"THE GREATEST OF FRIENDS: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, 1939-1945" by Keith Alldritt

"THE GREATEST OF FRIENDS: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, 1939-1945"

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In a limpidly written tribute to the friendship that epitomized the ""special relationship"" between Britain and the US, Alldritt (English/Univ. of British Columbia; Churchill the Writer, 1993, not reviewed, etc.) celebrates FDR and Winston Churchill's fateful association. In retrospect, the affinity between the British and American leaders of WW II seems natural: They shared similarly aristocratic backgrounds, professional interest in naval affairs, a commitment to representative democracy, an internationalist outlook, and, ultimately, a conviction that fascism needed to be stopped by force. But the first encounter between FDR and Churchill was not propitious: In a 1918 speech to a visiting delegation of Americans that included then Undersecretary of the Navy Roosevelt, Churchill offended his guests by implying that America needed British know-how and direction. However, first as a member of Prime Minister Chamberlain's wartime government and later as prime minister himself, it was Churchill who reached out for American aid and support in response to Roosevelt's invitation to ""keep me in touch personally with anything you want me to know about."" As Alldritt shows, the relationship between the American president and the British statesman--commenced, probably improperly, while Churchill was a member of the Cabinet--quickly became warm and comradely. Although he documents some of the jealousies and tensions between the two men, as well as their sometimes profound differences in style and outlook, Alldritt appears to gloss over the more strained moments; for instance, he depicts the destroyers-for-bases deal, which some historians have characterized as the product of harsh American bargaining, as an exemplar of Rooseveltian cooperation. But Alldritt is surely correct in concluding that, in the end, this close and affectionate friendship, manifested in nine wartime meetings and 1,700 messages, ""became a force in and upon history."" Not a landmark contribution to historical scholarship, but a pleasant reflection on the possibilities of friendship.

Pub Date: Nov. 20th, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: St. Martin's