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on August 2, 2000
Forged in War is a well researched although often quirky history of Churchill and Roosevelt during World War II. As diplomatic history, this book is a good review of the key events during the war years, including the many conferences and meetings between Churchill, Roosevelt, and sometimes Stalin. Kimball reminds the reader that during the war Britain and the United States were allies with the Soviet Union. He correctly discourages the reader from using the Cold War as a prism for viewing the decisions of high strategy made during the war, while at the same time he reviews those key wartime decisions that were so important in shaping the postwar world.
Kimball uses various unnamed sources throughout his otherwise meticulously researched book. For example on page 10 at the end of a paragraph about how postwar leaders "exploited the Churchill legend" Kimball states: "Even one of those convicted in the Watergate affair during the Nixon years adopted as his public motto a Churchill admonition not to give way "in things great or small, large or petty." On the next page he refers to: "One student of international affairs, who by 1990 had become a regular contributor to the op-ed page of the New York Times . . . ." Such references to unnamed sources leaves the reader wondering why Kimball uses such sources at all, if he can't or won't name his source.
Kimball is a talented writer although he too often inserts comments that remind the reader when he is writing-in the 1990s-and by doing so he cheapens his narrative. One example is in reference to the Yalta Conference and its influence on postwar popular culture. "Fifty years after the Big Three met in the Crimea, a supermodel, appearing in a motion picture depicting her vacuous, if remunerative, occupation, specified the place of the conference in historical memory. Searching for a stark contrast between what she did and what was truly important, she quipped: 'I mean, the worst thing that can happen to me is I break a heel and fall down. This is not Yalta, right?'" (pp. 310-311) He then refers to this broken heel later in his text. The name of the supermodel is supplied in an endnote, however the reference is a strain on the narrative. Kimball would have done much better not to include such references at all, however they are laced throughout the book.
Despite such quirks in his narrative, Kimball still manages to deliver a good review of the leaders and their strategies for winning World War II. Churchill is depicted as loveable, immature, brilliant, drunk, determined, and loyal to his country and empire. Roosevelt is shown to be shrewd, duplicitous, patrician, informal, irreverent, and equally committed to his nation's interests. FDR constantly urges Churchill to abandon his colonies in favor of self-determination for those under British rule. Churchill is adamant in his desire to maintain the empire. Kimball completed a three-volume study titled Churchill and Roosevelt: The Complete Correspondence. He draws heavily on this research and includes choice quotes from the correspondence between the two wartime leaders. Kimball looks far beyond the Churchill-Roosevelt correspondence however, and gives the reader a comprehensive summary of both the Churchill-Roosevelt relationship and their independent actions as they led the world to victory over the Nazis. The book focuses on the war in Europe with fewer references to the war in Asia. Stalin is also prominent in this narrative as befits the leader of the nation who took the brunt of what Hitler's armies had to offer.
Kimball reviews all of the summit meetings of the war from the Atlantic Conference through Yalta. Churchill met with Roosevelt eleven times, with Stalin twice, and all three met on two occasions. The travel logistics and risks were enormous in these meetings, especially for the handicapped Roosevelt. Churchill too was not a young and strong man. Included among Churchill's many serious health problems is the story of when he nearly died of pneumonia after the Tehran Conference.
Kimball argues against putting excessive blame to "losing eastern Europe" at Yalta, reminding the reader that most of the postwar agreements, including the fate of eastern Europe, were already agreed to prior to Yalta. Those agreements were made with the Soviet Union when they were a desperately needed ally in the fight against Hitler. Churchill was especially worried about Stalin negotiating a separate peace with Hitler.
Even with his quirky writing style, Kimball managed to write an excellent history of Churchill, Roosevelt, and their wartime leadership that led to the unconditional surrender of Nazi Germany and set the foundation for the postwar world.
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on June 22, 2003
In "Forged In War," Warren Kimball seeks to shed light on the relationship between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill that was, well, forged in World War II. For those who are interested in what happens away from the battlefield, this book provides an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at cooperation between two Great Powers. After a brief discussion of the two major players and their characters, the book plunges into the meat of its subject, namely the political and military cooperation between America and Great Britain during and after the war. Essentially, the narrative is divided into three (somewhat overlapping) parts. The first segment covers the events leading up to the war and FDR's decision to enter it; the second, the struggles to defeat Germany and Japan; the third, the diplomatic maneuvering over postwar arrangements once the defeat of Germany had been assured. It's the third part that's most prominent, and also most interesting, as Kimball delves into a discussion of how the prosecution of the war effected, and was effected by, competing visions of the postwar world. The upheavals caused by wars tend to have a dramatic impact on the way the world looks after they're over, and "Forged In War" is a comprehensive examination of how Roosevelt and Churchill (and Stalin for that matter) attempted to exert their control over these upheavals. Although Kimball obviously has a certain level of admiration for Churchill and Roosevelt, he makes it clear that for both men practicality overrode principal; as Roosevelt said, he was not a Wilsonian idealist, and the same held true for Churchill. At the same time that the two Western leaders were finishing off Germany militarily, they were also positioning themselves to prevent Soviet domination of Europe at war's end. A central focus of the book is the massive series of formal and informal discussions that eventually culminated in the acceptance of Stalin's axiom: whoever liberated a conquered country got to impose on it their own political system. In this sense, probably the most impressive aspect of the book is the extent to which Kimball captures the intermingling of political and military considerations that can occur during wartime. Kimball has a straightforward and sometimes entertaining writing style that prevents his narrative from getting too bogged down in detail, so most should find reading this book pretty easy. For history buffs, "Forged In War" gets a high recommendation.
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on February 26, 2013
My name is John and I'm a history addict. It is probably never a good idea to say, "This is the most ......... of the century" but I'll say it anyway. This relationship, Churchill and Roosevelt, was the most important relationship of the 20th century. Only my interest in history kept me going until the end. The subject matter is critical for an understanding of WW II but unfortunately the pace of the book is slow and at times a little disjointed. I had the same problem with "A Man Called Intrepid" but that too is an important book for an understanding of WW II. I would recommend both books for their history but not for their style.
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on July 27, 2000
Warren Kimball once again, with an adeptness uncommon among documentary-based historical narratives, weaves his way through the complexities of the Roosevelt-Churchill wartime partnership. As suggested by the title, Kimball frames for the reader a political and personal relationship that, although rife with an undercurrent of conflict, ultimately is hammered into the finest weapon of war. A picture immerges of two leaders, who despite the immense internal political and external military pressures of the war, never lost their edge in dealing with one another, let alone their common foes. Many internal skirmishes over the conduct of war policy are revealed in the author's apt analysis of the documents. The correspondence reveals that the duo often disagreed quite intensly about the conduct of the war and the way to win the peace at war's end. The careful reader will appreciate the pains professor Kimball undertook to reveal the many shades of the relationsip. The two statesmen did not always see eye to eye and frequently utilized subtle, to not-so-subtle methods of deception in order to force the other's hand or coax the other slowly but surely to eventually concurr. However, a final balance in the narrative is achieved by a paralleling focus on Roosevelt's and Churchill's shared mutual objectives. In the end it was Roosevelt's and Churchill's compatible visions of future that transended their differences in style, personal judgement and even national self-interest.
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on June 8, 2007
Warren Kimball, one of the nation's leading diplomatic historians, has written a fine dual biography of Roosevelt and Churchill that focuses on their partnership in coalition warfare during World War II. Kimball has spent most of his academic career writing on this period and has an expert's touch at providing good details that enliven the text and expert knowledge of the era. He argues that neither man was an ideal war leader---which as an American is easy to believe about FDR, a little less about Churchill---and while the Anglo-American coalition had interests that were at odds with one another (a big theme in current academic studies), they had interests that were identical. The glue of the alliance was the leadership the two men offered and there was nothing inevitable about the relationship. It could have easily gone the other way, which would have been in neither nation's interests. The two nations basically faced not one war, but three: 1) the United Kingdom and the United States versus Germany; 2) Germany versus the Soviet Union; and 3) the United States versus Japan.

In all three conflicts, it was in their mutual common interests to see that the Axis powers were defeated. The survival or victory of any Axis nation would be a very bad thing. Kimball argues at the end of his book: "Almost always, when faced with crucial choices about victory versus postwar political advantage, Roosevelt, Churchill, or both made the decision to keep the Grand Alliance together and to defeat the Axis. They could not solve all the political, social, and economic problems of the world, but they could lead their nations to victory and prevent a far worse set of problems.

"And they did" (p. 337).
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on March 14, 1997
I found this book to be very informative, although
it doesn't delve as far into the FDR-Churchill relationship
as I would like. It is, however, a good account of the
history of the strategy of the Allied countries during the
war.
The book itself, though well-developed, sometimes
uses sentence structures at which any grammar teacher would
cringe. With commas running rampant and parenthetical
extensions plentiful, following the development of points
can be difficult.
Overall, this book is a good insight to the Anglo-
American relationship in WWII.
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on July 22, 1997
As someone with a casual interest in the history of WWII, I found Warren Kimball's Forged in War to be a very informative and entertaining read. The author has drawn from a very large collection of sources to provide a detailed look at the relationship between Roosevelt and Churchill as it evolved throughout the course of the war. This work allows the reader to view the war's major geopolitical decisions with greater understanding and appreciation. Despite what seems to be a slight pro-FDR bias, Kimball puts you in the minds of the two leaders, lets you see things from their perspective, and explains their often differing motives for diplomacy. Of particular interest are FDR and Churchill's dealings with Stalin that shaped the post-war world. The ideals of each man, from Stalin's axiom to FDR's notion of four global policeman and Churchill's spheres of influence, are fully explained by Kimball. Definitely worth reading
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