Walter Bedell Smith

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Although I am now somewhat out of touch with the War Department's Negro policy, I did, as you know, handle this during the time I was with General Marshall. Unless there has been a radical change, the sentence which I have marked in the attached circular letter will place the War Department in very grave difficulties. It is inevitable that this statement will get out, and equally inevitable that the result will be that every Negro organization, pressure group and newspaper will take the attitude that, while the War Department segregates colored troops into organizations of their own against the desires and pleas of all the Negro race, the Army is perfectly willing to put them in the front lines mixed in units with white soldiers, and have them do battle when an emergency arises. Two years ago I would have considered the marked statement the most dangerous thing that I had ever seen in regard to Negro relations. I have talked with Lee about it, and he can't see this at all. He believes that it is right that colored and white soldiers should be mixed in the same company. With this belief I do not argue, but the War Department policy is different. Since I am convinced that this circular letter will have the most serious repercussions in the United States, I believe that it is our duty to draw the War Department's attention to the fact that this statement has been made, to give them warning as to what may happen and any facts which they may use to counter the pressure which will undoubtedly be placed on them. [64]

Senior Allied commanders at Rheims shortly after the German surrender. Present are (left to right): Major General Ivan Susloparov, Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan, Lieutenant General Bedell Smith, Captain Kay Summersby (obscured), Captain Harry C. Butcher, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder Allied Commanders after Germany Surrendered.jpg
Senior Allied commanders at Rheims shortly after the German surrender. Present are (left to right): Major General Ivan Susloparov, Lieutenant General Frederick Morgan, Lieutenant General Bedell Smith, Captain Kay Summersby (obscured), Captain Harry C. Butcher, General of the Army Dwight Eisenhower, Air Chief Marshal Arthur Tedder

The policy was revised, with colored soldiers serving in provisional platoons. In the 12th Army Group these were attached to regiments, while in the 6th Army Group the platoons were grouped into whole companies attached to the division. The former arrangement were generally better rated by the units they were attached to, because the colored platoons had no company-level unit training. [65]

During the liberation of Paris, the Allied High Command put pressure on the Free French Forces leading the march to be all white, which was made difficult as the vast majority of units were over two-thirds African. [66] Smith wrote a confidential memo that stated that it was "more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel" to match US segregated platoons. [67]

On 15 April 1945, the Nazi governor (Reichskommissar) of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, offered to open up Amsterdam to food and coal shipments to ease the suffering of the civilian population. Smith and Strong, representing SHAEF, along with Major General Ivan Susloparov representing the Soviet Union, Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld representing the Dutch government, and Major General Sir Francis de Guingand from 21st Army Group, met with Seyss-Inquart in the Dutch village of Achterveld on 30 April. After threatening Seyss-Inquart with prosecution for war crimes, Smith successfully negotiated for the provision of food to the suffering Dutch civilian population in the cities in the west of the country and opened discussions for the peaceful and complete German capitulation in the Netherlands to the First Canadian Army, which occurred on 5 May. [68]

Smith had to conduct another set of surrender negotiations, that of the German armed forces, in May 1945. Smith met with the representatives of the German High Command (the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht ), Colonel General Alfred Jodl and General-Admiral Hans-Georg von Friedeburg. Once again, Strong acted as an interpreter. Smith took a hard line by threatening that unless terms were accepted, the Allies would seal the front, which would force the remaining Germans into the hands of the Red Army, but he made some concessions on a ceasefire before the surrender came into effect. On 7 May, Smith cosigned the surrender document along with Soviet General Susloparov, both of whom represented the Allies, and Jodl, who represented Germany. The French representative, Major General François Sevez, signed as a witness. [69] [70]


Ambassador to the Soviet Union

Smith as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1946-48 Ambassador Walter Bedell Smith.jpg
Smith as the U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union, 1946–48

Smith briefly returned to the United States in late June 1945, after spending several days resting at the 108th General Hospital in Clichy, Paris, France. In August, Eisenhower nominated Smith as his successor as commander of U.S. Forces, European Theater, as ETOUSA was redesignated on 1 July 1945. Smith was passed over in favor of General Joseph McNarney. [71] When Eisenhower took over as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army in November 1945, he summoned Smith to become his assistant chief of staff for operations and planning. [72] However, soon after his arrival back in Washington he was asked by President Harry S. Truman and U.S. Secretary of State James F. Byrnes to become the United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union. [72] In putting Smith's nomination for the post before the United States Senate, Truman asked for and received special legislation permitting Smith to retain his permanent military rank of major general. [71]

Smith's service as the American ambassador was not a success. Although it was not Smith's fault, the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union during his tenure deteriorated rapidly as the Cold War set in. Smith's tenacity of purpose came across as a lack of flexibility and did nothing to allay Soviet fears about American intentions. He became thoroughly disillusioned and turned into a hardened Cold Warrior, who saw the Soviet Union as a secretive, totalitarian, and antagonistic state. [71] In My Three Years in Moscow (1950), Smith's account of his time as ambassador, he wrote:

...we are forced into a continuing struggle for a free way of life that may extend over a period of many years. We dare not allow ourselves any false sense of security. We must anticipate that the Soviet tactic will be to wear us down, to exasperate us, and to keep probing for weak spots, and we must cultivate firmness and patience to a degree we have never before required. [73]

Smith returned to the United States in March 1949. Truman offered him the post of Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, but Smith declined the appointment and preferred to return to military duty. He was appointed as the commander of the First Army at Fort Jay, New York, his first command since 1918. Throughout the war, Smith had been troubled by a recurring stomach ulcer. The problem became severe in 1949. He was no longer able eat a normal diet, and he suffered from malnutrition. [74] Smith was admitted to the Walter Reed Army Hospital, whose surgeons decided to remove most of his stomach. That did cure his ulcer, but Smith remained malnourished and thin. [75]

Director of Central Intelligence

Smith (center) with top CIA leaders, including outgoing Direcror of Central Intelligence Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter (to Smith's left, in the light suit), 7 October 1950 Bedell Smith CIA.JPG
Smith (center) with top CIA leaders, including outgoing Direcror of Central Intelligence Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter (to Smith's left, in the light suit), 7 October 1950

On 7 October 1950, Truman selected Smith as Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), the head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since the post had been established in 1946, there had been three directors, none of whom had wanted the position. [76]

The 1949 Intelligence Survey Group had produced the Dulles-Jackson-Correa Report, which found that the CIA had failed in its responsibilities in both the coordination and production of intelligence. In response, the U.S. National Security Council accepted the conclusions and recommendations of the report. It remained to implement them. [77] In May 1950, Truman decided that Smith was the man he needed for the CIA. [78] Before Smith could assume the post on 7 October, there was a major intelligence failure. The North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950, which started the Korean War, took the administration entirely by surprise and raised fears of World War III. [79]

Since Smith knew little about the CIA, he asked for a deputy who knew a lot. Sidney Souers, the executive secretary of the National Security Council, recommended William Harding Jackson, one of the authors of the Dulles-Jackson-Correa Report, to Smith. Jackson accepted the post of deputy director on three conditions, one of which was "no bawlings out." [80]

Smith and Jackson moved to reorganize the agency in line with the recommendations of the Dulles-Jackson-Correa Report. They streamlined procedures to gather and disseminate intelligence. [81] On 10 October, Smith was asked to prepare estimates for the Wake Island Conference between the president and General Douglas MacArthur. Smith insisted for the estimates to be simple, readable, conclusive, and useful, rather than mere background. They reflected the best information available, but unfortunately, one estimate concluded that the Chinese would not intervene in Korea, which was another major intelligence failure. [82]

Four months after the outbreak of the Korean War, the CIA had produced no co-ordinated estimate of the situation in Korea. Smith created a new Office of National Estimates (ONE) under the direction of William L. Langer, the Harvard historian who had led the Research and Analysis branch of the wartime Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Langer's staff created procedures that were followed for the next two decades. Smith stepped up efforts to obtain economic, psychological, and photographic intelligence. By 1 December, Smith had formed a Directorate for Administration. The agency would ultimately be divided by function into three directorates: Administration, Plans, and Intelligence. [79]

D.C.I. Smith briefing President Truman Smith with Truman.JPG
D.C.I. Smith briefing President Truman

Smith is remembered in the CIA as its first successful Director of Central Intelligence and one of its most effective by redefining its structure and mission. The CIA's expansive covert action program remained the responsibility of Frank Wisner's quasi-independent Office of Policy Coordination (OPC), but Smith began to bring OPC under the DCI's control. In early January 1951 he made Allen Dulles the first deputy director for plans (DDP), to supervise both OPC and the CIA's separate espionage organization, the Office of Special Operations (OSO). Not until January 1952 were all intelligence functions consolidated under a deputy director for intelligence (DDI). Wisner succeeded Dulles as DDP in August 1951, and it took until August 1952 to merge the OSO and the OPC, each of which had its own culture, methods, and pay scales, into an effective, single directorate. [79]

By consolidating responsibility for covert operations, Smith made the CIA the arm of government that was primarily responsible for them. [83] Smith wanted the CIA to become a career service. [84] Before the war, the so-called "Manchu Law" limited the duration of an officer's temporary assignments, which effectively prevented anyone from making a career as a general staff officer. There were no schools for intelligence training, and the staffs had little to do in peacetime. Career officers therefore tended to avoid such work unless they aspired to be a military attaché. Smith consolidated training under a director of training and developed a career service program. [85]

When Eisenhower was appointed as the Supreme Allied Commander Europe in 1951, he asked for Smith to serve as his chief of staff again. Truman turned down the request by stating that the DCI was a more important post. Eisenhower therefore took Lieutenant General Alfred Gruenther with him as his chief of staff. When Eisenhower later recommended Gruenther's elevation to four-star rank, Truman decided that Smith should be promoted as well. However, Smith's name was omitted from the promotion list. Truman then announced that no one would be promoted before Smith, which occurred on 1 August 1951. [84] Smith retired from the Army upon leaving the CIA on 9 February 1953. [86]

Under Secretary of State

On 11 January 1953, Eisenhower, now president-elect, announced that Smith would become an Under Secretary of State. Smith's appointment was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on 6 February and he resigned as the DCI three days later. [87] In May 1954, Smith traveled to Europe in an attempt to convince the British to participate in an intervention to avert French defeat in the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. When that failed, he reached an agreement with the Soviet Foreign Minister, Vyacheslav Molotov to partition Vietnam into two separate states. [88]

In 1953, Guatemalan President Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán threatened to nationalize land belonging to the United Fruit Company. Smith ordered the American ambassador in Guatemala to put a CIA plan for a Guatemalan coup into effect, which was accomplished by the following year. Smith left the State Department on 1 October 1954 and took up a position with the United Fruit Company. He also served as president and chairman of the board of the Associated Missile Products Company and AMF Atomics Incorporated, vice chairman of American Machine and Foundry (AMF) and a director of RCA and Corning Incorporated. [88]

Final positions

After retiring as Under Secretary of State in 1954, Smith continued to serve the Eisenhower administration in various posts. He was a member of the National Security Training Commission from 1955 to 1957, the National War College board of consultants from 1956 to 1959, the Office of Defense Mobilization Special Stockpile Advisory Committee from 1957 to 1958, the President's Citizen Advisors on the Mutual Security Program from 1956 to 1957, and the President's Committee on Disarmament in 1958. [89]

Smith was a consultant at the Special Projects Office (Disarmament) in the Executive Office of the President from 1955 to 1956. He also served as chairman of the advisory council of the President's Committee on Fund Raising and as a member-at-large from 1958 to 1961. In recognition of his other former boss, he was a member of the George C. Marshall Foundation Advisory Committee from 1960 to 1961. [89]

In 1955, Smith was approached to perform the voice-over and opening scene for the film To Hell and Back , which was based on the autobiography of Audie Murphy. He accepted and had small parts in the movie, most notably in the beginning in which he was dressed in his old service uniform. He narrated several parts of the film and referred constantly to "the foot soldier." [90] Smith was portrayed on screen by Alexander Knox in The Longest Day (1962), Edward Binns in Patton (1970) and Timothy Bottoms in Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004). On television he has been portrayed by John Guerrasio in Cambridge Spies (2003), Charles Napier in War and Remembrance (1989), Don Fellows in The Last Days of Patton (1986) and J.D. Cannon in Ike: The War Years (1979).

Death and legacy

Smith suffered a heart attack on 9 August 1961 at his home in Washington, D.C., and he died in the ambulance on the way to Walter Reed Army Hospital. He was entitled to a Special Full Honor Funeral, but his widow requested that a simple joint service funeral be held, which was patterned after the one given to Marshall in 1959. She selected a grave site for her husband in Section 7 of Arlington National Cemetery, near Marshall's grave. [91] She was buried next to him after her death in 1963. [92] Smith's papers are in the Eisenhower Presidential Center in Abilene, Kansas. [89]

Dates of rank

Walter Bedell Smith
Lieutenant General Walter Bedell Smith, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front, in uniform.jpg
18th United States Under Secretary of State
In office
9 February 1953 1 October 1954
No insignia Private Indiana National Guard 1911
VariousCorporal to SergeantIndiana National Guardto 1917
No pin insignia at the time Second lieutenant Officers' Reserve Corps27 November 1917
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant Regular Army (United States Army)10 September (effective 4 October) 1918
US-O2 insignia.svg First lieutenant Regular Army1 July (effective 23 September) 1920 (permanent rank)
US-O3 insignia.svg Captain Regular Army24 September 1929
US-O4 insignia.svg Major Regular Army1 January 1939
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel Army of the United States18 April (effective 3 May) 1941
US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant colonel Regular Army4 May 1941
US-O6 insignia.svg Colonel Army of the United States30 August 1941
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general Army of the United States2 February 1942
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general Army of the United States3 December 1942
US-O7 insignia.svg Brigadier general Regular Army1 September 1943
US-O9 insignia.svg Lieutenant general Army of the United States13 January 1944
US-O8 insignia.svg Major general Regular Army1 August 1945
US-O10 insignia.svg General Army of the United States1 August 1951
US-O10 insignia.svg General Regular Army, retired31 January 1953

Source: [93] [94]

Awards and decorations

U.S. military decorations
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Bronze oakleaf-3d.svg
Distinguished Service Medal ribbon.svg
Army Distinguished Service Medal with two oak leaf clusters
Navy Distinguished Service ribbon.svg Navy Distinguished Service Medal
Legion of Merit ribbon.svg Legion of Merit
Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star Medal
U.S. Civil Medals
USA - National Security Medal Ribbon.svg National Security Medal
U.S. Military Service Medals
World War I Victory Medal ribbon.svg
World War I Victory Medal with three battle clasps
American Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg American Defense Service Medal
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with seven service stars
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg World War II Victory Medal
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Army of Occupation Medal with "Germany" clasp
National Defense Service Medal ribbon.svg National Defense Service Medal
International and Foreign Awards
BEL Kroonorde Grootkruis BAR.svg Grand Croix de l'Ordre de la Couronne (Belgium)
Croix de Guerre 1940-1945 with palm (Belgium) - ribbon bar.png Croix de guerre with palm (Belgium)
BRA Ordem do Merito Militar Gra-cruz.png Order of Military Merit, Grand Cross (Brazil)
CHL Order of Merit of Chile - Grand Cross BAR.svg Medal of Military Merit of the Army, First Class, Grand Cross (Chile)
TCH Rad Bileho Lva 2 tridy (pre1990) BAR.svg Order of the White Lion, Star II Class (Czechoslovakia)
Czechoslovak War Cross 1939-1945 Ribbon.png War Cross 1939–1945 (Czechoslovakia)
Legion Honneur GO ribbon.svg Legion of Honor, Grand Officer (France)
CroixdeGuerreFR-BronzePalm.png Croix de guerre 1914–1918 with palm (France)
Croix de guerre 1939-1945 stripe bronsepalme.svg Croix de guerre 1939–1945 with palm (France)
Order of the Bath UK ribbon.svg Order of the Bath, Knight Commander (United Kingdom)
Order of the British Empire (Military) Ribbon.png Order of the British Empire, Knight Commander (United Kingdom)
Ordre de la couronne de Chene GC ribbon.svg Order of the Oak Crown, Grand Cross (Luxembourg)
Grand Cross of the Order of Ouissam Alaouite ribbon.png Order of Ouissam Alaouite, Grand Cross (Morocco)
NLD Order of the Dutch Lion - Grand Cross BAR.png Order of the Netherlands Lion, Knight Grand Cross (Netherlands)
POL Virtuti Militari Srebrny BAR.svg Order of Virtuti Militari, Silver Cross (Poland)
POL Polonia Restituta Komandorski ZG BAR.svg Order of Polonia Restituta, II Class (Poland)
POL Order Krzyza Grunwaldu 2 Klasy BAR.svg Cross of Grunwald, Second Class (Poland)
Ordre du Nichan Iftikhar GC ribbon (Tunisia).svg Order of Nichan Iftikhar (Tunisia)
Order kutuzov1 ribbon.jpg Order of Kutuzov, First Class (U.S.S.R.)

Source: "In Memoriam. General Walter Bedell Smith. 5 October 1895 – 9 August 1961". Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on 10 January 2008. Retrieved 31 August 2010.


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  67. Mike Thompson (6 April 2009). "Paris liberation made 'whites only'". BBC News. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
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  94. Official Army Register, 1954, p. 931.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Humfrey Gale</span> British Army general (1890–1971)

Lieutenant General Sir Humfrey Myddelton Gale, was an officer in the British Army who served in the First and Second World War, during which he was Chief Administrative Officer at Allied Forces Headquarters and later SHAEF under General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the Second World War he was European Director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, worked for the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and was chairman of the Basildon, Essex New Town Development Corporation

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Everett Hughes (United States Army officer)</span> United States Army general

Everett Strait Hughes was a major general in the United States Army and served as the 17th Chief of Ordnance for the U.S. Army Ordnance Corps. He is known for his close association with Dwight D. Eisenhower. Hughes was born in Ipswich, Dakota Territory, was a West Point graduate, and rose to become major general in the U.S. Army. He fought in a number of battles including the Mexican border war and World War I. During World War II he was one of George S. Patton's close friends and Eisenhower's "right-hand man" during the entire European campaign.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Broad front versus narrow front controversy in World War II</span> Wartime debate among Allies

The broad front versus narrow front controversy in World War II arose after General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Supreme Allied Commander, decided to advance into Germany on a broad front in 1944, against the suggestions of his principal subordinates, Lieutenant Generals Omar Bradley and George S. Patton and Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, who argued instead to stage competing advances on narrow fronts. The decision was controversial initially because the British government wanted to raise the profile of the minority British contingent in what was by then an overwhelmingly American army, and they perceived that a British-lead thrust to Berlin would achieve this aim. Montgomery's strident advocacy raised political and nationalistic complications that strained the wartime alliance. During the subsequent Cold War, suggestions were made that the Soviet presence in Eastern Europe may have been reduced had Eisenhower sent a narrow-front thrust to race the USSR to Berlin in 1945.


Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Commanding General First Army
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by Director of Central Intelligence
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by United States Under Secretary of State
Succeeded by