A Call to Arms: Churchill’s Address to the US Congress on May 19, 1943

“By singleness of purpose, by steadfastness of conduct, by tenacity and endurance, such as we have so far displayed, by these, and only by these, can we discharge our duty to the future of the world and to the destiny of man.” – British Prime Minister Winston Churchill

In commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day military campaign that turned the tides of WWII and preserved our freedoms, and paid for by the sacrifices of over 10,000 US, British and Canadian troops, we want to revisit a brief history of Churchill’s second poignant address and plea to the US Congress to rally the West’s support against Nazi Germany. Recent painstaking research by the US National D-Day Memorial Foundation has achieved a more accurate and much higher figure for the Allied personnel who were killed on D-Day, read more. The campaign became known as Operation Overlord or D-Day. It is important to note that in the 2 months leading up to and paving the way to D-Day, operations by the Allied air forces lost 12,000 men and over 2,000 aircraft.

By 1943, Winston Churchill’s attention turned from surviving to winning the war. Churchill came to the US to visit President Franklin D. Roosevelt and set a date for the Allied cross-channel landing into northern France. The date they chose, May 1, 1944, turned out to be premature. It took another five weeks for the invasion materialize by 29 American, British and Canadian divisions, as well as a Free French division. But once in process it spelled the end of the Axis and the Nazis dreams of world hegemony. During the 13-day visit, Churchill and Roosevelt met every two days in the White House. The British and American military leaders met nearly every day in the Board of Governors Room at the Federal Reserve Building.

Addressing a joint session of Congress on May 19, Churchill warned that the real danger facing the Allies was “dragging out of the war at enormous expense.” They risked, he said, becoming “tired or bored or split,” which would play into the hands of the German and Japanese enemy. Churchill further told Congress, “For more than five hundred days-every day a day we have toiled and suffered and dared, shoulder to shoulder against the cruel enemy-we have acted in close combination or concert in many parts of the world, on land, on sea, and in the air.” Churchill spoke of partnership between United States and Great Britain in war and peace; the progress of World War II; the need to provide aid to China; his war-plans for Allies to win the war; his and President Roosevelt’s desire to meet with Joseph Stalin and Chiang Kai-shek in the near future; and how Russia (as an ally) was faring against Germany. Churchill expressed his confident in the ability of Allies to win but stressed that they should not relax their efforts.

Some Excerpts:

“It is the duty of those who are charged with the direction of the war to overcome at the earliest moment the military, geographical and political difficulties and begin the process so necessary and desirable of laying the cities and other munition centres of Japan in ashes, for in ashes they must surely lie before peace comes back to the world.”

“And here let me say: let no one suggest that we British have not at least as great an interest as the United States in the unflinching and relentless waging of war against Japan. But I am here to tell you that we will wage that war side by side with you, in accordance with the best strategic employment of our forces while there is breath in our bodies and while blood flows in our veins.

“The African war is over. Mussolini’s African Empire and Corporal Hitler’s strategy are alike exploded. One continent at least has been cleansed and purged forever from Fascist and Nazi tyranny.

“The proud German army has by its sudden collapse, sudden crumbling and breaking up, unexpected to all of us, the proud German army has once again proves the truth of the saying “The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet.”

“I do not intend to be responsible for any suggestion that the war is won or that it will soon be over. That it will be won by us I am sure. But how and when cannot be foreseen, still less foretold.

Reference material taken in part from the following sources: dday.org, raabcollection.com, and An Address By Winston S. Churchill Prime Minister of Great Britain Delivered Before Members of the Congress of the United States — 19 May 1943. Stamford Connecticut: The Overbrook Press, 1943.

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