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Churchill and America

Churchill and America

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by Martin Gilbert

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The first examination of Churchill’s astounding seventy-year relationship with the United States and the foundation of the century-long alliance between the United States and Britain.

Winston Churchill, whose mother was born in Brooklyn in 1854, spent much of his adult life in close contact with the United States. In two world wars, his was the main


The first examination of Churchill’s astounding seventy-year relationship with the United States and the foundation of the century-long alliance between the United States and Britain.

Winston Churchill, whose mother was born in Brooklyn in 1854, spent much of his adult life in close contact with the United States. In two world wars, his was the main British voice urging the closest possible co-operation with the Americans. From before the First World War, he understood the power of the United States, the “gigantic boiler,” which, once lit, would drive the great engine forward.

On the eve of his retirement as prime minister in 1955, in his final words to Cabinet, Churchill told his colleagues: “Never be separated from the Americans.”

The world’s foremost authority on Winston Churchill, Martin Gilbert was appointed Churchill’s official biographer in 1968 and has ever since been collecting archival and personal documentation that explores every twist and turn of Churchill’s relations with the United States. In the masterly and eloquent Churchill and America he reveals the golden thread of friendship and understanding running through the relationship, despite countless setbacks.

The legacy of Churchill’s relationship with America continues to this day in the troubled Anglo-American alliance in Iraq.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In many ways, Winston Churchill embodied the "special relationship" between America and Britain-his mother was American, and he admired the country even before he courted the United States' assistance during WWII. In this thoroughly researched, consistently enjoyable study, Gilbert-the statesman's official biographer-covers the subject with his usual diligence and rigor, from the American roots of Churchill's mother to his first visit to the U.S. in 1895 and on to the end of his life. Historically, the most important connections were between Churchill and the two WWII presidents, Roosevelt and Truman, and the book is filled with detail on the war years, especially his indefatigable efforts to get America involved in the war. He tells his son, "I shall drag the United States in." But it's just as interesting to discover how Churchill embraced America so early in his life, not of necessity but out of temperament. In a letter home during his very first visit, he notes American vulgarity, but adds, "I think... that vulgarity is a sign of strength." This is a fascinating story, straightforward and well told, of one of the 20th century's most important leaders and the critical connection he forged between the world's fading superpower and its rising one. Photos and maps not seen by PW. Agent, Caradoc King, A.P. Watt (U.K.). (Oct. 6) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
It is doubtful whether anyone on this planet knows more about the life and times of Winston Churchill than his official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert (honorary fellow, Merton Coll., Oxford; Churchill: A Life). Gilbert has published numerous works about the great Englishman. This time he focuses on Churchill's lifelong attachment to America, an attachment that stemmed from his American-born mother, Jennie Jerome, who married Randolph Churchill. Gilbert traces Churchill's various voyages to America, from his first visit in 1895 to his last in 1961. He recounts how Churchill's fondness for America and its denizens shaped both his personal outlook and the policies of the different governments he headed. Foremost among the special relationships he maintained over his lifetime was the remarkable friendship he crafted with Franklin Roosevelt during FDR's presidency. Their relationship often softened the antagonisms that erupted between the English-speaking allies as World War II progressed. Every year a new biography of Churchill appears (Roy Jenkins's Churchill: A Biography being a good recent example), but no one can surpass the deep understanding of the man that Gilbert displays. This latest contribution is highly recommended.-Ed Goedeken, Iowa State Univ. Lib., Ames Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Crusty old Tories long complained that Winston Churchill wasn't quite British. His official biographer shows that they were right. Churchill's mother, nee Jennie Jerome, was born in Brooklyn in 1854. It thrilled Winston more to know that one of his ancestors was what he called, in the parlance of the time, "a Seneca squaw." Writes Gilbert (The Righteous, 2003, etc.), "the quintessential Englishman was not only half American but also one-sixty-fourth Native American." Being half American did not keep Churchill from serving as an advisor to the Spanish government just before war broke out with the U.S., nor did he shy from answering the call when it appeared that the U.S. and England were on the verge of war over some tangled dealings in Venezuela. Yet Churchill's affinities were always with America, and the feelings were mutual; Churchill's powers of persuasion were such that Charles Schwab, the head of U.S. Steel, gladly violated neutrality laws to build submarines for England during WWI, and even FDR figured out a way to skirt those same laws to supply Churchill with airplanes before the U.S. entered WWII. Close feelings apart, though, Churchill often found himself flummoxed by American politics: He was irritated when Congress pressed for quick repayment of war debts after WWI; unhappy when, in his view, the U.S. allowed Russia to swallow up half of Europe; and downright irate at Eisenhower's obstinate refusal to hold informal talks with Soviet diplomats, which might have ended the Cold War much sooner. Much of this will be a revelation even to those who know Churchill's work and career, and Gilbert does a fine job of charting the statesman's sometimes mixed feelings for the land heconsidered a second home-and his closest ally. The ties that bind the two countries today are, at least in part, of Churchill's making.
From the Publisher
“This is a fascinating story, straightforward and well told, of one of the 20th century's most important leaders.”
Publishers Weekly

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Free Press
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5.60(w) x 1.30(h) x 8.40(d)

Read an Excerpt


Evil would be the counsellors, dark would be the day when we embarked on that most foolish, futile, and fatal of all wars — a war with the United States.

— Winston Churchill, 13 May 1901

George Washington was part of his family pedigree. Three of his ancestors had fought against the British in the American Revolutionary War. His mother was an American, born in Brooklyn in 1854. He himself was an honorary citizen of the United States. He was Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime leader, whose links with America are the focus of this book.

The story of Churchill and America spans ninety years. The special relationship he felt with the United States, and strove to establish — not always successfully — remains a central aspect of international relations. "Whatever the pathway of the future may bring," he told an American audience in 1932, "we can face it more safely, more comfortably, and more happily if we travel it together, like good companions. We have quarrelled in the past, but even in our quarrels great leaders on both sides were agreed on principles." Churchill added: "Let our common tongue, our common basic law, our joint heritage of literature and ideals, the red tie of kinship, become the sponge of obliteration of all the unpleasantness of the past."

Churchill spent much of his seventy adult years in close contact with the United States. He made sixteen journeys across the Atlantic. A British political opponent once called him "Half alien — and wholly reprehensible." A First World War colleague said of him: "There's a lot of Yankee in Winston. He knows how to hustle and how to make others hustle too." Many Americans were attracted to Churchill's personality. "Unlike most Englishmen," one of his secretaries recalled, "he is naturally at ease among Americans, who seem to understand him better than his own countrymen." President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed it in a telegram to Churchill during the Second World War: "It is fun being in the same decade as you."

Churchill was proud of his American ancestry. During a discussion at the Truman White House in 1952, to standardize the type of rifle to be used by the two countries' armies, the following exchange took place between Churchill and the senior British officer present:

Field Marshal Slim: "Well, I suppose we could experiment with a bastard rifle, partly American, partly British."

Churchill: "Kindly moderate your language, Field Marshal. It may be recalled that I am myself partly British, partly American."

In two world wars, in both of which Britain's future was endangered, Churchill's was the chief British voice urging, and attaining, the closest possible cooperation with the United States. After the United States had entered the First World War, Churchill told the British War Cabinet that "the intermingling of British and American units on the field of battle and their endurance of losses and suffering together may exert an immeasurable effect upon the future destiny of the English-speaking peoples." As Minister of Munitions he worked to ensure that the two armies would be well mingled and well supplied.

Speaking on 4 July 1918, to a large Anglo-American gathering in London, Churchill, having just returned from the Western Front, declared: "When I have seen during the past few weeks the splendour of American manhood striding forward on all the roads of France and Flanders, I have experienced emotions which words cannot describe." The only recompense Britain sought from American participation in the First World War was the "supreme reconciliation" of Britain and the United States. If the two armies and the two nations "worked well together to secure victory in 1918, Britain and the United States may act permanently together."

Such sentiments were not shared by all Churchill's fellow countrymen. Throughout his life one of Churchill's battles was against the sometimes latent, sometimes strong anti-Americanism that could be found throughout British society. He was always urging his friends, his colleagues, and, as Prime Minister, his War Cabinet, not to alien-ate the United States, whatever vexations American policy might be causing.

In 1944, as victory came closer, Churchill saw a bolder and brighter future for the Anglo-American relationship than victory alone. In a speech in London at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 November 1944, in celebration of American Thanksgiving Day, he spoke of how "in three or four years the United States has in sober fact become the greatest military, naval, and air power in the world — that, I say to you in this time of war, is itself a subject for profound thanksgiving." But he also spoke of "a greater Thanksgiving Day, which still shines ahead, which beckons the bold and loyal and warm-hearted."

That future Thanksgiving Day would be "when this union of action which has been forced upon us by our common hatred of tyranny, which we have maintained during these dark and fearful days, shall become a lasting union of sympathy and good-feeling and loyalty and hope between all the British and American peoples, wherever they may dwell. Then, indeed," Churchill declared, "there will be a Day of Thanksgiving, and one in which all the world will share."

During the Second World War it is doubtful whether Britain could have sustained itself against the Nazi onslaught, or maintained itself at war, without Churchill's almost daily efforts to win the United States to the British and Allied cause: first as a benign neutral providing vast amounts of war material, and then as an ally willing to put the defeat of Germany before that of Japan. When the Cold War began with the Soviet Union, Churchill told his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden: "The similarity and unity which we have with the United States will grow and it is indispensable to our safety." To ensure that unity and safety, Churchill worked closely for the next decade with Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Truman and Eisenhower were important in Churchill's efforts to forge a common Anglo-American policy and theme, but no world leaders had such a long, constructive, intimate, frustrating, disputatious and affectionate relationship as Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Churchill said of the President whom he met so many times and corresponded with so frequently over a period of five years: "I have wooed President Roosevelt as a man might woo a maid." There were many quarrels, but, as Churchill once telegraphed to Roosevelt, using one of his favorite Latin quotations: "Amantium irae amoris integratio est." When one of Churchill's secretaries said she did not know what this meant, Churchill told her: "It means the wrath of lovers hots up their love." Roosevelt's staff translated the quotation for him somewhat more prosaically, and more accurately, as "Lovers' quarrels always go with true love."

These pages tell the story of Churchill's lifelong "true love" of the United States. It was a love affair that began with his first visit to New York in 1895 and was still in evidence during his final visit in 1961. At the beginning of 1942 Churchill told King George VI that Britain and the United States "were now 'married' after many months of 'walking out.' " As with all close and sustained relationships, it was replete with ups and downs, uncertainties and disagreements, even anger, but its high points were sustained and remarkable, and of deep benefit to both nations. Churchill's determination to maintain, repair, strengthen and make full use of the ties between the two countries is unique in the annals of Anglo-American relations.

Martin Gilbert Merton College, Oxford 18 May 2005

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"This is a fascinating story, straightforward and well told, of one of the 20th century's most important leaders and the critical connection he forged between the world's fading superpower and its rising one."

Meet the Author

Martin Gilbert is Winston Churchill's official biographer, and a leading historian of the modern world.

Simon Vance, a former BBC Radio presenter and newsreader, is a full-time actor who has appeared on both stage and television. He has recorded over eight hundred audiobooks and has earned five coveted Audie Awards, and he has won fifty-seven Earphones Awards from AudioFile magazine, which has named him a Golden Voice.

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Churchill and America 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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I thought this book was oustanding. It coverd it all for me. I would buy it again definatly.
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Martin Gilbert narrates with panache the ups and downs in the relationship of Winston S. Churchill with the United States, the country of birth of his mother. Gilbert uses Churchill¿s own words and those of his contemporaries as much as possible. Gilbert weaves these words into his narrative without ever boring his audience. Thanks to this judicious use of quotes, readers get an in-depth account and understanding of the unique place that the United States occupied in the heart of Churchill over much of his seventy adult years. Churchill¿s cornerstone foreign policy was to avoid estrangement with the United States, even when its leaders sometimes disappointed him much. Churchill understood early that Britain, an imperial power at its apex, would have to build and maintain a special relationship with the emerging superpower as a key ally in both war and peace. Churchill¿s many-sided personality never left his audience, hostile or not, indifferent to his message. Martin shows with much conviction how skillful Churchill was at mobilizing the English language and sending it into battle as President John F. Kennedy nicely put it. Successfully, Churchill went to great lengths to drag in the United States into different wars on the side of Britain and its allies when the fate of civilization was at stake. Churchill¿s enduring legacy is reflected in the special relationship that Britain and the United States still enjoy with one another. Predictably, Churchill was the only one made an honorary citizen of the United States during his lifetime in recognition of his lifelong links and friendship with America and the Americans.