By James C. Roberts

Winston Churchill awoke on New Years Day 1942, a happy man. Although four long years of warfare lay ahead, he realized that with the United States in the war, its ultimate end would not be in doubt

Three weeks earlier Churchill had gotten the news that the Japanese had attacked U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor. As he went to bed that night he thought to himself, “So we have won after all.”

Now Churchill was awakening in the White House where he was visiting President Franklin Roosevelt on the first of several extended stays.

Soon Churchill, FDR and Eleanor set off by motorcade for nearby Alexandria, Virginia and a visit to historic Christ Episcopal Church where they would attend a special New Year’s morning service. FDR had requested the service because he saw great symbolic significance in the fact that Christ Church was George Washington’s parish church and he saw the service as, in a way, bestowing Washington’s blessing on the British-American alliance.

Julia Randle, Christ Church’s historian explains that the rector, the Reverend E.R. Welles was advised only New Year’s Eve morning that the White House had requested the service, that it was to be by invitation only and that furthermore those invited could not be told the nature of the event. As a result, Secret Service personnel were dispatched to New Year’s Eve parties all over the Washington area to track down people on the rector’s invitation list, requesting them to call Dr. Welles.

When they called the rector he asked them, “Do you trust me?”

“Yes, of course,” was the inevitable reply, whereupon the rector told them, “Then I want you to be in Church tomorrow morning at 9:00”


“I can’t tell you. Remember, you trust me.”

The next morning the presidential party was ushered into the church under the tightest security the onlookers could ever remember. As Julia Randle says, “There were sharpshooters on all the surrounding rooftops and a completely enclosed canopy was erected between the church door and the street.”

Mr.______ who attended the service that day says, “I was scared to death. There were secret service, beside me, behind me and in front of me. I was afraid that if I sneezed I would be shot.”