Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Atlantic Charter

In July 1941, presidential envoy Harry Hopkins told British Prime Minister Winston Churchill that President Roosevelt would like a personal meeting. Churchill grasped the opportunity to draw the U.S. closer to the beleaguered Britain. The meeting took place in early August off Newfoundland. Churchill arrived in the HMS Prince of Wales and Roosevelt in the USS Augusta. Roosevelt suggested a joint declaration of principles, and the Atlantic Charter, agreed on August 12, bound both states to forswear territorial aggrandisement, support self-determination and establish a peace bringing "freedom from want."

Despite its bland tone, the Charter aligned the U.S. — though still technically neutral — firmly against Germany. One of the least-posed of a series of photographs of the meeting (above) shows Roosevelt and Churchill with General George C. Marshall, U.S. Army Chief of Staff (over Churchill's left shoulder) and, on Marshall's right, Admiral Ernest J.King, later Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. fleet. The balding civilian in profile is U.S. Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles, who helped his British opposite number, Sir Alexander Cadogan, to prepare the Charter.

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