I just finished a very leisurely stroll through Winston Churchill’s The Second World War. I was trying to find exactly what edition I was reading. Since it has an epilogue covering the years 1945 to 1957 I thought the above edition was correct, but I couldn’t find the name of the publisher. On the back was a little sticky note with “Caves Book Co.”. I searched and found this. This edition includes a tassel to be used as a book mark. I was asked if I was reading the bible yesterday by a student.
I enjoyed the narrative that Winston Churchill lays out in the book. This is an abridged version of his 6 volume set. Winston Churchill led Great Britain during WWII. He was asked to lead the nation after warning and warning the nation about future war, when Neville Chamberlain’s compromises, with the infamous “peace for our time”, finally failed to deter Hitler’s ambitions, Churchill was asked to lead the nation as it went to war. We follow the darkness of the early years, and after France’s fall, the hopelessness of England’s situation. The narrative brightens when the U.S. enters the war after Pearl Harbor.
The only comments I want to bring out here are concerning Winston Churchill’s foreboding of the future after Germany’s defeat. The same keen eye that saw it coming in the 1930’s saw something coming as the war was ending. The Russia that was sustaining most of the brunt of the war as our ally was the same Russia that attacked Finland and attacked and divided Poland along with Hitler’s Germany. For Churchill this was the real picture of Stalin’s Russia, not the picture of an ally fighting Nazism along with England and the U.S.
As the war winds down, America and Roosevelt seem ignorant of the communist ideology that motivates Russia. Churchill begins to sense an impending darkness that would cover all the land occupied by the advancing Russian armies. His communications with Roosevelt became more and more difficult as Roosevelt’s health failed as he approached his death. His successor, Truman, did not see what Churchill saw and neither did many others.
He wrote a private message to Truman where he first used the phrase “iron curtain”. His warnings were to no avail. Allied armies failed to move as far east as they could and eventually withdrew to the west destining those peoples to live behind the “iron curtain”.
Churchill’s own nation did not take heed or chose not to take heed to his warnings and voted him out of office just after the war with Germany ended, but before the conclusion of the war with Japan in 1945. It was in 1947 in Fulton MO that he gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech. Here are some excerpts.
The book allows you to see these developments as he sees them and you feel his despair at not being able to take action as the lesser of two in his partnership with America. The book ends with his night’s sleep before the election results in which a nation says to its fighter: “no mas”.
From the book:
The United States stood on the scene of victory, master of world fortunes, but without a true and coherent design. Britain, though still very powerful, could not act decisively alone. I could at this stage only warn and plead. Thus this climax of apparently measureless success was to me a most unhappy time. I moved amid cheering crowds, or sat at a table adorned with congratulations and blessings from every part of the Grand Alliance, with an aching heart and a mind oppressed by forebodings.
This was Roosevelt’s response in his dying days to accusations from Joseph Stalin:
Finally I would say this: it would be one of the great tragedies of history if at the very moment of the victory now within our grasp such distrust, such lack of faith, should prejudice the entire undertaking after the colossal losses of life, material, and treasure involved. Frankly, I cannot avoid a feeling of bitter resentment toward your informers, whoever they are, for such vile misrepresentations of my actions or those of my trusted subordinates.
Every question about the future was unsettled between us. The agreements and understandings of Yalta, such as they were, had already been broken or brushed aside by the triumphant Kremlin. New perils, perhaps as terrible as those we had surmounted, loomed and glared upon the torn and harassed world.
Life goes on…my one complaint about the book was not a single mention of the holocaust.