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150 of 161 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A familiar world from long ago, March 10, 2013
This review is from: Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 (Hardcover)
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In Lynne Olson's substantial new volume, we are plunged into an America both distant and familiar. It is impossible to read more than a few pages before realizing how little our fundamental national character has changed in the 70 years since these events. This is the nation as it was when Hitler's ambitions were becoming reality--the invasions of Poland and the Low Countries, the Battle of Britain. It was becoming evident in distant America that war was coming here. Two schools of thought were beginning to form. The interventionists saw the United States as a key to stopping the growth of Germany. They saw kindred spirits in England and the peoples already under the Nazi yoke. Isolationists cared little about the rest of the world and could not see the point of sacrificing America's youth in yet another European war.

Either of those positions is an honorable place to be, and it's a perfectly good thing to debate them. But this is America and we don't quite do things that way. There were other groups--less honorable--who attached themselves to these positions. It didn't take long for racists, profiteers and zealots to begin questioning the motives of the other groups. Over the course of months, charges of Communism, Fascism, Socialism, anti-Semitism began to be hurled back and forth. News outlets affiliated themselves with one side, issuing scurrilous charges against their opponents. It is not hard to find strong parallels in later events. Debates around Vietnam and Iraq resonate with the same fervor and distrust. Olson doesn't make this point directly. She doesn't need to.

The author has chosen two protagonists to carry much of the narrative. Roosevelt is an obvious choice. As the focus of national policy-making, historians will debate his intentions for centuries. He seemed to know that we would be drawn into the war and he acted in ways that both accelerated and decelerated America's entry. Whether his policy of leading from behind was good policy can of course never be answered. But this book shows that he could be merciless to those he perceived as opponents. He did not hesitate to utilize the loathsome J. Edgar Hoover to work around the constitution. He made friends of enemies and vice-versa. Olson wisely focuses on his actions and not his intentions.

No person was less-suited to be Charles Lindbergh than Charles Lindbergh. As a capable pilot and engineer, he captured the fancy of the nation by his solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. But he had no tools to deal with the perpetual presence of the mass media. For quite understandable reasons, he built a cocoon around himself, eventually hardening into a rigid and self-righteous beacon of isolationism. He believed himself to deal only with hard fact, having not a single clue about what really made people tick. His many speeches hardened the isolationists and eventually discredited him with the bulk of the nation. But when war finally came, he happily put himself to work as a test pilot, engineer and occasional combatant (all without the knowledge of FDR).

But Lindbergh and Roosevelt are not the only important characters in this time. Wendell Wilkie, the 1940 Republican candidate for president, worked tirelessly for the interventionist cause (inciting the wrath of his own party in the process). One suspects he might have made a fine president, but like FDR himself, Wilkie didn't survive the war. Lord Philip Lothian, British Ambassador, was the rare British diplomat who understood and was comfortable with Americans. At his death in 1940, he was mourned equally on both sides of the Atlantic. The most tragic character is Anne Morrow Lindbergh, the wife of Charles. A popular and talented writer, imprisoned by insecurity, she tried with little success to bridge the world between her own feelings and those of her tone-deaf husband.

This is an exciting book about a period to which we've paid little attention. It was a necessary prelude to a war we still consider necessary. But it's hard not to reflect on our own current incivility and intemperate dialog. Perhaps it's part of the American character.
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Initial post: Apr 15, 2013 11:15:56 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 4, 2016 9:16:30 AM PST
Publicus says:
Stalin played FDR like a puppet on a string. Read "Stalin's Secret Agents," by Herbert Romerstein & Stanton Evans, for a clearer picture of how he played FDR & how he got the American government to do his bidding. WW2 resulted in a permanent realignment of world power with the Soviets near the apex.

When describing FDR's naiveté regarding Stalin, famed historian George Kennan wrote: "It was so far beneath the expectations of an American President that it sometimes bordered on absurdity and childishness." (Perhaps FDR mental impairment from brain cancer now helps account for this.)

FDR's Deadly Secret

Many now think Britain, France, & the U.S. had no business being in WWII & that Stalin entangled them like pawns in a masterful Machiavellian plan to subjugate Eastern & parts of Central Europe. And he couldn't have achieved that by fighting a two-front war with Germany & Japan (who were aligned in a joint defense pact). Stalin needed others to assist the Soviets to accomplish their aims.

Stalin always coveted the Manchurian region & jumped at the opportunity of claiming it as the spoils of war (despite the Atlantic Treaty). Within two days after America dropped its first atomic bomb on a near prostrate Japan, Stalin launched a surprise attack on it. During the operation (called August Storm) bloodthirsty, battle trained Soviet storm troopers swarmed & overran the Japanese army in a matter of weeks, handing it the greatest defeat it suffered during World War II.

The attack had been agreed to at the Yalta Conference, when Stalin at the request of FDR (although it would seem that Stalin planted the idea via his secret agents in FDR's government) agreed to cancel the Soviets' neutrality agreement with Japan and launch a sneak attack on it from the rear. During the Potsdam Conference in July 1945, Stalin confirmed his plans to launch a surprise attack on Japan.

The massive & savage Soviet offensive completely surprised the Japanese leadership and shocked them to the core. Stalin had led Japan to believe the Soviets were negotiating the terms of Japan's surrender with the allies.

The Soviet Command also had plans to invade the Japanese mainland.

The bravest & best of the Kwantung Army (600,000 of them) that weren't steamrolled by the Soviet tank corp were captured, loaded like cattle onto trains, & shipped off to slave camps deep in the bowels of the Soviet Union, where many died from the brutality of the conditions & the savage & unrestrained treatment they received at the hands of sadistic prison camp guards.

Plus, the surrender of some 600,000 of Japan's best soldiers completely dispels the myth that the Japanese would never surrender & would fight to the bitter end.

Examine all the facts leading up to war & you'll wish see the plan quite clearly, including the Soviet's delayed attack on Poland, England & France's declaration of war on Germany, but not the Soviets, & FDR's goading Japan into war.

Here are policy statements that came out of the First Conference at Quebec in 1943, attended by the U.S., Britain, & Canada: "Russia's post-war position in Europe will be a dominant one. With Germany crushed, there is no power in Europe to oppose her tremendous military forces. Since without question she will dominate Europe on the defeat of the Axis, it is even more essential to develop and maintain the most friendly relations with Russia."

"In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way." ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd President of the U.S.

"How can we maneuver them [the Japanese] into the position of firing the first shot without allowing too much danger to ourselves." Diary of Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War under FDR.

After Britain & France declared war on Germany in 1939, nearly 80% of Americans were opposed to America's involvement in yet another European war. Even the dullest U.S. politician in 1941 understood that the U.S. would not being willing to engage in another major war in the absence of unilateral aggression by a another country. While FDR talked of peace in public, he secretly instigated war.

See "Day of Deceit," by Robert Stinnett & "Operation Snow," by John Koster.

In the summer of 1941, FDR met with Churchill, & together, they crafted the Atlantic Charter. The Charter detailed the aims of the Allied powers concerning the war and their goals for the post-war world (similar to what the victors that crafted the Treaty of Versailles did). Under the Charter, Britain and U.S. would have an equal role in planning the post-war consequences for the vanquished.

Why would FDR help plan the goals for the war & the consequences for the losers unless he had plans to involve America in that war?

In September 1940, FDR cut off the export of iron and steel scrap to Japan. The effect of the United States policy was to cut off from Japan by the winter of 1940-41 the shipment of many strategic commodities, including arms, ammunition, and implements of war, aviation gasoline and many other petroleum products, machine tools, scrap iron, pig iron and steel manufactures, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, and a variety of other commodities. . . . Nor was this all. These disastrous embargoes were supplemented by Washington's abrogation of the U.S.- Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation which deprived Japan of "most favored nation" treatment in her remaining trade with the United States, and by the freezing of Japanese credits in this country. Among the most important consequences of these moves was the destruction of Japan's lucrative and vital silk trade with this country, upon the proceeds of which Japan largely depended for the financing of her imports.

America's Ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew, told FDR on October 9, 1941, that "America's frozen-credit policy against Japan was driving it into national bankruptcy and unless the policy was relaxed, Japan would be forced to act." Grew had previously warned FDR that American foreign policy war was driving Japan inexorably towards war with the U.S.

FDR told his Cabinet that an oil embargo against Japan meant war, yet he imposed one anyway, forcing an oil-starved Japan (fearing an imminent attack by the U.S.) to seize the oil fields of the Dutch East Indies after those countries (at the behest of FDR) refused to supply Japan with oil, as well.

After Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, FDR emphasized in his famous "Day of Infamy" speech on December 8 that Japan's aggression against the U.S. on the previous day had been "totally unprovoked." As it turns out FDR had provoked Japan on numerous occasions, leading many in Japan to believe the U.S. intended to attack them. If FDR lied to the American people by saying America did not provoke Japan in any manner, what other lies did he tell to the American people? See "Backdoor to War," by Charles Tanstill; "Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War," by George Mortgenstern; "President Roosevelt and the Coming of the War, 1941," by famed historian Charles Beard; & "F. D. R.'s undeclared war, 1939-1941," by T. R Fehrenbach.

In the Congressional investigations looking into the attack on Pearl Harbor, General Marshall was forced to make a series of damaging admissions under sharp questioning by Senator Homer Ferguson, among them was that the U.S. prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor had secretly initiated military agreements with the British and Dutch, directed against the Japanese, aimed at getting them to cut off Japan's oil supplies in Indochina.

U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Joseph C. Grew, revealed that FDR spurned Premier Konoye's sincere peace proposals, leading to Konoye's replacement by General Tojo, who pledged to do whatever was necessary to break the economic stranglehold America had put Japan in & then continuously & painfully squeezed since the summer of 1941. Tojo & others in Japan believed America had imperialist designs on Asia (similar to its conquests of Hawaii & the Philippines).

The sinking by the Japanese of an American gunboat, the Panay, which had been patrolling the Yangtze, precipitated an early crisis between America & Japan. Why did we have gunboats patrolling Chinese rivers? The Panay had been convoying oil tankers owned by the Standard Oil Company.

The U.S. foreign policy strategies prior to, during, & shortly after WW2 were some of the most inept & tragic in modern history.

Please read, "Asia for Asians," by Paula Harrell.

Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World

According to Josef Stalin, England provided the time, America provided the money & the diversion, but Russia did the heavy lifting.

Posted on Apr 15, 2013 2:58:02 PM PDT
susan henkin says:
Probably a typo? I suppose most people know Lindbergh's famous flight was in 1927, not 1929.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2013 5:13:49 PM PDT
Personne says:
Oops. Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 15, 2013 5:18:53 PM PDT
Personne says:
Wild theories aside, Roosevelt played Stalin as well as Stalin played him (the exception being perhaps Yalta, as FDR neared death). The Allies wouldn't have defeated Germany without the efforts (and massive casualties) of the Soviet army. As Publicus inadvertently illustrates, there are plenty of fanciful theories around, but serious historians understand that history is complicated and motives are mixed.

In reply to an earlier post on May 4, 2013 3:20:53 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 4, 2013 3:22:01 AM PDT
Insightful observations.

Permit me to recommend in addition Six Months in 1945: FDR, Stalin, Churchill, and Truman--from World War to Cold War (2012) by writer Michael Dobbs, in which are provided analyses of the named key politicians of this period, their words and their actions.

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2013 8:24:47 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2015 9:02:07 AM PDT
Publicus says:
After we bombed Germany & Japan to rubble, we spent our time & treasure rebuilding them while Stalin expanded his Soviet empire. (Were Stalin, Malenkov, & Beria Machiavellian geniuses?) WW2 resulted in a permanent realignment of world power with the Soviets near the apex.

"We beat the Germans & disarmed them, but we failed to liberate Europe. In effect, we lost that war." ~ General S. George Patton, commander of the U.S. Third Army

"I have a troubled sense of the futility that marked our experience. What an inane outcome! Look at what happened: We destroyed one set of tyrants only to buildup more powerful & virulent sets of tyrants! We "won" that war only in a limited military sense. ~ General A. C. Wedemeyer, former commander of allied forces in China, discussing the outcome of World War II

Patton wanted to get to Berlin before the Red Storm destroyed it. But Patton's goal was thwarted when the White House ordered Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower to give Patton's petrol supplies to the extremely cautious & slow British General Bernard Montgomery. Moreover, the White House ordered Eisenhower to halt his forces at the Elbe River, allowing the Soviets to proceed to Berlin; exact savage & bloodthirsty revenge on the shattered, battered, & badly beaten German army, rape millions of German women & young girls, pillage the City, & reduce Berlin to rubble.

The rampaging Soviet savages raped every German women from 8 to 80 they could get their hands on. The scale of rape is suggested by the fact that about two million German women had illegal abortions every year between 1945 and 1948.

General Patton was so disgusted by our post-war policies that he commented in his diary, "It is amusing to recall that we fought the revolution in defense of the rights of man and the civil war to abolish slavery and have now gone back on both principles"

"The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history." ~ George Orwell, author of "1984."

See "Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-1956," by Anne Applebaum.

Even the idea we fought WWII to stop Nazism was a myth, as Russia & Germany were both anti-capitalist socialists. No, we were lured into a dispute between two countries (with similar ideologies) over regional dominance. And with our help, the Soviets became the ultimate dominator of postwar Eastern Europe & parts of Central Europe (with tentacles & designs reaching into other parts of the world).

In his memoir, Dies observed that "Fascism, Nazism and Communism were ideological bedfellows" -- all of them alien to our nation's founding philosophy. "Americanism is the recognition of the truth that the inherent and fundamental rights of man are derived from God, and not from Government, societies, dictators, kings, or majorities," wrote Dies. He was not at all surprised when Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, supposedly irreconcilable enemies, signed the August 1939 non-aggression pact preparatory to their gang rape of Poland.

In a May 1, 1927 speech Adolf Hitler said, "We are socialists, we are enemies of today's capitalistic economic system for the exploitation of the economically weak, with its unfair salaries, with its unseemly evaluation of a human being according to wealth and property instead of responsibility and performance, and we are determined to destroy this system under all conditions."

The Nazi party-state planned & tightly controlled the economy and left it to the industrialists and business people to make it happen within heavy laws & regulations imposed by the government. This merger between corporate and state power was the socialism Hitler was after, with the benefit of German citizens derived from the economic outputs of the corporate/state marriage.

Victor Suvorov (a former member of the GRU) has probed newly released Soviet documents & determined Stalin's strategy leading up to World War II stemmed from Vladimir Lenin's belief that if World War I did not ignite a worldwide Communist revolution, then he would have to spark a second world war in order to achieve it. See "Chief Culprit: Stalin's Grand Design" by Victor Suvorov.

Stalin was a master gamesman, who was able to manipulate a menagerie of "useful idiots" into doing his bidding & taking foolish, self-destructive steps in furtherance of his master plan.

Many believe Britain & the U.S. should have let Germany & Russia fight to exhaustion & potential collapse.

Britain's most respected military analyst, Sir Liddell Hart pointed out that Hitler's logical route of expansion was to the east, against her natural enemy, Russia. Hart also believed Britain should let Germany and Russia fight it out to the point of exhaustion and bring about the downfall of both dictators.

"If we see that Germany is winning, we ought to help Russia. If Russia is winning, we ought to help Germany." Harry S. Truman, as Senator from Missouri in 1941

"I urged in 1941 that we should allow those two dictators to exhaust each other. I stated that the result of our assistance would be to spread Communism over the whole world.... The consequences have proved that I was right." Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2013 3:51:46 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 16, 2013 4:01:00 PM PST
Chas Mark says:
"Many believe Britain & the U.S. should have let Germany & Russia fight to exhaustion & potential collapse. "

That was Herbert Hoover's advice that FDR would neither hear nor heed.Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover's Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath

Your analysis, Publicus, has a lot more critical thinking behind it than does the original review.

I had not considered the Stalin angle before, but I'll look into it.

My view has been pretty much what Lindbergh argued in Iowa (?): three groups wanted war: FDR & NY elites; Jews; and England/Churchill. It's impossible to avoid the evidence validating Lindbergh's claims.

A. J. P. Taylor argued in The Origins of The Second World War that the war was not about Jews but Jews insisted upon provoking war -- it was zionists and Jews such as Brandeis, Frankfurter, Untermyer, Stephen Wise, Weizmann, Ben Gurion who engineered the Jewish Declaration of War on Germany March 1933 (until Dec 1941) for the benefit and interests of Jews and zionist Palestine.

The war had everything to do with the battle between FDR and Churchill for hegemony over Europe and Middle East. Despite what fops say to the Ladies Democratic Club in DC, FDR and Churchill hated each other, as befits adversaries. Churchill did not attend FDR's funeral. Hitler did NOT have global or even Europe-wide ambitions -- Hoover knew that, too -- but Churchill did have empire-wide ambitions, and FDR was determined not to go to war to preserve England's empire.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2013 3:57:11 PM PST
Personne says:
Ah give it a break Chas.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2013 4:02:06 PM PST
Chas Mark says:
That the best you got, Personne?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 16, 2013 4:04:24 PM PST
Chas Mark says:
Publicus broke out of the politically correct dogma. Refute his/her arguments or concede, those are your only logical options.
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