As I make my way through Andrew Roberts’ most remarkable book, “Churchill, Walking with Destiny,” I noted a wonderful quote on page 675. That night, regarding the Atlantic Conference. In this August 10th, meeting, Churchill and his entourage had dinner, with eight Americans, President Roosevelt, and his dog Fala, on the American cruiser. USS Augusta, anchored in Argentia Bay. Of course, this was the occasion of their critical meeting and the crafting of the Atlantic Charter.
Later, Captain Richard Pim, a naval attaché to Prime Minister Churchill noted, “I think it was felt by everyone present that (upon) the reaction of these two great leaders, perhaps the greatest for many generation, to each other, and the wisdom of their counsels, that the freedom of the world might well depend.” What a great statement and so true.
Note in the top picture, President Roosevelt and PM Churchill are surrounded in the back by Admiral King, General Marshall, British General Dill, Admiral Stark, and British Admiral Pound. In the back left are President Roosevelt’s advisers: Harry Hopkins and Averell Harriman. Also see the two great leaders on the deck of HMS Prince of Wales surrounded by British naval personnel.
As I reach page 775, in the massive and most informative Andrew Roberts’ book on Winston Churchill, the most pivotal year in possibly world history, 1942, enters into the modern calendar. That tumultuous year began with the reality that the Nazi hordes were at the gates of Moscow and Leningrad and driving into the Ukraine, the bread belly of Russia as the Japanese in the wake of their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, were rampaging through the Pacific, Asia, and the Philippines. On the high seas, the German U-Boat menace was sinking hundreds of thousands of tons of Allied shipping, from the mid-Atlantic, to the British Isles and far into the North Sea to the Russian ports of Archangel and Murmansk.
As 1942 opened up, there were many dark days ahead and one could say that between January and June of 1942, one disaster, after another, happened to the Allies. The British surrendered Singapore and the Malay Peninsula. American forces in the Philippines, which were holding out at Bataan and Corregidor collapsed, Tobruk in Tripoli capitulated to the Afrika Korps under Rommel, and British positions in Egypt were threatened as General Claude Auchinleck, who replaced General Archibald Wavel was removed by Churchill. Even the British were being tested and challenged in India by Gandhi’s Congress Party.
But a few days into June, the US Navy achieved one the greatest naval victories in history at Midway, the Russians halted the Germans at Stalingrad, and eventually destroyed the Wehrmacht’s 6th Army, and in Egypt, Churchill’s newest commander of the British 8th Army, General Bernard Law Montgomery, turned the tide at El Alamein.
No matter what would proceed in the next three years of very tough fighting on, on many fronts, the Axis Powers had reached the height of their conquests, power and advancement.
By the latest chapter, “One Continent Redeemed,” massive US and British forces land in North Africa, under the overall command of General Eisenhower. The German forces in the Afrika Korps and the 10th Panzer were squeezed from the east and the west into their last redoubt in Tunisia. Eventually North Africa from Egypt to Morocco would be liberated as the next phase of WWII would begin!
A number of years ago, I went to a lecture series given at Reid Hall at Manhattanville College, Purchase, NY, which at one time was the home of the Ogden Reid’s. That particular evening there was a talk given by Eleanor Roosevelt’s biographer, Blanche Wiesen Cook. As she was introduced, it was mentioned that Helen Rogers Reed, (1882-1970), the mother of Congressman Ogden Reid, (who passed away two weeks ago at age 94) was a great friend of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Of course, ironically, as publisher of NY’s Herald-Tribune, FDR was never endorsed by the paper.
By the way, Reid Hall, is a four-story, L-shaped building built of granite blocks in the Renaissance Revival style. It features a five-story tower and a corbelled battlement parapet that conceals a flat roof. It was designed by Stanford White and built in 1892 as a dwelling for Whitelaw Reid. Frederick Law Olmsted was hired to landscape his estate. Reid Hall occupies the footprint of the previous property owner Ben Holladay’s Ophir Hall, which burned down and was rebuilt by Reid with the massive granite crenellated mansion. The building was expanded in 1912 by McKim, Mead & White with a large library wing and guest cottage.
Thus, what is the connection between Mrs. Reid and Winston Churchill? After meeting in Quebec, August of 1943, at the Quadrant Conference, in August, Sicily was already in the hands of the Allies and the Germans were in full retreat on the Russian front. When Churchill returned to the United States he met for lunch with the president at the South Portico of the White House. Joining them was Mrs. Ogden Reid (Helen Rogers Reid), who was a long-standing proponent of Indian independence. Andrew Roberts writes of the exchange that followed. “Mrs. Reid asked Churchill, “What do you intend to do about those wretched Indians?” Churchill replied, “To which Indians you refer? Do you be any chance refer to the second greatest nation on earth which under the benign and beneficent British rule has multiplied and prospered exceedingly, or do you mean the unfortunate Indians of the North American continent, which under your administration are practically extinct?’ Roosevelt, who had seated her next to Churchill hoping for such an eruption, was convulsed with laughter. (page 793).
At the Quebec Conference at the Chateau Frontenac, where we had our honeymoon, almost 50 years ago are seated Canadian PM McKenzie King, (a great friend of FDR), the Earl of Athone, Governor-General of Canada, FDR, Princess Alice, the Earl’s wife, and Winston Churchill.
“Churchill, Walking with Destiny,”
March 8, 2019
In a lesson for today, regarding the rise of authoritative fascism around the world and a blind allegiance to one man rule here in our country, Andrew Roberts, cites an interesting vignette in the midst of his chapter, “Apotheosis of Appeasement.”
While Churchill was unveiling a monument to the late T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) in October 1936, Churchill was asked at a dinner whether there will be a war. “Certainly,” he replied, “a very terrible war in which London will be bombed and Buckingham Palace will be razed to the ground….”
Meanwhile, Lawrence, another good friend of Churchill, to die young, had been killed in a motorbike accident, a year and one-half before in May of 1935, and aged only forty-seven.
Churchill stated, “He (Lawrence) was indeed a dweller upon the mountain tops where the air is cold, crisp and rarefied, and where the view on clear, cold, days commands all the Kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.”
He wrote in Lawrence’s obituary, “Just as an aeroplane only flies by speed and pressure against the air, so he flew his best and easiest in the hurricane. He was not in complete harmony with the normal. The fury of the Great War raised the pitch of life to the Lawrence standard. The multitudes were swept forward until the pace was the same as his. In this heroic period he found himself in perfect relation both to men and events!”
Have reached halfway in this massive tome, as the era of Appeasement has ended with the invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. Britain declares war on the 3rd of September, and Churchill, after 10 years in the political wilderness, is finally re-appointed to the Cabinet by Neville Chamberlain.
Christmas 1941 in Washington
Richard J. Garfunkel
On December 22, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt met Winston Churchill, the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain at the White House. It was a difficult trip across the North Atlantic Ocean during the winter. He and his staff had taken the overnight train from London to Greenock on the Clyde. They reached the battleship Duke of York on the morning of December 13, 1941, three days after her sister ship the Prince of Wales and the heavy cruiser Repulse had been sunk by Japanese torpedo bombers off Malaya.
It was a rough crossing, beset by gales and high seas, which splashed over the decks which were off-limits for three days. Eventually the Duke of York arrived at Newport News, Virginia, and the rest of Churchill’s retinue arrived in Washington after midnight. The original plan for Churchill was to sail up the Potomac, so he could disembark, a short drive to the White House. But, Churchill was impetuous, and after spending 10 tumultuous days at sea, he decided to put ashore at Hampton Roads so that he would fly the remaining 120 miles to Washington. Churchill landed at the new National Airport and FDR and Harry Hopkins were parked on the tarmac, awaiting his arrival. FDR, Churchill and his immediate entourage ride in two government-owned Cadillacs, named, because of their bulk after the two great British ocean liners, the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Both cars weigh over 8000 pounds and are equipped with a full arsenal of ammunition, two-way radios, and heavy duty generators.
Of course, this would begin an unprecedented three week stay at the White House, where the two leaders of the free world would plan their coming efforts to take on both the Nazis, who with their allies and friends, occupied most of Europe and the rampaging Japanese warlords, who had control of the most of the East Coast of China, Indochina, vast reaches of the Pacific, and were threatening Australia.
On Christmas Eve, of 1941, in those dark days after the Pearl Harbor attack, and the Declaration of War upon the United States by Germany and its Axis partners, FDR and Churchill stood on a White House balcony an addressed 20,000 onlookers, who gathered in the twilight, as a crescent moon hung overhead. FDR pressed a button to the light the tree and then he spoke to the crowd of onlookers. He said, “Our strongest weapon in this war is that the conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies. Winston Churchill then spoke, “Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of sprit in each cottage home and in every generous heart. Here, then, for one night only each home… should be a brightly lighted island of happiness and peace.”
I just finished another FDR-Churchill book regarding their Christmas together at the White House from December 22, 1941 through the next three weeks. The others were Pearl Harbor Christmas by Stanley Weintraub and The Big Sleepover at the White House, by James Mikel Wilson. We also got to hear a very interesting lecture on Churchill’s paintings by his granddaughter Edwina Sandys at the Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach. Great fun was had by all.