After Winston Churchill lost in his bid to retain his position as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in July of 1945, his doctor recommended that he take some time away from England to rest and relax. While deciding where to where to enjoy his respite, a long-time friend from Canada, Colonel Frank W. Clarke, suggested he join him at his home on LaGorce Island in Miami Beach for what would become a six-week holiday spanning from January 16th until March 1st in 1946.
One of the places that Churchill visited during his time in South Florida was the Hialeah Race Track. When the prime minister arrived on Wednesday, January 30th, shortly before the start of the fourth race, he was greeted by throngs of reporters and onlookers. As he exited his automobile at the main clubhouse entrance, photojournalists captured the moment in photographs and attendees applauded. Wearing a brown suit and a gray hat, while puffing on his customary cigar, Churchill smiled and waved his hat in appreciation for their adoration.
In the cover photograph, standing to the left of the prime minister, was General Henry “Hap” Arnold who was one of Churchill’s special guests for the day at the racetrack. At the time of the photograph, General Arnold was a few months away from retirement from a very distinguished military career.
Hap Arnold was a pioneer aviator who was personally trained by the Wright brothers in 1911 to become one of the earliest military pilots. He held the ranks of General of the Army, Chief of the Army Air Corps (1938 – 1941), commanding general of the U.S. Army Air Forces, and later General of the Air Force. He was the only United States Air Force general to hold a five-star rank, and the only officer to hold a five-star rank in two different U.S. military services.
Arnold retired from the service on June 30, 1946, after earning the most honors a nation can give a world military leader of his stature, including three Distinguished Service crosses, the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and decorations from Morocco, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Peru, France, Mexico and Great Britain.
Considering that Miami Beach was an important training ground for the Army Air Corp during World War II, it was poetic that the head of the Air Corp would enjoy a relaxing day at the track in South Florida as the guest of one of the most renowned world leaders who was instrumental in victory over the Axis powers during the war. South Florida played an important role in preparing the flyers of World War II for the Allies, including the Royal Air Force, to help win the war.
As Churchill’s party made their way to their seats on the third tier of the racetrack stands, applause rippled throughout the crowd watching the prime minister’s every step. Churchill sat in the box of the owner of Hialeah Race Track, John C. Clark, during is historic visit to the venue. When the throng’s chants of “stand-up” were heard by Churchill, he stood and gave his customary V-sign to the enthusiastic crowd.
While no one from his party won in the fourth race, Churchill picked a winner in the next race. He placed a bet on Cedar Creek, the son of the English Derby Winner, Bahram. Once the cry of “they’re off” was heard, Winston Churchill was just another race fan hoping his horse and jockey found their way into the winner’s circle. He watched America’s most famous jockey, Eddie Arcaro, guide Cedar Creek to easy triumph providing the prime minister with winnings on an undisclosed amount.
Although his visit was short in duration, Churchill expressed how impressed he was with the track and grounds. While his host, wife and daughter would return to the venue later during the family’s visit to South Florida, Winston Churchill’s one and only visit to Hialeah Race Track was memorable for both the prime minister and those who attended that day.Click Here to Subscribe
- Miami Herald: “Winnie Visits Hialeah but Horse Steals Show”, January 31, 1946.
- Website: “About General Henry H. Arnold”, Air Force website.
- Website: “Henry Hap Arnold”, Arlington Cemetery website.
- Cover: Winston Churchill entering Hialeah Race Track with General Henry H. Arnold on January 30, 1946. Background is the entrance to Hialeah Race Track in the 1940s. Photos courtesy of Florida State Archives.
- Figure 1: Portrait of General Henry ‘Hap’ Arnold. Photo courtesy of the United States Air Force.
- Figure 2: Winston and Clementine Churchill at Hialeah Race Track on January 30, 1946. Courtesy of author.