Smith, Truman, “The American Who Saw Hitler Coming”.

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Smith, Truman. born 25-08–1893 in West Point. to Edmund Dickinson Smith (1857–1900)  and his wife Katharine Alling Hollister Smith (1898–1992) His father was a soldier but he was killed in action at Cebu in 05-02- 1900, age 42. He was educated at schools in Stamford before arriving at Yale University (1912–15). Young Smith was no slouch himself: he graduated from Yale in 1915, and might have become a history professor. He also was a graduate student at Columbia University (1915-16). In 1917 he was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the United States Army. He married Katherine Alling Hollister in 1917. During the First World War he served on the Western Front and took part in the offensive at Meuse-Argonne. He received the Silver Star and was promoted to the rank of Major.

In World War I he was a company commander and battalion commander in the U.S. 4th Infantry Regiment nickname “Warriors” under command of Major General Halstead Dorey ( 07–02-1874 – 19-06-1946 in  France during the Marne and Meuse-Argonne Campaigns. He received the Silver Star (recommended for Distinguished Service Cross) and promotion to major for leading his battalion in capture of the Bois de Foret.

He was in Coblenz during the occupation of Germany as political advisor to the officer in charge of civil affairs (January 1919 – June 1920), followed by nearly four years as assistant military attaché in Berlin (June 1920 – April 1924). In 1919, Ernst Hanfstaengel,

who had been living in the United States, met Smith, who told him that Adolf Hitler was a rising star. Hanfstaengel took his advice and went to hear him speak at a National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) meeting. Hanfstaengel later recalled: “In his heavy boots, dark suit and leather waistcoat, semi-stiff white collar and odd little moustache, he really did not look very impressive – like a waiter in a railway-station restaurant. However, when Anton Drexler founder of the (NS)DAP., introduced him to a roar of applause, Adolf Hitler   (did you know) straightened up and walked past the press table with a swift, controlled step, the unmistakable soldier in mufti. The atmosphere in the hall was electric. Apparently this was his first public appearance after serving a short prison-sentence for breaking up a meeting addressed by a Bavarian separatist named Ballerstedt, so he had to be reasonably careful what he said in case the police should arrest him again as a disturber of the peace. Perhaps this is what gave such a brilliant quality to his speech, which for innuendo and irony I have never heard matched, even by him. No one who judges his capacity as a speaker from the performances of his later years can have any true insight into his gifts.” In November 1922, Smith was sent to Munich to research a local political organizer, Adolf Hitler. In his report filed to Washington, he prophetically identified the young Hitler as a “marvelous demagogue,” who was the dominating force in his Bavarian fascist movement and that his forceful, logical, and fanatical speaking could sway a neutral listener.

Truman Smith continued to take a close interest in Hitler. On 25-11-1922 he said a report to Washington: “The most active political force in Bavaria at the present time is the National Socialist Labour Party. Less a political party than a popular movement, it must be considered as the Bavarian counterpart to the Italian fascisti It has recently acquired a political influence quite disproportionate to its actual numerical strength. Adolf Hitler from the very first has been the dominating force in the movement, and the personality of this man has undoubtedly been one of the most important factors contributing to its success… His ability to influence a popular assembly is uncanny. In private conversation he disclosed himself as a forceful and logical speaker, which, when tempered with a fanatical earnestness, made a very deep impression on a neutral listener.”

Smith returned to Berlin as military attaché from 1935 to 1939 and during the eleven years between postings in Berlin, he completed the U.S. Infantry School, Fort. Benning, Georgia (1927), attended the Command and General Staff School, Fort. Leavenworth (1928), returned to the Infantry School as an instructor (1928–32), attended the Army War College (1933), and served with the 27th infantry regiment, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii (June 1933 – April 1935)

He returned to Washington, D.C., as a specialist on Germany in the U.S. Army military intelligence division, and as a personal adviser to General George Catlett  Marshall (1939–1945).

From Berlin in the late 1930s, he reported on German rearmament, Luftwaffe capabilities, and the increasing extent of the Germans’ organization for war. He was friendly with important officers such as Werner von Blomberg (Minister of War). In 1935 Truman Smith was appointed as military attaché in Berlin. He was told that his chief responsibility was “to report to Washington about the growth of the German army, including the development of new weapons and new battle tactics.” Smith came to the conclusion that the American Ambassador to Germany, William Edward Dodd was not interested in military matters; and did not give him the support he expected. However, Dodd did share Smith’s views on the Jews in Germany. He wrote in his diary: “The Jews had held a great many more of the key positions in Germany than their numbers or talents entitled them to.” Dodd also wrote about a meeting with Hitler where he explained what the United States had done about the Jews in public life: “I explained to him (Hitler) that where a question of over-activity of Jews in university or official life made trouble, we had managed to redistribute the offices in such a way as to not give great offense.” Dodd’s daughter Martha Eccles Dodd made a number of friends in high circles, and Ernst Hanfstaengl, her sometime lover and an aide to Adolf Hitler, tried to encourage a romantic relationship between Hitler and Dodd. Dodd found Hitler “excessively gentle and modest in his manners”; no romance followed their meeting. She had numerous relationships while in Berlin, including with Generaloberst of the Luftwaffe, Ernst Udet  and with the French diplomat Armand Berard, later France’s ambassador to the United Nations. Other lovers included Max Delbrück a German–American biophysicist and the leader of the Gestapo and SS Oberführer, Rudolf Diels.

Truman Smith arranged (May 1936) the first of Colonel Charles Lindbergh‘s

five inspection trips to the German aircraft industry and the Luftwaffe. Senior Luftwaffe officers discussed air tactics and operations with Lindbergh; he flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109. The trips produced valuable intelligence. Lindbergh’s public opposition to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt‘s war policies, among other things, made him unpopular. Accepting a medal from Chief of the Luftwaffe Hermann Goering   fueled suspicion that he was a Nazi sympathizer and disloyal to his country.

Smith represented that Lindbergh’s visits in fact provided valuable intelligence. Smith was himself vulnerable to vilification as a defeatist or a German sympathizer, but Marshall, who had commanded him at Fort Benning, protected him.

Smith, by all accounts, served the army well during World War II, but he and his wife remained staunchly anti-Roosevelt in their outlook. Upon hearing of Roosevelt’s death in April 1945, Smith and his wife burst into roars of laughter and embraced each other and a friend.

In 1958, General Albert Coady Wedemeyer   published an autobiographic book about WW II. In this book, he praised Smith for his achievements during his time in Berlin and the quality of the reports he delivered, i.e. about the German re-armament. Wedemeyer pointed out that Smith (and Charles Lindbergh) earned gratefulness of the United States but were criticized by a clique of politicians that wanted to ignore the war preparations of the Nazi regime.

Death and burial ground of Smith, Truman.

Smith here talking to the German General Ludwig August Theodor Beck died on 03-10-1970 (aged 77) Fairfield, Connecticut and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Arlington County, Virginia, VSSec:tion 46, Site: 759-17.

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