TRUMAN SMITH PAPERS
Scope & Content Note
From 1935 to 1939 Col. Smith served as American military attache in
Berlin. From this unique vantage point he observed and reported Germany's
transformation into a war-oriented economy and the rearmament of her army
and air forces. Smith was one of the first to call attention to Hitler's
placing the Reich on a war footing and his series of reports on the
astonishing capabilities of the Luftwaffe became the focus of considerable
In May 1936 Smith brilliantly arranged to have Col. Charles A. Lindbergh
inspect the German aircraft industry and the reorganized Luftwaffe. The
Germans, who should have been more wary, were delighted and, eventually,
Col. Lindbergh was allowed to make five inspection trips. In these
visits he toured German aviation factories; inspected the latest aircraft;
visited the most recently deployed tactical units of the new German air
force; and discussed the evolution of tactical and strategic concepts
with Luftwaffe officers. During his October 1938 visit a unique intelligence
coup was scored when Lindbergh was permitted to fly the famous Messerschmidt
Bf 109, the superb fighter plane which subsequently became the workhorse
of the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.
As a result of his observations, Lindbergh returned to the United
States in 1939 determined to campaign for greater military preparations
and American neutrality. In a series of speeches he opposed any revisions
of the Neutrality Act of 1937 which would strip the U.S. of its defenses
and tend to embroil her in the War. As popular sentiment gradually swung
in favor of the Allies, Lindbergh and Smith were denounced in the press
as fascists and henchmen of the Third Reich. The accuracy of the Lindbergh-
Smith reports were questioned and dismissed as defeatist propaganda. A
recent assessment, by intelligence specialist Col. Ivan D. Yeaton, holds
that they were "The finest example of intelligence reporting that I have
In 1953, Army intelligence asked Smith to prepare an account of his
activities in Berlin and an assessment of the assistance he had received
from Lindbergh. Smith was given special access to G-2 files and several
typescript and carbon copies of his carefully researched monograph,
Air Intelligence Activities . . . Berlin, 1939, were prepared. The
ribbon copy and literary properties were presented to the Yale University
Library. Smith retained several carbon copies of the document for distri-
bution to his friends and the appropriate governmental agencies. One copy
and two drafts containing corrections and comments in Lindbergh's hand
were included with the gift of Smith's personal papers to the Hoover
Presidential Library. Evidence of a third draft can be found in a nine
page holograph letter from Lindbergh dated May 31, 1955.
As might be expected, Col. Lindbergh's visits to Germany provided
the basis for a friendship which lasted for many years. The warmth of
that relationship may be sensed from the letters exchanged by the Smiths
and Lindberghs between 1936 and 1964.
Students of the interwar years will also be delighted to find that
this collection contains not one, but three eyewitness accounts of life
in Germany in the 1930's. In addition to Air Intelligence Activities,
Smith also prepared an autobiography, Facts of Life, which contains
additional comments on his service in Berlin and the aftermath of the
Lindbergh-Smith reports. The third eyewitness account is that of Mrs.
Smith, which she subsequently compiled from her diaries.
Aside from its comments on his association with Lindbergh and the
methods they employed, Facts of Life is probably most notable for its
perspectives on the career and character of George C. Marshall. Smith
served under Marshall from 1928 to 1932 as an instructor of military
history and tactics at the famous infantry school at Ft. Benning. Later
it was Marshall who helped engineer his assignment to Berlin; and Marshall
who not only protected Smith and convinced the White House to call off the
press barrage, but insisted on retaining Smith as his principal advisor on
Germany. Of particular note in this regard is a carbon copy of extracts
from Smith's memorandum of November 1, 1937 concerning the development of
German airpower. Across the top of the sheet is Marshall's notation:
"Secretary of War: This was Col. Truman Smith's report from Berlin about
a year before 'Munich'."
By June 1945 Smith had become convinced of the necessity of eventually
rearming Get-many as a counterbalance to Soviet power. The opportunity to
play a role in the rebuilding of the Wehrmacht finally came in the middle
1950's. He corresponded with Generals Blummentritt, von Schwerin, and
Speidel and visited Germany several times. In 1960 he hosted Speidel,
who had recently been selected to command the Wehrmacht, during an official
visit. Smith's evaluation of the new German army was recorded in a 1963
memorandum, "Estimate of the Combat Value of the German Army".
A great deal of Smith's success as a military attache was due to
disciplined professionalism and foresight. During his service with the
American occupation forces after World War I and as our attache in Berlin
from 1920-24, Smith met many German officers and took advantage of every
opportunity to cultivate and enlarge this circle of friendships. Later,
when he was on the faculty at Ft. Benning, he convinced Marshall to invite
several of them to attend the school. Thus he was able to form some very
valuable friendships with such highly placed officers as Adolf von Schell
and Defense Minister von Blomberg; and, in return, he and his assistant
attaches were invited to attend German officer schools.
A considerable share of the credit must also go to Mrs. Smith who not
only understood and supported her husband's efforts, but entered into them
wholeheartedly. In her account of life in Berlin in the 1930's she describes
her efforts to get the other service wives to become proficient in German
so that they would know what was going on around them. The Smith's
entertained frequently because she understood the value of the tidbits
that could be gleaned from otherwise casual conversations.
Surviving from Col. Smith's earlier years of service are typescript
copies of Smith's letters to his wife from the Mexican border (1917),
from France and Germany (1918-19), and typescript copies of his notes
concerning a visit to Munich during the week of November 15-22, 1922,
including a personal interview with Hitler and a report concerning the trip.
In addition to the materials mentioned previously, the collection
also includes copies of many of Smith's reports to G-2 (1935-45), and
several articles and speeches (1917-67). Of particular note is a series
of articles on military developments which Smith prepared for syndication
in 1941-42 under the nom de plume, "Strategicus".
August 25 Born in West Point, New York. Son of Capt. Edmund
Dickinson Smith (U.S. Inf.) and Mary (Dewing) Smith.
Father killed in action at Cebu, Philippine Islands.
Brought up and attended schools in Stamford, Connecticut.
Attended Yale University. B.A. received in 1915.
Graduate work at Columbia University.
Served on the Mexican border as a Lieutenant in the New York
National Guard. Commissioned 2nd. Lieutenant in the Regular
Army on November 30, 1916.
Company and Battalion commander, 4th. Infantry Regiment
Ord. Div.) during Marne and Meuse-Argonne campaigns.
Received the Silver Star (recommended for D.S.C.) and
promotion to Major for leading his battalion in capture of
the Bois de Foret.
1919 January-- 1920 June
Political Advisor to officer in charge of civil affairs at
1920 June-- 1924 April
Assistant Military Attache, Berlin.
Graduate, U.S. Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Attended Command and General Staff School, Ft. Leavenworth.
Instructor at U.S. Infantry School, Ft. Benning, Georgia.
Attended Army War College
1933 June-- 1935 April
Served with 27th infantry regiment, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
Military Attache, Berlin.
German Specialist, Military Intelligence Division (G-2),
Washington, D.C. Personal advisor to Gen. George C. Marshall.
Unsuccessful candidate for Republican nomination for congres-
sional seat, fourth district of Connecticut. Defeated by the
Hon. John Davis Lodge.
Advisor to the Eberstadt (Armed Forces) Committee, first
Hoover Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch.
1970 October 3
Died at the age of 77.
SUBJECT FILE 1919-75. 5 containers.
Correspondence, memoranda, reports, and clippings
concerning Smith's personal and professional life
with particular emphasis on his intelligence
gathering activities in Germany, 1935-39.
Arranged alphabetically by names of individuals
WRITINGS AND SPEECHES 1916-67 and undated 2 containers.
Drafts and printed versions of Smith's writings
Air Intelligence Activities. . . Berlin, 1935-1939
Lindbergh Comments, 1955
Lindbergh Corrected Manuscript
G-2 Division, 1941-1952 & undated
Lectures at Fort Benning, 1928-1932
War College "Monographs," 1932-1933
B General Correspondence, 1941-1970 & undated
C General Correspondence, 1946-1967
D-F General Correspondence, 1946-1970
Faymonville, Philip R., 1970
G General Correspondence, 1969-1970
See Also: Writings and Speeches:
1. 1955 "An American Views Postwar Germany"
2. 1963 "Letters from Germany"