Biographical sketch of Winston Churchill
Created by bbriscoe on Apr 27, 2009
Last updated: 03/04/10 at 03:34 PM
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On January 24, 1965, Sir Winston Churchill, at age 90, gradually slipped into a deep sleep from which he never awakened. This was a major loss for not only Europe, but for the whole world. Winston Churchill had such a profound impact on the world. His career was unlike any others; full of ups and downs, positives and negatives, approval and disapproval. He is mainly known for leading Britain to victory in World War II; however, his thoughtfulness, unique mind, and courage all influenced a countless number of events. It is clear that Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill’s impact on the world has shaped the way it functions today, and his legacy will never be forgotten.
Winston Churchill had a productive and successful political and military career, but after taking a break from the leadership of Britain, he began to miss the job. Churchill was reelected to a second term as prime minister in 1951. Failing health caused him to step down in 1955, but he stayed involved with politics until 1964. Besides being a political leader, Churchill also received the Nobel Prize. He received this prize for the outstanding literary works created while in the battlefronts of war. Due to his outstanding contributions to Britain, Queen Elizabeth II knighted Churchill. While Churchill is mostly known for his work during times of war, he also had many productive years of service that many people over look.
Less than a year after the end of the WWII, Winston Churchill was invited to give a speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. President Truman encouraged Churchill to visit “great school in my home state, I will introduce you.” With Truman’s helpful words, Churchill agreed to give a speech at the college. Churchill’s address, “The Sinews of Peace”, would end up being one of his most important speeches. In this speech, Churchill warned of the increasing dangers of their former ally Stalin and the spread of communism. He warned that many of the great cities in Eastern Europe were falling under the sphere of Soviet influence effectively creating an “Iron Curtain” across Europe. Although at the time many thought Churchill was simply being a war monger his warnings could not have been more accurate.
On April 21, 1945, the Russia troops captured Berlin. It had been a long tough battle, but thanks to the supporting attacks from the US and Britain, Germany was unable to handle the extensive pressure. Two weeks after the Red Army captured Berlin, Hitler committed suicide. Hitler’s death threw the party into mayhem and Germany was forced to surrender. After all the years of fighting, there was finally peace throughout Europe. May 8, 1945 was the day Europe received total peace. This symbolic event was called VE day. Two weeks following the incredible victory, Britain had reelections for prime mister. Churchill lost the election. Though he planned and executed an historic victory for Europe, people believed that while Churchill was a great leader in times of war, he was not the best in running a country in a time of peace.
Under Churchill’s direction, General Dwight Eisenhower led the Allied troops in the “D-Day” invasion of northern France on June 6, 1944. The invasion was epic and was the largest amphibian attack ever recorded. Although there were rumors of the invasion, it still came as a surprise due to the large size of the attack. Though the Allies suffered many losses in this invasion, it provided an important base in Europe. Over the next year, Allied forces began fighting their way east, recapturing territory on their march to Berlin. In the spring of 1945, Churchill accompanied the Allied troops as they crossed the Rhine River and began their final march towards Berlin. D-Day was both strategic and tactical accomplishment for Churchill and the Allied Powers.
The Casablanca Conference was a meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This meeting took place in the city of Casablanca, Morocco. The main goal of the conference was to finalize plans for a strategic attack against the Axis power in 1943. Churchill and FDR also discussed the policy of “unconditional surrender.” At first, the public miss understood the policy of “unconditional surrender.” President Roosevelt clearly stated that “unconditional surrender” did not include the destruction of the civilian populations of the Axis powers but rather, “the destruction of the philosophies in those countries which are based on conquest and the subjugation of other people.” FDR and Churchill agreed that while German forces were the prime target in this attack, it was necessary to first invade through Sicily and the Italian mainland to knock Italy out of the war. After knocking Italy out of the war, the US and Britain would attack Germany from the beaches of France, while Russia would attack from the eastern front. The Casablanca Conference was a key element in planning D-Day and ensuring that World War II ended in success for the Allied Powers.
Churchill defeated Hitler’s invasion plan, but his offensive attacks were limited to nighttime raids by a small Bomber Command force. At the same time, German submarines prowled the Atlantic, sinking 503 merchant ships containing important cargo. At a secret meeting off the coast of Newfoundland in March 1941, Churchill convinced President Roosevelt to sign the Lend-Lease Act. This permitted the United States to provide war material to Britain. The United States traded fifty military ships in exchange for military bases. The Lend-Lease Act demonstrated Churchill’s diplomatic skills. He was able to convince FDR to support Britain’s efforts inspite of strong anti-war sentiment in the United States.
Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940. At this point, most of Europe had fallen to Hitler. Russia had a non-aggression treaty with Germany, Italy had declared War on Britain, Japan was about to join forces with Germany, and the United States continued to sit on the sidelines. Churchill and Britain faced the Nazi treat alone. Before Hitler could invade Britain, he had to knock out Britain’s Royal Air Force. From June through the fall, a massive air battle raged in the skies over England as the Luftwaffe bombed air bases and civilian targets. In August, German Luftwaffe bombed London rather than airfields. Churchill ordered a retaliation raid on Berlin, Hitler responded in kind. While devastating to London this diversion allowed the RAF to rebuild its strength and eventually win the battle of Britain. In a sense, the blitz on London saved the RAF and Britain itself.
After World War I, the Treaty of Versailles was put into place in order to help address problems resulting from the war. It put harsh restrictions and limits on Germany’s military and territory. In 1939, Hitler captured territory in Sudetenland, violating the Treaty of Versailles. After Germany violated these restrictions, the issue was brought forth to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin. Chamberlin believed that Germany should be allowed to keep the territory if Hitler promised not to violate the restrictions again. Winston Churchill, who worked under Chamberlin, came out and clearly said that Chamberlin’s position was a mistake. Churchill explained that if Germany were granted an appeasement, then Hitler would view this as a sign of weakness and continue to ignore the restrictions of the treaty. This was a courageous position for Churchill to take since he was in complete disagreement with the Prime Minister. Churchill believed that the only way this issue could be resolved was if Hitler and Germany were totally punished for this aggression and that all the land should be given back.
With WWI over, Churchill was appointed to the War Office in 1919. Although Winston wanted the head of Admiralty as a vindication of his earlier dismissal, he accepted the position of Secretary of State for War and Air. He would also have the position of Secretary of State for the British Colonies. At the beginning of the Great War, the areas now known at Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Israel, and most of Saudi Arabia were part of the Ottoman Empire. One of Churchill’s responsibilities as Colonial Secretary was to manage the process of breaking up the Ottoman Empire and determining new borders. Churchill dealt with the Middle East by organizing European-style nation-states and installing strong local tribal families as rulers. In 1917, Churchill pledged Britain to support “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” setting in motion another enduring dynamic of Middle Eastern politics.
When World War I erupted, Churchill threw himself into the operational details of the Royal Navy. One operation – the Dardanelles Campaign – cost him his position and haunted him for many years. Dismissal from the Admiralty was a crushing blow to Churchill. He accepted an obscure Cabinet post with no formal duties, hoping he could still influence policy. Frustrated with his role, in 1915 Churchill sought permission to retire from the Government. Winston then asked to be assigned to the fighting in France.
For young gentlemen of Winston’s social class only certain professions were considered suitable. The university was the gatekeeper to all but the military, and Winston’s poor performance at school closed the university’s doors to him. Winston’s lack of attention to studies nearly ended his military career before it began. He took three attempts to pass the entrance exams for the Royal Military College, at Sandhurst, scoring just enough points to be admitted to the Cavalry, but not the Infantry. Lord Randolph had opted for at least an infantry career for his son, and was deeply disappointed. The Cavalry became a source of both joy and tension for Winston. Writing became a passion and he proved exceptionally good at it. However, since the British Officer had to pay for his own uniforms and horses, Cavalry service taxed his family’s financial resources. Nevertheless, at Sandhurst Winston finally hit his stride, applying himself to subjects that interested him and earning good marks. Sandhurst’s eighteen months of practical studies concluded Winston’s formal education, and he graduated 20th out of 130.
Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born November 30, 1874 at Blenheim Palace. His father, son of the Duke of Marlborough, inherited neither title nor property. Winston grew up with social status, privilege, and a keen sense of heritage, but little money. In the custom of the day, he was raised by a nanny and sent to boarding schools. It was a lonely and hard life for a sensitive and imaginative child. Winston’s father and mother were both socially active and politically prominent. Their affairs – social and intimate – occupied them constantly. As with many of their social peers, childcare and education were left to others. Boarding school was the routine for boys of Winston’s class, and he was packed off in 1881 at age seven. He hated every minute of it. Winston enrolled at Harrow in 1888 with very poor entrance exam scores, effectively placing him at the bottom of his class. This was humiliating position for a proud boy, and irritation to his father.