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One Christmas in Washington Hardcover – November 3, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

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Describing Winston Churchill's stay with FDR from December 1941 to January 1942, historians Bercuson and Herwig resemble Jon Meacham (Franklin and Winston, 2003) in their redolence of period detail. To be sure, grand strategy in a world war grounds their recounting, but its emphasis on interpersonal relations, its fly-on-the-wall perspective, proclaim this work to be a decidedly popular treatment of an important summit meeting. Thus FDR mixes cocktails for his British guest, who squelches his distaste for the American martini in the interest of inter-Allied harmony. However ebullient the two leaders were, their military and naval chiefs were highly antagonistic. The authors explain how the agendas they broached over the conference table, and the ensuing disputes over where armies were to be sent, were, in reality, about which would be the dominant ally. Working in the itinerary of Churchill's visit, and the sybaritic comforts he always demanded in his conveyances and hostelries, be it the White House or a Pompano Beach mansion, these historians successfully capture the atmosphere and substance of forging the alliance. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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'riveting account of a momentous time in world history.' DAILY EXPRESS --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; 1 edition (November 3, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1585674036
  • ISBN-13: 978-1585674039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,077,041 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Mike B on December 23, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A nicely written book that captures momentous events of over 60 years ago. The atmosphere of the meetings are brought out well. The authors do a good job of presenting the other participants besides the two primary leaders - Churchill and Roosevelt. There was Beaverbrook, Marshall, Hopkins and of course Eleanor - all offering their opinions and having a hidden agenda. For example Eleanor was dead-set on continuing the `New Deal' policies.

A subtitle to this book could have been `How to get your new partner to enter the war'. The American side is initially confused and disorganized at the start of these meetings. Towards the end of the meetings in January General Marshall sets a stronger organizational or management style platform for future operations. The structure is set for war production and allocation and for increasing the size of the merchant fleet. Transportation was required to bring all these supplies across the treacherous Atlantic to England and North Africa to bring the Americans directly into the war. The Americans knew in the long run that they would be providing most of the materiel and troops, so they began to take a more aggressive role to set-up the structure that met their requirements. The results of this conference, called `Arcadia', set the pattern for Anglo-American cooperation for the rest of the war.

Churchill may not have succeeded in getting all he wanted - he was hoping for a bigger role for British planning and direction; but he did succeed in his overall aim which was to apply the main focus on the destruction of Nazi Germany first ( Japan being secondary). Although Churchill is eloquent and flamboyant, Roosevelt is seen as having a greater world vision.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By L. M Young VINE VOICE on September 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perhaps I misread the description of this book. I found the Churchill visit and the negotiations interesting, but from the descriptions I had read of the volume I was expecting not only a narrative about the goings-on in Washington, but stories about how ordinary people reacted to the declaration of war, how the city and country changed, etc.

I feel I must comment about one thing I found very disconcerting: apparently no one proofread or spellchecked this manuscript. I saw numerous, jarring typos and several places where words were left out, so that I had to reread the sentence several times to try to make out what was being said. Very sloppy in such a heavily researched and scholarly book; did they rush it to the publisher in order to meet a deadline?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on January 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Christmas 1941 was at the same time the nadir and the foundation for the final success of the Allied powers in World War II. The British had just experienced the defeat at Dunkirk. The Americans had just suffered their biggest defeat at Pearl Harbor. But now they were about to be united, and as the final statement in the movie 'Tora, Tora, Tora' said, they were filled with a terrible resolve.

Both leaders were at their prime, and both needed the other. Both had staffs that were, at the best, distrustful of the abilities of the other country. Some like Admiral King, Chief of Naval Operations were very anti-British. The result of the conference was to form the 'Grand Alliance' or the 'Special Relationship' between England and the United States that has continued until this day.

This book draws a very good balance between the personal touches that remind us that there were people, and the broader implications of the decisions they were making.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gregory G. on March 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A wonderfully written, engaging narrative of a crucial time in the 20th century when a lack of unity and focus could have been the downfall of western democracy. You can't help but be drawn in by the personalities and events that shaped the management of the WW II. From the bombastic personality of Prime Minister Churchill to a president who was trying to feel his way into leadership of a waring nation, deals, power plays and compromise are drawn. Two dynamic staffs of political and military leaders work through issues, lines of authority and battlefields to be fought on. This comes with a backdrop of the first Christmas in Washington DC after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The chill of the winter air is certainly balanced by the heated discussions in and out of the White House.

Even if you are not a WW II history afficianado, you can't help but appreciate this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gregory G. on July 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
A pivotal moment in history with a dynamic cast of characters. The authors present a riveting portrayal of the meeting between Roosevelt and Churchill a few weeks after Pearl Harbor. Each day brings new challenges that set the course for the conduce oof the war.

Although his visit was an imposition, Roosevelt new that it was essential that they meet face to face to iron out the details for the future.

It is fascinating to see how the tenure of the meetings changed over the course of the days and how the British and americans gained respect for on another.

I couldn't put it down and after it was over I wanted more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Cynthia K. Robertson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read a bit about Christmas 1941 when Winston Churchill visited the White House to plot World War II strategy with Franklin Roosevelt. But until reading One Christmas in Washington: The Secret Meeting Between Roosevelt and Churchill That Changed the World by David Bercuson and Holger Herwig, I never realized what a monumental event this was.

The bulk of One Christmas in Washington takes place in Washington, DC. Americans were still stunned by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and were rather unorganized and unprepared to fight a war with Japan and Germany. Churchill planned to visit the White House despite the objections of almost all staff members on both sides of the pond. Most of what I read previously about this meeting involves funny stories and anecdotes--mostly about Churchill. He was a very demanding houseguest and liked things just a certain way (sherry with breakfast, scotch with lunch, champagne and brandy before bed, etc.). He also sparred verbally with Eleanor. But what I found so fascinating about this secret meeting (which became known as the Arcadia Conference) were the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that occurred during this 3 week span of time.

While Churchill and FDR were meeting, so did their staffs (both military and civilian). There was intense distrust and even dislike between the two camps. At the beginning, the Americans thought that the British were "arrogant know-it-alls" who "were only interested in poaching as much U.S. military hardware and troops as they could get." They also thought the Brits were selfish and untrustworthy. The British thought the Americans were "unorganized, bureaucratic, ignorant of the realities or the war.
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