Inside the special relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill during World War II

Hyde Park, N.Y. — The "special relationship" between the U.S. and Britain was built over centuries and forged on the battlefields of Europe during World War II. As we approach the 75th anniversary of D-Day, much of the credit belongs to two men.

President Franklin Roosevelt led the nation in prayer as the liberation of Europe began, a mighty endeavor made possible by his extraordinary friendship with the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

"It's been described by some as the most consequential friendship of the 20th century," said Herbert Eberhardt, curator of the FDR Library & Museum in Hyde Park, New York.

The museum is where the public unity and private arguments of the two leaders are on display, and many of the documents are in the U.S. for the first time.

"Despite the ups and downs of the war, despite sometimes disagreements between the two men, they always remained on a personal level, friendly," Eberhardt said.

Churchill believed a landing in France was too great a risk, but their other ally, the Soviet Union's Joseph Stalin, insisted on it.

"Roosevelt, sitting in the center, makes the decision that he agrees with Stalin and Churchill has to come along," Eberhardt sait. "He realized that he was on the short end of this decision."

Churchill warned the public of what was to come, saying "1944 will see the greatest sacrifice of life by the British and American armies."

As the day of battle approached, he cabled Roosevelt, "our friendship is my greatest standby amid the ever increasing complications of this exacting war."

"I think at moments like this, moments of crisis, he would often say very heartfelt things to Roosevelt," Eberhardt said.

Roosevelt did not live to see the final victory. Reading from notes, Churchill told the House of Commons, "in Franklin Roosevelt, there died the greatest American friend we have ever known."  

After the war, he visited his friend's grave.

"Churchill stood by Roosevelt's grave for three minutes in silence. We don't know what he was thinking. We can only imagine," Eberhardt said.

Only imagine what the world would be like today had it not been for the friendship of two men.

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