NEWPORT, R.I. - To mark the seventieth anniversary of Winston Churchill becoming Great Britain’s Prime Minister during the crisis year of 1940, Dr. John H. Maurer, Chair of the College’s Strategy and Policy Department, presented a special lecture for members of the Naval War College Foundation and the New England Chapter of the International Churchill Centre, on May 7.
His lecture, entitled “Finest Hour: Churchill in 1940,” examined the strategic situation confronting Churchill when he became prime minister during the Second World War and the courses of action he took to overcome the dangers that he and his country faced.
Churchill’s wartime decision-making has generated considerable controversy both at the time and since, and this lecture explored these controversies. In particular, Professor Maurer considered why Churchill’s decision to fight on after the defeat of France was not irrational, as some critics have contended.
In the spring of 1940, when Churchill became Prime Minister, the British people stood in grave peril, fighting a desperate struggle for survival against Nazi Germany. The German war machine appeared unstoppable: all Europe seemed destined to fall into the Nazi grip and Britain faced imminent air attack and invasion. In this grim situation, with the fate of Western Civilization hanging in the balance, Churchill’s determination and leadership was decisive in stemming the German onslaught and preventing a British collapse.
The war’s outcome turned on Churchill’s leadership in 1940. The lecture underscored Churchill’s mastery of the English language and why he is considered a master at strategic communication.
Professor Maurer teaches an elective course at the College on the Churchill as a statesman, strategist, and war leader.
From Strategy and Policy Department