US WWII Ambassador John Winant Gets His Memorial at Last
Written by J. Dennis Robinson
Page 1 of 2
He was a teacher, a fighter pilot, and the hugely popular ambassador to Britain in World War II. More than any individual, according to England's King George VI, he forged the alliance between the United States and Britain that led to an Allied victory against Hitler's Nazi aggression. Both Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt trusted him implicitly. (Click title to read more)
John Gilbert Winant (1889-1947) was movie-star-handsome, charming, wealthy, unpretentious, irrepressibly optimistic, brilliant, and hard-working. The Times of London dubbed him a "knight errant" who "believes in his principles with almost romantic passion." Imagine Cary Grant playing the Jimmy Stewart role in the film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," and you'll get the idea.
Winant was also the father of the modern Social Security system, and a three-term New Hampshire governor (the youngest in state history). He served in the NH House and Senate, was vice-president of St. Paul's School, and founded the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen.
And now he's back. A humble "man of the people," Winant is the key character in a bestselling new book. In 2008, his son, the late Rivington Winant, donated 85- acres of family land in Concord as a public park with walking trails. John G. Winant is also the subject of a seven-foot standing bronze statue. His memorial will soon stand in Concord, not far from the likes of Daniel Webster and John Stark. In fact, the more one learns about Winant, the more he appears to be a candidate for sainthood.
Persona non grata
But saints do not commit suicide. So when in 1947, at age 58, Winant knelt on the floor of his Concord home and placed a revolver to his head, his celebrity ended with his life. The self-sacrificing ambassador beloved by Britons of every class became a tragic figure, while in America, his life dissolved into the shadows.
The war effort had totally exhausted Winart, who insisted on living in the heart of London during the bombings, and eating the meager war rations provided to average citizens. Once wealthy, by the end of the conflict Winart had given away his fortune to the needy and was deeply in debt.
Distant from his socialite wife, Winant had entered into an affair with Sarah Churchill, an actress and daughter of the Prime Minister. Her rejection, at the end of the war, may have been the final straw. "It seems I must always hurt the person who loves me," Sarah wrote to her father before Winant's death.
Historians also theorize that as a "liberal Republican," Winant had burned his political bridges by enthusiastically supporting Roosevelt's "New Deal" policies and spearheading the controversial Social Security Administration. Once considered an ideal presidential candidate, the end of the war and the death of FDR in 1945 left the former ambassador out of the Washington in-crowd.
A hoped-for postwar political appointment did not materialize.
It was quickly evident that Winant's dream of a peaceful, united, post-war world, with freedom and equality for all, was not in the cards. While the American economy boomed during the war, Britain was bombed to near extinction. The future of Germany, divided East and West, looked bleak. The war concluded with the U.S. Deploying two atomic bombs over Japan. Roosevelt and Churchill had been forced to ally themselves with Russia's Joseph Stalin, and the chill of the coming Cold War was already in the air.
CONTINUE JOHN G WINANT
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