Early Involvement: America Looks East

August 14, 1941: The Atlantic Charter

December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor

February 15, 1942: The Fall of Singapore

Active Engagement: Diplomacy in India

March 6, 1942: The Johnson Mission

March 22-April 12, 1942: The Cripps Mission

August 8, 1942: Quit India Movement

October 28, 1942: Wendell Willkie Address

December 1942: Phillips Mission

The Modern India Lobby: The National and International Stage

July 25, 1944: Pearson Leak

August-September 1944: Pearson Leak Continued

December 8, 1944-April 1945: Mme. Pandit’s U.S. Visit

May 8, 1945: V-E Day

June 26, 1945: U.N. Charter Signed in San Francisco

Post-War Context

September 2, 1945: V-J Day

June 27, 1946: H.R. 3517 becomes Law

July 4, 1946: Treaty of Manila

August 15, 1947: Indian Independence

August 14, 1941: The Atlantic Charter


Image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives

The Atlantic Charter, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill on August 14, 1941 off the coast of Newfoundland.

  • “Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;”
  • purpose: “provide an opportunity for the two leaders to become aquainted and to discuss military strategy” (Hess, 24)
  • published as a press release and not a “formally signed document” (Hess, 27)

Dennis Kux, India and the United States: Estranged Democracies, 1941-1991 (1992).

  • Marks early 1941 as beginning of U.S. interest in Indian affairs; gives example of Lend-Lease policy
  • For India to receive aid, accepts British proposal of having a direct Indian representative in the U.S. and it turn suggests to establish an American position in New Delhi: Sir Girja Shakar Bajpai (Agent-General in Washington) and Thomas Wilson (Commissioner in New Delhi)  (7-8)
  • May 1941- Adolph A. Berle, Assistant Sec. of State for Economic Affairs, suggests that Britain “explore the possibility of making India equal of other members of the British Commonwealth” (FRUS, vol. III, pg. 176-177)
  • Atlantic Meeting: according to Elliot Roosevelt (FDR’s son) FDR and Churchill had lengthly disagreements about colonialism with FDR stating: “I can’t believe that we can fight a war against fascist slavery, and at the same time not work to free people from all over the world from a backward colonial policy” (from the disputed As He Saw It, by Elliot Roosevelt)
  • Americans argued that article 3 applied universally but the British claimed it only referred to territory taken over by the Nazis, an interpretation that Kux argues: “caused bitter disappointment in India and dissatisfaction in Washington” (10)

Harold Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies: The India Lobby in the United States, 1900-1946 (2006).

  • cites the “ideological spin-off” from the Atlantic Charter as one of the motivating factors behind the Cripps Mission (26)
  • quotes Robert Sherwood on the Charter: it “turned out to be incluculably more powerful an instrument than the officers of the British Government intended it to be when they first proposed it. They discovered indeed that when you state a moral principle, you are stuck with it, no matter how many fingers you have kept crossed at the moment” (emphasis added by Gould, from Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins 1950)

Hess, America Encounters India, 1941-1947 (1971)

  • The Charter as the “ideological focus of American concern with Indian nationalism” (24)
  • The extension of Article 3 first raised in Burma and Iran, only after Churchill’s September 9 statement that it did not apply to the British Empire and therefore India (27-28)
  • “American liberal reaction to Churchill’s speech reflected disillusionment” (examples given include The New Republic, The Christian Century, Asia) (29)
  • When Eleanor Roosevelt wrote to her husband about his stance on India on August 21, FDR replied: “I cannot have probable feelings on India” (qtd. in Hess, 32)



December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor

U.S.S. Shaw, image courtesy of the U.S. National Archives

  • “A date which will live in infamy.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • On Dec. 8, the United States declares war on Japan
  • Dec. 11, Germany declares war on the United States

Dennis Kux, Estranged Democracies (1992).

  • “US entry into the war in December 1941 vastly raised India’s strategic importance in Washington as well as American willingness to express its views on the Indian political situation to the British” (10)–manpower, geographic proximity to China
  • Roosevelt brought up the issue on Churchill’s Christmas visit to Washington, where the Prime Minister “reacted so strongly and at such length that he [Roosevelt] never raised the issue [India] verbally again” (Churchill, The Hinge of Fate, 208-209)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006)

  • “With America’s own strategic situation directly affected by political conditions in India, and with the resulting new political atmosphere which this evoked in Washington–that the South Asian activists significantly escalated their lobbying and propaganda effort (315-16).

Aldrich, Intelligence and the War Against Japan (2000)

  • An opportunity for William Donovon to expand the reach and size of the OSS (140)


February 15, 1942: Fall of Singapore

Lt. General A. E. Percival surrenders at Singpore

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993).

  • at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing 10 days after fall of Singapore, the Senators reported to Secretary of State Hull, requesting that: “India be given a status of autonomy….The only way to get the people of India to fight was to get them to fight for India.” (qtd. from FRUS, vol. I, pg. 606-07)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • in combination with Chiang Kaishek’s visit to India, India’s situation attracted attention of the press, the State Department and Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and caused Roosevelt to raise the India issue with Churchill again (35)
  • Walter Lippmann urged the United States to take more responsibility in the Asian theater of war
  • Berle (asst. Sec. of State) wrote a memorandum following the Fall suggesting the U.S. outline a political settlement between India and Britain (36, FRUS, vol. 1, pg. 602-04)

March 6, 1942: Johnson Mission

  • On March 6, 1942, the State Department announces a “war production mission,” to India to be headed by Louis Johnson, the former Assistant Secretary of War (Kux, 13).
  • Before departing, Johnson’s position is changed and instead is the president’s Personal Representative to India while Henry Grady is appointed as the leader of the economic mission (hess, 41)
  • On April 3, Johnson arrives in New Delhi.
  • returned in mid-May for health-related reasons

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • Kux explains shift of Johnson’s position as the expression of FDR’s effort for the U.S. to play a more active role in the negotiations between India Britain (13)
  • Johnson acted as a go-between, working with both British and Indian leaders, making Linlithgow worry that Johnson was “concerning himself too closely in detailed negotiations between HMG and Indian politicians” (15)
  • within two days of arriving in India, Johnson wrote FDR suggesting that the president personally intercede with Churchill on the matter (15)
  • Cripps allowed Johnson to help rewrite defense proposals, which would be a compromise between the British and Indians, causing the Linlithgow, as Viceroy, to send pleas to the PM to reject the cooperative effort between Johnson and Cripps. Churchill told presidential aide Harry Hopkins that Johnson was causing tension in the Mission and Hopkins responded that Johnson was not FDR’s personal emissary (16-17)
  • Johnson, unaware of Hopkins interceding, reported back to Washington that the progress at the talks had broken down. Though Churchill believed that “public opinion in the U.S. believes that the negotiations have broken down on general broad issues,” Roosevelt, in a personal message to the PM stated: “The general impression here is quite the contrary. The feeling is almost universally held that the deadlock has been due to the British Government’s unwillingness to concede to the Indians the right of self-government.” The President followed his blunt assessment with the assertion that if Japan invaded India successfully after the failure of the Mission: “the prejudicial reaction on American public opinion can hardly be over-estimated” (17-18, qtd. from FRUS vol. 1, 633-34)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006).

  • “to demonstrate the US administration’s deep concern for the outcome of these negotiations [the Cripps Mission], Roosevelt dispatched a trusted advisor, Colonel Louis Johnson, as his personal representative and advisor” (26)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • Mission=culmination of increased US interest in Indian affairs following entry into war (33)
  • “this official concern reflected an unparalleled public interest in India. In 1942, American periodicals carried three times as many articles as they had in any previous year; editorial comment was extensive, and public opinion polls indicated a high degree of awareness of Indian developments” (33, no footnote)
  • “If Roosevelt had intended to withdraw from the Indian problem, he would have sent someone other than Johnson” given Johnson’s tenacious character (42)
  • describes Johnson as a mediator between Indian and British leaders (48)
  • Does not credit Hopkins’ interference as the downfall of the Johnson mission; instead suggests that the Indians may still not have accepted the “Johnson formula” (50)
  • Johnson urged Washington to push for an interim India government one last time, but on Welles’ advice, Roosevelt rejected Johnson’s plan (58)
  • “Johnson’s mission demonstrated American’s interest in India, but is also illustrated the limitations of that involvement” (59)

March 22- April 12, 1942: The Cripps Mission

  • Headed by Labour Party Cabinet member, Sir Stafford Cripps, a British attempt (through the War Department) to gain Indian support for the war effort by discussing the possibility of an India Union within the Empire after war and increasing the representation of Indian leaders within the current structure
  • Though Cripps arrived in New Delhi on March 22, the public was not aware of the mission for an additional week, and Ambassador Halifax formally informed the US on March 28 (Hess, 43)

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • viceroy Linlithigow disapproved of the Mission, and offered to resign. Churchill, however, responded, “it would be impossible, owing to…the general American outlook to stand on a purely negative attitude and Cripps’ Mission is indispensable to prove our honest of purpose.” (12, qtd. from Mansergh, The Transfer of Power, vol. 1, pg. 394-95)
  • after suggesting that the British establish an Article of Confederation-like gov’t in India, FDR ended his letter to Churchill with the appeal: “for the love of heaven, don’t bring me into this, though I want to be of help.  It is, strictly speaking, none of my business, except insofar as it is a part and parcel of the successful fight that you and I are waging” (13, qtd. from FRUS, vol. 1, 615-16)
  • Churchill thought that going to the effort of making independence proposals to the Indians would generate positive press towards the British in America: the Cripps’ Mission was “most beneficial in the U.S. and in large circles here,” but Roosevelt himself criticized the proposals as not being far enough reaching (14)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006).

  • Gould claims the British government sent the Cripps Mission to India largely to address American concerns of India’s political instability (26)

Aldrich, Intelligence and the War Against Japan (2000)

  • After Roosevelt offered what he viewed as constructive criticism regarding the Mission, Churchill threatened to FDR’s aide Hopkins, that he would rather resign than increase political unrest in India during the possibility of Japanese invasion. Aldrich describes Roosevelt as then “turning his attention elsewhere” because of the critical nature of the war period (136)
  • Identifies the OSS and OWI as well as key Americans including Wendell Wilkie as the leaders behind a new American policy at this time which focused on “political encouragement and commercial advantage” and ensuring that “Indian nationalists did not confuse the British and American positions” (137)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • Presents the Cripps Mission as a response to multiple pressures: Japanese presence in Rangoon starting on March 8, from the U.S. and China, as well as within the British government– Hess presents Churchill as a reluctant outlier to a change in policy towards Indian independence (38)
  • “The Cripps mission was followed more extensively in the American press than any previous event in Indian history” (42)
  • The proposal drafted by the Cripps mission met with “almost unanimously favorable response in America” (44)
  • “the president’s naive comparison of the Indian situation to the American colonies further undermined his proposal….As was frequently the case, Roosevelt relied on personal diplomacy, which often amounted to acting on whim” (52-Hess seems to base this assessment on Churchill’s reflections in his memoir)
  • “Americans remained primarily interested in winning Indian support for the war and were unwilling to accept suggestions that the situation was beyond resolution” (53)
  • the failure of the Cripps mission created an almost untenable situation between Indian leaders and the British (55)

August 8, 1942: Quit India Movement

  • July 14- the Congress Working Committee proposes a civil disobedience movement against British presence in India, though Nehru did not support the campaign (Kux, 23)
  • August 8- the All-India Congress Committee adopts the Quit India resolution in Bombay
  • In response the British Raj imprisoned leaders of the Congress Party; over the duration of the war, the British put more than 100,000 Indians in jail for expressing nationalist fervor (Kux, 23-24)

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • Kux describes American bewilderment at the implementation of a civil disobedience movement in the middle of a crucial point in the war (24)

Aldrich, Intelligence and the War Against Japan (2000).

  • The movement made India “a major internal security problem” and therefore a political stability became a focus of OSS reports (135)
  • Marks as the moment when Washington had increasing political interests in India (135)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • “Roosevelt acquiesced to British policy” (60)
  • Gandhi was rightly concerned with American public opinion as there was an “adverse American press reaction” to the movement. Gandhi appealed directly to Roosevelt in a July 1 letter (68-71)
  • pressure from Chinese government pushed Roosevelt to approach Churchill on the issue, but rather than endorsing Chiang Kai-shek’s plan, Roosevelt merely presents it, giving Churchill an easy opportunity to shoot it down, which Hess thinks is weak (77)

December, 1942: Phillips Mission

  • December 1942- Roosevelt announces Phillip’s appointment as personal representative
  • “William Phillips typified American East Coast aristocracy” (Kux, 28)
  • Phillips became friends with FDR while serving as Asst. Sec. of State to Roosevelt’s Asst. Sec. of the Navy under Woodrow Wilson. Phillips acted as Under Secretary twice in his career, as well as serving as ambassador to Italy. Phillips headed the OSS London office starting in 1941 (Kux, 28)
  • In his article, “The Education of William Phillips,” Kenton Clymer that it was hard to imagine “someone less likely than William Phillips to sympathize with the Indian nationalist leaders, much less with the masses” (Clymer, 19)
  • Secretary Hull instructed Phillips to help the British reach a political settlement with the Indian nationalists without making it seem like the United States was intervening (Kux, 29)
  • January- Phillips arrives in India
  • Feb. 10, 1943: Phillips to State Department: “I am coming to the conclusion that the Viceroy, prsumably responsive to Churchill, is not in sympathy with any change in Britain’s relationship with India” (FRUS, 1943, vol. IV, pg. 187)
  • May 14- returns to Washington

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • cites an October 1942 Wendell Willkie radio speech as the impetus that forced Roosevelt to find a replacement for Johnson, after reaffirming the universal nature of the Atlantic Charter the day after Willkie’s speech (Kux, 28)
  • Phillips worried that the emphatic presence of U.S. troops in India would suggest to the Indians that Americans supported British imperialism (Kux, 30)
  • Gandhi’s fast to gain international attention for the Indian cause, which he started in prison on Feb. 10, impressed Phillips, who in a letter to Roosevelt suggested that the President convene a conference for all involved parties to come to a settlement. Phillips’ stance surprised FDR, who in a letter to Hopkins wrote that Phillips’ suggestion was “amazingly radical for a man like Bill” (qtd. in Kux, 31)
  • Phillips made a personal appeal to Linlithgow to meet with Gandhi, but was rebuffed. Phillips believed that his efforts at least created positive press of the U.S. in India (33)
  • Kux analyzes that though Johnson and Phillips came from different backgrounds, they reached the same conclusions about the India situation: “Both believed the British did not want to give up India. Both thought the United States should actively press for Indian independence. Both ultimately failed to move President Roosevelt into a battle that he was liekly to lose with the closest wartime ally of the United States (35).

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006)

  • “William Phillips was destined…to have his greatest impact on US-India relations following his departure from India” (33)
  • “Ambassador Phillips’s lack of the kind of flamboyance displayed by General [Colonel] Louis Johnson may also have hampered his ability to get the public’s attention even on those occasions where he actually tried” (34)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • Hess presents renewed U.S. government interest in India situation as being caused by “Britain’s intransigence” and not by lobbying efforts or developments in India (89); after Gandhi ends his fast, however, American public interest in India fades (104)
  • labels Wilkie October 26, 1942 radio speech as catalyst that finally pushed FDR to appoint Phillips as his personal rep (95)
  • “Phillips’ efforts to induce a change in American policy failed” (106)
  • Phillips requested retirement in July 1943, which FDR didn’t grant until March 17, 1945, an action Hess presents as demonstrated FDR’s uncertainty with India issue (112)

July 25, 1944: Pearson leak

  • On July 25, Drew Pearson, a popular political columnist for the Washington Post, published excerpts from a leaked copy of Phillips’ final report to Roosevelt on his mission, in his daily column, “Washington Merry-Go-Round.”

Kux, Estranged Democracies (1993)

  • “The story created a sensation in India and in Britain–although it cased little reaction in the United States” (36)
  • “The U.S. refusal to repudiate Phillips angered the British, boosting U.S. further in India” (36)
  • Phillips attempted to retire in August 1944, but Roosevelt did not accept his request in an attempt to not add to the hoopla (36)

Gould, Sikhs, Swamis, Students, and Spies (2006)

  • Gould frames his text around the Pearson leak and exposing Robert Crane as the leaker “Deep Throat”
  • marks the leak as a milestone in the relations between the US and India because, as according to Phillips, it “created a great commotion in England, a favorable impression here, and a burst of enthusiastic acclaim in India” (qtd. on 37)
  • the leak and aftermath cast a favorable glow on the US as being opposed to British imperialism for Indians, as well as strengthening the hand of the Indian-American lobbyists (38)
  • describes the leak as being “consummated in a David-and-Goliath propaganda war” between the British and the Indian lobbyists, who were committed to convincing “the American people that both colonialism and racism contradicted the principles upon which the American republic was erected, as well as the ideals fro which World War II was allegedly being fought” (39)

Aldrich, Intelligence and the War Against Japan (2000)

  • describes Pearson as “probably the most widely read political commentator in the United States” (148)
  • While the leak created “flap” in Washington, the uproar did not extend to India or Britain: most Indian nationalists had lost hope of any American intervention in favor of their independence, and Churchill believed the leak would keep Roosevelt from raising the question of Indian independence, calling Phillips “nothing more than ‘a well-meaning ass'” (149- assessment based on intelligence papers and a letter from Churchill to Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden)
  • Focuses more material on British intelligence reaction to subsequent August 1944 leaks of telegrams between Eden and the Government of India, which Pearson also published (149-150)

Hess, America Encounters India (1971)

  • “the British response was immediate and definite”– wanted the U.S. gov’t to disavow Phillips’ report (143)
  • “virtually ignored in the American press” but received a significant amount of attention in India (144- cites major Indian newspapers)

Phillips, Ventures in Diplomacy (1952)

  • Phillips implies that he was about to facilitate discussions between the U.S. and Britain on the India issue at the time of publication, which in turn, dashed the possibility of revisiting the subject (413-414)
  • The publication of Phillips’ report: “created great commotion in England, a favorable impression here, and a burst of enthusiastic acclaim in India” (389).

White, A Rising Wind (1945)

  • Describes the leak as having “the highest significance” because it elucidated the arguments made by advocates of Indian independence (148)