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Myths

By John H. Mather MD CIP FACPE

Lord Moran (Dr. Charles McMoran Wilson, pronounced to rhyme with "sporran") was Winston Churchill's primary physician from 1940 until his patients death in 1965.[1] The following year he simultaneously published his memoirs in the UK and USA.[2] The response was immediate and highly critical. Churchill's family and his immediate political entourage were outraged.

Moran's medical colleagues considered the revealing of any information on his illustrious patient a breach of medical ethics.[3] Several of Churchill's confidants during World War II and his second premiership were incensed by Moran's book and considered it "an inexcusable breach of confidence."[4] Six authors challenged Moran on several counts, including his assessments of Churchill's performance, political acumen and personal relationships, especially his disparaging remarks about the indefatigable General Hastings "Pug" Ismay. This "inner circle" felt their riposte was necessary because Moran did not confine himself to "technical medical details" and that the doctor "has also given his assessment of Churchill's qualities as a statesman and leader of his country in war and peace. We cannot accept this assessment as it stands: we believe that in some respects it is incorrect and in others incomplete and on both accounts misleading."[5]

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By Winston S. Churchill

While recently assembling my grandfather's writings on America into a single volume entitled The Great Republic (reviewed in this issue. Ed.), I used it as the opportunity to research further my family's American forebears.

Winston Churchill was half American by birth - a fact of which he was deeply proud. In his first address to a joint session of the United States Congress, on 26 December 1941, he teased the assembled Senators and Representatives with the mischievous suggestion, "If my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way 'round, I might have got here on my own!"

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by Elizabeth Snell

Long before the age of political correctness, some Churchills delighted in extolling the legend of their Native American blood, believed to have been introduced through Jennie Jerome's maternal grandmother, Clarissa Willcox. Despite the much-mooted Indian features of some of Clarissa's descendants, there is no genealogical evidence to support Indian ancestry in the Jerome lineage.

In Jennie: The Life of Lady Randolph Churchill, Vol. 1, Ralph G. Martin wrote that Randolph S. Churchill in his biography of his father noted that the mother of Jennie's grandmother Clarissa was one Anna Baker whose "mother's maiden name is not recorded in the genealogies" and "is believed to have been an Iriquois [sic] Indian." Although Randolph did write something like this it is ironic that any Churchills or Churchillians give credence to Jennie, which was withdrawn in Britain over its false allegation that Sir Winston's brother Jack was not Lord Randolph's son. In any case, the fact is that we now know not only Anna Baker's mother's name but something of her background - thanks to an unearthed 1951 typescript on the descendants of the Baker family.

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Yes, Churchill knew about the Holocaust; and contrary to popular belief, he tried to do something about it.

A Letter to the New York Times Magazine by Dr. Cyril Mazansky

Published in Finest Hour 93, Winter 1996-97

IN the December 22nd New York Times Magazine, William vanden Heuvel published an article, “The Holocaust Was No Secret,” subtitled: “Churchill knew, we all knew, and we couldn’t do anything about it—except win the war."

Quoting a forthcoming book, The Myth of Rescue, by William D. Rubenstein, which he claims is “the most significant new contribution to the history of the Holocaust,” van-den Heuvel asserted that “no one plan or proposal made anywhere in the democracies by either Jews or non-Jewish champions of the Jews after the Nazi conquest of Europe could have rescued one single Jew who perished in the Holocaust.”

Dr. Mazansky’s letter to the Times Magazine refers to “Churchill and the Holocaust,” a speech by Sir Martin Gilbert at the 1993 Churchill Conference, ICS Proceedings 1992-1993.

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The Churchill-Fleming Non-Connection: The story that Sir Alexander Fleming or his father (the renditions vary) saved Churchill's life has roared around the Internet for years. Charming as it is, it is certainly fiction. We have cited later references, but in 2009 Ken Hirsch used Google Book Search to track what is likely the first appearance of this myth: the December 1944 issue of Coronet magazine, pages 17-18, in the story, "Dr. Lifesaver," by Arthur Gladstone Keeney.

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It is oft repeated that Churchill "ordered" the firebombing of Dresden as a "vicious payback" for the German bombing of Coventry (which Churchill is often accused of allowing to burn rather than reveal his access to the German codes -see FH 35). Who's right about Dresden? Before we get into that, let us remember that there was a war on, and who the enemy was. Had he the means, Hitler would cheerfully have flattened London and everyone in it.

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Peter J. McIver

Mr. McIver, of Nuneaton, Warwickshire, penned this article eighteen years ago in Finest Hour 41. We have brought it up to date by adding or quoting additional, most recently published material.

For twenty years, most recently in a piece by Christopher Hitchens in The Atlantic Monthly, it has become a matter of accepted fact that on the night of 14-15 November 1940, rather than compromise a decisive source of intelligence, Winston Churchill left the city of Coventry to the mercies of the German Air force.

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New Your, August 9th, 2002

The "ABC Evening News," with Charles Gibson substituting for Peter Jennings, led with a story on the announcement by Charlton Heston that he had a neurological disease related to Alzheimer's (AD). Gibson went on to note others who suffered from AD, naming Winston Churchill among them.

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by Michael Richards

Any discussion of this subject absent John H. Mather MD, who has spent a decade researching Churchill's medical history, will be only that - a discussion. But here is a summary of what we know and why we know it.

Most historians reject the commonly held belief that Churchill was an abuser of alcohol. Perhaps "abuser" is a too broad a word. Professor Warren Kimball of Rutgers, editor of the WSC-FDR correspondence and several erudite books on the two leaders, maintains that Churchill was not an alcoholic -"no alcoholic could drink that much!"- but "alcohol dependent," citing his occasional glass of hock with his breakfast(!) and his heavy imbibing at mealtimes. A doctor attending him after he was knocked down by a car New York in 1931, Otto C. Pickhardt, actually issued a medical note that Churchill's convalescence "necessitates the use of alcoholic spirits especially at mealtimes," specifying 250 cc per day as the minimum (FH 101:51). Still, if he were truly dependent, it seems he would have had a hard time winning his 1936 bet with Rothermere that he could abstain from hard spirits for a year (FH 108:24) - which apparently he did.

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By Sir Robert Rhodes James

The fact is that he did it, and no one else did it for him.

On June 4th, 1940 in the House of Commons, at the darkest moment in British history, Winston Churchill made one of the greatest speeches in the annals of oratory. It galvanised a hitherto skeptical Commons, and its superb use of language and spirit of defiance affected not only his fellow-countrymen but echoed around the world, not least in the United States. Wars are not won by speeches, but they are by leadership, and that speech gave the authentic voice of a confident leader who wanted to lead.

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