Roosevelt left Washington on 3 August 1941 under the guise of a vacation fishing trip, but instead he secretly boarded the heavy cruiser Augusta off Martha's Vineyard and steamed north. Likewise, Churchill had quietly sailed the North Atlantic aboard the new battleship Prince of Wales. Each leader traveled with a substantial entourage of senior military and political advisers.
On Saturday, 9 August, both parties arrived, and Churchill boarded the Augusta for the first meeting of the two leaders. Churchill presented Roosevelt with a brief note from King George VI and then took a tour of the U.S. ship. Respective staffs had the opportunity to know one another. On Sunday, 10 August, a shared religious service was held on the sunlit quarterdeck of the Prince of Wales, where the mingled British and American crews and leadership sang familiar hymns. All was filmed for later release.
On Monday, 11 August, the real work of the conference began with three parallel meetings: Churchill and Roosevelt, their diplomatic assistants, and the military chiefs of staff. As a result, the United States agreed to accelerate aid to both Britain and the Soviet Union and to increase naval patrols in the Atlantic. The two countries also agreed to a protective takeover of the Canary Islands (by Britain) and Azores (by the U.S.) if Germany invaded the Iberian Peninsula. But the Americans made it clear that they did not intend to intervene beyond these actions because of domestic isolationist political pressure and their military unpreparedness. Among the controversies that arose, however, was one over the British plan to rely for victory on heavy bombing, whereas the Americans argued that an invasion by ground forces would be needed to overcome Germany.
Tuesday, 12 August, was dominated by discussion of the forthcoming Anglo-American mission to Moscow (to be headed by Lord Beaverbrook and W. Averell Harriman), and final amendments to the joint eight-point statement of goals and aims, which became known shortly thereafter as the Atlantic Charter. Both leaders then departed Argentia.
Roosevelt and Churchill discussed the meeting and the Atlantic Charter with journalists in the days that followed. Disagreement resulted from the softening by Secretary of State Sumner Welles of a statement to which Churchill and Roosevelt had agreed concerning further Japanese intentions in the Pacific. Welles believed American political opinion was not ready for too firm a stand against the Japanese, and Roosevelt agreed with the new version as opposed to the near-ultimatum that had been penned in Argentia. Principles expressed in the Atlantic Charter lasted far longer.
Christopher H. Sterling
Alldritt, Keith. The Greatest of Friends: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, 1941–1945. London: Robert Hale, 1995.; Gilbert, Martin. Winston S. Churchill. Vol. 6, Finest Hour, 1939–1941. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983.; Kimball, Warren F. Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill, and the Second World War. New York: William Morrow, 1997.; Morton, H. V. Atlantic Meeting: An Account of Mr. Churchill's Voyage in H.M.S. Prince of Wales, in August 1941, and the Conference with President Roosevelt Which Resulted in the Atlantic Charter. London: Methuen, 1943.; 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.; Wilson, Theodore A. The First Summit: Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, 1941. 2d ed. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.