by Henry G. Gole
Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 2013. Pp. xiv, 416.
Illus., appends., notes, biblio, index. $40.00. ISBN: 0813141761
Nazi Germany as seen by America’s military attaché.
Truman Smith (1890-1970), of patrician New England background, had had a rather “ordinary” early career in the Army, serving with the New York National Guard on the Mexican border, and then on the Western Front in World War I. At the end of the war he was on occupation duty in Germany (1919-1920), and then served as an assistant military attaché there (1920-1924), during which he got to know many people, including the then virtually unknown Adolf Hitler. Returning stateside, Smith performed routine troop and school duty, later becoming an intelligence analyst.
In 1935 Smith returned to Germany as the military attaché. He not only renewed old friendships but developed new ones, and began sending a steady flow of information back to Washington on the Nazi movement, German rearmament, and the prospects for war. Gole, himself a retied army officer with a string of impressive histories to his credit, focuses on this period.
Gole fills Exposing the Third Reich with Smith’s movements and contacts and with analyses of his reports. There is a good look at the social world of the attaché, one in which Smith’s wealthy wife played an important role, and there are frequent profiles by both Smiths of many Germans and Americans, Hitler, US Ambassador Dodd, Göring, Charles Lindbergh, and more. Although Smith and his wife were conservative, rather snobbish, and surprisingly unmoved by the fate of Germany’s Jews, Gole demonstrates that Colonel Smith’s work was of importance to the American understanding of the Nazi regime and to the U.S. Army’s preparations for war.
A volume in the UPK series “American Warriors,” Exposing the Third Reich is a valuable read for anyone interested in intelligence, or just for its look at Europe in the years during which it slid toward war.
Note: Exposing the Third Reich is also available as an e-pub, ISBN 978-0-8131-4177-0 and as a pdf, ISBN 978-0-8131-4178-7