The Atlantic Conference: FDR in his own words.

FDR  and Margaret Suckley on U.S.S. Potomac

FDR with Margaret "Daisy" Suckley on the Presidential yacht USS Potomac, September 1937.  The personal correspondence between the two sixth cousins which continued throughout the war years, included this account of the Atlantic Conference in Roosevelt's own words.

S.S. Augusta                         

Tuesday, August 5, 1941

M. [FDR to Daisy]

       Strange thing happened this morning--suddenly found ourselves transferred with all our baggage and mess crew from the little "Potomac" to the Great Big Cruiser "Augusta"!  And then the Island Martha's Vineyard disappeared in the distance, and as we head out into the Atlantic all we can see is our protecting escort, a heavy cruiser and four destroyers.  Curiously enough, the Potomac still flies my flag & tonight will be seen by thousands as she passes quietly through the Cape Cod Canal, guarded on shore by Secret Service and State Troopers while in fact the Pres. will be about 250 miles away.

Even at my ripe age, I feel a thrill in making a get-away -- especially from the American press.

  It was smooth sea and a lovely day.

USS Augusta

USS Augusta, which carried FDR to his meeting with Churchill and served as the Presidential flagship during the Atlantic Conference.

Wed. Aug. 6 – A bit of fog during the night, and our paravanes (anti-mine sweeps on each bow) made a lot of noises –This P.M. we are off Halifax and in the submarine area --Tho’ there have been no reports of them in these waters recently. We are lucky in having good visibility   This A.M. we got word of a leak: in London, but it seems to be pure guesswork.  I went up to the deck above -- alone in the bow and the spray came over as it has before  . . . .           

Argentia Bay US Naval Air Station, Newfoundland

The U.S. Naval Air station at Argetnia Bay, Newfoundland

Thursday --- We got to Argentia, Newfoundland, safely at 11 A.M. preceded by mine-sweepers, & found several destroyers and patrol planes at this new base of ours--one of the eight I got last August in exchange for the 50 destroyers.  It is a really beautiful harbor, high mountains, and deep water and fjord-like arms of the sea. 

HMS Prince of Wales

H.M.S. Prince of Wales carrying Prime Minster Winston Churchill to his meeting with President Roosvelt in Newfoundland.

President Roosevelt  greets Winston Churchill aboard the USS Augusta, at Argentia Bay, Newfoundland

President Roosevelt  greets Winston Churchill aboard the USS Augusta, with his sons Elliot (R) and Franklin Jr. (L)

Soon after we anchored in came one of our old battleships accompanied by two destroyers -- and on one of the latter F. Jr. is asst. navigator--so I have ordered him to be my Junior Naval Aide while I am here.  It was a complete surprise to him & to me to meet thus.

      Elliot has just returned from a survey flight to Baffin Land from Gander Lake, the army base 80 miles from here, so I have ordered him to join me as Junior Military Aid.  Again, pure luck, but very nice.

       I fished with F Jr. this P.M. and looked at the work on the Naval Station

Sat. Aug 9 --- The huge new H.M.S. Prince of Wales came up the bay wither two escorting corvettes & anchored alongside of us at 9:30 -- after exchanging "boarding calls" by officer, Winston Churchill came on board the Augusta at 11, accompanied by his staff, headed by 1st Sea Lord [Sir Dudley] Pound, Gen. [Sir John]

Atlantic Conference Menu, 9 August 1941

U.S.S Augusta Official Dinner Menu, FDR, Churchill and Staff

Sun. Aug 10 eve ---To go back a ways!  Last night I held the official dinner, 16 of us – very grand – in my cabin --- All the head American and British—toast to the King by me and to me by Churchill --- Then I asked him to sum up the war & later called upon Pound & Dill to say a few words – A very good party & and the "opposite numbers” are getting to know each other – We broke up at 11 a.m.

Atlantic Conference  Menu, 9 August 1941, signed

 

HMS Prince of Wales and USS McDougal

USS McDougal transferring President Roosevelt on board the HMS Prince of Wales, Sunday, August 10, 1941

Church Parade,  on the fantail of the HMS Pince of Wales during the Atlantic conference.

Church Service on the afterdeck of HMS Prince of Wales

FDR & Churchill and staffs, on HMS Prince of Wales, Argentia Bay, 1941

FDR & Churchill and staffs on HMS Prince of Wales, Sunday, August 10, 1941

This A.M. at 10:30 I crossed the deck of the destroyer, went alongside the Prince of Wales, was received with “honors,” inspected the guard and walked aft to the quarter deck – & then the service was held—300 men
from our ships had come over for it – A British & an American chaplain did the prayers, Capt Leach [of the Prince of Wales] read the lesson – and then we were all photographed – front, sides and rear!  Next I inspected  the P. of W. in my chair, then sherry in the Ward Room & then a “beautiful” lunch for about 40 –Toasts followed by two speeches.

This P.M. a military and naval conference in my cabin—and now I’m ready for bed after dining Winston Churchill, his military aids & mine.

      Mon. eve – Aug. 11 --- A day of very poor weather but good talks.  My staff came at 12, lunched, and we worked over [the] joint statement.  They went and Churchill returned at 6:30 & we had a delightful little dinner of five:  Harry Hopkins, Elliot, F. Jr., Churchill & myself.  We talked about everything except the war!   I so wish you could have been at the Church Service yesterday & the little dinner tonight!  How easy it is really to do big things if you can get an hour off!  Churchill said it was the nicest evening he had! 

 Atlantic Charter, annotated.by Winston Churchill

Draft of the Atlantic Charter, annotated by Winston Churchill

FDR's complete version of the Atlantic Charter

FDR's press release on the Atlantic Charter

HMS Prince of Wales in Argentia Bay, Newfoundland

HMS Prince of Wales in Argentia Bay, Newfoundland

It was the first bad day -– raw and misty and typical Newfoundland weather.  The Governor of N. lunched on the P. of W. with WSC & came to call on me at 3 P.M. WSC came on board the Augusta with approval of statement by his Cabinet& the King -- & after a few minor changes we gave final OK’s and drew up the letter to [Marshal Joseph] Stalin, & arranged for release dates etc.  The various officers came over after dinner, and we are satisfied they understand each other & that any further need of conversations will meet with less crossed wires.

Tues.  Aug. – Still misty –W.S.C. to lunch with Lord [Maxwell] Beaverbrook [Minster of Supply] who landed this P.M. by plane at Gander Lake from Scotland. They left at 3:30, their whole staff coming to say goodbye – It was a very moving scene as they received full honors going over the side.

Churchill watching the departure of FDR following  the Atlantic conference.

Churchill watching the departure of FDR on the USS Augusta following the Atlantic Conference.

At 5 P.M. sharp the P. of W. passed out of the harbor, past all our ships.  All crews were at quarters.  She was escorted by her two corvettes & 2 Am. destroyers.  F. Jr. on board one of the latter.  Elliot left on a different secret mission, flying over Greenland’s ice cap to Ireland.

     Ten minutes later we too stood out of the harbor with our escort, homeward bound.  So end these four days that I feel have contributed to the things we hold dear –

Wed. Aug. 13 – At sea – off Nova Scotia

    All well and a bit of a let down!  But the afterthoughts are good and we hope the country will approve.  It’s still relatively smooth – very lucky both ways – I slept 12 hours!

U.S.S.  Potomac

U.S.S.  Potomac met President Roosevelt outside Blue Hill bay, near Mount Desert Island, Maine, following the Atlantic Conference.

Thurs. [Aug. 14] --  At 11 A.M., we picked up the high hills of Mount Desert – our new experimental ship the “Long Island” appeared & went through her exercises.  At 2 we anchored off Blue Hill Bay, the little Potomac came alongside, we said goodbye to the Augusta, transferred, a run to the mouth of Eggemoggin Reach safe from submarines & are anchored in protective cove trying to catch some flounder and buy some lobsters.

    The radio talks & talks of the conference & the commentators are mostly very silly or very mendacious!  Why can’t they stick to facts?  It was funny to see a paper again – borrowed from a fisherman!

Deer Isle Bridge, Eggmoggin Reach, Maine

FDR sailed under the newly completed Deer Isle Bridge, over Eggmoggin Reach, on his way to Rockland, Maine, via Pulpit Harbor, to conclude his "fishing trip" and board a train back to Washington.

     Fri. – Aug. 15  We came slowly thro’ the reach, saw the new bridge P.W.A. built from the mainland to Deer Isle, fished, caught nought and anchored tonight in Pulpit Harbor [island of North Haven], the loveliest tiniest “hole in the wall” on the whole coast – Tomorrow we have only a dozen miles to Rockland where we take the train – I fear that 50 newshawks will meet us.   That part will be harder than the conference itself—

 

Aff

 F

 

This excerpt from the Margaret Suckley papers at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library at Hyde Park is drawn from Closest Companion:  The Unknown Story of the Intimate Friendship between Franklin Roosevelt and Margaret Suckley, edited and annotated by Geoffrey C. Ward, and published by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1995.

The Atlantic Conference: FDR in his own words.