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He wanted only what every journalist of the time did: an exclusive interview with the Duke of Windsor. What he got was an astonishing proposition that sent him on an urgent top-secret visit to the White House and a once-in-a-lifetime story that was too hot to print—until now.
December 1991 | Volume 42, Issue 8
I remarked that America was already trying to solve the postwar problems and told him about the General Motors Forum, at which Knudson had talked. [William S. Knudsen was president of General Motors.]
“Ah, yes,” he said, “but if you have with your cessation of your defense program another unemployment problem, at least your factories will have roofs over them. Your machinery will be intact. But look at our country. Our factories are being destroyed; our cities are being destroyed; our ships are being destroyed. Britain is an empire. We depend upon raw materials to be carried in boats, brought to our factories and then shipped out as merchandise. What in God’s name are we going to do after the war? How are we going to rebuild these factories, these cities, these ships? Where’s the money coming from? I tell you something has to be done about it and the sooner the better. I don’t say the time has come now, but it is shortly coming when a man like your President must stop this war. I am not a defeatist but I am realistic. It’s all very well to talk about the war to the bitter end—”
“ A l’outrance ,” interrupted Captain Drury.
I said that a great many of our people believed that the war, if allowed to continue, would end in a stalemate and the entrance of the United States into the war would prolong it for thirty years.
He agreed with that. He said that he thought President Roosevelt was a great man and would play a large part in history, but he said it rather reluctantly. He told me he had an interview with the President on the Tuscaloosa and their discussion was about the development of the Caribbean Islands in which the United States would have a joint interest. He praised the American hotels and especially the service. He talked of other matters which will appear in the Liberty article and then I said goodnight. He had promised me an hour. We had been together nearly two hours.
Captain Drury walked with me into the garden. He deliberately led me away from my taxi cab. He talked in a running, humming tone, very low, almost a whisper, as if he were trying to get up the courage to say something, but he never quite got around to it. I had a suspicion of what he was not getting at but he would not come to the point. He said that the Duke of Windsor could be of the greatest service to both our countries. He spoke of the cruel persecutions to which the Duke and Duchess had been subjected. … I remarked that perhaps Baldwin was now the most detested man in England. [Stanley Baldwin, prime minister during the abdication, had been opposed to allowing Windsor, as king, to marry Mrs. Simpson.]
Then I went home. I had only ten minutes in which to change into evening clothes and get to the council chamber. There Grace, April and I were seated in the third row. The council was in session and presently the Duke arrived. He was wearing a white uniform with gold epaulets and a dress sword and looked every inch a king. Taking his place on the platform he sent a messenger to summon parliament and then sat down. Presently he looked over at us and spoke to each one of us individually from the throne. This caused audible excitement in the crowd and caused Mrs. Taussig to pat me on the back. She was sitting behind us. It then occurred to me suddenly that the presidential envoy had not as yet been received by the Duke.
The ceremony over, the Duke departed, and then we three went with the Taussigs to the home of Consul Die for a buffet supper. Until I got there I had not realized that this supper was being given for us and 1 did not get wise to this until I found myself seated at the table on the right of the wife of the Colonial Secretary, while Grace was seated between the Colonial Secretary and my Lord Bishop who wore gaiters and a black apron, while April was seated next to the Attorney General. The Taussigs were seated way below the salt. So the Colonial Secretary had to be nice to my wife, and his wife had to be very nice to me, but by this time I was suspiciously aware of some great intrigue in all of this.
When we got home, I literally took my wife into a closet and closed the door and told her what had happened. It was at once apparent that she thought I had taken leave of my wits and I did not believe my own words as I told her what had happened. What’s more, I told her that I had the uneasy suspicion that what the Duke of Windsor really wanted was for me to convey these almost treasonable sentiments to President Roosevelt. Yet, he had not asked me to do so and I resolved, therefore, not to do it. As I say, I told her these things in a closet with the door closed. We stayed up for the rest of the night talking in guarded tones and words about what happened.
Shortly after breakfast the next morning the telephone rang. Captain Drury was on the phone. He wanted to know if he could come and see me. I told him to come right over. He said he would be there at eleven o’clock and would have to leave at twelve because his wife was having a birthday party. He arrived at eleven and did not leave until one thirty. We went over the same ground as the night before but in greater detail. He told me about the hatred for Windsor in the hearts of Anthony Eden, Lord Halifax, Lord Lothian and that the only friends Windsor had were Bevan, the Labor [Labour] leader, and Winston Churchill.
Finally he came to the point. Drury said, “Would you enter into a Machiavellian conspiracy?”