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Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom (1940-1945) [Kindle Edition]

James MacGregor Burns
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Burns’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award–winning history of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s final years
The second entry in James Macgregor Burns’s definitive two-volume biography of Roosevelt begins with the president’s precedent-breaking third term election in 1940, just as Americans were beginning to face the likelihood of war. Here, Burns examines Roosevelt’s skillful wartime leadership as well as his vision for post-war peace. Hailed by William Shirer as “the definitive book on Roosevelt in the war years,” and by bestselling author Barbara Tuchman as “engrossing, informative, endlessly readable,” The Soldier of Freedom is a moving profile of a leader gifted with rare political talent in an era of extraordinary challenges, sacrifices, heroism, and hardship.

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Editorial Reviews


“Incisively and vividly written . . . Burns’s best book.” —LIFE
“[A] book of broad scope that never shirks the complexities and difficult judgments on Roosevelt’s conduct of office . . .” —The New York Times

About the Author

James MacGregor Burns (b. 1918) is a bestselling American historian and political scientist whose work has earned both the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Born in Boston, Burns fell in love with politics and history at an early age. He earned his BA at Williams College, where he returned to teach history and political science after obtaining his PhD at Harvard and serving in World War II. Burns’s two-volume biography of Franklin Roosevelt is considered the definitive examination of the politician’s rise to power, and his groundbreaking writing on the subject of political leadership has influenced scholars for decades. He currently serves as the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Government Emeritus at Williams College and as Distinguished Leadership Scholar at the University of Maryland.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Insightful Study July 8, 2007
This is a study of Franklin D. Roosevelt's leadership as president between the years 1940-1945. The author is certainly a scholar on President Roosevelt and this study is choke full of information that makes this an extremely informative, but for me, a bit of a slow read. Burns' thesis is that Roosevelt was both the idealist and the realist. His often lofty goals and dreams could often be compromised for the more pragmatic (some might say perfidious) decisions reached. It is indeed a dichotomy that shows throughout this study. But despite this lack of cohesion between an effectual joining of these two traits, Roosevelt's wartime leadership is still heralded by most historians.

For some who might want to know more about the actual military engagements in Europe and the Pacific, you might be a bit disappointed. This book is more concerned with strategies developed by Roosevelt and other leaders for both fronts, where priority should be given, how the alliance worked together and so forth. Roosevelt's respect for public opinion was certainly a major factor for his early hesitancy to rush to the aid of Great Britain. Indeed, Roosevelt was seemingly always guided by popular opinion, though I think he probably was ahead of it in ways.

Some of the interesting facets of this book that helped shed some insight for me on Roosevelt's foreign policy was his belief that China had to be a major player in the postwar world, even though he perhaps overestimated China's military capabilities under Chiang Kai-shek. His understanding of the importance of trying to keep good relations with Russia came through as well. His anti-colonialism was often used to tweak Churchill, though as Burns stated, Roosevelt would never go too far in the risk of jeopardizing allied partnership.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Companion: War Administration April 15, 2000
This is Mr. Burns' companion volume to his Lion and the Fox (check that out). This focuses on FDR's WWII War Administration: policies, attitudes, hopes and worldly goals.
FDR's dedication to the well-being of the United States in WWII is evidenced by the fact that to start with, he didn't want a third term in office come 1940. Indeed, such aspirations were frowned upon in the political community. It did not stop him; as he saw it, it was his duty and obligation to the American people to keep familiar leadership in time of international turmoil. Other obstacles: struggles to arm allies, constant planning and meeting with allied leaders, and gradual, failing health. Burns also shows FDR's political savvy, using the utilization for war to the nation's advantage. Many unemployed workers were put back to work, which helped shift American industry into an overdrive that didn't stop for decades. Vision: as a disciple of Woodrow Wilson, he had a vision of a United Nations. One that he did not live to see.
For anyone reading about FDR, or World War II, this companion volume on his war administration is a must for anyone's collection, as it has become in mine.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyed it May 24, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Burn's biography of President Roosevelt is a broad historical review of America's role in World War II, with a special focus on the American president. Burns has established himself as an academic authority on the Roosevelt presidency, and his biographies on Roosevelt have won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. Relying primarily on the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and other collections and archives, Burns effectively illustrates the myriad of responsibilities facing the President of the United States during the war. Beyond broad strategy goals, Roosevelt was tasked with providing political victories, promoting morale, shaping economic policy during mobilization, controlling inflation and planning for the post-war world. Throughout the war, conflicts erupted between military planners and politicians, management and labor, and all the various Allied leaders. Roosevelt's flexible, informal style frustrated Marshall and Eisenhower, but it ultimately proved to be an asset in addressing the countless problems facing the Commander in Chief.

Throughout his presidency, a disconnect existed between Roosevelt's high-minded rhetoric and his behind-the-scenes use of Realpolitik. Roosevelt's strong speeches outlined bold, idealistic war aims, but he suffered from indecision behind the scenes, which delayed the United States' commitment before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt's indecision and his vague policy preferences were due to stiff political opposition from isolationist voters at home. The draft-extension bill, for example, survived by only one vote and limited other moves to escalate the war effort.

The attack on Pearl Harbor unified the nation and brought Roosevelt's strategy into focus.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Political Biography April 8, 2011
By Mike B
This is a well-written history of Roosevelt in power from 1940 to his death in 1945. Burns captures well the events and feelings of the times. His descriptions of war-torn Europe and Asia plus the different characters and their roles is very good. The relations of Roosevelt to the power players of the era - Churchill, Stalin, Chiang Kai-Shek are excellent. There are depictions of the historical events in Normandy, Stalingrad which are succinct but well-crafted.

He does give us the ambivalence of Roosevelt - who was the best actor of that epoch. Roosevelt would be constantly probing to see how far he could go without jeopardizing his popularity in the U.S. If he would have declared war prior to Pearl Harbour all would have been lost. It may have been justified, but Roosevelt knew how to manage and balance the "right thing" with his hold on power.

But Burns gives us little of the personal Roosevelt. There is little on his relationship with those closest to him - like Eleanor, his mother or his children. Even his relationship with those in his government - Harry Hopkins, Francis Perkins is barely mentioned. Roosevelt was a very communicative human being - he loved gossip and wanted to know what made people tick.

Burns is excellent on the political side of Roosevelt, but the personal side is ignored.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
long but interesting
Published 19 days ago by Becky Garrison
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Susan Rigby
5.0 out of 5 stars Great two part series on one of the immortals of American History.
Well written which makes this a pleasurable read. Tells the story of the man who helped save the world when the world was slipping into a potential dark age. Read more
Published 1 month ago by eski15
4.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent/Readable History
I am not a history buff but purchased this book to learn more about this era in American history. It was very readable and, since it was divided into parts (one for each year),... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Robert E. Howes
5.0 out of 5 stars Always enjoy reading about Roosevelt and the leaders of the world ...
Always enjoy reading about Roosevelt and the leaders of the world at the time of the second world war. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Helen V. Biggins
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Man
Another book from an era that mesmerrizes me.
Published 2 months ago by TableRock55
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read! An insightful book to Roosevelt's thinking and ...
A great read! An insightful book to Roosevelt's thinking and the not so harmonious politics of our allies in WWII. Deja vu!!
Published 2 months ago by George W Ringer
3.0 out of 5 stars Good History Read
Good book for details on history during that period. Gave me some insight into Roosevelt's quirks. I would read it again because of the content but it was a little slow at times.
Published 4 months ago by Ron
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Roosevelt: the Soldieer of Freedom
I am currently thoroughly engrossed in this book because it speaks of much I remember as a child. Presently I am 35% into the book. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Charles Cole
5.0 out of 5 stars my ratings :
I liked the details and descriptions of the people around Roosevelt.this was a very worthwhile book. I'd like to keep it.
Published 5 months ago by Carole Herman
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