Reflecting on Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech

Reflecting on Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech

Anniversary of Historic Speech is This Month

You may not know it, but one of the phrases that helped define public policy and international relations for decades after World War II was first uttered by Sir Winston Churchill himself. March 5th, 1946 -- well after the conclusion of the War  to End All Wars -- was when Sir Winston’s famous oration gave rise to the phrase “Iron Curtain.” That makes this March the 66th anniversary of the phrase -- and many of those sixty six years were defined by the conflict those words represent.

When Churchill gave that speech, he was not in the United Kingdom, but actually here in the central United States -- at Westminster College, located in Fulton, MO. Until that time, the most famous thing about Westminster College (named for its British counterpart) was the fact that Sir Winston chose to speak there. Nobody knew that the former prime minister, who had lost an election only a few months after V-E Day, would contribute to history one of the longest lasting speeches of his career.

When Churchill visited in 1946, he was particularly interested in cementing the special relationship that had developed between Great Britain and the United States during the war, so that they could confront the territorial ambitions of their former Soviet ally. The famous phrase in question, as reproduced at the link above, goes like this:

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.”

At first, these remarks caused a stir. Naturally, Joseph Stalin himself spoke out against them. But in the end, they marked what could be called the onset of the western alliance against Soviet-style communism, which would not culminate until many decades later.

Image by Kseferovic @ Wikipedia