Winston Churchill never once flinched in the face of the Third Reich.
Fifty years ago this Saturday, former British prime minister Winston Churchill died at age 90.
Churchill is remembered for his multiple nonstop careers as a statesman, cabinet minister, politician, journalist, Nobel laureate historian, and combat veteran. He began his career serving the British military as a Victorian-era mounted lancer and ended it as custodian of Britain’s nuclear deterrent.
But he is most renowned for an astounding five-year-tenure as Britain’s wartime prime minister from May 10, 1940, to June 26, 1945, when he was voted out of office not long after the surrender of Nazi Germany.
Churchill took over the day Hitler invaded Western Europe. Within six weeks, an isolated Great Britain was left alone facing the Third Reich. What is now the European Union was then either under Nazi occupation, allied with Germany, or ostensibly neutral while favoring Hitler.
The United States was not just neutral. It had no intention of entering another European war — at least not until after the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor a year and half later.
From August 1939 to June 1941, the Soviet Union was an accomplice of the Third Reich. Russian leader Joseph Stalin was supplying Hitler with critical resources to help finish off Great Britain, the last obstacle in Germany’s path of European domination.
Some of the British elite wished to cut a peace deal with Hitler to save their empire and keep Britain from being bombed or invaded. They understandably argued that Britain could hardly hold out when Poland, Denmark, Norway the Netherlands, Belgium, and France all had not. Yet Churchill voiced defiance and vowed to keep on fighting.
After the fall of France, Churchill readied Britain’s defenses against a Nazi bombing blitz, and then went on the offensive against Italy in the Mediterranean.
As much of London went up in flames, Churchill never flinched, despite the deaths of more than 40,000 British civilians.
By some estimates, the Soviet Red Army eventually killed three out of four German soldiers who died in World War II. The American economic colossus built more military ships, aircraft, vehicles, and tanks than did any other country during World War II.
In comparison with such later huge human and material sacrifices, the original, critical British role in winning World War II is often forgotten. But Britain was the only major power on either side of the war to fight continuously the entire six years, from September 3, 1939, to September 2, 1945. Britain was the only nation of the alliance to have fought Nazi Germany alone without allies. Churchill’s defiant wartime rhetoric anchored the entire moral case against the Third Reich.
Unlike the Soviet Union or the United States, Britain entered the war without being attacked, on the principle of protecting independent Poland from Hitler. Unlike America, Britain fought Germany from the first day of the war to its surrender. Unlike Russia, it fought the Japanese from the moment Japan started the Pacific War to the Japanese general surrender.
Churchill’s Britain had a far smaller population and economy than either the Soviet Union or the United States. Its industry and army were smaller than Germany’s.
Defeat would have meant the end of British civilization. But victory would ensure the end of the British Empire and a future world dominated by the victorious and all-powerful United States and Soviet Union.
It was Churchill’s decision that Britain would fight on all fronts of both the European and Pacific theaters. He ordered strategic bombing over occupied Europe, a naval war against the German submarine and surface fleets, and a full-blown land campaign in Burma.
He ensured that the Mediterranean stayed open from Gibraltar to Suez. Churchill partnered with America from North Africa to Normandy, and he helped to supply Russia — even as Britain was broke and its manpower exhausted.
In the mid-1930s, Churchill first — and loudest — had damned appeasement and warned Europe and the United States about the dangers of an aggressive Nazi Germany. For that prescience, he was labeled a warmonger who wished to revisit the horrors of World War I.
After the end of World War II, the lone voice of Churchill cautioned the West that its former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, was creating an “Iron Curtain” and was as ruthless as Hitler’s Germany had been. Again, he was branded a paranoid who unfairly demonized Communists.
The wisdom and spirit of Winston Churchill not only saved Britain from the Third Reich, but Western civilization from a Nazi dark age, when there was no other nation willing to take up that defense.
Churchill was the greatest military, political, and spiritual leader of the 20th century. The United States has never owed more to a foreign citizen than to Winston Churchill, a monumental presence 50 years after his death.
© 2015 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
33 thoughts on “The Last Lion Remembered”
Thank you Professor Hanson for this perfect testimonial. Churchill was the right man at precisely the most dangerous time in western history. As we approach a similar stage of threat we need another Churchill.
So accurately described.But what do we have now,”the wrong man at the wrong time”, a community organizer, a Fool.
Agree, Islam is same menace or worst. We need some new leaders in europa and USA
After reading this excellent article, it became clear why President Obama removed Churchill’s bust from the Oval office. The petulant man-child can’t stand to be reminded of a real leader.
Yes, the comparison assuredly made Obama admit to the sorry figure he cuts next to a real man. The Empty Suit knows who not to compare himself. to.
It’s so sad to see Churchills posterity today. ‘Londonistan’ would have him roaring and spitting at what he saw. I fear there will not always be an England.
A great appreciation of a great man, but I was startled to read the greatest spiritual leader, and I had questions about greatest military leader, but no problem with greatest political leader.
Never was so much owed by so many to one man
Great thoughts, professor Hanson.
It’s as if we are living in an Open Dark Age, where those educated by Progressivism cling to thoughts, words and deeds resulting in the consumption of all intelligence, peace, money, prosperity, family, energy and time. As the Scriptures say, Gross darkness covered the land, and gross darkness the people.
The Tragic View you espouse, professor Hanson, is mocked by the Mockingbird Media. Yet it wins world wars in less than 3 1/2 years… as was shown by the USA in WWII. Progressivism seems interested in always projecting an expensive false-reality field where all fixable problems are considered insuperable, and only to be managed through pipelines of pondering that enhance the power of the elite pontificator/politicians.
Any person sane enough to hold the Tragic View and know what to do with it, which is to win humanely and quickly the victory over humankind’s interesting problems… is kept in banishment and disempowerment, and only used for mocking purposes.
Are we in a Tulip Mania of wrong thought, word and dead? A Progressive Tulip Mania? Who is winning the Weltanschauung War?
In War: Resolution
In Defeat: Defiance
In Victory: Magnaminity
In Peace: Goodwill
Spiritual leader, Gandhi can put that in his hat and smoke it.
Also from the last volume of his WW2 history:
“How the great democracies triumphed, and so were able to resume the follies which had so nearly cost them their life.”
I’ve always wondered what Uncle Joe muittered to himself when dealing with Mr. Churchill. I’d think he knew he had a match with the highly intellgient and feisty Englishman. .It would appear that some statements like this attributed to him when meeting de Gaulle prior to going to Yalta showed he was not under any illusions with Stalin.
“At present Russia is a great beast which has been starved a long time. It is not possible to prevent her from eating especially since she is now in the middle of a herd of victims. But she must be kept from devouring everything’. And thus the road to the consequential partition of Eastern Europe between the Allies and the Soviets.
And speaking of Yalta, if Churchill were alive today the event of that little ‘annexation’ over there in the Crimea he’d probably wouldn’t be surprised by it at all. He’d know sometimes people can’t get ‘enough’ or want things back to the way they were used to.
Exactly right. Obama’s return of the White House Churchill bust was an ignorant, ignoble act of spite, and if I were a sensible headed Republican presidential candidate in 2016, I would want that bust back. Roosevelt was a shameful coward next to Churchill. Not only did Churchill correctly predict the war with Germany, he predicted the cold war with the Soviets and the war with Islamists. At some point, don’t those who hate him at least have to give him credit for being correct on those big issues?
Churchill would probably have helped Britain’s economy recover more quickly after the war, too, but the socialists and Communists made their moves, and they were largely successful. Now Britain is laboring mightily under the weight of communalist programs, unfunded debt of a huge welfare state, demographic and cultural collapse, an uninspired workforce, a morally bankrupt National Health Service, Islamist immigration, wind turbines and a politically correct “can’t do” attitude. American and British conservatives alike need to reach down and get in touch with our inner Churchill.
As usual, Dr. Hanson has illuminated a pivotal individual in world history. We Americans had a Lincoln when we needed him, we had a Roosevelt and a Raegan at times in our history that required exceptional leaders.
Today we wait for that person with the inate leadership ability to rise to the occasion with the latest global threat of terrorism. It is clear Obama has no intention of conducting an all out effort to defeat America’s current enemy. Will a decisive, determined American leader be identified in two years? God only knows. But those of us who do believe in America’s greatness not only hope for that leader, but also expect them to show them self.
My personal opinion is that Lincoln is not fit to carry the dirty socks of Churchill. The South was a battered woman, chained to the stove and beaten mercilessly. To quote Senator Calhoun, “The North has adopted a system of revenue and disbursements, in which an undue proportion of the burden of taxation has been imposed on the South, and an undue proportion of its proceeds appropriated to the North.” General Robert E. Lee seconded the motion some years later with, “If I had foreseen the use those people designed to make of their victory, there would have been no surrender at Appomattox Courthouse; no sir, not by me. Had I foreseen these results of subjugation, I would have preferred to die at Appomattox with my brave men, my sword in my right hand.” Lincoln was a pandering madman who had no soul and no thought except for himself. He kind of reminds me of Obama in that respect.
And that FOOL, Obama, returned the bust of Churchill to England.
Churchill the writer and historian makes plain the underpinnings of his accomplishments in the wider world. His truly monumental life of Marlborough his great ancestor and the foremost soldier of his age, his History of the English Speaking Peoples and of course his History of the Second World War are his legacy to a, sorry to say, less worthy posterity.
Your wonderful portrayal of Winston Churchill compares beautifully against our current “Muslim Brotherhood” Islamist President who couldn’t wait to send back his bust to England as Churchill vehemently denounced Islamists in his book, “Winston Churchill on Islam,” published on February 14, 2010.
When you reflect upon Mr. Netanyahu’s upcoming address to Congress, remember: Mr. Churchill addressed Congress on December 26, 1941. He was another ally, under attack and in search of assistance. Churchill’s address was legend and has been well documented. Let us see what Mr. Netanyahu can do?
Unrelated vignette. When I was the Professor of Aerospace Studies at UCLA in 1982, I got to host and escort General Jimmy Doolittle for a day when he traveled down from Pebble Beach, California to the UCLA campus to present a trophy of appreciation to Chancellor Charles Young for his support of ROTC on campus. While chauffeuring General Doolittle around LA to visit his eye doctor and dentist, he talked about playing poker with Churchill well into the early morning hours at number 10 Downing Street during WWII when Doolittle was commander of the 8th Air Force in England. General Doolittle told us that Churchill preferred hard-drinking, hard-driving, cigar-smoking real people as his poker-playing buddies, rather than many of the prissy generals in Allied leadership positions. Churchill didn’t tolerate BS and the putting-on-of-airs. And a lot of scotch and cigars disappeared at the poker sessions.
My Aussie grandfather was Churchill’s intelligence aide and right hand aide during the Great War. We remember.
Also credit Churchill with the greatest strategic decision of World War II, and one of the greatest of all time.
It was Churchill who insisted on the delay of the invasion of the continent. For fully two and a half years after the United States entered the war, while the totalitarians continued to beat each others’ brains out on the eastern front, the Western Allies used the time to build up an invincible force of men and material in Great Britain.
Statesmen, unlike mere politicos, learn from their mistakes. Thus, the two hundred thousand Allied casualties in the Gallipoli Campaign of the previous war had not sacrificed themselves in vain.
Churchill was a good communicant
Churchill had to slaughter more than 1000 french Navy recrew at Mers el Kebir, for showing Roosevelt that he was determanated to carry on the war
he didn’t need that, North Africa wasn’t occupied, and the french Fleet had the agenda to navigate towards the Antilles, because the french Navy never wanted to abandon their ships to the Brits, which was the ultimatum, imagine what was the sentiment, the Brits that were the traditional enemis of the french on seas… What they wanted was to stay on their ships and to work for the allies.Until the stabbing in the back of the Brits, then Darlan thought that the “allies” were worst than the enemy. Churchill made such a ado, because he needed the american money and support, and that Roosevelt wanted proofs that the Brits were really wanting to carry on the war. Then the easiest way to make such a scoop action, was to sink the french ships at resting in Mers el Kebir harbour, since the armistice the Brits considered them in the enemy camp.. The crew couldn’t believe it, since they were siding together during the blocus of Norway a couple of weeks before. That’s also why the British ships had to lift the american banner when they wanted to land in north Africa afterword. Also it’s the alone time that they tried that, in alexandria the french ships were allowed to disarm themselves, and in toulon they scuttled their ships before that the Nazis arrived at the end of 1942 when Hitler decided to invade the second half of france, after that the allies had landed in North Africa for the second front.
Well he was half-American to start with and became The U.S.’s first honorary citizen.
Excellent words. One small point to make for the benefit of your readers. Canada declared war on Germany on September 10th, 1939. It fought as an ally with the United Kingdom through all six war years.
I was going to mention that as well. There is plenty to remember and to be proud of Canada’s participation. As you imply there’s no doubt Hanson knows this.
Thank-you Louis and Stephen for highlighting that it was Britain and its Commonwealth, not just Britain, that declared in 1939. Thus the British economy was bolstered mightily by the exertions of Canadians and other British Empire allies. That takes nothing away from the singular leadership displayed by Churchill … as usual, yet another superb piece from VDH.
Well written article on a great man in history however, I would like to point out that Great Britain was not the only country that went to war with Nazi Germany.
Canada entered the war on 10 September 1939 along with Great Britain. Canadian military were exceptional and took on some of the worst battles in the war. Canada is seldom remembered, especially in American history. But ask anyone in Britain who was young enough and survived the Nazi onslaught during the war, and they will quickly tell you how revered and respected the Canadians are.
Did Winston Leonard Spencer Churchilll As Particpant Historian: Bridge the Gpa Between Writing History from the Perspective of a Partipant Historian? My first book made the argument that he did. The Story of the Malakand Field Force: An Episode of Frontier War, The River War: An Account of the Re-Conquest of the Sudan, The World Crisis and the Second World War were contributions to historiography by Winston Churchill. These histories are largely tales of war, and they are critical of the actions of British polichy. More than a historical stylis , Winston Churchill was a significant figure as a historian. He did this by particpating and then recording. Churchill’s placein histriography today is still the subject to debate. Churchill the historian achieved greatness by bridging the gap between his role as a an active particpant and an accurate recorder of the past. Happy Birthday Winston……..
Jared William Carter