“Better Men Than I Have Been Killed!”

QUEBEC CONFERENCE. Seated, left to right: Prim...
QUEBEC CONFERENCE. Seated, left to right: Prime Minister Mackenzie King of Canada, President Roosevelt, and Prime Minister Churchill. Standing: General Arnold, Air Chief Marshal Portal, General Brooke, Admiral King, Field Marshal Dill, General Marshall, Admiral Pound, and Admiral Leahy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

During World War II the Allied leaders met as often as possible to plan for the future.  Prime Minister Churchill of Britain and President Roosevelt of the United States met three times in Canada.  The first conference was at Argentia, Newfoundland, where the two drew up the Atlantic Charter (see my August 11 post – “Umm … Can You Slow Down a Bit?”).  They met twice at Quebec; the first conference being in August 1943, and the second, on September 11, 1944.

When the second Quebec Conference took place in 1944, Germany was on the way to defeat.  Prime Minister Churchill crossed the Atlantic in the Queen Mary, accompanied by Mrs. Churchill and his chiefs of staff.  They landed at Halifax and travelled by train to Quebec, where President and Mrs. Roosevelt were already waiting, with their famous little dog “Falla.”  Governor-General the Earl of Athlone, his wife Princess Alice, and Prime Minister Mackenzie King were there to extend Canada’s greetings, but Canada’s part in the conference was only that of any other allied nation.


This conference, the eighth attended by Churchill, was completely different from the others, which had been held in the critical days of the war.  Now, as Churchill said, everything the Allies touched was turning to gold.

Churchill missed Harry Hopkins, one of Roosevelt’s chief aides, who had done a great deal to overcome difficulties between the British and Americans.  He was ill in London and cabled that he did not feel able to tackle another Battle of the Plains of Abraham “where better men than I have been killed.”

Hopkin’s jest contained a great deal of irony.  Although the Allies were winning in Europe, the problem now was to defeat Japan.  The British had needed and welcomed American help to defeat Germany, and now they wanted to help the Americans defeat Japan.  The American military leaders tried to keep the British out of the Pacific sector as much as possible.  Churchill offered to send a British fleet to the Pacific to serve under American command, but American Admiral King turned down the offer!  He was overruled by Roosevelt.

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