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PRIMARY DOCUMENTS  |  Provoked by Pearl Harbor: The White House Meetings of FDR and Churchill, December, 1941
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Activities: II. Inside the White House  |  Back to Activity


F. Churchill at the White House: An insider's view


Churchill arrived in Washington with his entourage on December 22 for the series of conferences which were known under the code name ARCADIA. He was installed in the big bedroom across the hall from Hopkins' room, and as the two of them walked back and forth to visit one another they had to pick their way through great piles of Christmas parcels. That upstairs hall in the White House underwent an extraordinary change. Ordinarily quiet and usually deserted, it was now the headquarters of the British Empire, and various dignitaries and staff officers and secretaries were continually hurrying through carrying the old, red leather dispatch cases which make British officials look really official. The White House staff were amazed and fascinated by these goings-on, and the British were even more amazed by the atmosphere of placidity and seeming detachment from events that surrounded the President and the incomprehensible fact that the total military staff on duty at the White House at some given moment might consist of one nervous Navy ensign. There was an even greater contrast, the other way around, between the size of Roosevelt's bodyguard and Churchill's; the British gave considerably less weight to the possibility of assassination.

The food in the White House was always better when Churchill was there and, of course, the wine flowed more freely. Since Churchill knew of Roosevelt's habits of going to bed early, he made a pretence of retiring himself at a fairly reasonable hour; but Roosevelt knew that his tireless guest and Hopkins would go on talking and he did not want to miss any of it so he stayed up much later than usual. The conversations that went on from early morning until late at night covered not only the entire world but a very large part of its history. Churchill was one of the few people to whom Roosevelt cared to listen, and vice versa.


Roosevelt and Hopkins, p. 442





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