THE FIRST SUMMIT: Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, 1941 by Theodore A. Wilson

THE FIRST SUMMIT: Roosevelt and Churchill at Placentia Bay, 1941

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The President and the Prime Minister's elaborate tete a tete, which preceded American entry into the war, gave birth to the Atlantic Charter. But as Wilson stresses here, for both men the secret confidence was equally a personal and political adventure--a chance to feel out another ""great ego."" Wilson, a provocative and able historian, provides careful description of the events preceding Placentia--Harry Hopkins' two missions to England and one to Russia, the phony cover story (FDR's fishing trip), the arrangements for security and ceremony. The meeting, conducted like a very serious yacht party (banquets, films) and kept secret though some fifty personages went along, was, when announced, a ""propaganda bust"" and did not affect the polls. It served however as an opportunity for the men who had to direct a war to get to know their counterparts. Wilson's book started as a doctoral dissertation but shows no trace of it--the prose is colloquial, readable; there is wit, even suspense. He draws on the specialized reports of the conference and on memoirs, and although he sets up a few strawman sources (i.e., Elliott Roosevelt's book is quoted only to be discredited), for the most part he concentrates on explaining straightforwardly the incidents, the issues, the consequences of a meeting which even in an age of personal diplomacy was unprecedented.

Pub Date: April 23rd, 1969
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin