Grand Alliance (World War II)

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World War II poster from the United Kingdom

The Grand Alliance was an alliance made during World War II, which joined together the United States (led by Franklin Roosevelt), the Soviet Union (led by Joseph Stalin) and Great Britain (led by Winston Churchill). Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill are often known as "The Big Three" or the Allies of World War II. The Grand Alliance is the title of volume three of Churchill's book The Second World War, which formed the basis of his Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Grand Alliance is often called the "Strange Alliance" because it united the world's greatest capitalist state, the greatest communist state and the greatest colonial power.[1]

It was essentially an alliance of necessity, as all three needed to join together in order to defeat the threat of Nazi Germany.


The Grand Alliance to all intents and purposes was an alliance of convenience between the already allied USA (Led by Franklin Roosevelt), Britain (by Neville Chamberlain), and the Soviet Union (By Joseph Stalin). The British had reason to ask for one as both Germany and the Japanese Empire threatened not only the colonies of the British Empire in North Africa and Asia, but also the Home Islands. The USA felt that the Japanese and German expansion should be contained, but ruled out force until the attack by the Japanese Imperial Navy on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. The Soviet Union, after the breaking of the Nazi-Soviet Pact by the instigation of Operation Barbarossa in 1941, greatly despised the unchallenged Japanese expansion in the East, particularly considering their defeat in several previous wars with Japan. They also recognized, as the US and Britain had suggested, the possibility of a Two Front war being of advantage to the Allies.

Thus, with two common enemies, the Grand Alliance (or the 'Big Three') was born, albeit onto shaky foundations.


There were tensions in the Grand Alliance, between "The Big Three" (Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin), although they were not enough to break the alliance during wartime.

There were essential ideological differences between the United States and the Soviet Union. Tensions between the two had existed for a long time, with the Soviets remembering America's armed intervention in the Russian Civil War and their long refusal to recognize the Soviet Union's existence as a state. The tension rose during the meetings from 1943-45 due to the ever growing list of demands from the USSR. Again tension increased when FDR died and the new president Truman didn't accept the demands of Stalin.[2]

Tensions also emerged over the length of time taken by the Allies to establish a Second Front in Europe, which Roosevelt had promised.[2]


The fact is Great Britain and the United States only succeeded in beating Nazism through their alliance with the Soviet Union, a regime that was in many ways equally as vicious as Hitler's. The soldiers of the Soviet Red Army destroyed the majority of German war machine; the ratio is about four German soldiers killed by the Soviets for every one killed by the British and Americans.[3] The Soviet people displayed heroism and self-sacrifice during the war, but a government whose catalogue of crimes was extraordinarily heinous led them.

From June 1941 until the end of the war in 1945, at least 55 percent of Germany's military resources were continuously engaged on the Eastern Front. At the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, a total of 3.1 million German and Soviet troops, 43,000 artillery guns and 6,600 tanks faced off on the Russian battlefield.[4] During the years 1943, 1944, and 1945, the Red Army slowly disintegrated German power. The Soviets' success during World War II was no doubt a pivotal reason the Allies won the war. Without them, it is unlikely the Allies would have been able to defeat the full force of Hitler's army. However, it is important to note the nightmarish state the USSR was living in under Stalin.

In the early 1930s, Stalin pushed through the collectivization of Soviet agriculture, and unleashed a two-year killing spree in which millions of Soviets perished. In the second half of the decade, he conducted summary executions of his old Bolshevik comrades, large portions of Communist Party leadership, and many of the officers in the Red Army. Soviet citizens lived in perpetual fear of the NKVD (Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, a Soviet law enforcement agency), which was notorious for random and massive arrests. In 1940, after Soviet forces took over half of Poland, Stalin purged many of Poland's prominent civilians and 4,000 of its military officers in an effort to make them easier to subdue after he was done dealing with Germany.[5]

As the Red Army advanced into Germany, its soldiers exacted a fearsome revenge for the cruelties the Germans had inflicted upon them; hundreds of thousands of fleeing German women and children were massacred or allowed to starve to death, as the fighting advanced westward. Russian soldiers gang-raped more than 2 million German women aged between ten and eighty. According to multiple accounts, they felt entitled to such actions because they considered themselves the liberators of Europe.[6]

There is another dimension to Soviet wartime behavior that is equally disturbing: the systematic cruelty shown by Stalin's government toward its own people. Demanding total obedience, the Red Army continually terrorized its own soldiers and civilians during the war. In the Battle of Stalingrad, 13,500 summary and judicial executions occurred. The way Soviets treated their own fighting men stands as one of the most damning statements about the underlying mentality that was at the heart of Soviet communism.

All this being said, it would have been the height of all folly for the Anglo-Americans to do anything but embrace the embattled Soviet Union as best they could, and provide it with all the assistance they could muster. Without the Soviets, the Allies would certainly have lost the war. In 1941, a radio interviewer asked Winston Churchill whether he had any misgivings concerning the alliance with Stalin. He replied: "Any man or state who fights against Nazidom will have our aid. Any man or state who marches with Hitler is our foe." He famously remarked to his secretary John Colville, "If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons." [7] The suffering of the Russian people was unlike any other in the war except perhaps that of the Chinese and the Jews. Thus, the Grand Alliance was morally quite ambiguous.


  1. ^ Ambrose, Stephen (1993). Rise to Globalism: American Foreign Policy Since 1938. New York: Penguin Books. p. 15. 
  2. ^ a b Jones, Maldwyn (1983). The Limits of Liberty: American History 1607-1980. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 505. 
  3. ^ Glantz, David (29 October 1999). The Battle of Kursk (Sixth Printing Edition ed.). Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 0700613358. 
  4. ^ Bess, Michael. Moral Dimensions of World War Two. NY,NY: Vintage Books. p. 171. 
  5. ^ Bess, Michael. Moral Dimensions of World War Two. New York,NY: Vintage Books. p. 175. 
  6. ^ Bellamy, Chris (14 October 2008). Absolute War: Soviet Russia in the Second World War. New York, New York: Vintage. ISBN 0375724710. 
  7. ^ Bess, Michael. Moral Dimensions of World War Two. New York, New York: Vintage Books. p. 178.