October 18, 2016

1943. U.S. Ambassador Harriman Takes Charge in Moscow

U.S. Ambassador W. Averell Harriman Arrives in the Soviet Union
"President Truman talks with Ambassador W. Averell Harriman at the Gatow airport in Berlin, Germany, before boarding his plane to fly to England at the conclusion of the Potsdam Conference," August 2, 1945 (source)
From Newsweek, November 15, 1943, pp. 24-25:

Harriman's Broom
Bill Downs, Moscow correspondent for Newsweek and CBS, wirelessed this account of developments in the Soviet capital following the conference.

The American Embassy is getting that new-broom treatment extending from the lowliest clerk in the code room through the new military mission up to the Ambassador's office. The embassy staff had grown into a happy-go-lucky crowd, which more or less adopted a "nichevo" philosophy. The long time that Spaso House had been without an official hostess had turned the Ambassador's official residence into what was almost a super-luxurious fraternity house. The Mokhovaya House across the street from the Kremlin with embassy offices and apartments for military, naval, and Lend-Lease staffs was almost the same. No one had enough to do. Consequently the embassy military and naval staffs spent a lot of time chasing ballet and theater tickets.

However, in the two weeks of the Moscow conference them days has gone forever. Ambassador W. Averell Harriman is already piling into the embassy organization. Desks, chairs, and whole offices have been moved. Kathleen Harriman, the American Ambassador's daughter, who will act as his official hostess, already has taken a college atmosphere out of Spaso. Maj. Gen. John Deane, new head of the military mission, has already got the parade ground back into his wing in Mokhovaya. This diplomatic spring cleaning in the American diplomatic military organization simply means that representatives are going to have more work to do, and they are clearing the decks for action.

The new Ambassador held his first press conference in his office on Thursday. After expressing his gratification at the outcome of the talks, he said: "The conference opened up a number of subjects whereon it has been agreed that discussion should be continued between ourselves, the British, and the Soviet Union. This means I will be working closely on these matters with Molotoff and Sir Archibald Clark Kerr."

Harriman revealed one significant fact which indicated how the conferees were thinking when he said: "One matter I think deserves the greatest possible consideration at this time is the assistance the United States can give to the Soviet Union in the rehabilitation of devastated areas and the repairing of other dislocations caused by war. Here again war must have first priority in our use of American productive capacity and available shipping, but there is one thing we can do now without interfering with war production. We can work on the development of programs, plans, and detailed designs which will materially shorten the time when equipment needed from the United States can be made available. The American people have the greatest sympathy for the Russian people, who have suffered so much, and it is in their hearts to attempt to be of the greatest assistance. We will have plants to produce machinery and equipment needed by the Soviet Union and in so doing we will help our own people to convert from war to peace production."

Harriman also announced that Charles E. Bohlen who accompanied Hull and was formerly assistant chief of the European division of the State Department would remain as first secretary. Bohlen served former Ambassador Steinhardt and is extremely well liked by the Russians. He has perfect command of the language and served as Hull's interpreter during the conference.

For foreign correspondents the most important addition to the embassy staff which Harriman brought along is Sam Spewack, one of the nation's top playwrights now serving with the Office of War Information. Spewack, whom correspondents are already calling "Mister Secretary," has succeeded in starting a news-digest service for the embassy which was also made available to newsmen. He will investigate all fields of cultural exchange—news, photos, newsreels, feature films, the exchange of music, art, drama. He plans to set up an organization to match the excellent British cultural-relations section which publishes the only Russian-language weekly in the Soviet not owned or controlled by the government.