September 23, 2022

1943. "Davies in Sovietland"

Ambassador Joseph E. Davies Visits the Soviet Union
US Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies stands alongside Joseph Stalin and Foreign Affairs Minister Vyacheslav Molotov in May 1943 (source)
From Newsweek, May 31, 1943, pp. 50-52:

Davies in Sovietland

The arrival of former Ambassador Joseph E. Davies in Moscow was an event of importance in the Soviet capital last week. In the following dispatch Newsweek's Moscow correspondent, Bill Downs, gives the unofficial side of how Davies was received.

Joseph Davies arrived in a big cargo plane at the Moscow airdrome. He came with the cold spring rain which was out of season compared with the warmth of his greeting. When Davies poked out his head Admiral Standley shouted up the doorway: "Hello, Joe." Davies replied: "Hello Admiral. God bless you."

He climbed down the awkward ladder immediately and shook hands with the embassy officials and with fat V. G. Dekanozoff, who was Molotoff's representative and who could pass for one of the seven dwarfs—but not Dopey, for he is one of the smartest men in the Foreign Commissariat.

There was a great deal of good-humored lining up for the Soviet Film News photographers who were sent to make this the biggest greeting of any foreigner since Wendell Willkie. American and Soviet flags flying side by side at the entrances to the airport hangars stiffened in the breeze as the party drove off to the luxurious Soviet guest house at No. 8 Ostrovsky Street, where Willkie also had been billeted.

Davies agreed to meet the correspondents in a half hour. To do this he made a special trip to Ambassador Standley's residence, settled down in a chair in the library, and proceeded not to answer the questions. He explained that he had nothing to add to the President's statement concerning his mission.

Davies agreed to talk off the record—but did not say anything to throw light on his mission. Instead he dwelled mostly on his impressions of his trip from America to Russia. Then he went into an emotional talk about his visit to Stalingrad. He said: "I watched the reactions of the crew of my plane. No one said much; then someone said: 'Those dirty sons of bitches, I could tear them apart with my own hands.' That is how we all felt."

Davies next explained how, wearing a top hat and striped trousers and other diplomatic paraphernalia, he had once laid a wreath on the tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Belgium and how an Ambassador uncovers and lays the wreath on the tomb, steps backward, and bows his head about two minutes. He went on: "I followed that protocol at Stalingrad. It was very impressive. When I bowed my head before the common grave across the street from Marshal Paulus's headquarters, a curious crowd that gathered also bared its head. The silence lasted longer than two minutes, and it was very impressive."

Then Davies remarked: "I made a few extemporaneous remarks there." A correspondent asked: "Do you remember what you said?" Davies answered: "Not exactly, but my secretary happened to be there and made a stenographic report of what I said." There was a pause and Davies continued: "I wonder if I have a copy with me." After another pause for rummaging in his pockets he said: "Here it is." And out came five typewritten copies of his speech which were passed around.

However, all is not sweetness and light for Joe Davies's second mission to Moscow. The crew of his Army plane now are interested only in "getting him home." These men say they are thinking of writing a book called "Second Mission to Moscow." They all agree it would make fantastic reading. Davies is not well and brought with him a physician, Dr. Arthur F. Chace of New York, one of the world's outstanding authorities on internal medicine and president of the American Academy of Medicine.

However, Davies's trip augurs well and portends success. The Russians at least know where they stand with him. They operate on a principle which he himself quotes, saying that the Russian officials told him: "If you find any faults with us, you tell us—if you find something good, you tell the world."