Most historians agree that the Battle of Britain in World War II started on July 10, 1940 – 72 years ago today. While in the popular imagination the Battle of Britain was centered on “The Blitz” (the massive air raids against Great Britain by Luftwaffe bombers carried out in the fall and winter of 1940-41), the Battle really began that summer with German attacks on British convoys and ships in the English Channel and the North Atlantic.
Most Americans – even those of us too young to have lived through the events – associate this period of time with a brand of toughness and stoicism in the face of danger and hardship little seen in our day. From the tough, uplifting rhetoric of the great Winston Churchill (who gave this famous speech to the House of Commons in June of 1940) to the resolve of King George VI to the simple, public refusal of Queen Consort Elizabeth (the late mother of the current Queen) to abandon London or even evacuate her daughters; the fighting spirit and moral clarity call us to face our own battles with such resolve and purpose. The events of those months have inspired other leaders in times of trouble – including Mayor Rudy Giuliani on 9/11:
I was trying to think, where can I go for some comparison to this, some lessons about how to handle it? So I started thinking about Churchill, started thinking that we’re going to have to rebuild the spirit of the city, and what better example than Churchill and the people of London during the Blitz in 1940, who had to keep up their spirit during this sustained bombing? It was a comforting thought.
Comforting, indeed. How grateful we should be to have examples like Churchill to look to for strength and inspiration. There is no problem so daunting, so powerful, so evil that it cannot be conquered by the will of a free people.