Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Churchill Series - Sept. 24, 2008

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

From the first joint Anglo-American war planning conference in Washington in late Dec. 1941 and Jan. 1942, almost until the June 1944 Normandy invasion, the question of when the Allies should launch a cross-channel attack divided British and American leaders.

The British consistently argued for later dates; the Americans for earlier ones.

Their differences led to frequent arguments, often loud and fierce. Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, recorded in his diary one planning session between the two nations' chiefs of staff led to "the mother and father of all rows."

At times, leaders of each nation questioned the good sense and motives of leaders of the other nation. But that said, it must always be remembered that when the die was cast, the two nations stood together.

Now let's get Churchill in here.

Churchill argued for delay. He feared a cross-channel attack before Germany was near collapse would mean Allied casualties would be so high the channel would, as he put it, "run red with blood."

Roosevelt, backed by his military leaders, particularly Army Chief of Staff George Marshall, usually pushed for as early an invasion date as possible.

Given those circumstances, it's not surprising a certain joke began circulating among the Americans.

It seems late one night the telephone rang at 10 Downing Street.

A young operator, new to the job, answered.

Someone with a gruff, commanding voice demanded to speak to Churchill.

The operator, intimidated, put the call through without asking the caller's name.

But Churchill immediately recognized the voice.

"Ah, Marshall Stalin, how's everything in Moscow?"

"I don't know, Prime Minister. I'm here with my army in Calais."


Anonymous said...

Another wartime joke (this time a Russian one):

A reporter asks Stalin why is he fighting? Stalin answers, "To destroy fascism."

He asks the same question of Roosevelt. Roosevelt answers, "To destroy Hitler."

He asks the same question of Churchill. Churchill, puzzled, inquires, "Who told you we were fighting?"