USS Winston Churchill
Why the Navy named a ship after a British prime minister
In 2001, the Navy commissioned its 18th Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81). The ship is currently the only vessel in the fleet that honors a foreigner. Here are a few reasons why.
1. Born at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England, Nov. 30, 1874, Winston Churchill was the child of Lord Randolph Henry Spencer-Churchill, younger son of the duke of Marlborough, and Jennie Jerome, an American heiress. According to a British newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, through his mother, Churchill could not only claim ancestors who fought against the British in the American Revolution, but also a little Native American blood (according to family tradition). Following the attacks at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in December 1941, Churchill told a joint session of Congress that "I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own."
2. Churchill was something of a famous war hero. After attending the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, he became a cavalry officer in the 4th Queen's Own Hussars and served around the world, both in the British army and as a war correspondent. For example, anticipating the outbreak of the Second Boer War, Churchill travelled to South Africa in 1899. He was eventually captured as a prisoner of war and interned in Pretoria. In December, Churchill and two other inmates escaped. After stowing aboard a freight train and hiding in a coal mine, Churchill eventually made it to safety in Portuguese East Africa. He chronicled the experience in "Hero on the Empire."
3. Over the course of 66 years, Churchill made 16 visits to the United States. He traveled here as soldier, lecturer, politician, tourist, world leader, wartime ally and elder statesman. By his own account, America was "a very great country ... not pretty or romantic, but great and utilitarian."
4. Before he became prime minister, Churchill held a multitude of positions in Parliament, many defense related. His roles included minister of defense, first lord of the admiralty and chairman of the Military Coordinating Committee. By the time World War II broke out in 1939, he was ready to lead Britain as a wartime prime minister and also coordinate with the Allies, according to the International Churchill Society.
5. Over the years, Churchill got to know many American politicians, including presidents from William McKinley to John F. Kennedy. His relationship with Franklin D. Roosevelt is the most famous, and one of the key elements of the Allied partnership. The British Broadcasting Corporation credits the two men, together with the third "Big Three" member, Joseph Stalin of the USSR, with the ultimate victory of World War II.
6. According to The Daily Telegraph, after Churchill became prime minister in 1940, he had to win the anti-British U.S. over to his side. He wrote Roosevelt two or three letters a week and, faced with a choice between begging and inspiring the Americans, he chose to push an image of a brave island race winning against almost insurmountable odds. "We shall get the Americans in by showing courage and boldness and prospects of success and not by running ourselves down," he said in a British Defence Committee meeting in May 1941, as reported by the book "Winston's War" by Max Hastings.