THE COLONEL: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson, 1867-1950 by Godfrey Hodgson

THE COLONEL: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson, 1867-1950

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An incisive, highly polished biography of ""one of the great guardians of the Republic"": Henry Stimson, who mobilized American armed forces against the Nazis and played godfather to the centrist keepers of the postwar peace against the Communists. Hodgson (All Things to All Men, 1980; Lloyd's of London, 1984, etc.) depicts this aristocratic warrior as a crucial link between the aggressive imperialism advocated by Stimson's hero, Theodore Roosevelt, and the reluctant Cold War policies of John McCloy, Robert Lovett, and McGeorge Bundy--all of whom were enormously influenced by Stimson and shared his impeccable Establishment credentials (prep school, Yale Skull and Bones, Harvard Law School). Stimson first won public notice as Theodore Roosevelt's choice for US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Later, he served Republican Presidents Taft, Coolidge, and Hoover as, successively, secretary of war, negotiator of a ceasefire in Nicaragua's revolution, governor-general of the Philippines, and secretary of state (with time out for a lucrative but boring Wall Street law practice and WW I service, where he won his colonel's rank). Alarmed by his party's embrace of isolationism as Hitler menaced Europe, he agreed to join FDR's administration as secretary of war, where he played a major role in backing the Lend-Lease program, pressing for a head-on invasion of Europe, and dropping the atomic bomb. Hodgson perceptively shows how the issues Stimson faced are still with us, including the Philippines, Nicaragua, Japan, collective security arrangements in Europe, and the balance of terror. Although Stimson's faults are enumerated (misjudgments of de Gaulle and Anastasio Somoza, lawyerly caution at the expense of imagination, and racial condescension that may have swayed him to back the internment of Japanese-Americans), Hodgson also inevitably pays tribute to his probity and diligent attempts to work for peace. A penetrating, realistic assessment.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1990
Publisher: Knopf