|Date||November 28 – December 1, 1943|
|Type||Allied World War II conference|
|Participants||Joseph Stalin (USSR)|
Winston Churchill (UK)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (US)
|Outcome||Consensus to open a second front against Nazi Germany by June 1, 1944|
The Tehran Conference was a strategy meeting of Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill from November 28th to December 1st, 1943, following the Anglo-Soviet Invasion of Iran. It was held in the Soviet embassy in Tehran, Iran (Persia). It was the first of three World War II conferences of the "Big Three" Allied leaders (the Soviet Union, the United States, and the United Kingdom). It closely followed the Cairo Conference which had taken place on November 22-26, 1943. After the success of Operation Overlord, two more conferences followed in 1945, one in Yalta and a final one in Potsdam.
Although the three leaders arrived with differing objectives, the main outcome of the Tehran Conference was the Western Allies' commitment to open a second front against Nazi Germany. The conference also addressed the 'Big Three' Allies' relations with Turkey and Iran, operations in Yugoslavia and against Japan, and the envisaged post-war settlement. A separate protocol signed at the conference pledged the Big Three to recognize Iran's independence.
The Tehran Conference (codenamed Eureka) was an initial face to face meeting of the "Big Three," the leaders of the Allied forces. In June 1941, Nazi Germany violated the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact by invading the Soviet Union. Shortly after the German-Soviet war broke out, Churchill offered assistance to the Soviets, and an agreement to this effect was signed on July 12, 1941. However, Churchill in a spoken radio transmission announcing the alliance with the USSR, reminded listeners that this alliance would not change his stance against communism.
Delegations had traveled between London and Moscow to arrange the implementation of this support and when the United States joined the war in December 1941, the delegations met in Washington as well. A Combined Chiefs of Staff committee was created to coordinate British and American operations as well as their support to the Soviet Union. There were numerous issues to resolve. The consequences of a global war, the absence of a unified Allied strategy, and the complexity of allocating resources between Europe and Asia had not yet been sorted out, soon gave rise to mutual suspicions between the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. There was the question of opening a second front to alleviate the German pressure on the Soviet Red Army on the Eastern Front, the question of mutual assistance (with both Britain and the Soviet Union looking to the United States for credit and material support) and the was tension between the United States and Britain as Washington had no desire to prop up the British Empire in the event of an Allied victory. Neither the United States nor Britain were prepared to give Stalin a free hand in Eastern Europe and there was no common policy on how to deal with Germany after Hitler. Communications regarding these matters between Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin took place by telegrams and via emissaries, but it was evident that direct negotiations were urgently needed.
Stalin was reluctant to leave Moscow and was unwilling to risk journeys by air, while Roosevelt was physically disabled and found travel difficult. Churchill was an avid traveler and, as part of an ongoing series of wartime conferences, had already met with Roosevelt five times in North America and twice in Africa and had also held two prior meetings with Stalin in Moscow. In order to arrange this urgently needed meeting, Roosevelt tried to persuade Stalin to travel to Cairo. Stalin turned down this offer and also offers to meet in Baghdad or Basra, finally agreeing to meet in Tehran in November 1943.
The conference was to convene at 16:00 on November 28, 1943. Stalin arrived well before, followed by Roosevelt, brought in his wheelchair from his accommodation adjacent to the venue. Roosevelt, who had traveled 7,000 miles (11,000 km) to attend and whose health was already deteriorating, was met by Stalin. This was the first time that they had met. Churchill, walking with his general staff from their accommodations nearby, arrived half an hour later. According to Charles Bohlen, translator for FDR, FDR was accompanied by Averell Harriman and Harry Hopkins. Stalin was accompanied by Vyacheslav Molotov and Kliment Voroshilov. Churchill brought Anthony Eden and Lord Ismay, and his translator was Major Arthur Birse.
As Stalin had been advocating for a second front since 1941, he was very pleased and felt that he had accomplished his principal goal for the meeting. Moving on, Stalin agreed to enter the war against Japan once Germany was defeated.
Stalin pressed for a revision of Poland’s eastern border with the Soviet Union to match the line set by British Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon in 1920. In order to compensate Poland for the resulting loss of territory, the three leaders agreed to move the German-Polish border to the Oder and Neisse rivers. This decision was not formally ratified, however, until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.
The leaders then turned to the conditions under which the Western Allies would open a new front by invading northern France (Operation Overlord), as Stalin had pressed them to do since 1941. Up to this point Churchill had advocated the expansion of joint operations of British, American, and Commonwealth forces in the Mediterranean, as opening a new western front had been physically impossible due to a lack of existing shipping routes, leaving the Mediterranean and Italy as viable goals for 1943. It was agreed Operation Overlord would be launched by American and British forces by May 1944 and that Stalin would support the Allies with a concurrent major offensive on Germany's eastern front (Operation Bagration) to divert German forces from northern France.
Additional offensives were also discussed to complement the undertaking of Operation Overlord, including the possible allied invasion of southern France prior to the landings at Normandy with the goal of drawing German forces away from the northern beaches and even a possible strike at the northern tip of the Adriatic to circumvent the Alps and drive towards Vienna. Either plan would have relied on Allied divisions engaged against the German army in Italy at the time of the conference.
The Three Governments realize that the war has caused special economic difficulties for Iran, and they all agreed that they will continue to make available to the Government of Iran such economic assistance as may be possible, having regard to the heavy demands made upon them by their world-wide military operations, and to the world-wide shortage of transport, raw materials, and supplies for civilian consumption.
In addition, the Soviet Union was required to pledge support to Turkey if that country entered the war. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agreed that it would also be most desirable if Turkey entered on the Allies' side before the year was out.
Despite accepting the above arrangements, Stalin dominated the conference. He used the prestige of the Soviet victory at the Battle of Stalingrad to get his way. Roosevelt attempted to cope with Stalin's onslaught of demands, but was able to do little except acquiesce to Stalin. Churchill argued for the invasion of Italy in 1943, then Overlord in 1944, on the basis that Overlord was physically impossible in 1943 due to lack of shipping and it would be unthinkable to do anything major until it could be launched.
Churchill proposed to Stalin a moving westwards of Poland, which Stalin accepted, which gave the Poles industrialized German land to the west and gave up marshlands to the east, while providing a territorial buffer to the Soviet Union against invasion. Churchill's plan involved a border along the Oder and the Eastern Neisse, giving Poland a fair compensation for the Eastern Borderlands in Churchill's view. 
Before the Tripartite Dinner Meeting of November 29, 1943 at the Conference, Churchill presented Stalin with a specially commissioned ceremonial sword (the "Sword of Stalingrad", made in Sheffield), as a gift from King George VI to the citizens of Stalingrad and the Soviet people, commemorating the Soviet victory at Stalingrad. When Stalin received the sheathed sword, he took it with both hands and kissed the scabbard. (He then handed it to Marshal Kliment Voroshilov, who mishandled it, causing the sword to fall to the ground.)
Stalin proposed executing 50,000–100,000 German officers so that Germany could not plan another war. Roosevelt, believing Stalin was not serious, joked that "maybe 49,000 would be enough." Churchill, however, was outraged and denounced "the cold blooded execution of soldiers who fought for their country." He said that only war criminals should be put on trial in accordance with the Moscow Document, which he himself had written. He stormed out of the room, but was brought back in by Stalin who said he was joking. Churchill was glad Stalin had relented, but thought Stalin was testing the waters.
On December 1, 1943, the three leaders came together and made declarations and negotiated the following military conclusions at the conference.
The declaration of the three powers regarding Iran
“Declaration of the Three Powers Regarding Iran.” Within it, they thanked the Iranian Government for its assistance in the war against Germany and promised to provide it with economic assistance both during and after the war. Most importantly, the U.S., British, and Soviet Governments stated that they all shared a “desire for the maintenance of the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Iran.”
Iran was going to war with Germany, a common enemy to the three powers. Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt addressed the issue of Iran's special financial needs during the war, and the possibility of needing aid after the war. The three powers declared to continue to render aid to Iran. The Government of Iran and the three powers reach an accord within all the disagreements to maintain the independence, sovereignty and integrity of Iran. The United States, USSR, and the United Kingdom expect Iran to follow along with the other allied nations to establish peace once the war is over, this is what was agreed upon once the declaration was made.
- The Yugoslav Partisans also known as National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia should be supported by supplies and equipment to the maximum extent and also by commando operations.
- The leaders exclaimed that it would be desirable if Turkey should come into war on the side of the Allies before the end of the year.
- The leaders took note of Stalin's statement that if Turkey found herself at war with Germany, and as a result Bulgaria declared war on Turkey or attacked her, the Soviet Union would immediately be at war with Bulgaria. The Conference further took note that this could be mentioned in the forthcoming negotiations to bring Turkey into the war.
- The cross-channel invasion of France (Operation Overlord) would be launched during May 1944, in conjunction with an operation against southern France (Operation Dragoon). The latter operation would be undertaken in as great a strength as the availability of landing-craft permitted. The Conference further took note of Joseph Stalin's statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive (Operation Bagration) at about the same time with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western Front. Overlord was to be on 1 June, but because of the moon and tides required it slipped to 5 June.
- The leaders agreed that the military staffs of the Three Powers should keep in close touch with each other in regard to the impending operations in Europe. In particular it was agreed that a cover plan to mislead the enemy about these operations should be concerted between the staffs concerned.
Stalin and Churchill discussed the future borders of Poland and settled on the Curzon line in the east and the Oder-Eastern Neisse line in the west. FDR had asked to be excused from any discussion of Poland out of consideration for the effects of any decision on Polish voters in the US and the upcoming 1944 election. This decision was not ratified until the Potsdam Conference of 1945.
During the negotiations at the Tehran Conference, Roosevelt secured Stalin's agreement that the reincorporation of the Republics of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the Soviet Union would occur only after their citizens voted on these actions. Stalin would not consent to any international control over the elections, and that all issues would have to be resolved in accordance with the Soviet Constitution.
The Yugoslav Partisans were given full Allied support, and Allied support to the Yugoslav Chetniks was halted (they were believed to be cooperating with the occupying Germans rather than fighting them).
Turkey's president conferred with Roosevelt and Churchill at the Cairo Conference in November 1943, and promised to enter the war when his country was fully armed. By August 1944 Turkey broke off relations with Germany. In February 1945, Turkey declared war on Germany and Japan, which may have been a symbolic move that allowed Turkey to join the future United Nations.
Roosevelt and Stalin spent much of the conference trying to convince Churchill to commit to an invasion of France, finally succeeding on November 30 when Roosevelt announced at lunch that they would be launching the invasion in May 1944. This pleased Stalin, who had been pressing his allies to open a new front in the west to alleviate some pressure on his troops. This decision may be the most critical to come out of the conference, as the desired effect of the relief of Soviet troops was achieved, leading to a Soviet rally and advance toward Germany, a tide Hitler could not stem.
The Tehran Conference also served as one of the first conversations surrounding the formation of the United Nations. President Roosevelt first introduced Stalin to the idea of an international organization comprising all nation states, a venue for the resolution of common issues, and a check against international aggressors. With Germany having thrust the world into chaos for the second time in as many generations, the three world leaders all agreed that something must be done to prevent a similar occurrence.
Division of Germany
There was a shared view among the participants that Germany would need to be divided post war, with the sides differing on the number of divisions needed to neutralize her ability to wage war. While the numbers that were proposed varied widely and never came to fruition, the powers would effectively divide modern Germany into two parts until the end of the Cold War. During one dinner, Churchill questioned Stalin on his postwar territorial ambitions, to which Stalin replied "There is no need to speak at this present time about any Soviet Desires, but when the time comes we will speak."
Soviet entry into the Pacific War
On November 29, Roosevelt asked Stalin five questions about data and intelligence relating to Japanese and Siberian ports, and about air bases in the Maritime Provinces for up to 1,000 heavy bombers. On February 2, Stalin told the American ambassador that America could operate 1,000 bombers from Siberia after the Soviet Union had declared war on Japan (Vladivostok is in the Russian Far East, not Siberia).
Alleged assassination plot
According to Soviet reports, German agents planned to kill the Big Three leaders at the Tehran Conference, but called off the assassination while it was still in the planning stage. The NKVD, the USSR's counterintelligence unit, first notified Mike Reilly, Roosevelt's chief of security, of the suspected assassination plot several days prior to Roosevelt's arrival in Tehran. Reilly had gone to Tehran several days early to evaluate security concerns and explore potential routes from Cairo to Tehran. Just before Reilly returned to Cairo, the NKVD informed him that dozens of Germans had been dropped into Tehran by parachute the day before.
When housing accommodations for the meeting were originally discussed, both Stalin and Churchill had extended invitations to Roosevelt, asking him to stay with them during the meeting. However, Roosevelt wanted to avoid the appearance of choosing one ally over another and decided it was important to stay at the American legation to remain independent. Roosevelt arrived in Tehran on November 27, 1943 and settled into the American legation. Close to midnight, Vyacheslav Molotov, Stalin's top aide, summoned Archibald Clark-Kerr (the British ambassador in the Soviet Union) and Averell Harriman (the American ambassador in the Soviet Union) to the Soviet embassy, warning them of an assassination plot against Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. Molotov informed them several assassins had been apprehended, but reported additional assassins were at large and expressed concerns for President Roosevelt's safety. Molotov advised Roosevelt should be moved to the safety of the British or Soviet embassy.
Americans suspected Stalin had fabricated the assassination plot as an excuse to have Roosevelt moved to the Soviet embassy. Mike Reilly, Roosevelt's chief of Secret Service, advised him to move to either the Soviet or British embassies for his safety. One of the underlying factors influencing their decision was the distance Churchill and Stalin would need to travel for meetings at the American legation. Harriman reminded the President that the Americans would be held responsible if Stalin or Churchill were assassinated while traveling to visit Roosevelt all the way across the city. Earlier that day, Molotov had agreed to hold all meetings at the American legation because traveling was difficult for Roosevelt. The timing of Molotov announcing an assassination plot later that night aroused suspicion that his motives were to keep Stalin safely within the guarded walls of the Soviet embassy. Harriman doubted the existence of an assassination plot, but urged the President to relocate to avoid the perception of putting Churchill and Stalin in danger. Roosevelt did not believe there was a credible threat of assassination, but agreed to the move so he could be closer to Stalin and Churchill. Living in the Soviet embassy also allowed Roosevelt to gain more direct access to Stalin and build his trust. Stalin liked having Roosevelt in the embassy because it eliminated the need to travel outside the compound and it allowed him to spy on Roosevelt more easily. The Soviet embassy was guarded by thousands of secret police and located adjacent to the British embassy, which allowed the Big Three to meet securely.
After the Tehran Conference ended, Harriman asked Molotov whether there was really ever an assassination threat in Tehran. Molotov said that they knew about German agents in Tehran, but did not know of a specific assassination plot. Molotov's response minimized their assertions of an assassination plot, instead emphasizing that Stalin thought President Roosevelt would be safer at the Soviet embassy. American and British intelligence reports generally dismissed the existence of this plot and Otto Skorzeny, the alleged leader of the operation, later claimed that Hitler had dismissed the idea as unworkable before planning had even begun. The topic continues to be a theme of certain Russian historians.
- Winston Spencer Churchill, The Second World War. Vol. V: Closing the Ring Harper Paperbacks, 1986, ISBN 978-0395410592).
- Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0674016972), 459-460.
- Paul Bushkovitch, A Concise History of Russia (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0521835626).
- Nikolai Tolstoy, Stalin's Secret War (Pan Macmillan, 1982, ISBN 978-0330268240), 57.
- Richard Overy, Why the Allies Won (New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997, ISBN 978-0393316193), 245-246.
- Office of the Historian, The Tehran Conference, 1943," Milestones 1937–1945, U.S. Department of State, 2016. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
- "Declaration of the Three Powers Regarding Iran,", December 1, 1943. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
- William Hardy McNeill, America, Britain, & Russia: their cooperation and conflict, 1941–1946 (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1953), 353.
- Michael A. Hartenstein, Die Geschichte der Oder-Neiße-Linie: Westverschiebung" und "Umsiedlung - Kriegsziele der Alliierten oder Postulat polnischer Politik? (Munich, Germany: Olzog Verlag, 2014, ISBN 978-3957680372)
- Antony Beevor, Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 (Penguin Books, 1999, ISBN 978-0140284584).
- How Much of What Goods Have We Sent to Which Allies? American Historical Association. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
- Dana T. Parker, Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II (Cypress, CA: Abe Books, 2013, ISBN 978-0989790604), 8.
- Robert Gellately, Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War (Vintage, 2013, ISBN 978-0307389459), 177-178.
- Peter Caddick-Adams, Sand & Steel: A New History of D-Day (London, England: Hutchinson, 2019, ISBN 978-1847948281), 339.
- McNeill, 388–390.
- Erik J. Zurcher, Turkey: A Modern History (London, England: I. B. Tauris, 2017, ISBN 978-1784531874), 203–205.
- A. C. Edwards, "The Impact of the War on Turkey," International Affairs 22(3) (1946): 389–400.
- Geoffrey Roberts, "Stalin at the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam Conferences" Journal of Cold War Studies (Fall 2007): 6–40.
- John Ehrman, Grand Strategy Volume V, August 1943-September 1944 (London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1956), 429-430.
- Keith Eubank, Summit at Tehran (New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985, ISBN 978-0688043360), 170–173.
- Paul Mayle, Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle and the Big Three at Tehran, 1943 (London, England and Toronto, Canada: Associated University Presses, 1987, ISBN 978-0874132953), 57–59.
- Nikolai Dolgopolov, Triple Jeopardy: The Nazi plan to kill WWII leaders in Tehran Rossiiskaya Gazeta, January 4, 2008. Retrieved January 17, 2022.
- Юрий Львович Кузнец, Тегеран-43 : Крах операции "Длин. прыжок" (ЭКСМО, Moskau, 2003, ISBN 5815301469).
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Beevor, Antony. Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943. Penguin Books, 1999. ISBN 978-0140284584
- Best, Geoffrey. Churchill: A Study in Greatness. London, England: Hambledon and London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2001. ISBN 978-1852852535
- Bushkovitch, Paul. A Concise History of Russia. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0521835626
- Caddick-Adams, Peter. Sand & Steel: A New History of D-Day. London, England: Hutchinson, 2019. ISBN 978-1847948281
- Churchill, Winston Spencer. The Second World War. Vol. V: Closing the Ring Harper Paperbacks, 1986. ISBN 978-0395410592
- Ehrman, John. Grand Strategy Volume V, August 1943-September 1944. London, England: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1956. ASIN B00198BAAG
- Eubank, Keith. Summit at Tehran. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company, Inc., 1985. ISBN 978-0688043360
- Feis, Herbert. Churchill-Roosevelt-Stalin: The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967. ISBN 978-0691010502
- Foster, Rhea Dulles. The Road to Tehran: The Story of Russia and America, 1781 – 1943. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1945. ASIN B0007DJVV4
- Gellately, Robert. Stalin's Curse: Battling for Communism in War and Cold War. Vintage, 2013, ISBN 978-0307389459
- Hamzavi, A. H. "Iran and the Tehran Conference" International Affairs 20(2) (1944): 192–203.
- Hartenstein, Michael A. Die Geschichte der Oder-Neiße-Linie: Westverschiebung" und "Umsiedlung - Kriegsziele der Alliierten oder Postulat polnischer Politik? Munich, Germany: Olzog Verlag, 2014. ISBN 978-3957680372
- McNeill, William Hardy. America, Britain, & Russia: their cooperation and conflict, 1941–1946. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1953. ASIN B0006DB80M
- Mastny, Vojtech. "Soviet War Aims at the Moscow and Tehran Conferences of 1943," Journal of Modern History 47 (3) (1975): 481–504.
- Mayle, Paul D. Eureka Summit: Agreement in Principle & the Big Three at Tehran, 1943. Newark, DE: University of Delaware Press, 1987. ISBN 978-0874132953
- Overy, Richard. Why the Allies Won. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 1997. ISBN 978-0393316193
- Parker, Dana T. Building Victory: Aircraft Manufacturing in the Los Angeles Area in World War II. Cypress, CA: Abe Books, 2013. ISBN 978-0989790604
- Service, Robert. Stalin: A Biography. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005. ISBN 978-0674016972
- Tolstoy, Nikolai. Stalin's Secret War. Pan Macmillan, 1982. ISBN 978-0330268240
- Zurcher, Erik J. Turkey: A Modern History. London, England: I. B. Tauris, 2017. ISBN 978-1784531874
All links retrieved February 26, 2023.
- The Tehran, Yalta & Potsdam Conferences. Documents
- Chapter 10: Overlord Versus the Mediterranean at the Cairo-Tehran ConferencesCommand Decisions by Richard M. Leighton, 1960.
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