ROOSEVELT, Franklin D., President. Autograph note (unsigned, "F.D.R." in text), Washington, D.C., n.d. [ca. December 1941], 1 page, 8vo, in dark pencil, White House notepad stationery, headed "The White House Washington."
ROOSEVELT PROPOSES EMERGENCY CONFERENCES WITH STALIN AND CHIANG KAI-SHEK AND PREPARES FOR HIS "ARCADIA CONFERENCE" WITH CHURCHILL
In the immediate wake of the Pearl Harbor disaster, with Japanese forces rampaging across the Pacific, Roosevelt plunges into global war planning in this four-point note, or "chit" as he liked to call it, probably directed to Harry Hopkins or another senior advisor. In a bold hand, the President writes: "1. Radio to Chiang to set up Joint Strategic Board to make plan for operations and report it to A.B.C.D. [American, British, Chinese, Dutch East Indies] + Russia. 2. Radio to W.S.C. [Winston S. Churchill] proposing conference on 22nd in Wash. A.B.C.D.R. 3. Radio FDR to Stalin, Conference in Moscow & Wash. 4. Arrange conference in Singapore."
The FDR Library has a 13 December 1941 letter from Henry Stimson to FDR that helps us date this intriguing note between 9 and 13 December. Stimson's letter addresses all the points enumerated here, including the Moscow conference and discussions with Chiang Kai-Shek. Clearly Roosevelt had broached these ideas prior to the 13th. The Singapore conference between British and American military brass took place on 18-20 December 1941, while Chiang Kai-Shek conferred with Allied emissaries in Chunking on 17 December. Roosevelt clearly wanted the recommendations from those two conclaves by 20 December, prior to Winston Churchill's arrival in Washington on 22 December for their historic Arcadia Conference, which re-affirmed the "Germany first" strategy of the August 1941 Atlantic Charter and resulted in the "Declaration by the United Nations," a sweeping statement of Allied war aims.
That key meeting had been proposed by the British, who worried that American rage over Pearl Harbor might lead to a Pacific-first strategy. Churchill requested a meeting on 9 December and set sail for America on the 10th. Some of Churchill's advisors worried that Americans might take offense at such a hasty summit. Shouldn't the British be more characteristically restrained? "Oh," Churchill replied, "that is the way we talked to her while we were wooing her; now that she is in the harem, we talk to her quite differently!" (Dallek, 318) Churchill stayed in the White House from 22 December to 14 January 1942. The Allies (to Chiang's dismay) would conduct only a holding operation in the Pacific. The Anglo-American alliance would be fraught with many tensions, but the two "former naval persons" cemented their friendship during this long visit, and their collaboration would form the foundation of the victorious alliance, and the "special relationship" that has existed ever since. The Declaration drafted at the Arcadia Conference also marked the first usage of the term "United Nations," a phrase Roosevelt himself coined.
Stalin, by contrast, showed no such eagerness to junket across the Atlantic. While second-level U.S. and Soviet officials regularly shuttled between Washington and Moscow, Stalin would never venture further than Teheran. U.S.- Soviet relations remained mistrustful throughout the war, and FDR's fabled charm proved unavailing in the two brief instances in which he tried it on Stalin at Teheran and Yalta. The Soviet dictator was impervious to sentiment, and while he admired Roosevelt personally, he never let the President's bonhomie soften his ruthless will.