Churchill, FDR: Logistics/travel arrangements for WWII conferences?

I’m looking at a Wikipedia List of World War II conferences:

Winston Churchill travelled to North America to attend conferences with the allies on numerous occasions, starting in the summer of 1941. Churchill also travelled to Moscow in 1942. FDR travelled to Cairo, Egypt, in November of 1943.

I wonder how the logistics of getting Churchill and FDR to these locations worked in the middle of the great war. Security-wise, these trips must have been the nightmare to end all nightmares. Did Churchill and FDR travel by plane and which route did they take, how many escort planes (ships) were there, did they prepare emergency landing sites? What was the level of secrecy?

For the Atlantic Charter meeting in 1941, the US wasn’t in the war yet, though FDR knew it was inevitable. Both leaders traveled to Newfoundland secretly aboard naval vessels. In the case of FDR, a body double was actually employed to wave at the crowds from on board the presidential yacht Potomac to support the fiction that he was taking a fishing trip.

Churchill mentions in his memoirs that one of the logistical issues from the American side was the need for FDR to have regular courier communications with Washington, because of the 10 day deadline for the President to assent or veto a bill passed by Congress. I think that was a particular issue for the Tehran and Yalta conferences.

FDR traveled to North Africa aboard the USS Iowa andwas nearly torpedoed.

Churchill met with Roosevelt in Newfoundland for this first meeting. He travelled on the battleship Prince of Wales, escorted by three destroyers.

William Manchester and Paul Reid in “Churchill Defender of the Realm” talk about Roosevelt’s flight to Casablanca conference. It took five days by Boeing flying boat with stops in Miami, Trinidad and Brazil. An 18 hour flight across the Atlantic to Bathhurst at the mouth of the Gambia river. From there a C-54 to Casablanca. FDR’s doctor was as worried as Churchill’s doctors were about flying. He kept digitalis on hand if altitudes over 8,000 feet triggered angina. The press was not told about it for 10 days and went ga ga when they were. First President in an airplane, first to Africa, first to visit a war zone since Lincoln.

The Allied air forces established air routes, or ferry routes, to allow relatively safe passage around the globe, building up a series of airfields in remote places far from the major conflict zones. I used to have a much more comprehensive link than this next one, but at least this shows how one might be able to fly from the US to, say, Cairo and then on to Tehran, etc

Transportation methods varied.

To take one example, Churchill went back and forth across the Atlantic in September 1944 on the liner Queen Mary in order to hold face-to-face talks with Roosevelt. The ship was regarded as sufficiently fast that, unescorted, it could handily outrun U-boats.

And for that reason she was the mightiest of troop transports, capable of taking nearly an entire division’s worth of troops in one go.

“Outrunning U-boats” is a red herring.

The goal of U-boats was always to be sitting between the target ship(s) and their likely destination(s). Then to shoot as the convoy went past them.

It took good intel, good instincts, and good luck to be positioned correctly to shoot anything going anywhere anytime. To shoot a particular something going to a particular somewhere at a particular sometime took more of all three.

that is an amazing story! :slight_smile:
from now on Willie Dee takes on a brand new meaning!

I’d heard the “Don’t shoot, I’m a Republican!” catch-phrase before, but didn’t know how it originated.

The Willie Dee seems to have been cursed from start to finish. How often does a ship almost take out the Commander-in-Chief on its first cruise, and then get sunk on its last cruise by a Kamikaze plane that it’s already shot down and is sinking??

Agreed. But running very fast tended to stymie all that, reducing an intercept to pure luck. Even if all U-boats were informed of the course of the Queen Mary, they were limited in being able to put themselves specifically in the way of it because it was sprinting the crossing. That’s rather different from a wolf-pack straddling the likely route of a slow moving convoy.

The relative probabilities were being assessed. It all was, literally, a calculated risk.

‘Outrun’ might be an imprecise term, but it is anything but a red herring. U-boats did not simply sit between target ships and their destinations and shoot at convoys as they went past; they would have to maneuver themselves into position to be able to make those shots once a convoy was spotted. A typical WW2 U-boat (the Type VII class) had a top speed of 17kts surfaced, 7kts submerged with a cruising speed of 10kts. This was adequate to stand a reasonable chance to achieve a firing position on a convoy travelling at 12 or 15kts or so once visually spotted. The Queen Mary made 28kts. Unless it had been touched by the hand of god to have the luck to be perfectly located so that all it had to do actually was shoot the Queen Mary as it went past, no U-boat was going to be able to achieve a firing position, the Queen Mary was simply too fast.

My understanding is that by 1944, the U-boat threat was drastically reduced. The Allies had gotten quite good using aircraft to sink the U-boats, or at least deter them. And the Allies were quite experienced in breaking the coded German message traffic.

The site shows 244 ships sunk or damaged by uboats in 1944 vs 1322 in 1942.

By September 1944, the Allies had captured all of the German submarine bases in France, so that also would be a major factor, wouldn’t it?

I still haven’t the faintest idea how Churchill managed to attend the Second Moscow Conference in August of 1942. How did that work?

London -> Gibralter -> Cairo -> Tehran -> Moscow in a specially converted Liberator. Full story here:

Very cool, thanks!