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Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman--from World War to Cold War Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 16, 2012

4.7 out of 5 stars 81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Guest Review: Author Rick Atkinson on Six Months in 1945

Rick Atkinson

Rick Atkinson, recipient of the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, is the bestselling author of The Day of Battle, An Army at Dawn, The Long Gray Line, and In the Company of Soldiers. The final volume of his Liberation Trilogy, covering the last year of the European war, from Normandy to Berlin, will be published in 2013. Atkinson was a staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post for twenty years, and his many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history. He lives in Washington, D.C.

By February 1945, when Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston S. Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met at the Crimean resort of Yalta, the Grand Alliance had become the most successful military coalition in modern history. The Big Three, with help from lesser allies among what Roosevelt called the united nations, had nearly obliterated the fascist Axis. The German Reich had but three months left to live, the Japanese regime barely twice that. In the three years since the Allies had formally made common cause, they had won great victories on three continents and the high seas, liberating the Mediterranean, most of Europe, and much of Asia from Axis oppression, and all but ending, righteously, a catastrophe that would cost sixty million dead worldwide.

Six months after the triumphant gathering at Yalta, the war-winning alliance had largely come unglued. Collaboration against the existential threat of fascist totalitarianism was supplanted by mutual suspicion and recrimination. Blood allies had become geopolitical rivals, if not blood enemies. The long, sanguinary war would become a long, fraught, dangerous peace.

Michael Dobbs tells this story with panache, lucidity, and exceptional scholarship. Six Months in 1945 ably sketches the big arrows on the map, showing how the concluding chapters of World War II became the opening chapters of the Cold War, shaping the world we inhabit today. Characters long dead return to life, not just the obvious architects of Allied victory, but vivid, vital, less well-known figures whom Dobbs deftly rescues from obscurity. From Yalta to Potsdam, the tale is told with authority and clarity, drawing on memoirs, archives, and a wealth of other sources, including many in Russian.

The bevy of books on the end of the war and its immediate aftermath, large and impressive though it may be, is enriched by Six Months in 1945.


"Elegantly written...Dobbs delivers engaging portraits of the national leaders and often amusingly detailed accounts of their conferences...A confident and rewarding survey of a hinge point in 20th century history." Kirkus Reviews. 

"[S]uperbly evocative . . . So vivid is the writing that you can practically feel the shuddering vibration and turbulence in what was then the state-of-the-art aircraft carrying Roosevelt on the first visit by an American president to the Soviet Union."
—Martin Rubin, San Francisco Chronicle

"Favoring a journalistic style that embeds the issues, such as Poland and German reparations, in atmospheric descriptions of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences' interior decor and meal menus, Dobbs lends the subject an immediacy that will engage history readers, who will be within earshot of leaders and their aides as they meet, adjourn, dine, and wrangle over the affairs of defeated Germany and its former empire ... Dobbs delivers a readily accessible presentation of the onset of the Cold War."
—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist

"A confident and rewarding survey of a hinge point in 20th-century history."
Kirkus Reviews

"This extraordinary and well-documented account of a short period in history illustrates how just a few men in a closed room can influence history in a monumental and sometimes devastating way. Six Months in 1945 is an important book to read to better understand how such negotiations influence us for decades. It illustrates that events and decisions made on the world stage affect us all, without most of us being aware of the decisions."
Free Lance-Star

"An astute narrative of the six months that changed the world."
Publishers Weekly

“Superb . . . Dobbs tells the story with the precision of a fine historian and the verve of a first-rate journalist.”
—Philip Seib, Dallas News

“Dobbs is a gifted writer. His characterizations of powerful men are well judged and rounded, as are his evaluations of the fateful choices they faced.”
—Lawrence D. Freedman, Foreign Affairs

“A gifted storyteller and thorough researcher with an eye for detail . . . tension and suspense aplenty.”
—Seth Mandel, Washington Times
“Dobbs brings these ‘six months in 1945’ to life better than anyone before him. In brisk, engrossing chapters, he weaves between the Big Three decision-makers . . . and sketches their stratagems, illusions, strengths and weaknesses.”
—Geoffrey Wawro, Military Book Club
“Dobbs delivers a propulsive read, replete with the sort of telling details that bring his subjects into high resolution.  There are stretches of Six Months in 1945 that read like a taut World War II thriller.”
—Meredith Hindley, Barnes and Noble Reviews
—Keith Lowe, Washington Post

“Had we been seated at the Yalta conference ourselves, we might not have come away with the layer of detail and personal observation that Dobbs imbues in a mesmerizing sequence of events . . . [Dobbs] is the only writer who could have simultaneously provided the narrative drive and historical accuracy to such a  monumental era in world history.  . . . [K]inetic.  Simple conversations that would sink in lesser hands are shot through with immediacy and candor . . . Dobbs has written much more than an intensely researched, riveting account of six crucial months in history; he’s brought our world closer by examining the remote details of our past.”
—Scott Elingburg, Pop Matters

“[R]iveting . . . [I]ntelligent, dramatic and insightful . . . [Dobbs] has the uncanny ability to include the perfect amount of detail, just the right measure of vivid color, into these momentous international events.”
—Edward Cuddihy, Buffalo News

“Well-written and filled with interesting stories and excellent character sketches, Six Months in 1945 is a great read . . . It graphically shows that no matter how much good will Roosevelt and the United States put forth, Stalin was determined to take control of Eastern Europe and Roosevelt’s belief that he could work with Stalin was based on a false hope.”
—J.W. Thacker, Bowling Green Daily News

“An exciting history . . . [Dobbs] provides fascinating insights and new interpretations that hold the reader’s interest . . . This is popular history that sparkles.”
“[R]iveting . . . [I]ntelligent, dramatic and insightful . . . [Dobbs] has the uncanny ability to include the perfect amount of detail, just the right measure of vivid color, into these momentous international events.”
Edward Cuddihy, Buffalo News


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1St Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030727165X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307271655
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,127 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Michael Dobbs has earned a reputation for being one of the most intelligent and compelling popular historians in the country and Six Month in 1945 does not let down. Here Dobbs analyzes the six months after the February 1945 three power conference--one of the most significant and dramatic periods in world history. It was during this short span of time that, among other things, Germany was defeated, the United Nations convened for the first time in San Francisco and the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These six months unquestionably changed the world forever and Dobbs takes us right into the heart of this pivotal moment in history.

Dobbs narrates how the broad consensus that existed between Washington, Moscow and London at Yalta unraveled as Harry S. Truman became president in the United States and disagreements emerged over how to extract reparations from Germany, the fate of Eastern Europe and other issues. The different political and economic beliefs that shaped the policies of the Great Powers ultimately made conflict inevitable and paved the way for the beginning of the Cold War.

The focus of the book is on the four political leaders who dominated the period--FDR, Truman, Churchill and Stalin. Dobbs does an excellent job of getting at the thinking and emotions that motivated each of these men. He shows how their personal characteristics and concerns--FDR's conviviality, Stalin's paranoia, Churchill's eagerness to hold on to the British empire and Truman's brashness--became a major factor in shaping negotiations between the three figures. The author argues that Truman lacked FDR's innate ability for political manipulation and he was much less capable of coaxing and persuading Stalin than his predecessor.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In his book "One Minute to Midnight", Michael Dobbs brought us a thrilling, minute-by-minute account of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now he attempts to do the same with six crucial months in 1945, from February - August 1945, and largely succeeds. In this book Dobbs gives us a fly-on-the-wall treatment of political deliberations between the major Soviet, American and British players during the war, most prominently FDR, Churchill, Truman and Stalin. While this is a highly readable account, it lacks the urgency and minute-by-minute detail of Dobbs's book on the Cuban Missile Crisis and has few revelations.

Dobbs begins with a vivid account of the February conference at Yalta that sets the tone for the rest of the book. Churchill, Stalin and FDR met at a time when the war had decidedly turned in favor of the Allies but the future of postwar Europe had not been decided. The great strength of the book is in giving us compelling character sketches through the words of the prime participants as well as those of their colleagues. Not just the main players but also minor ones like valets, diplomats and colonels come to life in several places. Dobbs shines in describing minor details like the menu or the woeful bathroom situation at Yalta that nonetheless give us a sense of being there. Maps and even reprints of handwritten notes from the deliberations further enrich the narrative. The author does an excellent job sketching out the character and motivations of the major players. Each one had his own agenda; FDR was the charmer who thought he could easily manipulate Stalin, Churchill was the imperialist who was desperate to hold on to his empire, and Stalin was the poker player who already had made plans for the occupation of Eastern Europe.
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This is a sensational account of momentous events, unfurling one right after the other, that pitted the U.S. and U.K. "against" Stalin and the S.U. even as all three locked together for the final triumphs over Germany and Japan. It took more than six months for the Soviet stranglehold over much of the world eventually to come into sharp focus, but Dobbs makes a convincing case that the major under-pinnings formed even as the armies converged on Berlin, and atom bombs fell on Japan.

Dobbs reminds us that no less a seer than de Tocqueville foresaw, in 1835, that America and Russia would some day dominate and clash with one another. Russia's national interest, shaped by centuries of wars and border insecurities, was the opposite of the "New World's" openness, pursuit of freedoms and unbridled growth. Dobbs shows how, with the common foes nearly gone, those competing national interests took supremacy. That essential divergence dictated the end of the war, and set the stage for decades of Cold War.

The book is a real page-turner, a pot-boiler. It tops 400 pages with never a dull moment. The writing is crisp; the lens of this gifted historian is crystal-clear, thanks to his prodigious research (many primary sources, together with the most trustworthy secondary). Dobbs also brings his journalist's sense of immediacy to events. His emphasis on quotations from conversations of key players (e.g., at Yalta, Potsdam, the Kremlin, Kensington Square) delivers one "you-are-there" moment after another. His account also benefits from his years of work on Russia and the first two volumes of this trilogy--destined to become landmark.

A wonderful conceit is Dobbs's opening most chapters through the eyes of minor players. We see things on the ground, in the ranks and fields.
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