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Joseph E. Davies

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Mission To Moscow


By Joseph E. Davies
European History

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Joseph E. Davies

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Joseph Edward Davies (November 29, 1876-May 9, 1958) was the second Ambassador to represent the United States in the Soviet Union.

Born in Watertown, Wisconsin, to Edward and Rahel (Paynter) Davies, Joe Davies rose to prominence with the administration of President Woodrow Wilson, when he was appointed to Chair the Federal Trade Commission from 1915 to 1916. Wilson also appointed Davies to serve as an economic advisor to the United States during the Paris Peace Conference following World War I. By profession, Davies was an attorney.

Davies married Emlen Knight in 1902. Davies also was married to General Foods heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post in 1935; the couple divorced in 1955.

Contents

Ambassador to the Soviet Union

While married to Post, Davies was appointed Ambassador to the Soviet Union by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The appointment was viewed as a challenging post, with the United States having only recognized the Soviet Government as the sovereign authority in what had been Russia in 1933. Davies appointment was made in part based on his skills and politically loyalty to Roosevelt. However Roosevelt also factored in Davies wife’s financial success and social graces as a strength in the appointment. Davies served in the USSR from 1936-1938.

Davies attended some of the Stalinist purge trials of the late 1930s, and was convinced of the guilt of the accused. His views were at odds with those of some of the diplomatic corps who served under him. Charles Bohlen later wrote:[1]

"Ambassador Davies was not noted for an acute understanding of the Soviet system, and he had an unfortunate tendency to take what was presented at the trial as the honest and gospel truth. I still blush when I think of some of the telegrams he sent to the State Department about the trial." (p.51)
"I can only guess at the motivation for his reporting. He ardently desired to make a success of a pro-Soviet line and was probably reflecting the views of some of Roosevelt's advisors to enhance his political standing at home."(p.52)

Davies reflections of his duties in the Soviet Union spawned his bestselling book, Mission to Moscow. The book was made into a 1943 movie starring Walter Huston as Davies and Ann Harding as his wife Marjorie Post Davies. The movie, made during World War II, showed the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin in a positive light in part because of the allied relationship between the two nations in the fight against the Axis powers. However during the era of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) hearings, the film was used against those involved in its production as an example of pro-Communist propaganda.

After Moscow

After Moscow, Davies was assigned to the post of Ambassador in Belgium (1938-1939) and Minister to Luxembourg concurrently before being called back to the United States following the declaration of war in 1939. Davies served as a special assistant to Secretary of State Cordell Hull.

Following World War II, the Davies took up residence at Tregaron, where they entertained extensively.

He was divorced by his wife Marjorie in 1955. Ambassador Davies was entombed at Washington National Cathedral, Washington, D.C..

References

  1. ^ Charles E. Bohlen (1973) Witness to History, New York: Norton.
  • Davies, Joseph Edward. Mission to Moscow; (a record of confidential dispatches to the State department, official and personal correspondence, current diary and journal entries, including notes and comments up to October, 1941). Simon and Schuster, 1941.
  • Maclean, Elizabeth Kimball. Joseph E. Davies: Envoy To The Soviets. Praeger Publishers, February 1993. ISBN 0-275-93580-9


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