The hour made the meeting dramatic. For the first time since Belleau Wood a U.S. Army was fighting with its back to the wallin far-off Luzon. Only a little more than a fortnight after the U.S. had gone to war, the democracies were faced with a possible defeat as serious as the fall of Francethe loss of the entire Far East if Malaya and the Philippines succumbed. And at this juncture the leaders of the two biggest democracies took a step that filled their nations with satisfaction out of all proportion to its simple practicality and logic.
For Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill to meet in Washington face to face was as elementary a step as for two men who had agreed to enter into a deal jointly to join to map their campaign. But never before had a wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain visited the U.S.
Cloaked in wartime censorship, Churchill dropped out of the sky with breathtaking suddenness. The official announcement said only that he had come to plan with Franklin Roosevelt "the defeat of Hitlerism throughout the world." But Churchill arrived like a breath of fresh air, giving Washington new vigor, for he came as a new hero. Churchilllike Franklin Roosevelt, not above criticism at home is, like Franklin Roosevelt in Britain, a man of unsullied popularity in his ally's country.
Their former meeting, last August, was remote and far away, somewhere in the fog of the North Atlantic, and the eight-point Atlantic Charter it produced (TIME, Aug. 25) seemed as blurred and fuzzy as the inexpert newsreels which gave the U.S. public its only presence at that meeting. This meeting might possibly be the first broad hint that some day the two nations might draw togetherperhaps in some sort of federation like Clarence Streit's Union Now, perhaps in some other form, perhaps in a friendship which would require no blueprint at all. But right now their meeting chiefly concerned the concrete present.
Now thousands of U.S. citizens could see the President of the U.S. and the Prime Minister of Great Britain together on U.S. soil. Millions heard their voices over the radio (see p. 40). The sight & sound of the two men side by side, the big American and the chunky little Britisher, was a living demonstration of how history walks and talks.
Churchill the Man. Day after his arrival, Winston Churchill sat beside Franklin Roosevelt behind the broad desk of the oval office in the Executive Offices, waiting with the poker-faced calm of a veteran political speaker while 200-odd U.S. and foreign newsmen gathered for a press conference unique in White House history.
Those who crowded up front saw a pudgy man with cheeks like apple dumplings, blue eyes beneath crooked restless eyebrows, the merest foam-flecking of sandy gray hair on his bald pink pate, a long black cigar clenched at a belligerent angle above his bulldog jaw. From the sleeves of his blue sack coat extended long cuffs, half hiding the small hands folded placidly across his middle.