Our Supreme Task: How Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance

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Overview


The year 1945 was a chaotic one, both for the world, of course, and for Winston Churchill. Communism was on the march and the people of Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Poland all found themselves in the grip of the Soviets. The Red Army occupied a large German territory, and the Kremlin was manipulating post-war food shortages, labor disputes, and social unrest in Greece, France, and Italy.

Having spent his “wilderness years” in the late 1930s warning of the dangers of ...

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Our Supreme Task: How Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain Speech Defined the Cold War Alliance

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Overview


The year 1945 was a chaotic one, both for the world, of course, and for Winston Churchill. Communism was on the march and the people of Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Poland all found themselves in the grip of the Soviets. The Red Army occupied a large German territory, and the Kremlin was manipulating post-war food shortages, labor disputes, and social unrest in Greece, France, and Italy.

Having spent his “wilderness years” in the late 1930s warning of the dangers of diplomatic and military weakness and the growing menace of Nazism, in 1946 Churchill made a trip to Fulton, Missouri, to deliver a speech entitled “The Sinews of Peace”—now known as the Iron Curtain Speech—which served to fundamentally define the dangers of Soviet totalitarian Communism. This is the story of that pivotal speech and how it came to be given, and a portrait of the irrepressible man who delivered it.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Andrew Roberts, author of The Storm of War

“Winston Churchill thought his Iron Curtain speech the most important of a long and stormy career that was studded with vital speeches; it was certainly one of his bravest.  Philip White has recreated the eight months between the Potsdam Conference at the end of World War II and the world-changing events in Fulton, Missouri, with impressive scholarship, a sure narrative skill and a fine eye for telling detail.”

John Lukacs, author of A New Republic: A History Of The United States In The Twentieth Century

“I read Our Supreme Task with considerable care and I recommend it emphatically. There is now an enormous literature about the Cold War but very little about how it actually came about and almost nothing about this address. This book fills the gap.”

Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., Director, Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom

“Philip White has lovingly produced a detailed yet eminently readable account of Churchill’s speech in Fulton, Missouri, in 1946. White shows not only how the great British statesman crystallized in word and image the perilous divide between democratic west and communist east, but also how one speech defined an era, and how it continues to inspire today.”

Kirkus Reviews
“The genesis, occasion and aftermath of what Winston Churchill unhesitatingly called ‘the most important speech of my career’…. White fully reproduces the address and reminds us that Churchill’s call for increased Anglo-American solidarity in the face of Soviet aggression was not particularly well received… Today, we remember it as ‘one of the defining statements of the twentieth century.’ White’s at his best painting the small scenes in the background of the event: Churchill’s construction of the speech as he sunbathed and painted, the whiskey and poker-fueled train ride with Truman to Missouri and especially the frantic preparations for the big day by Westminster and Fulton officials, including the charismatic college president who conceived of the long-shot invitation to a world figure who unexpectedly said yes. A small slice of history charmingly retold.”
 

Newark Star-Ledger
“[An] absorbing reconstruction of events leading up to Fulton’s fifteen minutes of fame…. White shines a warm and winning spotlight on rural postwar America as he describes the hamlet’s feverish preparation to host the leader.”
 
Commentary
“The background and analysis White offers are valuable.”
 
Washington Times
“In Cold War history, the Westminster speech is cited frequently as a seminal moment in the skein of events that dominated the world for the next half-century. From time to time, I wondered, ‘Why Westminster? Was it simply because President Truman hailed from Missouri?’ The story is far more complex, and it is related entertainingly by Philip White in a first book that marks him as a historian to be watched.”  

Library Journal
Of the hundreds of notable speeches Winston Churchill gave over the course of his long career, the one he delivered on March 5, 1946, on the campus of Westminster College in Fulton, MO, is among the most famous. The venerable statesman, recently turned out of office after his wartime leadership and seeking a stage where he could continue to speak, readily accepted the offer to journey to President Truman's home state. (The two had met at Potsdam the year before.) The speech was entitled "Sinews of Peace," but its most famous line, reverberating throughout those tense early Cold War years, asserted that from "Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent." Thus Churchill pointed out his growing concern about Stalin's plans for postwar Soviet expansion. White (lecturer, MidAmerica Nazarene Univ.) has extensively researched both Churchill and Truman as well as the late-1940s Cold War era to provide an interesting and insightful analysis of an episode from which most know only a common expression. How Westminster College President Frank McCluer pulled off this event at his small, little-known institution is remarkable in itself. VERDICT A well-written and well-researched book for both general and scholarly audiences.—Edward Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames
Kirkus Reviews
In his debut, an independent historian revisits the genesis, occasion and aftermath of what Winston Churchill unhesitatingly called "the most important speech of my career." Returning from the July 1945, conference at Potsdam, where Stalin's intransigence troubled him deeply, Churchill arrived in London to await election returns. The war-weary British public handed his Tory Party a resounding, surprise rebuke. Depressed over his electoral defeat, badly in need of rest and more convinced than ever of the iniquity and menace of communism, he contemplated a long Florida vacation. When an unlikely invitation to speak at a tiny Midwestern school arrived—a request made more attractive by President Harry Truman's hand-scribbled endorsement and offer to introduce him—Churchill seized the opportunity to deliver an address he knew would command worldwide attention. It was the biggest thing ever to happen to Fulton, Missouri's Westminster College, still best known as the site of the talk Churchill called "The Sinews of Peace," retitled by history the "Iron Curtain Speech." With helpful annotations, White fully reproduces the address and reminds us that Churchill's call for increased Anglo-American solidarity in the face of Soviet aggression was not particularly well received, the last gasp, some said, of an old imperialist, a warmonger intent on poisoning whatever chance remained for cooperation with the Soviet Union. Today, we remember it as "one of the defining statements of the twentieth century." White's at his best painting the small scenes in the background of the event: Churchill's construction of the speech as he sunbathed and painted, the whiskey and poker-fueled train ride with Truman to Missouri and especially the frantic preparations for the big day by Westminster and Fulton officials, including the charismatic college president who conceived of the long-shot invitation to a world figure who unexpectedly said yes. A small slice of history charmingly retold.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781610392433
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs
  • Publication date: 3/5/2013
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,264,202
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author


Philip White is a writer and a lecturer at MidAmerica Nazarene University, and a regular contributor to The Historical Society publications. Philip’s business writing has been recognized with awards from the Public Relations Society of America and the International Association of Business Communicators. He lives in Olathe, KS, with his wife and two sons.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A wonderful insider's look at the genesis and impacts of the "Iron Curtain" speech.

    A most excellent book addressing the context, politics and impacts of the "Iron Curtain" speech. Equally interesting and entertaining are the insights concerning the challenges that faced a small college and small town when hosting such prestigious guests.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 16, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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