World War II made a disparate trio of allies—British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Soviet Marshal Josef Stalin, and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt—military as well as political leaders in turn.
They were guilty of monumental strategic mistakes in 1941, showed considerable resilience in 1942, and won great victories in 1943. But the “Big Three” had not yet all met together to plan the future course of the war and consider the shape of the postwar world. So, when Churchill and Roosevelt met for discussions at the palatial Chateau Frontenac in Quebec on August 17-24, 1943, they realized the need to include Stalin in their next round of talks.
On August 18, during their first Quebec conference code named Quadrant, the British and American leaders telegraphed the Soviet dictator, “We fully understand strong reasons which lead you to remain on battlefronts where your presence has been so fruitful of victory. Nevertheless, we wish to emphasize once more importance of a meeting between all 3 of us.” They suggested a conference in Fairbanks, Alaska, which was less than 600 miles from eastern Soviet territory.
A Rough Alliance
Replying to Roosevelt alone, Stalin agreed that such a meeting “would positively be expedient,” and conceded, “I do not have any objections to the presence of Mr. Churchill at this meeting.” But he suggested as a site Archangel in northern Russia or Astrakhan in the south. The wily, ruthless Stalin was seemingly reluctant to travel far and abandon his people then battling the German armies on the Eastern Front, but in fact he seldom left the Kremlin and paid only one brief visit to a war front, in August 1943.
Churchill, who had flown to Moscow in August 1942 and who made numerous perilous missions throughout the war, became frustrated by the Soviet leader’s backpedaling. Telegraphing his war cabinet from Quebec, the prime minister complained about the “bearishness of Soviet Russia” and the fact that Stalin had “studiously ignored our offer to make a long and hazardous journey in order to bring about a tripartite meeting.”
Inside “The Big Three in Tehran,” Michael D. Hull’s investigative feature in the August 2014 edition of WWII History Magazine, you’ll read all about the historic Allied meeting, and how it shaped the rest of Europe after the war.
Other features you’ll find inside include:
“In Peiper’s Path”
SS fanatic Jochen Peiper led Adolf Hitler’s desperate spearhead during the Battle of the Bulge.
“A Roll of the Drums”
Nazi U-Boats brought World War II to America’s shores as they ravaged merchant shipping off the East Coast.
“The Invasion of New Zealand”
In preparation for amphibious operations in the Pacific, U.S. Marines trained in New Zealand.
“Score 109 to 1”
In the spring of 1944, the small island of Biak—a stepping stone to the Philippines—was taken by the Americans.
What do you think of the Tehran meeting? Would the political fallout had been different if circumstances allowed? Let us know what you think about our current issue below.