CBC Digital Archives

1943: Churchill, Roosevelt and King meet in Quebec

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"It will be looked upon in years to come as one of the great events in our national history," says Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. On Aug. 17, 1943, at the height of the Second World War, a conference between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill began in Quebec City. In this radio clip, King, who hosted the Quebec Conference, ends a war address by expressing pride "that our country should be the scene of this memorable meeting."
• The first Quebec Conference, code-named QUADRANT, took place in Quebec City from Aug. 17 to Aug. 24, 1943. The meetings were primarily between Churchill and Roosevelt, but King, as host, was in attendance. The aim of the conference was to plan high-level military strategies.

• A number of extremely important war strategies were established at the 1943 Quebec Conference. It was here that the plans for D-Day -- the allied invasion of Normandy that would mark the beginning of the end of the war -- were approved. The U.S. and U.K. also agreed here that they would launch no nuclear attacks without mutual agreement.

• King was thrilled to be a part of these important strategy meetings in Quebec. "I must confess to having had great peace of mind and quiet joy of heart as I thought of all that had happened," he wrote in his diary on Aug. 25, 1943. King took pleasure in his role as host, and proudly brought Roosevelt out to see Kingsmere (King's beloved summer home outside of Ottawa) after the conference was over.

• There was also a second Quebec Conference during the war. It included the same leaders and took place from Sept. 12 to Sept. 16, 1944. It was code-named OCTAGON. It was here that the U.S. introduced the controversial "Morgenthau plan," which focused on preventing Germany from ever waging war again by completely de-industrializing the country. Although Roosevelt and Churchill both initialled the plan, it was later considered too extreme and was never implemented.

• In 1998, there was controversy when a monument to the Quebec Conferences was erected in Quebec City. The monument included busts of Roosevelt and Churchill, but not King. Some Canadians said there were separatist motivations for King being left out. In protest, Prime Minister Chrétien even refused to attend the unveiling ceremony. But several historians maintained that King was only the host, so it wasn't necessary to include him.

• The BBC's "WW2 People's War" website mentions one of the more unusual ideas discussed at the Quebec Conference: a plan for an unsinkable aircraft carrier built out of ice. Scientist Geoffrey Pyke had developed a substance he called Pykrete - a mixture of frozen seawater and wood pulp, which was exceptionally strong and melted much more slowly than regular ice. The British were quite enthusiastic about building a Pykrete ship, but the plan to use it in battle never came to fruition.

Also on August 17:
1936: Maurice Duplessis and the Union Nationale win the Quebec election with 75 seats; 15 seats go to the Liberals. It's the first election win for the new party.
1965: The Beatles play Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto. The concert is described by the Toronto Telegram as "(an) ecstatic frenzy in two wild 30 minute performances."

1988: Torontonian Jeff MacInnis, 25, and Mike Beedell, 32, of Ottawa, sail their catamaran through the Northwest Passage. They are the first sailors to navigate the Passage by wind power alone.
Medium: Radio
Program: Special
Broadcast Date: Aug. 21, 1943
Speaker: William Lyon Mackenzie King
Duration: 1:00
Photo: Montreal Gazette / Library and Archives Canada / C-014168

Last updated: August 16, 2012

Page consulted on October 1, 2014

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