Presidential memoirs usually supplement the historical record but do not alter it. Herbert Hoover’s posthumously published chronicle promises to be a game changer, whether universities ignore it or not.
To be sure, the former president wrote Freedom Betrayed with a point of view, particularly towards the policies of the man he lost his reelection bid to—Franklin D. Roosevelt. That viewpoint is one which he alternately gives vent to and tries to suppress in the book subtitled Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and its Aftermath.
As it turns out, Hoover stated what would be his central thesis in a conversation at a 1951 Manhattan dinner to a New York public relations man in language that history buffs who associate the former president with the high starch collars he wore would never guess that he would use. “When Roosevelt put America in to help Russia as Hitler invaded in June, 1941,” Hoover said. “We should have let those two bastards annihilate themselves.”
George H. Nash, no mean historian himself, supplied the above anecdote in his introduction to the presidential memoir published more than four decades after the author’s death. Nash edited the volume, which runs to more than 900 pages with footnotes and appendices.
“Hitler’s constant ambition, intention and preparation during eight years had been the conquest of Russia and Eastern Europe and the uprooting of the Communist Vatican in Moscow,” Hoover wrote in one of the notes which Nash appends to the text. “Roosevelt knew in December 1940 and more emphatically in March 1941 that Hitler had turned his military objectives to that purpose.”
“His State Department in mid-January had even warned Russia it was coming.” It turns out that Hoover had a really reliable source providing him with that last tidbit of information—Roosevelt’s Secretary of State, Cordell Hull.
“I met with Secretary of Hull in Washington during February, 1941, to discuss relief matters, subsequent to which we had a general conversation,” Hoover recounted. “In reply to my query as to what the Germans were doing against Russia, Hull told me that they had concentrated 1,250,000 troops along their eastern frontier, and at least 300,000 additional troops on the Bulgarian frontier.”
“He also told me that the Russians were ‘scared to death.’” Hoover argued that this conflict gave Britain a break and the U. S. as well, with Nazi forces preoccupied on the Russian border.
Instead, “The total Lend Lease supplies which we furnished Russia in round numbers amounted to 16,523,000 tons, worth $10, 670, 000, 000,” Hoover wrote. “Among other items, there were included 375,000 trucks, about 52,000 jeeps, 7,000 tanks, some 6,300 other combat vehicles, 2,300 artillery vehicles, 35,000 motorcycles, 14,700 aircraft, 8,200 anti-aircraft guns, 1,900 steam locomotives, 66 Diesel locomotives, 11,000 railway cars of various types, 415,000 telephones, 3,786,000 automobile and truck tires 2,670,000 tons of oil products, 4,478,000 tons of foodstuffs, 15 million pairs of army boots, 6 oil refineries, and a factory for the production of motors, tires, etc.”
Meanwhile, Hoover noted, “The number of political convicts in Siberia under the Czars probably never had exceeded 200,000.”
“My informants insisted that Stalin had swelled the number to over 5,000,000, and that in the camps they were dying at the rate of 500,000 every year.” Prior to assuming the presidency, Hoover had been a globetrotting engineer and humanitarian who led relief efforts to feed a war-ravaged Europe after both World War I and World War II.
During the time period covered in Hoover’s “magnum opus,” Josef Stalin was the undisputed dictator of the Soviet Union. Indeed, Hoover’s half-a-million a year casualty estimate from Soviet labor camps would be perfectly in keeping with the known death tolls as revealed in the Communist International’s files and tabulated in The Black Book of Communism after the Cold War officially ended.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia.
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