Joseph Stalin receives the Sword of Stalingrad. Elliot Roosevelt, the son of the US president, who witnessed the ceremony, noted in his memoirs: The Marshal was almost inaudible but perceptibly impressive.



A solemn ceremony took place on November 29, before the opening of the conference plenary meeting; it was a demonstration of Allied unity in the struggle against the common enemy. Such a demonstration was highly opportune. It dispersed somewhat the dark clouds which had gathered over the conference and reminded that the anti-Nazi coalition was still faced with great and difficult problems which could only be solved through mutual and concerted efforts.

The presentation to the citizens of Stalingrad of a specially made sword, on behalf of King George VI and the British people, was arranged with the utmost splendour. The large, shining sword with its two-handled hilt and ornamented sheath, which had been forged by the most skilful, hereditary armourers in Britain, symbolised a tribute of respect to the heroes of Stalingrad, the town where the backbone of the fascist beast was broken.

The hall began to fill up long before the ceremony started. All the delegates and the leaders of the armies, fleets and air forces of the countries making up the anti-Hitler coalition were present when "the Big Three" arrived.

Stalin was wearing a light grey tunic with his marshal's shoulder-straps. This time, Churchill also appeared in military uniform. From that day onwards, the British Prime Minister wore his uniform constantly in Teheran, and everyone regarded it as his peculiar reaction to Stalin's marshal's dress. At first Churchill had worn a dark blue pin-striped suit, but on seeing Stalin in uniform, he had immediately ordered himself a blue-grey full-dress coat of a senior officer of the Royal Air Force. This uniform arrived just in time for the ceremony of the presentation of the sword. Roosevelt, as usual, was in civilian clothes.

The guard of honour consisted of Red Army and the British officers. An orchestra played the Soviet and British national anthems and everyone stood at attention. Then the music stopped and a solemn moment of silence ensued. Churchill slowly went up to the large black box lying on the table and opened it. The sword, inside its sheath, rested on a claret-coloured velvet pillow. Churchill took the sword in both hands and, holding it suspended, he turned to Stalin and said:

"I have been commanded by His Majesty King George VI to present to you for transmission to the City of Stalingrad this sword of honor, the design of which His Majesty has chosen and approved. The sword of honor was made by English craftsmen whose ancestors have been employed in sword-making for generations. The blade of the sword bears the inscription: 'To the steelhearted citizens of Stalingrad, a gift from King George VI as a token of the homage of the British people'." [1]

Taking a few steps forward, Churchill presenited the sword to Stalin, behind whom was standing the Soviet guard of honour, with submachine-guns atilt. Stalin took the sword and pulled it out of its sheath. The blade glinted coldly. Stalin raised it to his lips and kissed it. Then, holding the sword in his hands, he said in a low voice:

"On behalf of the citizens of Stalingrad, I wish to express my deep appreciation for the gift of King George VI. The citizens of Stalingrad will value this gift most highly, and I ask you, Mr. Prime Minister, to convey their thanks to His Majesty the King." [2]

There was a pause. Stalin slowly walked round the table and went over to Roosevelt to show him the sword. Churchill held the sheath while Roosevelt looked carefully at the huge biade. Reading out loud the inscription on the sword, Roosevelt added: "Truly they had hearts of steel." [3]

Then he gave it back to Stalin who went over to the table where the case was lying. Carefully he laid the sword in its sheath back in the case and closed the lid. Then he gave it to Voroshilov who carried the sword into the next room, accompanied by the guard of honour.

We all went out to be photographed on the terrace. It was warm and there was no wind. The sun lit up the leaves, turned golden by the autumn. Stalin and Churchill stopped in the middle of the terrace, where Roosevelt was also brought in his wheel-chair. Three arm-chairs had been brought out there for "the Big Three". The ministers, marshals, generals, admirals and ambassadors stood behind these arm-chairs. Newspaper photographers and cameramen scurried about searching for the best positions. Then the suite moved to one side and "the Big Three" remained alone against a background of the tall doors which led from the terrace to the conference hall. This photograph was to become historical and world famous.
  1. E. Roosevelt, As He Saw It, pp 181, 182.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.