This week: Churchill’s US arsenal

Winston Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt speak to the press at the villa of Dar-es-Saada during the Casablanca conference in Morocco, 24 January 1943. IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons

He is, without doubt, the most quoted prime minister in British history. But even by his own standards, the speech that Winston Churchill made on 5 March 1946 stands out.

Addressing an audience in Fulton, Missouri, he warned that an ‘iron curtain’ had descended over Europe (a reference to the Soviet Union’s widening sphere of influence) and that a ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the USA was vital to maintain the peace – thereby giving wider popularity to not one but two phrases that would achieve global currency in the decades to come.

This was not the first time, however, that Churchill had evoked the idea of a special relationship between the two countries – and as we learn this week on The Past, that sense of cooperation was nowhere more apparent than in the extraordinary and long-running collaboration between British and American combat scientists during World War II.

In the latest issue of Military History Matters magazine, Larrie D. Ferreiro, the author of a fascinating new book on the subject, reveals how this marriage of British scientific inventiveness and American industrial might was rooted in strategy laid out by Churchill in the war’s earliest days, and how it produced many of the ground-breaking technological innovations – from airborne radar to the atomic bomb – that enabled the Allies to achieve final victory.

Meanwhile, in the new issue of Current Archaeology magazine, and on the latest edition of our brilliant PastCast podcast, the MOD’s senior archaeologist Richard Osgood examines another moment of transatlantic collaboration: when the celebrated American paratroopers of ‘Easy’ Company – better known as the ‘Band of Brothers’ – were stationed at Aldbourne, in Wiltshire, in the build-up to D-Day. What can recent excavations at the site tell us about their camp?

Elsewhere this week, we have also been delving into the archives for more about Churchill: we charted his unlikely alliance with Stalin; we analysed his relationship with the British generals in World War II; and we heard how a string of military disasters meant it was 1942, and not 1940, that was his real ‘darkest hour’.

And finally, if all that only whets your appetite for more about Churchill, don’t forget to have a go at our latest Quiz, which this week is also themed around Britain’s WWII leader. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

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