tv Book Discussion on Never Surrender CSPAN December 20, 2015 4:00pm-4:51pm EST
impossible to tell this story without the extraordinary kindness, help generosity, ridiculous generosity of the swimmers and families that handed to me giant duffle bags, that they took out of their garages, musty, underneath beds and papers and nazi memorabilia. australian papers, photos, little tiny badges, trophies of all sorts and handed them to me and said, you take these home to the mainland. you take these home to the mainland. strangers, what person is going to give a stranger their stuff and believe they'll bring it back? he handed it to me.
huge handing bag, bill smith, he walked out with like four shopping bags and said, you take these. 5,000 sources that they gave me. 5,000 pieces of information to put it together, so without their generosity and their kindness, and i'm giving it back to them in a book. i have to, it's their story, right, they own it. i don't own it. that's the pleasure in having finished the three-year swim club is having sent this book off to those still living and they received it on monday, and my work is done, right, but to share it now, my job is now to share it more wisely so that they will be recognized, they will be interviewed, they will be remembered differently, i'm just starting it.
i'm just starting the ball rolling, a white woman from new england said here is the information and now is your chance to remember the best in america. thank you. [applause] >> i'm going to close the evening really quickly. we appreciate your support, another round of applause for julie. [applause] >> we can go ahead and get your books signed, so if you want to start a line over here, please purchase your books before you get them signed and thanks again, enjoy the rest of your evening.
[inaudible conversations] [laughter] >> i'm sorry? >> this is book tv on c-span2, television for serious readers, here is our prime time lineup, tonight at 7:00 p.m. eastern, history of african american women who fought in the 60's and 70's, starting at 7:45 ted rall on edward snowden. wall street first millionary and we alcohol in america at
11:00 p.m. eastern. that all happens tonight on c-span2's book tv. >> author john kelli is next on book tv, he discussing winston churchill's decision. >> good evening, thank you so much for joining us this evening as we celebrate veterans day through the claim historian john kelly, author of never surrender, winston churchill and britain's decision to fight nazi germany in the fateful summer of
1940. [applause] >> thank you for coming out tonight, a rainy night. let me explain what my procedure in these readings are. i like to do a brief overview for about five or six pages just to combi you a sense of what the general theme of the book is and then we can move to questions. i find -- if it's written it's much easier to grasp and coherent. what moment he would like to relive, churchill replayed the summer of 1940, the summer of 1940 every time. who who can blame him? 75 years on, the sights and sound of that faithful summer still linger in memory. anxious church lights in the london sky, a piano tinkling,
english school board come the three corners of the world, we shall shock. two days after germany ended in france. that afternoon churchill told to hush, that the policy of government could be explained in victory, victory at all costs, victory no matter how hard along the road. the next day, the press pronounces speeches, british
establishment this speech produced gas of disbelief and anger, victory at all costs was amount to a call for return to the war that britain had fought a generation earlier on the psalm and passion and look at what that had begun. a large squandered, britain's great prime minister director of the bank of england, the most influential military writer of generation, the most powerful press of the generation, the famous actor, and george shaw
the even more famous agree on virtually nothing. in stupidity it surpassed the prime minister's bloody that produced over 250,000cavalries and caused the british navy three battleships in a single day. churchill's foreign minister also had reservations about the victory at all cost policy. but the foreign secretary kept to himself, he was a very discreet man until may 25th, the day it became clear britain and france were going to lose the battle of france. that morning the 94 decisions of the french army were in various state of collapse and divisions of the british expeditionary force the junior partner in
alliance was racing through the only nongerman occupied port on the channel coast. may 25th was also the date that british imperial general presented to churchill war cabinet with a paper called british strategy in a certain eventuality. if france fell, that was a certain even -- eventuality. without the full economic and financial support of the united states, britain -- britain alone would face certain defeat. aware of isolation is in america would make aid on the required scale impossible, on the afternoon of the 25th, the
italian embassador to rooms in foreign office, there were rumors that italy was about to enter the war and arrived expected to be interrogged about intention. a foreign secretary wanted to talk about something else. after a few minutes of chitchat, if italy would be prepared to mediate a compromise piece between germany, britain and france. said he would have to consult roam before answering such a momentous question. before he left, he showed a little leg. if such a conference would fell, the war would be pointless, wouldn't it. the next day a rod ramp london sunday, initiated one of the
most consequential debates in british history, during a morning meeting of the war cabinet, at that time the body that set british war policy, churchill and four others. it is time to face facts, it's safe guarding our empire, continued for several minutes uninterrupted but when he said he had told senior that britain would be prepared to consider any proposal that led to a secure piece in europe, provided our liberty and independence were ensured, churchill pumped. peace and security were insufficient. any negotiation that might lead to the weakening of our rights in power would be unacceptable.
the debate which began a little after 9:00 a.m. on sunday may 26th, spilled over into the afternoon and concluded around 5:00. the three other members were the labor politician, future prime minister and author green ward and former prime minister who had been put into the cabinet to keep churchill from perpetuating any more, had no objections to exploring what halifax called the italian approach. realizing he was badly outnumbered churchill concluded the meeting with a lie. he told his colleagues he had no objections to approaching senior , during the next two days of the debate, may 27th and may 28th, churchill would impose all
the powers of his office and imagination to convince his colleagues that a britain alone could win the war. churchill commission almost will ever the ink had dried on the depressing, could britain hope to survive and pursue a war without france and beat germany. but this time churchill did not leave the chief's of staff free to reach a conclusion on their own. he insisted that they factor in several assumptions, including that the british-the british expeditionary force would reach safely and germany would not attack britain with a troop force larger than 10,000 men. on may 27th, both assumptions. >> highly questionable.
but what churchill wanted a positive tone that has been so absent in a certain eventuality, the next day with the war cabinet still divided over the italian approach churchill pulled another rabbit out of the hat. he reached the 25 members of what might we really call the junior cabinets. these were most members of this group were second tier ministers who head department unrelated only marginally to the war. but a unanimous support by 25 minister, however, minor were undercut for negotiated into the war. aware he was playing for the
highest stakes, over dinner, churchill told his guest -- he gave his guest the unbutton versions of himself. observations about hitler and invasion were woven, and the charging into the valley of death, then churchill ended with rhetorical flourish that came out of the comic book. if this island scoir of ours is to henned, he said, let it end only when each of us lives joking in own blood upon the ground. churchill's listeners loved every word of it. he's the man, the only man for this hour exclaimed one guest.
by now had heard of churchill's triumph, halifax didn't bother to call for a vote. however, his silence did not meet churchill had won the day. public support was essential. if britain was to carry on the war alone and a poll taken on the afternoon of the 28th and the previous day the 27th belgium which was an ally of france and britain had just vendorred, found a sizable proportion. after some back and forth with
their friend, the young woman decided it may more sense to get drunk. it doesn't encourage you to spend good money or the permit if your head is going to get blown up tomorrow, she told her friends. recalling those days letter, the danger was so close the appalling size of the smashup so apparent that the only thing to do was to do what everyone else was doing, keep steady eyes front. once you looked sideways and once you let your imagination out, you knew you could loose your head. clearly the thing to do is to get yourself in a frame of mind and keep it even if it made you look slightly stupid. the other fact whether britain remained in the war was the outcome of gun, on the evening of may 28th, the second day of evacuation, it seemed likely
that it would end in disaster, a daily mail reporter painted a war picture that evening that sounds like a passage from inferno, great columns of men, he wrote. e numblating by enormous pill arson of fire thrusting out into the water, among bomb moving from ankle-deep to knee-deep to waste-deep until shoulder-deep. the unexpected success of gun, had dramatic effect on british
morale and churchill political colleagues. they were not prepared to entirely abandon the peace option. what we call a battle of britain was a by-product of political compromise between war cabinet. they agreed to put aside their differences and let churchill have one big battle. that became the battle of britain, and they would decide whether britain would or would not remain in the war depending on the outcome of that -- of the battle of britain. unfortunately for all of us here and the world generally the irf prevailed, five years later on another may day, churchill stood on a pa -- buckingham palace,
and that's the general jest of the story. i will be happy to take question. yes? >> my question and thank you for your lovely speech, lovely talk. >> thank you. >> why did germany win the battle of france? >> germany won the battle of france, one of the ironies is the british and french had the same number of took place. they had -- the french tanks were much better than the german tanks. but the french -- there were two problems. one is the german set a trap, they drew all of the french and british troops who were stationed in france into belgium and their initial attack on may tenth, that was a faibt. the british had left their -- the british and french had left
their second and third tier troops guarding, thinking that's a very heavily wooded area. think that's the area the germans will never enter while the best of the allied troops were running north to meet the germans who they thought main was going to be in bell -- belgium and they attacked second and third-tier troops and were able to cut right across france from -- from the east to the west and all of the allied troops in britain, i'm sorry, in belgium were then caught in a pocket. they were cut away. they were separated from all their supplies, for most of their equipment and from their food stuff and the germans then could just push up into that pocket and destroy them.
the germans also fought much more daringly and the british and french were going to fight a war, a trenched warfare. the germans realized the world had changed, tanks had changed, movement, it had become a war of movement. even though their equipment in many cases was as good as the allies, they knew how to use it and use it more effectively, and so they really -- the german sat on ten trench provinces from 1914 to 1918, lost two and a half million men and couldn't get any further than those ten provinces. in six weeks in 1940 at a loss
of 27,000 men they conquered france. that was an amazing victory. yeah. >> my father was a squadron leader in beacon hill. i would like to think how suspicious people were of churchill after the first world war, and the other thing i want to mention is, with the agreement -- >> right. >> which kept the soviet union out of the war, stolins idea to give them enough time to arm them for the inevitably german
invasion. >> it was rather extraordinary. a german-russian treaty in august '39. who was the best -- who was going to offer them the best price and chamberland just brushed aside. it was simply amazing that the british and french had really no idea of what a consequential enemy they were facing, and hitler wasn't just another european leader who wanted to get into war, win two or three provinces and calling into it, hitler was a civilization
threat. his plan was to -- was -- or his vision was a german empire that stretched from the balcon to the europe. he meant this. this is what truly made him a unique threat. a, he had that kind of vision, b, he had an army that was capable of realizing that vision. not absolutely certainly, but it was powerful enough that it held a potential of realizing that, and thirdly, hitler was not afraid of war. it might -- you could fairly call him a war lover but the point is if churchill had been sitting across from him at the table at munich was because hitler was unappeasable and
deterrable. there's nothing what you can do with a man like that but kill h. that kepts that combination of evil and ambition and i'm searching for the right word but also possess the mean, military to have at least chance a realizing their vision. >> could britain you think could have defeated a german invasion? >> this is an interesting question. in 1940, both armies and navies were begin toning to understande
air power and how powerful it was. when it came to germany and invasion threat by germany on britain, there was a metaphor to explain it and it was called the -- the elephant and the whale. britain was the whale. it had tremendous navy and if it could bring that navy to bear, it would break the german invasion fleet in the channel easily but it couldn't bring that fleet to bear unless superiority. the germans had a tremendous land army which could probably could have gone through britain which had three and a half -- there were three and a half fully equipped divisions in britain, wouldn't have been a
great help. it was extremely vulnerable if the germans could bring their land power to bare. the only way to do that was if they could maintain air support superiority over the channel which meant they'd be able to destroy the british fleet before it could get into the middle -- you know the german ships. it's sort of interesting. neither side was quite sure, specially the british admirals were really frightening of it. the home which was up in scotland and had all the major, big battleships and whatever, the admiral, the admiral, the leader flatly refused to bring his big ships down to -- on to the channel and churchill told him you're going to have to do
it if worse come to worse. yeah. i was wondering how much help did the help u.s. give britain in the summer of 1940? >> not much. he had to be very careful. the polls in the summer of 1940 were either 90 and 95% isolations. that's how high it was. there was also -- there were two other factors, we didn't have much military material to give away. we were still -- we were just really, the american war machine was beginning to gear up and there was a fear if churchill --
if britain fell, that whatever we did give britain was going to end up in german hands, roosevelt at the very least wanted -- that summer was a test case, the summer of 1940 unless britain could show it had the ability to show the germans on its own. churchill sensed that. it did not help that britain's case that joe kennedy was the embassador -- our embassador and just an -- and everything he wrote about churchill or britain was no chance that they are going to win. it was completely negligent i have and several, he's always knocking churchill for his drinking. [laughter] >> and i have to say, you know,
i was really surprised as i got into this and started reading personal memoirs, i heard, you hear the stories about drinking and, you know, you would hear some historians, yes, he would but they were light drinks and you would have -- he would schedule them throughout the day, but the stories from the time he really dranked heavily. i mean, heavily. one assistant secretary of state visited him and he gave -- only churchill could do this, he talked for two hours, he was clearly in the bag, but had a perfect speech, and there were -- there were a lot of reports like that. you know, it's simply amazing how he was able -- he must have been a physical wonder that he was able to do that.
but he was -- he was a dicey character in some ways and the summer of 1940 brought out what, i think, was really a change. he was a leader, he -- he was an absolute leader and it's amaze to go look at the reports. the british government through from may 1940 through october october 1940 took daily morale reports. in may, the bat ol -- french battle of france was falling and people were really -- the average public from anger, fear, literally in a day. the thing that it could be
compared to, people who go through a really difficult personal experience like a divorce or some sort of breakdown like that or the loss of a job where your anchors of your life have been broken down and you don't have your normal, i'm looking for the world, your normal supports that keep you steady. that was clear. you could see in the report that that was completely gone when it really got bad to may 31st, actually till about june 15th because that encompasses then churchill began to take. i don't think he gave three or more speeches. he created leadership that was just stunning, you could see by about july 10th and i read them, i read daily and you could just
feel the movement of country, and you could feel -- people are still afraid but they. >> gaining control of it. it was like oozing out of them and they were -- they clinched their teeth, they knew this was going to be really, really difficult, but they had someone they really believed in and they were willing to follow. but it was a more -- more britain was at that point and just watch them gather them up in the course of 6-7 weeks and given that kind of courage, and that's just sense of leadership. >> in contrast to churchill's contrast, was chamberland's
reputation as bad? >> you know, the -- >> was he as bad as his reputation? >> he got a difficult wrap. he was actually -- he was quite competent politician. he was a very good chancellor, the head of what we call treasury department. he got britain out of the depression rather than america came out. he was quite forceful and quite intelligent and he would have been a good peace-time leader but he also had -- his ego was blinding and it was -- there are
touching who he would write the letters, write to his sisters twice a week and it would be what the queen said about me and what the king said about me and so and so said about me. they weren't -- you don't want to make fun of them. they were really charming. but partly that and party munich when he got -- when he faced hitler and he faced hitler with those three factors i had mentioned before, the -- his breath of his gold, -- goal, impossible and willingness to accept a world war without even blinking and churchill didn't understand that. but as i said, even if -- i'm
sorry, chamberland did not understand it. even if churchill would have been there, it wouldn't have made a difference. it was just a question on he would have preferred in 42, 43 but he was willing to accept it and it has to be said in chamberland's defense when hitler did attack poland, chamberland declared war on him and that -- that was the end of the peace. he realized hitler had overfought. one of the things that really isn't focused enough is how much the legacy of the first world war hangs on the second world war in europe specially. britain lost including empire a million men in a country of 46 million.
that was -- and britain -- france lost a million and a half men in a country of 40 million and it also had something like 4 million casualties. one out of four to five were either killed or wounded in the war and that just sat -- well, it only made possible for the british and french one kind of war, a defensive war where they were going to get into trenches and they were going to use and they were going to try barricade germany so they couldn't get supplies, but the germans, this time it didn't work. the germans had figured out that this new warfare was going to be
mobile and they understood how to fight it and for some -- well, enough for some reason, the germans were motivated where they really -- they really felt and in certain respects it had been unfair. there were certain that shouldn't probably have been taken away. but they had that motivation and the british and french did. it was hard to get those motivated. and only really toward the end of the battle of france that the british troops fight well, and the british troops didn't fight that well. neither -- neither on a man-to-man basis.
there is no army in the world that man-for-man that would stand up to the germans, whether it was the russians, the americans or the french. if the numbers were equal the germans would always win. the only way was to win was simply aiding them with material and air power. yeah. >> in the american civil war, but the question i have is how far do you think luck played a role in this? >> whose luck? >> luck for the british. i'm thinking in particular when they were bombing the british fighter basis and were bombing the spit fires and then the british sent a bombing raids to berlin and hitler was so angry
with that bombing raid that he told gouring to attack london and other cities. now, if that hadn't happened and my father told me about this, the fighter basis would have been destroyed completely and then the germans would have had an easy ruth -- route into britain. >> that's the conventional story. i think it's a little more complicated than that. for one thing the germans, german air force was not built to be a strategic weapon. it was built to be to support infantry, when they were given strategic pass, they weren't equipped for that. they were not well equipped. they also -- even though they had one plane, the me109, which
was probably superior than the spit fire, they-does it had such short fuel, it had very -- it had short flight, it could spend 10-15 minutes over britain because it's fuel capacity was very low. so there were other factors in there, and also the germans really never appreciated how far advanced that chain host home system was and how well they used it and even more than that, doubting who was the air chief who oversaw the battle of brit tian, he created the first
command center in the world. the germans had nothing like that. they knew how to use -- they knew how to process the information, bring it together and act on it instantly. i mean, that was an extraordinary defeat. >> hi, john, i had a question for you. but i think some people at the time questioned whether he was a man of good judgment. >> if you look from the -- november of 1940. one action after another and a
good deal of this was churchill's interfering with the -- you know, the professional soldiers and what they were planning, and he -- he had -- i don't think he had good judgment, no. i think it was wanting in some areas of military strategy and i think it was also wanting in his sensitive future. churchill had no sense of the future. his world view was to return britain to the victorian era when he was a young man. he had no clue about what was coming, about the welfare of states, any of that or what the public wanted. one of the interesting things about this is the british public senses about it, they knew what
he was right for, they knew he was a great leader, a great wartime leader but they knew that he wouldn't have a clue and he was gone, before, you know, the war is over, i think it was may sixth or seventh, yeah, and the labour won a big enormous victory and when you just think that 46 million people sort of figure this out and, i mean, that's democracy really at an amazing level, that they were able to say, this is how our country should work now with selected this leader for that task and we should have this leader for this task. i mean, that's -- that's about as good as it gets, folks, in my view. anybody else? >> can you speak a little bit to
the end of the first world war which kind of set up everything for the second world war? it seems that when there was that surrender that nothing was really communicated to the german people who surrendered and why they left and they started blaming the military, blaming civilian, can you speak to that? >> it was a shock the germans, in that sense they had not been defeated in the field, germany at the end of world war i looked vastly different than germany in the end of world war ii and it was barely a building standing, but when the germans try today
used to be. the other problems were that the germans were to take total blame for everything and they were given the amount of money they had to pay was completely -- it was $20 billion and $20 billion and 1918 the money was half a trillion dollars and they were broke. a wiser piece that had taken -- tom some account of german concerns and needs but some that had -- i'm trying to figure out how to work this correctly. showed some respect to the german nation that required some sort of -- some sort of repayment but not -- not figures
were impossible and that didn't simply strung german power. there were many historic german lands that were cut away during the peace conference. munich was all about. that was the opening shots of world war ii. so the allies were -- were motivated more by anger and some kind of crazy combination of vengeance and self-righteousness an