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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
Table of Contents
List of Maps
List of Photographs
Chapter One: From Blenheim Palace to Buffalo Bill
Chapter Two: The "Tall Yankee" and "A Great Lusty Youth"
Chapter Three: Cuba and Beyond
Chapter Four: "How Little Time Remains!"
Chapter Five: Lecturer in the United States:"The Stormy Ocean of American Thought and Discussion"
Chapter Six: "Dark Would Be the Day"
Chapter Seven: Churchill at War, and a Neutral America
Chapter Eight: "The Future Destiny of the English-speaking Peoples"
Chapter Nine: 1918: "Come Over as Quickly as Possible"
Chapter Ten: "America Did Not Make Good"
Chapter Eleven: "We Do Not Wish to Put Ourselves in the Power of the United States"
Chapter Twelve: "United to Us by the Crimson Thread of Friendship"
Chapter Thirteen: Between Two Visits
Chapter Fourteen: "There's No Baloney About Him at All"
Chapter Fifteen: "Why Do Our Two Countries Not Take Counsel Together?"
Chapter Sixteen: "A Union of Spirit"
Chapter Seventeen: Road to War
Chapter Eighteen: "Hope Burden Will Not Be Made Too Heavy for Us to Bear"
Chapter Nineteen: "I Shall Drag the United States In"
Chapter Twenty: "Until the Old World and the New Can Join Hands"
Chapter Twenty-One: "We Are No Longer Alone"
Chapter Twenty-Two: Five Months of Anguish
Chapter Twenty-Three: "A Means of Waging More Effective War"
Chapter Twenty-Four: "American Blood Flowed in My Veins"
Chapter Twenty-Five: The Washington War Conference: "All in It Together"
Chapter Twenty-Six: "Okay Full Blast"
Chapter Twenty-Seven: "The Tact and Consideration Which the Harmony of the Common Cause Requires"
Chapter Twenty-Eight: "If We Are Together Nothing Is Impossible"
Chapter Twenty-Nine: Toward Overlord: "Our Band of Brothers"
Chapter Thirty: From Normandy to Quebec
Chapter Thirty-One: "It Grieves Me Very Much to See Signs of Our Drifting Apart"
Chapter Thirty-Two: Malta, Yalta and Beyond
Chapter Thirty-Three: "We Must Make Sure That the United States Are with Us"
Chapter Thirty-Four: "Britain, Though a Smaller Power Than the United States, Had Much to Give"
Chapter Thirty-Five: Fulton and Its Aftermath
Chapter Thirty-Six: "I Have Always Worked for Friendship with the United States"
Chapter Thirty-Seven: The Indefatigable Traveler
Chapter Thirty-Eight: "I Marvel at America's Altruism, Her Sublime Disinterestedness"
Chapter Thirty-Nine: "We Must Not Cast Away a Single Hope, However Slender"
Chapter Forty: "Never Be Separated from the Americans"
Chapter Forty-One: Final Decade: "I Delight in My American Ancestry"
Churchill's American Visits
What People are Saying About This
"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."