Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill & Christmas 1941

In our opinion, Winston Churchill is the preeminent hero of the Second World War. Without his dogged leadership and determination in the face of Nazi aggression none of the other innumerable sacrifices before 1940 would have amounted to anything and none of the countless acts of sacrifice and heroism after 1940 would have been possible.

We look forward to sharing more of our perspective on Churchill later, both in a Mission we are planning on the Battle Of Britain and through digital content. This week, however, we’d like to mention the time that Churchill spent in America after the Japanese attach on Pearl Harbor, and remember the address that he made to the American people on Christmas Eve, 1941.

Churchill was half-American and he always had a exuberant love for the United States. On December 22, 1941, he arrived in Washington DC to discuss strategy with Franklin Roosevelt.

The two national leaders and their families and staffs paused briefly to celebrate Christmas. Most memorably, both Roosevelt and Churchill addressed the American people on Christmas Eve after a White House tree lighting ceremony.


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Churchill (left) and Roosevelt (right).

 
white house christmas 1941
 

American and British troops were in savage combat in the Philippines and Hong Kong, among many other locales. Churchill’s remarks struck a sober yet hopeful tone:

I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family, yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home. Whether it be the ties of blood on my mother’s side, or the friendships I have developed here over many years of active life, or the commanding sentiment of comradeship in the common cause of great peoples who speak the same language, who kneel at the same altars and, to a very large extent, pursue the same ideals, I cannot feel myself a stranger here in the centre and at the summit of the United States. I feel a sense of unity and fraternal association which, added to the kindliness of your welcome, convinces me that I have a right to sit at your reside and share your Christmas joys.

This is a strange Christmas Eve. Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle, and, with the most terrible weapons which science can devise, the nations advance upon each other. Ill would it be for us this Christmastide if we were not sure that no greed for the land or wealth of any other people, no vulgar ambition, no morbid lust for material gain at the expense of others, had led us to the eld. Here, in the midst of war, raging and roaring over all the lands and seas, creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, here, amid all the tumult, we have tonight the peace of the spirit in each cottage home and in every generous heart. Therefore we may cast aside for this night at least the cares and dangers which beset us, and make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Here, then, for one night only, each home throughout the English-speaking world should be a brightly-lighted island of happiness and peace.

 Let the children have their night of fun and laughter. Let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown- ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.

 And so, in God’s mercy, a happy Christmas to you all.

Merry Christmas to all our friends, supporters, and fellow Americans. And may we all remember our responsibility to ensure that our children have the full delivery of their inheritance of living in a free and decent world!

 
white house christmas 1941