PEARL HARBOR by Steven M. Gillon


FDR Leads the Nation to War
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Japanese planes appeared over Oahu at 1:25 p.m., Washington time, on Dec. 7, 1941. This superior addition to the snapshot genre of historical writing describes the following 24 hours, ending when FDR delivered his famous “day of infamy” message to Congress.

The History Channel resident historian Gillon (History/Univ. of Oklahoma; The Kennedy Assassination--24 Hours After: Lyndon B. Johnson's Pivotal First Day as President, 2009, etc.) reminds readers that everyone expected war. Having broken Japan’s diplomatic code, American officials knew that morning that Japan’s embassy had been ordered to destroy its code machines. Everyone assumed the Japanese fleet (known to have sailed) would move south to obtain desperately needed oil and natural resources from weakly defended British and Dutch Southeast Asia colonies. A San Francisco Naval station picked up news of the raid and relayed it to Washington, where a flabbergasted FDR received it at 1:47. Gillon paints a vivid picture of the scramble that followed as he summoned his cabinet, aides and Congressional leaders from their Sunday rest. Meetings throughout the day served mostly to agonize over how American forces were caught napping and exchange wild rumors (swastikas on the wings of attacking planes, Japanese troops landing on Hawaii)--as well as to vow revenge. Little useful activity and no important decisions resulted, and Gillon wisely cuts away from the confusion to deliver background information and generous biographies of FDR, Eleanor and a dozen leading figures.

An excellent introduction to Roosevelt and his times with heavy emphasis on events surrounding Pearl Harbor.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-465-02139-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Basic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2011


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