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Operation Unthinkable: War With the Soviet Union?

Walker Discusses His New Book About What Might Have Been
Report by the Editor

Operation_Unthinkable[London–24 October] Speaking to an audience of over 100 people at the Polish Hearth Club, Mr. Jonathan Walker discussed Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secret plan to attack the Soviet Union in 1945 in order to “save” Poland. Although the once closely-guarded secret was long ago declassified, Walker is the first historian to give the subject a thorough going over. That Churchill even considered the idea is astonishing, but as the war in Europe wound down, the Prime Minister became concerned by the disappearance of Polish leaders and members of the resistance under the Soviet occupation. Grimly aware that defending Polish independence had been Britain’s stated purpose for declaring war in 1939, Churchill commissioned the Chiefs of Staff in April 1945 to draw up a most desperate plan.

The Joint Planning Staff (JPS) put together a number of assumptions and parameters starting with the belief that a viable German surrender could not be achieved until the end of June, so that any plans for an offensive against the Soviets could only be implemented after July 1st. A far more improbable assumption, though, was that the undertaking would have “the full support of public opinion in both the British Empire and the United States.” Reality quickly dispelled that idea.

Any preparations for an attack would have been immediately apparent to Soviet forces in eastern Germany. No surprise could be achieved, and an open-ended conflict stood little chance of success. Poland could not be saved by force of arms, but Churchill at least had not forgotten the Poles and perceived every possibility to help them ought at least to be considered. The Editor’s full review of the book will be forthcoming in the spring issue of Finest Hour.

ba39742d-869b-42b7-8eea-744438a20d2f.filePolish Hearth ClubLocated in a grand South Kensington townhouse, the Polish Hearth Club opened during the Second World War as a gathering place for members and supporters of the Polish Government-in-exile. It remains today a vibrant center for London’s Polish community. The club has a long association with the family of the Duke of Kent. Portraits of their Royal Hignesses the Duke, his sister Princess Alexandra and younger brother Prince Michael of Kent are prominently displayed. The Club sponsors a series of lectures by historians that often deal with Churchill-related topics.

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