“’Tis strange, but true; for truth is always strange; Stranger than fiction: if it could be told, How much would novels gain by the exchange! How differently the world would men behold!” - Lord Byron, From his Poem: Don Juan (1823)
How could—why would—a man whom Americans have looked upon as one of their heroes for decades, descend into the ranks of those who turn their faces away from the torments and brutalities that some human beings inflict upon other human beings? Such is the usually unspoken question that has swirled around the life of Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969), Supreme Commander of the Normandy Invasion of WW11 and later President of the United States. In the first two parts of this article I reviewed the history of the notorious forced repatriation of millions of anti-communist refugees back into their countries of origin (in Russia and much of Central and Eastern Europe), which began even before WW11 ended, and which became known as “Operation Keelhaul”.
In Part 2 I told that tragic story of the betrayal of thousands of Hungarian freedom fighters who valiantly tried to resist the invasion of their country by the rampaging Red Army just after the end of WW11. Having been forced to retreat to the American sector by the overwhelming might of the Russian invaders (aided by a lot of American military materiel), these brave patriots were eventually betrayed by the American government generally, and by General Dwight Eisenhower specifically, as he signed the order to “repatriate” them back to the communist puppet government in Budapest. Had that been the only “crime against humanity” for which Dwight Eisenhower had the blood of innocents on his hands, that would have been enough to condemn him in the eyes of history; but that was only one of many incidents wherein vast numbers of refugees from Soviet communist tyranny were forcefully and brutally “repatriated” back into the tender mercies of communist governments who hated them, courtesy of the “co-operation” of General Eisenhower with those very communist forces. According to one of the voluminous footnotes included in Robert Welch’s book, The Politician: “Julius Epstein uncovered the existence of a classified document in the Historical Records Section of the U.S. Army in Alexandria, Virginia. The document bears the file number 383.7-14.1 and is titled: Forcible Repatriation of Displaced Soviet Citizens---Operation Keelhaul, ‘How We Served As Partners In A Purge’.” (This was originally printed in American Legion Magazine, December, 1954, pages 14-15; 43-45). YES--It was a purge—one of monumental dimensions!
Before we look at other examples of these forced repatriations that were ordered and/or endorsed by Dwight Eisenhower, as might have been expected it slowly became a “cause celebre” to try to exonerate him, especially in the months leading up to his first run for POTUS in 1952. Eisenhower’s apologists and supporters have always tried to “brush off” his personal guilt in these atrocities by blaming the agreements made at The Yalta Conference in February, 1945 for both the policy of repatriation AND its execution. Of this, Robert Welch wrote: “This is deliberate distortion and falsification…. It’s true that there was an agreement (made) at Yalta, signed on behalf of the U.S. by General John Deane on February 11, 1945 which provided for the exchange of prisoners of war and “liberated” civilians, regardless of their desires. They were to be returned to their “countries of origin”. Apparently under the influence of (Communist) Alger Hiss, Secretary of State Stettinius and our delegation entered into this agreement (with Stalin) despite everything Ambassador Joseph Grew, then Acting Secretary of State in Washington, D.C., could do to prevent it…. But it was all to no avail. Stalin was determined to have his vengeance, and Messrs. Stettinius, Hiss, et al., had Deane sign (the Yalta agreement). It was on the strength of the Deane agreement at Yalta…that Dwight Eisenhower could claim to have signed the order, which Countess Alberti saw, for the return of the Hungarian patriots to ‘the country of their origin’. The fact that this was no longer actually their country, but had been taken over by the Communists, the very people against whom they had been fighting, was a mere trifle which Eisenhower chose to ignore.”
One further proof of Eisenhower’s PERFIDY and TREACHERY regarding these crimes of forced repatriation involved the sad fate of a Soviet Army General named Andrei Vlasov and his entire army. Robert Welch tells his story in The Politician: “The most important single implementation of the foul ‘Deane Agreement’ was the destruction of General Andrei Vlasov’s army…. Vlasov, who was at heart a bitter anti-Communist but an equally dedicated Russian patriot, surrendered to the Germans in 1942 (after the Nazi hordes had invaded Russia). His intention was to get their help in organizing a Russian army to free Russia from the Bolshevik tyranny. But he made it all too clear that he and his troops, even in German uniform, would never fight against the Western Allies; that he didn’t think the Germans…or anybody but Russians, could ever conquer Russia, and that he was not at all interested in a German victory, but only in freeing Russia from the Soviet tyranny.”
At this time, the German Army was winning its battles against the Russians, being so certain that they could conquer and rule Russia that they refused Vlasov’s offer of help. For the next year or two the Germans tried, unsuccessfully, to use General Vlasov for propaganda of their invincibility. As Robert Welch continues: “It was General Vlasov—or one of his subordinate generals—who gave the journalist, Erich Kern, the remarkable definition of Bolshevism as ‘that terrible synthesis of madness and crime which holds my poor, unhappy people in its grip’. But (Vlasov) would have no part in helping to replace a Bolshevik tyranny with a Nazi tyranny…. By 1944…the whole picture had changed. The Germans were desperately looking for help from any source. So it was Himmler himself who, at the very end of 1944, supported Vlasov in the organization and equipment of three divisions of
Russians—refugees and prisoners of war—in German uniforms and as a part of the overall German army, to act as a ‘Russian Army of Liberation’. The divisions were formed, and were in action by early in 1945. But…it was too late. Their major effect was to anger Stalin by the number of his troops, at some points on the Eastern front, who immediately surrendered to (Vlasov’s) forces as soon as they learned the identity of these people in German uniforms against whom they were fighting.
“As the coming German collapse became obvious, General Vlasov ordered all of his (army) to march to a pre-arranged spot in southern Austria. He and (his army) were prepared…to fight to the last man rather than be returned to Soviet Russia.…Vlasov…had reason to…believe that he and his men would be accorded the civilized treatment of (German) uniformed prisoners of war, especially since everything that had happened at Yalta was then still as secret as the grave” (i.e. the “forced repatriation” agreements made at Yalta were still unknown to all of the combatants).
“On the way to…Austria (one 25,000 man division of Vlasov’s army, under General Bunichenko) marched to Prague (capital of Czechoslovakia). At that time General George Patton’s forces (Patton was horrified over the forced repatriation policy blamed on Yalta, but ordered by Eisenhower), which had reached (within 50 miles of Prague but) had been pulled BACK about 50 miles by General Eisenhower’s orders…in order to allow the Russians under Marshall Koniev to take the city (which had been set on fire by the retreating Germans, and total chaos was occurring). Bunichenko’s division arrived (in Prague), restored order…and slipped away as Koniev’s troops came in. Having learned in Prague that General Eisenhower intended to let Russian troops occupy all of Czechoslovakia, General Bunichenko marched his (men) westward until they reached the nearest American forces, and surrendered his 25,000 men to the U.S. Third Army on May 10, 1945. The division was then forcibly disarmed, and compelled by U.S. tanks to march INTO the hands of the Red Army which was waiting for them. And the mass suicides which took place had no effect on these orders….” Obviously, only ONE MAN could order such a breach of international law—the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces, General Dwight Eisenhower!
“In the meantime General Vlasov…had been received as a guest at U.S. 3rd Army Headquarters. Not knowing exactly what was happening to his men, but deeply disturbed, he wrote letters to General Eisenhower as Supreme Commander, and to the various Western governments, pleading that his forces not be returned to the Soviets, and asking that he and his leading officers be allowed to stand trial before an International Tribunal. But the last thing Stalin wanted was to give Vlasov any chance to justify and explain his course. Vlasov’s men…WERE ALREADY BEING TURNED OVER BY FORCE TO THE RUSSIANS (courtesy of the American Army). But even the Supreme Commander (Eisenhower) did not…dare use force, or have the 3rd Army use force, to surrender General Vlasov himself to the Soviets—especially since General Patton had tried to intercede on behalf of both Vlasov and his men. So, on May 12, 1945, Vlasov and his small staff were told that they had to go to the U.S. 4th Army Headquarters for a conference. The convoy, ‘protected’ by four (U.S. Army) tanks, set off for the conference site. A few miles out it was intercepted by Red (Army) soldiers, who arrested Vlasov, and all of his staff, and took them away, while their ‘protective’ (American) escort calmly looked on….What finally happened to Vlasov and all of his men we do not know…”
We all know what surely happened to this brave anti-communist general, don’t we? By this time the question of the use of FORCE to repatriate millions of people was coming to the front, and this surely is the key to Eisenhower’s guilt in that sordid and inhuman crime. This use of force to send innocent people to certain death or slave labor (or both) was happening all over half of Europe—it was happening to those who volunteered to fight with our Allied and American forces—to prisoners of war still in German uniforms—and to VAST numbers of civilians-- men, women, and children who had been resettled in their new lives and in their new countries for years. The herding—the use of BRUTAL FORCE—of these people, often at the bayonet points of American soldiers, into box cars to be shipped back to Russia or other countries now dominated by communist governments, supervised by American soldiers under Eisenhower’s overall command, became so brutal and heartrending that it was our Pentagon in Washington, D.C. that officially designated these atrocities as “Operation Keelhaul”.
Robert Welch continues: “…(S)ome apologists for Eisenhower…say that he was merely carrying out orders, however infamous, as determined over his head at Yalta. (But) the War Trials at Nuremberg were (being) conducted right WHILE much of (these atrocities were) going on, under the aegis and influence of Supreme Commander Eisenhower; and the German generals were there being condemned to death for nothing more than carrying out orders, involving brutality, handed them by their superiors. Eisenhower not only carried out the same kind of orders, but never once even voiced a protest. …The truth is that Eisenhower tremendously exceeded any official authority he had for the brutality of this program, even the authority of the Deane Agreement (at Yalta). For in that agreement not one word was said about using FORCE to bring about these repatriations, and even that weak kneed bunch of Stalin worshippers (in our U.S. State Department) who perpetrated the Deane Agreement would not have dared put themselves on record…in violation of recognized international law, as to have agreed to the use of FORCE to implement Stalin’s (demands).”
One of the U.S. Army’s own official historians, Colonel Harold Potter, stated that the Yalta Agreement should not have been used to justify the use of brutal force, for it did NOT contain any reference at all to the use of any kind of force to repatriate people back to a country to which they did not want to return. Colonel Potter stated, in his report, that “it was the arbitrary interpretation of the Yalta Agreement by our Joint Chiefs of Staff which caused the use of force in this human tragedy which went on from 1945 to 1947”. Of course, this focuses attention on General of the Army George Marshall, Eisenhower’s superior officer, and Eisenhower’s willingness to carry out Marshall’s policies. George Marshall was a notorious apologist for Stalin and his communist regime, (and an “admirer” of Chinese communist Mao Tse-tung) so there was little doubt of his sympathies. There was also no doubt in Eisenhower’s mind that he could count on Marshall’s support as every desperate and struggling victim was shipped back into Stalin’s murderous hands, or into the hands of equally tyrannous puppet governments in Eastern Europe.
Americans of the present may be incredulous that a famous American general of Eisenhower’s stature would ever involve himself in such crimes as forced repatriations of vast numbers of innocent people who only wanted to live in freedom and safety. Robert Welch lists three considerations to keep in mind when trying to explain Eisenhower’s actions: “In the first place…Eisenhower decided on FORCIBLE REPATRIATIONS, and began them, BEFORE the Yalta Agreement was reached, and…(this) was strictly contrary to (existing American policy). In the second place, Eisenhower just as vigorously used force to repatriate Russian, Polish, and other nationals, who were volunteers in OUR armies, and to whom the Yalta Agreement could not possibly apply, as he did with regard to Russian nationals in German uniform. And in the third place, for the first and most horrible ten months of (Operation Keelhaul), it was only Eisenhower’s personal interpretation of the Yalta Agreement that force might be used, and not that of our Joint Chiefs of Staff—although there is no doubt he had George Marshall’s tacit approval of what he was doing.” In other words, Eisenhower believed in forced repatriations, for reasons we may never know—but only suspect!
The brutality of forced, and unwilling, repatriation of people who only wanted to live in freedom and away from the brutal collectivism of communist regimes, became so gruesome that by August of 1945 many of our American military—both officers and men—became shocked and emotionally ravaged over what they were doing to their fellow human beings, and began to protest these actions, because many of them couldn’t take it anymore. On August 25, 1945 General Alexander Patch, Commander of the U.S. 7th Army, wrote to Supreme Headquarters asking for specific written clarification on whether he had to use U.S. military personnel to force the involuntary repatriation of Soviet (and other national) citizens. Suddenly this “kowtowing” to Stalin’s demands by Eisenhower was opened to the glare of exposure and resistance by some top military leaders, because up to that time our Joint Chiefs of Staff had NOT issued such instructions, nor had they ever interpreted the Yalta Agreement as requiring force to be used during these “repatriations”. Obviously, Eisenhower had been acting strictly on his own!
General Eisenhower chose not to answer the concerns of General Patch, and he deflected the question to the Joint Chiefs. However, no answer was forthcoming, and the repatriations were put on “hold”. For several months the remaining prospective victims of Stalin’s hatred thought they might be saved. However, in November of 1945 General Eisenhower was reassigned to Washington, D.C. to become Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, and an official member of the Joint Chiefs. Shortly thereafter the Joint Chiefs of Staff answered General Patch’s inquiry and announced that “…all Soviet citizens, who on September 1, 1939 had been resident inside the U.S.S.R. MUST be repatriated, disregarding their personal wishes and if necessary by means of FORCE. And ‘Operation Keelhaul’ was IMMEDIATELY RESUMED.”
I conclude this long article about purposely purged and almost forgotten history with Robert Welch’s conclusions from “The Politician” regarding this sordid tale of evil: “There have been few crimes in history more brutal and more extensive than this forced repatriation of anti-communists, to which Dwight Eisenhower committed the honor of the U.S. Dragging the honor and reputation of our country through such pools of bloody betrayal, and thus convincing anti-communists of either the stupidity or the PRO-COMMUNISM of the U.S., was…one of the objectives. And while he had the ‘moral support’…of plenty of other pro-Stalinists in our government at that time, it was Eisenhower who gave Stalin’s monstrous plan of vengeance and warning all of its
total effectiveness. You can find excuses and reasons for Eisenhower’s conduct…by the dozen, if your credulity can stand the burden. But there is one simple, plain, straightforward reason which solves the whole problem, without leaving a single loophole.”
Robert Welch left it up to future readers of The Politician to come up with that “one simple, plain, straightforward reason” as to why a man who was perceived to live by his West Point creed all of his military life--- DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY--- would betray his fellow human beings in such a vile manner. Welch didn’t come right out and say what he believed was the answer, but I will state unequivocally what I’m certain that Robert Welch believed: GENERAL DWIGHT EISENHOWER WAS EITHER A DISGUSTING OPPORTUNIST WHO, IN HIS EVIL MIND, DID WHAT HE DID IN ORDER TO FURTHER HIS CAREER, OR HE WAS A “CLOSET” COMMUNIST OR COMMUNIST SYMPATHIZER WHO, ALONG WITH HIS PRO-COMMUNIST SUPERIORS IN THE U.S. MILITARY AND GOVERNMENT (OF WHICH THERE WERE MANY), DID ALL HE COULD TO FURTHER THE CAUSE OF, AND AQUIESCE TO, THE MURDEROUS DEMANDS OF COMMUNIST DICTATOR JOSEPH STALIN.
Disregard Robert Welch’s evidence and historical revelations if you will, but the facts he presented in The Politician seem totally reasonable for my conclusions. Disagree with me if you will, but if you do, make sure that you have the facts, also! FACTS, not wishful thinking nor biased incredulity!