President Roosevelt joins Winston Churchill for a church service on board the Royal Navy battleship HMS Prince of Wales, Newfoundland, August 1941 [Public domain, wiki]
The Atlantic Charter conference took place this week in the war, 9–12 August 1941. United States president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, travelled on board the American heavy cruiser USS Augusta to meet with British prime minister Winston Churchill. Churchill came on the battleship HMS Prince of Wales, famous for its role in pursuing the Bismarck
. The meeting took place in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland.
American destroyer USS McDougal (right) is alongside HMS Prince of Wales in order to transfer President Roosevelt onto the British battleship [Public domain, wiki]
The purpose of the conference was for the USA and Britain to formulate their common long-term goals. Both agreed that they had no desire to gain territory through force of arms. (The USA was still neutral, of course).
The United States advocated strongly for the freedom of the seas and for self-determination of all of the peoples of the world.
Britain, on the other hand, was determined to keep the implementation of a naval blockade as possible weapon in times of war, and equally determined to preserve its empire. (For decades, Mahatma Gandhi had been advocating self-determination for India).
Winston Churchill pats ship’s cat Blackie, who is considering leaving the HMS Prince of Wales to join the crew of the American destroyer, USS McDougal [Public domain, wiki/IWM]
The two leaders, both of them strong-willed prima donnas, got along famously. Suitable wording for the charter was eventually agreed upon. In his book Human Smoke
, American author Nicholson Baker quotes Roosevelt’s speechwriter Robert Sherwood as writing, “There could be little doubt that the cigarette-in-holder and the long cigar were at last being lit from the same match.”
The British public were delighted by the meeting. It was solid evidence that America was supporting Britain in its war against Hitler and Mussolini. Nonetheless, there was considerable disappointment in Britain that the United States was not entering the war on the British side.
Britain would need to tough it out alone for a little longer.