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Atlantic Charter

Between August 9 and August 12, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt met secretly with the British prime minister Winston Churchill on naval vessels of their respective countries. Churchill was conducted to the meeting aboard HMS Prince of Wales, a mighty battleship just added to the British fleet. The vessel was later caught in the open sea off Singapore by Japanese torpedo boats, which sank it and demonstrated dramatically the vulnerability of battleships to attack from the air.

Fortunately, no such incident occurred during the Newfoundland meetings, and FDR`s voyage on the USS Augusta was uneventful as well. With their ships anchored in a protected arm of Placentia Bay, the two leaders discussed the war and produced an understanding which, since it was not ratified by the Senate, did not have the status of a treaty but nevertheless formed the basis for the Declaration of the United Nations in January 1942. The declaration laid out a series of points of agreement between the two leaders:

  • That neither countries sought territorial aggrandizement,
  • That they wished to see no territorial changes except as wished by the people concerned,
  • That people have the right of self-government,
  • That people throughout the world should have access to trade and resources,
  • That the world should develop fair labor standards,
  • That after defeating the Nazis, there would be a peace leading to everyone enjoying freedom from fear and warn,
  • That in peacetime, there should be general freedom of the seas,
  • That after the war, there should be general disarmament.
The points would have been largely acceptable as a statement of American and Allied aims in World War I, with the addition of some support for the rights of labor. The final point represents an echo of the fine sentiments widely expressed between the wars, out of which came the conferences on disarmament and the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928.