The War Years, 1939-1945
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A fine, fully fleshed portrait of Franklin Roosevelt during his final years, in his own words.

As he did in his previous volume, Franklin D. Roosevelt: Road to the New Deal: 1882-1939 (2015), Daniels (Emeritus, History/Univ. of Cincinnati) sticks to FDR’s public utterances, offering extensive extracts of speeches and communiqués to elucidate the evolution of his wartime policy. The early probing question—during the 1940 presidential campaign, as FDR was champing at the bit to aid beleaguered Britain while skirting the prevailing isolationist atmosphere in America—remains: “to what degree the president was deliberately misleading the American people about his foreign policy intentions”? The answer, from the record Daniels presents, was a great deal. However, the author fairly examines the communiqués regarding the peace mission with the Japanese in late 1941 (just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor), and the president seemed to be sincerely hoping to maintain peace in the Pacific as long as possible rather than provoke a Japanese attack. During these fraught war years, FDR and his administration were particularly concerned with managing the civilian economy in support of the war effort, as the substantial body of this work takes up in detail. Daniels spotlights FDR’s early and extraordinary emphasis on creating the future United Nations. He had a vision of a peaceful postwar world when no peace was in sight, and he pushed for the prosecution of war criminals. Moreover, Daniels exposes the duplicitous “spin” given by the White House physician, who deliberately underplayed (or ignored) the severity of the president’s heart condition. The author does a fine historical service in allowing FDR’s rich, wise, moving words to emerge here, giving an illuminating portrait of a president in time of unprecedented world crisis.

An excellent resource that hews to the president’s words as reflecting or obscuring his actions.

Pub Date: March 30th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-252-03952-2
Page count: 712pp
Publisher: Univ. of Illinois
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2016


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