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August 07, 2005

From Dean Acheson

From Dean G. Acheson (1961), Sketches from Life of Men I Have Known (New York: Harper and Brothers):

General Maxwell Taylor, then Commandant of our Sector in Berlin, had a reception for me to which the other three Commandants were, of course, invited. General Chuikov, he said, would not come: he had not attended any Western social function for months. I offered a ten-dollar bet that he would. General Taylor took it. The reception had been going for an hour and my chances seemed pretty dim. Then there was a great clatter at the door and in came, not only General Chuikov, but all of his staff. (General Taylor refused to pay a bonus for staff.)

While we were exchanging noisy greetings and he was demanding [that I do my Andrei] Vyshinksy [imitation], up came a waiter with a tray of cocktails, a large tray. Chuikov took a solemn appraising look and began to drink them, before I realized his mistaken assumption of a challenge.

"You don't have to drink all of those, General," I assured him. "They're for everybody." He looked immensely relieved. "Good Lord," I went on. "You must have a tin stomach."... He shook his head. "No," he said, "steel."...

I can safely say that my life is poorer by virtue of the fact that I will never see Dean Gooderham Acheson do his Andrei Ianuarevich Vyshinsky imitation. (Vyshinsky was chief prosecutor at Stalin's show trials in the 1930s.)

General Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was an utter bastard: he shot five times as many of his own men for desertion during the Battle of Stalingrad as allied soldiers died on D-Day.

General Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was a very good general: we all should be very grateful for what his 62nd Army did during the Battle of Stalingrad.

Posted by DeLong at August 7, 2005 08:37 PM