This episode takes us from the beginning of World War II in 1939 to about its turning point in the middle of 1942. As elsewhere, most of the presentation is made up of newsreel footage with occasional inserts of Churchill's friends, relatives, and colleagues.
Among the more interesting points is that in the first year of the war, when Hitler was bombing London -- a great mistake, though few knew it at the time -- Churchill's public support dropped to a point at which his further position as Prime Minister was called into question. The British Army had been withdrawn from Dunkirk but had left all its equipment behind. Newly enlisted men trained with broomsticks instead of rifles. The French had surrendered. In order to prevent the French fleet in North Africa from falling into German hands, Churchill had ordered the British fleet to destroy them in their harbor, which they did. The bombardment killed 1,200 French sailors, who had been Allies just a short time before. Britain citizens were demoralized and Churchill was in charge.
Another interesting point is that on the night after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, the United States was drawn into the war, and Churchill recorded that he went to bed and slept like a baby. Hitler declared war on America three days later, calling America a nation of gangsters. Hitler lost interest in invading Britain. No one has explained exactly why. It's been suggested that he felt Aryans had much in common with the English. Hitler had repeatedly made peace offers to Churchill, the idea being that Hitler would rule the continent of Europe and Britain could rule the waves. Churchill turned them all down.
Germany then invaded Russia, which Hitler had characterized as a house of rotten wood just waiting for the door to be kicked in. And, indeed, Stalin was far from a beloved figure. He was to kill more Russians than Hitler. But if Hitler had ever had a chance to be greeted as a liberator in places like the Ukraine, he blew it by treating them as inferiors. Russia was to lose 20 million people, civilian and military, in the course of The Great Patriotic War, but it took the pressure off Britain. Churchill had warned Stalin that British intelligence was reporting the movement of numerous military units along the Russian border but Stalin, ever suspicious. disregarded the warnings as an attempt to draw the Soviet Union into the war against Germany. When Churchill and Stalin met, the Soviet leader was so rude and demanding that the conference almost ended on the first day.
On the other hand, Churchill got along famously with Franklin D. Roosevelt. From the first handshake, they treated each other as old friends, though domestic politics kept Roosevelt from doing more than sending arms and other supplies to Britain with payment deferred. Roosevelt also sent 50 destroyers left over from World War I to Britain's aid, in exchange for naval and air bases in the Caribbean. It may sound like a great deal, but to Churchill it meant giving up control of a part of the British empire.
More than in the first episode, we hear and see Churchill's speeches, stirring and sometimes amusing. What an orator. A Cicero when Britain was badly in need of one. His delivery was filled with rolling cadences and sharp, incisive passages. We don't seem to produce speakers like Abraham Lincoln or Winston Churchill much.
The program is neatly put together. It's candid, informative, and even at times entertaining. I don't expect we'll ever see a better documentary on the life of Winston Churchill.
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