Tuesday, 1 September 2015

What you may not have known about WWII

MOST OF THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN GLEANED FROM "Citizens of London- the Americans who stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour"  by Lynne Olson, Random House 2010.

William Fiske was the first American to join  the R.A.F.  in WWII.  He skirted the American regulations that made it illegal to join a warring power's military service,or to  travel on a belligerent ship, or use a U.S. passport to go to a foreign country to enlist, by falsely claiming Canadian citizenship.

He joined the RAF less than three weeks after Britain's declaration of war against Germany.  His plane was hit on August 16th 1940. He managed to nurse his plane back to base, but died two days later.   He is memorialized in Westminster Abbey,

Seven American citizens flew in the Battle of Britain alongside five hundred other non-British pilots,  -  Poles (about which more in a day or two), Czechs. Belgians, French, New Zealanders,  and South Africans.


We often forget that when H-tler came to power he was welcomed by many of the great and the good in the U.K. and the U.S.A. as the strong leader which Germany needed after the chaos and hyper inflation which marked the breakdown of the Weimar Republic.

But with  regard to the myth that W.S.C. welcomed H-tler's rise to power please see this for the entire context of his words:



Many Britons and Americans do not know that the U.S.A. had no appetite to join in the fray when Great Britain declared war on Germany.

They no know that  were were millions of German-Americans, and Irish-Americans who, for their own obvious reasons had no desire to "come to the aid"  of the British.

The popular sentiment in the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House was that this was a purely European affair, of no concern to the United States.

Additionally, there was a widespread American belief ( fostered of course by Joe Kennedy) that following the annexation of Austria, the occupation of Czechoslovakia, the conquest of Poland, the fall of Noway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France, Britain was finished,

Indeed, there were very many in high places (including President Roosevelt ) who were more than happy with the thought that a weakened Great Britain might be forced to give up all or part of her Empire, and thus decline as an international trading nation, and a competitor with the United States in world markets.

For example:  in  1942,  FDR's antipathy towards British Colonialism was echoed in an Life magazine - article in which  the author made it clear that the USA was in no way fighting to hold the British Empire together.

When Churchill first visited Roosevelt, the latter raised the issue of self determination for India.

WSC reacted negatively!

It was in response to the  Life article that Churchill   stated that he had "not become the King's First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire."

(Churchill was indeed an unreformed imperialist and colonialist).


American attitudes began to change at first because of the broadcasts by Ed Murrow, and the intensive diplomacy of John Gilbert Winant, (the American Ambassador to the Court of St. James's), and the not too well focused efforts of  Averill Harriman (the administrator of Lend-Lease).

The U.K. Government was positively giddy with delight when Winant was appointed. On March 1st 1940 he flew into Bristol (my home City), and was taken in a Royal train to the railway station in Windsor where  (defying all British protocol) King George VI himself greeted him -  at the station.

Murrow and Winant were profoundly aware of the intensely evil nature of the N-zi regime. They understood that more was at stake than a battle for Britain.  It was a battle for civilization.


On December 7th 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  The American mood immediately shifted.  The United States was being faced by the unthinkable: -the Pacific and Indian Oceans dominated by Japan; the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea dominated by Germany.

There is a popular myth that the American entry into the European "theatre" was an act of pure altruism.  That's "stuff and nonsense".   Nations engage in war out of real or perceived self interest.

Such was the case for the America of 1941 and onwards.

We must be entirely grateful that Britain had not "fallen", (due to the indomitable British Bulldog spirit, to the multi-national Airmen of the Battle of Britain [ the finest of which were Polish] -  (more about this later),and also due to A.H's decision to invade the Soviet Union.

Since Britain had not fallen, the country became what Dwight David Eisenhower described as  "the greatest operating military base of all time".

By May 1944 there were 1.65 million American troops in the U.K.

D-Day came and went.  The Allies pressed into Germany (at GREAT COST) via France and Italy.

The Soviets (equipped with huge supplies of American armaments) pressed into Germany from the East.

V-E day came. V-J day followed.

Murrow, Winant,  (and Harriman) had tilled and fertilized the American soil -  they were  great men who helped to reap a great harvest when the U.S.A. joined the battle  for civilization. 

By war's end in Europe, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John G. Winant were the most popular Americans in Great Britain.  

Eisenhower's name is well remembered, and deservedly so.   

Winant has been all but forgotten.

Why do we remember the soldiers and forget the diplomats?


Standing astride the European conflicts were the political giants - Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. 

In the  tripartite WWII settlements  (Tehran  and Yalta), Stalin out-foxed Roosevelt,  and all but ignored Churchill.

In Yalta,  Roosevelt made fun of Churchill, much to the amusement of Stalin.

Thus,  the great and noble nation of Poland   so far from becoming a proud and independent nation,  became a Soviet satellite from 1945-1990:  betrayed as it was by Roosevelt,  (aided and abetted by Churchill - who bowed to the inevitable):

( Please remember that  Great Britain declared war on Germany in defense of a free and independent Poland).


MOST OF THE ABOVE HAS BEEN GLEANED FROM "Citizens of London- the Americans who stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour"  by Lynne Olson, Random House 2010.

I have tried my best to paraphrase her words rather than quoting them directly,  as I do not wish to violate her copyright, and that of Random House.

YOU, my dear readers,  will do well to buy (or borrow from a Library) "Citizens of London- the Americans who stood with Britain in its darkest, finest hour"  by Lynne Olson, Random House 2010.

It is a grand and profound book.

1 comment:

  1. A good account of the times I think. I've heard some of this before but not all. I never read that Roosevelt made fun of Churchill. ..horrible (and is it so? What are her sources? I never read it in anything by Churchill.) I do know that many in the US admired Germany and didn't want to go to war. My parents had friends who went to the UK through Canada. Thanks ...a good read and important to remember.