The Quebec Conference
In the summer of 1939 the United Kingdom and The United States formed a special relationship that would take them into and through the Second World War.
Through a series of meetings between Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt, the relationship solidified into the Anglo-American Alliance of the Second World War. The first of these meetings was the Atlantic Conference held August 9-12, 1941, aboard the USS Augusta off the coast of Newfoundland.
It was here that Churchill and Roosevelt signed the Atlantic Charter, an agreement on war aims. The fact that this historic meeting was held in the Canadian waters of Placentia Bay set the tone for the role that Canada would take in the Anglo-American Alliance.
Through Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Canada acted as an independent nation not involved directly in the planning and strategy, but eager to be a host, facilitator, supporter, and supplier for the Alliance.
The first opportunity for Canada to participate in a meeting of the Anglo-American Alliance meeting came on December 22, 1941, when King received a phone call from Roosevelt inviting him to Washington over Christmas. At this Washington Conference, King joined Churchill, Roosevelt and 23 other countries to sign the United Nations (UN) Declaration to support the war aims outlined in the Atlantic Charter. Canada was again directly involved in meetings between Churchill and Roosevelt when King was chosen to host two conferences in Quebec City.
The first of the Quebec Conferences was held August 17-24, 1943. King was honoured to host Churchill and Roosevelt, as evident by his remarks in a CBC radio address on August 17th when he said, "It will be looked upon in years to come as one of the great events in our national history," and he was proud "that our country should be the scene of this memorable meeting." And indeed King and Canada hosted the meeting where the initial plans for the D-Day invasion of Normandy were made.
Over the week the Anglo-American Alliance also made preparations for action in Southeast Asia and the war against Japan, signed the secret Quebec Agreement where the UK and USA agreed to work together to create and potentially use nuclear weapons, and also defined strategies for the conduct of many other aspects of the war.
The following year the plans and strategies of the Anglo-American Alliance needed to be updated, and King hosted the second Quebec Conference on September 12-16, 1944. By then Churchill and Roosevelt were also thinking ahead to the end of the war and created a tentative agreement for postwar Germany (the Morgenthau Plan).
Churchill and Roosevelt, through the Anglo-American Alliance, took the lead in planning and strategy for the Second World War. They lead The Allies to victory, while King lead Canada, into a uniquely Canadian role in the Alliance by facilitating three conferences where Churchill and Roosevelt did their planning and laid out strategies for the conduct of the war.
Following the Christmas Conference in Washington 1941, Churchill, who held a great deal of respect for King, perhaps best defined Canada's role in the Anglo-American Alliance when he referred to Canada as a "lynchpin", helping the joint Alliance of Churchill and Roosevelt to move forward towards ultimate victory.
"I must confess to having had great peace of mind and quiet joy of heart as I thought of all that had happened." Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada wrote in his diary on August 25, 1943 following the first Quebec Conference.