The Lie: The United States and its Western Allies made a reasonable effort to end World War II as soon as possible.
General Eisenhower, General Patton & President Roosevelt in Sicily, 1943
The Truth: The Allied leaders intentionally allowed the Soviet Union to take over Berlin and Eastern Europe. The Supreme Allied Commander in the West, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, had no intention of occupying Berlin. According to Nikita Khrushchev’s memoirs,
“Stalin said that if it hadn’t been for Eisenhower, we wouldn’t have succeeded in capturing Berlin.”
Stalin wanted his troops to reach as far into Europe as possible to enable the Soviet Union to control more of Europe after the war was over. Stalin knew that once the Soviet troops had a stronghold in Eastern Europe, it would be almost impossible to dislodge them. Soviet hegemony could not be dislodged unless Roosevelt wanted to take on the Soviet Union after fighting Germany. Stalin said in private:
“Whoever occupies a territory imposes on it his own social system. Everyone imposes his own system as far as his army can reach.”
The United States could have easily prevented the Soviet Union from marching so far west into Europe. After defeating Germany in North Africa, the Americans and British went into Sicily and then Italy. Churchill favored an advance up the Italian or Balkan peninsulas into central Europe. Such a march would be quicker in reaching Berlin, but Roosevelt and Stalin opposed this strategy at the Tehran Conference in November 1943. In general sessions at Tehran with Churchill present, Roosevelt opposed strengthening the Italian campaign. Instead, Roosevelt wanted troops in Italy to go to France for the larger cross-Channel attack planned for 1944.
Gen. Mark Clark, the American commander in Italy, later commented on Roosevelt’s decision:
“The weakening of the campaign in Italy in order to invade Southern France, instead of pushing on into the Balkans, was one of the outstanding mistakes of the war….Stalin knew exactly what he wanted…and the thing he wanted most was to keep us out of the Balkans.”
The Allied military leaders also intentionally prevented Gen. George Patton from quickly defeating Germany in Western Europe. In August 1944, Patton’s Third Army was presented with an opportunity to encircle the Germans at Falaise, France. However, Gens. Omar Bradley and Dwight Eisenhower ordered Patton to stop at Argentan and not complete the encirclement of the Germans, which most historians agree Patton could have done. As a result, probably 100,000 or more German soldiers escaped to later fight U.S. troops in December 1944 in the last-ditch counterattack known as the Battle of the Bulge.
Patton wrote in his diary concerning the halt that prevented the encirclement of Germans at Falaise:
“This halt [was] a great mistake. [Bradley’s] motto seems to be, ‘In case of doubt, halt.’ I wish I were supreme commander.”
Maj. Gen. Richard Rohmer, who was a Canadian fighter pilot at the time, wrote that if the gap had closed it “could have brought the surrender of the Third Reich, whose senior generals were now desperately concerned about the ominous shadow of the great Russian Bear rising on the eastern horizon of the Fatherland.” Even Col. Ralph Ingersoll, Gen. Bradley’s own historian, wrote, “The failure to close the Argentan-Falaise gap was the loss of the greatest single opportunity of the war.”
By August 31, 1944, Patton had put Falaise behind and quickly advanced his tanks to the Meuse River, only 63 miles from the German border and 140 miles from the Rhine River. The German army Patton was chasing was disorganized and in disarray; nothing could stop Patton from roaring into Germany. However, on August 31, the Third Army’s gasoline allotment was suddenly cut by 140,000 gallons per day. This was a huge chunk of the 350,000 to 400,000 gallons per day the Third Army had been consuming. Patton’s advance was halted even though the way ahead was open and largely undefended by the German army in retreat.
Siegfried Westphal, Gen. von Rundstedt’s chief of staff, later described the condition of the German army on the day Patton was stopped: “The overall situation in the West [for the Germans] was serious in the extreme. The Allies could have punched through at any point with ease.” The halt of the Third Army blitzkrieg allowed the Germans to reposition and revitalize. With the knowledge that they were defending their home soil, the Germans found a new purpose for fighting. They were not just waging a war, but were defending their families from what they regarded as revenge seeking hordes.
Germany took advantage of the overall Allied slowdown and reorganized her troops into a major fighting force. Germany’s counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge took Allied forces completely by surprise. The Germans created a “bulge” in the lax American line, and the Allies ran the risk of being cut off and possibly annihilated or thrown back into the sea. Patton had to pull back his Third Army in the east and begin another full scale attack on the southern flank of the German forces. Patton’s troops arrived in a matter of days and were the crucial factor in pushing the German bulge back into Germany.
Patton was enthused after the Battle of the Bulge and wanted to quickly take his Third Army into the heart of Germany. The German army had no more reserves and was definitely on its last legs. However, once again Patton was held back by Gen Eisenhower and the Joint Chiefs of Staff led by Gen. Marshall. Patton was dumbfounded. Patton wrote:
“I’ll be damned if I see why we have divisions if not to use them. One would think people would like to win a war…we will be criticized by history, and rightly so, for having sat still so long.”
The Western Allies were still in a position to easily capture Berlin. However, Eisenhower ordered a halt of American troops on the Elbe River, thereby in effect presenting a gift to the Soviet Union of central Germany and much of Europe. One American Staff officer bitterly commented:
“No German force could have stopped us. The only thing that stood between [the] Ninth Army and Berlin was Eisenhower.”
On May 8, 1945, the day the war in Europe officially ended, Patton spoke his mind in an “off the record” press briefing. With tears in his eyes, Patton recalled those “who gave their lives in what they believed was the final fight in the cause of freedom.” Patton continued:
I wonder how [they] will speak today when they know that for the first time in centuries we have opened Central and Western Europe to the forces of Genghis Khan. I wonder how they feel now that they know there will be no peace in our times and that Americans, some not yet born, will have to fight the Russians tomorrow, or ten, fifteen or twenty years from tomorrow. We have spent the last months since the Battle of the Bulge and the crossing of the Rhine stalling; waiting for Montgomery to get ready to attack in the North; occupying useless real estate and killing a few lousy Huns when we should have been in Berlin and Prague. And this Third Army could have been. Today we should be telling the Russians to go to hell instead of hearing them tell us to pull back. We should be telling them if they didn’t like it to go to hell and invite them to fight. We’ve defeated one aggressor against mankind and established a second far worse, more evil and more dedicated than the first.
 Nadaeu, Remi, Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt Divide Europe, New York: Praeger, 1990, p. 163.
 Fleming, Thomas, The New Dealers’ War: FDR and the War within World War II, New York: Basic Books, 2001, p. 318.
 Folsom, Burton W. Jr. and Anita, FDR Goes to War, New York: Threshold Editions, 2011, pp. 237-238.
 Ibid., pp. 238-239.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, pp. 284-288.
 Blumenson, Martin, ed., The Patton Papers, 1940-1945, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974, pp. 508, 511.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, p. 288.
 Ibid., pp. 290-298.
 Ibid., pp. 300-301.
 Ibid., p. 313.
 Lucas, James, Last Days of the Reich—The Collapse of Nazi Germany, May 1945, London: Arms and Armour Press, 1986, p. 196.
 Wilcox, Robert K., Target: Patton, Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2008, pp. 331-332.