18 June 1940

The “Finest Hour” speech is delivered by Winston Churchill.

"This was their finest hour" was a speech delivered by Winston Churchill to the House of Commons of the United Kingdom on 18 June 1940, just over a month after he took over as Prime Minister at the head of an all-party coalition government.

It was the third of three speeches which he gave during the period of the Battle of France, after the "Blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech of 13 May and the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech of 4 June.[1][2] "This was their finest hour" was made after France had sought an armistice on the evening of 16 June.[a]

Message

In his speech, Churchill justified the low level of support it had been possible to give to France since the Dunkirk Evacuation, and reported the successful evacuation of most of the supporting forces. He resisted pressure to purge the coalition of appeasers, or otherwise indulge in recrimination. He reviewed the forces still available to prevent or repel any attempted invasion,[b] summing up the review as follows:

I have thought it right upon this occasion to give the House and the country some indication of the solid, practical grounds upon which we base our inflexible resolve to continue the war, and I can assure them that our professional advisers of the three Services unitedly advise that we should do so, and that there are good and reasonable hopes of final victory.

He reported messages of support from the Dominions[c] and justified confidence in victory, even if it was not yet clear how that victory could be achieved.

In casting up this dread balance-sheet, contemplating our dangers with a disillusioned eye, I see great reason for intense vigilance and exertion, but none whatever for panic or despair. During the first four years of the last war the Allies experienced,...nothing but disaster and disappointment, and yet at the end their morale was higher than that of the Germans, who had moved from one aggressive triumph to another. During that war we repeatedly asked ourselves the question, "How are we going to win?" and no one was able ever to answer it with much precision, until at the end, quite suddenly, quite unexpectedly, our terrible foe collapsed before us.

Peroration

The peroration, even at a moment of great apparent danger to British national survival, talks not only of national survival and national interest but also of noble causes (freedom, Christian civilisation and the rights of small nations) for which Britain was fighting and for which Churchill thought the United States should and eventually would fight.[4][d] The War Illustrated published the speech with the title "'If the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, this was their finest hour'".[6]

....However matters may go in France or with the French Government or with another French Government, we in this island and in the British Empire will never lose our sense of comradeship with the French people. If we are now called upon to endure what they have been suffering, we shall emulate their courage, and if final victory rewards our toils they shall share the gains, aye. And freedom shall be restored to all. We abate nothing of our just demands—Czechs, Poles, Norwegians, Dutch, Belgians, all who have joined their causes to our own shall be restored.

What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over... the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth[e] last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

Preparation and delivery

The speech was delivered to the Commons at 3:49 pm,[7] and lasted 36 minutes. Churchill, as was his habit, made revisions to his 23-page typescript right up to and during the speech. The final passage of his typescript was laid out in blank verse format, which Churchill scholars consider reflective of the influence of the Psalms on his oratory style.[8]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Churchill had already made a short wireless broadcast on the afternoon of 17 May

    We have become the sole champions now in arms to defend the world cause...We shall defend our Island home, and with the British Empire we shall fight on unconquerable until the curse of Hitler is lifted from the brows of mankind. We are sure that in the end all will come right[3]

  2. ^ Touching in passing upon (and making light of) the entry of Italy into the war on the side of Germany

    We are also told that the Italian Navy is to come to gain sea superiority in these waters. If they seriously intend it, I shall only say that we shall be delighted to offer Signor Mussolini a free and safeguarded passage through the Straits of Gibraltar in order that he may play the part which he aspires to do. There is general curiosity in the British Fleet to find out whether the Italians are up to the level they were at in the last war or whether they have fallen off at all

  3. ^ Two versions exist of this portion of the speech, the version given in the on-line Hansard being considerably shorter; see the discussion page
  4. ^ In a Secret Session of the House two days later, Churchill gave his view that the USA would not support Britain if they thought it was down and out. The best chance of American intervention was the spectacle of Britain engaged in a heroic struggle. Already the US had promised Britain the fullest aid with munitions; after the US November elections, Churchill had no doubt, the whole English-speaking world would be in line together[5]
  5. ^ the on-line electronic Hansard has at this point 'the British Commonwealth and Empire'. as noted earlier, there are also discrepancies in the treatment given to the Dominions

References

  1. ^ Hansard debate, 13 May 1940 "His Majesty's Government"
  2. ^ The Churchill Centre: We Shall Fight on the Beaches
  3. ^ BBC Written Archives quoted in Gilbert, Martin (27 June 1983). Finest Hour: Winston S. Churchill 1939–1941. Heinemann. p. 566. ISBN 978-0434291878.
  4. ^ "The Finest Hour Speech". History on the Net. Retrieved 16 August 2018.
  5. ^ Gilbert (1983), p. 579
  6. ^ "'If the Empire lasts a thousand years men will say, this was their finest hour'". The War Illustrated. 28 June 1940. pp. 686–687. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  7. ^ War Situation, retrieved 18 June 2010
  8. ^ Burns, John F. (18 June 2010), "Seventy Years Later, Churchill's 'Finest Hour' Yields Insights", New York Times, retrieved 18 June 2010

External links

18 June 1979

SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) II is signed by the United States and the Soviet Union.

Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union that were aimed at curtailing the manufacture of strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons. The first agreements, known as SALT I and SALT II, were signed by the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in 1972 and 1979, respectively, and were intended to restrain the arms race in strategic ballistic missiles armed with nuclear weapons. First suggested by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, strategic arms limitation talks were agreed on by the two superpowers in the summer of 1968, and full-scale negotiations began in November 1969.

Of the resulting complex of agreements, the most important were the Treaty on Anti-Ballistic Missile Systems and the Interim Agreement and Protocol on Limitation of Strategic Offensive Weapons. Both were signed by President Richard M. Nixon for the United States and Leonid Brezhnev, general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, for the U.S.S.R. on May 26, 1972, at a summit meeting in Moscow.

The ABM treaty regulated antiballistic missiles that could theoretically be used to destroy incoming intercontinental ballistic missiles launched by the other superpower. The treaty limited each side to only one ABM deployment areae and 100 interceptor missiles. These limitations prevented either party from defending more than a small fraction of its entire territory, and thus kept both sides subject to the deterrent effect of the other’s strategic forces. The ABM treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate on Aug. 3, 1972. The Interim Agreement froze each side’s number of ICBMs and submarine-launched ballistic missiles at current levels for five years, pending negotiation of a more detailed SALT II. As an executive agreement, it did not require U.S. Senate ratification, but it was approved by Congress in a joint resolution.

The SALT II negotiations opened late in 1972 and continued for seven years. A basic problem in these negotiations was the asymmetry between the strategic forces of the two countries, the U.S.S.R. having concentrated on missiles with large warheads while the United States had developed smaller missiles of greater accuracy. Questions also arose as to new technologies under development, matters of definition, and methods of verification.

As finally negotiated, the SALT II treaty set limits on the number of strategic launchers i.e., missiles that can be equipped with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles, with the object of deferring the time when both sides’ land-based ICBM systems would become vulnerable to attack from such missiles. Limits were put on the number of MIRVed ICBMs, MIRVed SLBMs, heavy bombers, and the total number of strategic launchers. The treaty set an overall limit of about 2,400 of all such weapons systems for each side. The SALT II treaty was signed by President Jimmy Carter and Brezhnev in Vienna on June 18, 1979, and was submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification shortly thereafter. But renewed tensions between the superpowers prompted Carter to remove the treaty from Senate consideration in January 1980, after the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. The United States and the Soviet Union voluntarily observed the arms limits agreed upon in SALT II in subsequent years, however. Meanwhile, the renewed negotiations that opened between the two superpowers in Geneva in 1982 took the name of Strategic Arms Reduction Talks or START.

18 June 1983

The astronaut Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space.

One of six women selected in NASA’s 1978 astronaut class, Sally Ride was the first of them to fly. When she rode aboard the space shuttle Challenger as it lifted off from Kennedy Space Center on June 18, 1983, she became the first American woman in space and captured the nation’s attention and imagination as a symbol of the ability of women to break barriers. As one of the three mission specialists on the STS-7 mission, she played a vital role in helping the crew deploy communications satellites, conduct experiments and make use of the first Shuttle Pallet Satellite. Her pioneering voyage and remarkable life helped, as President Barack Obama said soon after her death last summer, “inspire generations of young girls to reach for the stars” for she “showed us that there are no limits to what we can achieve.”

Sally Ride was born in Los Angeles, California, on May 26, 1951. Fascinated by science from a young age, she pursued the study of physics, along with English, in school. As she was graduating from Stanford University with a Ph.D. in physics, having done research in astrophysics and free electron laser physics, Ride noticed a newspaper ad for NASA astronauts. She turned in an application, along with 8,000 other people, and was one of only 35 chosen to join the astronaut corps. Joining NASA in 1978, she served as the ground-based capsule communicator, or capcom, for the second and third space shuttle missions and helped with development of the space shuttle’s robotic arm.After her selection for the crew of STS-7, and thereby becoming the first American woman in space, Ride faced intense media attention.