Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with George L. West
It was to take place in Belgrade. Then there was a notification from the Soviets: “No it's being transferred to Budapest or Bucharest.” Then we went to the Yugoslavs and they said, “No, it's not being moved, it's being held in Belgrade.”
Well, our Ambassador (I think it was Cannon at the time, or was it Paterson?) was away. Gordon Reems was the Charg�, and he had a couple of damn good junior officers who'd been assigned there while I was on the desk, one of whom was Bill Leonhart.
Q: It was probably Cavendish Cannon.
WEST: It was Cavendish, that's right. He'd been up to Vienna with his wife who was a Viennese.
The telegram came from the embassy: “ This is it. This is a break.” Cavendish came back, and like an experienced diplomat's: “Well on the one hand, this, on the other.” He went on again. He later was Ambassador to Athens. We still say this is it. Anyway, they were right, that was the break.
Q: You were in the department. How did you, and the officers about your rank and age level, view the Soviet Union in '45, and how did that change?
WEST: Well, in '45 at the end of the war, there was a great deal of admiration, in a sense. But also we really thought they were sons of bitches for a lot of things they had done.For example, I happened in San Francisco... A fiancee I had who was Czech, and taught Jan Masaryk, and the beating they gave him (I say beating, this was verbal, but the pressures they put on him)...
You remember the Soviets insisted on having White Russia and the Ukraine represented. They were definitely the enemy as far as we were concerned.
If you're dealing in Bulgaria, and the Allied Control Commission is trying to do something to save the Bulgarians from being completely a vassal state...
Also, where the Soviets were the opposition, we had a great admiration for the Yugoslavs, I think. At least I did. The people I dealt with, these were pretty gutsy people. You're talking about '45, the war is just over.
Q: '45 to '48, because things started to change.