Oral History Interview with
United States Foreign Service officer, 1930-68, including service as liaison secretary at the U.N. Monetary and Financial Conference, Bretton Woods, N.H., 1944; chief, Eastern European Division, State Department, 1944-46; counselor of embassy, Moscow, U.S.S.R., 1946-48; deputy for Foreign Affairs, National War College, 1948-50; chief, Division of Foreign Service Personnel, State Department, 1950; and minister counselor, American Embassy, Rome, Italy, 1952-54.
May 31, 1973
by Richard D. McKinzie
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This oral history transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of the Harry S. Truman Library.
Opened April, 1978
Harry S. Truman Library
Oral History Interview with
MCKINZIE: Mr. Ambassador, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about your work in the Eastern European Division in the State Department in 1944 and 1945 when the war was coming to a close, and the kind of things with which you personally dealt; and I'd be interested to know about what postwar planning activities were
DURBROW: Well, in 44 and '45 obviously we were going to win the war. The Eastern European Division dealt with Poland, the Baltic States and the Soviet Union. The Baltic States had already been swallowed up in 1940, but we in the United States did not recognize the Soviet conquest so we had our problems with our Soviet Allies at the time. How were you going to get those countries unstuck from the annexation of 1940? How were you going to get a truly democratic Polish Government that could get along with the Soviet version of a Polish Government, the Lublin Government, which had already been created by that time in Moscow? So, a good part of our problems were, how do we get things restored which were already going to go the other way; because
with the decisions made at the Teheran and Yalta Conferences the big question was what is Poland going to look like territorially after the war? The Soviets claimed, and quite correctly, that during the Bolshevik Revolution the Allied Powers had pushed the frontiers in the East a little bit further than history would deem it appropriate. So that sort of thing is what we were basically dealing with. That was part of postwar planning. We drew up position papers for these various conferences, Teheran in '43, of course, and then Yalta, and the various other conferences like the Quebec meeting between President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill -- things like that.
MCKINZIE: Some of the people who were involved in some of the conferences, particularly the Yalta
Conferences -- I'm thinking now particularly of Charles Bohlen -- they said they didn't think President Roosevelt paid much attention to background work that was done within the Department. That he tended to sort of, I guess the phrase these days is, "play it by the seat of his pants" when he got to a place like Yalta.
DURBROW: That is correct. Because the President was his own Secretary of State. He hardly got along with Mr. [Cordell] Hull toward the last three or four years Mr. Hull was there. FDR dealt with whatever he did in the Department, basically through Mr. [Sumner] Welles the Under Secretary. So, we were asked to get up position papers and we did, and we thrashed them over with the Secretary eventually, and they were put in the briefing book. Chip Bohlen was in on these
things although he was attached to the White House at the time. He would bring certain points that were worked out in these position papers to the President's attention or to Harry Hopkins' attention; and so we got some input. But, as far as I recall from what others told me who were at Yalta -- Freeman Matthews, Chip Bohlen and others, FDR didn't take the trouble to read the books or only read ones that the members of the staff suggested, unless he felt he had to go deeper. Like the important matter of the Oder-Neisse Line between Poland and Germany. I worked very hard on that with a lot of my colleagues in the State Department -- the geographer, and people of that kind, and the historian -- trying to establish, for instance, what the ethnic and historical frontiers of Poland were over the centuries in
the West and matters of that kind. At the Teheran Conference, and particularly at Yalta, it had been agreed that they were going to lop off the Eastern part of Poland to give it to the Soviet Union, including East Prussia and places like that in Germany. Give them Koenigsberg and other areas. The Danzig Corridor was going to disappear. How could we get an equitable -- not just a compensatory -- swap with German territory for Polish territory that Stalin insisted on taking in the East. For instance the town of Lvov -- Lemberg it's called in English -- Lvov down in Southeast Poland had been Polish for just centuries -- never been Ukrainian or Russian or anything else for any length of time. There was also oil in that area, not very much; but oil had been discovered there and there was some production. Stalin was looking for oil and that
sort of thing, so the allied leaders decided, at Stalin's insistence, to give the Lvov area to the Soviet Union. What should we do in the West? So, we worked out the maps, that are now published in the Foreign Relations of the United States, of two different Oder-Neisse lines in that area. Since much of Eastern Germany had never been Polish we tried to not take too much territory from the Germans on the theory, rightly or wrongly, just because then it was supposed to be a nice thing to do. The German Nazis were a bunch of mean scoundrels and that sort of thing, but will this grab of basically historic German territory be the seed to World War III? Perhaps, because the Germans will want to retake these territories in the future? Most of that area had been either Germans, or Prussians for centuries.
So we prepared all the studies we possibly could and drew these various lines, which incidentally, brings in President Truman. This dilemma was finally settled at Potsdam. I didn't like that settlement. I was very much against it. I thought it was wrong, and I still think it was ethnically wrong, historically wrong; but in any event, to make a long story short, even [Stanislaw] Mikolajczyk, who was at Potsdam in the wings said, in effect after much allied pressure, "Go ahead, let's buy it; but I don't think it's correct, etc., etc." Jimmy Dunn, who was Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Chip Bohlen and some of the other State Department experts sat up one night at Potsdam -- so they told me later -- with Mikolajczyk, and finally he said, in effect, "Well, if you can't get anything better, if we
get free elections and all the other promises made by Stalin and company at Yalta, I'll buy the Oder-Neisse line," which the Soviet insisted upon. There are two Neisse Rivers, by the way; so one of our maps that we worked out was the further East. But in any event that was the sort of thing we tried to work out; but the more Western version was agreed to.
Churchill at Teheran, as I understand it, said you've got to compensate "Uncle Joe" for Poland territory taken in 1920 and at the time of the Soviet revolution. That will make him more amenable. So FDR said, "Yes."
Well, that's when the Curzon line came in. The Curzon line was the eastern Polish boundary suggested by Lord Curzon in 1917 or '18, during World War I, as a boundary between the Soviet Union and the to be restored Poland. This was
necessary because Poland had been divided for over 100 years between the Germans and czarist Russia until World War I. There were two suggested lines that Lord Curzon and his team drew up in the late 1910's. One excluded Lvov and the other included Lvov on the eastern side of the frontier. Well, Churchill said, in effect, as I understand it, "Oh, there isn't very much oil down there anyway." We agreed to give the U.S.S.R. the western Curzon line, which gave the Soviet more territory including the whole Lvov area.
That, incidentally, brought them in closer touch with the territory of Czechoslovakia with whom they were playing cunning games, particularly with [Eduard] Benes and company, but not at all with [General Wladyslaw] Sikorski and the Poles So that's the way that thing came out. Now we
worked hard on that sort of planning, and it's because of that type of work that I happened to be on a short second assignment in Moscow in 1945 after the Yalta Conference to advise Ambassador Harriman on Polish matters. Since I had been following all these things, we did have position papers which helped out some.
MCKINZIE: A lot of historians these days are concerned with the kind of frame of mind that various people in the Government were in about Soviet intentions in Eastern Europe about the time of Yalta and the months thereafter. They make the point, for example, that Averell Harriman was by no means very optimistic about the future Soviet conduct, but on the other hand Harry Hopkins seemed to be pretty much optimistic about the future and, indeed, Franklin Roosevelt apparently
was fairly optimistic about the ability of the United States to cooperate with the Soviets. What about the Eastern European Division in the State Department?
DURBROW: Well, we'd been there before -- George Kennan, Chip Bohlen, and several others, including myself, all went to Moscow with Ambassador Bill [William] Bullitt's mission in 1934 when we first recognized the Soviet Union. It was recognized in '33, but the Embassy staff went in in March of 1934. We'd been through the whole 1935-38 purge period. We had seen the cruelties of that period. We knew how "Uncle Joe" (Stalin) was handling things internally. The Litvinov-Roosevelt agreements of 1933 were not lived up to at all. Bill Bullitt went in there very hopeful, optimistic, and bending over backwards
to see if he could find the Achilles' heel and get them to be more friendly -- more cooperative with the West. Our feeling about the 1933 accords was: "We don't care what happens in your country, you can have communism, Leninism, name it. It's your business, but just don't bother us." In common terms, "no monkey business in our country," etc. -- but these accords were all broken. We'd seen agreements broken before. I stayed there myself until the end of 1937. So you couldn't help but be skeptical about agreements they made. Other agreements that they had made with other countries were broken, were not lived up to, were not implemented properly the way they read to us and to the other countries. All of us couldn't help but be very skeptical based on their past record. So, come 1944-45 we were very concerned over the basic
optimism of a lot of people about our Russian allies. People forgot that it was the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact of 1939 that opened up and brought on World War II. People also forget that the Soviets and Nazis divided Poland and everything else right down the middle in a cold-blooded deal -- the Baltic States included, which of course, the Soviets got the next year. Then, by chance, those same people turned out to be our allies, as Hitler jumped on them and Russia was thrown on the side of the British and French. Then we were hit by the Japanese and thus strange circumstances brought us together as allies, not any basic common interests except get Hitler.
MCKINZIE: Would you call that kind of an unnatural lineup to begin with?
DURBROW: Yes. So it was very much in our interest, we felt, to be sure that we took a long, long, tough look at everything in 1944 and 1945. And that's one thing Mr. Truman did do -- one thing I admired him for, incidentally; as the years went on and he was elected President, my respect went up for him. So, our attitude was along those lines.
Now, it's worthwhile to recall that the word came to us from the White House in April 1943 to be sure and read the Saturday Evening Post article by Forrest Davis, who was the Foreign Editor of the Saturday Evening Post. We got the word in the Eastern Division to read the Saturday Evening Post article because it reflected FDR's way to handle relations with the Soviets. The overall idea behind FDR's thinking we were told was roughly as follows:
Chance brought us together on the same side when the Japanese attacked and the German attack on the Soviet, and all that sort of business. So here is a God-given opportunity to try to show the Soviets we have nothing against what they do in their own country. We are not trying to take anything from them and we can cooperate someway or the other. So I'm going to bend over backwards to try to do what I can to appease them, if you will, try to win them over.
And that was the "Grand Design." Bob [Robert] Murphy talks about in his book -- it was Roosevelt's idea.
Now, I'm sure Truman had read that and knew that Forrest Davis had spent a weekend in the White House secretly, and was given all this thinking of FDR in '43. And it was, when you look at it, a statesman-like an idea roughly along these lines -- here's a chance and it may not work, but this is a God-given opportunity
to try to turn these fellows around -- the Bolsheviks, the Soviets, whatever you want to call them. And FDR felt as President of the United States I've got to try that. But it didn't work. We in the Division said, "Try it, but be sure you look every horse in the face very carefully and count his teeth and everything else, because remember the past, etc., etc." So that was our point of view. We had been burned; we'd been there. We'd seen these things happening all the time and by 1944 they had gone back on a lot of things. We'd made deals in Moscow with them and it just didn't pan out. Mr. Hull went to Moscow for the first Moscow Conference in October 1942. Then we saw the Teheran results. All these agreements, and understandings, and things of that kind just weren't lived up to -- only a few were;
but not all of them. So that was the attitude of the "pros," who have to deal with these things on a day to day basis. Watch out, watch out, doublecheck, be sure you find out what the score is going to be before you sign on the dotted line.
MCKINZIE: Do you recall anything about the relationship of your people in the Eastern European Affairs Division with the people who were in Western European Affairs? Were you pretty much of a mind on this subject?
DURBROW: Oh, yes.
MCKINZIE: You didn't have internal trouble of any significance.
DURBROW: The ones we did have were higher up -- not the "pros." A fellow I learned to admire greatly,
by the way, was Dean Acheson, but not in the "42-'43 period -- he basically changed in '44, not so for Ben Cohen who was the counsel of the Department. Mr. Hull, was also very skeptical; he'd been burned. He had been in Moscow in October of '43 and he just didn't trust them at all. But Welles was willing to give the Soviets a chance and play the game of the White House. He was in the favor of the White House, particularly Mrs. Roosevelt. He was never very strong on the -- "Let's be very careful how we get along or what we do with the Soviets." His attitude was, "let's bend over a little bit the way that FDR wants to." But not Jimmy Dunn and Doc [H. Freeman] Mathews, Hugh Cumming...
MCKINZIE: Jack [John] Hickerson.
DURBROW: Yes, Jack Hickerson, and all those chaps --
we were on the same floor, and we all knew each other very well. We read each other's mail so to speak, our telegrams; or we'd hobnob on memoranda and position papers -- things of that kind. We had our disagreements, of course we did -- you were bound to have -- but we'd iron those out as in the family. Then we'd take it up to the top and get our position approved, thrown out the window, or a compromise would be worked out at the top.
MCKINZIE: Could you tell me a little bit about the mission you made to Moscow then, after the Yalta Conference?
DURBROW: Well, at the Yalta Conference there was this very special agreement called the Polish...
MCKINZIE: Dealing with compositional level in government, I'd say.
DURBROW: Yes. The Polish Agreement. It had a fancier name than that. It went into great detail on how we were going to set up a democratic (in our sense of the word) government in Poland after the war. In the meantime the Lublin Poles, created in Moscow, tutored in Moscow, and trained in Moscow, had moved into Lublin, which is a Polish city in Eastern Poland; and they were on the spot. The London Government which we recognized, was in London, the government-in-exile. And you know, the Poles and Russians have never liked each other for centuries, literally centuries, and the same thing between the Germans and the Poles. The two countries had been dividing up Poland off and on for years. There was not love lost between them. The problem was to try to see, on the basis of the Yalta agreement which was quite detailed, how we could get a truly democratic
government. Of course have some Lublin fellows in the government, if you have to -- but we had been helping the exile government and they'd been fighting on our side with the remnants the Polish Army left on the Western front, their Air Force and that sort of thing; so, our problem was how to help our Polish allies to set up an independent democratic government in Poland. This was the reason we made this special agreement on Poland at Yalta. Of course, I dealt with a lot of this. I had served in Poland, among other things. The Secretary or somebody decided -- I guess Harriman did -- that he'd like to have me come over to be an adviser to him in these coming negotiations, to fill out the details in the agreements we had reached at Yalta. Well, again, that turned out to be a very fine piece of paper -- like a lot of other pieces of paper at Yalta. Incidentally, the
original draft of the Polish agreement was written by the American delegation in Yalta, based on one of our position papers. The original draft at Yalta, after arguing back and forth on the particular questions, was done by our delegation, so the text originally was English. The Russians translated it. "Uncle Joe" Stalin went over it and made suggestions; and there finally was an agreed text in a Russian and English version. When we got to Moscow and argued this thing out, the text in the agreement goes something as follows: "In the first instance," consultations will be held in Moscow with the Lublin Poles, the London Poles and the underground Poles in Poland. Well, that phrase "in the first instance" to the British and ourselves, meant all of them at the same time. There were no semi-colons or colons in between the
Lublin Poles, and the underground. We said, "Now, we've got a group of Poles that we'd like all of us to consult with -- Mikolajczyk, and several others who are representative, and you, Molotov, can name others from the Lublin side, and we will name some others from the underground, who represent the London Poles -- the so-called Free Poles -- and bring them here and put them in a pit, so to speak. Then we could try to iron out with them what they want in government that will be representative, democratic, and self-determining, so to speak. Almost immediately Molotov stated -- Vishinsky was there, too, a good part of the time -- "This language means in the first instance the Lublin Poles -- when we get their ideas then we are going to ask these other London fellows to come in." The thing all fell apart on that.
MCKINZIE: They were then arguing the grammatical syntax of the agreement.
DURBROW: The semantics of it. "In the first instance" to us meant that all three would be there together, and we would thrash it out and we would be the supervisors -- the referees if you will -- the three governments, the British, the Russians, and ourselves. We just argued on that to beat the devil for days on end, days on end, and got little else going otherwise.
Then, the other thing was what kind of men could we recommend from the underground who the Soviets insisted must be "non-reactionary, not right wing anti-Soviet, anti-Communist people" and that sort of thing. Well, I regret this very much because those we recommended were executed by the Soviets. I had worked up the basic list of underground representatives. I worked with
the British here in Washington and the Polish embassy, London version in Washington. The latter worked with their people in London before we went to Moscow. The Poles gave the British and ourselves an agreed list of men of some stature in the underground secret government inside Poland. These men were reputed to be quite effective, and they had reputations of being levelheaded, not reactionary, not anti-Communist; but they weren't pro-Communist -- the Lublin boys would handle that side of the picture. We gave the Soviets the list when we first got to Moscow and said Prime Minister Mikolajczyk also wanted a couple of his cabinet members to be present. We told Molotov here is a list of some fifteen names of underground men that we have doublechecked and agreed between us that they are good, representative,
straightforward Poles and not anti-Communist, anti-Soviet, anti-Russian, nor pro-Nazi. They are very good representatives of the people on the spot. They are behind the lines (parts of Poland weren't completely liberated yet), and you will have to get in touch with them, because your armies are advancing. The London government will get word to them, through their channels ordering them to surface if you approve this list.
Well, Molotov looked the list over and thanked us and promised to look into it. Meeting after meeting went by and we kept asking, "What about the list? Did you agree with it? Have the men come out?"
"Yes, it seems like a pretty good list," said the Soviets. "Tell them to surface and to contact certain people of ours," which they did.
We kept asking are they going to come here with the rest of them? No reply, no word at all, until all of a sudden we got hints from the Soviets that they allegedly were not what they were purported to be: objective, good representatives, not anti-Soviet, and so forth, but were pretty bad people. They distrusted them. They didn't think they were representative at all as we had announced them to be etc., etc.
However, it was not till the San Francisco United Nations Conference at the end of May or early June that Molotov told Stettinius and others of our delegation that all these men had been found to be traitorous and all had been executed. A fine ending to the list that we gave them to fulfill the conditions of the Polish agreement of Yalta in perfectly good faith. But the Soviets found them to be all
sorts of pro-Nazi -- everything that you could find wrong in a person in Poland at that time; reactionary, right wing, pro-German, etc. Therefore all were executed: So, those were the kinds of problems we had to deal with at the Moscow Conference, and the problems just went on and on. Hopkins went over there in June and nothing was accomplished. They tried it in San Francisco and nothing got done. It just didn't work until they got a half-baked arrangement at Potsdam. Mikolajczyk and a few of his other cabinet members were put in there but that lasted a very short time. There were no free, supervised secret elections whatsoever, as called for by Yalta. They wouldn't let the press go out and see the voting process on election day. They had the foreign press all cooped up in Warsaw, and so the agreement to hold free, supervised elections never
was carried out.
MCKINZIE: Were you involved in those negotiations at which the Soviets refused to allow the press to go in?
DURBROW: No. By that time we had Ambassador Arthur Bliss Lane in Warsaw and he tried his best to implement the agreements at that end. I was back in Washington on my regular job as the Chief of the East European Division by that time. I came back with Ambassador Harriman -- April 16th, (I think), 1945 -- and he was going to Washington, and then on to San Francisco to attend the United Nations Conference in San Francisco.
MCKINZIE: You mentioned that you were in Moscow at the time President Roosevelt died.
DURBROW: Yes. On April 12th Harriman's daughter
Katherine was having a party at Spaso House for some of the staff; a chap was being transferred, and so many of the staff were there. The party went on till after midnight. About midnight or shortly thereafter, they called up from the code room, and asked for either the Ambassador or Minister George Kennan, who was the Deputy Chief of Mission, Kennan went to the phone and got the word that a flash had just been received that President Roosevelt had died at Warm Springs.
Well, Harriman said to Kennan, "You better tell the Soviets about this before they hear it on the radio or something. They ought to be informed by us." George Kennan phoned and got the officer of the day in the Kremlin and told him the sad news. About twenty minutes later the phone rang again and the officer of the day
said he had told Molotov. Molotov had told Stalin. Stalin had asked Molotov to come over at once to the Ambassador's residence, Spaso House, to present the preliminary condolences on behalf of the Soviet Government on the death of President Roosevelt.
Now Molotov got there about two-fifteen or two-thirty, a.m. and he came in very solemnly -- incidentally, Molotov when saying something he didn't like to do or wasn't sure exactly how to say it, stuttered pretty badly, and he stuttered in expressing these condolences. The most extraordinary thing about it was that he spent three minutes of the twenty minutes he was in Spaso House expressing deep sincere regrets and sympathy of the Soviet Government on the loss of a great world leader. The rest of the time he was following up on his question
to Ambassador Harriman: "By the way Mr. Ambassador, do you know this new President Truman?"
"Yes, I know him. I know him quite well, but not as well as I knew FDR."
"What is he like?" Thus, Molotov spent quite some time -- about eighteen minutes or so -- trying to get all the impressions that Ambassador Harriman could give him about this new man they would have to deal with.
To go back a bit, during the Polish discussions, in the first days of April, after our meetings in the Kremlin one night the British Ambassador, Archibald Clark Kerr, and Ambassador Harriman were asked by Molotov to come to a corner because he wanted to tell them something privately. It turned out that he told them that he regretted very much but Stalin had decided that he had to have Molotov stay in
Moscow to present the budget to the Supreme Soviet, the so-called parliament over there, which, of course, is a rubber stamp organization completely. Molotov in his whole career never had had anything to do with budgeting, and budgets there are not worked out the way ours are. The leaders just work up what they want -- work up their plans, and the Supreme Soviet puts the rubber stamp on it. But Molotov insisted that because the war was going to be over and there was a lot of reconstruction budgeting that had to be done, Stalin insisted that Molotov present the budget to the Supreme Soviet. Well we knew that was a complete phony -- what Stalin probably didn't want was to have such a high ranking politburo member go to San Francisco. But Roosevelt had insisted that somebody of stature come to the Conference from the ruling
Politburo. Roosevelt wanted to have someone who could make decisions or discuss things fairly freely, without having to report back to Moscow every time he opened his mouth. So, we were counting on Molotov, then Foreign Minister and a member of the Politburo, to be there. Well, this was a blow; so, during the condolences meeting on the morning of April 13th, Harriman got the very bright idea of saying something along the following lines: "Mr. Commissar, I really don't know Mr. Truman that well and naturally it's of concern to you and your great leader. Don't you think maybe your leader can get somebody else to present the budget to the Supreme Soviet so that the original plans that FDR had counted on could be carried out. You know, that you were definitely expected to be there and represent your leader. Go to the San Francisco Conference and
you can stop on the way in Washington and meet President Truman, and stay as long as you want seeing him."
Molotov said he'd pass that on to Stalin. He didn't say "yes" or "no"; but the next day Harriman was invited to the Kremlin about noon to have Stalin express officially the condolences of the Soviet Government about the death of Roosevelt. Harriman suggested again to Stalin that he get somebody else to present the budget, and spare Molotov so he could carry out the original intention to go to San Francisco. Stalin agreed on the spot. I think Molotov obviously told him this suggestion when he reported back that night. So, he was ready for it and said, "Yes." But Stalin said he couldn't fly across the Atlantic; it was too dangerous. Planes come down and you have to fly over enemy territory, so, could we get
a plane to take him to Washington, and then back to San Francisco via Siberia and Alaska, which we did. Averell Harriman had at his disposal a converted Liberator bomber -- converted into a very plush passenger compartment in the lower fuselage. He told Stalin he would check if he could get another one just exactly like the one Harriman was going to fly back into Washington and San Francisco via Italy, Casablanca, the Azores, and Newfoundland. He could arrange to have Molotov to come through Siberia and Alaska.
It takes much longer to go that way. So, we both left on the same morning, I think it was April 15th or 16th about six o'clock in the morning. We arrived in Washington about 48 or 50 hours later, and we stopped and spent part of the night in Casablanca. Molotov got
here two days after we had arrived. So, I being Chief of the Eastern European Division, and, among many others, had done a lot of the arranging for where Molotov was going to stay, at the Blair House (incidentally, across from the White House -- and across from the old State Department in those days). I went out with our greeting party to the airport to meet him, and escorted him back in another car to Blair House, where there was quite a secret police guard, which incidentally, turned out to be pretty amusing.
I'd worked out with our Secret Service the arrangements and so forth, so that they were going to have the place guarded within an inch of their lives. I had been working on it two days at least since I got back, to make sure everything was right on that score, and I got back to Blair House ahead of the Molotov group
with the GPU, (the Soviet Secret Police) contingent in plainclothes. I told them I was going to take them in and they could case the joint. When they arrived at Blair House, and there were about seven of them in two cars, I was already there. We were guiding them to where it was, and I had told our official drivers to get behind my car, so as to get there first. I got to the top of the stairs and the GPU guys jumped out of their cars, ran into Blair House without saying "yea" or "nay" to anybody. I followed them around and they tried the windows, tried this, pulled the drawers out, dashed up and down stairs, cased the joint ten minutes before Molotov was going to arrive. As it was happening, one of my Secret Service friends I had been working with said, "Looks like colleagues!!"
MCKINZIE: So they had the job done by the time he got there.
Were you there that evening when President Truman came to Blair House to pay his respects?
DURBROW: No, I was not there then. I didn't stay any longer than to get him tucked in. Then when he went to see the President during the day, I went over to the White House, but I was not in the room when he talked to Mr. Molotov on substantive matters. That's the reports that you've mentioned: that Mr. Truman was very, very firm, particularly on the Polish agreement which just was not going to go well at all. I think he also asked him -- we wanted to find out about those fifteen names we had given them. Where were those men? Why hadn't they been brought to Moscow or somewhere? Anyway, Mr. Truman was pretty darn tough, and when Molotov came out of
the President's office he was a very serious looking person, I'd say -- a bit concerned.
MCKINZIE: I would imagine so.
MCKINZIE: What then was your next major duty so far as Poland was concerned? I know you went to Moscow in 1946 as counselor in the Embassy there. Did you follow this Polish question through until such time as you went to...
MCKINZIE: I assume that that was your major concern at that period?
DURBROW: Well, it was our overall relations with the Soviet Union, too; but the Polish thing was important on account of the Polish vote in our
country -- the many citizens in our country of Polish origin. This was a very sticky one for us politically, and morally, too, as a matter of fact. Particularly when Molotov told our delegation in San Francisco, in early June I think, about those whose names we had given the Soviets. When we kept asking where were these fellows whose names we'd given, he finally announced that he had found out that those men were very bad actors. Something to the effect that, "They were very reactionary, pro-German, Nazi, Fascist-type, and had been working behind the backs of the Red Army in Warsaw stymieing their operations, etc., etc." -- all the nasty things you could dream up against any group of men. Therefore, Molotov announced that they had been tried and executed. That wasn't a very good way to start a democratic, free, self-determined Polish
Government. But we worked on that goal and finally the so-called elections took place. They weren't free or anything of that sort.