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After the United States entered World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a frequent guest in the Roosevelt White House. Although the Prime Minister's visits were associated with weighty issues, White House workers remembered Churchill with delight and amusement. "The most colorful visitor ever to appear at the wartime White House was Winston Churchill," J. B. West records in his memoir.1 West was Assistant Chief Usher during the War, and he relates many stories about the Prime Minister. One of these concerns Churchill's well-known fondness for cigars.

Churchill's meetings in the U.S. between December 22, 1941 and January 14, 1942 had a code name, the Arcadia Conference. For security reasons, the Prime Minister's arrival in the White House on December 21 for the Arcadia Conference was kept under wraps. The Secret Service had given instructions that no one was to enter the halls between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. on the 21st, but the staff did not know who was coming. When the pungent odor of tobacco wafted down the corridor, "It didn't take long," says West, "for the cigar smoke to announce Mr. Churchill's presence."2

This 2000 painting by Al Alexander depicts Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Winston Churchill in the Blue Room of the White House.

White House Historical Association

Footnotes & Resources

  1. J. B. West, Upstairs at the White House (New York: Coward, McCann, 1973), 38.
  2. Ibid., 39.

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