A new phrase, the United Nations, slipped into the world's vocabulary. Editorial writers and military commentators used it glibly. And last week they began to wonder what, exactly, it meantthat pact by which 26 nations bound themselves fortnight ago not to make a separate peace with their Axis enemies.
It would be a long time before the full story of the pact's signing came out. What was known was that by New Year's Day the wrinkles had been ironed out of the draft drawn by Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle and his assistant Carlton Savage. Britain's Churchill, Russia's Litvinoff and China's T. V. Soong were called into conference at the White House that evening. Maxim Litvinoff had won one big point. This limited the pledge of the signers to a promise to make war to the end only on the enemies with whom they were already at war. Russia, Litvinoff pointed out, did not want to pledge war against Japan, with which the U.S. is at warand, he added astutely, presumably the U.S. did not want to pledge itself to fight Finland, with which Russia is at war. It was after 8 o'clock when the U.S., Britain, Russia and China signed the pact.
The representatives of the other nations were invited next morning to call at Assistant Secretary Berle's office at their convenience. All morning they came and went informally, exchanging cheery remarks with their colleagues.
There Richard Casey wrote The Commonwealth of Australia in a bold hand. When the Greek Minister wrote his neat, self-controlled Cimon P. Diamantopoulos, the consonants reached across the parchment. Said Adolf Berle to the Polish Ambassador: "My dear Ambassador, your Greek colleague has already taken part of the space reserved for you."
"I have absolutely no objection to such an extension of Greece," said the Polish Ambassador, as he affixed his forthright Jan Ciechanowski.
The significance of the pact was slower being digested. In Washington, enthusiasts compared it to the Articles of Confederation that had held the 13 States together until the Constitutional Convention. Advocates of Union Now thought it did not go far enough, wanted a union of peoples, rather than of governments. Josephus Daniels recalled his last talk with Woodrow Wilson, when Wilson had said: "The things we have fought for are sure to prevail . . . [and] may come in a better way than we proposed." Advocates of a revived, strengthened League of Nations hoped the United Nations would prove the better way.
Taken at its face value, the Declaration was impressive. If the signing nations could actually employ their "full resources," their power would be staggering. Their combined populations came to almost 1,500,000,000 of the world's 2,145,000,000. They held twice as much of the world's steel capacity as the Axis, most of its wheat, most of the materials needed for making war or prospering in peace. But half of the nations were small, isolated, scattered from Costa Rica to Luxembourg. Eight of them had been overrun by the Axis. TwoChina and Russia were partially occupied, and the occupied portions were rich and populous.