This Week's Story

In the midst of falling bombs Winant walked and asked victims, "What can I do to help you?"

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

John Winant: When the Bombs Came, part two

Sirens began yowling! Planes were coming! Bombs began dropping! Searchlights arced the sky and the dreadful sound of explosions filled the night. Smoke twisted into London’s air and the sky glowed red.

It was Spring! April 16, 1941. A beautiful day! No bombs had fallen on London for more than a month. Now houses were disappearing. Huge holes on the ground replaced homes, churches, schools, stores. Parents grabbed children.

Everyone wanted a safe spot. Some Londoners had a cellar, and some had only a house corner. For thousands it was the underground tunnels where trains ran. People crammed onto platforms, escalators, and train tracks.

They were used to trying to escape bombs, but always there was fear. When would the bombs come and where would they hit? How long would you be hiding? Should you grab food and a coat?

John Winant had arrived in the city a month earlier, as the new

ambassador from the United States to Britain. He represented the possibility of help from the United States. Hitler was determined to invade and control Britain. Defeat loomed as a giant hideous monster coming closer day by day. The war was becoming World War II.

The evening of April 16, 1941 John was working in his embassy office. He heard the fiendish sounds of a beginning attack. He and a staff member went into the streets. Firemen were battling fires, bodies were being carried from buildings, shelters were packed, and bombs continued to fall.

Winant kept stopping to ask individuals, “What can I do to help you? Do you need clothes, shoes, or food?” He wanted to know. He already was working with the British and American government on large economic problems.

At 5:00 A.M. the all-clear siren pierced London. Eight hours of steady bombing by the Nazi German Air Force had ceased.

Many people recognized Winant that spring night as the new American ambassador. By mouth, newspaper, and radio they began to believe that this ambassador cared about what was happening to people in Britain. His actions proved his concern.

An American journalist commented, “His personality captured the imagination of the entire country as no other ambassador in modern times has been able to do.”

Sir Arthur Salter agreed and said that the ambassador showed “the best side of America.” He demonstrated that “he was deeply and passionately attached to the British and to their fight against Hitler and Nazism.”

During the April 16th raid an estimated 1,100 Londoners were killed. Three days later bombers returned, and more than 1,100 people were killed. In those two attacks alone almost half a million people of London lost their homes.

German bombing raids stopped two months later. They had been unable to destroy and invade Britain. In October 1941 Hitler declared that Germany would not invade Britain. This was Hitler’s first major defeat in World War II.

People were dying, suffering, and displaying great acts of cruelty and compassion.

This is Barbara Steiner. Soon I will return with part three.

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