Churchill visiting Eisenhower in Washington, 1959, with his private secretary Sir Anthony Montague Browne
Finest Hour 186, Fourth Quarter 2019
By Sir Winston S. Churchill
Winston Churchill’s views on the Cold War are fairly represented in two different sets of remarks that he composed at the time. The first came in a speech he made in Washington. The second came in what was his last work of original writing intended for publication.
IN CONGRESS, 17 JANUARY 1952
Shortly after he became Prime Minister for the second time in October 1951, Churchill travelled to Washington for high-level meetings with President Truman (see story on page 18). During this visit, Churchill was invited to speak before a meeting of both houses of Congress for the third time. Here follow excerpts from that speech:
The changes that happened since I last spoke to Congress [in 1943] are indeed astounding. It is hard to believe that we are living in the same world. Former allies have become foes. Former foes have become allies. Conquered countries have been liberated. Liberated nations have been enslaved by Communism.
Russia, eight years ago our brave ally, has cast away the admiration and good will her soldiers had gained for her by their valiant defence of their own country. It is not the fault of the Western Powers if an immense gulf has opened between us. It took a long succession of deliberate and unceasing works of acts and hostility to convince our peoples—as they are now convinced—that they have another tremendous danger to face and that they are now confronted with a new form of tyranny and aggression as dangerous and as hateful as that which we overthrew. Read More >
A sitting of the Potsdam Conference in Berlin, July 1945
Finest Hour 186, Fourth Quarter 2019
By Kevin Ruane
Kevin Ruane is Professor of Modern History at Canterbury Christ Church University, an Archives By-Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and author of Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War (Bloomsbury, 2016), a BBC History “Book of the Year.”
In 2013, a short fragment from a British Royal Family home-movie came to light. Dating from October 1952, the silent footage shows the young Queen Elizabeth II enjoying a family fishing expedition at Balmoral in Scotland. Also prominent is the unmistakable figure of Winston Churchill, returned as Britain’s Prime Minister the year before; he can be seen sitting on the riverbank chatting to Prince Charles.1 He is relaxed, but he is not off-duty. His thoughts, we now know, were focused on the Montebello Islands, a barren outpost of the Commonwealth eighty miles off the north-west coast of Australia. It was there that the United Kingdom’s first atomic bomb, a plutonium weapon, was about to be tested.
Much rested on the success of “Hurricane,” as the test was codenamed, not least the future of Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. “Pop or flop?” an anxious Churchill asked his scientific experts as the test neared. “Pop” came the reassuring reply.2 And pop it was. On 3 October 1952, Churchill, still at Balmoral, learned that the “Hurricane” device had detonated with a destructiveness equivalent to twenty-five kilotons of TNT, a yield which surpassed the A-bombs used against Japan in 1945.
In July 1945, while on a fishing holiday on Minnesota’s North Star Lake, Westminster College President Franc L. McCluer, had a casual conversation with his wife Ida Belle. Though the scene was tranquil, McCluer— known by the nickname “Bullet” for his rapid-fire debating style—was consumed with thoughts about the college’s John Findley Green Foundation Lectureship. After a three-year hiatus, when the all-male college saw reduced enrollment due to the war effort, McCluer hoped to revive the fledgling but promising lecture series that previously had brought international luminaries to his Fulton, Missouri campus.
The endowed lectureship was established in 1937 by Mrs. Eleanor I. Green of St. Louis to honor the memory of her husband, a Westminster alumnus. The aim of the Green Foundation Lectureship was then, and remains today, to present lectures that would promote “a better understanding of economic and social problems which are international in their concern.” Read More >
In November 1945, Churchill was invited to give one of a series of annual lectures at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri. The letter of invitation was annotated by President Truman who offered to introduce Churchill, and therefore guaranteed a high profile event.
From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
Churchill, 5 March 1946
Churchill’s speech, given on 5 March 1946, was to prove enormously influential. Originally entitled ‘The Sinews of Peace’, it became better known as the ‘Iron Curtain’ speech because of his use of a phrase now in common use. This was Churchill’s first public declaration of the Cold War, in which he warned the western world about the ‘iron curtain’ that was descending over Europe, drawn down by the Russians, and called for greater Anglo-US cooperation, in what he called a ‘special relationship’, in the battle against Soviet expansionism. Click here to see Churchill give this speech in the presence of US President Harry S. Truman.
Kevin Ruane, Churchill and the Bomb in War and Cold War, Bloomsbury, 2016, 402 pages, $34.95. ISBN 978–1472523389
Review by Christopher Sterling
Chris Sterling, recently retired after thirty-five years of teaching and administration at George Washington University, is a frequent reviewer for Finest Hour.
One of those relatively rare academic writers who can make document-based research both readable and interesting (and I say that as a retired academic), Kevin Ruane takes his readers back to the 1940–55 era of rapid atomic and thermonuclear weapon development to illustrate just how dominant fear of the bomb was in policymaking circles. He centers his history on the socalled “special relationship” between the US and Britain, though for much of this period, “special” meant precious little, as the British quickly learned.
Following by only three years Graham Farmelo’s well-received Churchill’s Bomb: How the United States Overtook Britain in the First Nuclear Arms Race (Basic Books, 2013) [Reviewed in FH 162], Ruane had a difficult task on his hands. The two British authors take a different approach to their accounts of the same period and people. For one thing, Farmelo is a physicist, while Ruane is an historian. The differences in their studies build on the authors’ academic training by emphasizing different aspects of the complex story. Briefly, Farmelo focuses more on the scientists who did the work while, Ruane centers his study on Churchill himself.
Ruane sees Churchill as playing three related yet quite different roles: the “bomb-maker” during the Second World War; the “atomic diplomatist” during the decade after 1945; and the “nuclear peacemaker” toward the end of his second period as prime minister (1951– 55). His well-written study melds Churchill and key figures close to him—Frederick Lindemann (the “Prof” as the simplifier of complex technologies), Anthony Eden (frustrated by years of waiting for Churchill to retire), Sir John Anderson (chief official of the British “tube alloys” research), Roosevelt (the American president with on-again, off-again views on working with the British in tube alloys), and many others on both sides of the Atlantic.
Richard Crowder, Aftermath: The Makers of the Postwar World, London and New York: I. B.Tarus, 2015, xii + 308 pages, $35. IBSN 978-1784531027
Most histories of the early Cold War, especially those written by Americans, give center stage to US statesmen, notably Harry Truman, Dean Acheson, and George Marshall. Richard Crowder, a youngish British diplomat educated at Oxford and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, focuses his engagingly readable account on the other side of the Atlantic. His narrative provides equal time to such British figures as Clement Attlee, Ernest Bevin, and Duff Cooper. It also gives more attention to continental European leaders than they customarily receive.
It is significant that a Labour government led Britain into the Cold War with remarkably little internal dissent. Bevin, a former trade union leader with a rudimentary formal education was at first glance an unlikely foreign secretary. He is perhaps too easily caricatured. The author quotes him as telling the eminent career diplomat Gladwyn Jebb, “Must be kinda queer for a chap like you to see a chap like me sitting in a chair like this….Ain’t never ’appened before in ’istory” (120). At times Bevin could be too rough and blunt for his own good— as when, in an incident Mr. Cooper passes over, he accused American leaders of supporting mass Jewish immigration to Palestine because “they did not want too many of them in New York” (quoted in Robert J. Donovan, Conflict and Crisis, 317). Read More >
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