Roosevelt and Hopkins, An Intimate History

By Robert E. Sherwood | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIII
Unlimited Emergency

The Roosevelt-Churchill meeting which Hopkins had discussed when he went to London in January did not take place as planned in the spring. There were far too many and too critical immediate problems to permit time for talks about long-range prospects and projects. The German Blitzkrieg, appearing more devastating and irresistible than ever, burst through the mountain passes of Yugoslavia and then turned into Greece, as Churchill had predicted it would. The British had to face the grim decision either of leaving the Greeks to their unavoidable fate, or of sending in reinforcements which could not possibly be strong enough to render more than token aid. Churchill chose the latter and more honorable but hopeless alternative, and took the consequences. Greece was overrun with terrifying speed, the remnants of the small British Expeditionary Force were evacuated in a minor Dunkirk, and then the Germans launched their remarkable attack by airborne troops on the strategic island of Crete. The defense of Crete meant far more to the British than the mere saving of prestige involved in the attempt to render aid to a brave Ally, and the defeat administered by the German paratroopers was one of the most decisive and humiliating of the whole war. Serious injury was done to British morale in general and, in particular, disagreeable disputes were provoked between the three British services, Navy, Army and Air Force. Following this disaster, General Rommel, who had taken over command in Africa from the hapless Italians, launched the first of his dashing campaigns and regained all the ground in Libya (except the fortress of Tobruk) that Wavell had captured the previous winter. The British were thrown back into Egypt and their ability to defend the Suez Canal was in considerable doubt.

In the midst of the Greek fighting, Roosevelt and Hopkins read a remarkably prescient memorandum prepared in the Navy Department. It was written by Admiral Richmond Kelly Turner, who was later to

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