Eye Witness to American History The Dotty Reams Story
It’s the American dream: immigrants coming to America, working hard and pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. And so it was in Clairton, PA, a town located along the Monongahela river that was home to many steel mills and their workers as well as a couple–he from Serbia and she from Dalmatia–they fell in love and began to work hard to forge a better life for themselves and their family. The man became a successful independent builder who was more of a craftsman then a carpenter; his houses were unique and his services in demand. Krsto and Domenica Yovich both recent immigrants to America were doing very well as the 1920’s began to roar. Their daughter Dorothy was born into a time when boys drove flivvers, dated flappers and danced the Charleston in speakeasy’s that featured Dixieland bands and bathtub gin, but the good times that were promised to last forever were fading quickly, almost without notice. By the time Dorothy Yovich entered grade school “the Jazz Singer” had brought an end to silent movies, Elliot Ness who would become part of the American folk lore was on the trail of Al Capone as well as a long list of bootleggers. It was a time when several old money titans along with thousands of princes from the ranks of the nouveau riche had on a single day in October been reduced to panhandling paupers. For the millions of hard working immigrants who had made their way to America expecting to find a better life, ambition and the willingness to work long and hard no longer mattered. What was the exciting and relentless pace of a fast growing economy in a post-World War One America came to a halt and turned dreary as a floundering rudderless nation began to slip into a sea of economic and psychological depression. Suddenly and without warning, leaving no time to prepare times were hard. The challenge, the mood and the destiny of individuals changed from the optimistic view that everything was possible, to the stark realization that basic survival was in jeopardy. To survive, America became a nation that would learn to share what little there was, pass down clothes to the next in line and, for relief from daily stress, lean out of window sills in the evening hoping to catch a summer’s breeze while listening to Amos ‘n Andy on the radio. It was a simple yet effective way to visit with neighbors who hard times had also taught to appreciate the value of the smallest of pleasures and enjoy the company of best friends and neighbors. Living in Clairton a town known for its steel mills was both a blessing and a bother. True, when the mills were working and people were employed there was money to spend; life became quite bearable and people in this town of 18,000 were for the most part happy. One day, while walking to school Dorothy and her schoolmate searched for a word to describe this atmospheric condition that filled the air around Clairton when the steel mills were operating. Thick with the grist of the steel mills the air hard to breath would block the sun for days on end casting a dreary pall over Clairton. Residents realized the hard-to-breath-air had an ability to become an entity onto its self, one that was neither fog nor smoke but a strange combination of both. This day on their walk to school and after long deliberation Dorothy and her best girlfriend decided on a new name for this phenomenon a name they had never heard before they decided they would call it “smog.” Soon after this, the word was in general usage and the girls were certain that it was their new word invention! Longing for adventure and travel away from Clairton, Dorothy Yovich from a very early age worked hard in school, excelling to 4th in a class of 400 that graduated from Clairton High School as the class of 1940. Wasting no time following graduation from high school, Dorothy followed the Monongahela River to the place where it met the Allegheny forming the Ohio River–it was a place called Pittsburgh. There she enrolled in business school. Upon graduation she found employment in a Pittsburgh law firm where she worked in a secretarial pool for several attorneys. After seven months with the law firm she decided to try her luck with the Civil Service and applied for the Civil Service exam. She could not afford and did not own a typewriter so she approached the Business School from which she had graduated. The school realizing her dilemma and because Dorothy was such an exceptional person and an excellent student was quick to agree to loan Dorothy a typewriter. The head of the school not only acquiesced to her request but provided a Western Union messenger to take the typewriter to the government building where the testing would be conducted all of this came at a cost of twenty-five cents! It wasn’t long before Dorothy received the first of three offers of government employment in Washington. She selected the first, which offered employment in the Department of State for one year. The telegram signed by Cordell Hull, Secretary of State impressed and excited Dorothy very much. Two other offers were received from the Dept. of Agriculture and the Dept. of Labor. In a matter of days Dorothy boarded a train for Washington, her family with pride and excitement stood waving good-bye as the train pulled out of the station taking their daughter away from them for the very first time. She arrived in Washington on Saturday, August 24, 1941. Reporting for work at the Department of State on the following Monday, she was somewhat taken aback when told that her job would be that of a member of the stenographic pool in the Visa Division (NOT in the Office of the Secretary of State as she had imagined). Dorothy found everything new and interesting, and she was certain this would be both an interesting job and an exciting adventure. And it was!
Breckenridge Long a frequent financial contributor to the Democratic National Committee providing timely gifts including one for $130,000 as well as contributing several generous donations to Franklin Roosevelt’s 1932 presidential campaign established himself as a top candidate for political appointment other than substantial donations no other qualification was required. On April 20, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Breckenridge Long as ambassador extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Italy. The new ambassador would be impressed by Mussolini. “The head of the Government is one of the most remarkable persons,” he later wrote. “And he is surrounded by interesting men. And they are doing a unique work in an original manner, so I am enjoying it all”. In a letter to Roosevelt in June, 1933, he described improvements in Italian efficiency, cleanliness and morale: “The trains are punctual, well equipped, and fast. The running times have been decreased 20 to 30 percent and efficiency increased 100 percent.” Two years later in 1935 Long was quoted as calling the possible Italian military victory in Ethiopia as the “fruitful harvest of Mussolini’s enterprise”. The invasion of an unarmed and unprepared Ethiopia by the well-armed and well equipped Italian army for the soul purpose of conquest being conceived as an international threat to freedom and self-determination seemed to escape Breckenridge Long. All of this correspondence from Long appeared to be in conflict with the stated views of the United States of America and was apparently lost on President Roosevelt and his Secretary of State, Cordell Hull. As astounding as it may well seem in January 1940–18 months before Dorothy Yovich arrived at the Visa Division Breckenridge Long was appointed Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for no fewer than 23 of the State Department’s 42 divisions, including the Visa Division. Part of the responsibilities assigned to the Visa Division was to oversee the entry of foreigners into the United States. Breckinridge Long, of course, had not originated or up to that point contributed to the United States immigration policy. He had inherited a long standing policy as well as a law passed in 1924 that restricted immigration quotas to some 150,000 aliens a year. The law had been buttressed with an incredible mosaic of regulations. As it is so often government policy directed at a current abuse finds its way into law some 30 years after the problem no longer exists and that is exactly what happened in this case. A law meant to deal with a 19th century immigration problem finally came to fruition in the 20th century. The 1924 law enacted to address immigration abuse suffered during the last century would be responsible for partially preventing Jews who were fleeing Fascism during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s from escaping the effects of the holocaust by preventing immigration into the United States. Long’s principal aides in handling refugee matters were George L. Brandt, his executive assistant; Howard K. Travers, chief of the Visa Division; and Robert Borden Reams, specialist in the Division of European Affairs. In carrying out refugee policies, they were all supported fully by the White House. Thus, at the beginning of 1943, as hopeful suggestions for the relief of the Jews poured into Washington, Breckinridge Long was firmly in command of the Visa Division and enjoying the full support and protection of Secretary of State Cordell Hull. Emboldened Long was determined to protect the Republic from foreigner’s seeking sanctuary from murderous dictators. As time passed forces outside the purview of Cordell Hull began applying pressure and Long soon became more than a bit paranoid. Outsiders including foreign governments and other organizations began leveling attacks very pointed and public attacks at Long and his policies and in particular the Visa Division. Believing with a degree of certainty that the attacks from members of the British government, Communists, refugee enthusiasts and other groups he labeled as extreme were only going to increase Breckenridge Long became both difficult and irrational when dealing with associates especially employee’s and underlings. Shortly after Dorothy began working in the steno pool at State, Long let it be known he needed a personal secretary; and when it became obvious there would be no takers, Dorothy Yovich volunteered for the job. Dorothy endeared herself to Breckenridge Long as she gained a reputation for diligence, accuracy and loyalty she would through hard work and dedication gain both Long’s respect and gratitude. Others also came to admire and respect Dorothy. 37 year old Robert Borden Reams a Foreign Service Officer was serving as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim when the Legation in Copenhagen was closed, Dec 20, 1941. Bob Reams returned to the United States and because of his lengthy European service was designated a specialist in the Division of European Affairs. The former farm boy, salesman and hotel manager from Pennsylvania was well aware of former Pennsylvania native Dorothy Yovich’s competence as a secretary but in addition he could see something both innocent and charming about her that was also very attractive. Reams had not been back in the United States very long before he was assigned an additional a more problematic duty he was put in charge of the “Jewish question” for the Division. Reams would play a minor yet significant role in the evolution of American policy as it would concern the ever evolving Jewish situation. There was as the war dragged on and more information became available to the State Department something that made those who had a choice force those who did not to make the relevant statements and by doing so provide quotable comments on the Jewish immigration situation that would be remembered. The uncertain conditions behind German lines during the prosecution of World War II was enough to raise doubts about the veracity of information coming into the State Department much of it could not be verified until late in the war. If Reams could take back one public statement he was to make it might have to do with the following; Bob Reams in an official capacity attributed the unending spread of “atrocity stories” on an August 1, 1942 memo from Gerhart Riegner the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Switzerland, because he felt the information could not be substantiated. The curious fact however is Reams himself had initialed the circulation of similar reports within the State Department, the only difference in the reports was the origin and the initial authors, they included the Polish government in-exile, Anthony J. Drexel Biddle, Jr., the U.S. ambassador to seven exiled governments, representatives of the YMCA and numerous escapees of various religious faiths. A war time state department is bound to be full of intrigue, mystery, duplicity and suspense as well as a generous amount of confusion and skepticism after all it is the political heart of the US when it is at war. Breckenridge Long’s legacy would forever be less then complimentary he would for the most part be remembered for his obstructionist role as the official responsible for inventing ways to block refugee visas during WWII. His accusers would document and present evidence that charged him with obstructing rescue attempts of Jews and other refugees, drastically restricting immigration numbers, and falsified figures of refugees admitted. The exposure of his alleged misdeeds led to his demotion in 1944. “He would become the poster boy for criticism of America’s refugee and rescue policy during the late 1930’s and early 1940’s.” Under pressure, Breckenridge Long retired in 1944 leaving his personnel secretary Dotty Yovich unattached so to speak at the State Department, but that would be short lived. Thing were about to make a dramatic change for the young woman from Clairton. On Thursday, April 12, 1945, returning to her apartment, which was a block or so from the White House, Dorothy was shocked to hear people talking about the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt known to all as FDR. Not believing it could be true, she rushed into her apartment and turned on the radio—it was indeed true. Roosevelt was dead! Disbelief and shock set in as Dorothy wondered how could this be so? FDR had been President of the United States of America for more than a dozen years. For the most part the population of the country looked up to him. It was not generally known but for years he had been incapacitated by a serious attack of polio. What would the country do now without their long-time and beloved leader?
THE LONG RIDE HOME:
The air along the railroad tracks was charged with drama as the train made its way north from Warm Springs, Georgia past places such as Clemson and Spartanburg, SC. Events of the previous day would have a profound and lasting effect on the nation. Cadets from the military college in Clemson marched to the train depot with colors flying to honor their fallen leader. Earlier in the day as the train began its journey, thousands of people–black and white, rich and poor, young and old—gathered along the tracks. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, three and four deep, men dressed in white shirts, suits and ties as well as women wearing dresses and hats reserved for church–many with tears in their eyes–waited for a glimpse of the funeral train inching its way north. The train engine rhythmically turning over and belching coal dust in a continuous dark and streaming cloud from the fire that powers its steam engine relentlessly rained soot down on the best–and for some the only good clothes they possessed, but it didn’t matter. People had come from near and far to pay homage to the man who had led them through the darkest of times. As the train passed the trackside mourners, a realization born of grief materialized: never again would they hear the voice that a decade earlier advised a paralyzed nation mired in the grips of a depression that, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Later, as part of a series of “Fireside Chats,” the voice once again uplifted the same unemployed and hungry nation by assuring them, “the test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much. It is whether we provide enough to those who have little.” And on a September 2nd 1940 broadcast his words moved a still suffering nation to assume a new burden. America Roosevelt announced to the world would become the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Fifteen months later the solemn voice of Franklin Delano Roosevelt awoke and united a “sleeping giant”–one that would eventually strike fear into and overwhelm the world’s first “Axis of Evil.” On December 8, 1941 Roosevelt began his request for a declaration of war with “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941–a date which will live in infamy–the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by the naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” He single handedly rallied and inspired the American people by stating in the closing sentences of the speech, “With confidence in our armed forces, with the un-bounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph. So help us God.” And so it was that the president’s speech to Congress, would bringing to life a nation whose military ranked a pitiful 17th in the world and who only days before had been consumed with the notion of pacifism. In simple yet elegant prose tailor made for the situation Roosevelt had both united and unleashed the power and the fury of nation and a generation that was for the most part the product of the 1920s—it was a decade that produced Dorothy Yovich a decade that began with a roar and ended in a fizzle. Poverty, hard times and little else was the fare for the average American growing up in the Depression. However, it spawned a nation of innovators–a generation that could “make do” and improvise when necessary. Self-reliant out of necessity, they became tinkerers who could fix things, invent things and get along with very little. Collectively, America’s youth both male and female, honed by the hard-ships of a depression, had a “can do” mentality. It was also a generation of innocence; Americans attended church, believed in a just and forgiving God, and no matter how hard life became it was always worth living and something to be thankful for. It was a generation that took their home-grown skills, their convictions and a belief that their cause was righteous, marched off to war with flags flying and crowds cheering. When the war ended they marched into history and took their place as America’s “Greatest Generation”–a generation to be admired, studied and emulated. But all of this was yet unknown on December 8, 1941 and three days later an over confident Germany and its junior partner Italy, the other two parts of the Axis Powers, joined forces with Japan in a declaration of war against the United States and for the second time in a quarter of a century the world once again was at war. Over the next three years and four months as Commander in Chief Roosevelt was the man a nation trusted and relied on for guidance, information and leadership. Now only months after winning a fourth term in office and weeks before the war would end in triumph, he died at his retreat in Warm Springs, GA. Having established the United States as the first Super Power Roosevelt was admired by all and as a testament to his popularity a nation wept while thousands lined the railway hoping for a glimpse of the Pullman rail car carrying the body of F.D.R. from Warm Springs to Washington DC where it would lie in state before journeying to its final resting place in Hyde Park, NY. “It has never happened before,” thought Dorothy as she sat in her Washington DC apartment pondering the loss of the only President she had ever known–or at least the only one she could remember in her lifetime. “What will it be like in a nation at war with someone new?” As with so many who grew up inspired and comforted by President Roosevelt, she had come to trust, respect, love and depend on this president.
Becoming Vice President on many occasions in the nation’s history has had little to do with popularity or skill but often much to do with compromise. Humorously dubbed the second “Missouri Compromise,” the rise of Harry Truman, a lightly regarded Senator from Missouri, being chosen to become Vice President had more to do with back room politics than with qualifications or known ability. Truman had spent much of July 1944 writing the acceptance speech for his friend and mentor James (Jimmy) Byrnes who was the eminently qualified presumptive nominee for Vice President. The current Vice President, Henry Wallace was being dropped from the ticket because his extreme left of center liberal sentiment was becoming a detriment to the more moderate liberal agenda of Roosevelt and the Democratic Party. However party bosses, to the surprise of Roosevelt, began to view the candidacy of James Byrnes—a long- time friend, advisor and close confidant of FDR—as untenable. Byrnes was an ex-Catholic turned Episcopalian from South Carolina; his opposition to various types of government contrived, poorly thought out, racial integration plans made blacks (a group being heavily courted and promoted by the Democratic party) wary of his intentions. They were joined by big city union bosses who balked at Byrnes’ opposition to union organization of the many textile mills in the south. (Byrnes with a great sense of foresight feared unions would drive textile jobs from the south and those jobs would be lost forever.) It wasn’t that Truman lacked flaws but his were deemed manageable. Bypassing Byrnes, easily the most qualified candidate ever to seek the office of V.P., Democratic Party bosses meeting in a smoke-filled Chicago room opted for a little known and marginally qualified Senator from the “show me state” who after 14 years in the Senate had only recently begun to rise above the ranks of the obscure. Those making the decision knew their hand–picked man would be the next president of the United States and therefore they assumed he would be someone they could easily control; By summer 1944 Roosevelt was deemed by insiders as too sick to survive a fourth term in office it was clear soon it would be president Harry Truman.
CHANGE OF COMMAND
There was little pomp and ceremony as the 33rd President Harry S. Truman was sworn in to serve out the fourth term of FDR. Truman as Vice President had been shut out from all cabinet meetings concerning both the war and domestic policy; in fact he only had one meeting with Roosevelt after becoming Vice President and that meeting was of little consequence. Truman contacted the man who had been known in the Roosevelt administration as the “Assistant President,” his old friend and mentor from the Senate, James Byrnes, who had retired just 2 weeks earlier. Byrnes was invited to rejoin the government initially as Truman’s presidential advisor. To the surprise and amazement of many, Truman wasted no time in assuming control of the executive branch of government. He scheduled meetings with current cabinet members on April 13th. FDR had appointed two Republicans to his cabinet: Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War and Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy. Sec. of War Stimson, a hard worker and fiercely loyal to Roosevelt, could not quite bring himself on that first day to trust fully this little known Democratic Senator from Missouri who had assumed the presidency so suddenly. During their first meeting on April 13, 1945, Stimson alluded to the development of a secret and very powerful weapon without going into any details. On Saturday April 14th 1945 James Byrnes and the former V.P. Henry Wallace who was now the Secretary of Agriculture at Truman’s request met with the new president at Washington’s Union Station in the morning. The arrival of the train carrying Roosevelt’s body was a public event and the three men being seen together would signal to the people of the US and the rest of the world that the country was unified behind the new president. Hissing steam rising from the train’s relief valves provided a ghostly setting as it surrounded and blurred the image of the precision like and colorful Military Honor Guard that was charged with off-loading the flag-draped casket containing President Roosevelt’s remains. The early morning light infused with steam and accented by a rising sun creates an opaque shadowy black and white silhouette of soldiers performing their duties. Speaking to the new president of the United States yet spellbound and drawn to the eerie and shadowy image of soldiers placing Roosevelt’s casket on the horse-drawn caisson, Byrnes wasted no time in preparing his protégé turned president for his new duties. He began the transformation with, “Harry, there is an operation in the desert of New Mexico known as the ‘Manhattan Project’–it has produced an atomic possibility hundreds of times more powerful than any force that presently exists in the world . . .“ By the time Byrnes was finishing his trackside update of things that were of national and world importance, Truman’s face had drained of all expression as he became consumed with the realization that in spite of a briefing by his cabinet just hours before he was both uninformed and out of touch as president. A linchpin of the Roosevelt Administration and a true friend of Harry Truman, James Byrnes, with a wide ranging knowledge of government policy and projects, was both able and willing to fully brief the President while lending instant credibility to the new Truman Administration. Grateful for his friend Jimmy Byrnes’ counsel, Truman began to rely more and more on the judgment, insight and knowledge that Byrnes was able to provide.
CHANGE AT STATE
Cordell Hull’s retirement in November 1944 led to Edward Stettinius being appointed by FDR to the office of Secretary of State. Stettinius had become engrossed in the State Departments effort to establish a United Nations Organization UNO (later shortened to United Nations) ,he attended the San Francisco conference that was meant to promote and develop that project. Often ignoring his other Sec. of State duties Stettinius’ decision to return a Russian codebook found in Finland to the Soviet Union, thereby hampering the US Government’s effort to decode Russian cables (many of which when later released provided information about the widespread penetration of Soviet agents into senior US Government positions) enraged Truman so much so that on June 27,1945 he replaced Stettinius with Joseph C. Grew who acted as Sec. of State for just 6 days until Truman’s trusted aid James Byrnes could be sworn in to the post as a permanent Secretary of State on July 3,1945. Byrnes quickly put together a staff–and one of those recommended to work with the new Secretary of State was now a trusted veteran of the state department secretarial staff: Dorothy (Dotty) Yovich. According to Dotty after the sudden retirement of Breckenridge Long, she “was looking for a job and Byrnes the new Sec. of State was looking for a secretary”—in any event this matchup led to a lifelong friendship between Dorothy, and Mr. and Mrs. James Byrnes. However in the short term dealing with a power shift at the top of the State Department was a bit problematic but in addition to that the State Department was also actively engaged in preparation for the upcoming Potsdam Conference, a meeting of the big three powers: Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union, this confab was scheduled to begin July 17, 1945, just two weeks away. Dorothy was one of four secretaries assigned to Mr. Byrnes, and while he would sail with President Truman aboard the USS Augusta from Newport News, VA to Antwerp, Belgium, then fly into Germany, most of the staff would fly from the USA aboard an Air Force transport to Berlin–an arduous journey at best. Along with the other staff members such as her very dear friend and at times mentor Robert Reams Dorothy reported to the Pentagon to begin training and preparing for any emergency including ditching if necessary in the event the airplane encountered trouble. Europe by air was a long ways away in July 1945, requiring several refueling stops along the way. It was a time and a situation conducive to getting to know one another if you were so inclined. After boarding the C-54 Bob Reams and Dorothy Yovich sat next to each other by design, it was the perfect opportunity to know each other better and to discuss their role however minor in the Potsdam meetings. the unpressurized slow moving aircraft (by today’s standards) made its way northeast following the shore line until passing Boston, then it headed out over the water towards Newfoundland, landing in Goose Bay for refueling, it was then on to Reykjavik, Iceland, Paris, France and finally they would make their way into Berlin. Flying over Europe and on the approach into Berlin Dorothy was impressed as she observed the landscape but there was something else that was beginning to consume her and she was sure it was the same with Bob Reams. The feel of being so close to each other seemed so special. There was a precision to the separation of the different plots of land that was fascinating; it appeared perfectly geometric as you looked down from the air. On the ground en-route to Potsdam it was a different story. The roads were lined with displaced persons carrying, pushing and pulling everything they owned continually moving to new and almost certainly unknown destinations in an effort to find a new and hopefully permanent home POTSDAM CONFERENCE
Potsdam is a town just outside the Brandenburg gate and Dorothy along with the rest of the staff would be housed in sparsely furnished Villas close to Cecilienhof Castle, the home of Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern and the place where “The Big Three” meetings would be held. She was impressed with the beautiful gardens that surrounded Cecilienhof; it was an oasis in the middle of the worst destruction possible. One morning as Dorothy was standing in the doorway of her Villa, a man in casual dress, horn-rimmed glasses and a fedora walking alone, passed by and tipped his hat; she suddenly realized the man on the street was Harry S. Truman, President of the United States.
Winston Churchill and Clement Attlee, the man who was hoping to replace Churchill as Prime Minister in the British general elections to be held in 10 days, arrived in Potsdam together for the up-coming “big three conference.” Stalin’s arrival in Potsdam was delayed but his choice of transportation would provide a window into the soul of a maniacal madman and insure he would stand alone and apart from the others as he unilaterally made outrageous demands on the Eastern block of European nations as well as the Allied leaders. His arrogance and unyielding insistence would lay the foundation for a new line of division in Europe and a new type of war. Winston Churchill would 8 months after the Potsdam Conference in March 1946 during an address at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri make the following observation; From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the continent—and so it was that the first shot of a new kind of war a cold war was fired.
THE LAST DAYS OF WAR
There are things not spoken or written of–things that just happen between a man and a woman. Dotty Yovich and Bob Reams had over the last two plus years become attracted too but not yet involved. Without a word being spoken they knew there was something special between them something they could no longer avoid. How would it be between the two of them–after all Bob has been married for more than 20 years and is 17 years Dottie’s senior. Potsdam a meeting to end world conflict, define the goals of victory and establish a lasting peace might be just the place and the opportunity for two people to reach out and examine their real feelings. They might have time to define their goals, become a couple happy with who they are and develop a plan that will last a life time and here in Potsdam they may begin the task of building a future. There was an awful lot to think about. After a brief flirtation with diligence Dotty decided to do something totally out of character. She believed and Bob agreed this was the time to make sense out of this thing between them. They would need time together and it must be quality time spent alone and away from interruption, time to talk, understand each other and sort all of the details. There was no hesitation on Bob’s part he recognized and admired a new dimension a strength in Dotty that he did not expect but was not surprised it was there. Dotty was special she was honest and direct words meant something to her it was important to be precise. On the plane she made it clear to Bob she needed to know soon the answer to one simple question “will there ever be an us in you and me?” It was then they decided their time in Potsdam or to be more precise what little time there was left at the end of the work day and of course the nights would belong to them it would be their time to cherish, be together and hold on to forever if necessary but they would not hide they would live as a couple. There would be consequences now no matter what course she and Bob took someone had to lose what made it all so terrible was that a third person a wife of more than 20 years someone with no say in the process or the outcome but someone who would forever be scared by the process was not only involved but was going to be hurt. My true thoughts and feelings have spent more time in you company than anywhere else these last many days Bob whispered almost in passing to Dorothy as he tried to sooth her anxiety and rationalize his mind set to his own satisfaction. There is a special place in my heart that is meant for those things most dear to me and it has become a place that only you reside I have been in love with you for some time Bob offered softly. Dotty felt loved and Bob’s voice meaningful with a quiet dignity provided her with strength and the courage necessary to see this new situation or arrangement through to the finale. After all–this–this love is not what I had expected she reminded herself I was not raised this way yet the only person I have ever felt this way about is here with me and he loves me in the same way I love him. This may all end when we leave Potsdam. When we land back home and the old reality has an opportunity to take over I may be the one left out she thought but at least I will have had these few weeks to cherish and take with me I must not be afraid. Dotty sure that this was the love of her life and there would never be another one—ever—knew she had entered unchartered waters and the journey would be arduous at best. She accepted that it would be impossible to hide their relationship it would be both news and gossip among this very small group of co-workers and it would be disingenuous as well as dishonest to attempt to deny it. Bob worried that Dotty might have a change of heart or to be more precise a change of mind and he posed this possibility as a question to her. With a smile and a look of certainty on her face her answer was simple. I should regret meeting you, I should regret falling in love with you and I most certainly should regret our having an affair—-I should regret all of those things—but I do not! The work of Potsdam was important, interesting and exciting everyone knew this gathering was an important part of World history being played out by the world’s major players but even with that the days move agonizingly slowly as the new couple remains impatient for the arrival of night. Dotty is very content and she would be happy if Potsdam would last forever.
President Truman and Prime Minister Churchill had a private meeting at Truman’s stucco “Little White House” in Babelsberg, a once trendy suburb of Potsdam where many German film stars lived and worked. The two heads of State talked privately about the war against the Japanese and Churchill offered to send British troops if necessary for any upcoming invasion of Japan. Truman was silent. Stalin would arrive a day late which caused speculation that he had suffered a minor heart attack. There was a bit of irony in Stalin’s travel arrangements, he was coming by rail traveling in the private rail car that had once belonged to the Imperial Romanov family. Stalin traveling in a rail car with gilded plumbing spigots, jewel-encrusted champagne buckets, tapestries and diamond encrusted chandeliers was difficult to imagine. Churchill was truly amused by the picture of one of history’s most ruthless barbarians traveling in such elegant trappings. On July 16th, the day before the conference was scheduled to start, 13 pounds of materiel in Alamogordo New Mexico became the first atomic explosion in the history of mankind melting a fifty-foot steel tower, making a mile-wide crater in the ground and sending shock waves more than three miles away. Also on this day the Cruiser USS Indianapolis departed San Francisco on a secret mission: it was carrying necessary parts and the uranium projectile of the atomic bomb “Little Boy” destined to be dropped on Hiroshima. Each day after the start of the conference Dorothy along with the other four secretaries met at Cecilienhof in a room adjacent to where the big three were meeting. During the day at various intervals notes and summations of the various subjects being discussed would be given to Dorothy and the other members of the staff to type and record. The subjects included the demilitarization, denazification and decentralization of the lands and governments the Germans had overrun during their time in power, as well as revisions of all German annexations in Europe including Sudentland, Alsace-Lorraine, Austria and the westernmost parts of Poland–also the division of Germany and so much more. They were kept busy working many times late into the night. All during the Potsdam meeting President Truman and Secretary Byrnes were engaged in secret meetings of their own concerning the progress of the Manhattan Project. On July 26, 1945 the last full day Churchill was Prime Minister, Truman and Chiang Kai-shek issued a Potsdam Declaration outlining the terms of surrender for Japan. Later that day Byrnes and Truman met in secret to discuss the Manhattan Project and were told that the USS Indianapolis had safely delivered the parts for “Little Boy” to Tinian Island. The Japanese were sending mixed signals as to their intentions; they had diplomats in several neutral nations including the Vatican, assuring those in power they were ready to surrender, but a little known secret project that went by the name of Magic conducted by the Army Signal Corp was reading their coded military dispatches and in those the Japanese made clear there would be no surrender. They believed that an invasion of the Islands of Japan would be so costly in lives that the American people would sue for peace. American estimates were that 500,000 to 1,000,000 men would be lost in an invasion of Japan. With the additional information provided by Magic, Truman and Byrnes were convinced that dropping the bomb on Japan, once it was possible, would save thousands of lives. Byrnes wanted to keep secret the location of the bomb drops because he worried that if the Japanese areas to be bombed were named, they would move American POWs into those areas. At the end of the meeting Truman without hesitation issued the order to use the first atomic bomb on Japan. Late on the evening of July 27, 1945 Churchill, as was his wont before retiring, visited the group of Ultra huts/tents that followed him from meeting to meeting. Their purpose was to decipher incoming messages for and code messages from the British Prime Minister during any prolonged #10 Downing Street absence. Reading the most recent dispatch from London, Winston would learn in the coldest of manner and starkest of terms that he and the conservative party had been trounced 48% to 36% in the recent elections. Clement Attlee the newly elected Prime Minister would relieve Winston as the representative of the British Empire. Churchill snatching a faltering British Empire from the brink of disaster and leading it to the edge of victory had only “blood, sweat, toil and tears” to offer citizens of the island nation when he took office. However he possessed an arsenal of words made of steel that would fortify and sustain a frightened population while proving to a world full of skeptics that a pint of ink and a pen is a most powerful weapon when put to use by a man such as he. Words alone however could not keep Winston in office. He found himself out of vogue, out of power and worst of all reduced to the number four participant in a conference labeled as a meeting of the big three. Bruised and battered by the situation yet a man immersed in Victorian style and grace, Churchill engaged in a tirade of Elizabethan monologues interspersed with fits of second thoughts that made it clear he was wounded. Seeking refuge in a decanter of single malt scotch and engulfed with swirling smoke from the Havana cigar he was chomping, Churchill, resourceful, resilient and ever elegant quickly regained his composure finding a way to carry on as if he were above the fray.
On the 30th of July the USS Indianapolis returning home from its secret mission was hit by two torpedoes from the Japanese submarine I-58 and sunk in twelve minutes. The Potsdam Conference ended on August 2nd, 1945. With the grueling round of talks behind them and the herculean effort to document and record for history the events Dotty, Bob and the other staff boarded the military C-54s bound for America. President Truman and Secretary Byrnes made their way to Plymouth, England and boarded the USS Augusta on August 4th. Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean Truman approved a list of cities in Japan for consideration as bomb targets for “Little Boy and Fat Man,” the only two nuclear weapons in existence. Dorothy Yovich, the young woman from Clairton PA, arrived home tired but very much satisfied with the direction of her life; she was ready to reflect on her Potsdam adventure and her time with Bob but she needed time alone to put it all into perspective and rest before returning to her State Department duties. It was good to be alone and in Clairton with family and friends.
THE DAY THE WORLD STOOD STILL
On the Island of Tinian in the Pacific a few minutes before 2 a.m. a B-29 preparing to fly special bombing mission #13 reaches the end of the runway, the crew finishes reading the before take-off check-list. Carburetor air–cold, mixture–rich, props—forward, flaps–set for takeoff. Takeoff clearance– received. The brakes are set; as the pilot pushes the throttles forward, four huge R-3350 Wright Cyclone engines roar into action. Releasing the brakes the heavy B-29 begins to roll down the runway. Flames from the engine exhaust systems are bright against the dark pacific night as the plane and its 9,700 pound payload groans and forces its way into the sky. ”Gear up,” the pilot calls. As the gear begins to retract and the airspeed inches forward there is a feeling that the flight is going to go well. B-29 pilots are able to name their planes and this one is named after the pilot’s mother. Laboring as it climbs to 10,000 feet, the aircraft levels off; as the airspeed increases, the power is reduced to long range cruise. Shortly after 6 a.m. as the rising sun splashes a brilliant array of morning colors across the powder blue Pacific waters, the special armament on board the B-29 is armed and the plane begins climbing again to its final altitude of 26,000 feet. In Clairton Dorothy is adjusting to the rigors that are created when one travels through different time zones; it is only 7:16 p.m. but the sun will soon set on this August 1945 evening. Dorothy, still tired from her ordeal, is grateful for some quiet time as she sits alone relaxing with a cup of tea. More than she can possibly know, events of the Potsdam Conference will have far reaching consequences for Dorothy–and the world. Several time zones away in the Pacific at this precise moment a by-product of the Potsdam Conference is unfolding that will reshape the world. It is August 6, 1945, and a B-29 has just opened its Bombay doors. The pilot’s mother’s name is Enola Gay. Finishing her tea, the young woman from Clairton has yet to realize that Potsdam has forever altered her life both professionally and personally as well as every other person on the planet. She has yet to know with certainty that she has already met and fallen in love with her future husband. Together they will share a single love that will last 47 years growing stronger each day as they discover a world full of adventure and excitement traveling the globe on missions of national importance; in time she will also become a legend in one of Florida’s gated community known as Bay Point. Her husband will be the future Ambassador to a number of African nations and she will be introduced to all as the Ambassadors wife Mrs. Dotty Reams. ■