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Exposing the Third Reich

Exposing the Third Reich: Colonel Truman Smith in Hitler's Germany

Henry G. Gole
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    Exposing the Third Reich
    Book Description:

    As World War II recedes from living memory, there remain untold stories of important behind-the-scenes operatives who provided vital support to the leaders celebrated in historical accounts. Colonel Truman Smith is one of the most compelling figures from this period, but there has never been a biography of this important and controversial man. InExposing the Third Reich, Henry G. Gole tells this soldier's story for the first time.

    An American aristocrat from a prominent New England family, Smith was first assigned to Germany in 1919 during the Allied occupation and soon became known as a regional expert. During his second assignment in the country as a military attaché in 1935, he arranged for his good friend Charles Lindbergh to inspect the Luftwaffe. The Germans were delighted to have the famous aviator view their planes, enabling Smith to gather key intelligence about their air capability. His savvy cultivation of relationships rendered him invaluable throughout his service, particularly as an aide to General George C. Marshall; however, the colonel's friendliness with Germany also aroused suspicion that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

    Gole demonstrates that, far from condoning Hitler, Smith was among the first to raise the alarm: he predicted many of the Nazis' moves years in advance and feared that the international community would not act quickly enough. Featuring many firsthand observations of the critical changes in Germany between the world wars, this biography presents an indispensable look both at a fascinating figure and at the nuances of the interwar years.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4178-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Edward M. Coffman

    During World War I, Truman Smith acquired a distinguished record as an infantry officer commanding a company and later a battalion in combat. After the war he served in the occupation troops stationed in Coblenz. Then, in the twenty years between the world wars, he spent two four-year tours in Germany as an assistant military attaché and, then, as the military attaché. During the first tour in the 1920s, he became good friends with several of the German officers and was able to maintain those friendships after Hitler became dictator. Between these tours, he attended several of the army schools...

  4. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Patrician Heritage
    (pp. 1-16)

    Truman Smith, born to a prominent family at West Point in 1893, was well educated, confident, and responsible, and, while he never used these words to describe himself or his class, he was an American aristocrat. Like European gentry, his Yankee patrician class knew without saying that the price of economic well-being and high social status is responsibility to society at large, a sense of noblesse oblige.

    The Smith family history exemplifies the evolution of the American patrician class and illustrates how attaining that status and its attendant sense of responsibility shaped its members’ worldview and personal behavior. Smith’s family...

  6. 2 Over There
    (pp. 17-31)

    The war years of 1917–1918 were a formative time for Truman. His marriage to Kay began a long and loving relationship that was also a professional partnership. Her charm, wit, and high intelligence enabled her to keep pace with her talented husband as he matured and became first a good soldier and later a skilled reporter and analyst. His personal qualities, sound education, social connctions, and diligence enabled him to perform well and brought him to the attention of superiors. The brutal combat of 1918 was life-altering. Recognition as a brave leader resulted in a staff job in Coblenz...

  7. 3 Deutschland and Yearning
    (pp. 32-42)

    Smith had distinguished himself in a campaign that was brief, intense, and conclusive. As the American Army demobilized and diplomats engaged in the preliminaries to peacemaking, Truman’s regiment remained in Europe to become part of the occupation force in Germany. His letters to his wife during this time reveal a new affinity to things German and his disenchantment with the French. Just as he was becoming bored with garrison routine, he was asked if he would accept a civil affairs assignment requiring close and regular contact with the German civilian authorities in and around Coblenz. He accepted the assignment and...

  8. 4 Civil Affairs and Romance on the Rhine
    (pp. 43-57)

    Neither Smith nor his superiors knew how the Germans would react to occupation by foreign soldiers, nor did they know how long the occupation would last. The first question was answered early on as the Germans accepted the American presence without incident, despite the general anxiety that pervaded Germany, now defeated, hungry, and leaderless. The duration of the occupation would depend upon negotiation and acceptance of a peace treaty yet to be framed.

    A more pressing personal issue to Smith was how long he would continue to be separated from his wife. His letters to Kay during this period of...

  9. 5 Berlin, Munich, and Hitler in Weimar Germany
    (pp. 58-76)

    The Smiths arrived in Berlin in June 1920, when both they and the Weimar Republic were young. Everything about Berlin seemed tenuous, provisional, improvised, and ad hoc, including the American representation in the German capital. The small staff they joined had been hastily assembled under unusual circumstances. As a consequence, responsibilities normally borne by senior officials devolved on Truman and Kay. They were tested: he in observing, reporting, and representing the United States, which was still technically at war with Germany; and she in fulfilling a role usually performed by a veteran diplomat’s partner. Kay was twenty-two, and Truman just...

  10. 6 Years of Preparation
    (pp. 77-86)

    The Smiths’ European adventure of the early 1920s was a rich personal and professional experience; the same cannot be said of their next assignment. Truman later wrote, “The ensuing year and a half spent at Fort Hamilton was altogether the dullest and least professionally rewarding of my whole army career. The only relief from garrison boredom was the summer training periods at Fort Dix, New Jersey.”¹

    Smith’s later assignments, to Fort Benning and then Fort Leavenworth, were far more gratifying than the dull routine at Hamilton. He, along with some military contemporaries who shared his intellectual curiosity, were able to...

  11. 7 Marshall’s Men
    (pp. 87-102)

    The people and the work made Smith’s Benning assignment “most pleasant.” Kay was relaxed, and Truman thoroughly enjoyed his job. Many of their friends, colleagues, and students became the top army leaders during and after World War II, and there was an unexpected bonus. Truman’s already close connection to the German Army was strengthened by an official visit to Prussia and by meeting Captain Adolf von Schell, who was the first German exchange officer assigned to Fort Benning after the Great War. Schell became a lifelong friend of the Smiths. But the most important aspect of the Benning assignment for...

  12. 8 Army War College and Command
    (pp. 103-121)

    Smith’s gratifying years at Fort Benning with Marshall, Schell, and other first-rate professionals were focused on training and tactics. That assignment was followed by a year at the Army War College, where his focus was on national strategy, military strategy, and an expansion of his already considerable expertise regarding Germany, just as Hitler was coming to power and consolidating his grip on all aspects of life in Germany. Upon completion of the academic year in Washington, Smith returned to troop duty as a battalion commander in Hawaii, a place he had earlier visited and remembered fondly. The pattern of his...

  13. 9 Hitler Takes Power
    (pp. 122-129)

    The chief of staff’s enigmatic pronouncements must have puzzled Smith as he prepared to take up his post as military attaché. After all, MacArthur had been a brigadier general when just thirty-eight and superintendent at the United States Military Academy a year later. Smith was about to turn forty-two in 1935 when he had his audience with the great man. Others had noted that as early as 1911, MacArthur was inclined to “strike attitudes to impress the spectators.”¹

    In letters to his wife from the Pacific in World War II, General Robert L. Eichelberger, who referred to MacArthur as the...

  14. 10 Hitler’s Germany
    (pp. 130-142)

    Smith had thought through Hitler’s influence and Germany’s future in his 1924 article, “The German Fascisti,” which remained unpublished until 1984. In it he warned that “critics and scoffers” who proclaimed Hitler’s doctrines as artificial “bunkum” “may well be too optimistic.” He concluded, “The probability of a patriotic, nationalistic Germany of the future must still be faced by every thinking foreigner, European or American.”¹ Later, as a student at the Army War College, Smith’s 1933 paper “Hitler and Germany” was again right on the mark regarding key issues: the dictator’s consolidation of power at home before undertaking military action; Hitler’s...

  15. 11 Kay, Germany, and Ambassador Dodd
    (pp. 143-164)

    Katharine Alling Hollister Smith used Alling, her mother’s maiden name, and Hollister, her own maiden name, on the title page of her memoir, “My Life,” presumably to make it clear that she was not just another Smith. She describes her and her husband’s second tour of duty in Berlin in a single-spaced document of 286 pages.¹

    Kay’s unpublished memoir is analytical, with generous helpings of gossip, but always evocative of the drama of Hitler’s Germany from 1935 onward. She is an observant, engaged, intelligent, and informed recorder of matters large and small. The biographer welcomes her fondness for name-dropping and...

  16. 12 Hitler Arms, Smith Reports
    (pp. 165-181)

    In 1935, Smith knew with absolute clarity that he was in Berlin in Hitler’s time to observe and report on German rearmament. In retrospect, he realized that he had been close to the center of world-altering events in the decade after 1935, a period covering his assignments in Berlin and in Washington from 1939 to 1945. Nevertheless, he donated his papers to the Yale University Library in 1957 and 1961, believing them to be no more than the next chapter of the Smith family chronicle, of interest primarily to family members. But in 1964, at the age of seventy-one, he...

  17. 13 Smith’s Trojan Horse
    (pp. 182-201)

    In the summer of 1953, seven years after his retirement from active military duty, Smith was approached by the Intelligence Division of the General Staff with the request that he furnish them all pertinent facts regarding the connection of then-Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh, Army Reserve, with Smith’s office in Berlin between 1935 and 1939. The Intelligence Division was particularly interested in what Smith called “a half-mythical document which our press in the years 1939, 1940, and 1941 often referred to in their columns but never quoted from directly.” Smith was skeptical that such a Lindbergh report existed, “as were both...

  18. 14 The Lindbergh-Smith Friendship
    (pp. 202-215)

    Truman Smith was enormously grateful to Charles Lindbergh for the air intelligence gained by the aviator’s visits to Germany in 1936 and 1937. Later Lindbergh visits in 1938 and 1939 were icing on the cake, but Smith singled out his 1 November 1937 report on Nazi air power as his crowning achievement. Lindbergh’s visit had validated and fleshed out what were Smith’s unsubstantiated 1935–1936 impressions of German aviation development. It opened the door to Luftwaffe leadership for Major Albert Vanaman’s further reporting and gave Smith and his Berlin office credibility in Washington with the G-2 and with his own...

  19. 15 Hitler Is Ready
    (pp. 216-230)

    Truman Smith’s promotion to lieutenant colonel in 1938 was good news, as were two more visits to Berlin by Charles and Anne Lindbergh, during which they were once more guests of the Smiths. The visits were a source of personal pleasure for both couples. Anne wrote on 1 April 1938 that living in England for two and a half years had given the Lindberghs the peace and quiet they wanted, but she added with obvious regret, “I had not made a single friend.” She had found a friend in Kay Smith in Berlin.¹

    The purpose of the Lindberghs’ visits to...

  20. 16 Welcome Home
    (pp. 231-247)

    Despite the discovery of diabetes in the course of his physical examination, Smith was promoted to lieutenant colonel with a backdated effective date of rank of 1 July 1938. Date of rank in the interwar U.S. Army of slow promotions was important to Regulars. Retention on active duty was one administrative matter of concern to Smith; his place in the hierarchical pecking order was another.

    In February 1939, he received orders to return to the United States and to report to the Walter Reed Hospital in Washington in April. Exhausted by his efforts over the previous three and a half...

  21. 17 Smith as “Strategicus”
    (pp. 248-267)

    Retirement meant that Truman and Kay were no longer nomads subject to relocation on receipt of orders from duly constituted military authority. They showed no hesitation in selecting their place of permanent residence. Like pigeons coming home to roost, on 1 September 1941 they settled on four acres on Greenfield Hill in Fairfield, Connecticut. The Smiths had been New Englanders from colonial days and for over a century Connecticut Yankees. They were home. Nearby New York City beckoned. Kay’s roots were there, and so was their social network. “Northeastern establishment” was not a glib cliché. Both Kay and Truman were...

  22. 18 Wartime Washington
    (pp. 268-285)

    It is inconceivable that Truman Smith could have chosen to sit on the sideline as friends and comrades from twenty-six years of military service marched off to the great crusade, many to serve with distinction. One imagines the visceral reaction of the professional soldier and combat veteran in the charged atmosphere of the days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, so close to Schofield Barracks, where Kay and Truman had so recently enjoyed the pleasures of peace in a tropical paradise. In addition to the adrenaline rush accompanying the declarations of war, Smith knew that his professional training and experience...

  23. 19 The Road to German Rearmament
    (pp. 286-301)

    The Smiths’ 1945–1946 transition from active duty to retirement—again—was bridged by a year of sick leave at home in Connecticut. General Marshall’s appreciation of Truman’s decade of outstanding performance of duty in Berlin and Washington accounts for the unusually long leave. Marshall was fully aware that debilitating illness had brought Smith to the brink of exhaustion more than once during the war. He also respected the dignity Smith had demonstrated during the unfair 1939–1941 attacks on his integrity. Perhaps the long sick leave was unspoken compensation for the fact that Marshall was unable to get Smith...

  24. 20 Politics, Travel, and Writing
    (pp. 302-312)

    Smith had some creative notions about the U.S. Army’s personnel policies, at least one of which came to fruition in part due to his friendship with Clare Boothe Luce. Both Smiths knew and liked Luce from Berlin and Washington days, and Kay enjoyed telling amusing stories about the attractive woman who would be a journalist-playwright-congresswoman-ambassador in the course of her life. She was also the wife ofTimemagazine publisher Henry Luce. Kay once remarked of her good friend that she had a woman’s body and a man’s mind, and knew how to use both.

    In an 18 September 1944...

  25. 21 Retrospective and a Graceful Exit
    (pp. 313-328)

    Germany remained a magnet to Truman Smith to the end of his life. He returned with Kay to meet with old friends in September and October 1963, the best time of year to be in that part of the world, as he knew. Then-and-now comparisons were unavoidable as they toured the land they knew so well. Memories abounded: honeymoon on the Rhine; the loss of a child; the Germanies of Weimar and Hitler; close observation of Germany as an enemy during the war; and, in the 1950s, Truman’s liaison between American and German leadership as rearmament was contemplated and then...

  26. Appendix A Losses in Smith’s 4th Infantry, October 1918
    (pp. 329-329)
  27. Appendix B Smith to His Sister on the Death of His Daughter, 1923
    (pp. 330-330)
  28. Appendix C Marshall on Smith’s Berlin Reporting and Dignity
    (pp. 331-331)
  29. Appendix D The German-British Bombing Pause, Christmas 1940
    (pp. 332-333)
  30. Appendix E Marshall on Smith’s Assessment of the Balkans, 1943
    (pp. 334-336)
  31. Appendix F Smith on the Situation in Europe, May 1944
    (pp. 337-338)
  32. Appendix G Marshall Saves a German General
    (pp. 339-340)
  33. Appendix H Smith on the German Army, 1963
    (pp. 341-347)
  34. Appendix I Smith’s Letter to Brigitta von Schell, 1967
    (pp. 348-350)
  35. Appendix J Smith to Marshall on Smith’s Retirement
    (pp. 351-352)
  36. Appendix K Obituary, Katharine Alling Hollister Smith
    (pp. 353-354)
  37. A Note on Sources
    (pp. 355-358)
  38. Notes
    (pp. 359-380)
  39. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 381-394)
  40. Index
    (pp. 395-416)