We Could Have Won WWII But We Decided Winston Was a Bridge Too Far

 

10 May 1947, London Zeitung

by Stanley Baldwin

There was a time in May of 1940 that we came close to giving the country over to Winston [Churchill] but we turned away from that path and awarded the Prime Minister slot to Lord Halifax. Yes, it is possible that we could have won this last war if we had chosen him but it was considered indecorous and was thought of as perhaps telegraphing our desperation to the enemy. We knew Winston had a martial background and that he wanted to make a real fight of it but the cost to our reputations would have been too high. The war was rightly called the Phoney War because we had all but lost everything by that late date. As it turned out, of course, the war only lasted less than a year anyway.

Water under the bridge. Winning isn’t everything, after all. Think of the devastation that would have followed if Winston had had his way with the military. What would have happened, I wonder: bombing cities? fire bombing? desperate refugees fleeing across the country? starvation? homelessness?

What scared me the most was the prospect of the Russians in Berlin and us still defeated anyway. All Stalin needed was a couple more years to turn the tide — and with Winston as PM that might have given him that edge. Then Stalin would have had all the countries east of the Baltic and the Adriatic and probably more.

Later that year, with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, we saw the Americans entry into the Pacific war and at least — so far — they have knocked that barbaric regime back on it heels. So, all was not lost. Much good has come from the decisions we made at that time. It’s not perfect but it’s a result that allows us to hold our heads up high these days, knowing we had performed our duties well and to the best of our abilities.

[Translated from the original German]

There are 105 comments.

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  1. Could Be Anyone Member

    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    • #1
    • February 21, 2018, at 8:41 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler Post author

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    Yes, winning isn’t everything, after all.

    • #2
    • February 21, 2018, at 8:44 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  3. I Walton Member

    but the comment should have been in German

    • #3
    • February 21, 2018, at 8:55 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler Post author

    I Walton (View Comment):
    but the comment should have been in German

    Can anyone give us a good German translation for:

    “Winning isn’t everything.”

    (Which I considered using for the title, BTW.)

    • #4
    • February 21, 2018, at 8:57 AM PDT
    • Like
  5. Quake Voter Inactive

    Brilliant short piece.

    And give Baldwin some credit. He always recognized Churchill as a possible wartime prime minister. And Baldwin and Chamberlain were contending with real world geopolitics on the grandest scale with the grimmest stakes: the menace of the Nazis, the threat of Stalin’s bolshevik hordes, and the protection of the British empire from the Japanese.

    Never Trumpers who sided with Hillary were largely concerned with their wounded pride and how personally embarrassing the man and his most vocal supporters are.

    • #5
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:01 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  6. Seawriter Member

    Have you been reading Alone, by Michael Korda? Sounds like one of the themes in that book.

    • #6
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:03 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Could Be Anyone Member

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    Yes, winning isn’t everything, after all.

    Very true. I would agree, Churchill valued winning all the time. Trump, not so much.

    • #7
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:07 AM PDT
    • Like
  8. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler Post author

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    Yes, winning isn’t everything, after all.

    Very true. I would agree, Churchill valued winning all the time. Trump, not so much.

    Yes, he never talks about it.

    • #8
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:13 AM PDT
    • 17 likes
  9. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler Post author

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Have you been reading Alone, by Michael Korda? Sounds like one of the themes in that book.

    No. But I just downloaded the sample. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Of course, the reason I chose May 10th for the article is that the decision was made during that exact time (but 7 years earlier and thereby prompting an article by Baldwin) and that coincided with the disasters they were faced with. If not for the disasters — serious real question — would they have selected Churchill? This is where fate (disasters) and the will of the people (expressed through the Labor Party, Attlee, Bevan, etc!) came together.

    Many people on the right here also do not believe that we are in anything like a war with the left for the soul of the country. So, to them it’s a phoney war.

    • #9
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. TES Inactive
    TES

    Holy Crap, are we at war? I haven’t seen anything on the news about it.

    I don’t know who we’re fighting, but I hope we win.

    • #10
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:48 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler Post author

    TES (View Comment):
    Holy Crap, are we at war? I haven’t seen anything on the news about it.

    No, it’s the Brits.

    I don’t know who we’re fighting, but I hope we win.

    Me, too.

    • #11
    • February 21, 2018, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Profile Photo Member

    The first edition (1977) of Sir John Hackett’s book <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Third-World-John-Winthrop-Hackett/dp/0025471600/”> The Third World War</a> had the Soviets winning and occupying England. The last chapter also recounted how the Soviets quickly hung all the Labour Party members who had opposed the defence budget.

    The later edition changed the ending.

    I cannot figure out how to embed links here. Everywhere else I post it works fine.

    • #12
    • February 21, 2018, at 10:36 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. drlorentz Member

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    Yes, winning isn’t everything, after all.

    Very true. I would agree, Churchill valued winning all the time. Trump, not so much.

    Correct. Trump is only about winning bigly, not just plain winning.

    • #13
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:30 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. Gary Robbins Reagan

    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    • #14
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    And let’s give credit to the Labor Party for leading the effort to bring down Chamberlain and insisting on Churchill, rather than Halifax, as his successor.

    • #15
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  16. Valiuth Member

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    Yes, winning isn’t everything, after all.

    Except the situations are not in any way analogs. Or at least no more analogous than to compare Trump to Hitler and America in 2016 to Germany in 1933. Why not write the letter printed in the Berlin Times about the success of Germany after rejecting nationalist politicians and electing social democrats instead?

    • #16
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    Churchill was many things, but self-effacing was not one of them. As he said of himself, “we are all worms, but I am a glow-worm!“.

    • #17
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  18. drlorentz Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    That’s not what they were saying about him at the time. Try reading some contemporaneous accounts. Hindsight is 20/20, sometimes even better!

    • #18
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:49 AM PDT
    • 12 likes
  19. Could Be Anyone Member

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Could Be Anyone (View Comment):
    If only trump was Winston Churchill. Two very different men.

    Yes, winning isn’t everything, after all.

    Very true. I would agree, Churchill valued winning all the time. Trump, not so much.

    Yes, he never talks about it.

    If only Trump didn’t just talk about it but was more like Churchill and did something about it. That would be the day.

    • #19
    • February 21, 2018, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • Like
  20. Miffed White Male Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    So why’d he get bounced from office before the war even ended?

    • #20
    • February 21, 2018, at 12:21 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    Historical hindsight is 20/20. Known for his arrogance, Churchill was derided by many of his colleagues in Parliament, changed parties, never got over the ignominy of Gallipoli and had a hard time supporting his family. He was really a voice in the wilderness during the 1930s when dinner at the German ambassador’s house was the hottest ticket in town. Even after he became prime minister, he was forced to rule with a coalition. He once said he would be remembered well by history as he intended to write it! Your hatred for Trump is well known here, but none of us can know how history will remember him anymore than contemporary opponents of Churchill, many of whom have been forgotten by time, would be astounded to learn, should they rise from their coffins and suddenly find themselves in 2018, that Winston Churchill is now regarded as one of the greatest men who ever lived.

    • #21
    • February 21, 2018, at 12:33 PM PDT
    • 14 likes
  22. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Larry Koler (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    Have you been reading Alone, by Michael Korda? Sounds like one of the themes in that book.

    No. But I just downloaded the sample. Thanks for the suggestion.

    Of course, the reason I chose May 10th for the article is that the decision was made during that exact time (but 7 years earlier and thereby prompting an article by Baldwin) and that coincided with the disasters they were faced with. If not for the disasters — serious real question — would they have selected Churchill? This is where fate (disasters) and the will of the people (expressed through the Labor Party, Attlee, Bevan, etc!) came together.

    Many people on the right here also do not believe that we are in anything like a war with the left for the soul of the country. So, to them it’s a phoney war.

    Great post Larry. I, too, took @seawriter ‘s suggestion and downloaded the book.

    • #22
    • February 21, 2018, at 12:36 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  23. HankMorgan Coolidge

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    You really rank Trump as last already? I hope that is hyperbole….

    If it isn’t then by what measure do you rank, to take one example, Lyndon Johnson as better than Trump?

    • #23
    • February 21, 2018, at 12:40 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  24. Quake Voter Inactive

    drlorentz (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    That’s not what they were saying about him at the time. Try reading some contemporaneous accounts. Hindsight is 20/20, sometimes even better!

    Read Buckley’s corruscating obituary of Churchill in National Review. NR wasn’t a fan of either.

    • #24
    • February 21, 2018, at 12:49 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  25. Matt Balzer, Imperialist Claw Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister

    • #25
    • February 21, 2018, at 12:55 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  26. Seawriter Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    According to Michael Korda (who was there and whose father was one of Churchill’s supporters during the 1930s) attitudes towards Churchill in the 1930s – and right on up to May 10, 1940 – pretty closely paralleled attitudes towards Trump today. Churchill was derided as a drunk (much as Trump is derided as a womanizer). Churchill was viewed as declasse, a lout, a braggart, out-of-control, a pusher who was trying to move in circles in which he had no business, and certainly a person anyone with any amount of self-respect should have nothing to do with. He had no class. He was a dangerous warmonger to boot – and he kept saying rude things. Even when Chamberlain stepped down there was as movement – eerily like today’s Never Trump movement – to deny Churchill the Prime Minister’s seat and make the Jeb Bush-like Lord Halifax Prime Minister.

    That was the reason I asked Larry Koler if he had been reading Alone.

    I guess the truth can be startling.

    • #26
    • February 21, 2018, at 1:58 PM PDT
    • 20 likes
  27. Annefy Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    According to Michael Korda (who was there and whose father was one of Churchill’s supporters during the 1930s) attitudes towards Churchill in the 1930s – and right on up to May 10, 1940 – pretty closely paralleled attitudes towards Trump today. Churchill was derided as a drunk (much as Trump is derided as a womanizer). Churchill was viewed as declasse, a lout, a braggart, out-of-control, a pusher who was trying to move in circles in which he had no business, and certainly a person anyone with any amount of self-respect should have nothing to do with. He had no class. He was a dangerous warmonger to boot – and he kept saying rude things. Even when Chamberlain stepped down there was as movement – eerily like today’s Never Trump movement – to deny Churchill the Prime Minister’s seat and make the Jeb Bush-like Lord Halifax Prime Minister.

    That was the reason I asked Larry Koler if he had been reading Alone.

    I guess the truth can be startling.

    This is the attitude that my parents and their parents had about Churchill, which I’ve always found ironic since they were hardly elite or upper class themselves. But there’s an attitude in the UK about being willing to leave the heavy lifting to your “betters” that I’ve never understood. My parents lived here in the states for more than 50 years and they never lost it.

    Also worthy of note: one grandfather in particular hated Churchill because of WWI.

    Also worthy of note, they were all glad he was Prime Minister when they sent their sons off to war.

    • #27
    • February 21, 2018, at 2:22 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  28. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Seawriter (View Comment):
    According to Michael Korda (who was there and whose father was one of Churchill’s supporters during the 1930s) attitudes towards Churchill in the 1930s – and right on up to May 10, 1940 – pretty closely paralleled attitudes towards Trump today.

    So, so true. Churchill went through hell on many fronts when less confident men would have caved given the same circumstances.

    • #28
    • February 21, 2018, at 2:53 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  29. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Except the situations are not in any way analogs.

    Actually, there’s no point in comparing any president after only one year in office to other men in history who served far longer.

    • #29
    • February 21, 2018, at 3:02 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  30. drlorentz Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):
    Winston Churchill was principled, honest, brilliant, self-effacing, courageous and a dedicated public servant, none of which Trump is.

    To contrast the greatest Prime Minister and the worst President is startling.

    According to Michael Korda (who was there and whose father was one of Churchill’s supporters during the 1930s) attitudes towards Churchill in the 1930s – and right on up to May 10, 1940 – pretty closely paralleled attitudes towards Trump today. Churchill was derided as a drunk (much as Trump is derided as a womanizer). Churchill was viewed as declasse, a lout, a braggart, out-of-control, a pusher who was trying to move in circles in which he had no business, and certainly a person anyone with any amount of self-respect should have nothing to do with. He had no class. He was a dangerous warmonger to boot – and he kept saying rude things. Even when Chamberlain stepped down there was as movement – eerily like today’s Never Trump movement – to deny Churchill the Prime Minister’s seat and make the Jeb Bush-like Lord Halifax Prime Minister.

    That was the reason I asked Larry Koler if he had been reading Alone.

    I guess the truth can be startling.

    I find remarkable the breathtaking ignorance of 20th century history on the part of some other commenters on this thread.

    • #30
    • February 21, 2018, at 3:19 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
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