Truman Smith

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Truman Smith

Colonel Truman Smith (August 25, 1893 - October 3, 1970) was an American intelligence officer and the senior military attaché to Berlin who saw the rise of Adolf Hitler and his NSDAP. In November 1922 he became the first American diplomat to have interviewed Hitler. Truman Smith was first stationed in Berlin from 1920 to 1924 and again a decade later from August 1935 to March 1939.

Contents

Early life

Truman Smith was born 1893 in West Point, New York, the son of Captain Edmund Dickinson Smith (1858-1900) and Mary (Dewing) Smith. Truman Smith was named after his grandfather (Truman Smith, 1792-1884) who was a US Senator from Connecticut.

From 1912 to 1915 he attended Yale University and received a bachelors’ degree. A year later he did graduate work at Columbia University. He joined the New York National Guard and was commissioned into the regular US Army as a Second Lieutenant in 1916. During the First World War he served in France as a battalion commander and received the Silver Star.

Personal

Truman Smith married Katherine Alling Hollister on July 14, 1917,[1] who he meet at Columbia. They had a daughter, Katherine Truman Smith "Kaetchen".

Smith was an imposing figure standing at 6’4 and was well versed in the German language and culture.

Hitler interview

On November 20, 1922 Smith became the first American to interview Adolf Hitler. After being sent by US ambassador Alanson Houghton to interview Prince Ruprecht, a pretender to the Bavarian throne, and General Ludendorff, interviewing Hitler was almost an afterthought.

Like many at the time, Smith underestimated Hitler. He saw Hitler as playing an important role in German politics but never imagined him as a ruler of most of Europe.[2] In the interview Hitler did not disguise his program or his vision for Germany. Hitler readily admitted his intention to become dictator and rid the Jews from Germany.[3]

Smith remembered during the interview that each time he ask Hitler a question it was as if "he had press a gramophone switch which set off a full-length speech".[4] As a consequence the interview lasted hours and covered many topics. Alfred Rosenberg, party ideologue, was also present at the interview.[5]

Tours of Germany

During his tours of Germany, Smith ran several agents to gather intelligence on Hitler and the NSDAP. One of those was Harvard graduate and German-American Ernst Hanfstaengl. In 1922 Smith suggested to Hanfstaengl to attend a party rally and gain an impression of Hitler. Hanfstaengl later became a close associate of Hitler and undoubtedly relayed what he learned to Smith.

Another agent recruited by Smith was famed aviator Charles A. Lindbergh. Smith devised a plan to have Lindbergh to visit German aircraft facilities, gathering information to relay back to Washington. Lindbergh made five visits to German aircraft facilities.

Jewish vendetta

Truman Smith returned to America in April 1939 after being diagnosed with diabetes. From 1939 to 1945 he was a German specialist of the Military Intelligence Division (G-2) stationed in Washington, D.C. and was the personal advisor to Gen. George C. Marshall.

After the fall of France, Truman Smith and Charles Lindbergh were subjected to a Jewish vendetta where they were attacked by columnists Drew Pearson, Walter Lippmann, and Walter Winchell. They were denounced as German sympathizers who together were accused of exaggerating the strength of the Luftwaffe and spreading defeatism among the American public. The two main Jews in Washington who were feeding this stories to the press were Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter and Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes. It was only after General George C. Marshall asked Bernard Baruch to intercede with President Roosevelt did the attacks upon Smith stop.

Politics and influences

In September 1940 as the America First Committee was beginning to be organized Smith introduced Lindbergh to Lawrence Dennis, a fascist ideologue.[6]

Both Truman Smith and his wife Kay hated Roosevelt bitterly. On the day of Roosevelt’s death, Kay wrote in her journal, "Our decline, our degeneracy stems from that man and his socialist, blinded greedy wife."[7]

In 1946 Smith was an unsuccessful candidate for Republican nomination for congressional seat, fourth district of Connecticut.

Smith was a friend to John Beaty, an anti-Jewish military intelligence officer, and encouraged him to read Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s work Foundations of the Nineteenth Century with particular attention to the chapter "The Entrance of the Jew in History".[8]

Works

  • Truman Smith: 1893-1946, The Facts of Life: A Narrative with Documents (published in Berlin Alert)
  • Berlin Alert: The Memoirs and Reports of Truman Smith (1985) text

Published Articles

  • "German General Staff Abdicates" Infantry Journal 58: 22-7. Jan., 1946.
  • "Stalingrad or Bust" Infantry Journal 59:14-19. Aug., 1946.
  • "Lindbergh and the Luftwaffe" American Mercury 82:93 April, 1956.
  • "Infamous Record of Soviet Espionage" Reader's Digest 77:36-42. Aug., 1960.

Notes

  1. Berlin Alert by Robert Hessen, page xiii
  2. Berlin Alert by Robert Hessen, page 18
  3. Berlin Alert by Robert Hessen, page xiv
  4. Berlin Alert by Robert Hessen, page 46
  5. Berlin Alert by Robert Hessen, page 46
  6. The American Axis by Max Wallace, page 252
  7. The American Axis by Max Wallace, page 321
  8. The American Axis by Max Wallace, page 110

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