Hopkins Papers

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the President’s Special Assistant (Hopkins)

Dear Harry: You do not know how greatly your decision not to go on to the Conference has been regretted by our friend1 here. His message to the President2 will have told you of his illness on arrival which is only known to a dozen people here. Tonight his temperature is back to normal and he seems on the way to a quick recovery. But each journey has taken its toll and the interval between illnesses has been constantly shortened. There is no one that I have known here who cares so much about friendly relationships between Great Britain and the United States, and few people anywhere who have been more loyal in their friendship to the President.

The Conference will undoubtedly consider the planning [of] the war against Japan. No thoughtful person can approach the problem without remembering that Great Britain has been fighting for five years and that they are at the bottom of the barrel as regards manpower. Men from 16 to 65 are conscripted, and women from 18 to 50. The country has been on short rations for this entire period. I live on them and know what this means. The British Army is older than our Army. The British Navy is older than our Navy. The British merchant seamen are older than our merchant seamen. Only the Royal Air Force [Page 255] has been able to continue to recruit the youth of the country. In the Battle of Britain it saved Britain. In the intervening years its continuous operation has done much to save life in the other services, but it has taken a frightful toll of the youth of the country.

When the war with Germany is over the war with Japan will begin for Great Britain, in spite of the early defeats at Hong Kong and Singapore, and the fighting in Burma. I have talked about this with many soldiers and sailors and airmen. I knew General Wingate well, and had something to do with his assignment to the Far East. Pie told me once that out of every 100 men they sent him, sixty had to carry forty. That means that you have to have a selective army if you are to fight the Japanese successfully in tropical areas. I have talked with Admiral Cunningham, and he told me that special arrangements should be made for Navy personnel who move to the Far East. Men should have better wages than at present and both soldiers’ and sailors’ families should be given larger family allowances if the wanted men are to continue in active service. The Royal Air Force is better positioned to move eastward but adjustments would also have to be made in that service.

The careful planning that General Marshall has made to prepare our armies for the transition period as we move from the western theater eastward, by educational films and in other ways, has no counterpart in the present British thinking. The whole field of psychological preparation for what for them will be the second war has been largely neglected.

It has always interested me that the plans for demobilization following the defeat of Germany have been treated with the utmost secrecy for fear of creating misunderstandings in the United States in relation to the serious intentions of Great Britain to fight a war against Japan. And yet there are many people who are now mobilized in the war against Germany who would be utterly useless in fighting a war against Japan. I have never questioned this policy since the President is a friend of Great Britain, and even a sensible demobilization in a presidential compaign might be used against him.

All that is one side of the picture. The really gallant people of Great Britain are as anxious to join us in the fight against Japan as we are ourselves to defeat Japan, and yet for all that there has seeped into this country through military channels a belief that the British Navy is not wanted in the Pacific. I know the practical side that many of our Navy men feel that the British Navy was built for short hauls with available ports that ringed the world, and that conversion would mean clogging our navy yards and strengthening the British Navy in the postwar years. There is some truth to it all, and yet if we allow the British to limit their active participation to recapture areas that are [Page 256] to their selfish interests alone and not participate in smashing the war machine of Japan, if British soldiers don’t cross the Atlantic to our ports and entrain for our Pacific ports in order to move against Japan, and if we shuck the British air force in order to prove our own dominance in the air, we will create in the United States a hatred for Great Britain that will make for schisms in the postwar years that will defeat everything that men have died for in this war. Repetition of the tragedy of 1918 will be unforgivable.

I have not found more than a dozen Englishmen interested in this problem, and no one from the United States in any way concerned about it.

What are you doing about it? I hope the President is interested.


John Gilbert Winant
  1. Churchill.
  2. Ante, p. 20.