Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Atlantic Charter (14 August 1941)

First face-to-face meeting between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill; the basis for the United Nations Declaration. Arranged by Roosevelt, the Atlantic Charter meeting took place in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland. Roosevelt had put out on the presidential yacht Potomac under cover of having a vacation, and he then transferred secretly to the cruiser Augusta. Churchill traveled across the Atlantic on the battleship Prince of Wales. The two leaders and their staffs (including all service chiefs of each side) met aboard these ships beginning on 9 August for four days. Topics of discussion included Lend-Lease aid, common defense issues, and a strong joint policy against Japanese expansion in the Far East. Almost as an afterthought, the meetings produced a press release on 14 August 1941 that came to be known as the Atlantic Charter.

The Atlantic Charter had eight main points: (1) the eschewing by the two heads of government of any territorial aggrandizement for their own countries; (2) opposition to territorial changes without the freely expressed consent of the peoples involved—in other words, self-determination of peoples; (3) the right of all peoples to choose their own forms of government and determination to restore freedom to those peoples who had been deprived of it; (4) free access for all nations to the world's trade raw materials; (5) international cooperation to improve living standards and to ensure economic prosperity and social security; (6) a lasting peace that would allow peoples everywhere to "live out their lives in freedom from fear and want"; (7) freedom of the seas; and (8) disarmament of the aggressor states "pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security."

Although there was no formally signed copy of the Atlantic Charter, just the press release containing the eight guiding principles, these principles had the same appeal as President Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points of 1918. Certainly the talks strengthened the bonds between the United States and Britain. Isolationists in the United States denounced the charter for the determination it expressed to bring about "the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny." The government of the Soviet Union later announced its support for the charter's principles, but even at this early stage in the war, there were sharp differences between the Anglo-Saxon powers and the Soviet Union over what the postwar world should look like. Nonetheless, the Atlantic Charter subsequently formed the basis of the United Nations Declaration.

Spencer C. Tucker


Further Reading
Bailey, Thomas A. A Diplomatic History of the American People. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1958.; Larrabee, Eric. Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, His Lieutenants and Their War. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.; Lash, Joseph P. Roosevelt and Churchill, 1939–1941: The Partnership That Saved the West. New York: W. W. Norton, 1976.; Meacham, Jon. Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship. New York: Random House, 2003.; Sainsbury, Keith. Churchill and Roosevelt at War: The War They Fought and the Peace They Hoped to Make. New York: New York University Press, 1994.
 

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