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Churchill and Americaby Martin Gilbert
Synopses & Reviews
In this stirring book, Martin Gilbert tells the intensely human story of Winston Churchill's profound connection to America, a relationship that resulted in an Anglo-American alliance that has stood at the center of international relations for more than a century.
Winston Churchill, whose mother, Jennie Jerome, the daughter of a leading American entrepreneur, was born in Brooklyn in 1854, spent much of his seventy adult years in close contact with the United States. In two world wars, his was the main British voice urging the closest possible cooperation with the United States. 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.
Sir 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 relationship with the United States, revealing the golden thread running through it of friendship and understanding despite many setbacks and disappointments. Drawing on this extensive store of Churchill's own words — in his private letters, his articles and speeches, and press conferences and interviews given to American journalists on his numerous journeys throughout the United States — Gilbert paints a rich portrait of the Anglo-American relationship that began at the turn of the last century.
Churchill first visited the United States in 1895, when he was twenty-one. During that first visit, he was invited to West Point and was fascinated by New York City. "What an extraordinary people the Americans are!" he wrote to his mother. "This is a very great country, my dear Jack," he told his brother. During three subsequent visits before the Second World War, he traveled widely and formed a clear understanding of both the physical and moral strength of Americans.
During the First World War, Churchill was Britain's Minister of Munitions, working closely with his American counterpart Bernard Baruch to secure the material needed for the joint war effort, and argued with his colleagues that it would be a grave mistake to launch a renewed assault before the Americans arrived.
Churchill's historic alliance with Franklin Roosevelt during the Second World War is brilliantly portrayed here with much new material, as are his subsequent ties with President Truman, which contributed to the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.
In his final words to his Cabinet in 1955, on the eve of his retirement as Prime Minister, Churchill gave his colleagues this advice: "Never be separated from the Americans."
In "Churchill and America," Gilbert explores how Churchill's intense rapport with this country resulted in no less than the liberation of Europe and the preservation of European democracy and freedom. It also set the stage for the ongoing alliance that has survived into the twenty-first century.
"A few weeks after Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill was invited to address a joint session of Congress. Thanking the assembled company, he said: 'I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own.' Although it's fun to imagine Churchill as the junior senator from New York, perhaps even running for governor... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) against Franklin D. Roosevelt, that is ultimately inconceivable. Churchill may have been half American but, as the obituaries put it, he was 'all British.' Yet coming to terms with America became his life's work.
Two vivid and readable new books cast light on this story. Martin Gilbert, Churchill's official biographer, to whom all scholars in the field are indebted, sets out the story from Churchill's birth in 1874 to a New York heiress and a British aristocrat up to his receipt of honorary U.S. citizenship in 1963, two years before his death. At the center is Churchill's wartime partnership with FDR, but the most fascinating detail in the book comes from the period before he became prime minister in 1940.
During his first 65 years, Churchill paid only four visits to the United States, compared with 12 between 1941 and 1961. Two trips in 1895 and 1900-01 gave him a vivid sense of Gilded Age America. Some aspects seemed abhorrent, such as the 'vulgarity' of the press and the ubiquity of ice water — that 'bleak beverage' — but his abiding impressions were of wealth and energy. 'Vulgarity is a sign of strength,' he wrote, likening America to 'a great lusty youth' in a world of 'well bred' but 'enervated' ladies and gentlemen. After 1900, Churchill's political career blossomed, and he did not cross the Atlantic again for nearly 30 years. Two extended lecture tours in 1929 and 1931-32 introduced him to Depression-era America; he was in New York on Black Thursday and witnessed a ruined investor jumping 15 stories to his death. Churchill himself lost badly in the Wall Street downturns of 1929 and 1937 but, literally and metaphorically, he kept on investing in America. In his mind, Depression America was only temporary; the real America was the one he had encountered 30 years before.
The problem for him as a British politician was that this lusty youth was now throwing his weight around in international society. In the 1920s, the intense Anglo-American naval rivalry led Churchill to warn his cabinet colleagues that war was not 'unthinkable,' adding 'we do not wish to put ourselves in the power of the United States.' In the 1930s, in a more hopeful mood, he wrote and spoke about the essential unity of 'the English-speaking peoples,' and this ideal became a lodestar for the rest of his life.
In the spring of 1940, when France fell just as Churchill became prime minister, Britain had no choice but to seek massive and immediate U.S. aid. Any British leader would have done so; but it helped immeasurably that Churchill understood America's vast potential and that he wooed Roosevelt, to quote his own words, 'as a man might woo a maid.' Yet his 1920s anti-American image — a product of his hard line on the naval rivalry — was initially an impediment, and this might have come out more fully in Gilbert's book. New Dealers feared Churchill was a drink-sodden reactionary; in May 1940, FDR grudgingly said he supposed Churchill was 'the best man Britain had, even if he was drunk half of his time.' It was only after FDR's confidant, Harry Hopkins, flew to Britain in January 1941 to check out the new prime minister that the relationship got going. The Atlantic conference between the two leaders off the coast of Newfoundland that August paved the way for Churchill's five wartime visits to the United States.
The first of these, over Christmas in 1941, is put under the microscope by David Bercuson and Holger Herwig, professors at the University of Calgary. The outlines of the story are well known, but the authors offer a lively account with deft character sketches and vivid detail.
Bercuson and Herwig believe Churchill was right to force himself on FDR so soon after Pearl Harbor. The visit permitted a meeting of minds before wartime U.S. strategy was firmly set. Churchill also gained confirmation of the 'Germany First' principle: Despite Pearl Harbor, the United States would give priority to defeating Hitler's Germany, not Hirohito's Japan.
But the real hero of 'One Christmas in Washington' is Gen. George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army chief of staff. The authors credit him with securing agreement on a single commander for each Allied theater of operations, overriding not merely national rivalries but also the often stronger animosities between soldiers, sailors and airmen from the same country. Marshall also insisted on a Combined Chiefs of Staff committee, based in Washington, to coordinate the war effort, and he blocked Churchill's ideas for a joint invasion of Northwest Africa.
The result was a remarkable alliance. One only has to look at the way that Germany and Japan fought totally separate wars to realize the importance of what was agreed upon that Christmas. But Bercuson and Herwig also see it as the 'moment of transition' in Britain's decline and America's rise. Yet there is a danger of investing a short period of time with world-historical significance. America's great reservoir of manpower had yet to be mobilized; any landing in France in 1942 would have used mostly British and Canadian troops. And that is why Churchill was still able to dictate strategy, eventually getting his way about invading French North Africa in November 1942. There Hitler's unexpectedly strong resistance denied the Allies a quick victory and helped delay the D-Day landings in Normandy until the summer of 1944.
By then, the Red Army had turned the German tide and was rolling into Poland. Churchill and Roosevelt tried to ameliorate the now inevitable Soviet presence in Eastern Europe. Although Gilbert tends to blame FDR for the Yalta agreements, Churchill shared the president's hopes of doing business with Stalin, even telling his ministers in a remarkable comment not quoted in Gilbert's volume: 'Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust Hitler. He was wrong. But I don't think I'm wrong about Stalin.'
That said, Churchill soon became alarmed at Soviet expansion. His March 1946 speech in Fulton, Mo., launched the sound bite 'iron curtain' around the world. Equally important, Churchill urged America to stay close to Britain in peace as well as war, popularizing the phrase 'special relationship.'
Less often noticed, at Fulton he urged not simply containment of Soviet power but negotiation from a position of strength. This became the great endeavor of his second period as prime minister, from 1951 to 1955, when he tried to enlist first Harry Truman and then Dwight D. Eisenhower in a new 'summit' conference (another Churchillism) in search of what would later be called detente.
So Churchill was a more complex Cold Warrior than stereotype suggests. But his attitude to Soviet Russia, as to Nazi Germany, was based on one firm principle: 'Never be separated from the Americans.'" Reviewed by David Reynolds, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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
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