Eighty years ago this month, following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill made his first wartime visit to the United States, staying in the White House as a guest of President Franklin Roosevelt. This sleepover resulted in one of the most infamous anecdotes still told about Churchill, one which is completely true.
Churchill’s distracted casualness about his own naked body was something all of his secretaries had come to terms with—as, oftentimes, did others beyond his inner circle. In December 1941, after a morning spent dictating from the tub in his White House bathroom, Churchill emerged and was wrapped in a big towel by Sawyers his valet. “He walked into his adjoining bedroom, followed by me, notebook in hand,” Churchill’s traveling stenographer, Patrick Kinna, would later recall to biographer Sir Martin Gilbert.
Churchill “continued to dictate while pacing up and down the enormous room. Eventually the towel fell to the ground….Suddenly President Roosevelt entered the bedroom and saw the British Prime Minister completely naked….WSC never being lost for words, said, ‘You see Mr. President, I have nothing to conceal from you.’”
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Barry Singer is proprietor of Chartwell Booksellers in New York City and author of Churchill Style (2012).
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