Friday, August 20, 2010
August 20, 1940.
One hot summer seventy years ago, a small Island of free men and women stood firm and alone against the onslaught of the dark forces of tyranny.
Great Britain. August 20, 1940. Winston Churchill addresses the houses of Parliament and the people of Great Britain.
Dunkirk has already fallen. The British army fled France, beaten by a German onslaught the likes of which the world had never seen. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the United States' entry into the war was still more than 15 months away.
With Europe enslaved, Britain stood alone. On June 18, 1940, Churchill told the nation and the world that the Battle for France was over and The Battle for Britain was about to begin.
In perhaps his most famous speech, Churchill summed up what was at stake:
In July 1940 Hitler ordered Hermann Goring to send his Luftwaffe against the Royal Air Force. They fought over the skies of Great Britain and London, the peak of the battle occurring August 18, 1940 in what was later called "The Hardest Day". Churchill watched fighter operations on August 16, 17, 18, 1940, and at one point after the end of a battle shooed away his staff saying "Don't talk to me. I have never been so moved."
And so every day and night in the summer of 1940, a few hundred young English pilots soared into the skies over their homeland, facing overwhelming odds and courageously ignoring an average life expectancy of less than 90 days. With perhaps the fate of the free world and civilization as we know it hanging in the balance and on their wings, the Battle Of Britain was fought. The stakes were high. Knowing that a German victory in the air would bring on a full scale invasion of his Island, Churchill again addressed his nation and the world. The full speech is below, it is a shade less than eight minutes, and we strongly urge you to listen to it. He was the greatest man of the 20th Century and one of the very greatest leaders ever seen. And seventy years ago he had this to say:
The great air battle which has been in progress over this Island for the last few weeks has recently attained a high intensity. It is too soon to attempt to assign limits either to its scale or to its duration. We must certainly expect that greater efforts will be made by the enemy than any he has so far put forth....
The gratitude of every home in our Island, in our Empire, and indeed throughout the world, except in the abodes of the guilty, goes out to the British airmen who, undaunted by odds, unwearied in their constant challenge and mortal danger, are turning the tide of the World War by their prowess and by their devotion. Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. All our hearts go out to the fighter pilots, whose brilliant actions we see with our own eyes day after day…