When it all comes down to it, I don’t tend to agree with the people that the media wants me to perceive as heroes. I admire the courage of a fireman who runs into a burning building, a policeman who braves gunfire to rescue children and a soldier who tries to stay true to his or her ideals while serving in the military, but they’re not heroes to me, not role models for my children.
Which isn’t to say that I don’t have heroes and don’t strive to emulate the upstanding behavior and compassion of people who lived in the past. Gandhi is one example that comes to mind, someone who had enough courage to NOT raise his fists in response to outrageous violence and situations (which takes a lot more courage than picking up a gun and shooting back).
But I don’t want to remember Gandhi in this post, I want to write about the man that I believe was the true hero of World War II, a man that England and society unfairly shunned after the War, Sir Winston Churchill.
A man with famously prodigious appetites, Churchill was the only one of the Allies who truly understood the danger and risks in both the War and the Alliance itself. Certainly American President Franklin Roosevelt, who was suffering from poor health, tried to stay plugged in, but he had to manage both prongs of the war, Europe and Asia. Stalin, well, what’s to say about the psycho Josef Stalin that isn’t highlighted in the fact that he was responsible for the death of millions of his own people in a misguided attempt to purge the Soviet Union of wrong-thinkers?
It was Winston Churchill, taking over the role of Prime Minister from the incompetent Lord Neville Chamberlain, who began saying in the 1930s that Hitler was a danger to the peace of all men and that no deals should be brokered with the German Reich. Chamberlain, by contrast, signed over part of Czechoslovakia to the Third Reich in a naive and misguided attempt at “peace in our time.”
On the darkest days for Britain, through the Battle of Britain, the retreat at Dunkirk, and even in forging the secret UK-US alliance five months before Roosevelt officially declared War (due to the miscalculation on Japan’s part in its bombing of Pearl Harbor), it was Churchill who stood up and said:
“We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old. . .”
And so, today, I invite you to pause and give thanks, for just a brief moment, that this giant of a man, this true hero, Sir Winston Churchill, had the courage to hold true to his own ideals and inspire the Allies to victory. Say what you will about the current state of the world, it would be unimaginably different if Germany would have won World War II.
Some additional reading: