The Arcadia Conference
On December 22, 1941, US and British leaders met at the White House for the first time to discuss military strategy for World War II. The Arcadia Conference, as it was known, established Allied goals for the war and laid the groundwork for the United Nations.
Just two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, British and American leaders met to discuss the future course of the war. Officially the First Washington Conference (codenamed Arcadia), it ran from December 22, 1941, until January 14, 1942. US President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, along with their aides, spoke candidly about the war and made several important decisions about their plans for the next few years.
Roosevelt and Churchill committed to combine their resources to fight Germany and Japan. A “Europe first” strategy was agreed upon since Hitler posed a greater threat because of his location. In turn, the British promised to increase forces in the Pacific. They also decided to invade North Africa in 1942 and to send US bombers to England.
The conference also led to the creation of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Headquartered in Washington, DC., the group approved and finalized all military decisions. Plus, the conference established the American-British-Dutch-Australian Command (ABDA) in the Far East.
On January 1, 1942, representatives from the Allied “Big Four” (the United Kingdom, United States, Soviet Union, and China) drafted the Declaration by United Nations. The treaty, which was the only aspect of the conference not kept secret, was a pledge by all signing nations not to form separate peace treaties with the Axis powers. Participating nations also agreed to commit their full resources until they won the war. The participating nations created the European Theater of Operations (ETO), combining their military resources under one command.
Representatives from another 22 nations signed the declaration the following day, and by war’s end, a total of 47 national governments signed it. The declaration formed the basis for the United Nations organization that was created after the war.
Though Americans favored seeking revenge on Japan for the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt was able to convince citizens to support the emphasis on winning the war in Europe first.
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