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A Soviet Marshal at the Pentagon



Pictured: The Battle for Stalingrad, inscribed by Marshal V. I. Chuikov, which reads, "General Wheeler (spelled Уиллер in Cyrillic), with best wishes of the author, V. Chuikov, 31 March 1969"; an article from the 30 March 1969 edition of The New York Times describing the delegation from the USSR to the US for Dwight Eisenhower's funeral (held in the National Cathedral on the afternoon of 31 March 1969), which included Marshal Chuikov; an article from The Times-Reporter which divulges details of Chuikov's visit to the Pentagon during this trip in 1969, where he presented General Earle Wheeler with this signed copy of his book.


During the height of the Cold War, former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower died on 28 March 1969. Due to his status as a former head of state and also famous for his role in the Second World War as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, delegations from numerous nations traveled to Washington, D.C. to pay their respects. The USSR also participated by sending a delegation from Moscow. Interestingly enough, Marshal Ivan Konev was originally slated to journey to the United States as a governmental representative. However, according to The New York Times, Marshal Chuikov's name was substituted, presumably at the last minute. Chuikov, along with First Deputy Foreign Minister Vasily Kuznetzov, led a four-person delegation from the Soviet Union, arriving at Dulles International Airport.


While in Washington, Vasily Ivanovich "slipped, unnoticed, across the Potomac" to the Pentagon, where he was accompanied by the military attaché of the Soviet Embassy. During his lengthy visit to the Pentagon--the headquarters of the US Department of Defense--Marshal Chuikov met with Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Earle Wheeler. Although the two senior military officials were from nations that were no longer allies, they conversed about various topics for an hour.


Questions about the increase in offensive missiles as well as the intentions of each respective nation arose, but Chuikov and Wheeler also engaged in "soldierly amenities" as well. As a display of goodwill, Vasily Ivanovich presented Wheeler with an inscribed, signed copy of the English translation of his landmark work, The Battle for Stalingrad. In return, General Wheeler gifted Marshal Chuikov with a medallion. After his visit to the Pentagon, Vasily Ivanovich toured the National War College, which was a special trip arranged by Wheeler.


Marshal Chuikov attended Eisenhower's funeral, which was held at the National Cathedral (President Nixon and his family arrived at 4:34 PM). On the evening of 31 March 1969 at 7 PM, the Soviet delegation attended President Nixon's Reception for Distinguished Foreign Visitors, which was held in the Blue Room at the White House. In his diary of events of the day, White House Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman described Vasily Ivanovich as a Russian Marshal who captured attention at the reception in his uniform "with rows and rows of ribbons."






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