Letter: Churchill misquoted in Trump's defense

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To the Editor:

On Sept. 10 President Trump proclaimed that his reaction to the terrible threat of COVID 19 was the same as the great conservative leader Winston Churchill's message to the British people when they faced a life or death situation, "Keep calm and carry on." It was not what Churchill said. Knowing what he did say is important.

The year was 1940. The German tank blitzkrieg (lightning war) had raced across France and that British ally had surrendered. A major part of the British army had escaped being trapped on the French shore as hundreds of fishing, tug, ferry, and big and small pleasure boats braved the English Channel to rescue them, but they had left their tanks and heavy artillery behind. The Soviet Union, Italy, and Japan had pacts with Germany. The United States was declaring itself to be neutral. The British with their emaciated army were on their own. The German Luftwaffe (air force) had been bombing the RAF (Royal Air Force) bases, destroying planes on the ground, runways, and repair facilities. The RAF was on its last legs. German troops were massed on the channel coast making their last preparations for invasion.

Churchill addressed Parliament and the nation. He did not call on them to keep calm and carry on as if nothing was different. He did not adopt Mr. Trump's stated alternative course of action, he did not scream and jump up and down. He delivered a speech in a strong and sober voice. The speech included the three parts that a true leader has to include. First, he told the truth about the seriousness of the situation. Second, he assured the nation that they could succeed if they were united and everyone did his or her part. The speech was peppered with the word, "We." Third, he gave them a plan of action, saying that, we will fight them on the oceans, we will fight them on the beaches, we will fight them in the hedgerows, we will never surrender.

Germany never did invade. One important reason is interesting. The battered British managed to get bombers over Germany where they dropped their loads on Berlin and other cities. Hitler took it as a personal insult and vowed revenge. Disregarding the military experts he had his bombers shift from targeting airfields to bombing London and other cities. The destruction and loss of life were terrible but the RAF, no longer bombed, could rebuild its bases and restock its fleets. They began to challenge Germany for control of the air over the island. Invasion of a determined island without control of the air became a chancy thing for Germany and the massed forces were diverted to their eastern front.

David A. Durfee,

Bennington

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