FOREIGN RELATIONS: An Intimate Understanding

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The old man puffed into sight like a venerable battlewagon steaming up over the horizon. First a smudge of smoke, then the long cigar, then the familiar, stoop-shouldered hulk that a generation had come to know as the silhouette of greatness. Prime Minister Winston Churchill scowled as he emerged from the Queen Mary, took a firm grip on the rope handrail and eased himself across a gangplank to the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Navesink in New York Harbor. Once safely on board the cutter, he politely doffed his hat* to official U.S. meeters & greeters.

"I have come not to make all kinds of agreements and arrangements or to interchange all kinds of diplomatic documents," he growled into microphones half an hour later at the Army port of embarkation in Brooklyn. "Don't expect too much ... I am here not to get things settled so much as to establish a close, intimate understanding between the heads of government on both sides of the ocean."

Two Homburgs. In Washington, Harry Truman, holding his grey Stetson in hand, reached out in warm greeting as Churchill stepped out of the presidential Independence after a flight from New York. It was the first time Truman, 67, and Churchill, 77, had met as heads of government since the Potsdam Conference in July 1945. Close behind the Prime Minister came his heir-apparent in the Conservative Party, Homburged, mustached Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden, who soon was chatting with Homburged, mustached Secretary of State Dean Acheson. After introductions and speeches, Churchill and Truman climbed into the President's Lincoln (the P.M. cracked his hat on the low top) and drove off to begin their round of luncheons, banquets and conferences.

Progress reports from behind the closed doors emphasized that everything was "on the friendliest basis." But nobody expected, or hoped for, any big decisions like those that came out of the close intimacy of Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt. Harry Truman, painfully aware that he wasn't Roosevelt, had learned that he was no man to map U.S. diplomacy on the back of an envelope. Through most of the conferences he kept Dean Acheson close at hand. (During World War II Churchill hardly ever met Secretary of State Cordell Hull.) Nor was Churchill as sturdy as before: more & more he relied on Eden to catch what Churchill's ears missed and to recall details that his mind forgot. On Churchill's first night in the capital, he sat down for a private, personal, after-dinner talk with Truman on the presidential yacht Williamsburg. Fifteen minutes later Truman sent for Acheson, and Churchill for Eden.

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