Churchill in Washington, 1941-2:

The Arcadia Conference

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, signaling the end of the United States' observer status in the global conflict, now truly a World War. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, relieved that America was now fully engaged, immediately made plans to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington to discuss the war effort and insure that America would pursue a "Europe first" strategy. FDR agreed to host Churchill at the White House, and Churchill was soon on his way via the battleship Duke of York. The sea journey to the conference, codenamed "ARCADIA," took ten days.

Churchill and party arrived in Washington during the late afternoon of December 22. Presidential press secretary Steve Early announced Churchill's surreptitious arrival to the press at 6:45 p.m. This postal card marking the historic visit was hastily produced by Fidelity Stamp Company of Washington, D.C., postmarked in the capital city at 10:30 p.m.

This cover bears a December 22 "Churchill in Wash, D.C." cancel of the USS Bristol, a destroyer commissioned just two months earlier that operated as a patrol and convoy escort ship in the North Atlantic. The Bristol was torpedoed and sunk in the Mediterranean on October 13, 1943, with a loss of 52 of her crew.

1941 This cover, postmarked with a generic U.S. Navy postmark that doesn't identify the ship, was produced by one of the most prolific cachetmakers of the period, William S. Linto of Portland, Oregon. Linto created over 1,700 different covers during his career. He made just 16 copies of this design; this cover is number 8.

On Christmas Day, Roosevelt and Churchill took a break from their strategy sessions to attend services at Foundry Methodist Church. Churchill delighted in the singing of hymns, and told his doctor after the service "It's the first time my mind has been at rest for a long time."

This cover, produced by cachetmaker Ted Harrington of Milwaukee, Wisc., was postmarked on Christmas Day aboard the USS Potomac, FDR's presidential yacht from 1936 until his death in 1945. The Potomac (which was owned by Elvis Presley in the 1960s) now plies the waters of San Francisco Bay and is available for tours and cruises.

1941 The following day, Churchill addressed a joint session of Congress, where he was given a rousing welcome. Here is another Linto cover marking the event.

Churchill amused his audience by reminding them of his heritage: "I wish indeed that my mother, whose memory I cherish across the veil of years, could have been here to see me. By the way, I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way around, I might have got here on my own. In that case, this would not be the first time you have heard my voice. In that case I would not have needed any invitation, but if I had it is hardly likely that it would have been unanimous. So, perhaps, things are better as they are . . . "

This 50th anniversary cover was produced by Dave Marcus for the International Churchill Society, today known as The Churchill Centre.

1941 Churchill made no attempt to hide his pleasure in the U.S. entry into the war: "Lastly, if you will forgive me for saying it, to me the best tidings of all is that the United States, united as never before, have drawn the sword for freedom and cast away the scabbard." In closing Churchill said, "It is not given to us to peer into the mysteries of the future. Still I avow my hope and faith, sure and inviolate, that in the days to come the British and American people will for their own safety and for the good of all walk together in majesty, in justice and in peace." The thunderous ovation Churchill received lasted several minutes.

This 60th anniversary cover was produced by myself, Todd Ronnei.

People from all over the country wrote to Churchill at the White House. This cover, with a Canadian "Good Neighbours" cachet, was mailed from Boston on the 26th.

1941 This cover was sent special delivery from a Studebaker dealership in Beloit, Wisconsin on December 24th. A receiving mark on the back shows it arrived on the 26th.

And not just Americans, but Canadians wrote to Churchill as well. This cover was sent from Winnipeg, Manitoba on the 26th, and no doubt contained comments on Churchill's speech to Congress that day. 1941

1941 On the afternoon of the 28th, Churchill departed Washington by train, bound for Canada. On the 30th he addressed the Canadian House of Commons. Churchill's reception in Ottawa was quite welcoming, and in his speech he mocked the defeatist French generals who predicted Britain's defeat by saying 'England would have her neck rung like a chicken' by Hitler. "Some chicken! Some neck!" was Churchill's retort, which drew much laughter and applause.

I produced this 60th anniversary cover, which is franked with Churchill, Ottawa and Parliament stamps.

Immediately upon the conclusion of his speech, Churchill was ushered into the Speaker's chamber, where he found Yousuf Karsh waiting with his camera. Churchill was annoyed he had not been informed of the photo session in advance, and Karsh momentarily made matters worse by plucking the cigar out of Churchill's mouth. Churchill glowered at the camera and Karsh snapped the picture--and the result was one of the most famous photographic portraits of the 20th century.

This cover is my creation as well, and has a facsimile of Karsh's autograph which is copied from an original autograph on another cover in my collection. Other Karsh portraits of Churchill can be seen here.

1941 Churchill's speech in Canada is noted in the typed and hand-drawn cachet found on this cover postmarked in Albany, New York on December 30th. The cachetmaker is unknown; perhaps the addressee, Audrey Hannis, created it and mailed it to herself.

After Ottawa, Churchill returned to the White House to continue his discussions with Roosevelt. On New Year's Day 1942, Churchill approved Roosevelt's draft declaration establishing a "United Nations" of Allied Powers and nations under Nazi rule. Twenty-six nations pledged themselves "not to make a separate armistice or peace with the enemies" in order to defend "life, liberty, independence and religious freedom, and to preserve human rights and justice in their own lands as well as in other lands." Churchill later commented: "The Declaration could not by itself win battles, but it set forth who we were and what we were fighting for."

This Marshall Islands first day cover is for the stamp issued to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration.


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