PATTON, George S. Jr. Typed letter signed ("George S. Patton Jr.") to his former aide, Lt. Col. Charles H. Codman, Headquarters, Third U.S. Army [in occupied Germany], 21 July 1945. 1 full page, 4to, on Patton's Commanding General's stationery.
WHILE TRUMAN AND STALIN CONFER AT POTSDAM, PATTON VIEWS THE RUINS OF BERLIN: "THE FINAL EPITAPH OF WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A GREAT RACE"
A striking letter from the bomb-saturated ruins of Nazi Germany, full of the outspoken expressions which repeatedly caused Patton trouble, here directed particularly at the Soviet Union. First, Patton expresses approval at Codman's decision to return to civilian life, then describes his trip to Berlin to be part of the military ceremonies surrounding the arrival of President Harry S. Truman for the opening of the Potsdam Conference (curiously, Patton deliberately avoids mentioning Truman's presence). "General Parks had the Secretary of War ask me to come to Berlin to watch a review of the 2nd Armored Division, so I had the opportunity of seeing [MacGeorge] Bundy, the Secretary [Henry L. Stimson] and Mr. [John] McCloy [Head of U.S. Occupation Administration]; also, of seeing Berlin, which is certainly not half as much damaged as is, for example, Nurnberg or Frankfurt. Even the Reichstag Building, around which great fighting was supposed to have been waged, is in a fair state of preservation and certainly much better off than it would be had we worked on it with some of our 8-inch stuff [fild artillery]. One cannot help but feel that Berlin marks the final epitaph of what should have been a great race. I really do not see how they can recover, particularly in view of the activities of some of our Allies, and I am not at all sure that we are not stepping out of the frying pan into the fire by concurring with what is going on. However, this is a personal opinion which probably nobody else shares..."
On his way to the historic Potsdam Conference (17 July-2 August), President Truman reviewed U.S. troops in Berlin and delivered a brief address, while the flag that had flown at Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was raised: "Stimson and Patton were present, the tall, theatrical Patton resplendent in buckled riding boots, jodhpurs and a lacquered four-star helmet. Patton seemed to glow from head to foot. There were stars on his shoulders, stars on his sleeves, more stars than Truman had ever seen. He counted twenty-eight" (D. McCullough, Truman, pp.428-429).
While Patton was certainly not the only American officer or politician concerned about the veiled threat posed by the Soviet Union and its huge armies, the Potsdam Conference would make obvious the new tenor of U.S.-Soviet relations. On the very day of this letter, Truman had received the report on the successful test in the New Mexico desert of the nuclear bomb which would, a few weeks later, compel the unconditional surrender of the Japanese.