This series reveals how and why the central alliance between Great Britain, the United States and The Soviet Union was formed leading into World War II.
It is February 1945 and the Allies can almost taste victory. They agree to meet to decide what the future will look like after the war finally comes to an end. And so “The Big Three” come face to face for the second, and last, time in the seaside town of Yalta.
Stalin was at a distinct advantage at Yalta. His Red Army was just 50 miles from Berlin. He was now well-positioned to politically and militarily outflank Churchill and Roosevelt, who was extremely unwell. It was agreed that after Germany’s defeat, the country would be divided into four post-war occupation zones, controlled by US, British, French and Soviet military forces. But Stalin also announced that the Soviet Union would not return the territory in Poland that it had annexed in 1939, nor meet the demands of the Polish government-in-exile based in London. His concession was that Soviet forces would join the Allies in the war against Japan, but only two to three months after Germany’s surrender. Churchill and Roosevelt had little choice but to agree.
The Allies were now in the final race to take Berlin. British and American troops had agreed to link up with their Soviet counterparts. But Stalin reneged on this promise. He was determined to get to the city first. Not only would capturing Berlin have symbolic significance, but the city was also rumoured to house the German nuclear programme. Unaware at this point of America’s advanced nuclear programme, was Stalin trying to grab this valuable information before his Allies?
On 16 April 1945, the Red Army encircled Berlin, gradually taking over the entire city. The Russians had won the race to the German capital. On 07 May 1945, Germany signed an unconditional surrender. But as this victory was celebrated across Europe on 08 May, Japan still needed to be defeated. After a historic four terms in office, Roosevelt died on 12 April 1945, without seeing Europe liberated. His successor Harry Truman was left with the decision of whether or not to use the atomic bomb to end the war with Japan. On 06 August 1945, the US dropped the first nuclear bomb on Hiroshima and a second on Nagasaki on 09 August. Japan’s surrender was swift, issuing a statement to the allies accepting the allies’ terms the following day.
So who had won the race to victory? Back in Europe, Stalin was imposing Soviet control on the countries he had liberated from the Nazis, bringing vast portions of Eastern Europe under Communist rule. Had Stalin succeeded in convincing his allies to trust him, while never trusting them at all? No longer united by a common cause would the Allies be able to continue to work together? With the Race to the Victory won, the three very different ideologies of capitalism, imperialism and communism looked set to clash once more.
Despite the years of alliance and apparent friendship between these major powers, it seems another war, the Cold War, is just around the corner.
Race to Victory Series
You can find a full index of Race to Victory here.
Production & Filming Details
- Release Date: 20 June 2020.
- Running Time: 60 minutes (with adverts).
- Rating: Unknown.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.