At midnight, twelve hours before Prime Minister Winston Churchill marched beaming up the center aisle of the U.S. House to answer the arguments of Senator "Happy" Chandler (see col. 1), Custodian Gus Cook and a squad of Secret Service men began searching the musty labyrinths of the Capitol from top to bottom. They reconnoitered the roof, poked their flashlights around the paper-littered attics over the House chamber, peered under every seat in the chamber itself, combed the cloakrooms, including telephone booths, explored the Speaker's office, the Appropriations Committee rooms, the restaurant, the Sergeant at Arms' office and the Speaker's private hideout, neglected not even the men's and women's toilets.
Everywhere grey, genial Custodian Cook, veteran of seven inaugurations and countless special appearances, posted guards against bomb, crackpot or assassin. Two were even assigned to the great three-foot air ducts, lest somebody crawl in and loose poison gas to be swept into the House chamber through the vent over the Speaker's chair.
Ropes, Tickets. By 10:30 a.m., 3,000 people were crowded behind ropes at the edge of the sun-hot Capitol plaza. Against the possibility of one evildoer among them, 272 military, city and Capitol police, 90 detectives and 60 Secret Service men swarmed in and around the building. Ticketholders jammed the front door of the House wing. A Texas state senator and the Governor of North Carolina tried to wedge in ticketless, were sent packing. "Get back there!" barked a policeman as he collared another man, tall, dour-faced, pince-nezed, who was trying to push by. "I'm the Secretary of the Treasury," said Henry Morgenthau, mildly. Inside, each ticketholder was given a brisk frisk for weapons before he could proceed to the galleries, where another hundred Secret Service men were scattered.
Blue Suit, Grey Suit. Half a dozen klieg lights beat down on the chamber as the Senate and the Supreme Court straggled in. Suddenly, in the President's gallery over the Speaker's rostrum, a door opened and two figures appeared. The woman, taut-faced and slender, was dressed in a dark blue suit, tiny black velvet hat perched well back on her head. The man, in suit, shirt and tie of matching grey, was deeply tanned under his blond hair. Every eye in the chamber watched as they walked to their seats. Then, as one man, Congress and Supreme Court rose, saluted the Duke and Duchess of Windsor with a thunder of cheers.
The Cabinet entered. Then Doorkeeper Ralph Roberts walked to the rear doors, turned, intoned: "Mr. Speaker! The Right Honorable Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain!"
This was not one of Churchill's greatest speeches, though any other orator might well have envied it. His courage and his eloquence shine brightest in adversity. When he first appeared before Congress, on Dec. 26, 1941, Allied prospects were dim and the U.S. was reeling under the first shock of war. Then, speaking from manuscript, he tingled flesh and tightened throats with the indomitable defiance of his ringing phrases.