National Geographic : 1965 Aug
Birmingham and Liverpool; the Luftwaffe leveled Coventry and Portsmouth. But always there was Churchill, inspecting ruins, visiting troops, rallying his people with soaring speeches. "He gave you a kind of exaltation," one of his wartime aides recalled. "He made you feel that you were taking part in something great and memorable." Churchill's working day, like the man him self, was unique. He remained in bed through most of the morning, using an armchairlike back rest, while he dealt with problems that had accumulated through the night. He rose for lunch, but midafternoon found him back in bed for a solid nap. He would then work through the night until 2:30 or 3 a.m. "These hours were an enormous trial," Lord Ismay told me, "particularly to staff officers who had to begin their day at 7 or 8 in the morning. If, at 1 or 2 a.m., you os tentatiously looked at your watch, he would say, 'You may go to bed if you choose. I at least will stay here and do my duty.' Then, at 3, he would look at you accusingly and say, 'How could you have kept me up so late!' "He thought in terms of history all the time," Ismay continued. "He felt that the light of history played upon all that we did, and he acted accordingly." General Eisenhower remembers one strik ing example of this pervading sense of history. "When the Axis overran Greece in 1940," he told me, "Churchill sent troops to aid the Greeks, even though he feared it was a fore doomed cause. He explained that at all costs Britain had to uphold her reputation for fidelity to allies. 'In honor we can do no less,' he said to me, and 'I believe the future will demonstrate its correctness.' " Germany invaded Russia in June, 1941. Churchill, an unwavering enemy of the So viet state since its birth, welcomed Britain's new ally. "If Hitler invaded Hell," he said, "I would make at least a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons." The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor at the end of that same year brought the United States into the war. To Churchill this repre sented the decisive event of the entire strug gle; the immense resources of the United States assured an Allied victory. "After seventeen months of lonely fighting," he wrote, "... we had won the war. England would live." But not without further calamities. Hong Kong and Singapore fell to the Japanese; Nazi U-boats took a rising toll of British con voys; in a single afternoon, Japanese aircraft sank two of the Royal Navy's mightiest ships. With the coming of 1943, the long pattern of defeat began to tail off; then came the vic tories, singly and slowly at first, that flowered into mighty Anglo-American combined oper ations: Torch, that doomed the Axis in North Africa; Husky, that overwhelmed Sicily; Ava lanche, that drove Italy out of the conflict. June of 1944 brought the climax of the war in the West: Overlord flung 326,000 men in six days onto the exploding beaches of Nor mandy (pages 188-89). Only the intervention of King George VI kept the Prime Minister from accompanying the invading armies. But Winston Churchill looked beyond the mounting victories. Earlier than any other statesman, he foresaw the postwar threat of ((T WAS NOT ONLY an easy, but a fast swimmer, I having represented my House at Harrow, when our team defeated all comers." Here Churchill strides up the beach at Deauville, France, in 1922. An exuberant sportsman, he hunted, played polo until he was more than 50, and rode to hounds on the eve of his 74th birthday. (\ E WORKED TOGETHER without a single Misunderstandingg" Churchill wrote of his World War I collaboration with American lead ers. In Hyde Park (opposite, upper) he walks be tween Gen. John J. Pershing and Ambassador John W. Davis. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, whom Churchill championed dur ing the abdication crisis in 1936, appears at left. As Secretary of State for War in 1919 (opposite, below), Churchill inspects troops with Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff.