Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Churchill Series - May 15, 2008

(One of a series of weekday posts about the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Fair warning: today’s post is off the top of my head.

You know Churchill paid attention to details. Here are a few examples of that.

One day in the late summer of 1940 he ordered his motorcade stopped as it passed a large, abandoned greenhouse. He'd noticed that while some of the structure's glass panes were broken, many were not. Churchill directed the owner be found and arrangements made to remove the unbroken panes and store them where they could be easily retrieved. Britain's cities would surely soon be bombed. They'd be countless shattered windows. Replacement glass would be a scarce and valuable item.

The code names of important military operations always interested Churchill. When he was being briefed for the first time on a proposed operation, he'd frequently ask why it had received the name it had. If he didn't think the name appropriate, he'd argue for a change. Sometimes he just ordered one.

An operational name Churchill thought very appropriate was Torch, the joint Anglo-American invasion of North Africa in November, 1942. He'd suggested it himself.

Churchill thought Torch was the best word and symbol to convey what the allies were doing: bringing the light of freedom to a Nazi dominated North Africa. He requested a logo for Torch with two arms holding a torch aloft. The arms represented, he said, British and American forces jointly pursuing the same objective.

Selecting Torch as the operation name was an inspired and inspiring choice.

Beyond what we know Churchill said in urging Torch as the operation's name, I feel certain he knew a torch would resonate with Americans whose Lady Liberty held a torch to light the way to freedom, and with the French whose eternal flame serves as a tribute to those who died for France's freedom.

Not much escapes the attention of a man who looks at a broken and abandoned greenhouse, and sees something that will soon be very valuable.


Ex-prosecutor said...

According to Wikipedia, the uninspiring original name selected, it does not say by whom, was "Operation Gymnast."

Incidentally, a favorite topic on alternative history sites is to speculate as to what would have happened if, as the invasion was being planned, General Mark Clark had been captured, tortured, and told the Germans of the coming invasion as well as the fact that the Allies had figured out how to break the encryption of German radio transmissions.