A WEEK OF WAR – CHURCHILL, ROOSEVELT, CASABLANCA, GUADALCANAL AND THE EASTERN FRONT

Hitler’s little situation just gets worse and worse all the time, fortunately.

The two men who had been taking all the plane trips had come home for a while. Behind them lay the heaving Atlantic beaches and the sultry countries encircling the Equator and the vast and sandy vistas of the Western Desert. Behind them, too, lay the interpreters and the talking and the plans made at midnight. The conferences were over. The decision had been achieved. The course had at last become clear.

The good fight was on the upgrade.

The two men had come home to report. They had taken their time in returning; they stopped in strange places and spoken to unknown men. Between them they had seen the Near East and the tropics.

The free world, that had looked with startled and unbelieving eyes at the thunderbolt that had been the Casablanca Conference, now turned toward the capitals of the two great and free democracies. Turned and listened.



churchill roosevelt casablanca

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill at the Casablanca Conference.



London in the Spring

Spring was already in the London air. It had been a mild winter for England. Flowers were already up in the parks and in the provinces. When Winston Churchill entered the House of Commons a rousing cheer went up, and when he gave his report he was almost gay. The galleries leaned forward to catch the surge of his resounding sentences.

He began darkly.

The losses we suffer at sea are very heavy and they hamper us and delay our operations. They prevent us from coming into action at our full strength, and thus they prolong the war with its certain waste and loss and all its unknowable hazards.

But, said Winston Churchill, we are holding our own, and more than holding our own.

The House of Commons cheered.

The holding was explained. There were many factors: American shipbuilding was hitting a new peak, there was a rising tide of tonnage, the convoy system was doing its job, more U-boats were being sunk. The situation was bad, but it was remediable and being remedied.

The enemy had bled and burned in Libya. Churchill had seen his victorious Eighth Army on parade. They had come 1,500 miles through the desert, but they looked as though they had just stepped out of Wellington Barracks. General Alexander was awaiting further orders.

The situation in North Africa was, as far as Winston Churchill was concerned, quite clear. AT the moment he was quite disinterested in the ex-Vichy-ites who were holding office under American military control. The problem of command in Tunisia was settled. When the 8th Army entered Tunisia it would come under the sphere of General Eisenhower’s influence and thus under his command.

In wind-blown Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt sat down at dinner with the White House Correspondent’s Association on Lincoln’s birthday. After a meal that resembled, as much as possible, an average Army menu, save that it contained neither sugar nor coffee, the President made a broadcast to the American people.

More than anything else, he talked about the American men who were fighting the war. He had seen them in strange places and strange guises, and he was proud of what he had seen. And he wanted to say so.

I have seen our men—the nation’s men, he said, in Trinidad, Belem and Natal, in Brazil, in Liberia, and Gambia. In these places there is no actual fighting, but there is hard, dangerous, essential work, and there is a tremendous strain upon the endurance and the spirit of our troops. They are standing up magnificently under that strain.

No American can look at these men, soldiers or sailors, without great emotion and great pride and a very deep sense of responsibility to them.



Faith in the Future

Like Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt closed on a note of hope. We have supreme confidence that with the help of God honor will prevail. We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came the time when men of good will found a way to unite and produce the fight to destroy the force of ignorance, intolerance, slavery and war.

Casablanca was over, and the two men who had talked there had come home for a while. They had spoken their pieces. Now nothing remained but the action to come. The free world waited for it.

For the present action it did not have to wait. On two widely different and separated theaters the good fight was progressing according to plan. On Guadalcanal, in the sultry Solomons,  where thousands of men  had died to hold an airfield, the Japanese were gone. They had folded their tents like the Arabs and silently stolen away-to their ancestors. They had tried to retake Guadalcanal and they had failed, failed miserably. They had died under the palm trees and in the sea. Their transports had been bombed out of the water, artillery had smashed and crushed their land positions, and American infantry had decimated them. They were gone from Guadalcanal as they were gone from Papua. They had been driven into the sea and they had drowned there.

The American victory was clean cut. The Japanese had not lacked equipment, had not lacked supplies. They had been fed and equipped as well as the Americans, and they had been outgeneraled and overpowered. The planes that had swept down on them from Henderson Field had been the deciding factor, and one of the Japanese tentacles was gone chopped off at the root. The Pacific was running with blood.



The Great Exodus

Ten thousand miles away, on the stark and snow driven plains of Russia, the German was in headlong retreat. He admitted it. He had been driven out of Rostov and he was driven out of Kharkov. Now he was talking about falling back on Kiev. He had, of course, not planned to hold Rostov. Not at all. Rostov was really unimportant. Rostov didn’t count. As a matter of fact, Germany was saying, Kharkov doesn’t really count either. Russia can have it.

ON THE DON FRONT, Russian armoured cars move up to smash the Nazi.

ON THE DON FRONT, Russian armored cars move up to smash the Nazi.

ON THE SAME FRONT, Nazis retreat to avoid being smashed. (They were, anyway).

ON THE SAME FRONT, Nazis retreat to avoid being smashed. (They were, anyway).

Germany was beginning to think of shorter supply lines, and a line whose one end clung to Riga (Latvia). The Russians were allowing the troops of Adolf Hitler no rest, no respite. The retreat from Moscow was still going on.  And up to the front was coming all the supplies that Russia could handle—supplies from Britain, supplies from America. And Hitler was still keeping out of sight.

On two fronts of the war the good fight was moving along. On another front, a crucial one, things were still stalemated. In Tunisia, American troops knew that they were lined up against all the crack regiments that Hitler could spare.  They knew that they were going to lose a lot of men, and they knew that the fight before them would be hot and heavy. But they also knew that American troops under a man named Pershing had slapped seasoned Germans back through the Argonne not so many years ago.  They could probably do it again.

It was, after all, the good fight.

For More Reading Check Out:

Unconditional Surrender: The Impact of the Casablanca Policy upon World War II


Russia’s War: A History of the Soviet Effort: 1941-1945


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