Henry Munson's memories from World War II
Dear Nick, In my lengthy 'Family History' which I call Opus I, I made reference to my organizing a trip of 5 American Congressmen (a fact finding expedition) to visit England just prior to Pearl Harbor. You have stirred the juices of my memory and now I can't wait to write down more events I believe were important.
"We'd Pass The Torch To You"
Winston Churchill Nov 1941
In doing my research for Opus I, I came across a report I made in Dec. 1941 listing the itinerary of the trip of five congressmen and me to England from Nov. 15, 1941 to Dec. 9, 1941. It brought to mind several significant events that I believe have relevance even today.
The idea for the trip starting germinating on Aug. 14, 1941. On that day the Selective Service Act was extended by only one vote (203-202). I was keeping a tally on the votes and for a while the nays seemed to dominate the vote. We would have been largely demobilized by the time of Pearl Harbor had the bill been defeated.
At the time I was Congressional Assistant to Congressman Joseph C. Baldwin. He and I and a few friends were alarmed to see how close the vote was. We started trying to interest a few Congressmen in going to England on a fact finding tour. It was the first such trip I had heard of and it was to be privately financed. Joe Baldwin had interested Marshall Field in financing the trip.
A group of five Congressmen agreed to go and I was asked to organize the trip. I am attaching a copy of our itinerary that I presented at the time. The significance of the trip is not reflected in that report. First of all, Pres. Roosevelt told the group before leaving Washington that "the chances were we'd be at war with Japan before we returned. This could not be referred to publicly, needless to say.
When we relayed this to Mr. Churchill, he said, "Well I knew it was coming but I had hoped it could be postponed six months so as not to interfere with the vital flow of supplies from the U.S."
We met with the 'top Army, Navy and Air Force commanders and they told us they didn't have one fully equipped Army Div to stop a Hitler Invasion!
We toured areas devastated by bombs, met with Air Raid Wardens, Red Cross workers, civilian defense people, etc. The dramatic highlight of the trip was a lunch with Mr. & Mrs. Churchill at "Chequers", the official country home of the Prime Minister. After lunch Mr. Churchill invited our group to join him in his Library and he said he would answer any question the Congressmen wanted to ask. He gave us cigars and brandy.
Congressman Melvin J. Maas said, "Mr. Prime Minister, I know my constituents will ask me a question when I return home and I'd like to be able to give them your answer. Let's assume the improbable, namely, that Hitler does succeed in invading your country, my question is: "In this case, what happens to the fleet?"
The resulting hush was almost overpowering. At that time Churchill was the hub, the hope and almost the personification of the British Empire. He looked at each one of us in silence and then, with tears running down his cheeks, he said, "We'd Pass the Torch to You"
I wanted to make a record of this dramatic moment of history, as I am sure I am the only one who was there who is still alive. The recollections mentioned above do represent the highlights of this trip which was naturally eclipsed by the outbreak of WWII.
I think you may be interested in a more detailed account of what happened (read next article for more)
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