From World War to Cold War: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the International History of the 1940s

By David Reynolds | Go to book overview

6
Churchill and Allied Grand Strategy in
Europe, 1944–1945

The Erosion of British Influence

Winston Churchill did not always get his way: British grand strategy in the last year of the war was not simply a mirror of his mind. But the prime minister played a more active, hands-on role in the daily making of policy than did Franklin D. Roosevelt. The US Army chief of staff, General George C. Marshall, confessed after the war that 'sometimes I didn't see the President for a month'.1 Marshall's British counterpart, Sir Alan Brooke, would often have regarded even a week without Churchill as paradise. Roosevelt was generally content to set the course and leave the details to Marshall and the Joint Chiefs, whereas British strategy, grand or operational, in 1944–45 bears Churchill's imprint at every stage.

A second contrast with Roosevelt is that Churchill left his own interpretation of that strategy for posterity. Even if FDR had not died before the war was over, it is hard to imagine him grinding away at Hyde Park on tomes of selfvindication. Some fireside chats with Harry Hopkins, serialized in the Saturday Evening Post, would probably have been all he left by way of disinformation. Churchill, in contrast, set out his account of the war in six volumes, buttressed by selective but massive quotation from his own papers. As he said in September 1944, after losing the argument over landings in southern France, he would leave the controversy to history but would himself be one of the historians. In the later volumes of memoirs he was intent on providing his wisdom as grand strategist in two respects. First, he wished to 'dispose of the many American legends that I was inveterately opposed to the plan of a large-scale Channel crossing'. Second, he wanted to demonstrate his early recognition 'that Soviet Russia had become

This chapter was first presented at a conference to mark the fiftieth anniversary of D-Day at the
Roosevelt Study Center in Middelburg, the Netherlands. It was subsequently published in the
conference volume: Charles F. Brower, ed., World War II in Europe: The Final Year (New York,
St Martin's, 1998), 39–54. Although I used and have cited the manuscript version of Alanbrooke's
diaries and 'notes on my life', these have now been published as Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke,
War Diaries, 1939–1945, ed. Alex Danchev and Daniel Todman (London, 2001).

1 Larry I. Bland, ed., George C. Marshall Interviews and Reminiscences for Forrest C. Pogue, 2nd
edn. (Lexington, Va., 1991), 321.

-121-

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