Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood With Britain in it’s Darkest hour….By Lynne Olson   496 pages


Churchill had snubbed FDR at a meeting in 1918.  FDR was still angry in 1940 when Churchill assumed the reins in Britain.  Roosevelt was determined to make Britain pay dearly for whatever aid America sent.  Churchill thought this was grossly unfair.  Was it unfair?  If the situation had been reversed, do you think the British would have treated America the same way? 


After the war, we took advantage of Britain again when we made the dollar the world standard currency and set ourselves up as the chief regulators of international trade and commerce.  Would our standard of living be the same, better or worse if we had not done that? 


Of the three main characters, Winant, Murrow, and Harriman; who had the most effect on history?  Who had the most influence with Churchill?  Who had the most influence with Roosevelt?


As you read the book, did your feelings change towards each of these men?  Did you change your opinion of Churchill or Roosevelt as a result of reading the book?


Joseph P. Kennedy was certain Britain would fall.  Britain refused to surrender.

Most military historians say that Germany could have finished them off.  Why do you think Hitler called off the attack on the British? 


In the beginning, we were no more prepared for war than England was.  As time passed, however, our war machine cranked out massive amounts of war materials.

If Japan had not attacked America at Pearl Harbor, do you think Roosevelt would have ever taken America into the European war?


In the decades that followed the war, Winant's approach to international relations - "to concentrate on the things that unite humanity rather than divide it" - was regarded as simplistic and naive.  Toughness was now the mantra.

Do you think that toughness is still the mantra?  Do you think that Winant’s approach would accomplish more in international relations?


Murrow used the broadcast media, at CBS as well as the BBC,  more effectively than anyone before him.  He held fast to the conviction that Britain would somehow survive.  Murrow believed that journalists should champion the common man; but in his private life he sought admission to the clubs and private world of the well to do.  Churchill realized how important Murrow could be, and gave Murrow access to the highest halls of the British government. The author says that, “In their advocacy of the British cause there is no question that Murrow and the other American reporters were blurring the line between journalism and propaganda”.  Do you think journalists should report from an impartial point of view or speak/write from their own point of view (the way I see it)?

Murrow reported on government events but he much preferred to go out in the street and talk to the common man.  Is this why he was  so successful?


Murrow loved Janet, but he wanted Pam. Pamela Churchill wrote that “Ed was the love of her life”.  When Edward R. Murrow broke up with Pam after the birth of his son Casey; he sent her a two-word telegram “Casey Wins”.  Is that a good way to end a relationship? 


Winant was shy, tongue-tied, and a poor speaker: yet he won over most of the audiences he spoke to.  How was this possible?  When English coal miners were threatening to strike, Churchill asked Winant to talk to them.  Hardly within the duties of an Ambassador, he talked to them and won them over.  After the war

he enjoyed near rock star popularity in Britain.  What do you think was Winant’s most important contribution to the war effort? 


John Gilbert Winant, U.S. Ambassador to England, fell in love with Sara Churchill.

Gil wanted Sara to get divorced and marry him.  Sara did get divorced, but she decided she wanted to be free more than she wanted Winant.  Wiant’s life ended in a suicide. 


W. Averell Harriman described Pamela Churchill as the love of his life.  They had an on again off again affair.  He never gave up on her.  At age 79 they were finally married.  Pamela went on to become active in the Democratic Party, and was appointed Ambassador to France.  What is your opinion of Pamela Churchill?


Do you think that the two Churchill women, Pamela and Sara, could have been spies for their father?


Lynn Olson painted Murrow and Winant as gallant crusaders; while calling Harriman an opportunist.  How would you describe the character of each ?

Harriman was described as a good deal maker, but a poor manager.  Was this a positive a attribute for his job in England?



The generals under Eisenhower all felt that the other country’s armed forces were unskilled, lazy and lacked the will to fight. Nonetheless, Eisenhower insisted on complete cooperation, as if everyone fought for one country.  This made him unpopular  with the generals under him on both sides.  The facts proved the generals wrong, but they stood by their opinions just the same.  What made the generals on each side think their side had the superior forces?  Do you think this attitude extended all the way down to the soldiers in the field?


Tommy Hitchcock was put in charge of developing the P51 Mustang, a fighter aircraft made for the RAF.  It was discovered that it performed better with the British made Rolls Royce engine; but the Americans wanted to use an American made engine.  In industry this is known as the NIH (not invented here) syndrome.

Do you think that our armed forces today suffer from the same syndrome? 

Eisenhower ordered them to use the Rolls Royce engine and the plane performed

extremely well.  Why was Eisenhower partial to the British engine?


Harriman lived a life of luxury in London while the British were living with shortages of almost everything, including food.  Winant lived on the standard British rations.  Do you think  Harriman should have lived a more Spartan life?

Should Winant have lived more like an Ambassador? 


Britain drafted women to do war work.  American women worked at factories making war weapons.  How would you feel about a draft for women? 


The Allies landed in North Africa. The French forces only put up token resistance and Darlan was forced to surrender on November 11th.  However, to bring on board all loyalty amongst French troops in North Africa,  Eisenhower appointed Darlan as civil and military chief of French North Africa.  Both Charles de Gaulle and leaders within the French Resistance were angered by this decision as they saw Darlan as little more than a collaborator.  However, the decision was supported by both Churchill and Roosevelt who agreed with Eisenhower's logic - that it would bring on board most if not all of the French military still in North Africa.  Why was Eisenhower blamed, when both Churchill and Roosevelt supported the decision to appoint Darlan?  Upon Darlan’s assassination, Henri Giraud was appointed to replace him.  He was not any better.  Why were the French so difficult for the English and Americans to deal with? 



Churchill had promised a free Poland, but did not deliver on his promise.  Why did he back down to Stalin when it came time to divide the spoils of war?


Discussion Guide by Kenneth Mason Reiss Jr.


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