Of the myths initiated in the summer of 1940, none was more essential than that Britons were “all in it together”. This image of a united people was a brilliant invention. It worked because it actually inspired the conduct it purported to describe and had the added benefit of influencing American opinion. Convincing Americans that Britain was capable of fighting on was an urgent priority. American journalists contributed enormously to its achievement.
Isolationism, the belief that America should avoid involvement in foreign wars, had widespread support in 1940. Joseph Kennedy, US ambassador in London, warned the State Department against involvement. Noting Churchill’s hunger for American aid, Kennedy advised: “Unless there is a miracle, they realise they haven’t a chance in the long run.”
Such official pessimism was reinforced by questions about why, if it was a democracy, Britain still had an empire. There was widespread doubt whether its notoriously stuffy