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Books, Arts & Curiosities – Suez: The Churchill-Eisenhower Letters

Finest Hour 114, Spring 2002

Page 36

“Dear Winston” researched by Daun van Ee for Craig Horn

Churchill to Eisenhower, 23 November 1956, in Macmillan, Riding the Storm (London, 1971), pp. 175-76:

My Dear Ike,
There is not much left for me to do in this world and I have neither the wish nor the strength to involve myself in the present political stress and turmoil. But I do believe, with unfaltering conviction, that the theme of AngloAmerican alliance is more important today at any time since the war. You and I had some part in raising it to the plane on which it has stood. Whatever the arguments adduced here and in the United States for or against Anthony’s action in Egypt, it will now be an act of folly, on which our whole civilization may founder, to let events in the Middle East come between us.. .and it is the Soviet Union that will ride the storm. [They are] attempting to move into this dangerous vacuum, for you must have no doubt that a triumph for Nasser would be an even greater triumph for them.. .1 know where your heart lies. You are now the only one who can so influence events both in UNO [United Nations Organization] and the free world as to ensure that the great essentials are not lost in bickerings and pettiness among the nations. Yours is indeed a heavy responsibility and there is no greater believer in your capacity to bear it or well-wisher in your task than your old friend,
Winston S. Churchill.

Eisenhower to Churchill, 27 November 1956 (excerpts). Daun van Ee is a Historical Specialist in the Manuscript Division, The Library of Congress, Washington, DC.

Dear Winston:
I agree fully with the implication of your letter that Nasser is a tool, possibly unwitting, of the Soviets, and back of the difficulties that the free world is now experiencing lies one principal fact that none of us can afford to forget. The Soviets are the real enemy of the Western World, implacably hostile and seeking our destruction.

When Nasser took his highhanded action with respect to the Canal, I tried earnestly to keep Anthony informed of public opinion in this country and of the course that we would feel compelled to follow if there was any attempt to solve by force the problem presented to the free world through Nasser’s action. I told him that we were committed to the United Nations and I particularly urged him, in a letter of July thirty-first, to avoid the use of force, at least until it had been proved to the world that the United Nations was incapable of handling the problem.

Sometime in the early part of October, all communication between ourselves on the one hand and the British and the French on the other suddenly ceased. Our intelligence showed the gradual buildup of Israeli military strength, finally reaching such a state of completion that I felt compelled on two successive days to warn that country that the United States would honor its part in the Tri-Partite Declaration of May, 1950—in short, that we would oppose clear aggression by any power in the Mid-East. But so far as Britain and France were concerned, we felt that they had deliberately excluded us from their thinking; we had no choice but to do our best to be prepared for whatever might happen….

The first news we had of the attack and of British-French plans was gained from the newspapers and we had no recourse except to assert our readiness to support the United Nations, before which body, incidentally, the British Government had itself placed the whole Suez controversy.

Nothing would please this country more nor, in fact, could help us more, than to see British prestige and strength renewed and rejuvenated in the Mid-East.. .All we have asked in order to come out openly has been a British statement that it would conform to the resolutions of the United Nations. The United Nations troops do not, in our opinion, have to be as strong as those of an invading force because any attack upon them will be an attack upon the whole United Nations and if such an act of folly were committed, I think that we could quickly settle the whole affair.

This message does not purport to say that we have set up our judgment against that of our friends in England. I am merely trying to show that in this country there is a very strong public opinion upon these matters that has, I believe, paralleled my own thinking. I continue to believe that the safety of the western world depends in the final analysis upon the closest possible ties between Western Europe, the American hemisphere, and as many allies as we can induce to stand with us. If this incident has proved nothing else, it must have forcefully brought this truth home to us again. A chief factor in the union of the free world must be indestructible ties between the British Commonwealth and ourselves…

So I hope that this one may be washed off the slate as soon as possible and that we can then together adopt other means of achieving our legitimate objectives in the Mid-East. Nothing saddens me more than the thought that I and my old friends of years have met a problem concerning which we do not see eye to eye. I shall never be happy until our old time closeness has been restored.

With warm regard and best wishes for your continued health,
As ever, Ike

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