May 4

This Day in History

World War II

May 4, 1945:

As the Nazi threat dies, the Red Army rises

On this day in 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Molotov informs U.S. Secretary of State Stettinius that the Red Army has arrested 16 Polish peace negotiators who had met with a Soviet army colonel near Warsaw back in March. When British Prime Minister Winston Churchill learns of the Soviet double-cross, he reacts in alarm, stating, "There is no doubt that the publication in detail of this event...would produce a primary change in the entire structure of world forces."

Churchill, fearing that the Russian forces were already beginning to exact retribution for losses suffered during the war (the Polish negotiators had been charged with "causing the death of 200 Red Army officers"), sent a telegram to President Harry Truman to express his concern that Russian demands of reparations from Germany, and the possibility of ongoing Russian occupation of Central and Eastern Europe, "constitutes an event in the history of Europe to which there has been no parallel." Churchill clearly foresaw the "Iron Curtain" beginning to drop. Consequently, he sent a "holding force" to Denmark to cut off any farther westward advance by Soviet troops.

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