The big band played “The White Cliffs of Dover” five days ago at the annual World War II Weekend in Reading, Pennsylvania. It’s a sentimental song, but until last week I hadn’t noticed it also is a song of freedom.
“White Cliffs of Dover” was immensely popular in Britain during the war, which involved the Britons two years longer than the Americans. In fact, Walter Kent and Nat Burton wrote the song in 1941, months before the United States entered the war.
The song says “There’ll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover” when the war ends. The lyrics are almost too sweet at this point, but then they get to the solid point.
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see.
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
When the world is free.
No defeat. Kent and Burton could have gone for the easy let’s-just-stop-fighting lyrics, but instead they spelled out what was at stake. Freedom. The words reminded singer Vera Lynn's audiences that peace would come only if human liberty had its victory.
The song was written when the world’s democrats understood better that wars against tyrants must not simply be ended, they had to be ended in freedom’s favor.
Winning was essential. Losing to tyranny would mean no new blooming of progress, no security in our own homes, no bluebirds flying free.