World War II, Yalta Conference, Potsdam Conference


In April 1945, the United States was in the thick of the Second World War. In Europe, Allied powers were on the offensive, slowly gaining back ground lost to the Axis while the war in the Pacific raged on. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, representing the "Big Three" countries of the Allied powers, were in the midst of postwar reorganization negotiations and discussions. It was a crucial time for determining the balance of world power, including relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. At this critical moment, Roosevelt succumbed to his failing health and died suddenly, leaving Vice President Harry S. Truman to succeed him. Roosevelt's death threw Truman, unfamiliar with the late president's plans, into the middle of complex negotiations with two intricate personalities. Juxtaposing the Yalta Conference, one of the last conferences Roosevelt attended, with the Potsdam Conference, one of the first Truman attended, exposes the different approaches these two presidents took to the summation of the Second World War and the advancement of the world powers it would leave in its wake. Their incongruities, thrown into the spotlight by this abrupt change in leadership, altered the nature of postwar negotiations and influenced the way the Cold War developed.