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No End Save Victory: How FDR Led the Nation into War 1st Edition
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Williamson Murray, author of A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War
"David Kaiser has written an outstanding book on Franklin Roosevelt's strategic course in the dark days, from the late 1930s to America's entrance into the Second World War. Among its many strong points is a revealing and persuasive reconsideration of Roosevelt's strategic thinking during this period. Above all Kaiser's portrait underlines that without the president's wisdom and political sagacity, the Germans might well have won the war. This is a book that anyone with an interest in that terrible conflict must read."
Jeremi Suri, author of Liberty's Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama
Franklin Roosevelt remains the most important and puzzling American war leader of the last century. David Kaiser's fascinating book offers powerful and relevant insights into how Roosevelt transformed an isolationist country with an ill-prepared military into a united and formidable fighting force. Kaiser shows how Roosevelt anticipated dangerous developments, how he invented new procedures for war preparations, and how he persuaded a skeptical public to fight an extended war. Roosevelt displayed a mix of strategic foresight, political acumen, and public charisma that our country has not seen again. Kaiser's book is vitally important because it demystifies Roosevelt, making him a realistic model for our own times.”
[A] judicious, detailed and soundly researched history.... Kaiser has brought us a careful, nuanced, credible account of the events and complex issues surrounding America's entry into World War II, which, however historical fashions change, is likely to wear well over the years.”
Wall Street Journal
Mr. Kaiser offers a tightly focused examination of Roosevelt's foreign policy from the defeat of France in May 1940 to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 Most will value Mr. Kaiser's clearly written narrative, which focuses on the improvisational planning of the president and the men around him.”
Others have written about this period, but few with his precision and insight His thoroughly researched and well-informed narrative of what happened on the road to war makes the book fully worth the cover price.”
Charleston Post & Courier
Engaging and excellent.”
Offering a fresh interpretation of a frequently treated topic Because of such thorough research presented in lucid, straightforward prose, Kaiser's first-rate account offers material that even specialists in the field might find surprising and provocative.”
This is a fascinating read, and if you are a lover of history, you'll have a wonderful time.”
Military History Quarterly
An extraordinary book.... For those interested in American strategy during the run-up to World War II, this is a must read.”
Battles and Book Reviews
An interesting and compelling account of the events in America during the 18 months prior to American entry into WWII.... I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in World War II, but especially to people who think they are familiar with America's role in that war. An outstanding book.”
Kaiser's research is both comprehensive and illuminating....An admiring, richly textured portrait of a leader confronting the unthinkable.”
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Top Customer Reviews
Although Mr. Kaiser’s efforts are evident I did not come away from this book that much more knowledgeable than when I started. Kaiser should have focused more on the Missionary Generation and its wider impact rather than alluding that many of the protagonists were from that era. Personally, I would suggest Michael Fullilove’s “Rendezvous with Destiny” for a neater perspective on what was running through FDR’s mind and how he manipulated others to execute his master plan during the same period.
The premise requires FDR as the primary agent who through the force of his will persevered from long before even the German invasion of Poland until finally the Japanese attacked the US at Pearl Harbor. It was his single-minded purpose to engage the popular will behind government mobilization to fight a global war involving maximum utilization of national manpower and resources.
Roosevelt early on understood that democracy as a way of life and as a core set of values was under attack by the facists. He also understood involvement by the US could not be limited to defense of our shores or even the Western Hemisphere but would mean fighting the Germans on the European mainland and defeating the Japanese in the Pacific. Kaiser's story does a good job in supporting or perhaps proving this premise.
It also tells about FDR's indirect methods of managing people. He had to restrain those who wanted to drag the US into the war until the time was right. But he had to restrain them while enlisting their passion and experience in mobilizing for war. At the same time he had to win over the isolationists. He could only do this by letting the flow of events outside our hemisphere erode isolationist resistance. This was a Herculean feat and the fact that FDR was successful validates the premise even more.
FDR understood that the core of mobilization is national will. National will was mobilized late but first there had to be a lot of preparation before we could wage war. He used the same New Deal devices he had previously used to combat the Depression to get the country ready for war in advance of the willingness to fight the war.
I had thought the US was more unprepared for participation than it really was. This book taught me about our preparation. I also thought we were more surprised than we actually were by the Japansese attack. We just didn't know how and where the blows would fall.
The book is a chronologic account of the events involving primarily FDR and the executive branch in the years before Pearl Harbor. The events speak for themselves. The book is well-referenced.
The only criticism I have is the use of a device about the "Prophetic" generations and particularly the "Missionary" generation" concept Kaiser borrowed. I thought this device was not necessary and did not stand as a reason to explain how well FDR and his generation coped with the crisis thrust on them. I am willing to let the deeds speak for themselves.
Although I did enjoy David Kaiser’s book I do have some criticisms. In the Epilog the author gives a brief summary of the progression of the war after Pearl Harbor. He says, “By the end of 1942, Both the U.S. and Japanese navies had lost significant portions of the fleets with which they had begun the war. But while the Japanese lacked the resources for substantial additional construction, the American two-ocean navy authorized in 1940 would begin coming on line in early 1944.” (p. 336 paperback) Yes, 1942 saw a major slug fest open between the US Navy and the Imperial Japanese Navy, but the new ships had already begun to appear in 1942 and the four US carrier losses of 1942 were made up in 1943, not 1944. If the navy had to wait until 1944 for the new ships to come on line I do not think Admirals King and Nimitz would have been so bold in 1942. Five new, fast battleships mounting 16 inch guns joined the fleet in 1942. This is because Roosevelt and Congressman Vinson did not wait until 1940 to begin the modernization of the navy neglected by President Hoover, they began in 1937. Two of these battleships played a decisive role in the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal in November of 1942 and the USS Massachusetts was at the Torch invasion of North Africa.
Also on the same page as the above quote Kaiser says, “Then, in the first week of June, the United States had to meet a huge Japanese attack on Midway… [and] set four [IJN] carriers afire. That in turn enabled the United States to contest Guadalcanal.” I think the US would have contested Guadalcanal even if Midway had not happened. The US had contested Japanese advances to the south coast of New Guinea in the Battle of the Coral Sea, before Midway, before the IJN lost four carriers. In the Pacific Roosevelt’s profound importance in preparing the US for war is much more evident and clearly on display. Even though US forces did invade N Africa in 1942 and even though that invasion proved to be a startling projection of US military power to Hitler, US soldiers did not engage Nazi troops until 1943.
The author then says, again on the same page, “After a relatively quiet year in the Pacific in 1943, the new ships enabled the United States to advance through the Marshall and Mariana islands and land in the Philippines in 1944.” “Relatively quiet” stopped me short. So many historians ignore the New Guinea Campaign and describing 1943 in the Pacific as quiet is, I think, insulting and disrespectful of the effort of so many Americans to defeat the Japanese. 1943 in the Pacific was not quiet or even relatively quiet: The Battle of the Bismarck Sea, Tarawa and the aforementioned New Guinea Campaign prove that wrong.
David Kaiser then engages in a very brief, and a bit perplexing, critique of General Marshall’s position on where and when the US would engage German forces. He says, “After Pearl Harbor, General Marshall in particular initially opposed any major operations in Europe or North Africa until the invasion of France…” This quote, and the remainder of the author’s discussion of General Marshall’s views on where to engage the German Army in 1942 and 1943, does not even begin to get at the intense opposition Marshall had to the N Africa operation and his insistence on an immediate cross-channel invasion. That is the perplexing part of Kaiser’s discussion.
Even though I disagree with how Kaiser characterizes the progression of the war after Pearl Harbor I really did find his book to be enormously informative and thoroughly enjoyable. He does an outstanding job of demonstrating FDR’s indispensable role in preparing the US for the most destructive war in modern times. The only instances where David Kaiser seems to drop the focus on Roosevelt is when he wishes to praise General Marshall. I too think Marshall was indispensable in mobilizing the army for war and he did exert strategic influence on the war, he just had all the wrong ideas on where, when and how the US Army should fight. For a good understanding of Roosevelt’s leadership in the actual prosecution of the war I would suggest reading Nigel Hamilton’s new multi-volume investigation of “FDR at War.” In the Acknowledgements Kaiser says, “I discovered in the midst of this project that and old friend, Nigel Hamilton, was at work on what amounts to a sequel to it…”
Read this book! Then read Hamilton’s series.