Winston Churchill arrives at the White House

The battleship HMS Duke of York crashes across the North Atlantic as it conveys Winston Churchill for a conference with Franklin D. Roosevelt. The journey took ten days.

There was some surprise when it was announced that Churchill had arrived in Washington, having crossed the U-Boat infested Atlantic. He had been corresponding with the U.S. President since the very beginning of the war, before he had become Prime Minister. They had only met once before during the war, at the Atlantic Conference, when the United States was still neutral.

Now the two were to work very closely together – it is hard to imagine any modern politician working so closely with a foreign ally, no matter how strong their alliance:

We … landed after dark on December 22 at the Washington airport. There was the President waiting in his car. I clasped his strong hand with comfort and pleasure. We soon reached the White House, which was to be in every sense our home for the next three weeks. Here we were welcomed by Mrs. Roosevelt, who thought of everything that could make our stay agreeable.

I must confess that my mind was so occupied with the whirl of events and the personal tasks I had to perform that my memory till refreshed had preserved but a vague impression of these days.

The outstanding feature was of course my contacts with the President. We saw each other for several hours every day, and lunched always together, with Harry Hopkins as a third. We talked of nothing but business, and reached a great measure of agreement on many points, both large and small.

Dinner was a more social occasion, but equally intimate and friendly. The President punctiliously made the preliminary cocktails himself, and I wheeled him in his chair from the drawing- room to the lift as a mark of respect, and thinking also of Sir Walter Raleigh spreading his cloak before Queen Elizabeth.

I formed a very strong affection, which grew with our years of comradeship, for this formidable politician who had imposed his will for nearly ten years upon the American scene, and whose heart seemed to respond to many of the impulses that stirred my own.

As we both, by need or habit, were forced to do much of our work in bed, he visited me in my room whenever he felt inclined, and encouraged me to do the same to him. Hopkins was just across the passage from my bedroom, and next door to him my travelling map room was soon installed.

The President was much interested in this institution, which Captain Pirn had perfected. He liked to come and study attentively the large maps of all the theatres of war which soon covered the walls, and on which the movement of fleets and armies was so accurately and swiftly recorded. It was not long before he established a map room of his own of the highest efficiency.

See Winston Churchill – The Second World War, Volume 3: The Grand Alliance

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