Ottawa, Canada December 30, 1941

On December 28, 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Chur­chill left Wash­ing­ton’s Union Station, the capital’s major train station, for Canada. Six days ear­lier Chur­chill and his mili­tary and civil­ian advisers had arrived in the United States aboard the Royal Navy’s newly com­mis­sioned battle­ship, HMS Duke of York, to meet with their Amer­i­can and Cana­dian counter­parts. The visit by the two heads of state and their entou­rage between Christ­mas and mid‑Janu­ary 1942 was the first stra­te­gic con­fer­ence Chur­chill and Pre­si­dent Franklin D. Roose­velt had had since the Japa­nese sur­prise attack on U.S. mili­tary instal­la­tions at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a little more than three weeks earlier.

The principal topics raised during December’s Arca­dia Con­fer­ence, also called the First Wash­ing­ton Con­fer­ence, con­cerned the for­ma­tion of a com­bined Allied com­mand (ABDA, or Amer­i­can-British-Dutch-Aus­tra­lian), the inclusion of the Soviet Union in the Lend-Lease program passed earlier in April by the U.S. Congress, assistance to U.S. forces besieged by Japa­nese forces in the Philip­pines, placing U.S. person­nel in the Danish pos­ses­sion of Ice­land in the mid‑Atlantic and in Great Britain, and the wording of the United Nations Decla­ra­tion, issued Janu­ary 1, 1942, which was a pledge by 26 Allied coun­tries to com­mit the bulk of their resources to sub­duing Nazi Germany first. The pledge fol­lowed on a deci­sion by Roose­velt, Chur­chill, and their staffs to pur­sue a “Europe first” stra­te­gy in exe­cuting the war against the Axis. (In real­ity, the U.S. con­cen­tra­ted most of its resources to halting, then reversing Japa­nese advances in the Paci­fic, deploying 70 per­cent of the U.S. Navy and all the Marine Corps in the Paci­fic. Not until 1944 was the major­ity of U.S. resources directed toward defeating Germany.)

In the Canadian capital of Ottawa, Chur­chill addressed Par­lia­ment on this date, Decem­ber 30, 1941, in a master­ful per­for­mance simi­lar to the one he gave before a joint ses­sion of the U.S. Con­gress seve­ral days ear­lier, except this time he spoke in English and French. Between passing from the Cana­dian House of Com­mons cham­ber to an ante­room, Chur­chill paused two min­utes before the cam­era of an Arme­nian-born Cana­dian. Yousuf Karsh’s iconic “bull­dog” photo of a scowling, bel­lig­erent, head-thrust-for­ward Chur­chill become one of the most memorable portrait images in history.

Winston Churchill’s Visit to the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament, December 1941

Karsh’s portrait of Churchill, Ottawa, December 30, 1941

Above: Yousuf Karsh’s iconic portrait of Churchill appeared on the cover of Life Magazine on May 21, 1945, several weeks after the uncon­ditional sur­render of Nazi Germany to the Allies. The image of Churchill brought Karsh inter­national promi­nence and is reputed to be the most repro­duced photo­graphic por­trait in history. Nice work for a man who claimed he was filled with dread meeting Chur­chill, whose scowl deepened when the photo­grapher dared to remove Churchill’s trademark cigar out of the great man’s mouth.

Churchill’s Address to a Joint Session of the U.S. Congress, December 26, 1941: “Now We Are the Masters of Our Fate”