Copy of a telegram from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt 25 June 1943
➜ CHAR 20/113/119-20
Former Naval Person to President
Personal and Secret.
PRIME MINISTER’S PERSONAL TELEGRAM
- Averell [Harriman, Special Representative of President Roosevelt] told me last night of your wish for a meeting with Uncle Joe [Joseph Stalin] in Alaska without me.
- The whole world is expecting us to meet with Stalin and our military leaders in order to plan the future war and search for the foundations of post-war settlement. It would be a shame to bring Stalin 7,000 miles for anything less.
- Should our plan (Operation Husky) to invade Italy work and Germany’s attack not happen, Stalin will be ready to attack in August and have full strength by October. We shall probably be able to show that our attack across the Mediterranean has been as helpful to Russia as if we had attacked across the English Channel into France.
- I think that a meeting between the three of us with our military leaders would be one of the great events of history. If this does not happen it will be a great loss.
- Please excuse me being so honest with you about this. The Germans could make great propaganda out of a meeting between the heads of Russia and the United States without the inclusion of the British Commonwealth and Empire. It would cause a lot of serious confusion. When I went to Moscow with Averell in August 1942 it was completely different. It was only to explain why we would not attack Germany at that time. Whatever you decide I shall try to do the best I can here.
FORMER NAVAL PERSON TO PRESIDENT
Personal and Secret
SERIAL NO T.885/3
- Averell [Harriman, Special Representative of President Roosevelt] told me last night of your wish for a meeting with U.J. [“Uncle Joe”, Joseph Stalin] in Alaska a deux.
- The whole world is expecting and all our our side are desiring a meeting of the three great Powers at which not only the political Chiefs but the military Staffs would be present in order to plan the future war moves and of course search for the foundations of post-war settlement. It would seem a pity to draw U.J. 7,000 miles from Moscow for anything less than this.
- Should HUSKY [codename for the capture of Sicily] prosper and the German offensive not occur the end of July or the beginning of August will be the moment to make sure that U.J. attacks himself with full strength in October. We shall probably be able to show that our Mediterranean strategy, of which he approved, has in fact gained Russia the respite of this summer and has in fact achieved all he hoped for from a cross-channel second front. This is therefore one of the cardinal moments.
- I consider that a tripartite meeting at Scapa Flow or anywhere else on the globe that can be agreed not only of us three but also of the Staffs, who will come together for the first time, would be one of the milestones of history. If this is lost much is lost.
- You must excuse me expressing myself with all the frankness that our friendship and the gravity of the issue warrant. I do not underrate the
use that enemy propaganda would make of a meeting between the heads of Soviet Russia and the United States at this juncture with the British Commonwealth and Empire excluded. It would be serious and vexatious and many would be bewildered and alarmed thereby. My journey to Moscow with Averell in August 1942 was on altogether a lower level, and at a stage in the war when we had only to explain why no second front. Nevertheless whatever you decide I shall sustain to the best of my ability here.
What is this source?
This is a telegram from Winston Churchill to President Roosevelt in June 1943, when the Allies were beginning to successfully fight back against Germany in the East and South of Europe.
Background to this source
The Soviet Union had successfully resisted the German invasion of Russia and won a decisive battle in the city of Stalingrad. At the same time the British and Americans had successfully invaded Southern Italy and were forcing Germany and Italy to spread their armies more thinly. Roosevelt had proposed meeting with Stalin in Alaska without Churchill to discuss the next plans for fighting the war.
Churchill understood that Britain’s power was diminishing but struggled to accept it. Churchill was very concerned that Roosevelt might consider the Soviet Union to be a more important ally than Britain. Churchill wanted to show the importance of keeping all three countries together as equals in the war against Germany. He also wanted to make sure that, if a meeting did take place, there would be discussions about what would happen after the war had been won and what new arrangements there would be.
Here Churchill refers to himself as ‘Former Naval Person’. Churchill had been in charge of the Admiralty (the government department which ran the Royal Navy) in the First World War and it was a link he had with Roosevelt who, at the same time, had served in the US Navy as Assistant Secretary.
Churchill refers to Stalin using the initials “U.J” as an abbreviation for “Uncle Joe”. Later at the Yalta conference (February 1945), Roosevelt let it slip to Stalin that he and Churchill called Stalin “Uncle Joe”. Churchill felt that Stalin was really annoyed by this, although he attempted to conceal his irritation.
How can we use this source in the investigation?
Remember we are hoping that this source can be useful to us in investigating what was special about the relationship between Britain and America in the later years of the Second World War. Sources usually help historians in two ways:
Surface level: details, facts and figures
- Why is Churchill writing to Roosevelt?
- What arguments does Churchill give for why he and Roosevelt should both meet with Stalin?
- Why does Churchill think it would be dangerous if he were not invited to the meeting?
- What do you think Churchill is hoping Roosevelt’s response will be?
Deeper level: inferences and using the source as evidence
Which of the inferences below can be made from this source?
| || |
On a scale of 1-5 how far do you agree that this source supports this inference?
Which extract(s) from the source support your argument?
The Soviet Union was becoming more important to America in winning the war
| || |
Churchill was concerned that Britain would become less powerful after the war
| || |
Churchill is worried that the relationship between Britain and America might become less important in the future
| || |
There was a special relationship between Britain and America during WW2
| || |
➜ Download table (PDF)
➜ Download table (Word document)
Need help interpreting the source?
- When we compare this telegram to the one in Source 2 it is possible to see differences between the two telegrams with regards to arrangements for a meeting between Britain, America and the Soviet Union. This can be used to infer something about the changing nature of the relationship between the USA and the UK.
- As with Source 2, the telegram provides a sense of Churchill’s worries, particularly about the status of the UK in the special relationship and in the war.
- Churchill was always very conscious of his important place in history (see http://www.churchillarchiveforschools.com/themes/the-themes/churchill-discussion-debate-and-historical-controversy). The words he chooses to use in this telegram emphasise his view that a meeting of the “Big Three” (US, UK and Soviet Union) would be of supreme importance and that he should be present.
Explore the guide to interpreting telegrams
➜ Source 4
➜ Back to sources page
➜ Back to investigation page