Ottawa, Canada · December 30, 1941

On December 28, 1941, British Prime Minister Winston Chur­chill left Wash­ing­ton’s Union Sta­tion for Canada. Six days ear­lier Chur­chill and his mili­tary and civil­ian advisers had arrived in the nation’s capi­tal to meet with their Amer­i­can and Cana­dian counter­parts. The visit by the two heads of state 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, and it came at Churchill’s urgent request. 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 Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union in the Lend-Lease Pro­gram signed into law the previous March by Roose­velt, 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 on 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 staff 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 in 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.

The large-scale Normandy invasion surprised the Germans. “When they [the Allies] have estab­lished bridge­heads in the Normandy and Brittany penin­sulas and have sized up their pros­pects,” Hitler pre­dicted with assur­ance to Japa­nese ambas­sa­dor Baron Hiroshi Ōshima on May 27, 1944, at his Bava­rian resi­dence, “they will then come for­ward with an all-out second front across the Straits of Dover.” (For his part, Rommel stopped believing in a second Allied front.) For nearly seven weeks, the Allies’ ruse de guerre led Hitler to delay sending rein­force­ments from the Pas-de-Calais region to Normandy. On July 1, Hitler’s chief of staff on the OKW, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, tele­phoned Field Marshal Gerd von Rund­stedt, Comman­der-in-Chief West, fran­ti­cally seeking advice on what to do next. Rund­stedt did not mince words: “The writing [is] on the wall, make peace you fools.” Rund­stedt was relieved of his com­mand with­in the month, his sage advice ignored for nearly a year.

Operation Fortitude: Western Allies’ Strategic Deception Warfare, January–August 1944

Operation Fortitude: Dummy aircraft modeled on the Douglas A-20Operation Fortitude: Dummy landing craft, Folkestone Harbor near Dover

Left: A dummy

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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. 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”