In the American Heritage history of World War II, C. L. Sulzberger, New York Times columnist (and member of the family that owns that newspaper) wrote this.
“Remember him, for he saved all of you: pudgy and not very large but somehow massive and indomitable; baby faced, with snub-nosed, square chin, rheumy eyes on occasion given to tears: a thwarted actor’s taste for clothes that would have looked ridiculous on a less splendid man… .He fancied a painting, at which he was good, writing at which he was excellent, and oratory, at which he was magnificent….
“This was the man, bloodied at Omdurman [an 1898 battle in Sudan] and Cuba, among the Pathans and Boers, long before most of those he led were even born, who guided Britain to victory in World War II — and, one might add, who was the guiding spirit for the whole free world. For had Britain succumbed, as it had ever logical reason to do so in 1940, probably no successful coalition could have been formed.”
Sulzberger, of course, was lauding Winston Churchill, who was born on this day 148 years ago. Churchill took over as prime minister of Great Britain when Hitler’s Germany had run roughshod over all the opposition on the European continent and was threatening that island nation. In spite of a fierce air war, in which the Royal Air Force, inspired by Churchill’s indomitable spirit, managed to shoot down and destroy more than five times the number of warplanes it lost to Herman Goering’s Luftwaffe and effectively won the Battle of Britain. After it became clear that an amphibious invasion was not going to work, Hitler turned to terror bombing of England cities and what became known as the Blitz. Throughout all of this, and for the next four years, Churchill remained steadfast and defiant. His grit led Britain and its empire, along with American allies, to total victory over the Nazi state.
In hindsight, and most historians appear to agree, had Great Britain made peace with Hitler in 1940 when it seemed prudent to do so, Nazi Germany would have won, as it almost did anyway.
On this November 30, fifty-eight years after his death, it is appropriate to commemorate Winston Churchill’s birthday. He was the man of the 20th century. Where Hitler attempted to destroy Western Civilization, Churchill saved it.
Note: Churchill was Prime Minister from May 1940 until July 1945. After Germany surrendered in May 1945, he called an election, but his party was defeated. He again became PM in 1951 and was Queen Elizabeth’s first (of 17) Prime Minister when she succeeded to the throne the next year upon the death of her father King George VI.