Dwight D. Eisenhower: Soldier, President, Statesman

By Joann P. Krieg | Go to book overview

15
Eisenhower, Churchill, and the "Balance of Terror"

John Kentleton

In June 1954, in his eightieth year, Winston Churchill visited the United States for the last time as British Prime Minister for talks with President Eisenhower. His doctor had no doubts as to what drove him: "To hold off the threat of war until it is no longer worth while for anyone to break the peace--that is the only thing left to him now, his one consuming purpose. Without it there is little meaning in life. In his heart he has a great fear: he dreads another war, for he does not believe that England could survive. " As Churchill himself confided to Lord Moran, "My thoughts are almost entirely thermonuclear. I spend a lot of time thinking over deterrents."1

Eisenhower and Churchill had first met briefly in the White House at the time of the so-called Second Washington Conference in June 1942 and, if their subsequent written accounts are to be believed, both men were immediately taken with each other. 2 While Eisenhower had been a relatively obscure Army officer until the coming of the war, Churchill, of course, had been a world figure for more than a quarter of a century. Indeed, in his casual reminiscences published during his retirement, At Ease, subtitled "Stories I Tell to Friends," Eisenhower claims to have heard about Churchill from two British officers in 1918 while Commandant of an Army camp at Gettysburg, receiving delivery of some tanks, a weapon Churchill had had a hand in producing: "he sounded like a good chap."3 Genuine intimacy had developed in the course of the war, both in North Africa and especially in London. In one of his last letters to President Roosevelt, Churchill had paid a glowing tribute: "I wish to place on record the complete confidence felt by His Majesty's Government in General Eisenhower, our pleasure that our armies are serving under his command, and our admiration of the great and shining qualities of character and personality which he has proved himself to possess in all the difficulties of handling an Alliance command."4 For

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