31st International Churchill Conference is Big Success
Full Coverage of Events in New Orleans & World War II Museum
The 31st International Churchill Conference took place April 3-5 in New Orleans in conjunction with the National World War II Museum of the United States. “Fighting and Writing” made up the twin themes of this year’s conference, and there was much of interest that was said about Churchill’s accomplishments in both fields. In addition to taking in panel presentations, attendees toured the nearby museum. Festivities concluded on Saturday night with a black-tie gala dinner in the new Boeing Center wing of the World War II museum. Dining directly underneath a restored B-17 Flying Fortress (the heaviest aircraft fully-suspended from a ceiling), guests were entertained by the Victory Belles, a tribute group to the famous Andrews Sisters. Celia Sandys wound up the evening by declaring the conference one of the most successful ever.
Churchill “fighting” was the focus of the first day of presentations. Specifically, the D-Day landings stood front and center in what is the 70th anniversary year of Operation Overlord. Warren Kimball noted how Churchill’s views on the Normandy landing changed over time and must be understood as having been fluid. David Glantz examined the subject from the Soviet perspective and revealed that Russian archives show that Stalin began seeking territorial aggrandizement during the war earlier than previously believed directing plans for this as early as 1943 and even openly conducting military operations to achieve political ends in 1944.
Allen Packwood listed several factors that contributed to the success of Overlord and then analyzed each one to determine if the requirement existed in 1942 or 1943. In each case the answer was no. In other words, a cross-channel invasion with a strong chance of success could not have taken place earlier than 1944. Nick Mueller, Director of the National World War II Museum of the United States described the exhibits presenting Overlord. The first day ended with Dr. Josiah Bunting III, President of the English Speaking Union addressing a splendid dinner meeting in the hotel ballroom.
The second day of the conference turned to Churchill “writing”. Celia Sandys, author of several books about her grandfather, spoke on Churchill: The Power of Words. She introduced a series of audio/visual clips containing some of the Great Man’s most famous remarks and placed each situation in context, thus illustrating how Churchill famously mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. “Whatever his doubts may have been at the time,” Celia noted, “he had to make people feel that he had none.”
Peter Clarke, author of Mr. Churchill’s Profession: The Statesman as Author, described how Churchill wrote to support his extravagant lifestyle. “Chartwell was at once his palace and his prison,” Clarke observed. Churchill needed a large income to support the beloved home he made for himself and his family. Clarke carefully researched Churchill’s tax returns and bank records to show how the goal was accomplished. Yet the quality of the work did not suffer due to the commercial gestation. Clarke quoted a letter from Rudyard Kipling praising Churchill as “craftsman to craftsman.”
In the final panel about Churchill-as-writer, James Muller, Allen Packwood and Keith Huxen discussed the fifth volume of Churchill’s Second World War memoirs observing that the book took the story up to the eve of Overlord and, thus, focused primarily on the Mediterranean campaign. This highlights Churchill’s evolving views about the cross-channel invasion and the ultimate need to pursue it. Huxen stated that Churchill believed the choice was between having all of Europe dominated by Hitler or half of it dominated by Stalin and that a half-free Europe was better than none.
Over thirty students attended the conference representing six different schools including: Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, MS; Tulane University in New Orleans; the University of New Orleans; Hillsdale College, MI; St. Leo University, FL; and The King’s College in New York City. The attendance of these students was made possible by a generous grant from Tina Santi Flaherty and fromt the contributions of Chartwell and Blenheim Club attendees. Thanks to this support, all students received free admission to all conference sessions.