Review of “America’s Retreat from Victory” by Joseph R. McCarthy

Yeah, that Joseph R. McCarthy.

Why would anyone read a book by McCarthy? The official story of what the hell happened at the end of World War II doesn’t make any sense.

As General Wedemeyer (from whom we’ll hear much more in a separate review sometime in the future) puts it:

. . . the United States became involved in a war which was to result in the extension of totalitarian tyranny over vaster regions of the world than Hitler had ever dreamed of conquering.

However, according to the official story, the war was fought to defend free peoples from tyranny (or whatever Churchillian/Rooseveltian version of propaganda you prefer). Unfortunately, if we’d just left Hitler alone to take over Europe, a lot less of the world would probably have found itself living under tyranny and a lot fewer people probably would have died. Surely this requires some explanation?

It’s impossible a current US Senator could write something that shows as much depth of knowledge and understanding as McCarthy of complex post-war issues. If the guy was a lunatic, he was a really smart lunatic. Unsurprisingly (given the fact that the official story doesn’t make any sense at all), McCarthy’s version of events is much more logical than the official story.

McCarthy’s argument is that the US lost the peace to Russia. This is basically unarguable if you look at a map of the post-war world: . McCarthy famously believed that US officials purposefully lost the peace because they were really Soviet agents. In this, McCarthy is very generous. The other option I see is that all of the top officials in the US were half-tards – how else can you win a war and not get anything from the victory?

The book/speech is, more specifically, an indictment of George C. Marshall. Wikipedia’s entry on McCarthy seems confused about why McCarthy would criticize Marshall when it notes:

Marshall was a highly respected General and statesman, remembered today as the architect of victory and peace, the latter based on the Marshall Plan for post-war reconstruction of Europe, for which he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1953.

In brief, McCarthy’s argument is that Marshall’s "peace" came at the cost of selling all of Eastern Europe and China to the Soviets. In exchange, the US got . . . nothing. I guess since Marshall won the Nobel Peace Prize, we can be sure he wasn’t a Communist sympathizer.

Anyway, let’s take McCarthy’s arguments by theater.


Let’s start with US strategy in Asia. According to McCarthy, the overwhelming aim of US military policy in Asia should have been to keep the Soviets out of the actual fighting with Japan. Among other things, McCarthy digs up various intelligence reports (given to Marshall) that stated that if the Soviets joined the war in Asia, "China will certainly lose her independence, to become the Poland of Asia; Korea, the Asiatic Rumania; Manchuria, the Soviet Bulgaria." He also finds a statement from Admiral Leahy (pre-dating Yalta) noting:

MacArthur and Nimitz were now in agreement that the Philippines should be recovered with ground and air power then available in the western Pacific and that Japan could be forced to accept our terms of surrender by the use of sea and air power without an invasion of the Japanese homeland.

In other words, a non-retarded US strategy would have been to keep the Soviets out of the war with Japan.

The early key to Asia was Manchuria, according to McCarthy. The US officially recognized Manchuria as belonging to the Republic of China. Yet at Yalta, Stalin asked for it and FDR obliged, in exchange for Russia agreeing to enter the war against Japan (which Stalin had already indicated he intended to do, which made sense given Stalin’s position, and which was probably detrimental to US interests anyway). McCarthy notes (apparently without humor) that Roosevelt was simultaneously enabling Soviet expansion while haranguing Churchill for the British empire’s control of India, etc.

Marshall next took interest in the Chinese Civil War between the forces of Chiang and Mao which was going on during China’s war with Japan. The US was allied with China and was arming China in its struggle against the Japanese. Here Marshall insisted that aid would only go to China if it suspended its civil war (Mao was delighted, as I’ve noted elsewhere).

Marshall then insisted that Chiang accept Communists into his government (again delighting Mao). He later vetoed the appointment of General Wedemeyer as ambassador to China because Zhou En-Lai (who was in rebellion against the actual government of China!) objected. Leighton Stuart (Zhou’s former teacher) was later appointed. The tide eventually turned and Mao eventually won. As Wikipedia elegantly puts it: "Marshall seems to have disagreed with strong opinions in The Pentagon and State department that Chiang’s success was vital to American interests." I guess we might as well give the whole country to the Soviets then. Or, as Marshall put it:

As Chief of Staff I armed 39 [Chinese] anti-Communist divisions, now with a stroke of a pen [preventing the Nationalists from buying ammunition] I disarm them.

McCarthy sums up the results of Marshall’s Asia policy:

Suppose . . . we had not implored Russia to enter the war in the Far East, had not equipped her army [when the Communists eventually took China, they did so with US equipment via Russia], had not given her the right to take Manchuria–were would the sudden collapse of Japan on the 10th of August, 1945, have found the Russians? . . . Had we followed the advice of Admiral Leahy, instead of Marshall, the war with Japan would no doubt have come to its abrupt end with the Kremlin dickering with us for a bribe which they obtained with such miraculous ease at Yalta. The situation in the Far East–then and today–would have in that case looked something like this:

The surrender of the Japanese Kwantung army in Manchuria would have been made to the Americans and Chinese. The Americans would have held Manchuria–and all Korea for the Koreans . . . "

Incidentally, it’s worth noting that MacArthur almost screwed up the Soviet plans in Asia. Coincidentally, he was fired by Marshall and Truman.

Finally, it’s not like the correct policy in Asia was hard to discern. Wedemeyer had already spelled it out:

The result was the "Wedemeyer Report," in which Wedemeyer stressed the need for intensive U.S. training of and assistance to the Nationalist armies.

Fearful the Nationalists may rise to challenge US hegemony in the Far East [?!?! but not fearful the Soviets would do so?], President Truman not only rejected the recommendations in the report, but imposed an arms embargo against the Nationalist government, thereby intensifying the bitter political debate over the role of the United States in the Chinese civil war. While Secretary of State George C. Marshall had hoped that Wedemeyer could convince Chiang Kai-shek to institute those military, economic, and political reforms necessary to defeat the Communists, he accepted Truman’s views, and suppressed publication of Wedemeyer’s report, further provoking resentment by pro-Nationalist and/or anti-communist advocates both inside and outside the U.S. government and the armed forces.

After the fall of China to Communist forces, General Wedemeyer would testify before Congress that while the loss of morale was indeed a cause of the defeat of the Nationalist Chinese forces, the Truman administration’s 1947 decision to discontinue further training and modernizing of Nationalist forces, the U.S.-imposed arms embargo [i.e. Marshall's policies], and constant anti-Nationalist sentiment expressed by Western journalists and policymakers were primary causes of that loss of morale. In particular, Wedemeyer stressed that if the U.S. had insisted on experienced American military advisers attached at the lower battalion and regimental levels of Nationalist armies [rejected by Marshall] (as it had done with Greek army forces during the Greek Civil War), that aid could have more efficiently been utilized, and that the immediate tactical assistance would have resulted in Nationalist armies performing far better in combat against the Communist Chinese. Vice-Admiral Oscar C. Badger, General Claire Chennault, and Brigadier General Francis Brink also testified that the arms embargo was a significant factor in the loss of China.


In Europe during the war, McCarthy believes that the logical strategy (and the one favored by Churchill according to McCarthy’s accounts) would have been to invade North Africa, then Sicily and Italy, and then cut up through Austria and the Balkans (sweeping as far East possible so as to ensure that the territory did not fall into Communist hands). Various other US generals (McCarthy cites Clark repeatedly) supported this plan. Clark states that, "after the fall of Rome, Kesserling’s army could have been destroyed if we had able to shoot the works in a final offensive. Across the Adriatic was Yugoslavia and beyond Yugoslavia were Vienna, Budapest, and Prague."

According to McCarthy’s accounts, the Soviets wanted the US and Britain to start a second front as far west as possible, specifically in France. According to McCarthy’s accounts, the biggest proponent of this same plan in the US Army was Marshall, who was eventually able to convince FDR. The result was the outcome of the Quebec Conference, in which it was basically agreed that the Balkans would fall to the Soviets, to promote democracy and all that.

McCarthy dug up a document that Harry Hopkins brought to Quebec, which stated (in full):

Russia’s postwar position in Europe will be a dominant one. With Germany crushed [thanks to the policy of unconditional surrender], there is no power in Europe to oppose her tremendous military forces. It is true that Great Britain is building up a position in the Mediterranean vis-à-vis Russia that she may find useful in balancing power in Europe. However, even here she may not be able to oppose Russia unless she is otherwise supported.

The conclusions from the foregoing are obvious. Since Russia is the decisive factor in the war, she must be given every assistance and every effort must be made to obtain her friendship. Likewise, since without question she will dominate Europe on the defeat of the Axis, it is even more essential to develop and maintain the most friendly relations with Russia.

Finally, the most important factor the United States has to consider in relation to Russia is the prosecution of the war in the Pacific. With Russia as an ally in the war against Japan, the war can be terminated in less time and at less expense in life and resources than if the reverse were the case. Should the war in the Pacific have to be carried on with an unfriendly or a negative attitude on the part of Russia, the difficulties will be immeasurably increased and operations might become abortive.

In other words, in Europe and Asia, the US should start doing what Russia wants. And that’s basically what happened. As Admiral Leahy put it: "The Soviets and Americans seemed to be nearly in agreement as to the fundamental strategic principles that should be followed." (He’s referring to the agreement made at Tehran, in which Stalin got everything he wanted). Later, Marshall slowed the march of US troops into Berlin and prevented Patton from taking Prague.

In post-war Europe, McCarthy draws a distinction between the "Forrestal-Truman" position, which is the Truman Doctrine, and the Marshall Plan. The former committed the US to help free people fight tyranny. The latter gave money to tyrannical governments (aid was, after all, offered to Russia and all Soviet satellites) and free people alike. The former plan also focused on military aid, while the latter explicitly ignored military aid. Under the former plan, free European countries would be able to withstand aggression from a tyrannical government. Under the latter plan, wealthy European countries would be unable to defend themselves against aggression (I’m sure it’s a coincidence that this aligns nicely with Stalin’s stated desire for a power vacuum in Europe).


McCarthy points to some other oddities associated with Marshall’s career. For example, six years after believed relieved of command of a regiment by MacArthur, Marshall was placed (by Roosevelt) in command of the entire US Army. It’s possible to read McCarthy’s speech as accusing Marshall of putting his own career ahead of everything else, including his country. Marshall curried favor with certain very powerful folks in Washington, who in turn ensured that he was promoted. It just so happen that these powerful Washingtonians were sympathetic to Russian interests or their beliefs about how the war should be conducted were identical to Stalin’s.

McCarthy’s portrayed as a lunatic calling everyone a communist. His actual statements are surprisingly measured. For example, he states that Acheson was loyal to first and foremost to the British Labor Party (not the Soviets). Actually, that argument makes a lot of sense.

No wonder McCarthy drank himself to death. I need a drink after writing that up.

25 Responses to Review of “America’s Retreat from Victory” by Joseph R. McCarthy

  1. spandrell says:

    I need a drink after reading it.

  2. Isegoria says:

    You may want to read Tuchman’s Stilwell, Foseti.

  3. Dave says:

    Jay Taylor’s book on Chiang’s Nationalists (recommended by moldbug) definitely supports McCarthy’s take on Asia. The USG abandoned the Chinese while Mao was reinforced heavily by Stalin.

  4. I consider the decisions of wartime and postwar American Progressivism a good example to use to dispell the idea – fairly common among internet reactionaries – that Leftism is “undefeatable” or somehow more powerful than reaction.

    It’s not; in fact, as an entity, it acts against its own interests all the time (in this case, acting toward the interests of another Leftist party). Reaction has lost the battle for the past three hundred and fifty years (if you’re particular ungenerous, you might say the last two millenia), because it normally sees only reactionary threats (it is more likely to act against an army an ocean away than picketers at home). Thus, what is necessary for reaction to win is not for it to be stronger, but for it to be more aware of threats from below, and crush them early and often.

    TL;DR, keep the pimp hand strong.

    • nydwracu says:

      It acts against its own interests when it acts in the interests of something to the left of it. Anything to the right of it is the greatest threat since Hitler.

  5. dearieme says:

    America got the destruction of the British, French and Dutch empires; she was always relaxed about the existence of the Russian Empire presumably because, like her own, it had been assembled by horse rather than ship.

  6. josh says:

    Drank himself to death my ass. Remind me, if I ever become somebody who matters not to get treated at Bethesda Naval Hospital.

    I believe this was the first Bircherish book I read. Moldbug says it was written by JB Matthews, but I have no idea where he god that information.

    BTW, who is this “America” that was supposed to get something out of the war? I think some nominally “American” cosmopolitan usurers did pretty well. Here’s a question; what is the relationship between the Marshal plan and the dollar becoming the global reserve currency. It would be pretty nice to be the monopoly issuer of capital creation permits, no? Related, what is the relationship between Stalin’s rejection of said plan and the Anglo-Soviet split?

  7. Toddy cat says:

    I’m not sure that I trust Tuchman, Isegoria. She had her own blind spots when it came to China. Incidentally, even some Mainland Chinese scholars are slowly, carefully starting to admit that China would have been better off if Chiang Kai-Shek had won the Civil War. I wonder if American liberals will ever admit it.

  8. Fake Herzog says:

    “Clark states that, “after the fall of Rome, Kesserling’s army could have been destroyed if we had able to shoot the works in a final offensive. Across the Adriatic was Yugoslavia and beyond Yugoslavia were Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.”

    There have been a number of very good books since the Soviet archives were opened years ago on the Eastern front. Most WWII scholars agree that the Nazis lost the war there (or at least took such a pounding that it was inevitable that the Allied West would eventually defeat them). Could we have run with Clark’s plan before the Nazis took that pounding? I’m not so sure, and while I hold no special love for FDR and the Progressives, there is something strategically to be said to want the Soviets and Nazis fighting it out.

    Maybe the best idea would have been to go ahead and launch Normandy but use Clark’s plan later, when we could have moved in and saved Eastern Europe and checked Soviet power at the same time.

    As for Asia, I too need a drink…

  9. fnn says:

    Arresting material from a review of Anthony Kubek’s book on China:

    Another useful part of this book is Kubek’s detailed examination of the secret agreements made at the Yalta Conference in February, 1945 which favored Soviet hegemony in Siberia and China at the expense of Chaing Kai-shek and the Chinese Nationalist with whom the Chinese Communists were contending for power. Chaing did not know that important Chinese bases and strategic facilities were given to the Soviets from which they armed and assisted the Chinese Communists. One should note that General Haley and others who wanted access to these secret agreements were denied such access which was unconstitutional.

    Other attempts to get an honest view of what was happening in China and events leading to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor were thwarted when General Marshall, later made Sec. of State, was suddenly sent to China to negotiate between the Chinese Communists and Chinese Nationalists. One should note Kubek’s assessment of these negotiations. When Gen. Marshall first went to Chinas in 1947, the Chinese Communists had a poorly equipped army of appriximately 300,000 troops. By the time Marshall was done, the Chinese
    Communists had an army of over 2,000,000 well equipped troops, and many had captured Japanese weapons which were supposed to surrendered to Chaing and his government.

  10. says:

    I posted a rebuttal to some of Tuschman’s characterizations of Mao and Chiang’s fighting during the war from Taylor’s book in Isegoria’s blog here:

    • Toddy Cat says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t want Chiang running my country, but better him than Mao, any day. I don’t understand why so many conservatives still insist on trashing the guy – McCarthy certainly thought he was worth supporting.

  11. […] – Randoms, Review Of America’s Retreat From Victory, […]

  12. Anonymous says:

    Anybody read President Hoover’s WWII book yet?

  13. teageegeepea says:

    The war in Europe was mostly a fight between Germany and Russia, so it should not be surprising that on defeat Russia gained greatly. I actually do believe that FDR had an overly sunny view of Stalin (some of his advisers actually were Soviet agents) and conceded too much to him, but I don’t think much of Churchill’s plan. He had gone for the “soft underbelly” in a previous war at Gallipoli, and the Allied invasion of Italy bogged down in the mountains as well. France was an important power & ally (along with being adjacent enough to be a threat to Britain), so it made a lot of sense to liberate that before Italy (which was almost more of a hindrance to Germany in some ways) or the Balkans. Staying in North Africa and letting the two rivals to the east bloody themselves Iran-Iraq style would have been better. The merits of the Marshall are dubious because so much went to relatively undamaged & secure countries like the UK, while the more damaged and underserved (and threatened) West Germany had its “miracle”.

    I believe I discussed here the difference between what happened in China vs Europe under the “Truman doctrine”. Communists actually were beaten back in Greece & Turkey, and regular Sailer readers known about the continued skullduggery in Italy. My guess for the different outcomes is that China was further away and less important.

  14. […] I recently reviewed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s book on the aftermath of WWII, I noted that there are two possible explanations for America’s […]

  15. […] It’s hard to avoid sounding like a nut job to mainstream ears when talking about this period, but it’s very difficult to overstate the ties between the Soviets and high-level officials in the US government. The Soviets, for example, didn’t counterfeit US dollars, they just printed them from original plates taken directly from the Treasury Department. At least, they didn’t control the US military . . . unless, of course, they did. […]

  16. […] It’s hard to avoid sounding like a nut job to mainstream ears when talking about this period, but it’s very difficult to overstate the ties between the Soviets and high-level officials in the US government. The Soviets, for example, didn’t counterfeit US dollars, they just printed them from original plates taken directly from the Treasury Department. At least, they didn’t control the US military . . . unless, of course, they did. […]

  17. […] No wonder McCarthy drank himself to death. […]

  18. […] definition excludes people like General Wedemeyer, Joseph McCarthy, Sisley Huddleston, John T. Flynn and perhaps even General MacArthur.  It may include some […]

  19. s edmiston says:

    Just reread the Evans book on McCarthy–it seems that good old uncle Ike was either a Commie or a dolt–perhaps both. Marshall was just no damn good.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Gays can get married. Of course the communists won the peace. Christianity is dead.

  21. Dawson says:

    as a war buff reverent of territorial contiguity and Rusky tanks, I find some of those strategic choices to be improper but not really scandalous

    donate ur own money to fight commies. they make my shoes just fine, and their

  22. […] and European left sided with Russia at every opportunity. For example, during World War II, leftists promoted the idea of opening a second front in Europe with the goal of taking pressure off …, when the militarily smart move would have been to let the Nazis and Soviets destroy each other. […]

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