During the winter of 1946-47, the worst in memory, Europe seemed on the
verge of collapse. For the victors in World War II, there were no spoils. In London,
coal shortages left only enough fuel to heat and light homes for a few hours a day.
In Berlin, the vanquished were freezing and starving to death. On the walls of the
bombed-out Reichstag, someone scrawled "Blessed are the dead, for their hands do
not freeze." European cities were seas of rubble--500 million cubic yards of it in
Germany alone. Bridges were broken, canals were choked, rails were twisted.
Across the Continent, darkness was rising. Americans, for the most part,
were not paying much attention. Having won World War II, "most Americans just
wanted to go to the movies and drink Coca-Cola," said Averell Harriman, who had
been FDR's special envoy to London and Moscow during the second world war.
But in Washington and New York, a small group of men feared the worst. Most of
them were, like ...