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15 October 2014
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Timeline - 1939-1945

Fact File : Second Washington Conference

11 to 25 May 1943

Location: Washington
Players: Churchill, Roosevelt, British and US diplomatic advisers.
Outcome: Allies decide to postpone the invasion of France by 12 months.

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrives at the White House with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the start of the Second Washington Conference
British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arrives at the White House with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt at the start of the Second Washington Conference©
The Allies' Second Washington Conference, held in May 1943, was codenamed Trident. The primary focus of the conference was future strategy in the European war. A major decision was made to delay the invasion of France; a date was set for May the following year. To establish air bases in the Azores, the Allies also decided to apply to Portugal for assistance.

The conference returned to the subject of unconditional surrender, first referred to in the Casablanca Conference four months earlier. Unconditional surrender (by Germany, Japan and Italy) does not appear as a term in the report of this first summit meeting, but Roosevelt had discussed the matter with his staff before his departure for Casablanca. Some advisers were against such harsh terms - US General Eisenhower and British General Maitland Wilson in particular. This was debated again at Trident, but Roosevelt was adamant.

It has been suggested by conference attendee General Albert Wedemeyer (of the US Army War Plans Division) that both the Casablanca Conference and the Second Washington Conference had competitive atmospheres. The Americans left Casablanca feeling that they had '... lost [their] shirts ... [they] came; [they] listened and [they] were conquered.'

Wedemeyer also recorded that they didn't wish to experience such a defeat in the debating arena again. But despite meticulous preparation on behalf of US diplomats, Churchill still managed a minor coup by returning focus to the war in the Mediterranean. He persuaded the Americans to endorse the Sicilian campaign and postpone the Normandy landings for another year.

The fact files in this timeline were commissioned by the BBC in June 2003 and September 2005. Find out more about the authors who wrote them.


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