In the summer of 1941, the Atlantic Charter marked the first of many meetings between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The Charter laid out eight articles promoting ideals such as equality among nations and promising post-war freedom of the seas. It was ironic that in a conference concerning war aims, the United States was still a neutral country and the British were far from sure they could win the war against Germany.
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During the summer of 1941, Roosevelt decided he must meet with Churchill, but to limit the press and protect Churchill’s safety on the return trip, it was decided that secrecy was essential. Argentia, off the coast of Newfoundland, was chosen partly due to its remote location, as well as the ease in British ships reaching it with a minimum of contact with Hitler’s Atlantic patrols. There was also a new air base being built there, on the shores of Placentia Bay, which would ensure air power, as well as U.S. and British warship protection.[i] After intense planning, August was chosen as the best time to meet.
Early in the month, Roosevelt, who was supposed to be taking a vacation on his yacht, slipped aboard the heavy cruiser Augusta and set sail for Newfoundland. Meanwhile, Churchill was aboard the new British battleship Prince of Wales, discussing final details with Harry Hopkins.[ii] On August 9, the British reached Placentia Bay. As Churchill and his staff crossed over to the Augusta, there was some concern on both sides as to whether these two great men, so effective in correspondence, would get along as well personally. In fact, even Harry Hopkins, who by now had worked closely with both men, feared a possible “clash of ‘prima donnas.’”[iii] These fears were quickly dispelled as the two leaders found they had much in common. “They both loved the sea and the Navy, read avidly in history and biography, and enjoyed the outdoors…(and) each quickly realized that his respect for the ability and determination of the other was fully warranted.”[iv]
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