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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler

I was reading Hitler: The Missing Years (1957) recently. The book is by Ernst Hanfstaengel, one of Hitler's first financial backers. Hanfstaengel became one of Hitler's inner circle. He was one of his earliest financial supporters and in March, 1923, provided $1,000 to ensure the daily publication of Volkische Beobachter. The newspaper, an anti-Semitic gossip sheet had previously appeared twice a week. With Hanfstaengel's money it was published every day. This was a real breakthrough as it enabled Hitler to build up both membership and funds. Hanfstaengel claims that he was encouraged to meet Hitler by Major Truman Smith, as assistant military attaché at the American embassy in Berlin. This might seem surprising but it reflects the role of intelligence agencies soon after the First World War. We now know that the head of MI6 in America, William Wiseman, was funding anti-Bolshevik groups in Russia since 1917. Was Truman Smith arranging funds for anti-socialist groups in Germany? 

I decided to do some research on Truman Smith. I found his papers are lodged at the the Hoover Institution Archives. In a biographical note it said he was involved with Charles A. Lindbergh in the 1930s. I have a copy of Lindbergh's Autobiography of Values (1976) and A. Scott Berg's biography Lindbergh (1998). These sources reveal that that Truman Smith was definitely working for military intelligence in the early 1920s. He completed a course at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. He then became an instructor at the U.S. Infantry School until 1932 when he attended the Army War College. He then served with the 27th infantry regiment in Hawaii. 

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." In 1936 he arranged for Charles A. Lindbergh to visit the country. Lindbergh wrote to his mother about the proposed trip: "Comparatively little is known about the present status of Aviation in Germany, so I am looking forward, with great interest, to going there. Even under the difficulties she has encountered since the war, Germany has taken a leading part in a number of aviation developments, including metal construction, low-wing designs, dirigibles, and Diesel engines. If it had not been for the war she would probably have produced a great deal more. On the other hand, if it had not been for the war it is doubtful whether aviation would be as far advanced as it is today."

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1 comment:

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