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WW 2 History Club. “Keep the British Isles Afloat”. “Arsenal of Democracy”. 833 Days. 26 - Dec - 2012. “All Aid Short of War”. “Keep out of foreign wars”. Today’s Goal.

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Ww 2 history club

WW 2 History Club

“Keep the British Isles Afloat”

“Arsenal of Democracy”

833 Days

26 - Dec - 2012

“All Aid Short of War”

“Keep out of foreign wars”

Today s goal
Today’s Goal

  • Introduce you to some of the less famous individuals who were not military but had as much influence on what eventually happened as any general

  • Interest in similar sessions in the future?

  • Focus Group?

  • WWII Book Club?

The big three
The Big Three

For most people,

“the big three” of WWII refer to

  • Churchill

  • Roosevelt

  • Stalin

  • But who made it happen?

The few
The Few

In one of his most famous speeches, Churchill stated:

“Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few”

Who are “the few”?

Are you sure?

833 days
833 Days

1-Sep-1939: WWII starts

8-Dec-1941: US declares war on Japan

12-Dec-1941: Germany declares war on US

8-May-1945: VE Day

European War lasted 2076 days

US was not a true belligerent for first 833 days

Britain stands alone
Britain Stands Alone

  • Seeds of WWII go back decades

  • European War started in Sep 1939

  • Fall of Poland

  • Phony War

  • Fall of Norway and Denmark

  • May 1940 breakout

  • “The Battle of France is Over …”

Britain stands alone1
Britain Stands Alone

  • “ … the Battle of Britain is about to begin …”

  • Britain is the size of Colorado

  • British army was trampled by Germans

  • Britain is low of food, men, arms, …

  • How could Britain stand up to Hitler?

Britain stands alone2
Britain Stands Alone

  • Germany is 80 million +

  • Britain Empire is 500 million

  • British Empire: 50 divisions

  • Germany: 250 divisions (half were crack combat divisions)

“Never before in history have so few

brought so much suffering to so many”

Us isolationism
US Isolationism

  • Memories of WWI

  • Stay out of European conflicts

  • Vast majority of Americans against any involvement (various reasons)

  • FDR had to be careful

    • What was his strategy?

    • Why was it so important to stay out of the war?


  • Perspective on Greatness: The Price of Peace

  • 1952 Documentary Series

  • Approx 30 minutes

What happened
What Happened?

  • Why did Americans change their mind about “the European War”

  • How did the US figure out what the UK really needed?

  • How did Lend-Lease go from an idea to action?

  • How were the many differences between the US and the UK mitigated?

What happened1
What Happened?

  • Why did FDR and Churchill wait so long to meet?

  • How could these monstrous egos get along?

  • Churchill was known for decisiveness and quick action; FDR for vacillation and endless delays

  • How could they work cooperatively?

What happened2
What Happened?

  • 4 Americans changed history

  • 4 Americans backed Britain and supported aide to Britain against huge opposition

  • 4 Americans convinced FDR (and the US public) that Britain would not surrender

  • 4 Americans mitigated the problems of culture and alliance

4 americans
4 Americans

  • Edward R. Murrow

  • Harry Hopkins

  • John Winant

  • W. Averell Harriman

    Who were these men and how did they change history?

Edward r murrow
Edward R. Murrow

  • Minimal training as a newspaperman

  • Pioneer in radio broadcast

  • Director of CBS Talks & Education in 1935

  • Went to London in 1937

  • Covered “the events” live: revolutionary approach

    • Anschluss

    • Sudetenland, Munich, …

    • Built huge following for “radio news”

Edward r murrow1
Edward R. Murrow

  • World News Roundup (CBS radio)

  • “This is London”

  • Trusted source of news

  • Close relationship with Churchill

  • Offered director-general of BBC

  • Closer relationship with Pamela Churchill

For many Americans, Murrow’s broadcasts were a trusted source of “unbiased”, up-to-the minute, news

Edward r murrow2
Edward R. Murrow

  • Murrow Boys .. “The finest news staff ever assembled”:

    • Eric Sevareid

    • Charles Collingwood

    • Howard K. Smith

    • William Shirer

    • Mary Marvin Breckinridge

    • Cecil Brown

    • Richard C. Hottelet

    • Bill Downs

    • Winston Burdett

    • Charles Shaw

    • Ned Calmer

Edward r murrow the power of radio
Edward R Murrow & the Power of Radio

  • We tend to forget that radio was “the media” of the 1930s and 1940s

  • Everyone listened to radio

  • Radio was often more powerful than images because with radio you could imagine … “the theater of the mind”

Edward r murrow the power of radio1
Edward R Murrow & the Power of Radio

  • Let’s listen to some radio from the 1930s

    • “I can hear it now” (1933 – 1945)

    • Trafalgar Square 24Aug’40

    • “Good Luck” Dec 1940

    • “This is London” 1942

Harry hopkins
Harry Hopkins

  • FDR’s chief advisor on many topics (2nd most powerful man in Washington)

  • Directed WPA, largest employer in the country

  • Managed the distribution of $ billions

  • Friend and confidant of FDR

  • Lived at the White House for 3+ years

  • One of FDR’s “confidential agents” – “eyes & ears”

  • More influential than the State Department

  • “Now Harry, get that goddamn thing done. And Harry would have it done in two hours”

Harry hopkins1
Harry Hopkins

  • Secy of Commerce

  • Special mission to UK in early 1941 to “get the facts”

  • Developed exceptionally good relationship with Churchill; impressed by his decisiveness and quick action

  • “Lord of Root of the Matter”

  • Returned with a good understanding of Churchill, UK

  • Convinced that UK would weather the storm

  • Overall director of Lend Lease; wanted Harriman in UK

  • Arranged for Placentia Bay meeting

  • Visited Stalin (Jul’41); convinced FDR to include USSR in LL

Us position on aid
US Position on Aid

  • Neutrality Act of 1935

    • general embargo for 6 months

  • Neutrality Act of 1936

    • extended 14 months, no loans

  • Neutrality Act of 1937

    • no time limit; civil wars too;

    • modest “cash & carry” provision

  • Neutrality Act of 1939

    • Initially restored embargo

    • Later repealed Acts of 1936 and 1937:

    • “Cash & Carry”

Us position on aid1
US Position on Aid

  • Cash & Carry … Sep/Nov -1939

    • All belligerent nations; UK preference

    • War zones declared

    • National Munitions Control Board

    • Federal crime: Arms trading w/o license (still in effect)

Us position on aid2
US Position on Aid

  • 1940:

    • Britain stands alone

    • Britain running out of $

    • US public in favor of “some help”

    • Destroyers for Bases (US acted faster)

    • 17 Dec: The Garden Hose speech

    • 29 Dec: Arsenal of Democracy Speech

Us aid to allies
US Aid to Allies

  • 1941:

    • Britain truly desperate

    • Battle of the Atlantic

    • 75% of US public in favor of Lend-Lease

    • March  Britain

    • April  China

    • October  Soviet Union

Joseph kennedy
Joseph Kennedy

  • Interesting past

  • US Ambassador to UK

    27Jan’38 – 22Oct’40 (critical time?)

  • Aligned with Chamberlain / appeasement

  • Vocal about Britain falling

  • Thought Germany was too strong

  • Encouraged FDR to write off Britain

  • Encouraged Americans to get out of UK

The mess
The Mess

  • For 175 years …

  • Churchill and UK tired of US “talk”

  • UK Belief: US was taking advantage of UK

  • Halifax had to tone down Churchill’s correspondence

  • Churchill: “Give us the tools …”

  • FDR: not much use for JPK or State Dept

John winant
John Winant

  • Hero was Abe Lincoln

  • Reserved and “awkward”; not a great speaker

  • Idealist to the point of political suicide

  • Worked 24/7 but not a good administrator

  • Progressive Republican; 2 term governor of NH

  • More progressive than FDR?

  • US rep to International Labor Organization – 1935 (FDR ploy?)

  • Social Security Administration Commissioner – 1935 - 1936

  • Back to ILO in 1937; director of ILO by 1939

John winant1
John Winant

  • Travelled extensively in Europe during run up to war

  • Well known in UK

  • Appointed Ambassador to UK in Jan, 1941

    • FDR need someone to clean up the mess exacerbated by Kennedy

    • UK reaction was jubilant

  • “I'm very glad to be here. There is no place I'd rather be at this time than in England.”

  • “Here You Shall Not Pass”

  • Close relationship with Churchill and British government, particularly Foreign Office and Anthony Eden. Part of Churchill’s extended family

John winant2
John Winant

  • Often explained “the basics” to support Churchill

  • Embassy staff operated as a team

  • “… complete confidence and respect that your Ambassador has won from all classes of people in England. He will become, I believe, before he leaves, the most beloved American who has ever been in England”

  • Frustrated (as were others) with FDR’s waffling

  • Did FDR not want the responsibility of an overt act?

  • “What America requires is not propaganda but the facts”

  • “We have all slept … we have all tried … we are now beginning …

  • Every day we delay …

W averell harriman
W. Averell Harriman

  • Son of railroad (robber) baron

  • The right schools: Groton, Yale (Skull & Bones)

  • Social links with FDR but completely different personalities

  • Intensely pragmatic

  • Banking, Union Pacific and other RR interests, Shipping, horse racing interests; polo player

  • Travelled extensively in Europe brokering deals

  • Enjoyed meeting and befriending powerful people

  • Switched from Republican to Democratic parties in 1928

  • Recognized shift of power from Wall Street to Washington

W averell harriman1
W. Averell Harriman

  • On the fringes of the New Deal

  • Wanted more important position on FDR’s team

  • Revive American business

  • Positions in NRA, Natl Industrial Recovery, Natl Advisory Council, Office of Production Mgmt

  • Not involved in early mobilization planning

  • Internationalist and interventionist

  • When Hopkins returned from UK (early ’41), he specifically requested Harriman as the UK side of Lend-Lease

  • FDR: “I want you to go over to London and recommend everything that we can do, short of war, to keep the British Isles afloat.”

W averell harriman2
W. Averell Harriman

  • “Defense Expeditor”

  • “The great thing about Averell was that everything he did, he did bloody well.”

  • FDR provided few specifics; OK by Harriman

  • Custodian of “the relationship” Hopkins had initiated

  • US military: not much value in sending scarce equipment unless UK had bases, men, …

  • US military: are we to be a warehouse for the British or a fighting partner?

  • Key Goal: get more information to convince US military

W averell harriman3
W. Averell Harriman

  • Felt optimistic with Hopkins in charge

  • Developed relationship with Churchill on a par with Hopkin’s … the American member

  • Even closer relationship with Churchill’s daughter-in-law, Pamela

  • Quickly settled in to the job

  • Excellent liaison with Winant’s office

  • Coordinated the mess of special missions

  • Experience with railroads and shipping

  • Battle of the Atlantic

    Two impatient men, an ocean apart, linking up and working with each other to save Britain

W averell harriman4
W. Averell Harriman

  • Placentia Bay participant

  • Mission to USSR (follow up to Hopkins) to negotiate details of Lend-Lease to USSR

  • Churchill’s “efficiency expert”; trip to Egypt

  • Quite critical of FDR’s waffling … “I have made my decision …”

  • Better understanding of British capability (pre Barbarossa)

    • Would fight to the finish

    • But not capable of finishing it

    • Direct American intervention would be required.

Lend lease
Lend Lease

  • Lend-Lease was a critical factor in the eventual success of the Allies in World War II.

  • In 1943–1944, about a quarter of all British munitions came through Lend-Lease.

  • Aircraft (in particular transport aircraft) comprised about a quarter of the shipments to Britain, followed by food, land vehicles and ships.

Lend lease1
Lend Lease

  • Even after the United States forces in Europe and the Pacific began to reach full strength in 1943–1944, Lend-Lease continued.

  • Most remaining allies were largely self-sufficient in front line equipment (such as tanks and fighter aircraft) by this stage, Lend-Lease logistical supplies (including motor vehicles and railroad equipment) were of enormous assistance.

Lend lease2
Lend Lease

  • Much of the aid can be better understood when considering the economic distortions caused by the war.

  • Most belligerent powers cut back severely on production of non-essentials, concentrating on producing weapons.

  • This inevitably produced shortages of related products needed by the military or as part of the military-industrial complex or essential non-military goods.

Lend lease3
Lend Lease

  • The USSR was highly dependent on rail transportation, but the war practically shut down rail equipment production: only about 92 locomotives were produced. 2,000 locomotives and 11,000 railcars were supplied under Lend-Lease.

  • Likewise, the Soviet air force received 18,700 aircraft, which amounted to about 14% of Soviet aircraft production (19% for military aircraft).

Lend lease4
Lend Lease

  • Although most Red Army tank units were equipped with Soviet-built tanks, their logistical support was provided by hundreds of thousands of U.S.-made trucks.

  • By 1945 nearly two-thirds of the truck strength of the Red Army was U.S.-built. Trucks such as the Dodge 3/4 ton and Studebaker 2½ ton, were easily the best trucks available in their class on either side on the Eastern Front.

  • American shipments of telephone cable, aluminum, canned rations, and clothing were also critical.

Lend lease5
Lend Lease

  • Hopkins on one end and Harriman on the other

  • Two focused and impatient men

  • Understood that ultimately it is the total system that must work: war material, support material, transportation, spare parts, people, training,… , LOGISTICS!

Harriman s businesses
Harriman’s Businesses

  • Harriman was a true “tycoon” and had extensive business interests (full and partial ownership)

    • Banking (Brown Bros Harriman, Guaranty Trust, Union Banking, …)

    • Railroads (Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Illinois Central,

    • Shipping (Holland American, Pacific Mail, US Lines, …),

    • Racing stables

    • Other transportation (Wells Fargo,

Harriman s businesses1
Harriman’s Businesses

  • Harriman’s bank was main Wall Street connection for German companies

  • Not illegal until Hitler declared war on US and “Trading With The Enemy” Act was passed

  • In Oct ’42 several of Harriman’s companies were seized:

    • Union Banking Corporation (UBC) (from Thyssen and Brown Brothers Harriman).

    • Holland-American Trading Corporation (from Harriman)

    • the Seamless Steel Equipment Corporation (from Harriman)

    • Silesian-American Corporation

Pamela churchill
Pamela Churchill

  • Originally married to Randolph (WSC’s son)

  • Affair with Harriman

  • Affair with Murrow

  • Affairs with …

  • Post WWII: affairs with major players on the continent

  • Widow in 1971 when she met Harriman at a party

  • Married Harriman two months later

  • Washington hostess

  • US ambassador to France under Clinton

Further reading
Further Reading

  • “To Keep The British Isles Afloat”

    • Thomas Parrish

    • Focus is Hopkins and Harriman

  • “Citizens of London”

    • Lynn Olson

    • Focus is Harriman, Murrow, Winant

  • “The Murrow Boys”

    • Lynn Olson


  • Was Britain as bad off as they claimed in late 1940 and early 1941?

  • What was the threat of invasion then?

  • Would tools and such be enough?

  • What else did Churchill really want?

  • What was FDR’s real strategy?

  • What impact did Murrow and his boys have?

  • Did these men make history or did history make these men?