A New York financial professional, Clifford “Cliff” Corso guides Insight Investment and works primarily with institutional investors in navigating the fixed-income landscape. A history buff, Cliff Corso enjoys reading about inspiring figures, such as Winston Churchill as he faced imminent threat from Germany during World War II.
Having ascended to the position of prime minister in May 1940, Churchill was under pressure from the War Cabinet to forge some sort of deal with Britain’s adversary. This reflected a situation in which Hitler’s forces had run through Europe with minimal resistance and were now encircling Britain.
The only ray of light was that British forces had narrowly avoided obliteration on the Continent, through the successful evacuation at Dunkirk. With estimates having placed the number of British and Allied troops who could be rescued from French beaches at just 50,000, some 338,000 troops were saved through Operation Dynamo instead.
This set the stage for a momentous speech before the House of Commons in early June. Churchill faced the daunting task of convincing skeptics, including Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, as well as the public at large, that Britain had the will and means to resist. The tactic Churchill used was to frame the Dunkirk operation as a type of salvation, as he went through several drafts to create a speech that would resonate and inspire.
In its final form, Churchill’s speech was one of immediate impact, as the new prime minister vowed that Britain “never surrender” and “go on to the end,” taking the battle to the beaches and to the streets. This galvanized the public and, along with Churchill’s moves to expand the alliance with the United States, ensured that Britain would continue to fight where other European nations had failed.