The final installment of the biographer’s significant study of Franklin Roosevelt’s sine qua non leadership in World War II.
It seems safe to say that, following his Commander in Chief: FDR’S Battle with Churchill, 1943 (2016), Hamilton is not Winston Churchill’s greatest admirer. As this volume recounts frequently and at length, Churchill often attempted to assert British leadership of the tripartite alliance with the United States and the Soviet Union, especially by pressing not for a cross-Channel invasion of Europe but instead for a push up through Italy, “an alternative Mediterranean strategy” that had the virtue, for Churchill, of taking place in a theater that was largely in the British sphere to begin with. Churchill’s strategy endangered one of D-Day’s lesser-known effects: The Western Allies’ pledge to open a second front in continental Europe would in turn produce a deepening of the war in the East—so Stalin promised, at any rate, while nursing a private bitterness that the Soviet Union had borne the brunt of the fight. Meanwhile, Germany exploited the weaknesses that emerged by floating hints of making a separate peace, with Joseph Goebbels noting in his diary that “Americans have only a secondary interest in the war in Europe and are only inspired by the war against Japan.” Even so, and against the odds, the Allies held together, an achievement that Hamilton credits to FDR’s unwavering leadership even in the face of Churchill’s maneuvering—and even though FDR, by the author’s account, knew that he was dying and still pressed on. The fact that those German offers were floated in March 1945, however—no secret from Hitler but a deliberate strategy—increased the Soviet mistrust of the Western powers and, Hamilton suggests, may have “presaged the Cold War" that followed the defeat of the Axis powers.
Of considerable interest to students of presidential and American military history, though likely to court criticism from the Churchill camp.