Monday, March 23, 2015

MARCH 23 = Patrick Henry, "OK", and Elvis

On this date, March 23....

In 1775:

Patrick Henry (right) delivered a powerful rebuke to British policy in America.  In order to pay for the defense of the colonies Britain had levied taxes on tea and various other goods, and this left the colonials feeling as if they had no rights in determining their future.  "No taxation without representation!" became a cry frequently heard throughout the colonies. 
 The Coercive Acts (March 1774) closed Boston to merchant shipping, and among other things, required colonists to quarter British troops. The first Continental Congress was called to consider a united American resistance to the British.  Patrick Henry, an attorney in Virginia addressed the Second Virginia Assembly on today's date in a defiant speech which ended with a phrase which would become one of the most powerful calls which would ever be heard in the course of the American Revolution:

"The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

In 1836:

The term "OK" meaning everything is alright first was printed in the Boston Morning Herald as a kind of linguistic joke, meant as a short cut for “oll korrect,” a misspelling of “all correct” which was in popular vernacular use among circles of young, educated people at the time.
Just as young people in the present day have their own slang based on distortions of common words, such as “kewl” for “cool” or frequently used internet expressions such as "LOL" for "Loads of Laughs" or "OMG" for "Oh my god!!" The young, hip crowd of the 1830s had a whole host of slang terms they abbreviated. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “No use” (“know yuse”), “KG” for “No go” (“Know go”), and “OW” for all right (“oll wright”).  Well the editor of the Boston Morning Herald published on today's date a humorous article in which he made fun of the whole thing.  Referring to a fictional organization called  the "Anti-Bell Ringing Society ",  he said:

"The 'Chairman of the Committee on Charity Lecture Bells,' is one of the deputation, and perhaps if he should return to Boston, via Providence, he of the Journal, and his train-band, would have his 'contribution box,' et ceteras, o.k.—all correct—and cause the corks to fly, like sparks, upward."

Well the idea seems to have gradually grown in popularity appearing in print throughout the country from then on until it stuck!!

In 1961:

Elvis Presley recorded the song "I Can't Help Falling in Love" at Radio Recorders studios in Hollywood California.  This song went on to become one of the biggest hits in the career of this man who had so many hits.  But clearly, this one held a special place in "The King's" heart because he would end his concert show with it to the end of his career. The melody is based on  a classical French love song, "Plaisir D'Amour" written in 1784 by Jean-Paul-Égide Martini (1741–1816).  The lyrics are based on a poem by Jean-Pierre Claris de Florian (1755–1794), which appears in his novel "Célestine."  Elvis sung a version of the song which had been written for him by the songwriting team of Luigi Creatore and Hugo Peretti, with the help of George David Weiss.

And it was sung in the film "Blue Hawaii" not for his love interest in the movie, "Maile Duval" played by Joan Blackmun but for a much older woman - that of the character of her grandmother, "Waihila" played by Hilo Hattie. The woman some 60 years old welcomes Elvis, "Chad Gates" back to Hawaii after his time in the army.  Remember, this was at the time when Elvis himself had finished his service in the
U.S. Army (March '58 - March '60).  He tells her that he picked her up a gift while he was in Austria, a small music box which he says plays a little tune which he then sings to her. It is a very sweet moment in a movie which was OK at best.  But it was sung by a young man who in real life had lost his own much beloved mother just three years before that film in 1958.  And as I and others have said the song likely held a special meaning for Elvis for that reason.  But the song, and the album of the movie went on to reach very high on the pop song charts that year after its release on October 1 of that year along with the album of "Blue Hawaii".


Patrick Henry =

"OK" =

Elvis =

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

MARCH 18 = The Gardner Museum Heist + 25

"Lost art doesn't fully explain the power of the Gardner case, why so many visit the museum to see the empty frames, why dozens of authors, artists, and academics have thrown themselves at the caper's mystery.  When I spoke to Gardner obsessives, they couldn't quite explain it either; they always talked about the theft as something intensely personal, often searching for metaphors in the way that people do when they want to comprehend something that is incomprehensible.  Some say the theft is like having something ripped from their soul.  Others compare the burglary to the death of a family member.  'Imagine you can never hear a Verdi Requiem or a Beethoven Symphony again. Just erased.  Imagine Shakespeare's Hamlet. Erased."  - Ulrich Boser

These are some of the reactions to the theft from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the early morning hours of today's date in 1990 - 25 years ago today.  The thieves calmly walked off with artistic masterpieces valued at more than 500 MILLION dollars.  And the crime remains unsolved; the art un-recovered down to the present day.  And despite countless tips, leads and hopes raised quite recently, according to the Boston Globe, the world is no closer to recovering these elusive works of art than it was some twenty years ago.

Mrs. Gardner and Her Museum

One could scarcely conjure up a more eccentric character than Isabella Stewart Gardner.  Raised among the very upper crust of Boston Society in the late 19'th Century, Mrs. Gardner cut a very odd figure in that world wherein women were expected to be demure, pleasant and pretty, and nothing else.  But Mrs. Gardner was in this world for adventure, and made no bones about it. Her face was rather plain, but she had a remarkable figure (as captured by John Singer Sargent at right), and her sense of fun was unbounded. She used to gamble at racing cars, the horse track and even staged a boxing match in her living room. "Win as though you're used to it," she used to say, "and lose as though you like it."  Small wonder then that she freely indulged her life-long passion for art. She began planning her legacy museum in 1898, and spent the rest of her life lovingly stocking it with one of the finest art collections ever to be assembled into private hands, and left it to the people of Boston on her death in 1924 at the age of 83.

Two "Policemen" Demand Entrance 25 Years Ago

It was late on the night of a typically raucous St. Patrick's Day for the city of Boston. At about 1:15 am two men posing as police officers buzzed the side entrance doorway to the museum and said to the guard on the night shift "Police. Let us in.  We heard about a disturbance in the courtyard."  The security guard was suspicious, but let the two men in.  They asked if there were any other guards present.  There were. "Get him down here." the policeman ordered.  The other guard appeared and the two guards were promptly hand cuffed, had their eyes and their mouth covered with duct tape and were then chained to basement fixtures,  This was all that these men had to do to cut off the Gardner Museum from the rest of the world.  And for the next nearly 90 minutes they had the entire museum at their disposal. The thieves only encountered one other obstacle: at 1:48 am one of them set off a motion detector in one of the rooms, but this was quickly silenced.

The Gardner Thieves Steal Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Manet...

The first item the thieves went for was "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee" (below) by the immortal Dutch artist Rembrandt
Harmenszoon van Rijn known to the world simply as Rembrandt (1606 - 1669). This is the only seascape by the master painter into which he mischievously painted himself along with Christ and his disciples fighting for survival. The thieves pulled the painting down from the wall smashed it from its frame, and then pulled out a blade and savagely cut it from its stretcher. They give the same treatment to "A Lady and Gentleman in Black", also attributed to Rembrandt.  They next went and purloined "The Concert" (below) by the Dutch
painter Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675).  A delicate and very detailed work by this man about whom very little is known, and whose output is therefore quite limited. Many art historians refer to Vermeer's works as still lifes with people. This was taken by the intruders that night. Also taken were "Chez Tortoni" (below) by Edouard Manet (1832 - 1883), as well as other works... odd selections such as an ancient Chinese goblet and the Eagle finial from an Imperial Napoleonic flag.  And this is one of the most puzzling
aspects of the case: in order to get to the Eagle, the thieves passed by much more important and valuable items nearby by Raphael and Boticelli. It was as if they knew nothing about the value of art, but they clearly knew how to pull off the theft well enough. They were neither edgy nor nervous, and didn't use excessive violence on the security guards. They just calmly went about their business, And they had clearly familiarized themselves with the museum's security systems. They made two trips to a waiting vehicle to load up their loot, and then left. They had been in the Gardner for a total of 81 minutes. Thirteen items were stolen in all.

The Investigation Over the Years...

And this is where this story quickly becomes a dizzying run through countless dead-ends and tips that seemed tantalizing enough but which have lead nowhere.  I've read many articles in the web site for the Boston Globe.  I've read many other articles on the nature of the shadowy world of art theft.  I've read for example the book quoted at the top of this posting by Ulrich Boser, in which the investigation first was taken up by the great stolen art sleuth Harold Smith.  Ultimately
Smith was unable in his waning health to locate the stolen items. There was talk of a connection to the notorious gangster Whitey Bulger, and suggestions of a turf war over possession of the Gardner works with the Irish Republican Army.  But Bulger was captured in 2011, and the IRA has since gone over largely to peaceful governance.  Still the Gardner works are missing.  There was a promising tipster in 1994, but his tips and his contact dried up.  The FBI confidently announced in 2013 that it knew who was behind it. An aging conman named Robert Gentile was thought to have some knowledge of the Gardner thefts; maybe they were hidden beneath a garden shed in his backyard (above).  But as of March 11, 2015 this too, has lead nowhere.

The Frustration of Having No End....

This has been a tremendously frustrating story for the Director of the Gardner Museum Anne Hawley to deal with, for legions of art lovers to endure, for investigators to follow, and a very frustrating subject for me to write a posting about.  This was one of the very first items on which I planned to write.  In fact it was the very first Blog subject for which I purchased and read an entire book.  Mr. Boser's superb book was an introduction to this murky topic. But it has remained murky ever since
March 18, 1990,  since the publication of Mr. Boser's book in 2009, and it is still, at 25 years and counting still unsolved, the works still missing.  Mrs. Gardner's wonderful museum still has the empty frames in place to remind us of her missing children.  Legions of art lovers... of devotee's of Vermeer and Rembrandt still are left to stare into empty spaces where some of their most beloved works once hung.  Anne Hawley took over the reigns as the Gardner Director six weeks before the thefts, and despite her efforts to recover the stolen items (pictured above, a news conference on the thefts) as well as her other fine work as Director, her tenure seems destined to be marked by this tragedy.  Meanwhile, the Gardner Museum has valued the stolen works at 500 million dollars, and has offered 5 million dollars reward for information leading to the return of the artwork. And to this day, the empty frame of "Storm on the Sea of Galilee" remains (the picture of which is at the top of this posting), waiting for its subject to return.

Anyone with information about the stolen artworks and/or the investigation should contact Anthony Amore, Director of Security at the Gardner Museum, at 617 278 5114 or  


"The Gardner Heist" by Ulrich Boser, Harper Collins Publisher, 2009

The Boston Globe has many articles dealing with this subject in addition to the two to which I refer above.  A fairly comprehensive listing of them can be found at:

Further on-line resources consulted:

Friday, February 27, 2015

FEBRUARY 27 = Mardi Gras, Lincoln's Photo, the Reichstag

On today's date, February 27:

In 1827 = a group of students dressed in outlandish costumes and masks went running and dancing
through the streets of New Orleans, Louisiana, for the first time, the start of that city's famous Mardi Gras celebrations.  The origins of Mardi Gras date back to medieval Europe, passing through Rome and Venice. This carried through the 17th and 18th centuries to France.  And from there, the whole tradition of revelry of "Boeuf Gras," or fatted calf, followed France to her colonies. By the 1730s, Mardi Gras was celebrated openly in New Orleans, but not with the whole parade idea, which had been banned by the Spanish colonial authorities.  It was after Louisiana became part of the United States in 1803, that New Orleanians convinced the city council to cancel the ban on the parties in the streets and wearing masks. The new Mardi Gras tradition started on this night in 1827 when groups of students, inspired by their experience of studying in Paris, put on jester costumes and masks and established their own Fat Tuesday festival.

In 1860 = Abraham Lincoln, then a candidate for the Republican nomination for President had a photograph made of himself (the first of many such) by Mathew Brady in New York City, before going on that evening to make a very important speech at the Cooper Union Building. Lincoln did not make an especially dashing subject, so Brady recalled drawing Lincoln's collar higher up around his neck to improve the man's appearance.

That evening, Lincoln gave a speech at the Cooper Union in New York City in which he clearly outlined his opposition to the idea of allowing slavery to spread into the territories of the west as they became states:
"Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it."

By clearly outlining his belief that slavery should not be extended beyond the South, Lincoln's speech marked his transformation from a regional politician into a national figure in the debate over slavery. This famous portrait would be made by artists at Harper's Weekly into full page woodcut images to go with their stories. In subsequent versions of the photo, artists would smooth out Lincoln's hair and subtly refine his facial features. This early form of candidate's image making were important keys to Lincoln's election.  As Lincoln himself said: "Brady and the Cooper Institute made me President."

In 1933 =  The Reichstag, the seat of the German Parliament caught fire, and was seriously damaged. The blaze was blamed on one Marinus van der Lubbe, a young Dutch communist who was apprehended at the scene. But according to most historians, the fire was in fact set by members of the Nazi party of Chancellor Adolf Hitler as a way of silencing any lingering apposition to his rule in Germany.  By blaming the destruction of the seat of German democracy on the Communists, Hitler and his thugs were able to suspend any rights that his opposition had and, and conduct a ruthless crackdown by jailing, torturing, and murdering thousands throughout Germany. Hitler thus tightened his grip on power in Germany and continued his march into World War II.

D. Sefton Delmar was a reporter for the London Daily Express who witnessed the fire:

"'This is a God-given signal! If this fire, as I believe, turns out to be the handiwork of Communists, then there is nothing that shall stop us now crushing out this murder pest with an iron fist.'  Adolf Hitler, Fascist Chancellor of Germany, made this dramatic declaration in my presence tonight in the hall of the burning Reichstag building. The fire broke out at 9:45 tonight in the Assembly Hall of the Reichstag. It had been laid in five different corners and there is no doubt whatever that it was the handiwork of incendiaries.  One of the incendiaries, a man aged thirty, was arrested by the police as he came rushing out of the building, clad only in shoes and trousers, without shirt or coat, despite the icy cold in Berlin tonight.  Five minutes after the fire had broken out I was outside the Reichstag watching the flames licking their way up the great dome into the tower."

But in spite of the charge against the young Dutchman, William L. Shirer states in his book "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich": "...there is enough evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that it was the Nazis who planned the arson and carried it out for their own political ends."


Mardi Gras =

Lincoln =

The Reichstag =

"The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" by William L. Shirer, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1960.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

SPECIAL = Rare Roman Tombstone Found in England

The following article is from "The Blaze" website at the following web address =

Tombstone Uncovered in England That’s So Rare It’s Being Called ‘Career Defining’
Feb. 25, 2015 1:14pm Liz Klimas

An “incredibly rare” Roman tombstone found face down in England was flipped over on live TV this week to reveal its Latin inscription.

According to Cotswold Archaeology, the tombstone uncovered in Cirencester said “D.M. BODICACIA CONIUNX VIXIT ANNO S XXVII.” Translating the Latin to English, this reads “In memory of Bodicia. Wife. Lived 27 years,” the archaeological group reported.

A rare, Roman tombstone was found in Cestershire this week.
(Image source: )

Neil Holbrook, Cotswold Archaeology’s chief executive, told BBC he was “elated” at the discovery of the tombstone and the success the crew had flipping it over in one piece. Roman tombstones as a whole in the area are rare finds. This particular stone would have cost “quite a lot of money,” Holbrook said, according to BBC.

“It’s a thing of beauty, a real career-defining [moment],” another archaeologist who was at the site told the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard.  Holbrook noted that the woman’s name was Celtic, so he speculated that she might have been from Gloucestershire but married to a Roman or Gaul from France.  The Gloucestershire Echo reported that the tombstone will undergo analysis before it is put on display in a museum.

The discovery was made at an existing dig site at the former automotive garage located just outside of Cirencester, a city Cotswold Archaeology said was called Corinium Dobunnorum when it was founded by the Romans in the first century. Dozens of Roman graves have been found in the area.

Friday, February 20, 2015

FEBRUARY 20 = John Glenn Orbits the Earth

On today's date, February 20, in 1962, Lieutenant Colonel John Glenn, U.S.M.C.  became the first American to orbit the earth, making three revolutions around our planet in the Friendship Seven Mercury spacecraft.  Col. Glenn became a national hero for his flight.  But this hero status made him too valuable to risk on subsequent space flights, and this inactivity wound up driving him into the political arena as a democratic Senator from his (and my) home state of Ohio.

John Glenn, the Clean Marine

Born in Cambridge, Ohio on July 18, 1921, John Glenn had been a successful Marine pilot, completing over 150 combat missions during World War II and the Korean conflict, and receiving numerous decorations.  And he was also a successful test pilot, having made the first the first nonstop supersonic flight across the United States, flying from Los Angeles to New York in three hours and 23 minutes. Dubbed the Clean Marine because of his exemplary private life (he married his wife Annie in 1943 and stayed with her ever after) and because he refused to use curse language, Glenn had been one of the first seven pilot chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1959 to be the original astronauts in America's space program.

Glenn's Mission on February 20

In these early days of the U.S. space program, the U.S. was seen by many as falling behind the Russians who had already had a man in space, as well as a man orbiting the planet. so while the U.S. had already put men in space on previous missions, we had a lot by way of national prestige on the line with Col. Glenn's mission this day in 1962. He lifted off from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral at 9:47 a.m. on with some 100,000 spectators watching in person nearby and millions watching on television. Parted from its launching rocket, the bell-shaped Friendship 7 capsule moved into orbit around Earth at a speed of 17,500 miles per hour. After only five minutes Glenn radioed back: “This is Friendship 7. Can see clear back; a big cloud pattern way back across towards the Cape. Beautiful sight.” During his first orbit, Glenn saw what he described as small, glowing fireflies drifting by the capsule's tiny window. "Get out of here you little gadgets!" he said playfully as they dispersed. Later NASA figured out that the sparks were crystallized water vapor from the capsule's air-conditioning system.

The View from Space and the Heat Shield

At the start of his third orbit, Glenn photographed  a truly unique view of Florida from the Georgia border to north  Cape Canaveral. “I have the Cape in sight down there,” he radoed to mission controllers. “It looks real fine from up here. I can see the whole state of Florida just laid out like on a map. Beautiful.” The photo is below.

There was some trouble on this flight. As put in the New York Times: "The astronaut's safe return was no less a relief than a thrill to the Project Mercury team, because there had been real concern that the Friendship 7 capsule might disintegrate as it rammed back into the atmosphere."  Mission control received a signal from the spacecraft saying that the heat shield on the base of the capsule might be loose. This meant that the capsule could burn up upon re-entry to earth's atmosphere if the heat shield came off,  NASA decided to keep the craft's retrorockets, usually jettisoned before reentry, in place to hold the heat shield in position, Less than a minute later, Friendship 7 hit Earth's atmosphere. After four minutes of radio silence. Glenn's voice came sputtering over the speakers at Mission Control. As reported in the Times the next day: "Still in his capsule, he was plucked from the water at 3:01 P. M. with a boom and block and tackle by the destroyer Noa. The capsule was deposited on deck at 3:04. Colonel Glenn's first words as he stepped out onto the Noa's deck were: 'It was hot in there.' He quickly obtained a glass of ice tea."

The Years Following 1962

Thereafter, Colonel Glenn was a national hero, given a ticker-tape parade in New York City, and was praised all around for his feat of circling the globe in the Friendship 7, and to no small degree, for restoring America's national pride in her space program.  And while NASA would go on to surpass the Russians, ultimately landing a man on the moon in 1969, John Glenn the hero was seen by NASA as a far too valuable commodity to risk on another space mission.  With his naturally active spirit rebelling at this inactivity, Col. Glenn entered the political arena as a democratic candidate for the United States Senate from Ohio. He won election in 1974, and was re-elected three times after that - I am pleased and proud to say that I voted for him myself in those contests from 1980, onward.  On October 29, 1998, almost forty years after his orbital flight in Friendship Seven the 77-year-old Glenn was aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery as the oldest human ever to travel in space.  Lieutenant Colonel, Senator John Glenn - what a man!!


"The Right Stuff' - dir, by Philip Kaufman, 1983

Friday, February 13, 2015

FEBRUARY 13 = Catherine Howard is Executed.

On today's date in 1541, Catherine Howard, the fifth wife of England's King Henry VIII was executed for treason and adultery. And she is said to have died with her lover's name on her lips.

The Rose Without Thorns

It had been like a rocket that Catherine Howard had risen. She had been a young lady in waiting to Henry's fourth wife, the German Anne of Cleves. She caught the eye of his Majesty as the bright and personable niece of Thomas Howard the Duke of Norfolk, one of the King's close advisers.  Henry showed little interest in his fourth wife, instead showering young Catherine with gifts and attention. In spite of the significant age difference between them (He was 50, Catherine barely 18) Henry was thoroughly besotted with the kid, calling her "his rose without thorns." He had his marriage to Anne annulled in July of 1540. He married Catherine on July 28 of that month.

Rumors, and Thomas Culpeper

But it seems that Catherine had more than a few thorns, having been less than chaste in her years before marrying the King, or so the rumors went. Apparently she had slept with a man named Thomas Dereham. So there was the business of keeping that hushed up.  But shortly before her marriage to the King, she began a romance with one of the King's courtiers, one Thomas Culpeper.
This was hardly surprising, as the King was more than thirty years her senior and Culpeper was 26 at the time (pictured at right as portrayed in the TV series "The Tudors").Very soon after her marriage to the King these rumors began to circulate more. The king and his new wife toured England in preparation for her coronation, and her hoped for pregnancy. Henry had two daughters from previous marriages, and a son, but the boy was sickly, and the King hoped for another son and a healthy one to be his heir,  But the pregnancy didn't happen.

Catherine's Downfall

So when her affair with Culpeper came to light, along with the rumors of past misconduct, poor Catherine was through. A letter from her to Culpeper came to light, which is about the only writing of hers that still exists:

"I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company."

These sentiments, though delicate sounding enough to our modern ears were nevertheless used against her. She had virtually no hope of survival.  Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, sent to question Catherine was quite moved by her plight. "I found her in such lamentation and heaviness as I never saw no creature, so that it would have pitied any man's heart to have looked upon her." She was beheaded at 7:00 a.m. on Feb. 13, 1541. She went to her death with composure, but legend says that at her last moment she said: "I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpeper". This probably did not happen, but it does lend her tragic story some dimension, since apparently she was in love with Culpeper, and knew that he had been horribly executed (drawn and quartered) before her. She was a mere twenty years old at the time of her death.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

FEBRUARY 11 = The Yalta Conference Ends

           (Above: left to right, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin)

“ I just have a hunch that Stalin is not that kind of a man. . . . I think that if I give him everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace. ” —Franklin D. Roosevelt.

"Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I'm wrong about Stalin."

- Winston Churchill

Unfortunately for Eastern Europe, both the President, and the Prime Minister proved to be wrong about not only the character of the Soviet Dictator, but about his intentions. But the outcome of the Yalta Conference which ended on today's date, February 11 in 1945, would probably have been the same in any event.

The Yalta Conference

As World War II came to an end in Europe, the leaders of the soon to be victorious Allied powers of the United States, Great Britain, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R. - Russia) met at the Black Sea resort town of Yalta in the Crimean peninsula in what is now Russian-occupied territory of the independent Republic of Ukraine. The conference was held in the luxurious Livadia Palace (below) which
had once been a favorite retreat of the Czar.  Here, the heads of the allied governments, Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States, and Josef Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union met to discuss the post-war situation of Europe. And all three men had different agendas.  Churchill wanted to keep Russia from becoming the overall power in Europe.  Roosevelt wanted this also, but was mainly wanting Soviet participation in the new United Nations as well as Soviet help in the still unfinished war against Japan, and Stalin had his troops all over Eastern Europe and he was determined to keep them there.

The Leaders and Their Agendas at Yalta

Winston Churchill came to Yalta as the leader of a victorious Britain, but a Britain which had been seriously weakened by the struggle of this huge war, and no longer the vast imperial power that she had once been.  He was hoping to negotiate the Russian away from becoming the predominant power in Europe. Roosevelt came to Yalta hoping this as
well, but also with the need to get Russia to help out in the still unfinished war against Japan, and also to gain Russian participation in his cherished idea of an international organization to keep the peace - the United Nations.  But Roosevelt was a very sick man at this time.  The years of war had taken a great toll on him; in fact he would die in just over two months.  As shown in the quotations that open this posting, both men thought that Stalin was a reasonable man with whom they could do business.  But Stalin had his troops all over Eastern Europe, and far from being reasonable, he had no intention of turning loose of any of it. Poland in particular had been the route to invade Russia in 1812, 1914, and 1941 and he was determined to close it off once and for all.

The Yalta Negotiations and the Result

The negotiations over Eastern Europe came down to the fact that the Russians had it and that was it. As Llewellyn Woodward, a British diplomat said:

"The problem for the British and the Americans was to discover how far the Russians intended to collaborate with the western powers after the war... what use they intended to make of their military power... The President and his entourage continued to assume that, unlike Great Britain, Russia was not an imperial power."

Also, FDR was very anxious to gain full Russian participation in his planned United Nations as well as the war on Japan.  The atom bomb which would in a few months end that war, had not been developed yet, and the likely casualties of an invasion of Japan itself would be in the millions.  The President was set on attaining these two vital goals. The
Russians had full military possession of Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe, and the prospect of forcing them out militarily was (above: the Yalta conference table) simply impossible for the war-weary and exhausted allies. This lead to long and detailed talks about free elections in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe which in the end the Russians would not honor.  Stalin had his foot on that land and had no intention of removing it.

FDR's Sell-out of Eastern Europe?

When all of this became public in the months and years that followed the Yalta Conference, it began to look as though a sick Roosevelt had sold the store to Stalin, condemning Eastern Europe to years of Soviet domination.  Yes, FDR had indeed been on his last lap during Yalta.  But the truth had been much simpler.  As James Mac Gregor Burns wrote, Roosevelt's stance at Yalta did not result from

"naivete, ignorance, illness or perfidy, but from his acceptance of the facts: Russia occupied Poland.  Russia distrusted its Western allies.  Russia had a million men who could fight Japan. Russia could sabotage the new peace organization.  And Russia was absolutely determined about Poland and always had been." 

(Above: the final partition of Germany into occupation zones)
The Final Joint Communique' of the Yalta Conference issued on this date reflects the hopes of a world which was exhausted after years of war, and which was about to enter upon a new and even more perilous period of "Cold War" versus a determined and expansionist Soviet Union under Stalin:

"Our meeting here in the Crimea has reaffirmed our common determination to maintain and strengthen in the peace to come that unity of purpose and of action which has made victory possible and certain for the United Nations in this war. We believe that this is a sacred obligation which our Governments owe to our peoples and to all the peoples of the world.

"Only with the continuing and growing cooperation and understanding among our three countries and among all the peace-loving Nations can the highest aspiration of humanity be realized—a secure and lasting peace which will, in the words of the Atlantic Charter, "afford assurance that all the men in all the lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want."

"Victory in this war and establishment of the proposed international organization will provide the greatest opportunity in all history to create in the years to come the essential conditions of such a peace."


"A History of Modern Europe, 1815 to the Present" by Albert S. Lindemann, Wiley and Sons. Ltd., Chichester, U.K., 2013

"British Foreign Policy in the Second World War" by Sir Ernest Llewellyn Woodward, HM. Stationary Office, London, U.K., 1962

"Roosevelt: Soldier of Freedom 1940 - 45" by James MacGregor Burns, U.S.A., 1970

+ 156.