February 26, 2023

Winston Churchill’s 1949 Visit to New York


In March 1949, Winston Churchill made his sixth peacetime visit to the United States. (He had, of course, made several wartime visits as well.) The latest trip, which included speeches delivered in New York and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), amounted to something of a “victory lap.” Nevertheless, Churchill, then Leader of the Opposition and aspiring to be Prime Minister once more, remained an active politician.

Unlike the speech Churchill made at MIT, the one he delivered in New York City has received little attention. Although some reporters were included at the dinner hosted at the Ritz-Carlton by Time/Life publisher Henry Luce, they were warned that all remarks beyond the formal speeches would be off the record. Fortunately for history, however, one of the guests was Columbia University Professor Allan Nevins, an ardent Anglophile.

The full text of Churchill’s New York address can be found in a volume of speeches edited by his son Randolph. What adds a fresh dimension to this otherwise little-known Churchilliana is an extended diary account by Nevins, who had spent close to two years in England, first at the outset of World War II, and then at its close, always working for closer connections between the British and American people.

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Nevins’ diary provides a soup to nuts account of the dinner. You can read extracts of this in my own story about the event, which the International Churchill Society has published online as a Finest Hour Extra. To read the full account, please CLICK HERE.

Michael J. Birkner teaches history at Gettysburg College.

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