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Threshold of War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Entry into World War II [Paperback]

Waldo Heinrichs
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 1, 1990 0195061683 978-0195061680
As the first comprehensive treatment of the American entry into World War II to appear in over thirty-five years, Waldo Heinrichs' volume places American policy in a global context, covering both the European and Asian diplomatic and military scenes, with Roosevelt at the center.
Telling a tale of ever-broadening conflict, this vivid narrative weaves back and forth from the battlefields in the Soviet Union, to the intense policy debates within Roosevelt's administration, to the sinking of the battleship Bismarck, to the precarious and delicate negotiations with Japan. Refuting the popular portrayal of Roosevelt as a vacillating, impulsive man who displayed no organizational skills in his decision-making during this period, Heinrichs presents him as a leader who acted with extreme caution and deliberation, who always kept his options open, and who, once Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union stalled in July, 1941, acted rapidly and with great determination. This masterful account of a key moment in American history captures the tension faced by Roosevelt, Churchill, Stimson, Hull, and numerous others as they struggled to shape American policy in the climactic nine months before Pearl Harbor.

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Editorial Reviews


"Among all of the many studies of American entry into World War II, Threshold of War stands out as one of the most thoughtful and meaningful. Heinrichs brilliantly demonstrates the interrelationship of policies toward both Germany and Japan against the background of the world conflict."--Frank Friedel, Harvard University

"A long-needed account of Franklin Roosevelt's diplomacy in the nine months leading up to American entry into World War II."--Robert A. Divine, University of Texas, Austin

"A work that should stand the test of time as a definitive, balanced picture of...[Roosevelt]."--Kirkus Reviews

"A compelling story of Roosevelt's road to war....Likely to remain the most authoritative account of the coming of the Pacific war."--Akira Iriye, University of Chicago

"The narrative is so well paced that it often reads like a thriller....[Heinrichs] not only advances the debate over U.S. intervention in the Second World War but also helps us to understand why the historical profession, despite all of the bitter criticism that has been leveled at him, persists in ranking Franklin D. Roosevelt as the greatest American president save Lincoln."--William E. Leuchtenburg, The Atlantic

"The narrative is so well paced that it often reads like a thriller."--William E. Leuchtenburg, The Atlantic

"[A] thoughtful, scholarly book."--The Washington Times

"[A] well-written and -researched history of the U.S. entry into World War II....A worthy successor to William Langer's and L. Everett Gleason's classic, Challenge to Isolation."--Library Journal

"Heinrichs tells a tale of deft executive maneuvering, rendered all the more difficult 'by a chaotic supply of intelligence'--decrypted messages, propaganda, and rumors."--The Wilson Quarterly

"The best synthesis we have of U.S. diplomatic and military history immediately before Pearl Harbor....A deeply researched and splendidly written book."--Robert Dallek, University of California, Los Angeles

About the Author

Waldo Heinrichs is Professor of History at Temple University. He is the author of American Ambassador: Joseph C. Grew and the Development of the U.S. Diplomatic Tradition.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 302 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195061683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195061680
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,138,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review of Treshold of War September 18, 2000
Waldo H. Heinrichs is currently a professor of hisory at Temple University. In addition to writing Threshold of war he wrote the highly regarded American Ambassador. Joseph C. Grew. Threshold of war is regarded by many historians as one of the first modern comprehensive reviews of America's entry into World War II. In addition to looking at our entry into the war Heinrichs looks at American foreign policy and history in a broad global context, that examines both Asian and European diplomatic pressures and military strategies. Heinrich wrote his book because he believes that there are many views on how America entered World War II, but that a better understanding, and a more comprehensive look was needed. Heinrich also has a differnt view on how and when America became involved with World War II. He claims that the War actually started before Pearl Harbor with a string of events, starting with the stock market crash of 1929 and ending with Hitler's violation of the Munich agreement, and Japan's invasion of Indo China. Heinrichs also portrays Roosevelt in a very good light in his book. Heinrich uses a narrative writing style that is obviously directed towards the non historian. He presents both his views and his facts in an easy going style that was very enjoyable to read. One draw back however, in my opinion, was that he jumps from one event to another. Over all the book was well written, well researched and very enjoyable. Heinrichs does an excellent job at portraying the tension and problems Roosevlt faced in the months leading up to War. The bibliography is also a wealth of information for history students.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb and Unique Book February 19, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Often historians focus on what happened once the war began. While a reasonable and understandable approach, such an effort fails to analyze in a significant way the root causes of conflict. Only be understanding the slow walk from peace to war can one have any hope to identify the root causes of war, the economic, information, diplomatic, and military tools necessary to avert war or at least make the war as small as possible.

Waldo Heinrichs, if this reviewer is not confused, was a fighter pilot in WWI and a squadron intelligence officer in WWII. Therefore, he is not one of those academics who postulate about war and its causes without any insight into how terrible war truly can be. His biases are fairly well spelled out in the books introduction, but he has written a book that is readable and useful in understanding the slow drift toward war. Indeed, I found many tidbits of information in this book that I have never seen or read in other document.

There are only two negative things that I can say about this book. First, I would have liked to have seen more information on the domestic side. Exactly, how President Roosevelt communicated his ideas and direction to the American people is, perhaps, one of the greatest unanswered questions in historical research. However, this book does have very interesting poll results that show the American people were much more concerned about and will to risk war to address the issues of both Europe and Asia. In this reviewer's humble opinion, most academics fail to understand the close religious (via the evangelical movement), economic (both in terms of big business and itinerant workers - white and Asian), and moral issues that closely tied the average American to pre-WWII Asia. Second, the organization of the book is chronological.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent History of an Unknown Time. September 10, 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
There are innumerable books about some aspect of WW II. This book covers only a few months in time when the world was preparing to go to war -- yet nobody really wanted to.

In these days of revisionist history there is a lot of commentary about how FRD was steering us into war. This book, instead, tells of the myriad small steps that led to the world wide war. Well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Threshold of war..... March 6, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a well done book on the threshold of the USA entrance into the world war that had been raging for 3 years plus while we sat on the sidelines... except for FDR and a few other brave politicians and Americans who knew it was wrong to sit back and do nothing. It stops right before Pearl Harbor.....just as it should since this is a book about the threshold of the USA's joining into the already raging war.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Only one man's opinion April 13, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very thorough and well researched book, but a bit "heavy" for my tastes. I think the message could hve been delivered quite well in a lot fewer pages. It strikes me as a history book for historians, rather than a general interest book for the ordinary reader. Having said that, it infuriates me to see how incompetent the political and military leadership of the United States was to have let the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor be the surprise that it was. If the information in this book is accurate, and I have no reason to doubt that it is, Roosevelt, Hull, King and Marshall had to know that war with Japan was imminent by the last week of November, 1941. Given that, it is absolutely criminal that they let so much of our Naval force sit like ducks in a shooting gallery on December 7th. What could they have been thinking? Then, they turn around and "hang" Kimmel for incompetence to deflect criticism from themselves.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Didn't order this either
Threshold of war. I did too. I liked it as I was a high school grad at the time all this was happening. Those were reat times to be alive . Read more
Published 6 months ago by Jo Tuttle
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic work even if you are not a WWII buff
Heinrichs really lays out those months leading to World War II and in such a way that the book, or Kindle, is hard to put down. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Ed Boyle
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyed this book
Heinrichs successfully zeroed in on the months before World War II, actions, interactions, and results of decisions without being drawn into overpowering side stories, which is... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Ed Boyle
1.0 out of 5 stars DULL Book
There is no action, there is no drama, there is no character creation, there is no plot. He could have included parts of Roosevelt's speeches, but after reading 27%, there is none. Read more
Published on April 24, 2012 by George
5.0 out of 5 stars Events Leading Up To WWII
What impressed me about this most readable, informative book was how effectively the author discredited the Pearl Harbor "conspiracy theories" by its thorough, well documented... Read more
Published on April 7, 2012 by Turkles
4.0 out of 5 stars Threshhold of War
A very interesting topic, but the book tries to insert too much detail by just mentioning events or people without much explanation, thus the detail info is not very useful.
Published on April 7, 2012 by damurphy15
2.0 out of 5 stars WW II
Good book. Very detailed and lengthly. Does help me to understand the events leading up to Wold War II especially with Japan.
Published on March 31, 2012 by chs1955
4.0 out of 5 stars Good account on pre WWII geopolitics
This book makes a good read for those interested on the year before the USA entered WWII. It describes the change in american policies when both Hitler and the Japanese Empire... Read more
Published on March 17, 2012 by Amazon Customer
3.0 out of 5 stars AN OPPORTUNITY MISSED
Published on March 1, 2012 by READ'NWEEP
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