20+ quotes from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson

Quotes from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour

Lynne Olson ·  496 pages

Rating: (5.8K votes)


“we’re inclined to say what we think, even when we have not thought very much.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In Europe, Murrow observed to his wife, people were dying and "a thousand years of civilization [were] being smashed" while America remained on the sidelines. How could one possibly be objective or neutral about that?”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“Adding to this uninhibited atmosphere was the heady new sense of freedom and independence experienced by young British women. Having grown up in a society in which few women worked outside the home or went to college, they had been expected to remain primly in life’s background and to demand little more than the satisfaction of having served their husbands and raised their children. That staid and predictable existence was shattered, however, when Britain declared war on Germany. Hundreds of thousands of women, even debutantes like Pamela who had never so much as boiled an egg, signed up for jobs in defense industries or enlisted in the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and other military units. As one former deb recalled, “It was a liberation, it set me free.” Women began wearing slacks. They appeared in public without stockings. They smoked, they drank, and they had sex outside marriage—more often and with fewer qualms and less guilt than their mothers and grandmothers. The few American women in the capital were infected with a similar sense of freedom. “London was a Garden of Eden for women in those years,” recalled Time-Life correspondent Mary Welsh, “a serpent dangling from every tree and street lamp, offering tempting gifts, companionship, warm if temporary affections.” Pamela”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“MAY 10, THE day that Roosevelt issued his nonresponse to Churchill’s plea for U.S. belligerency, German bombers returned to London. As devastating as the previous raids had been, none came close to the savagery and destructiveness of this new firestorm. By the next morning, more than two thousand fires were raging out of control across the city, from Hammersmith in the west to Romford in the east, some twenty miles away. The damage to London’s landmarks was catastrophic. Queen’s Hall, the city’s premier concert venue, lay in ruins, while more than a quarter of a million books were incinerated and a number of galleries destroyed at the British Museum. Bombs smashed into St. James’s Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and Parliament. The medieval Westminster Hall, though badly damaged, was saved, but not so the House of Commons chamber, the scene of some of the most dramatic events in modern British history. Completely gutted by fire, the little hall, with its vaulted, timbered ceiling, was nothing but a mound of debris, gaping open to the sky. Every major railroad station but one was put out of action for weeks, as were many Underground stations and lines. A third of the streets in greater London were impassable, and almost a million people were without gas, water, and electricity. The death toll was even more calamitous: never in London’s history had so many of its residents—1,436—died in a single night.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“FOR MONTHS FOLLOWING THE AMERICANS’ DEAL WITH DARLAN, European exiles gathered at the White Tower, York Minster, and other favored restaurants and pubs in London to smoke endless cigarettes and discuss the agreement’s implications. The Free French were the ones most directly affected, of course. But the other émigrés—Norwegians, Poles, Czechoslovaks, Belgians, and Dutch—were also worried about what the deal might mean for the future. The Nazis had invaded and occupied their countries, too. When the time came for those nations to be liberated, would the Americans cooperate with traitors like Darlan? Most of the Europeans meeting over wine-stained tablecloths that winter had escaped to London in the chaos-filled spring of 1940, when German troops conquered Norway and Denmark, then rolled through France and the Low Countries. Every other day, it seemed, George VI and Winston Churchill had been summoned to one of the city’s train stations to welcome yet another king, queen, president, or prime minister. As the only country in Europe still holding out against Hitler, Britain was, as Polish troops put it, the “Last Hope Island” for émigrés who wanted to continue the fight. And London, which housed de Gaulle’s movement and six governments-in-exile, had become the de facto capital of free Europe. The”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In its first ten months of operation, the Eighth lost 188 heavy bombers and some 1,900 crewmen; those numbers would skyrocket over the next year and a half. By the end of the conflict, the U.S. air operations in Europe would suffer more fatalities—26,000—than the entire Marine Corps in its protracted bloody campaigns in the Pacific. “To fly in the Eighth Air Force in those days,” recalled Harrison Salisbury, “was to hold a ticket to a funeral. Your own.” The savagery of the air war was not due solely to the ferocity of German defenses. Early in the war, when the Air Force brass in Washington were touting the advantages of high-altitude flying, they failed to realize that the extreme atmospheric conditions experienced by the crews could kill as effectively as a Messerschmitt or Focke-Wulf. “There are apparently little things that one doesn’t think about prior to getting into operations,” commented Dr. Malcolm Grow, the Eighth’s chief medical officer. Little things like oxygen deprivation, which could cause unconsciousness and death in a matter of minutes, or extensive frostbite, caused by several hours of exposure to temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees below zero. Until early 1944, more airmen were hospitalized for frostbite than for combat injuries. As”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In being able to learn from his mistakes and grow, Eisenhower "was transformed from a mere person into a personage.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“[Ed Murrow]would remark during a BBC broadcast: "It is difficult to explain the meaning of cold to people who are warm, the meaning of privation to people who have wanted only for luxuries...It is almost impossible to substitute intelligence for experience.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“The fondness of Britons for the uninhibited pilots was reciprocated by most of the Americans. Even those who had no real interest in aiding the British cause when they first enlisted in the RAF found themselves admiring the bravery and determination of the public in standing up to Hitler. “They were, without a shadow of a doubt, the most courageous people that I have ever known,” said one American. “Although their cities were in shambles, I never heard one Briton lose faith.” Another U.S. pilot declared: “To fight side by side with these people was the greatest of privileges.” After the war, Bill Geiger, who’d been a student at California’s Pasadena City College before he came to Britain, recalled the exact moment when he knew that the British cause was his as well. Leaving a London tailor’s shop, where he had just been measured for his RAF uniform, he noticed a man working at the bottom of a deep hole in the street, surrounded by barricades. “What’s he doing?” Geiger asked a policeman. “Sir,” the bobby replied, “he’s defusing a bomb.” Everyone standing there—the bobby, pedestrians, the man in the hole—was “so cool and calm and collected,” Geiger remembered. He added: “You get caught up in that kind of courage, and then pretty soon you say, ‘Now I want to be a part of this. I want to be part of these people. I want to be a part of what I see here and what I feel here.’ ” AS”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“There was no bombing of the U.S. mainland, no civilian casualties, no destruction of millions of homes. Indeed, while the standard of living plummeted for the vast majority of Britons during the war, many if not most Americans lived better than ever before.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In a small town in southern England, another convoy of American tanks and trucks came to a brief stop in front of a row of houses, watched by a crowd of townspeople. Suddenly, a woman emerged from a house carrying bowls of strawberries and cream. She handed one to a young lieutenant named Bob Sheehan, kissed his forehead, and whispered, “Good luck. Come back safe.” Galvanized by her gesture of kindness, other townspeople disappeared into their houses and moments later brought out tea and lemonade for the hot, thirsty GIs.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“[Ed Murrow] admitted he was having trouble coming to grips with the idea of peace: "Trying to realize what has happened, one's mind takes refuge in the past. The war that was seems more real than the peace that has come.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“Indeed, in the midst of the devastation, most Londoners demonstrated a dogged determination to live as normal a life as possible: it was their way of thumbing their nose at Hitler. Each morning, millions of people left their shelters or basements and, despite the constant disruption of the train and Underground systems, went to work as usual, many hitchhiking or walking ten or more miles a day. Their commutes, which frequently involved long detours around collapsed buildings, impassable streets, and unexploded bombs, could take hours. Of the staff at Claridge’s, Ben Robertson noted after a particularly violent raid: “Everyone was red-eyed and tired, but they were all there.” The head waiter’s house had been demolished during the night, but he had shown up, as had the woman who cleaned Robertson’s room. “She was buried three hours in the basement of her house,” another maid told Robertson. “Three hours! And she got to work this morning as usual.” FOR”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“As they left, Anglican vicars in the area pinned a notice from their bishop to the front doors of their evacuated churches. Addressed to “our United States allies,” the notice read in part: “This church has stood for several hundred years. Around it has grown a community which has lived in these houses and tilled these fields ever since there was a church. This church, this churchyard in which their loved ones lie at rest; these homes, these fields are as dear to those who have left them as are the homes and graves which you, our Allied, have left behind you. They hope to return one day, as you hope to return to yours, to find them waiting to welcome them home.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In the earliest days of World War II when London was undergoing the blitz but the United States had not yet been drawn into the hostilities, the US ambassador walked the streets during the hottest of the bombing and ask people at every level of British society what he could do to help. What a picture of our role as ambassadors of Christ's coming Kingdom!”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“If I really wanted to say or ask anything important (to her imposing father) I could not trust my tongue to get it right.”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“ON A WARM, drowsy afternoon in early September, Ed Murrow, Vincent Sheean, and Ben Robertson, a correspondent for the New York newspaper PM, stopped at the edge of a field several miles south of London. The three had spent the day driving down the Thames estuary in Murrow’s Talbot Sunbeam roadster, enjoying the sun and looking for dogfights between Spitfires and Messerschmitts. Their search had been fruitless, and they stopped to buy apples from a farmer. Stretching out on the field to eat them, they drowsily listened to the chirp of crickets and buzzing of bees. The war seemed very far away. Within minutes, however, it returned with a vengeance. Hearing the harsh throb of aircraft engines, the Americans looked up at a sky filled with wave after wave of swastika-emblazoned bombers that clearly were not heading for their targets of previous days—the coastal defenses and RAF bases of southern England. Following the curve of the Thames, they were aimed straight at London. In minutes the sky over the capital was suffused with a fiery red glow; black smoke billowed up into a vast cloud that blanketed much of the horizon. When shrapnel from antiaircraft guns rained down around the American reporters, they dived into a nearby ditch, where, stunned, they watched the seemingly endless procession of enemy aircraft flying north. “London is burning. London is burning,” Robertson kept repeating. Returning to the city, they found flames sweeping through the East End, consuming dockyards, oil tanks, factories, overcrowded tenements, and everything else in their path. Hundreds of people had been killed, thousands injured or driven from their homes. Under a blood-red moon, women pushed prams piled high with their salvaged belongings. That horrific evening marked the beginning of the Blitz: from September 7 on, London would endure fifty-seven straight nights of relentless bombing. Until then, no other city in history had ever been subjected to such an onslaught. Warsaw and Rotterdam had been heavily bombed by the Germans early in the war, but not for the length of time of the assault on London. Although”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“AN ESTIMATED 1,100 Londoners were killed during the April 16 raids—the most devastating night of the Blitz thus far. But it held that distinction for only three days; on April 19, German bombers hit London again, killing more than 1,200 persons. Almost half a million London residents lost their homes in the two attacks. The”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In another invaluable service to the Allies, the resistance movements in every captive country helped rescue and spirit back to England thousands of British and American pilots downed behind enemy lines, as well as other Allied servicemen caught in German-held territory. In Belgium, for example, a young woman named Andrée de Jongh set up an escape route called the Comet Line through her native country and France, manned mostly by her friends, to return Britons and Americans to England. De Jongh herself escorted more than one hundred servicemen over the Pyrenees Mountains to safety in neutral Spain. As de Jongh and her colleagues knew, being active in the resistance, regardless of gender, was far more perilous than fighting on the battlefield or in the air. If captured, uniformed servicemen on the Western front were sent to prisoner of war camps, where Geneva Convention rules usually applied. When resistance members were caught, they faced torture, the horrors of a German concentration camp, and/or execution. The danger of capture was particularly great for those who sheltered British or American fighting men, most of whom did not speak the language of the country in which they were hiding and who generally stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. As one British intelligence officer observed, “It is not an easy matter to hide and feed a foreigner in your midst, especially when it happens to be a red-haired Scotsman of six feet, three inches, or a gum-chewing American from the Middle West.” James Langley, the head of a British agency that aided the European escape lines, later estimated that, for every Englishman or American rescued, at least one resistance worker lost his or her life. Andrée de Jongh managed to escape that fate. Caught in January 1943 and sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany, she survived the war because, although she freely admitted to creating the Comet Line, the Germans could not believe that a young girl had devised such an intricate operation. IN”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


“In early 1941, the United States was a fifth-rate military power, its armed forces ranking seventeenth in size compared to other world forces. Long starved of financial support by Congress and the White House, the Army had little more than 300,000 men (most of them just drafted), compared to Germany’s 4 million and Britain’s 1.6 million. Not a single armored division existed, and draftees were training with broomsticks for rifles and sawhorses for antitank guns. The Army was in such bad shape, according to one military historian, that it would not have been able to “repel raids across the Rio Grande by Mexican bandits.” Although the Navy was in better condition, nearly half its vessels dated back to World War I. The Army Air Corps, meanwhile, could boast only about two thousand combat aircraft. After”
― Lynne Olson, quote from Citizens of London: The Americans who Stood with Britain in its Darkest, Finest Hour


About the author

Lynne Olson
Born place: Honolulu, Hawaii, The United States
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