An Original Pass to the Atlantic Conference, Issued to the Man Who Ran the Temporary White House During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Attendance at the Epochal Meeting With Winston Churchill

The only Atlantic Charter pass we have ever seen, and a superb signed photograph; It is issued to the man who managed that operation and hosted FDR

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Never before offered for sale

In August 1941, the Axis was still very much in the ascendant. By the end of May, German forces had inflicted humiliating defeats upon British, Greek, and Yugoslav forces in the Balkans and were threatening to overrun Egypt and close off the Suez Canal, thereby restricting British...

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An Original Pass to the Atlantic Conference, Issued to the Man Who Ran the Temporary White House During Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Attendance at the Epochal Meeting With Winston Churchill

The only Atlantic Charter pass we have ever seen, and a superb signed photograph; It is issued to the man who managed that operation and hosted FDR

Never before offered for sale

In August 1941, the Axis was still very much in the ascendant. By the end of May, German forces had inflicted humiliating defeats upon British, Greek, and Yugoslav forces in the Balkans and were threatening to overrun Egypt and close off the Suez Canal, thereby restricting British access to its possessions in India. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, few policymakers in Washington or London believed that the Soviets would be able to resist the Nazi onslaught for long. While the British Government focused its efforts on dealing with the Germans in Europe, they were also concerned that Japan might take advantage of the situation to seize British, French, and Dutch territories in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the carefully stage-managed meetings and alliance between Hitler and Mussolini were grimly foreboding.

The United States had, in March, passed the Lend Lease Act, and was giving Britain moral and material succor; but it was not yet in the war. The U.S. had a decision to make, its leaders knew: either get into the conflict in some more active way or face the possibility that the Axis coalition of Germany – Japan – Italy would snap up all Europe and East Asia and the American people to face their juggernaut alone. President Roosevelt was convinced that U.S. action had become an absolute necessity and, against much criticism at home, determined to risk involvement by meeting with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The White House felt the necessity to keep the imminent meeting secret, and on August 3, 1941, announced FDR’s plans for “a week’s vacation in New England waters.” It told a startled newspaper corps that journalists would not be permitted to accompany the President on an escort ship. Later in the day FDR arrived at the New London (Connecticut) Submarine Base. There, at 8:30 P.M., he boarded a ship to the squeal of a bosun’s pipe and snap of the presidential ensign being run up the mast. Then, in the afterglow of sunset, the ship traveled down the Thames Channel to salt water and cruised along the coast to anchor at Point Judith, Rhode Island. On sailing from New London, the President severed all contact with the public until his return; not even the crew knew where they were bound. His ship then headed towards Massachusetts.

Virtually unknown to history, while Roosevelt was traveling to meet Churchill, attend the meeting and return to the U.S., he felt it necessary to set up a land-based communications center. So far from Washington and the glare of publicity, he established a temporary White House at the New Ocean House hotel in Swampscott, Massachusetts. That venue was run by Col. Clement Kennedy, and had served as the summer White House for President and Mrs. Coolidge. It thus had a proven track record, so FDR was comfortable staying there and working with its management.

Churchill and Roosevelt met on August 9 and 10, 1941 aboard the U.S.S. Augusta in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland, to discuss their respective war aims for the Second World War and to outline a postwar international system. The Atlantic Charter they drafted included eight “common principles” that the United States and Great Britain would be committed to supporting in the postwar world. Both countries agreed not to seek territorial expansion; to seek the liberalization of international trade; to establish freedom of the seas, and international labor, economic, and welfare standards. Most importantly, both the United States and Great Britain were committed to supporting the restoration of self-governments for all countries that had been occupied during the war and allowing all peoples to choose their own form of government

While the Atlantic Charter of August 1941 was not a binding treaty, it was, nonetheless, significant for several reasons. First, it publicly affirmed the sense of solidarity between the U.S. and Great Britain against Axis aggression. Second, it laid out President Roosevelt’s Wilsonian-vision for the postwar world; one that would be characterized by establishment of the UN, freer exchanges of trade, self-determination, disarmament, and collective security. Third, it laid the groundwork for NATO and the ongoing U.S./British alliance. Finally, the Charter ultimately did serve as an inspiration for colonial subjects throughout the Third World, as they fought for independence.

During the time that his hotel was the temporary White House, Ocean House president Clement Kennedy needed a pass to have access to FDR and his White House staff onsite. This is Kennedy’s pass as part of the President’s trip to “New London submarine base and New England coast”, signed by FDR’s press secretary, Stephen Early. It is the only pass for the Atlantic Conference we have ever seen. Accompanying it is a beautiful 8 by 10 inch Harris & Ewing photograph of FDR as President, inscribed and signed to “For Clement Kennedy from Franklin D. Roosevelt”.  Likely signed at the time.

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