SIR BEN KINGSLEY: When Winston Spencer Churchill died at the age of 90 on January 24, 1965, life stopped for a few days in Great Britain.
While he had been in ill health and out of the public life for many years, his death still came as a shock, not only to the British people but to the rest of the world.
From the average person in the street to world leaders and the British royal family, it seemed as if there was no one who was not affected by the passing of the man who many considered to be the greatest figure of the 20th century.
WOMAN: I think his legacy is his inspiration and the example that he set in the most difficult time that his country had ever had.
MAN: The vital importance of Winston Churchill was that he kept the flag of freedom flying.
I'm convinced that but for Winston Churchill, it is entirely possible that the Nazi swastika would to this day be flying over the palace of Westminster, over Buckingham Palace, and over every capital city of Europe as far east as Moscow.
KINGSLEY: 25 years earlier, few would have predicted this kind of adulation.
May 10, 1940.
Nazi Germany had just invaded France, Belgium, Holland, Norway, and Denmark.
Increasing numbers of Britons, dissatisfied with the way in which Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was handling the war, were now demanding a change in the government, so Chamberlain handed in his resignation.
The public were calling for Churchill, the newest member of the cabinet and the First Lord of the Admiralty, to replace Chamberlain.
But he was not the preferred choice of King George VI and many in the majority Conservative Party, the Tories.
After a spirited debate in the House of Commons, a reluctant decision was made by the Tories to go with public sentiment.
That evening, Churchill was driven to Buckingham Palace to meet with the King.
On the drive back to his residence at the Admiralty, Churchill was uncharacteristically quiet.
His personal bodyguard, Inspector Walter H. Thompson, wanting to break the silence, decided to congratulate his boss on his appointment.
"I only wish the position had come your way in better times, for you have an enormous task," said his long-time aide.
Churchill became quite emotional.
"God alone knows how great it is," he replied.
"I hope it is not too late.
"I'm very much afraid it is.
We can only do our best."
The situation he was inheriting was extremely bleak.
Over 130 Nazi divisions, backed by the powerful Luftwaffe in the air, were on the assault throughout Western Europe.
More than 300,000 British and French troops in Northern France and Belgium were caught completely off guard.
The French army was cut off and unable to launch an effective counterattack.
Late on May 10, in his residence at the Admiralty, Churchill reflected on the situation and the events which had led to his becoming Prime Minister.
By the time he was ready to retire for the night, his glum mood after meeting with the King had changed.
He wrote in his diary "I was conscious
"of a profound sense of relief.
"I felt as if I were walking with destiny
"and that all my past life had been
"but a preparation for this hour and this trial.
I was sure I should not fail."
In early 1930, Winston Churchill was living in the wilderness, both physically and politically.
Thrown out of office the year earlier with the rest of the Conservative government, he was still a member of Parliament but without a cabinet position for the first time in almost 3 decades.
He had retreated to the beauty of Chartwell, his country estate in Kent, a few hours outside London.
WOMAN: Chartwell was his home.
Um, he had a house in London, but Chartwell was where he felt most, I should think, at peace.
He did an enormous amount of work in the grounds.
He developed waterfalls which went down into ponds, where he kept wonderful fish, and there was a swimming pool, and then at the very bottom, there was a big lake where he had black swans, and--he loved any living creature, so anything that he could put there, whether it was fish or birds, he always had.
My grandfather described Chartwell as somewhere where "a day away from Chartwell is a day wasted."
KINGSLEY: One of his favorite tasks at Chartwell was bricklaying.
In fact, he took such pride in his work that he joined the bricklayers union.
One day, he decided to take on a particularly ambitious project, a brick wall outside a cottage a local contractor was building for him on the estate.
Watching him work was his bodyguard Walter H. Thompson.
At noon, Churchill left to have his lunch.
As he was dining, the builder took Inspector Thompson over to Churchill's half-built wall, each layer of bricks progressively out of line with the next.
"Look at his wall," the builder exclaimed.
"If he puts one more layer of bricks on it, it will topple over."
Knowing how proud Churchill was of his bricklaying skills, Thompson did not want to deliver the bad news.
So the bodyguard and the builder tore down the wall and rebuilt it while Churchill enjoyed his lunch.
Upon his return, Churchill stood before the wall admiring his work.
"Look at that," he proclaimed to Thompson.
As straight as a die."
Despite his isolation at Chartwell, Churchill had not stopped paying attention to world affairs, especially a developing situation in Germany.
MAN: In October 1930-- this is almost
3 years before Hitler becomes chancellor--
Churchill went to a dinner party at the German embassy in London, and the counselor of the embassy was startled because Churchill kept asking him about Hitler.
He found it so unusual that he reported this to the German foreign minister as an oddity.
KINGSLEY: One of the reasons why Churchill was paying attention to Hitler's rising popularity was his concern about the Nazi leader's views and rhetoric about Jews.
Randolph Churchill, his father, had many close Jewish friends.
After his death just before Winston's 20th birthday, these same friends looked after him, becoming father figures, and when he began his political career in the early 1900s, his first Parliamentary seat was in Manchester, with a large Jewish constituency.
Churchill's concern about Nazism was also shared by son Randolph, who in the early 1930s was working as a journalist.
MAN: My father, when he was only 21 years old, his first commission as a journalist was to go to Nazi Germany and report on the German election campaign, and he made friends with Hitler's press secretary Putzi Hanfstaengl.
KINGSLEY: Less than a year later, Randolph Churchill accompanied his father, his mother Clementine, and his sister Sarah on another trip to Germany, this time to Munich.
Churchill had signed a contract to write a book about his ancestor the Duke of Marlborough.
Marlborough had defeated the French in the 17th century in a series of battles at Blenheim near Munich, and Churchill spent several weeks doing research there.
MAN: It was very fortunate for history that Churchill, when he was in his early 50s, found himself in November 1932 in Munich and saw the Nazi thugs marching in the streets and heard their cries and knew that Hitler was anti-Semitic.
KINGSLEY: Hitler's press secretary Hanfstaengl heard that Randolph was in Munich and contacted him with an idea.
Would his father be interested in meeting the leader of the Nazi Party?
GILBERT: Churchill said, "Well, I'm happy to meet
"him, but I'd like to know why he's so against the Jews."
KINGSLEY: The plan was for Hitler to meet Churchill in the lobby of his hotel one evening after dinner.
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: Apparently, according to Hanfstaengl, Hitler came to the glass door of the hotel restaurant and looked through at my grandfather, but in the end, he didn't dare go through with the meeting.
I think Hitler maybe just didn't have the self-confidence at that particular moment to confront my grandfather.
KINGSLEY: Churchill returned to England and became the country's main voice against Nazism, founding the British Anti-Nazi League, and demanding that the British government do more to help Jewish refugees from Germany.
He warned in the House of Commons, in newspaper articles, and in radio speeches about the danger of Adolf Hitler, his true aims for Europe, and the rearming of Germany.
CHURCHILL: Only a few hours away by air, there dwells to a nation of nearly 70 million of the most educated, industrious, scientific, disciplined people in the world, who are being taught from childhood to think of war as a glorious exercise and death in battle as the noblest fate for man.
It is but 20 years since these neighbors of ours fought almost the whole world and almost defeated them.
Now they are rearming with the utmost speed, and ready to their hands is this new lamentable weapon of the air against which our navy has no defense.
Now, these are facts, are grim, indisputable facts, and in face of these facts, I ask again, what are we to do?
KINGSLEY: Churchill's warnings about Nazi Germany fell on deaf ears throughout most of the 1930s.
He was accused of being a warmonger after sharply criticizing Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Minister Lord Halifax for their policies which would have given Hitler control of much of Europe in exchange for friendly relations with Great Britain.
However, in May 1940, with Europe at war and Great Britain under threat by Hitler, Winston Churchill was no longer a prophet in the wilderness.
The British people were demanding that Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain step down.
Leo Amery, a senior member of the Conservative Party, spoke for many when he addressed Parliament in the House of Commons.
He quoted former Prime Minister Oliver Cromwell's famous speech some 3 centuries earlier about another unpopular and ineffectual government.
"You have sat here too long for any good you may be doing.
"Depart, I say, and let us have done with you.
In the name of God, go."
While the public loudly cheered Churchill's appointment as Prime Minister, many in the Conservative Party were less enthusiastic about his elevation to the position.
In order to promote peace within the party, Churchill decided to keep Lord Halifax as foreign secretary and asked Chamberlain to stay on in the cabinet as Lord President of the Council.
LUKACS: Churchill and his group were still a minority in the Conservative Party.
When Churchill first appears in Parliament at his inaugural speech as Prime Minister, he's not very much cheered.
Chamberlain walks in, and he's cheered to high heaven.
KINGSLEY: Churchill did not let the tepid reception get in the way of delivering a speech on May 13, intended to prepare the Parliament and the nation for the task ahead.
CHURCHILL: Mr. Speaker, on Friday evening last, I received His Majesty's commission to form a new administration, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history.
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat.
You ask, "What is our aim?"
I can answer in one word-- victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory, there is no survival.
KINGSLEY: The day after Churchill's address, Holland fell to the Nazis, and the French and Belgian armies were in full retreat.
The British Expeditionary Force, some 230,000 English soldiers, and another 70,000 French troops were beginning a massive withdrawal to Dunkirk.
On the evening of May 14, French Premier Paul Reynaud frantically called Churchill to report that more than half the British air force in France had been destroyed and that they were desperate for more planes.
Churchill decided to fly to France to meet with Reynaud and view the situation in Paris firsthand, but before leaving London, he wrote his first letter to President Franklin Roosevelt as Prime Minister.
"I trust you realize, Mr. President, that the voice
"and force of the United States may count
"for nothing if they are withheld for too long.
"You may have a completely subjugated
"Nazified Europe established
"with astonishing swiftness, and the weight may be more than we can bear," he warned.
Churchill went on to ask Roosevelt to allow Great Britain to borrow as many as 50 old American destroyers and purchase new planes, antiaircraft weaponry, and much need ammunition.
FDR replied the very next day.
The news was not what Churchill wanted to hear.
FDR maintained that now was not the time for him to make such a request of the Congress or the American people.
A majority of both were opposed to involvement in the war in Europe.
WOMAN: My own sense is that FDR understood even from the late thirties that something was going to have to be done to contain Hitler, but he knew that in a democracy he could not carry his country into that war until he had shaped public opinion to allow him to bring them along.
Churchill's meeting in Paris with Premier Reynaud and his war cabinet distressed him as he learned about the dire state of affairs for the French military and the British Expeditionary Force.
Back in London, Churchill set out to prepare the nation on the situation in France as he delivered his first radio address as Prime Minister.
CHURCHILL: A tremendous battle is raging in France and Flanders.
Our task is not only to win the battle but to win the war.
After this battle in France abates its force, there will come the battle for our Island, for all that Britain is and all that Britain means.
Centuries ago, words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice:
"Arm yourselves, "and be ye men of valor, and be in readiness
"for the conflict; for it is better for us to
"perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar."
KINGSLEY: Churchill's message managed to inspire the British people, as well as bring down the national stress level.
The polling organization Mass-Observation reported on May 20, "Tension is slightly relieved today, "slightly less gloom.
"A feeling of grave seriousness remains, "if anything, emphasized by Churchill's broadcast.
"General feeling is that we shall pull through, just."
Less inspired by Churchill's message was United States ambassador to England Joseph P. Kennedy.
The ambassador had long opposed any American involvement in the war in Europe.
He believed the greatest danger to the world was the Soviet Union and communism.
Before the war, he'd written privately about "Jewish propaganda" threatening peaceful relations between Germany and Great Britain.
He now wrote to FDR, maintaining that Great Britain's chances of winning the war against Germany were "impossible."
GILBERT: Joseph Kennedy was urging Roosevelt not to help Britain because Britain was finished, Britain was doomed, Britain would be defeated, and therefore, why waste good armaments, good destroyers.
KINGSLEY: The news from France continued to get worse as reports came in about British and French troops retreating in ever increasing numbers towards Dunkirk.
The Germans were now in the position of annihilating the retreating British Expeditionary Forces.
For all intents and purposes, that would have meant the end of the British army.
The 230,000 troops stationed there represented almost 70% of the country's entire armed forces.
On May 24, Adolf Hitler boarded a plane and flew from his German headquarters to Charleville, France, to meet with his commanders.
He reviewed the situation with his top general Karl von Rundstedt and decided to call a halt to the German advance.
The chief of the German army general staff Franz Halder was both mystified and angered by Hitler's decision, writing in his diary, "These orders from
"the top just make no sense.
The tanks are stopped as if they were paralyzed."
LUKACS: The interesting thing is why Hitler was somewhat reluctant to go into Dunkirk immediately.
Hitler was too cautious.
He said, "Listen. We have advanced too far.
"The tanks and the Panzers are worn out.
Let's just stop for a while."
But there was another thing.
He let himself to be convinced by Goering that the Luftwaffe can do the job in Dunkirk.
KINGSLEY: The day after the halt order was issued, the head of the SS Heinrich Himmler arrived in France for confidential meetings with Hitler.
The high-ranking Nazi official brought a memorandum with him entitled, "Reflections on the Treatment of Alien Races in the East."
Among other things, the document outlined Himmler's hope that the non-Aryan population
"will furnish Germany annually with migrant workers for special tasks" and that
"the concepts of Jews will be completely extinguished."
Hitler reviewed the memo and told Himmler that he found it "very good and correct."
At the same time, the Fuehrer also demanded that it be kept top-secret.
Just a few miles outside of Dunkirk on the verge of one of the greatest military victories in recorded history, foremost in Hitler's mind was that which would become known as the Final Solution.
The very next day, Adolf Hitler lifted the halt order he had issued some 48 hours previously.
The advance of the German army was in motion once again.
As this was occurring, an argument began taking place in the conference room at number 10 Downing Street.
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: Even though to the world Churchill was now in the driving seat, in reality behind closed doors within the British cabinet, there was a battle royal going on.
It was on a knife edge whether the cabinet would back Winston Churchill in refusing to engage in negotiations, because Halifax was saying, "Let's engage Herr Hitler to see what terms he might offer."
KINGSLEY: Halifax was not the only one who held such views.
There were people involved at a very high level within the British government saying, "Do not imagine that all of us want war with Germany.
"There are many of us who would accept an honorable negotiated settlement." And my grandfather saw that as the slippery slope, and he realized that if one once embarked on that course of action, there would be no holding point, and the game would be lost.
KINGSLEY: Churchill realized that if he was going to win this argument in the cabinet, he was going to need the support of Neville Chamberlain.
Almost immediately upon becoming Prime Minister, he began to cultivate favor with Chamberlain, formerly his most bitter rival.
Knowing how much Mrs. Chamberlain enjoyed living at number 10, he told the former Prime Minister that they need not move out of the residence there. And just before his trip to Paris, Churchill took him aside and asked him to "mind the store."
None of this was lost on Chamberlain, who after having been betrayed by Hitler was no longer a believer in the appeasement philosophy he once backed.
During one particularly heated argument between Churchill and Halifax, the Prime Minister suddenly cut the debate short, explaining that he had a prior engagement at Parliament.
GILBERT: Although he'd been Prime Minister for 3 weeks, he'd not yet met the majority of the junior members of his administration because the pressure of war being so, and he said, "I have to go.
"It's just next.
I have to speak to them."
So he left the room, and in the course of speaking to them, he said, "I'm one of those who thinks we should fight on to the end."
KINGSLEY: The Prime Minister told the outer cabinet that making peace at this moment would not get Britain better terms as some were claiming.
"The Germans would demand our fleet," he maintained, "our naval bases, and much else."
"We shall become a slave state," he added.
"Where would we be at the end of all that?" he asked.
The Prime Minister argued that Britain still had tremendous reserves and advantages.
Because of that, he insisted, "We shall go
"on and fight it out here or elsewhere, "and if at long last the story is to end, "it were better it should end not through surrender but only when we are rolling senseless on the ground."
GILBERT: When he said that, to his astonishment, these 40 or 50 junior members of his administration, they stood up and they crowded round him, and they cheered him to the rafters, and he was completely overwhelmed.
He returned to the meeting of ministers, told them of this demonstration, and said, "So I think, gentlemen, we do have to fight on," and Neville Chamberlain quick as a flash said, "Yes, I agree," which isolated Halifax.
KINGSLEY: The debate about whether to seek terms with Hitler was now a thing of the past.
Churchill had convinced the government to fight on, but it needed an army to do that.
The only way to ensure the battle could continue would be to evacuate the British Expeditionary Force to Great Britain.
Bracing for the worst, the Prime Minister told Parliament "We must prepare ourselves
"for hard and heavy tidings.
"Nothing in this battle can happen that can
"relieve us of our duty to defend the world cause, "nor can it destroy our confidence in our power
"to make our way through disaster and grief to the ultimate defeat of our enemy."
Churchill now focused his attention on what would become a rescue unprecedented in military history.
The plight of the British Expeditionary Force was no longer a subject about which Americans were remaining neutral.
A year earlier, most Americans had been opposed to any involvement in the war in Europe.
Now public opinion was shifting away from isolationism.
Republican Party leaders meeting in the Midwest privately expressed their concerns that sympathy for the Allied cause was growing and that this could benefit the Democrats in the 1940 elections.
At the 1940 World's Fair in New York City, a sign was put up at the popular McGinnis Restaurant.
It requested that patrons refrain from discussing the war at the bar.
Bartenders were expected to enforce the rule by management because loud disagreements among patrons were disturbing the atmosphere.
The change in sympathies were also being reported by the nation's press.
In the pages of the nation's most respected daily came the following observation: "What some
"men had feared for many months now was occurring
"to the whole population.
"Germany might win, the British fleet might be
"swept from the seas, an enemy might appear on this side of the Atlantic."
And the country's most influential syndicated columnist Walter Lippmann noted, "The rest of the world would do well to recognize what is
"happening in the United States.
"The American public is changing its mind profoundly."
KINGSLEY: Sunday, May 26, was the National Day of Prayer in England.
That morning, an order was issued from the Admiralty to initiate the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk.
As early as the 14th of May, the BBC had broadcast an announcement to the owners of self-propelled pleasure craft between 30 and 100 feet long to contact to Admiralty to add to its roster of ships.
A flotilla of boats now began to converge upon Dover.
This rag-tag collection of vessels would soon be making a 22-mile voyage across the English Channel to Dunkirk for a maritime rescue mission that had never before been attempted.
MAN: It was an extraordinary sight.
All manner of small and medium craft appeared.
Some had never been in the open sea before.
They were manned by volunteers.
Most were experienced sailors, but many were fledglings who knew nothing about maritime hazards.
KINGSLEY: Because of the shortage of personnel, many of the men were asked to volunteer for a month's duty in the Royal Navy.
Many had little or no idea what they were getting themselves into.
MAN AS OSBORNE: It was then we were told in lurid detail of the stunt at hand.
A cold, hard lump formed in my stomach.
My tummy felt as if it had dropped to my knees.
I had not even told my wife and kiddies that I had left London, let alone joined up with the navy.
KINGSLEY: There was the 59-foot motor launch piloted by a former officer on the Titanic, his teenage son, and a Sea Scout.
The smallest craft in the rescue fleet was the Tamzine, a 17-foot fishing boat.
The scene at Dunkirk that awaited the flotilla was a desperate one.
MAN: The overhead bombardment was terrifying.
I can't describe the fear I felt as the planes and gunfire got closer to me.
Men were lined up on the beach, waiting for the boats to come to ferry them to the ships waiting in deeper water.
They were sitting targets.
KINGSLEY: As the situation worsened, many soldiers tried swimming out to the boats in the Channel.
MAN AS LOWE: It must have been a mile offshore, and I swam hard through discarded equipment and bodies.
I was exhausted when I was hauled up onto the deck.
KINGSLEY: However, being rescued from Dunkirk did not ensure returning home safe.
Many of the ships were bombed from the air or sunk by torpedoes.
One soldier whose ship had taken a torpedo hit said, "The disaster was still trying to penetrate
"the outer layer of my brain.
"I remember similar situations
"in American films.
Gary Cooper always finds a way out."
There were stories of quiet heroism.
MAN: A boatload of wounded came into our ship.
One asked our lieutenant if he could be brought back ashore so he could look after his wounded comrades there.
Our lieutenant said it wasn't possible.
Our boat needed to sail to Dover immediately.
The soldier pleaded but to no avail.
Then we heard an approaching motorboat.
The man hailed it and jumped into it from our ship.
As he went, I could see the intense fighting on the beach in the distance, and I knew I wouldn't have had the courage to do what he did that night.
KINGSLEY: A few kilometers outside of Dunkirk, directing the attacking against the evacuating British forces, was General Franz Halder, the chief of the German army general staff.
Halder, who had strongly opposed Hitler's halt order a few days before, could not contain his anger about the fact that the British were escaping.
He wrote in his diary, "The pocket would have
"been closed at the coast if only our armor had not
"been held back.
"Now we must stand by and watch countless thousands of the enemy get away to England under our noses."
As the boats pulled away from the coastline of France, among those rescued were tens of thousands of French soldiers, fighting with the British Expeditionary Force.
Many had tears streaming down their faces, wondering if they would ever see home again.
For the almost 250,000 English soldiers, the escape was much less melancholy.
Recalled one, the sweetest words he ever heard were "Wakey wakey, lads.
You're at Dover."
Until the masses of troops started arriving home, the British people had been kept in the dark about the evacuation for security purposes.
Newspapers were now filled with emotional stories of the returning troops.
The "Manchester Guardian" noted "One watched them
"with a pride that became almost pain as one cheerful, patient figure succeeded another."
A reporter from the "Daily Express" exclaimed, "It is the greatest sight
"I've ever seen!
"The men came ashore in heaps, barely able to
"stand, yet they pulled themselves in straight lines and walked to the harbor gates."
The public welcomed the soldiers home enthusiastically.
Crowds awaited them with signs proclaiming, "Well done, BEF," and "Thumbs-up!"
The Women's Voluntary Services, which had been formed in 1938 to assist in civil defense, worked around the clock to provide sandwiches and tea for the returnees as they arrived at the railway stations.
But not everyone was as welcoming.
One civil servant who'd taken the day off at the weekend was questioned by his boss, a government official, about the suntan he'd returned with.
Had he been sunbathing in Hyde Park, the suspicious official wanted to know.
"No, sir," the man answered.
"I've been with my small sailing boat to rescue survivors from the beaches near Dunkirk."
And then there was the Marquess of Reading, the commanding officer of one particular unit that fought heroically on the beaches.
He ordered his troops to line up for inspection as they arrived at the train station.
As he looked them over, he sneered, "Never in all
"my army career have I seen such a display
"of filth and dirt, an absolute disgrace to the men wearing His Majesty's uniform."
One of the soldiers his lordship was dressing down was Fred Pelican, a Jewish immigrant from Breslau, Germany, who had joined the British Expeditionary Force almost immediately upon his arrival in England.
Just two years previously, he'd been an inmate at the Dachau concentration camp, where he was tortured.
Miraculously, he'd been released when his mother managed to secure an immigration visa for him, which brought him to Great Britain.
Stanley Mewis was another of the returnees.
He was one of less than 70 survivors of the torpedo attack on the HMS Wakeful in which almost 700 soldiers were killed.
Unbeknownst to Mewis, his mother had received a telegram saying he was missing and presumed killed.
MAN AS MEWIS: My mother was overwhelmed.
I didn't tell her I was coming.
I just turned up, and she was very shocked.
It was a few weeks after this that I got married.
The vicar wanted me to get married in my uniform, but it was covered in black oil and was filthy.
I certainly couldn't get married like that.
KINGSLEY: The rescue of the British Expeditionary Force seemed to unify the nation and give it a much needed psychological boost.
Harold Nicolson, who as a junior member of the Churchill government, had urged his wife, the famed writer Vita Sackville-West, to prepare a suicide pill only days before, convinced that the Germans would defeat them.
Now he wrote to her, "My darling, "how infectious courage is.
"I am rendered far stronger in heart and confidence by such bravery."
Nellie Last, a Lancashire housewife, jotted in her diary, "I forgot I was a middle-aged woman who
"woke up tired and often had a backache.
"The story made me feel a part of something that was undying and never old."
And in a small apartment in Hampstead in North London, David Ben-Gurion, who would become Israel's first Prime Minister, was listening closely to radio reports about the Dunkirk rescue.
Ben-Gurion had come to England to consult with Zionist Organization President Chaim Weizmann, who was based in London.
In a letter to his wife Paula in Tel Aviv, he marveled at Britain's perseverance in fighting until victory even when it remained alone in the struggle.
"As it happens," he wrote, "I was called here
"during days that will not quickly be forgotten by history."
In the end, over 860 ships belonging to the Royal Navy or civilians participated in the rescue.
More than 240 were sunk.
Over 300,000 allied troops were brought out of Dunkirk, 228,000 British, and the remainder French.
Over 2,000 were killed in the treacherous crossing of the English Channel.
As the evacuation was completed on June 4, Churchill addressed Parliament, acknowledging that a miracle had taken place at Dunkirk.
At the same time, he wanted the nation to be realistic about what had actually occurred.
CHURCHILL: We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory.
Wars are not won by evacuation.
Our thankfulness at the escape of our army and so many men does not blind us to the fact that what happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster.
So I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our Island home.
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be.
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.
KINGSLEY: In the United States, Churchill's words resonated deeply to both the average American, as well as to President Roosevelt.
GOODWIN: When Churchill was able to give words that gave meaning to the Dunkirk evacuation, that is something that both Roosevelt and the American people had enormous respect for, and Roosevelt especially was a man of words.
He knew how important it could be to instill confidence in a people to get them through, as he had gotten them through those early days of the Depression, and now he hears and the American people hear those extraordinary words that Churchill gave after Dunkirk, plus the miraculous evacuation, which made people feel, Yes, There's something in that British spirit.
KINGSLEY: Less than a week after the evacuation at Dunkirk and the Prime Minister's speech, a nationwide Gallup poll found that 62% of Americans were convinced that if the Nazis defeated France and Britain, the United States would be attacked next. And in a "Life" magazine survey, over 70% said that they were in favor of the adoption of immediate compulsory military training for young men, while 88% answered that the U.S. should "Arm to the teeth at any expense."
On June 10, President Roosevelt addressed the graduating class at the University of Virginia, which included his son Franklin Roosevelt Jr.
He had decided to use the occasion to make a strong statement in support of the British and to condemn Italy, which had just joined Nazi Germany and declared war on the Allies.
ROOSEVELT: In our unity, in our American unity, we will extend to the opponents of force the material resources of this nation.
We will harness and speed up the use of those resources.
We will not slow down or detour.
Signs and signals call for speed, full speed ahead.
KINGSLEY: Prime Minister Churchill was extremely heartened by FDR's speech, cabling the President that his words were "an encouragement to the Allies in a dark hour."
The hour was getting even darker as the German army was now advancing on Paris with the Luftwaffe already bombing parts of the city.
At this point, Premier Reynaud and the cabinet moved the government a hundred miles southwest of Paris, the first of two moves that would occur over the next two weeks.
The developments in Paris alarmed Churchill, who was determined to keep the French in the fight.
Churchill conferred with his war cabinet and then sent another urgent cable to President Roosevelt.
"This is the moment for you," Churchill told the President, "to strengthen Reynaud the utmost you can."
The Prime Minister then flew to France to meet with Reynaud and the French war cabinet.
The premier was not encouraged by Churchill's correspondence with FDR.
However, Churchill managed to convince Reynaud to hang on until he heard back from the President.
This was not what the French war cabinet wanted to hear.
The French chief of staff, General Maxime Weygand, gave Churchill an extremely bleak assessment of the situation of the French military.
As Weygand saw things, France had no other choice but to negotiate an armistice with Hitler.
The general and Reynaud had been arguing about this for days.
Disagreements between the premier and the chief of staff often turned into personal shouting matches.
Weygand accused Reynaud of being callous towards the French people, who were suffering because he insisted on continuing the fight.
Reynaud argued that in negotiating peace terms, Weygand was "taking Hitler for Kaiser Wilhelm, "the old gentleman who only took from us Alsace-Lorraine."
"Hitler," shouted the primer, "is Genghis Khan!"
Adding to the strain the French leader was under was the pressure being brought onto him by his mistress, the Countess Hélène de Portes, a well-known fascist sympathizer.
She read his private correspondence, interfered in government affairs, and tried cajoling him into making an armistice.
In fact, the countess was so infuriated that Churchill was prodding her lover to keep fighting the Nazis that as the two men were saying an emotional good-bye to one another before the Prime Minister's return to England, she lunged at Churchill, trying to attack him.
Inspector Walter H. Thompson, the Prime Minister's personal bodyguard, managed to stop the assault.
"She had no gun," he explained, "but we found a knife on her person."
The threat to Churchill's physical safety on their trip did not stop with the Countess de Portes.
Flying across the English Channel on the way back to London without a fighter escort, the Prime Minister's plane suddenly dove towards the sea.
A Nazi fighter plane was attacking French fishing boats in the channel.
The quick action of Churchill's pilot, diving into the sea mist, kept he Luftwaffe airman from seeing the Prime Minister's plane.
Commented Inspector Thompson, "Some German
"pilot will never know how close he was to winning an Iron Cross first class."
Premier Reynaud sent one last desperate correspondence to Roosevelt early on June 14.
"If you cannot give to France the certainty that
"the United States will come into the war within a very short time," wrote Reynaud, "the fate of the world will change."
But was too late.
That same day, the German army marched into Paris and occupied the city.
Infantrymen paraded down the Champs-Elysees and through the Arc de Triomphe.
Nazi soldiers acted like tourists, enjoying themselves in the cafes and photographing each other in front of the Eiffel Tower.
The news that Paris had fallen stunned the rest of the world.
In New York's Tin Pan Alley, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein quickly wrote a song that became a bestseller, as well as a lament for what had been lost.
WOMAN: ♪ The last time I saw Paris ♪
♪ Her heart was warm and gay ♪
♪ I heard the laughter of her heart ♪
♪ In every street cafe ♪
♪ The last time I saw Paris ♪
♪ Her heart was young and gay ♪
♪ No matter how they change her ♪
♪ I'll remember her that way ♪
KINGSLEY: Within two days, Reynaud resigned, and a new French government headed by the venerated World War I hero Marshal Henri Philippe Pétain was now in place, with its capital in Vichy.
Churchill sent word to Reynaud, asking that he come to England and head up the French resistance movement there, but the now former premier declined the offer.
Fearing arrest, he quickly left with Countess de Portes, driving south, where the Nazis had not yet occupied the country.
A few miles away, their car crashed into a tree, killing the countess instantly.
A few weeks later, the former premier would be arrested by the Vichy government and imprisoned for the rest of the war.
Almost immediately after being named the new French leader, Marshal Pétain sent word to Hitler requesting an armistice.
24 hours later, the Vichy government signed terms capitulating to Nazi Germany.
Within a few months, German military authorities in France issued the first laws severely limiting Jewish rights.
Jewish businesses were required to post signs identifying them as such.
Jews were required to submit to a census and to carry I.D. cards with the marking "Juif."
The bad news about France was leading to speculation that a similar onslaught was ahead for Great Britain.
The Prime Minister decided to send a message to Hitler and the rest of the world in what would become one of his most dramatic addresses to the House of Commons.
CHURCHILL: I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin.
The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us.
If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free.
But if we fail, then the whole world will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age.
Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."
KINGSLEY: Despite the fact that French armistice terms with Germany did not require surrendering their navy, Prime Minister Churchill was convinced that the Nazis would get control of it.
Through the prime minister's office, the French admiral in Algiers was ordered to either join the British or neutralize his ships.
When he refused, the British navy attacked the French fleet there.
More than a thousand French sailors were killed, and the ships were sunk.
The decision was a heart-wrenching one for Churchill, who was in tears when he announced it to Parliament.
In France, the reaction to the news was so bitter that all relations between the Pétain government and Great Britain were broken off.
On July 10, what Churchill had described as the Battle of Britain a month earlier officially began. But it was not the German land invasion that so many had predicted.
The Luftwaffe started bombing British shipping convoys in the English Channel.
The Royal Air Force quickly responded, and battles were soon taking place in the skies above England.
With France defeated and tens of thousands of German troops in northern France, some 20 miles across the English Channel, why didn't Hitler invade the British Isles?
British intelligence agents at Bletchley Park outside London got advanced word of such an attack.
They had captured the German military encoding machine called Enigma and had broken its code on the same day Churchill became Prime Minister.
For weeks, they had been intercepting orders from the Nazi high command and sending them to Churchill and the war cabinet.
On July 16, they decrypted an order from Hitler called Operation Sea Lion, in which he said, "I have decided to begin to prepare
"for and if necessary carry out an invasion of England."
There was little question at that time about the ability of the German infantry to carry off an exercise of this nature.
Even in the Churchill home, there was concern about the likelihood of a Nazi invasion.
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: I remember my mother Pamela Harriman, who later became American ambassador to France, telling me how age 20, 6 months pregnant with me, dining alone with her in-laws, with my grandfather and grandmother, my grandfather comes to table, and silence reigns.
Nobody says anything, and he's far away, brooding in his thoughts, and he suddenly brings his eyes into focus on my mother's and said, "If the Hun
"comes, I'm counting on each one of you to take one with you before you go."
And my mother said, "But, Papa, I don't have a gun, and if I did, I wouldn't know how to use it."
"But, my dear, you can go to the kitchen and get a carving knife."
KINGSLEY: However, Hitler delayed launching a land invasion for the time being.
As was the case in Dunkirk, he may have been listening to Goering, who maintained that in order to successfully invade Britain, Germany needed to first obliterate the RAF and gain control of the skies. And Goering was betting on a quick victory, as the Luftwaffe outnumbered the RAF more than two to one at that moment.
The Germans initially concentrated their attacks on Dover and the southeastern corner of England.
Defeating the British thee would make it easier for the Nazis to launch a cross-Channel land invasion.
In spite of being outnumbered by the Germans, the RAF's two main fighter aircraft, the Spitfire and the Hurricane, were superior to the Luftwaffe's principal fighter, the Messerschmitt, in both range and firepower.
Throughout July and early August, the Germans lost more than twice as many planes as the British.
ANNOUNCER: Somebody's hit a German, and he's coming down in a long streak.
He's coming down completely out of control, a long streak of smoke.
The man's bailed out by parachute.
The pilot's bailed out by parachute.
It's a Junker 87, and it's going slap into the sea, and there he goes.
KINGSLEY: A frustrated Goering called a meeting of his top fighter aces to ask if there was something else they needed to turn the tide against the RAF.
When he asked Adolf Galland, the Luftwaffe's most famous and feared fighter pilot, the German ace answered, "I should like an outfit of Spitfires."
Goering stormed out of the meeting in a rage.
But this was not a one-sided battle, especially when Goering ordered massive strikes on RAF airfields to knock out the Spitfires and the Hurricanes before they could take to the air, in an operation called The Attack of the Eagles.
[Air raid siren]
An additional component of this strategy was German raids on key British factories and industries during the evening hours, taking advantage of the Luftwaffe's superior nighttime bombing techniques.
Bletchley Park decoders had picked up the Luftwaffe chief's orders for the operation, learning that it would start anytime after August 5.
While Goering's Attack of the Eagles strategy inflicted serious damage on RAF airfields and British industry, poor German intelligence seriously hampered the effort.
The Luftwaffe's intelligence chief, Colonel Joseph "Beppo" Schmidt, often told Goering what he wanted to hear rather than the reality of the situation.
At one point, Schmidt reported that the Luftwaffe had destroyed so much of the RAF that it had no more than 300-400 fighters left.
The truth was it was almost 650 at that moment.
Britain's aircraft industry was quickly closing the gap, producing planes at the rate of 4-1 over the Germans.
During this period, RAF pilots scrambled to their planes as many as 6 or 7 times a day.
While the RAF may have been lacking in numbers, they weren't to short on spirit or courage.
The majority of the flyers were in their late teens and early 20s.
The squadrons were on permanent alert, with the young pilots practically living in their flight suits on the Tarmac, sleeping in tents or makeshift huts, scrambling at the sound of the alarm.
In minutes, they were in the air, taking off from landing strips that were often hastily converted farm fields.
The key was to keep alert in the air and watch from all sides, remembering the refrain
"Watch for the Hun in the sun."
There was squadron leader Douglas Bader, who flew despite the fact that he had lost both of his legs.
And Sailor Malan, a South African who reportedly got his nickname from serving in the merchant marines.
The truth was that he preferred Sailor to his real first name--Adolph.
His 10 rules for air fighting began with, "Wait until you see the whites of his eyes."
Not all of them were youngsters.
42-year-old Ernie Mayne was a World War I fighter pilot who volunteered and flew alongside the 19- and 20-year-olds.
Billy Fiske was one of the 10 Americans flying with the RAF then.
An Olympic gold medalist, he'd come to England to study at Cambridge and married the Countess of Warwick.
Masquerading as a Canadian, he joined the RAF, flying a Hurricane.
Other Americans included Eugene "Red" Tobin from California, who'd worked as a studio messenger at MGM to finance his flying lessons before he came to England to volunteer.
And Andy Mamedoff from Miami was a well-known stunt flyer, who had barnstormed across the U.S. before joining the RAF.
Vernon "Shorty" Keough from Brooklyn, New York, was 4'10", the shortest officer in the RAF.
He needed two inflatable pillows to see out through the windows of his Hurricane.
None would survive the war.
GILBERT: There was even a German fighter pilot in the Battle of Britain-- Ken Adam--later a distinguished filmmaker involved in the James Bond films, and Ken Adam was a young flight lieutenant, was one of the bravest of the British fighter pilots, and he was a German Jewish refugee.
KINGSLEY: There were also the women who joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
While some in the RAF referred to them as the Beauty Chorus, their bravery and ability to keep calm under fire was unquestioned.
Some of the first casualties of the Battle of Britain were volunteers belonging to the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, who refused to leave their posts and radar stations that came under attack.
These young women were also the witnesses to the last screams of RAF pilots trapped in their cockpits as their flaming planes plunged to the ground.
Those who were able to eject themselves from their disabled aircraft were not assured rescue or survival.
Many who bailed out into the freezing waters of the English Channel died of hypothermia waiting for help in view of the white cliffs of Dover.
The heroism of these young airmen was not lost on Winston Churchill.
In mid August, at the height of The Attack of the Eagles, the Prime Minister and Military Chief of Staff Lord Ismay drove down to Oxbridge, the RAF's southern headquarters.
During the course of their visit, waves of German bombers began attacking, and the RAF immediately responded with its Spitfires and Hurricanes.
Churchill was quite taken with the courage of the RAF pilots, the ground crews, and the radio operators of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force.
After the battle was over, Churchill and Lord Ismay left Oxbridge.
As the car pulled away, Churchill admonished the general, "Don't speak to me.
I have never been so moved."
A few minutes later, he turned to Ismay and uttered the words that became part of one of his most celebrated speeches of the war.
CHURCHILL: The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the world war by their prowess and by their devotion.
Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.
KINGSLEY: In the closing days of August, the Luftwaffe's bombers caused their most serious damage to the RAF during the Battle of Britain.
Had the Nazis continued to focus on the airfields, the RAF might not have been able to recover, and Operation Sea Lion, Hitler's proposed land invasion of the British Isles, might have succeeded.
On the evening of August 24, a simple navigational error led German bombers to drop their payload on civilian areas of London.
Prime Minister Churchill was furious and ordered retaliatory raids on Berlin to take place within 24 hours.
They continued for the next 4 days, terrifying the German public and humiliating Hermann Goering.
He had promised Berliners that the Luftwaffe would ensure their city would always be safe.
He had once said that, "If one British bomb ever fell on Berlin, my name is Meyer."
Hitler could not contain his anger about the British attack, and in a speech at the beginning of September, he promised a frenzied crowd, "If they attack our cities, we will wipe out theirs."
KINGSLEY: By attacking Berlin, Churchill provoked Hitler into changing the Luftwaffe's strategy from bombing Britain's airfields and industry to attacking its cities and civilians.
It also forced the Fuehrer to put Operation Sea Lion on hold indefinitely.
This enabled the RAF to replenish itself for the fight ahead.
England had held out and decisively won the Battle of Britain, a turning point in the war.
At the same time, the British people were about to experience a period of almost unrelenting terror.
MAN: I'm standing on the roof of Broadcasting House on this evening of Sunday, in September, and we had a warning earlier on in the day, but this is the first time the raiders actually appeared over London. And they were met by a tremendous barrage of antiaircraft fire.
[Air raid sirens]
You could see their flashes quite plainly, and we had shrapnel falling around, and away on the far side of the river, there's another severe fire over in the direction of Woolwich, where they've started another large fire.
I can actually see Saint Paul's and the city churches silhouetted against the blaze.
KINGSLEY: September the 7th, 1940, became known as Black Saturday, the official beginning of what the world would soon call the Blitz.
Throughout the fall and winter of 1940 and well into 1941, German bombers conducted nightly raids over London.
The air raid sirens would sound, and wherever one was in the city, he or she would run to the closest shelter.
Some people would go down into deep shelters in the Underground.
The trains kept running until about midnight, and people getting on and off the trains, so you could only actually sleep at the back of the platform and in passageways.
If you had a back garden, you could have your own Anderson shelter.
You got two pieces of corrugated iron that were bolted together.
There were quite a few cases where people slept under railway arches, and a direct hit, and everybody died.
KINGSLEY: For parents, many of whom were working in the city, the anxiety about their children, who were either at school or at home, was overwhelming.
Many opted to send them to relatives, friends, even strangers in the countryside, where the Luftwaffe was not dropping bombs.
[Air raid sirens]
The Luftwaffe's bombs fell indiscriminately.
From the wealth of Mayfair to the poor Italian and Jewish neighborhoods in the East End, no one was shown any mercy.
Yet, the next day, people picked up the pieces of their lives.
They found new places to live if they had to and went off to their jobs.
GASKIN: And if the office wasn't there, there would probably be a rope across with a piece of paper saying, "The office has moved to so and so," and then they'd have to sort of climb over whatever they had to climb over to get to the new office.
My mum, for example, she would be working up in the city, and she said you would turn up, and sometimes, the buildings just weren't there anymore, and I'd say, "Well, how did you carry on?"
And she said, "Well, you just got on with it."
KINGSLEY: American journalists covering the Blitz spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what kept the British going.
The American newspaper reporter Ernie Pyle published a dispatch when the country's most important church after Westminster Abbey, Saint Paul's, was bombed during one raid in November 1940.
He noted that Londoners looked at the damage without sadness and said, "We would rather have it
"that way in a free London than have it whole like Notre Dame in an imprisoned Paris."
One of the key reasons why the British managed to keep going despite the nightly barrage of Luftwaffe bombs was seeing their Prime Minister Winston Churchill out among them on a regular basis.
From the moment the Blitz started, Churchill ventured out into the streets to inspect damage and offer comfort to Londoners.
CHURCHILL: These cruel, wanton, indiscriminate bombings of London are, of course, a part of Hitler's invasion plan.
Little does he know the spirit of the British nation or the tough fiber of the Londoners.
KINGSLEY: To protect the Prime Minister, the cabinet, the highest echelons of the military, and the government, a heavily fortified underground complex was built, called the Cabinet War Rooms, just steps away from number 10 Downing Street.
The Prime Minister's wife Clementine, his personal bodyguard Inspector Walter H. Thompson, as well as many in the government would have preferred that he remained in the safety of the Cabinet War Rooms.
But to the chagrin of those surrounding him, Churchill insisted on being where the action was.
He would often go up on the roof of the government offices in Whitehall to view an air raid as it was occurring.
On one occasion, while dining with the King at number 10, the Luftwaffe began bombing and both His Majesty and the Prime Minister were asked to go into the shelter, but Churchill refused, telling the King, "I must go out and see how things are going."
The Prime Minister did not like to sleep in the bedroom provided for him in the Cabinet War Rooms.
He preferred the residence at number 10 so he could get outside quickly during a raid and see what was happening.
One day, Mrs. Churchill got word from the Air Ministry that a big attack was expected.
She made her husband promise that they would sleep in the private quarters at the Cabinet War Rooms.
She asked Inspector Thompson to make sure that the Prime Minister did just that.
When the air raid began, the bodyguard was amazed to see Churchill getting into his bedclothes and doing exactly what his wife had requested of him.
But when Thompson returned to his own room, his bell rang, and he returned to find the Prime Minister in his dressing gown and slippers.
"Thompson, get my clothes," he said.
"I've kept my promise to Mrs. Churchill.
Now I'm going upstairs to sleep."
Churchill insisted on taking his nightly constitutional in Saint James' Park despite the danger.
After one such walk as he and Inspector Thompson stepped into the annex at number 10, a tremendous explosion occurred.
The bodyguard was hoping that his might dissuade the Prime Minister from taking further strolls, but he was undaunted, telling Thompson, "There is someone looking after me besides you."
"Do you mean Sergeant Davis?" the inspector asked, referring to his assistant.
"No," answered the Prime Minister, as he pointed his finger towards the skies.
"I have a mission to perform," said Churchill, and that person intends to see that it is performed."
It was Churchill's practice to go out among the people, especially after a particularly severe bombing raid.
Inspector Thompson recalled that, surrounded by the intense devastation of a whole block or cluster of homes, he would stand and talk, chatting with survivors, listening to their accountings of what had happened to them.
After one raid, the Prime Minister arrived at the scene of a bombed house, only to pitch in and help the rescue workers.
MAN AS THOMPSON: Winston went down on his knees to clutch a woman who, still conscious, was being dug out.
For a moment, they looked at one another, Winston with his coat and trousers spattered with mud, the woman covered from head to foot in dust.
Then with a tremor in her voice, she thanked him and was taken away by friends.
"There goes greatness," Winston said.
Tears were streaming down his face.
There were many occasions when he would silently and without shame or embarrassment weep without speaking for many minutes.
KINGSLEY: Winston Churchill's visibility among the people, as well as his addresses on the radio, helped to send a message to Britons that became a watchword during the Blitz--
Keep calm and carry on.
GASKIN: Winston Churchill really sort of put all the right words in the right order so that people could say, "Yes, yes.
"I can move, fight on.
"I can get myself up and do the next day.
We will keep going."
KINGSLEY: On several occasions, the Prime Minister was accompanied by the King and Queen.
While many in the government had insisted that the royal family move to Canada for their safety, the King and Queen refused, insisting it was their duty to stay in England.
They remained in Buckingham Palace with the two princesses even after it was bombed during one raid, killing a member of the Royal Guard.
WOMAN: When we heard that our King and Queen weren't deserting us and going to a safer country, of course we were all thrilled, and it gave everybody a lot of hope and courage, and that meant a lot.
KINGSLEY: Another important component in helping to keep up the sprits of the British people during the worst of the Blitz was popular culture.
LYNN: When war was declared, everybody assumed that everything was going to close up, particularly places of entertainment.
But of course, that didn't prove so.
People were very glad of the entertainment, and they all still hoped that everything would be OK while they were there, but the manager used to come on stage and say that there'd been the siren and if anybody wished to leave, they could and go to the nearest shelter. And those who wanted to stay could just say, and of course, they stayed.
Only recently I had a letter from someone saying that they were on their way home one night from work and they passed a theater in London and saw my name up, and they thought, "Ooh, right. I'll just pop in and see her," because he was a fan, and he did, and he enjoyed the show. but when he got home, his house had gone.
It had just been bombed and blown away.
So he said he was very grateful to me for probably saving his life.
You know, I remember singing
"A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" one night, and the sirens went off, and of course, it was no nightingale we could hear but the start of some bombing, but nobody moved.
They still sat there, and I still stood on stage and carried on with my nightingale that was singing in Berkeley Square.
LYNN: ♪ The streets of town ♪
♪ Were paved with stars ♪
♪ It was such a romantic affair ♪
♪ And as we kissed and said good night ♪
♪ A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square ♪
♪ I know 'cause I was there ♪
♪ That night ♪
♪ In Berkeley Square ♪
KINGSLEY: Ironically, some of the best entertainment took place in some of the underground shelters.
They had the ballroom at the Dorchester Hotel, where there was an orchestra and people danced as the bombs fell.
GASKIN: Somebody sort of looked around this very high-class room and said, "If a bomb hit now, it
"would be like the Titanic going down all over again," and then someone else pointed out that a lot of these really well-dressed girls were actually during the day or on other nights driving ambulances or fire trucks, or they might be nurses.
KINGSLEY: November 1940, was a difficult month for Great Britain.
The Luftwaffe carried out one of its most powerful bombing raids on the town of Coventry.
Over 500 German bombers destroyed
4,000 homes, killing 600 and wounding more than a thousand.
There was not a building in the city center that did not suffer some damage.
Giving the British public some hope was the fact that Franklin Roosevelt had won an unprecedented third term as President of the United States.
FDR had campaigned on a platform that said, "All aid to Britain short of war."
The President was quite concerned that with Britain under attack, the United States would not be far behind.
One afternoon, FDR, who was paralyzed from the waist down with polio, demonstrated to an aide how he would make for the nearest exit in the event of a German air raid.
He got out of his wheelchair, got down on the floor, and began to move on his elbows.
The First Lady happened to walk into the Oval Office at this moment and fled in tears when she realized what her husband was doing.
With the election behind him, President Roosevelt began to focus on getting Churchill the destroyers and other military aid he'd been asking for since he became Prime Minister in May.
His job was made somewhat easier when the Luftwaffe pounded London on December 29, igniting even greater support in America for the British people.
That evening, the President addressed the nation about the situation in Great Britain in one of his famous fireside chats.
We must be the great arsenal of democracy.
For us, this is an emergency as serious as war itself.
There will be no bottleneck in our determination to aid Great Britain.
CHOIR: ♪ Ding dong merrily on high ♪
♪ In Heaven, the bells are ringing ♪
♪ Ding dong verily... ♪ KINGSLEY: The weekend between Christmas and New Year's, "Christmas Under Fire," a short film written and narrated by the American journalist Quentin Reynolds, was rushed into 16,000 movie theaters in the United States.
It had a big impact on public opinion just prior to President Roosevelt's State of the Union Address.
FDR laid out a plan that would lend American destroyers and other military equipment to Great Britain in exchange for leases on British naval bases.
FDR dispatched a close aide and confidant, the former commerce secretary Harry Hopkins, to England to meet with Churchill to help coordinate the working relationship between the two countries.
Hopkins was tremendously moved by what he saw in England and created a close bond with Churchill that would last the rest of the war.
In early March 1941, after two months of politicking, the U.S. Lend-Lease Act passed in the Congress.
The long-awaited American destroyers and other material were on their way to Great Britain.
Within a few weeks, Germany began to scale back on their nightly bombing raids.
The British people had refused to give up during the Blitz.
The Luftwaffe's arsenals were becoming depleted.
RAF retaliatory raids on Berlin and other German cities were also shaking up the Nazis.
One British attack came as Russian Foreign Minister Molotov was completing meetings with Hermann Goering and German Foreign Minister von Ribbentrop.
Throughout the meetings, Goering and von Ribbentrop kept bragging that Great Britain was finished.
As RAF bombs started raining down on Berlin, Molotov looked at his hosts and asked, "If Britain is finished, then why are we in this shelter, and whose bombs are falling on us?"
In the North London neighborhood where David Ben-Gurion was living, he often found himself in the shelter in the Underground station around the corner from his flat during air raids.
Back in his apartment after the all clear, the future Prime Minister of Israel reflected on Winston Churchill's leadership, writing, "He lifted an entire nation out of the depths
"of humiliation and defeat, instilled in them
"the spiritual strength to hold fast against heavy odds.
If not for Churchill, England would have gone down."
8 years later, as Israel was about to declare its independence, Ben-Gurion thought back on his time in London.
"I recall the men and women of London during the Blitz," he wrote.
"I have seen what a people are capable of achieving in the hour of supreme trial.
"I have seen their spirit touched by nobility.
This is what the Jewish people can do."
There was another reason why the Nazis began to decrease their raids on England in the spring of 1941.
Hitler had made the decision to launch Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union.
3 days before the invasion began on June 21, 1941, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels expressed his frustration about Winston Churchill.
"Were it not for him," wrote Goebbels in his diary, "this war would have ended long ago."
Despite the fact that Russia and Germany had signed a non-aggression pact, relations between the two had deteriorated and become hostile.
Hitler was convinced that invading in June would ensure a quick victory before the bitter Russian winter set in.
Within a month of the Nazi invasion, special units of the SS called the Einsatzgruppen were sent into the Ukraine and eastern Poland.
Their mission was to eliminate the Jewish population from those areas.
Over the next 18 months, more than 1.5 million Jews were murdered at killing centers called Belzec, Majdanek, Treblinka, and Sobibor.
Back in the summer of 1941 at Bletchley Park, Enigma intercepts were providing Prime Minister Churchill with information about the Einsatzgruppen murder squads.
Churchill decided to raise the issue with President Roosevelt at their first face-to-face meeting off the coast of Canada in late August 1941.
GILBERT: Churchill had spoken on what was happening to the Jews of Russia, and he was very concerned with it, but at this meeting, he was concerned, could Britain survive?
KINGSLEY: While Churchill was intent on getting a deeper commitment by the President to joining the war effort, FDR seemed to be focused on the world after the war.
Toward the end of their meeting, President Roosevelt presented Churchill with a document called the Atlantic Charter.
It was FDR's vision of a post-war world in which Great Britain and the United States would pledge themselves to respect the right of all peoples to choose a form of government under which they live.
Churchill supported the idea of the charter, but he raised an issue with FDR that would prove to be a sticking point in their relationship throughout the rest of the war years.
The Prime Minister explained his fears that under the charter, the Arabs of Palestine might claim the right to expel the Jews or to forbid future Jewish immigration there.
"I am strongly wedded to the Zionist policy,"
Churchill told the President.
Meeting later with his war cabinet, the Prime Minister declared that if Britain and the U.S. emerged from the war victorious, the creation of a "great Jewish state" in Palestine would be one of the matters discussed at the peace conference.
Returning to London on August 24, the Prime Minister discussed his meetings with the President in a BBC broadcast.
He also raised the issue of German atrocities in the Soviet Union.
CHURCHILL: There has never been methodical, merciless butchery on such a scale or approaching such a scale, and this is but the beginning.
We are in the presence of a crime without a name.
KINGSLEY: On the evening of December 7, 1941, Winston Churchill was at Chequers, the official country estate of the British Prime Minister, dining with the newly appointed U.S. ambassador Gilbert Winant and FDR's special envoy Averell Harriman.
Churchill turned on the radio so the group could listen to the 9 P.M. BCC news.
NEWS READER: Here is the news.
Japan's long-threatened aggression in the Far East began tonight with air attacks on United States naval bases in the Pacific.
KINGSLEY: As Churchill switched on the radio, there was a bulletin about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which had just occurred.
The Prime Minister jumped to his feet and said, "Great Britain shall declare war on Japan."
A moment later, Ambassador Winant got President Roosevelt on the telephone and confirmed the attack.
He then put the Prime Minister on the phone.
Roosevelt's first words were, "We are all in the same boat now."
It was something that Churchill had been waiting to hear since May of 1940.
That night, Churchill would later report he slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.
Two weeks later, Prime Minister Churchill arrived in Washington, D.C., to meet with President Roosevelt and strategize the now joint war effort between Great Britain and the U.S.
Churchill stayed on as FDR's guest in the White House.
GOODWIN: Churchill arrives, and they put him up in the room which is now known of course as the Churchill room, and he said, "Now I have a few rules.
"There's not to be any talking
"in the hallways around me.
"I don't like to hear that.
"I hate to hear whistling, and I need to have
"have a bottle of sherry every morning
"I need to have Scotch and soda before lunch, "and I need to have wine and liquor and brandy after dinner."
He would then stay up with Roosevelt until 2 A.M.
The two of them would smoke and drink until finally Eleanor would come in and say, "Isn't it time for you two little boys to go to bed?"
KINGSLEY: One morning during Churchill's visit, FDR had an idea and asked his aide to wheel him into the Prime Minister's room immediately.
GOODWIN: It so happened Churchill was just coming out of the bathtub and had absolutely nothing on, so Roosevelt said, "I'm so sorry.
I'll come back in a few moments," but Churchill, ever able to speak spontaneously, in a very formal voice said, "Oh, no. Please stay.
"The Prime Minister of Great Britain has nothing
"to hide from the President of the United States."
KINGSLEY: The day after Christmas, Winston Churchill was given an honor accorded to a very few.
He addressed the joint houses of the United States Congress.
The Prime Minister, whose mother was an American, immediately won over the Congressional representatives and senators assembled.
I cannot help but 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.
[Laughter and applause]
Here we are, together, facing a group of mighty foes, who seek our ruin.
Here we are, together, defending all that to free men is dear.
Twice in a single generation, the catastrophe of world war has fallen upon us.
Twice in our lifetime has the long arm of fate reached out across the ocean to bring the United States into the forefront of the battle.
Here 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.
KINGSLEY: The U.S. Congress, which a year earlier has balked at helping Great Britain, was now giving its Prime Minister a standing ovation.
Around the United States, there was no more popular a figure.
The strain of the last few weeks and months, as well as the 10-day journey from England to the U.S., had taken its toll on Churchill.
The morning after his triumphant speech, as he was opening the window to his room at the White House, he felt a sharp pain in his chest.
His personal physician Lord Maron was immediately summoned, and after examining the Prime Minister, he found that Churchill had suffered a mild heart attack.
Rather than alarming Churchill or his American hosts, the doctor kept the news to himself, telling his patient that he had strained a muscle and needed some rest.
He insisted that Churchill relax for a few days in Florida before his upcoming trip to Canada, where he was scheduled to speak to the Canadian parliament.
Lord Maron's secret would be kept for almost a quarter of a century.
There was little evidence of the heart attack as Churchill resumed a full schedule of meetings in the U.S. after his trip to Canada.
At the end of January, it was time for him to return to Great Britain.
President Roosevelt saw him off at the airfield.
When Churchill and FDR had last said good-bye during their Atlantic Charter conference, the President had taken his bodyguard Inspector Thompson aside and said to him, "Take care of him.
"He is about the greatest man in the world.
In fact, he may very likely be the greatest."
Now Roosevelt's final words to Churchill as he boarded his plane were, "Trust me to the bitter end."
At the start of his journey across the Atlantic, the plane's captain invited the Prime Minister to the control deck.
Churchill then asked if he could pilot the plane.
The Prime Minister's questions about the plane's operations assured the captain that he could handle it himself.
The captain turned off the automatic pilot and turned over the control of the plane to Churchill.
The Prime Minister then asked if he could make a couple of banked turns, which he did, with considerable success.
The captain then asked the Prime Minister when he'd last piloted a plane.
Churchill replied, "1913."
As the Prime Minister's plane crossed the Atlantic, a navigational error sent it within
5-6 minutes of Nazi-occupied France.
When the mistake was discovered, the captain turned north at once.
Now entering British airspace from the direction of France, it was detected by British radar as a hostile bomber.
6 Hurricane fighters were dispatched to shoot it down before the captain was able to identify who they were.
"Fortunately," Churchill would later comment, "they failed in their mission."
Winston Churchill, who'd been in the political wilderness just a few years before, who some had believed would never last as Prime Minister, now returned to England in triumph.
He had forged an alliance with the United States, one that few would have predicted when he became Prime Minister in 1940.
But it was a goal he insisted was obtainable and which he made a reality.
Against all odds, he'd led his nation as it won the Battle of Britain and survived the Blitz.
As he arrived back in London and reflected on what he'd accomplished, the words of his good friend, the Presidential envoy Harry Hopkins, were ringing true.
At a dinner the year before, Hopkins toasted the British Prime Minister and discussed the future of British-American relations.
He paraphrased the Book of Ruth, bringing Winston Churchill to tears:
"Whither thou goest, I will go, "and where thou lodgest, I will lodge.
"Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God even to the end."
A few weeks later, Winston Churchill addressed the British people.
He told the nation, "We must remember that we are
"no longer alone.
"We are in the midst of a great company.
"The whole future of mankind may depend upon
"our action and upon our conduct.
"So far, we have not failed.
"We shall not fail now.
"Let us move forward steadfastly together into the storm."