Roosevelt and Hopkins, An Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
The Former Naval Person

In their swift invasion of Norway, the German ground troops were transported secretly to many points on that long and complicated coastline under the very eyes and guns of the British Home Fleet. This was the contemptuous answer to Neville Chamberlain's stupendously unfortunate remark about Hitler having "missed the bus." When the British attempt to intervene in Norway proved a fiasco, an elder Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, described it as "another tragedy of too little—and too late." Those last words formed the epitaph on the grave of wishful thinking in the democracies. They were burned into the very soul of Franklin Roosevelt. They had a continuing effect through the years on all those who were involved in the direction of the Allied war effort. They created the sense of desperate urgency which the desperate times demanded. As crisis after crisis burst it was repeated that, "Never again must we be too little and too late!" But we almost were. The margin between victory and defeat proved to be very narrow indeed: it was no wider than the English Channel—no wider than one street in Stalingrad—no wider than the Solomons' "Slot." The invasions of Norway and Denmark on April 9, 1940, marked the beginning of the end of the Phony War and, with the invasions of Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg and France on May 10, the period of impotence at last came to its overdue conclusion. In the course of the next six months, Roosevelt made by all odds the most momentous decisions of his career —and he made them, it must be remembered, without previous authorization by Congress and against the earnest advice of many of his most influential associates and friends.

On the day that the Germans marched—or, rather, hurtled—into the Low Countries, Chamberlain resigned and Winston Churchill was at last called to Buckingham Palace to accept the post of the King's First

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