(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)
In the Summer of 1940 Britain and the free world wondered when and how Hitler would invade.
He made his final decision on July 31. It was nothing like what most of the world was expecting. Historian John Lucas recounts:
Hitler said later that he had needed “great spiritual strength” for his decision to turn against Russia. Yet revealing that to the generals and ordering the first preparations on 31 July gave him a sense of relief. He had faced the difficult question whether the English would or would not give up the struggle against his conquest of Europe. He still faced the consequent question whether to risk an invasion of England or not. Now there was an answer to those questions, and a third alternative. Once he destroyed Russia’s power, Churchill (and behind him, Roosevelt) would have to give up. …The public didn’t learn of Hitler’s decision to invade Russia until the attack started eleven months later on June 21/2, 1941.
Churchill did not know what took place … on 31 July. But he had suspected something like that for some time. As early as 27 June he wrote to [Field Marshal] Smuts: “If Hitler fails to beat us here he will probably recoil eastward. Indeed he may do this even without trying invasion. (p. 200)
By Spring 1941 British intelligence was close to certain Germany was about to invade Russia; and warned the Russians. Stalin hesitated to act on the intelligence. Historians still debate why.
That’s a matter for books, not brief posts.
I hope you’re back tomorrow.
John Lukacs, The Duel: 10 May- 31 July 1940: The Eighty-Day Struggle Between Churchill and Hitler. (Ticknor & Fields, 1990)