*** war and social upheaval: World War II Britain alone

World War II: Britain Alone (1940-41)

Britain alone
Figure 1.--The British Royal Family remained in Buckingham PAlace and Windsor all through the Blitz. The Cabinent advised the King and Queen to leave to leave London. She refused and also would not send the princesses to safety in Canada. She famously said, "The children won't go without me. I won't leave the King. And the King will never leave." There are countless images like this of the Royal family and Primeminister Churchill visiting bomb damage or wounded soldiers. Notably, this is something Hitler never did. Here in the middle of the Blitz the Royal couple or headed for a Hostel for Servicemen (November 2, 1940). Notice the boy. Despite the evacuations, there were still many children remaining in London throughout the Blitz.

"Today it is the honor and destiny of the British people to man the bridgehead of humanity's hopes. It is youre privlidge to stand against ruthess and powerful dictators who would destroy the lessons of two thousand years of history. It is your destiny to say to them: 'Here you shall not pass.'"

-- Ambassdor Winatt (March 1944). Winatt's championship of the British cause was a sharp departure from Ambassador Kennedy's defeatism.

From a distance of several decades we tend to see a supremely confident Churchill. We are moved by his defiant speeches. And of course we have the advantage of knowing that Britain did survive and triumph. This is not, however, a luxury Churchill had immediately after Dunkirk. It was not at all clear at the time that Britain would survive. Churchill flew to Paris to try to bolster the reeling French. He saw it was a lost cause. France was broken and the Panzers were moving south toward Paris. Churchill meeting with General Hastings Ismay on his staff announced, more in desperation than defiance, "We fight alone." Ismay replied, "We'll win the Battle of Britain." Churchill's response was, "You and I will be dead in three months time." [Reynolds] This was not view Churchill ever allowed to be seen pubically and it reflected the desperation of the moment more than his real conviction . That was understandable immediately after the fall ofFrance. Churchill did not want it revealed even after the War. He thought it would affect his image. It well might. It shows how desperate Britain's plight was. It also humanizes the man and I think makes his defiance to Hitler even more admirable. After the Germans entered Paris, the French sined an Armistice. Britain was alone. The future was bleak. In World War I the British with French and Russian assistance barely stopped the Germans until America entered the War. Now Britain had to do it on her own. Many in Europe and America thought Britain lost. Churchil writes, "After the first forty days we were alone, with victorious Germany and Italy engaged in na mortal attack upom us, with Soviet Russia a hostile neutral actively aiding Hitler, and Japan an unknowable menace." [Churchill, p. 230.]

Britain's Decession (May 28, 1940)

Britain faced what many felt was certain defeat. At this time Britain could have made a deal with Hitler. Lord Halifax thought Britain had little choice. Halifax was Britain's Foreign Secretary and had supported Chamberlain's policy of apeasement to avoid warwith Germany. One of the unansweed questions about the War is why Halifax did not replace Chaberlain as primeminister. He was next in line and could have been primeminister rather than Churchill, yet he declined. No one knows why. Some believe he thought he was not up to the task. It may well be that as the German Wester offensive fell (May 10) that he did not want to be the primeminister presiding over a defeated Britain. Hitler admired the British. Hewould have offered an arrangement more attractive than that offered France. Britain could have kept its fleet and much of the Empire. Hitler in the end did not wantwar ith Britain. He wanted to secure his western front so he could fovcus on the Sovit Union in the east. Churchill refused, however, to treat with Hitler and the NAZIs. He was determined to resist as dire as the circumstances. Halifax and others in the war Cabinent believed that Britain should deal with Hitler. Churchill was narroiwly able to bring the War Cabinent with him. There would be no British Vichy. There was some support in Britain for reaching an understanding with Hitler. Some of the moneyed class saw Hitler and the NAZIs as a way of controlling the working class and confronting Bolshevism. In the end Britain would be saved, not by the gentry, but the minors, workers, and common people often living in squalid city slums. [Jesson] That commitment was to be shown by London's East End when the Blitz commenced. Churchill after the RAF had defeated the Luftwaffe and defeat was no longer eminent, replaced Halifax with a close ally, Anthony Eden. Halifax was disposed of by being made ambassador to the United States, a deft political move.

The Fall of France (June 1940)

The Germans proceeded to conquer virtually all of Western Europe. After a few months of the "Phony War", France's turn came. The Germans struck on a wide front against the neutral Netherlands, Belgiym, and Luxemburg. The terror bombing of Rotterdam convinced the already hard-pressed Dutch Army to surrender. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF) rushed north to aid the Dutch. The Germans then struck in the Belgian Ardenes which allowed them to avoid the formidable Maginot Line. The French and Belgians considered the Ardenes impassable to tanks. The Germans managed to easily penetrate the rough terraine, crossed two substantial rivers, and the XIX Panzer Corps rapidly reached the English Channel--cutting the BEF off from the French and rendering the Maginot Line uselss. The French entrenched behind the Maginot Line simply could not cope with the exposive highly mobile style of Blitzkrieg warfare. The Panzers surrounded the Belgian Army which King Leopold III surrendered. The BEF was within Hitler's grasp. The Panzers were only a few miles south of Dunkirk and facing no serious opposition. Hitler ordered the Panzers to halt. Some believe that he hoped this gesture would help convince the British to comes to terms, other believe that is was just as it was described at the time, aneeded pause to regroup and prepare for a more coordinated assault. [Davidson, p. 408 and Fest, p. 630.] What ever the reason, this 48-hour respite allowed the British to organize a defensive perimter around Dunkirk and begin an almost miraculous withdawl. Nearly 340,000 men were evacuated from Dunkirk, including French and Dutch sholdiers. This is even more important that it sounds as akmost all if the British sholdiers were regulars and would form the corps of the future British Army that would play such an important role in the War. All of the BEF's equipment, however, was lost. Paris soon fell and the French signed a NAZI imposed armistace. The collapse of France after only a few weeks was a disaster of emense proportions. It was the French Army that had provided the bulk of the allied War Western Front in World War I. The German victory was no accomplished with superior numbers or weaponry. In fact they had fewer men, tank, and planes. What they had was a superior tactical doctrine. The Germans were amazed to find, for example, that French tanks were not even equipped with radios, and a more disciplined fighting force. NAZI propaganda began to describe Hitler as " Der grösste Feldherr Allerzeiten " (the greatest field commander of all time). [Davidson, p. 483.] Churchill offered the French political union. The French to make a separate peace with the Germans.

The Dominions

While the term "Britain Alone" is commonly used as we have used it. Britain in a very real sence, however, was not quite alone. Even as the NAZIs reached the Channel, the First Canadian Division was braced as the only fully equipped divion in England. In addition to a very sympatheic American president, the Dominions stood by Britain. While each alone were not a major force, the combined strngth of the Dominions was very substantial. In fact is that it likely that without the Dominions, the Axis would have seized the Middle East and gained access to the vital oil resources of Iran and Iraq in 1941. Each of the Dominions as well as India played key roles in the War. Other colonial outposts played various roles in the War. The autonomous British Dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Union of South Africa all declared war in September 1939 on Britain's side and stood by her throughout the War. After the fall of France, Britain was alone with the Empire. The British effort was a collective Empire effort. Canadians were stationed in Britain right away in 1939. The Royal Canadian Navy played a major role in the Battle of the Atlantic. The Air Forces of Britain and the Dominions all trained in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, which took place in Canada. Many of the Canadians died in the ill-fated raid on Dieppe in 1942. Canadians took part alongside the British in the Normandy Invasion in 1944. South Africans fought in the battles in North Africa, Indians also fought in North Africa and in Burma, while Australians and New Zealanders fought both in the Middle East and in the Pcific. Imperial forces played a major role in the Allied war effort. It should not be thought that Churchill when he talked about fighting alone he ws asuming Britain and the Dominions together as an extended British people.

Emergency American Aid

For 12 months after the fall of France, Britain fought alone. But Britain was not entirely alone. There were the Dominions. And then there was America. America was still at peace and and most Americans wanted no part of the War. There were still neutrality laws to be overcome. President Roosevely was, however, anything but neutral. President Roosvelt increased American assistance after the fall of France began to increase, depite an upcoming election. An American electorate was becoming increasinly supportive of Britain, but not willing to enter the War. After the disaster of France Congress began repealing the Neutrality Laws. The President ordered the U.S. Army to sorted through weapons in American arsenals to ship to Britain (June 1940). Even while the bombs fell on London during the Blitz, British merchant men brought a steady flow of weapons, aircraft, munitions, material, and food to the beleagered island. Rarely a day passed wihout a ship leaving an American port for Britain and often more than one a day. FDR was insistent that such help be provided and General George C. Marshall, Army Chief of Staff, agreed that the British war effort be suported. [Gilbert, p. 328.] This was of course hardly the policy of a neutral country. The initial steps were modest, but gradually increased in scope. The end result would be the greatest military alliance in the history of warfare.

Strategic Situation (June 1940-June 1941)

Even if Britain was not precisely alone given the support of the Dominions and America, the strategic situation was dire, even worse than commonly understood in World war II histories. Britain and the Dominions were in a very real sence all that stood not only between the NAZIs, but totalitatian tyranny itself. Europe had been divided up between two totalitarian powers, the NAZIs and the Soviet Union. While the press at the time and even historians today commonly focus on Hitler's invasion of Poland, Stalin from the east also invaded Poland (September 1939). And that was only te first of a dreadful series of Soviet aggressions. From the Urals to the Pyrénées, all of Europe Europe with the eception of a few isolated, vulnerable enclaves (Sweden and Switzerland) were in the hands of merciless tyrannies. And except for the Jews (admittedly a big excepotion), there was not a great difference between the NAZIs and Soviets. Soviet oppressioin was so dreadful in fact that except in Poland, the NAZIs were seen by many as liberators and that even included areas of the Soiviet Union (especially the western Ukraine). The Soviet Union was not directly figting the British, but they were supplying the NAZI war machine with vast quantities of critically important war materials as agrreed to under the terms of the NAZI-Soviet Non-Agression Pact. Hitler had begun the War with serious deficiencies in the natural resources needed to fight the War, especially oil. The Soviets were providing the NAZIs what they needed to complete their victory in the West. So in a very real way, Brtitain faced the entire continent of Europe under the control of two cruel tyranies. Churchill realized that Britain by itself could never defeat the totalitarian powes that had seized control of Europe. Churchill's war policy was this simply to survive until the sleeping giant across the Atlantic would finally join the struggle against tyranny. And there Lindberrg and the isolations with a myopic view of history that dephies crudeulity were determined to allow Europe to fight its own battles. As Churchill explained during the long, dangerous struggle after the fall of France, "We are fighting by ourselves alone, but we are not fighting for ourselves alone." American aid to Britain could help Britain survive, but witout America as an active fighting allt, Britain could never challenge the NAZI hold on Europe. And even with America as long as the NAZI-Soviet alliance held this would not have been posible. And Japan's adheremce to the Axis only added to the totalitarian strategic dominance.

Britain Braces

The British people so opposed to another war were willing to accept Primeminister Chamberlin's naive assurances that he had achieved 'peace in our time'. Most had no illusions as to the character of Hitler and the NAZIs, but they accepted Chamberlain's assessment that he did not want another war and could be appeased. After the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia, occupation of Poland and then Denmark and Norway and now the Low Countrues and France, they no longerv had any illusions. And they knew that they were next. In the apparant lull while the Whermacht occupied France and the Channel ports and with the BEF safely evacuated from Dunkirk, but without their equipment and heavy weapons, the British people braced for invasion. We know about Churchill's brave words, but what about the people of Britain who in all fairness had elected politicans like Chamberlain who told them what they had wanted to hear. And they had rejected Churchill who insisted on repeating again and again what they had not wanted to hear. And now after giving into the siren call of the pacifists and disarmers, they would now have to pay the price of facing the NAZIs alone and unprepared. They sent their children off to the country side, only this time with more difficulty. Even the younger children now understood what evacuation meant. Almost surealistically, the summer while the Germans assembled their forces and the British braced for invasion proved to be one of the most brilliant in recent memory. One author describes the mood in Britain while the people awaited Hitler's next inevitable move, "Ubder the unsustained heaven of that perfect summer, curiously starred with the silver elephants of the balllon barage, the people sat on the seats among the roses [London's Regent's Park] ... their faces white. Some of them walked among the rose-beds, with a special earnestness looking down on the bright flowers and inhailing the scent, as if to say, 'That is what roses are like, that is how they smell. We must remember that, doen in the darkness.' .... Most of these people believed, and rightly, tht they were presently to be subjected to a form of attack more horrible than had ever before been directed against the common man. Let nobody belittle them by pretending they were fearless. Not being as the ox and the ass, they were horribly afraid. But their pale lips did not part to say the words that would have given security and dishonour." [West]

Preparing Coastal Defenses (June 1940)

For centuries, Britain's defense was primarily the Royal Navy. In World War II, this was no longer the case in 1940. The Royal Navy had to withdraw major fleet elements from the Channel because of the vulnerability to air attack. The plan was to to bring them back once the invasion began. So the first phase of the invasion battle would be in the hands of the RAF which is what the Battle of Britain was all about. The RAF had the Chain Home radar system, but in 1940 this was only for air attack, not a a ship born invasion. After the Dunkirk evacuation, Prime-Minister Churchill delivered his memorable "We shall fight on the beaches" speech to Parliament (June 4, 1940). This was, however, something Britain was not at the time prepared to do. In World War I, Britain's defenses were the Trench line in northern France. And this was expected to be the same in again. Only with the stunning German victory and looming fall of France, the British coast was largely undefended. And this had been made worse because, although the Brutish Army had been saved by the Dunkirk evacuation, all of its heavy weapons, especially artillery had been left behind in France and it would take months to reequip the Army. So very quickly Britain had to build its coastal defenses, what the Brits called the Coastal Crust. And it short order, southern England was turned into a prepared battlefield. The British coastal defenses at time of the fall of France consisted largely of antiquated forts built during the Napoleonic and Victorian era when France was seen as the major threat. These were antiquated, but not unimportant because to succeed the Germans needed to seize a port. (The same problem the D-Day planners faced.) So the major ports had some defenses, including a small number of heavy guns. There guns were World War I vintage heavy guns, which were upgraded with modern optical and eventually radar ranging systems. To sustain and equip a substantial invasion seizing a port was critical. The old forts like Dover Castle also provided secure locations for command and control centers. Nothing was in place, however, to defend most of the beaches. The War Office with France tottering set up the Directorate of Fortifications and Works (FW3) to begin hardening coastal defenses. Major-General G.B.O. Taylor was put in charge. The British began building large numbers of concrete and brick pillboxes all along the Channel and southeastern coast. Some still stand. They were built by local soldiers and labor. There were six basic designs. These were primarily for machine guns, but some were for field guns as well. Ditches and treches were dug, including anti-tank ditches. Beaches were closed off for holiday makers. The Army mined and laid barbed wire. Extensible off shore mine field were laid. The Home Guard would be an important part of the defense if as expected the Germans came in 1940. Deception and disinformation was also important. This involved camouflaging real weapons and fortifications. And efforts were made to create the impression of the existence of defenses that were not real. Unlike during the run up to D-Day, the Luftwaffe was engaging in extensive photo reconnaissance. Drain pipes were made to look like real guns. Dummy pillboxes were constructed. [Wills, p. 163.] Not much of this existed in May 1940, but by September when the German Operation Sea Lion landings were planned, the British had begun to harden their coastal defenses and the Army had begun receiving heavy weapons. And this was a hard break, because after September the weather in the Channel begins to deteriorate.

Führer Directive 16--Operation Sea Lion (July 16)

After the victory in France (June 1940), only Britain remained to resist the Germans. The Channel had stopped the Panzers. After the fall of France, Hitler persued initiatives aimed at gaining British acquiesence in his Continental gains.Hitler hoped that the British would realize the futility of further resistance. His goal was a British Vichy and was prepared to accept generous terms. Hitler's focus was on Europe. He had wahat he wanted in the West. Now he wanted to focus on his primary onjective--the East. He was willing to allow the British to hold on to their oceanic Empire. Britain could keep the Empire in exchange for giving Germany a free hand in Europe. In fact he thought it would be useful to have the Btitish continued to control the colored races he so despised. At the same time he was offering Stalin India. (Hitler was very good at offering allies other people's territories.) He had no desire to humiliate Britain. Here a major factor was race. He considered the British as a people with Teutonic blood. Of course the British had experiences with Hitler's guarantees and it was obvious that Britain could never be independent once Hitler had conquered Europe. Some in the British Government were prepred to accept. Churchill and the British people understoof after Munich the value of Hitler's commitments. Hitler issued F�hrer Directive 16 (July 16). It was "Preparations for a landing operation against England". It is unclear how serious he was about an invasion. His primary interest may have been to force the British to the bargaining table. The Wehrmact began assembling trops in Channel ports and preparing craft for the Channel crossing. After Dunkirk, virtually the only fully armed Divisin in Britain was the First Canadian Division. President Roosevelt rushed arms to the British. British arnms factories worked non-stop. But for several months, the defense of Britain would depend on a handfull of RAF pilots. The issue would be seteled by the Battle of Britain.

Battle of Britain (July-September)

The Battle of Britain was the first major camapign fought in the air. The German initiated their long awaited western campaign in May 1940. Paris fell June 14 and France capitulated June 22. The fall of France meant that Britain stood alone and for a year had to valiantly fight the Germans without allies. American public opinion was decisively isolationist--against involvement in another European war. Most Europeans and Americans thought Britain would soon colapse and further resistance was futile. But the British stirred by Prime Minister Churchill did fight. The Luftwaffe quickly established bases in France and by July 10 launched preliminary strikes in what has come to be called the Battle of Britain. The Luftwaffe while better trained and outnumbering the RAF was ill prepared for the campaign. They did not appreciate the critical importance of the British home chain radar network. They also had no straegic bomber fleet. The air offensive was to be conducted with two engine bombers that proved highly effective in short range tactical operations, but were not well suited for longer-range strategic bombing. The Battle of Britain began in earnest on July 10 and reached intensive levels on August 13 with Luftwaffe raids on British airfields and aircraft factories. Hitler had assumed that the Luftwaffe could force the British to capitualte. He saw world politics in racial terms and in relatity wanted the British as allies or at least neutrals in his planned invasion of the Soviet Union. Unlike his strategy against the Poles, Dutch, and Belgians, there were no German terror bombing of London and other British cities. The Luftwaffe im its August campaign seriously weakened the RAF and Fighter Command was having increasing difficulty maintaining its forward air bases in Kent. Then off-course German bombers accidentally bomb London on August 23-24. RAF Bomber Command on August 25-26 mounted a small reprisal raid against Berlin. Hitler is furious and orders an immediate change in Luftwaffe tactics. Rather than completing its offensive against the RAF infrastructure, Hitler ordered a "blitz" on British cities which began in earnest on September 7. The Luftwaffe wreaked havoc on civilians in London and major English cities. An estimated 42,000 civilians were killed. Thousands of civilians were killed. Edward R. Murrow broadcasting from London ("London calling ...") described Britain's valiant resistance to rapt American radio audiences, greatly affecting American attitides toward the Hitler and the NAZIs. White British cities burned, the RAF was given a respite, allowing its forward air bases to recover from the damage done in August. As a result the RAF was able to mount increasingly costly attacks on the German bomber fleets. The Lutwaffe eventually is forced to shift to nightime raids. Night bombing made it impossible to hit actually military and industrial targets, only cities could be targetted. The British were battered, but held. It was the first German defeat of the War. The narrow, but decisive victory in the Battle of Britain changed the course of the War. The Luftwaffe eventually ended the major offensive against the British as the German military in 1941 began preparing for Opperation Barbarosa, Hitler's long awaited dream of invading the Soviet Union which at the time was a virtual German ally. As Hitler turned his evil view east toward Russia, a huge unsinkable aircraft carrier with a population willing to make virtually any sacrifice remained in his rear. For the NAZIs, the loss of the Battle of Britain was a crusing blow, not only because of the serious losses, but because it was a struggle involving scientific and technical ingenuity in which the Germans had assumed that they had a commanding lead.

Destroyers for Bases (August 1940)

Churchill as the Panzers poured into France pleaded with President Rossevelt for assistance. One possibility was mothballed destroyers, sorely needed to protect the North Atlantic convoy routes. The U.S. Navy had 'moth balled' 70 destroyers after World War I. In fact FDR as Assisstanat Secretary of the Navy had played a part in this. There were great dangers to America in providing these destroyers to Britain. Not only would it be an act only slightly short of war, but it would weaken the ability of America to rapidly expand its fleet. Even more serious was that if Britain capitualed, the destroyers might even fall into German hands. The President also faced political dangers in that the Republicans could charge him with weakening America's defenses, a serious concern in the middle of the 1940 presidential election campaign. FDR finally agreed on August 14 during the height of the Battle of Britain to provide the British badly needed destroyers for their Atlantic convoys being hard pressed by the U-boats. At this stage of the War any good news was extremely important for the British and Churchill. The executive order was issued August 27, 1940. The United States would trade 50 old Navy destroyers for 99 year leases on British sea and air bases in the Western Hemisphere (most were in the Caribbean and in Newfoundland). The approach was extremely savy politically. It sounded like an actual exchange and involved bases close to the United States. In actuality the British were more than willing to provide America bases. It was also a cold political calculation. It was still unclear as to whether Britain would survive. If there was to be a British Vichy, it would be important to have American bases on the British Atlantic and Caribbean islands. The President also allowed British pilots to train in the United States and British ships to be repaired in U.S. ports. The Flight Ferry Command and Eagle Squadron were created. These were very bold exactions taken by the President without Congressional cover in the middle of the presidential election campaign.

The Blitz (September 1940-May 1941)

What is today called the Blitz followed the Battle of Britain (July-September) in which the Luftwaffe to both Hitler and G�ring's surprise failed to defeat the RAF in daylight battles. As a result, the Luftwaffe changed tactics and rather than dioung battle with the RAF, decided tio attack British cities at night when it was difficult to interceopt the bomber formations. The Blitz began in London. Off-course German bombers accidentally bombed London on August 23-24. RAF Bomber Command on August 25-26 directed a small reprisal raid against Berlin. Hitler growing inpatient with the air battle and troubled by the losses of planes and crews was furious. A strong believer in terror tactics, he was outraged that such attacks should be used against Germany. He called the British "night gangsters" and ordered an immediate change in Luftwaffe tactics. Rather than completing its offensive against the RAF infrastructure, Hitler ordered a 'Blitz' on British cities which began in earnest on September 7. Goering was disturbed because the RAF resistance was making him look bad in fornt of Hitler. He had promissed a swift victory to his F�hrer. For the new phase of the battle he had brought his personal train to Pas-de-Calais to take charge from his Luftwaffe commanders. [Gilbert, p. 339.] The Luftwaffe tghen began night raids on provincial cities. While British cities burned, the RAF was given a respite, allowing its forward air bases to recover from the damage done in August. As a result the RAF was able to mount increasingly costly attacks on the German bomber fleets. The German offensive finally had to be broken off on September 16 because of mounting losses and deteriorating weather. The Luftwaffe had a achieved none of Hitler's goals. [Fest, p. 639.]

Anglo-American Understanding (October 1940)

The Roosevelt Administration, in great secrecy at the height of the American presidential election campaign, committed "to equip fully and maintain" ten additional British divisions (October 24). The President made this commitment at the same time that he was "not going to send American boys to fight in foreign wars, unless we are attacked". Of course equipping British units was a hostile action inviting attack. The President pledged to manufacture the weapons and equipment for these ten divisions in the United States and to provide them so that the divisions would be ready for the 1942 campaign. The Administration pledged to give priority to maintaining these divisions in the field. Arthur Purvis, the head of the British Purchasing Mission in Washington, was told by FDR that the "rule of thumb" would be to make military American supplies availaible to British forces on a 50-50 basis with U.S. forces. [Gilbert, p. 348.]

Presidential Election of 1940 (November 1940)

A major shift was when the Republicans nominated Windle Wilkie who favored aid to Britain. This undercut the isolstionists and freed President Roosevelt's hands. The 1940 presidential election is arguably the most important election in American history. The first American President, George Washington, retired after two 4-year terms. This set a precedent that every other president had followed. FDR because of the international crisis decided to run for a third term which became a campaign issue. The national debate over neutrality and isolationism that had been raging since the mid-1930s reached its height. There were powerful spokesmen on both sides. Isolationist groups, such as the American Fist Committee, opposed any risks that could lead to war and shaply attacked the President's policies. International groups and an increasing number of average citizens demanded more active aid to Britain. His Republican opponent was a surprise choice, Wendell Willkie, a wealty busniessman who had swept the Republican primaries. Willkie did not crticise FDR's support for the democracies, by the time of the camapign only England. His nomination was an indication of the shift in public opinion toward intervention. Willkie instead pledged "all aid to the Democracies short of war". He attacked the New Deal on domestic issues, what he referred to as the socialistic policies of the Administration. Roosevelt's foreign policy was, however, an issue in the campaign. The isolationists led by the American First Committee accused FDR of trying to drag America into the war. Speaking in Boston on October 30, the President assured his audinence, "I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." Usually the phrase was "foreign wars" and usually the President added, "unless we are attacked".

Arms Allocations (November 1940)

FDR on November 7 allocated half of the expanding American arms productin to beleagered Britain.This was at a timethat the American Army virtually did not exist and even that was poorly armed.

Arsenal of Democracy (December 29, 1940)

President Roosevelt first used the term "Arsenal of Denocracy" on December 29, 1940 in a radio broadcast to the American people. Her expalined the importance of supplying the people of Europe, at the time primarily Britain with the "implements of war". He said that the United States "must be the great arsenal of democracy". The very day he spoke, a Luftwaffe raid on London severly damaged famous buildings and churches in the city center and engulfed St. Paul's Cathedral in flames. [Gilbert, p. 356.] Hitler feared America more than any other country, but was convinced that Britain could be defeated before America could be mobilized or American industry could be effevtiverly harnassed for the war effort. Neither the NAZIs or the Japanese had any idea just how effectibely American production could be converted to war production. Air Marshall G�ring sneared, "The Americans only know how to make razor blades." Four years later with the Luftwaffe in tatters, G�ring said he knew that the War was lost when American P-51 Mustangs first appeared over Berlin escoring waves of bombers. The record of American war production is staggering and in large measure determined the outcome of the War.

Defense Spending

Congress voted huge increases in defense spending and a peace time draft. President Roosevelt's Congressional ally, Congressman Carl Vinson, helped pudh through the the Vinson-Walsh "Two Ocean Navy Act". An some of that expanded production went to Britain.

American Public Opinion

Prime-minister Churchill did not fully understand why President Roosevelt seem to hesitate. While support for Britain was growing, a huge swath of the American electorate continued to opose entering the War. There was support for aid to Britain as long as it was short of war.

Training British Personnel

American military personnel was training the British how to use American equipment and the moth-balled destoyers .An American trainer was on the Catalina that spotted Bismarck (March 1941). Equipment was shipped to Britain before the expanding American Army was supplied.

Lend Lease (March 1941)

The NAZI Blitz on London, reprtedly nightly by radio by Edward R. Murrow had a profound impact on American public opinion. Public opinion polls by December, 1940, indicated that 60 of Americans favored helping Britain, the only country still resisting the NAZIs, even if it meant war. This and the President's overwealming reelection, strengthened his hand in Congress. The U.S. Congress's in March, 1941, passed the Lend-Lease Act proposed by the Administration. It proverd to be one of the most important pieces of legislation in history. The Lend-Lease Act empowered the president to "lend, lease, or exchange" war materials with nations whose struggle against aggression was considered necessary to American security. It made the United States the "arsenal of democracy," not only for the United States, but for a vast coalition of allied nations forming around Britain and the United States. The next major step was Lend Lease. Here America crossed the line. Lend Lease was an act of war without declaring war. America through Lend Lease underwrote the British war effort. This meant that short of invading and occupying Britain, the Germans could not force Britain out of the War. This only reinforced the decesion that Huitler had already made, to strike East. With theresources of the East, Germany could make war indefinitely.

Barbarossa (June 1941)

American aid and especially Lend Lease meant essentially after the RAF victory in the Battle of Britain that Germany no longer had the economic capability of defeating Britain. In frustration Hitler turned East and Britain ws no longer alone (June 1941). It was something he had contemplated since the earliest years of his political life. The need for Lenbebnrau in the East described in Mein Kamp meant the Soviet Union. Serious planning began after Operation Sea Lion was scrapped. Churchill immediately offered aid to the Soviets, but the aid they could provide was marginal. But the British Desert army was the only other army in contact with the Germans at the time. Britain finally had an ally, the War in the East was more of a struggle by two agressors for control of Europe.

Harry Hopkins

The Battle of Britain made a German cross-Channel invasion impossible in 1940. The huge German Army, however, dominatd Europe. The Royal Navy was hard-pressed in the Atlantic. It was unclear at the end of 1940 if the British were prepared to continue the fight. Roosevelt had to know just how determined Britain was. The American Army was still not equipped with modern arms. Should America provide the still limited production of Armaments to Britain before its own military was equipped. Many around Roosevelt, including Harry Hopkins, were unsur how closely Roosevelt should tie American defense to Britain. Roosevelt dispatched Harry Hopkins to assess whether Britain's determination and situation. Churchill did not fully understand just who Hopkins was. Churchill knew that he was close to Roosevelt and informed of Hopkin's WPA work thought him a social worker and began giving him statistics about bathrooms and electrity in British slums. Hopkin's interupted him. ""Mr Churchill, I don't give a damn about your cottagers. I've come over here to find out how we can help you beat this fellow Hitler." Of course nothing could have pleased Churchill more. Churchill rose and said, "Mr Hopkins, come with me," and the two disappeared into Churchill's study. Churchill proceeeded to escort Hopkins all over the United Kingdom, from Scappa Flow in Scotland to the beach defenses in Kent. They spent time together at Chequers. Churchill completely converted him to the British cause. No onereally knew what Hopkins would say in private to Rossevelt when he returned to Washington. At a small dinner party before he returned, Hopkins rose to propose a toast. "I suppose you wish to know what I am going to say to President Roosevelt on my return. Well I am going to quote to you one verse from the Book of Books. ... "Whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people shall be by peple, and thy God my God." Hopkins then added in at the ending, "Even to the end." Tears were streaming down Churchill's face. [Goodwin, pp. 213-213 and Meacham] Hopkins would become the aministrator of Lend Lease as well as serve many vital diplomatic missions, especially as a go-between for the President with both Churchill and Stalin.

The Atlantic Charter (August 1941)

The Atlantic Charter is one of the key documents of the 20th century and remains still relevant today. President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill meet aboard the Prince of Wales on August 9-13, 1941 at Placentia Bay. The Prince of Wales had been badly mauled by Bismark in May. It was to be sunk by a Japanese aerial attack in December. Roosevelt and Churchill issue the Atlantic Charter. The two were war time allies. Britain had weathered the worst that the NAZI Luftwaffe could throw at it. America and Britain were fighting the U-boats in the North Atlantic to keep Britain alive. It was clear that America would soon be drawn into the War. America had already played an important role in keeping Britain alive and the two countries were the only hope of the occupied European and in fact Western civilization itself--threatened by the evil tide of NAZI tyranny. The two leaders, the two most important men of the 20th century, agreed to a simple, but elegant eight-point statement of their aims which today still stands as the central credo of the Atlantic Alliance. The President Roosevelt and Prime-minister Churchill not only signed the Atlantic Charter, but American and British military staff begin joint war planning..

U.S. Navy Enters the Shooting War (September 1941)

The next step was another act of war. It made no sence to to build war material for Britain if it could not be delivered. So President Roosevelt ordered the U.S. Navy into the North Atlantic to escort the convoys. Thus the Navy was in a shooting war with the U-boats before America actually entered the War. The President surely felt that an incident would cause a firestorm in public opinion. There were incidents, but no firestorm. Hitler ordered the U-boat captains to avoid incidents with American ships, hoping to complete the destruction of the Soviet Union before turning on America. Escorting convoys meant that America was entering an undecalred naval war with Germany in the North Atlantic. The first U.S. freighter, the Robin Moor was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk (May 21). The lifeboats were found (June 10). Hitler was still intent on keeping America out of the War, especially as he was about to invade the Soviet Union, and ordered D�nitz's U-boats to avoid all U.S. warships. The sinkings increased during the summer. A U-boat sank the U.S.-Panamanian freighter Sessa killing 24 of 27 crew (August 17). The U.S. destroyer Greer (September 4) attacked the U-652 and eluded two torpedos. President Roosevelt declared the Uboat attacking the Greer as "piracy" (September 11). Little discussed in the press at the time was the fact that the United States had helped set of flag of convenience registrations in Panama to circumvent provisions of the Neutrality Acts. FDR also protested the September 5 sinking of U.S. freighter Steel Seafarer clearly flying U.S. flag. He gave the Navy orders to "shoot-on-sight". A Gallup poll showed 62 percent of Americans approved the deeping involvement in the War. The U.S. freighter Montana was sunk en route to Iceland, but no one was killed (September 11) . The armed U.S.-Panamanian freighter Pink Star sunk en route to Iceland carrying food. U.S.-Panamanian oil tanker I.C. White was sunk (September 27) en route to South Africa, three people were killed. U.S. tanker W.C. Teagle was sunk and U.S.-Panamanian freighter Bold Venture were sunk sunk (October 16). The U.S. destroyer Kearny was torpedoed and damaged with 11 killed inside the Security Zone (October 17). The U.S. freighter Lehigh was sunk in the South Atlantic (October 19). A U-boat torpedoed and damaged the Panamanian armed tanker Salinas on October 30 was (October 30). The U.S. destroyer Reuben James was torpedoed abd sunk inside the Security Zone (October 31). There were 115 crew members killed. It was first U.S. warship lost to the U-boats. America well before Pearl Harbor was involved in an undeclared naval war with Germany. Hitler's frustration with this war, was one reason he declared war on America after Pearl Harbor.

Pearl Harbor (December 1941)

Prime-minister Churchill was with American Ambasador Averell Harriman. A short message was reported on the radio about a Japanese attack on American and then British shipping. Subsequent news reports indicated that it was a major Japanese attack on the Americans at Pearl Harbor. Churchill put a call through to {resident Roosevelt who confirmed the attack. "Its quite true. They have attacked us at Pearl Harbor. We are all in the same boat now. Britain finally had her ally. Churhill wrote after the War that he did not know the scope of the attack or appreciated the strengthof the Japanese, but for the first time since becoming prime-minister that he slept knowing that Britain was saved. " ... now at this verey moment Iknew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death., So we had won after all. Yes after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible incident at Oran; after the threat of invasion, when apart from the the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war--the Battle of the Atlantic, gained by abreath; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my respomsibility in dire stress. We had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end no man could tell ... Hitler's fate was sealed. Mussolini's fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwheaming force. .... Being sturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of thecsaved and thankful." [Churchill, pp. 506-07.] As the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor, Barbarossa was failing before Moscow, Hitler in frustration after Pearl Harbor also declared war on America (December 1941).

The Anglo-American Alliance

Britain and America during World War II formed the most important military alliance in the history of warfare. Never before had two countries so coordinated their industruial, scientific, and military operations to defeat a common enemy. There were important differences between the two nations Many World War II hidtories stress the common ties of language and culture that bound America and Britain and to often ignore the very real differences. The Alliance in fact was created out of mutual necesity. [Soybel] Differences between the two countries were resolved or put aside to achieve the overal objective--the unconditional surrender of NAZI Germany. America had the industry and resources to do that. The British at great cost had gained the expeience and the appreciation of NAZI strengths that America in 1942 still lacked. The Alliance was forned by the personal commitment of President Roosevelt and Primeminister Churchill. This personal relationship helped over come the very real differences between the two countries. The relationship began with aid to Britain, especially after the fall of France. A key factor in the Alliance was Lend Lease. Joint military planning began even before America entered the War and was based on agreement that the number one priority was the defeat of NAZI Germany. The Allied leaders met in a series of war conferences to make major decessions. The achievment of the alliance are very extensive and include victory in the North Atlantic, the key victory of the Western Allies. Specific achiievements of the Alliance are notable. The P-51 Mustang which broke the Luftwaffe was a marriage of an American air frame and a British engine. The very important code-breaking operation was an Anglo-American operation. Victory in the North Atlantic was an Anglo-Amerucan indertaking with an important Canaduian contribution. The British shared their scientific advances on radar abnd the United States devrloped the technology to mass produce radar sets. The D-Day invasion was a joint undertaking of brrsth tsking proportions. It succeeded in large measure because the British managed to delay it until 1944 and America provided the air power to drive the Luftwaffe out of France and the abundance of supplies needed to cross the Channel. The Manhattan Project creating the atomic bomb was another joint undertaking.


Churchill, Winston S. Memoirs of the Second World War (New York: Bonanza, 1958), 1065p.

Davidson, Eugene. The Unmaking of Adolf Hitler (Univesity of Missouri: Columbia, 1996), 519p.

Fest, Joachim C. Hitler (Vintage Books: New York, 1974), 844p.

Gilbert, Martin. A History of the Twentieth Century Vol. 2 1933-54 (William Morrow and Company, Inc.: New York, 1998), 1050p.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Frranklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II (Simon & Schuster: New York, 1994), 759p.


Soybel, Phyllis L. A Necessary Relationship The Development of Anglo-American Cooperation in Naval Intelligence (Praeger, 2005), 190p.

West, Rebecca. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.


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Created: 7:03 AM 10/5/2010
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