TRUMAN SMITH PAPERS
SCOPE AND CONTENT NOTE
From 1935 to 1939 Col. Smith served as American military attaché in Berlin. From this unique vantage point he observed and reported Germany's transformation into a war‑oriented economy and the rearmament of her army and air forces. Smith was one of the first to call attention to Hitler's placing the Reich on a war footing and his series of reports on the astonishing capabilities of the Luftwaffe became the focus of considerable controversy.
In May 1936 Smith arranged to have Charles A. Lindbergh inspect the German aircraft industry and the reorganized Luftwaffe. Lindbergh was allowed to make five inspection trips. In these visits he toured German aviation factories; inspected the latest aircraft; visited the most recently deployed tactical units of the new German air force; and discussed the evolution of tactical and strategic concepts with Luftwaffe officers. During his October 1938 visit a unique intelligence coup was scored when Lindbergh was permitted to fly the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
As a result of his observations, Lindbergh returned to the United States in 1939 determined to campaign for greater military preparations and American neutrality. In a series of speeches he opposed any revisions of the Neutrality Act of 1937 which would strip the U.S. of its defenses and tend to embroil her in the War. As popular sentiment gradually swung in favor of the Allies, Lindbergh and Smith were denounced in the press as fascists and henchmen of the Third Reich. The accuracy of the Lindbergh‑Smith reports were questioned and dismissed as defeatist propaganda. A recent assessment, by intelligence specialist Col. Ivan D. Yeaton, holds that they were "The finest example of intelligence reporting that I have ever seen".
In 1953, Army intelligence asked Smith to prepare an account of his activities in Berlin and an assessment of the assistance he had received from Lindbergh. Smith was given special access to G‑2 files and several typescript and carbon copies of his carefully researched monograph, Air Intelligence Activities . . . Berlin, 1939, were prepared. The ribbon copy and literary properties were presented to the Yale University Library. Smith retained several carbon copies of the document for distribution to his friends and the appropriate governmental agencies. One copy and two drafts containing corrections and comments in Lindbergh's hand were included with the gift of Smith's personal papers to the Hoover Presidential Library. Evidence of a third draft can be found in a nine page holograph letter from Lindbergh dated May 31, 1955.
As might be expected, Col. Lindbergh's visits to Germany provided the basis for a friendship which lasted for many years. The warmth of that relationship may be sensed from the letters exchanged by the Smiths and Lindberghs between 1936 and 1964.
Students of the interwar years will also be delighted to find that this collection contains not one, but three eyewitness accounts of life in Germany in the 1930's. In addition to Air Intelligence Activities, Smith also prepared an autobiography, Facts of Life, which contains additional comments on his service in Berlin and the aftermath of the Lindbergh‑Smith reports. The third eyewitness account is that of Mrs. Smith, which she subsequently compiled from her diaries.
Aside from its comments on his association with Lindbergh and the methods they employed, Facts of Life is probably most notable for its perspectives on the career and character of George C. Marshall. Smith served under Marshall from 1928 to 1932 as an instructor of military history and tactics at the famous infantry school at Ft. Benning. Later it was Marshall who helped engineer his assignment to Berlin; and Marshall who not only protected Smith and convinced the White House to call off the press barrage, but insisted on retaining Smith as his principal advisor on Germany. Of particular note in this regard is a carbon copy of extracts from Smith's memorandum of November 1, 1937 concerning the development of German airpower. Across the top of the sheet is Marshall's notation: "Secretary of War: This was Col. Truman Smith's report from Berlin about a year before 'Munich'."
Smith believed in rearming Germany as a counterbalance to Soviet power. The opportunity to play a role in the rebuilding of the Wehrmacht finally came in the middle 1950's. He corresponded with Generals Blummentritt, von Schwerin, and Speidel and visited Germany several times. In 1960 he hosted Speidel, who had recently been selected to command the Wehrmacht, during an official visit. Smith's evaluation of the new German army was recorded in a 1963 memorandum, "Estimate of the Combat Value of the German Army".
A great deal of Smith's success as a military attaché was due to disciplined professionalism and foresight. During his service with the American occupation forces after World War I and as our attaché in Berlin from 1920‑24, Smith met many German officers and took advantage of every opportunity to cultivate and enlarge this circle of friendships. Later, when he was on the faculty at Ft. Benning, he convinced Marshall to invite several of them to attend the school. Thus he was able to form some very valuable friendships with such highly placed officers as Adolf von Schell and Defense Minister von Blomberg; and, in return, he and his assistant attaches were invited to attend German officer schools.
Mrs. Smith understood and supported her husband's efforts, ad entered into them wholeheartedly. In her account of life in Berlin in the 1930's she describes her efforts to get the other service wives to become proficient in German so that they would know what was going on around them. The Smith's entertained frequently because she understood the value of the tidbits that could be gleaned from otherwise casual conversations.
Surviving from Col. Smith's earlier years of service are typescript copies of Smith's letters to his wife from the Mexican border (1917), from France and Germany (1918‑19), and typescript copies of his notes concerning a visit to Munich during the week of November 15‑22, 1922, including a personal interview with Hitler and a report concerning the trip.
In addition to the materials mentioned previously, the collection also includes copies of many of Smith's reports to G‑2 (1935‑45), and several articles and speeches (1941‑67). Of particular note is a series of articles on military developments which Smith prepared for syndication in 1941‑42 under the nom de plume, "Strategicus".
6 WRITINGS AND SPEECHES 1916‑67 and undated 2 containers.
Berlin Alert: The Memoirs and Reports of Truman Smith is in our library U55 .S548 A33 LA
3 L General Correspondence, 1948‑1968
4 My Life‑The War Years, 1939‑1946 (acc. 462/4)
5 Personnel File, 1919-1946 (acc. 462/5)
WRITINGS AND SPEECHES