(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
It’s well known that in August, 1941 Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt met in secret for four days at Argentia Bay, Newfoundland. Their meeting is now commonly referred to as the Atlantic Charter meeting, after the document of shared Angle-American ideals that was later released to the public.
But not so well known is that during those four days the military chiefs of the two nations who had accompanied their leaders to Argentia Bay were also meeting. At the time Americans were strongly against America’s entry into what they called “the European War.” So when news of the meetings became public, the presence of the Chiefs was explained as a get acquainted meeting at which protecting American merchant shipping in the North Atlantic was also discussed.
That was true but incomplete. Much more was discussed between the two nations’ military chiefs. They discussed the distribution between the two countries of the military arms America was then beginning to produce in increasing numbers. They also discussed a common war strategy. Here’s some of what one of Churchill’s military aides, Col. Ian Jacob, said after the meeting in a memo he prepared for Churchill:
The Americans have a long way to go before they can play any decisive part in the war. Their Navy is further ahead than their Army, both in thought and in resources.In tomorrow’s post, I’ll say more about Jacob’s memo and the military discussions at Argentia Bay.
Both are standing like reluctant bathers on the brink, but the Navy are (sic) being forced to dip a toe at a time into the shark-infested water. Their ideas, however, have not got beyond how to avoid being bitten; they have not yet reached out to thoughts of how to get rid of the sharks.
For this post I drew especially on Martin Gilbert’s Finest Hour: 1939 – 1941. (Houghton Mifflin, 1983). The portion of Jacob’s memo I quoted can be found on pg. 1166.