New York: Associated Press, 1941. Photograph. This original Second World War Associated Press photograph captures U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 10 August 1941 on board the HMS Prince of Wales during their clandestine Atlantic Charter Conference.
The gelatin silver print on glossy photo paper measures 9 x 7 inches (22.9 x 17.8 cm). While many images were captured during this embargoed press photo opportunity aboard the Prince of Wales, this particular image, with FDR mugging with a “thumbs up” while seated beside Churchill, is not one we have previously encountered. A printed “ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO FROM NEW YORK” label titled “ROOSEVELT GIVES THUMBS UP SIGN” is affixed to the verso. The caption reads “IN A JOVIAL MOOD AS HE SITS BESIDE BRITISH PRIME MINISTER WINSTON CHURCHILL (RIGHT) PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT MAKES A THUMBS UP SIGN. THE TWO LEADERS ARE SEATED TO-GETHER ON THE DECK OF THE BRITISH BATTLE-SHIP, PRINCE OF WALES, DURING THEIR RECENT CONFERENCE AT SEA.” The label is dated “8/24/41”. What appears to be the embargo stamp (“Note to the Edit…” is just visible) is mostly obscured by the paper label. A further date stamp on the verso reads “SEP 2 1941”. Condition of the photo approaches very good. The image remains bright, the surface of the photo paper substantially free of scratches. Nonetheless there are some light creases to the print and minor wear to extremities. The image is protected within a clear, removable, archival sleeve
Few relationships between world leaders proved as world-defining as the relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. When the Second World War broke out in September 1939, FDR had already been President of the United States for six and a half years. By contrast, Churchill had spent most of the 1930s out of power and out of favor, warning against the growing Nazi threat and often at odds with both his Party leadership and prevailing public sentiment. Only on 3 September 1939 did Churchill return to the British Cabinet as First Lord of the Admiralty. On 11 September, President Roosevelt initiated what would become a momentous correspondence, writing “My dear Churchill… I want you to know how glad I am that you are back again in the Admiralty… I shall at all times welcome it if you will keep me in touch personally with anything you want me to know about.” (ed. Kimball, Complete Correspondence Vol.I, p.24) Churchill responded with the amusingly transparent code name “Naval Person” which he changed to “Former Naval Person” when he became prime minister in May 1940.
In August 1941, British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill braved the Battle of the Atlantic to voyage by battleship to Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, where he met secretly with U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Their agenda included setting constructive goals for the post-war world, even as the struggle against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan was still very much undecided and the U.S. had yet to formally enter the war. The eight principles to which they agreed became known as the Atlantic Charter. “That it had little legal validity did not detract from its value… Coming from the two great democratic leaders of the day… the Atlantic Charter created a profound impression… a message of hope… and… the promise of a world organization based on the enduring verities of international morality.” (United Nations)
Nonetheless, Atlantic Charter principles were remote from the realities of war in August 1941. Even after Newfoundland, to Churchill’s frustration, America had still “made no commitments and was no nearer to war.” (Gilbert, VI, p.1176) Not until December 1941, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, did America formally enter the war and not until October 1945 was the United Nations established, embodying the lofty principles of the Atlantic Charter.
HMS Prince of Wales was sunk by Japanese bombers three days after Pearl Harbor, one of the first capital ships to be sunk solely by air power on the open sea. Item #006563