sng magazine

Confrontation and Compromise in the Cold War: James Byrnes and Henry A. Wallace

After World War II, politicians in the United States divided into two parties. Some of them were optimistic about the post-war future and wanted to build cooperative relationship with the Soviet Union while others declared that it was necessary to put effort and win the arms race. Henry Agard Wallace headed the former political group, and the latter political group was led by James Byrnes.

Henry A. Wallace was Vice-President of the United States in 1944. He was a very popular Democrat leader who was preparing to develop a post-war program of economic growth in the world led by the U.S. and opposed the block of militarists.

Wallace was widely known for his integrity and intelligence. He would have never decided to drop the bomb on Hiroshima. Wallace truly believed that the U.S. leaders would be able to work with the Soviets in the postwar world. So, he did not get along with Truman’s administration whose position was more militarized. Wallace criticized call for university military training made in 1948. However, his arguments found a limited audience in the late-1940s. In the 1950s, he wrote a book where he claimed why he was wrong trying to defend the Soviet policies.

James Byrnes was the President’s foreign policy advisor and Secretary of State in 1945. Prior to that, he had chances to become President of the U.S. Many historians call him an “Assistant President.” In 1944, he intended to become Vice-President, but failed. However, he had too much power at that time, as he was director of the Office of War Mobilization. When he became a foreign policy advisor at President’s Truman office, he did not know all the details, so he did several mistakes during the Yalta Conference. In truth, most people knew Byrnes as a person who advised Truman on the atomic bomb.

Byron was not as optimistic about the post-war future as Wallace was. He was deeply concerned about Russian military expansion. Though Byron never threatened the Soviet Union with the a-bomb, he tried to use atomic diplomacy and eventually decided that it was reasonable to drop the bomb on Japan in order to demonstrate the Soviet Union that the U.S. had such an argument.

Today, it is hard to imagine in what world we would live in if the compromise party had won back in 1945. Though Byrnes’ policy led to further confrontation, he helped his country to take a leading position in a postwar world.