would mean the end of office for the Great Lion, the man who stayed true from beginning to end. Unlike the previous volumes, this one is more centered on politics as the post-war world began to come into play. It's been said that Churchill was the greatest civilian war leader of all time. However, when Churchill goes off into the devious world of politics, it's a bit harder to pay attention. But unlike Churchill and his British subjects, the Yanks clearly were still newbies and still full of that heartland farmer trust which meant Roosevelt and Truman and Eisenhower were naive about the Soviets and the Chinese. Churchill discusses women ("Women ought not to be treated the same as men"), and Ireland ("we left the Dublin government to frolic with the Germans and the Japanese representatives to their hearts' content"), the wrongs of the Versailles Treaty of WWI ("there would have been no Hitler"), and the need for food for his own people ("we need another three or four thousand tons of fish, to help us through the hard years which are coming").
This is the last of Churchill's volumes on WWII. Perhaps because the issues in this volume had not been resolved at the time of writing, or perhaps because Churchill himself was disappointed at how things ultimately turned out (apart from winning the war that is). Field Marshall Smuts, who was tasked with finding a compromise that Russia would accept in forming the UN, optimistically wrote to Churchill, The principle of unanimity will at the worse only have the effect of a veto, or stopping action where it may be wise, or even necessary. Russia soon proved that it would do as it liked and operated through its proxy states, even as early as before the Germans capitulated. I think Churchill felt the war had only been paused and forsaw a rapid decline into anarchy with Russia a vulture, eager to devour the spoils.
The importance of this final volume for American readers is that we gain a perspective on the British activity during the war, with particular emphasis on the military campaigns in Italy and Greece; Great Britain's efforts against the Communist partisans in Greece; and, Churchill's ultimately unsuccessful efforts to create an independent, post-war Poland. We would like to have learned more about England's post-war recovery and the fate of the German state from the British perspective.
I have been several years reading through these and, as always, Winston never is at a loss for words or opinions.
Triumph and Tragedy is the final installment in Winston Churchills remembrances of the second World War. The title of this book is derived from Churchills view that the wars outcome, as much of a triumph as it was, ended up being squandered by the onset of the Cold War. Triumph and Tragedy opens with the Allied landings on the beaches of Normandy before going on to detail the final year of World War Two. Churchill describes the re-invasion of France before veering off into discussion of Hitlers own plans for forcing an early end to the war: the V1 doodle bug or buzz bomb missile. The push from the western coast of France toward the Meuse River and finally past the Rhine are assisted by Operation Dragoon (the Allied invasion of Southern France) end up taking on a feeling of inevitability when it comes to Germanys collapse. Of particular concern to the Prime Minister is the country whose invasion allegedly sparked their entry into the war in the first place: Poland. There is much talk about the drawing of its borders (whether or not the Curzon line should serve as the eastern Polish border as well as which cities in the west should fall under Poland sovereignty) and British concerns that Russia was attempting to install a puppet Polish government. Stalin seems to justify his obsession with obtaining a pro-Soviet government in Poland by pointing to its proximity to his country and its history as being a launching point for invasions into Russia. At one point he tells the Anglo-American allies they should give each other a free hand in how they set up the post-war governments in liberated countries near their borders. Churchill notes the irony (the book was written several years after the wars conclusion) that at one point during the war he felt the U.S. governmental establishment was not taking the Soviet threat seriously enough, a view which obviously evolved in the years after 1945. But these moments of levity obscure the deep and growing distrust between the Soviet Union and the West during the wars final year, a dire situation brought to the forefront over Stalins paranoia that the Anglo-American Allies were negotiating an early, separate end to the war with the Nazis so as to push further into Germany (thereby claiming more land which could have been Russias) before the wars end. Churchill stated, I conceived an admiration for him as a statesman, a man of affairs, and a war leader, I felt the utmost confidence in his upright, inspiring character and outlook, and a personal regard-affection, I must say-for him beyond my power to express today. After the war draws to a close, Churchill loses his prime minister post following a failed effort to hold together the British coalition government of right and left for a little while longer. Churchills distaste for the tactics and philosophy of Stalins Russia are clear; despite his efforts to try to find common ground, the aggressive actions employed in the cities liberated by the Soviet Union only further degrade faith in their intentions. This book is a truthful recounting of the personal point of view of a man in a position of high power during a consequential time.