A Second World War photograph featuring British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin at the Tehran Conference in late 1943, the first meeting of these three leaders

A Second World War photograph featuring British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin at the Tehran Conference in late 1943, the first meeting of these three leaders

Tehran: 1943. Photograph. This wartime photograph features British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin at the Tehran conference, held from 28 November to 1 December 1943. Many images were taken of this moment when the “Big Three” posed for the press. This particular image is perhaps most true to the sentiments of the gathering – showing none of the three men directly regarding one another, Churchill slouching and unsmiling, Roosevelt composed and aloof, Stalin leaning forward, hands clasped, with the hint of a grin. The gelatin silver print measures 10 x 8 inches (25.4 x 20.3 cm). We have seen and offered original press copies of this image, but we have not previously encountered a copy thus, with a presumably contemporary explanatory caption embedded in the negative. The six-line printed caption reads: “TEHRAN CONF. PERSIA 11/26 | to 12/2 – ’43 | BIG THREE. | In background: Gen. Arnold, Sir Alan Brooks [sic], Adms. Leahy & Cunningham. | G-1”. The verso of the photo is blank, with no further provenance. Condition is very good, certainly suitable for framing. The paper is crisp, clean, and free of scratches with light wear along the edges confined to the margins, mild toning to the edges, and modest curling with age. This photograph is housed in a removable, archival mylar sleeve within a rigid, crimson cloth folder. The “Big Three” conference was the first of its kind and one of only two among these leaders. Churchill christened the meeting – not entirely hyperbolically - as probably ‘the greatest concentration of worldly power that had ever been seen in the history of mankind’. But concentration did not mean harmony. A tug-of-war feel seemed to begin even before they arrived in Tehran. “At Stalin’s insistence, the American delegation were housed in a building in the grounds of the Soviet Embassy” – supposedly to avoid an assassination plot uncovered by the Soviets. Churchill proposed that Roosevelt stay at the British Legation, “but his suggestion had been ignored.” (Gilbert, VII, p.568) Moreover, FDR and Stalin had their first meeting without Churchill. The President’s advisor, Harry Hopkins, explained that the President wanted to assure Stalin “that he was anxious to relieve the pressure on the Russian front by invading France” - this, of course, distancing FDR from Churchill’s hopes of a more vigorous Mediterranean strategy. Roosevelt continued to avoid meeting with Churchill privately so as not to arouse Stalin’s suspicion, while meeting privately with Stalin. Churchill, meanwhile, sought to mitigate divergences by meeting privately with Stalin. Churchill would sum up the conference to his wife, Clementine, thus: “Atmosphere most cordial but triangular problems difficult” (Roberts, Walking with Destiny, p.806) “Cordial” may have been overstatement; when Stalin suggested postwar execution of 50,000 German officers once the war was won, Churchill left the room in protest, only to have Stalin – who had already actually done the very same in Poland with the Katyn massacre – profess that he had been joking. Tehran was clearly a strain for Churchill. Early in the conference, he queried his doctor: ‘Do you think my strength will last out the war? I fancy sometimes that I am nearly spent.’ (Lord Moran, notes for 29 November 1943) Eight months later he told Violet Bonham Carter “I realized at Teheran for the first time what a small nation we are.” (Roberts, Walking with Destiny, p.805) Roosevelt must have been strained as well; by this time, Roosevelt had been president for more than ten years and would be dead just sixteen months later. Together with the second WSC-FDR-Stalin Conference at Yalta in the Crimea from 4-11 February 1945, Tehran proved a defining event of the 20th Century, shaping not only Allied war strategy, but also the postwar world and drawing the battle lines of the long Cold War to come. Item #005846

Price: $500.00

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