I really felt involved in the movie “The Darkest Hour,” which I saw while visiting Mission, Texas. It’s a true story about how British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (played by Gary Oldman) saved Britain and the world from Adolf Hitler and the Nazis beginning in the summer of 1940. Churchill’s relationships with those around him at the time, such as with his wife, Clementine (played by Kristin Scott Thomas), are explored in the film, as well.
I was 19 years old that year. We worried in the Bronx, and in towns across the United States, that the Nazis and their followers in Europe and even in America would be able to overwhelm the democracies and rule the world. Didn’t Hitler and his followers sing and shout, “Today, we rule Germany; tomorrow, the whole world?”
And who was going to stop them? The Nazi panzer divisions had just broken through the French defenses on the Maginot Line and captured Paris. They were advancing on the English Channel coast and were soon to take Calais just 22 miles across the channel. It seemed very likely the German troops would soon destroy the British Army in France as they were wiping out the last of the French Resistance.
Could the United States aid its World War I British and French Allies? Not too likely, because President Franklin D. Roosevelt (played by David Strathairn) was busy trying to lead America out of the Great Depression. Besides, the Americans didn’t have much of an Army and had a Navy only a little larger, so how could they defeat super-militarized Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan?
Who was going to lead Britain and its allies in this worldwide struggle against the forces of tyranny and oppression? An old politician named Winston Churchill, who had been a leader in the Boer War in South Africa and in World War I. He drank and smoked like a fiend and a lot of British leaders, like Lord Halifax, did not like him.
Halifax and some other British leaders urged members of Churchill’s cabinet to try to negotiate peace with Hitler. They pressured Winston to give in, but he refused to yield. The British troops defending Calais were forced to surrender, but a way was found to take British and French troops out of Dunkirk. Many small boats manned by civilians were used to bring most of the British and many of the French defenders of Dunkirk back to England. Most of the Allied troops were saved.
The movie shows that the British people supported Winston Churchill’s stand to keep fighting the Nazi invaders.
In November 1943 I arrived in Britain as a member of the U.S. Army coming to help our British and European Allies. The battle against the Nazis continued unabated. Several million American and Allied troops soon turned the battle after landing on the beaches of Normandy and liberating France, in a campaign that began June 6, 1944, and ended May 8, 1945, since celebrated as VE (Victory in Europe) Day.
Winston Churchill’s dream came true.