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Customer Reviews

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on August 11, 2014
For those with a serious interest in history, Churchill and FDR. Outstanding reading from cover to cover.
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on June 23, 2015
A dense record of political and historic facts regarding an amazing WW II partnership. Today, FDR & Churchill seem decisive in the crises faced by democracies, yet here is a journal of the minutia each faced.
Lash details issues, key opposition figures, and the hive of activity that surrounded each man. Like a beehive, there were close advisors like Harry Hopkins to FDR and Edward March to Churchill. They, in turn, dealt with news from local and foreign sources, politicians great and small, or businessmen with agendas. -not to forget respective cabinet officers.
As the Nazis and Fascists oozed across Europe, they used conduits to the President and Prime Minister(s), such as oilman William R. Davis, who, in 1939, approached FDR with Goering's peace feelers. This was the same man who sold Mexican oil to Nazis, used secret Nazi funds to support isolationist candidates and organizations. In England, Lord Halifax was described as `an architect of appeasement' and served as British Secretary of State. They, and many others, became obstacles to solving problems.
Add in the 1940 Presidential contest against Wendell Wilkie, in which labor boss John L. Lewis broke with FDR. Then the boyish hero Charles Lindbergh led an organization dedicated to keeping the U.S. out of another world conflict. No wonder pollsters thought the president would lose his bid for a third term. No sooner had he won than a new furor erupted.
The British started the war with very few ships to search for German subs. The U.S. had old destroyers in storage- would they sell? Weeks of controversy followed- U.S. admirals thought they might be needed later, Congress had passed a resolution against selling to combatants, the British did not have much money- so, the U.S. decided they wanted leases on bases in the Carribean instead. Whole chapters are devoted to the ruckus. Eventually, 50 destroyers went to them on `Lend-Lease', and Britain gave lease to those bases.
Sadly, little of these events are remembered now, scarcely mentioned in book reviews or blogs. We choose to summarize the late 1930s and `40s as dominated by omniscient leaders who willed certain things to happen. But if you really want to know how difficult their labors were, then get this book.
For easier reading, see The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany, 1941-1945.
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VINE VOICEon March 13, 2009
"Roosevelt and Churchill" is an in depth study of the unique partnership which saved the West during the crucial days from the start of World War II until the attack on Pearl Harbor. These days saw the attack on Poland, the Fall of France, the Battle of Britain and the delicate maneuvering by Roosevelt to bring the U.S. into the war on the side of Britain. These were days during which the fate of the Western World truly hung in the balance with no inevitable outcome. To study this period is to come to realize just how much the course depended on these two unequaled men. This partnership clearly establishes the importance of men as the determiners of history, not its pawns. Drawing on his experiences of his presence at some of the events covered here, Author Joseph Lash again works his magic with words as he weaves this story.

Starting with what many people know about this era, it is hard to imagine how close this partnership came to never forming. When this book begins in 1939, Churchill is out of office, as he had been for a decade, and Roosevelt is rapidly approaching the traditional two term limit which presumes to send him into retirement at Hyde Park before the curtain rises on his greatest role on the world stage.

Churchill came back into the government in the role which he had served during the First World War, that of First Lord of the Admiralty. From this he ascended to the Prime Ministership over the opposition of the leadership of his party, his king and his predecessor.

Roosevelt likewise had to overcome the opposition from third term opponents, isolationists, conservatives and ambitious rivals. This book covers the skillful maneuvers through which FDR secured his own re-nomination, as he put it, enlisting for the duration.

During this period Roosevelt was working to move the country and Congress to ever stronger support for Britain and eventual belligerency. This was a step by step process involving the narrow approval of lend-lease over the opposition of those who wanted to avoid anything that would bring the U.S. closer to war, Catholics who opposed including the Soviet Union in the program and British foot dragging over the details.

In the midst of this, Churchill was trying to draw the U.S. in deeper and deeper while maintaining his own power against those who sought to replace him.

The scope of Anglo-American cooperation was broad. I found myself surprised at how far Roosevelt was able to bring his country into active support of the British war effort while maintaining the status as a non-belligerent. The U.S. Navy provided convoy support part way across the Atlantic and occupied Iceland to relieve British units. During all of this, aid had to be presented in ways compatible with British sensitivities. The transfer of 50 destroyers had to be presented in the U.S. as enhancing U.S. security through the acquisition of bases in the Caribbean and Newfoundland. In Britain, the transfer of the bases had to be depicted as not a quid pro quo in order to quell opposition to turning British territory over to the U.S.

While trying to lead the U.S. into war, both Roosevelt and Churchill tried to avoid the need to invade Europe, hoping for some show of power or Soviet success which might have lead to victory on the cheap. It was not to be.

Toward the end of the book this twosome was working to try to keep Japan out of the war. At the same time they were trying to devise plans about how to deal with potential Japanese aggressions. How were they to respond to a Japanese attack against Dutch possessions only, or British only? Ultimately the issue was resolved with the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor which forced the American people to form their own opinions.

Too often we think of World War II as inevitably ending in Allied Victory. Books such as this remind us that it was a close run thing. "Roosevelt and Churchill" makes clear just how much we owe to these two outstanding statesmen who saved the world in which we live.
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on November 28, 2000
Sunday, December seventh 1941, that "infamous" day, is generally regarded by historians to be a major tuning point in American History. It marked the emergence of the United States as the supreme power in the realm of word politics. On that day, Japan attacked the United States binging her into the Second World War. The events leading up to this pivotal point in American history, however, deserve much scrutiny. The second world war, taken from the American perspective, often times runs the risk of being viewed in a vacuum, marked from 1941 to 1945. The war however had been going on for some time, arguably since the Japanese had invaded china in the mid 1930's. In Europe it had been an open conflict from the time of Germany's invasion of Poland. United states involvement in the war must be viewed in this larger context in order it's true significance to be appreciated. Indeed the United States was from the outset of hostilities deeply involved in the war, just not in a direct military sense. Joseph Lash in his book Roosevelt and Churchill: the partnership that saved the west examines these years from the perspectives of the United States and Great Britain. He pays particular attention to the personal and professional relationship between the two respective leaders of the countries, who played key roles in shaping the nature of the overall conflict.
After setting up the stage, it is the conflict: between Roosevelt, American popular opinion and an ever more desperate Britain led by Churchill, between the years of 1939-1941 that the narrative centers mainly around. Written primarily through memoirs and the words of the key players: Lash depicts with growing excitement the success of Roosevelt in molding popular opinion in aiding the British. He traces with scrutiny the growing involvement of the United states in the second world war through such milestone acts as the cash and carry provision, and the lend lease act. He illustrates the tremendous willpower and resolve of Churchill's Britain in surviving the tremendous onslaught of the Axis powers in all theatres of war. The burgeoning friendship of Churchill and Roosevelt is traced till it comes to full fruition aboard the Prince of Wales in a symbolic joint Sunday service, where Churchill would remark: "the sun shone bright and warm while we all sang the old hymns which are our common inheritance" . The steps to war taken by the Japanese and forced upon the Russians are accounted for with growing uncertainty. Finally all events, movements, and personal accomplishments converge in an explosive climax with the United States entering the war after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Lash does an excellent job of putting the individual tensions, and mutual cooperation within the framework of pragmatic diplomacy. The Main characters are fist and foremost held within the confines of a harsh reality. They must adjust to circumstances as best as they can. In Churchill's case, he must try to hold his crumbling empire together while courting aid from a nation that is reluctant to give it. Roosevelt must try to do as much as he can for his friend, while having his hands tied by a reluctant populace, before he is too late. Both men struggle to work together in establishing Naval supremacy in the midst of a continuous German and rising Japanese threat. Amidst all this looms the question of what to do with the Soviet Union. .
Apparent in his work is Lash's hypothesis that the contributions of Churchill and Roosevelt were nothing less than absolutely invaluable to the favorable outcome of the war. The two leaders are endowed by Lash with an almost divine understanding of issues and forces in the world, enabling them to make the key decisions, which ensure success. Conversely the Axis leaders are depicted as mere mortals possessing both brilliance and folly. Hitler's mistakes of attacking Russia, then his unnecessary declaration of war on the United State are incidents used to illustrate this. Lash however runs a danger in this area. He never even entertains the thought of different leaders being able to fill the roles of each effectively. By neglecting to answer this question Lash slightly weakens his argument. In ignoring this leftist historical viewpoint, Lash misses a chance to greatly strengthen his stand that individual achievements were the single most decisive factor in the outcome of the war.
Despite this missed opportunity, Lash's book is a stunning work, offering an unpopular but by no means invalidated perception of history that emphasizes the value of individuals and their actions in shaping the course of human events. The book is written almost entirely utilizing the letters and direct quotes of key players to tell the story. The reader is inundated with names of generals, diplomats and political figures. Personal dramas, disputes, jealousies, friendships and the like unfold as told through the first hand accounts of these characters letters and memoirs. The effect that Lash's narrative style has on the reader comes in helping him to view the early war years as an unfolding drama, with a formidable and unique cast of characters. The Book reads like an exciting novel, in which one is drawn into the drama and uncertainty of the times. Lash's perception of history placing on emphasis individual accomplishment is greatly aided by his writing style, which like a novel lends itself to telling a story of people and the importance of their actions.
In the end Lash succeeds in writing a timeless and thorough history of the early war years. He succeeds in turning a possibly dull and dry study into a captivating story, told in effect by those who dominated it: Roosevelt and Churchill. Were the eventual outcome not listed in the annals of common knowledge Lash would have succeeded in writing a truly suspenseful novel.
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