Twenty-five-year-old Coloradoan Frank Royal was listening to the radio when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave his famous “blood, toil, tears and sweat” speech to the House of Commons on May 13, 1940.
Frank, who later flew the Museum’s rare P-38F “White 33,” was struck by Churchill’s comments in those dark early days of World War II, as were many others.
“I heard Winston Churchill’s speech about blood, sweat and tears and it inspired me,” Frank said during an interview at the Museum in 2015.
He came to the Museum to see the restoration that was underway on “White 33.” It was one of several war-weary planes that had been shoved into a pit at Finschafen, New Guinea, during the war. It was recovered in the 1990s and flew again in 2016. It’s one of the stars of the National Museum of World War II Aviation.
Frank joined the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet at Fort Logan, Colorado, in March 1940, a couple of months before Churchill’s speech, and was in the early stages of pilot training.
He ultimately flew about 170 combat missions in P-39s and P-38s in the early months of fighting in New Guinea. He was with the 39th Fighter Squadron of the Fifth Air Force’s 35th Fighter Group. He shot down two enemy planes and was credited with two more probably shot down.
In one aerial confrontation, he fended off Japanese fighters trying to shoot a squadron mate in his parachute. Frank’s P-39 was hit several times, including once in the propeller (which is on display at the Museum near White 33), but he made it back to his base. His squadron mate also survived.
Frank, who retired in 1968 as a colonel in the U.S. Air Force, passed away in 2016 at the age of 101. He lived to see the restored White 33 fly again.
Churchill spoke three days after Germany’s invasion of France, and just three days after he had been named Prime Minister. World War II had begun the previous September when German troops invaded Poland, and it was apparent that difficult days lay ahead.
By the time Churchill stepped to the microphone to give a speech whose brevity only emphasized the looming threat, Nazi Germany had crushed Poland and invaded five other countries — Denmark and Norway only weeks before, and Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg, all on May 10 — the very day that Churchill became Prime Minister. The outcome of the battle for France was uncertain. Should France fall, Britain might be next.
Churchill understood the apprehensive mood of his countrymen and allies, but stirred them by sugar-coating nothing and charging them to victory, no matter the cost. He said he faced his own task “with buoyancy and hope.”
Asking the House of Commons for a vote of confidence in his new government after first addressing his Cabinet, Churchill said, “…it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many other points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations…have to be made here at home. In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the [establishment of my new government], will maker allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined the government: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’
“We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind,” Churchill continued. “We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.
“That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time, I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, ‘come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”