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Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941 Hardcover – March 26, 2013
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Olson’s fourth history pivoting around the year 1940 chronicles America’s debate about intervention in WWII. To recall its vituperative tone, something long since forgotten by the popular memory of wartime national unity, Olson incorporates the venomous vernacular in which advocates and opponents of intervention assailed each other into her time-line reportage of the controversy as it was affected by war news, the 1940 election, and such war preparations as the enactment of conscription and lend-lease. FDR’s brawling secretary of the interior, Harold Ickes, took naturally to the idiom of vitriol, labeling isolationists as Nazis and traitors. As for the isolationist organization America First, Olson recounts its campaign to sway public opinion, which was more hindered than helped by the political obtuseness of its celebrity spokesman, Charles Lindbergh. Underscoring the period’s passionate animosities, Olson parallels their playing-out in mass media and their sub rosa manifestations in illegal wiretaps and British espionage. Humanizing public events with private strains, on, for example, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Olson delivers a fluid rendition of a tempestuous time. --Gilbert Taylor
“Powerfully [re-creates] this tenebrous era . . . Olson captures in spellbinding detail the key figures in the battle between the Roosevelt administration and the isolationist movement.”—The New York Times Book Review
“In Those Angry Days, journalist-turned-historian Lynne Olson captures [the] period in a fast-moving, highly readable narrative punctuated by high drama. It’s . . . popular history at its most riveting, detailing what the author rightfully characterizes as ‘a brutal, no-holds-barred battle for the soul of the nation.’ It is sure to captivate readers seeking a deeper understanding of how public opinion gradually shifted as America moved from bystander to combatant in the war to preserve democracy.”—Associated Press
“Filled with fascinating anecdotes and surprising twists . . . With this stirring book, Lynne Olson confirms her status as our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.”—Madeleine K. Albright
“Olson has shone a dramatic light on the complexities of the issue and skillfully portrayed the protagonists of an almost forgotten crisis in American history.”—Newsweek/The Daily Beast
“[An] absorbing chronicle . . . [Olson] doesn’t so much revisit a historical period as inhabit it; her scenes flicker as urgently as a newsreel. While highlighting Lindbergh and FDR as its stars, Those Angry Days embraces a cast of characters far beyond the book’s title characters.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Masterfully describes America’s conflicting opinions before Pearl Harbor . . . a comprehensive take on another era of angry divisions.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Spanning the years 1939 to 1941, Lynne Olson’s masterful book relives American’s debate over whether to go to war—a bitter clash personified by FDR and Charles Lindbergh.”—Parade
“A fully fleshed-out portrait of the battle between the interventionists and isolationists in the eighteen months leading up to Pearl Harbor . . . a vivid, colorful evocation of a charged era.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Humanizing public events with private strains . . . Olson delivers a fluid rendition of a tempestuous time.”—Booklist
“[Olson] manages to keep her complex, character-filled story on keel as she describes the forces bearing down on FDR’s administration while the world slipped into war. . . . Delicious tales abound.”—Publishers Weekly
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This includes Father Coughlin and the anti-Semitic people who followed him and listened to his radio program. These people would later become big followers of the America First groups through its’ local chapters, turning it from a simple isolationist group that advocated staying out of WWII into a group which became more known for its’ anti-Semitic rhetoric and the brawls that occurred outside of isolationist rallies. In addition to Charles Lindberg, his wife Anne Morrow Lindberg, her family who were ardent internationalists also appear. Her father had been ambassador to Mexico and her sister was married to an Englishman whose friends included many people who hoped to bring in the U.S. into WWII, on the side of the British. The author of the children’s classic, The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a pilot for the Free French also makes an appearance shortly before his disappearance as does Henry “Hap” Arnold, the Air Force Chief of Staff, Harold Stark, Chief of Naval Operations, George Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff, Colonel Truman Smith, an anti-Roosevelt critic, who was also an active duty military officer and the top army analyst in Germany for Marshall, and Alfred Wedemeyer, who would rise to become deputy Army Chief of Staff , and the man who created the Victory program of planning for the amount of arms, men, and materiel such as guns, bullets, blankets and food that would be needed to invade Europe. Wedemeyer had attended the prestigious German Staff College, the Kriegsacademie, but he was also an ardent isolationist. Many people who were also ardent interventionists, such as Grenville Clark make an appearance. Clark, a Manhattan attorney, architect of the draft and was a member of the Century Group, a group that was intended to counter balance the America First Group also make an appearance which was full of many people who were then influential, including many newspaper publishers.
Many people who would later become famous also make an appearance, such as Sargent Shriver, who would go on to head the brand new Peace Corps under John F. Kennedy- he later quipped that they thought the Peace Corps would be a failure and didn’t want the bad reputation, and Kingman Brewer who would go on to become the president of Yale and later on ambassador to the Court of Saint James, (Ambassador to the United Kingdom). They had been fervent members of the America First Chapters at their respective colleges. Even appearing are some early feminists such as Helen Reid, publisher of the New York Herald Tribune and Time and Life Magazine publisher Henry Luce.
Also making an appearance are a class of people who were some of the biggest movers and shakers of the time, and as a result were very famous then, but are now largely ignored- newspaper publishers. In a time, before Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Friendster, Myspace or any other sort of social media, where the media was only radio and newspapers and not social, newspaper publishers had outsized influence on the political life of the country, in a way that would seem strange now. Imagine a time when Kim Kardashian having a column in the daily living pages and people looking to her for advice about whether or not to go to war. Their opinion columns and who they backed for president and what they thought should be done in foreign policy carried far more weight than they do today for reasons which are understandable once you stop and look at them. Today, we have a veritable smorgasbord of cable TV channels, online websites and AM and FM radio.
In the late 1930s media was largely limited to newspapers, and a weekly photography magazine, called LIFE. This combined with the then new media of radio were it where media was concerned.. Hence the appearance of newspaper publishers in Chicago(the Chicago Daily Tribune and the Chicago Daily News), Kentucky (The Louisville Courier Journal), New York ( Daily News, New Yorker, Evening World, Herald Tribune, New York Post, the New York Times, the New York Tribune, and the New York World), Michigan (the Dearborn Independent), the Army and Navy Journal, the Atlantic Monthly, Time, the Christian Science Monitor, Foreign Affairs, the Scripps Howard newspaper chain, even the Harvard Crimson, and the appearance of the publisher of LIFE magazine.
People who are also familiar with U.S. politics will also spot familiar figures such as Wendell Willkie, the Republican nominee for the 1940 election and long-time Congressman Claude Pepper to name just a few. However also making an appearance because she was a big backer of him and was instrumental in his entering the race is Wilkie’s mistress. His wife, also makes an appearance but only because she is not on the campaign trail, but back at home. In fact, Wilkie’s mistress campaigned with him, a fact that would make modern day politicians green with envy. The chief thing to note is that no newspaper reporter bothered to point out that the woman who was campaigning with Wilkie was his mistress and not his wife. Newspaper reporters had long known about Wilkie’s relationship, but had left it out of their newspapers- another thing which would make modern day politicians green with envy. In short, everyone who was anyone appears in this book.
All of this narration is brought together by the skillful use of the newspaper articles from around the entire country and books of the time because so much of the politics was local American politics, and writers at the time were frequently in the forefront of this momentous debate. The end result is a unique slice of life about a time in this country’s history that has disappeared, a lengthy debate about a momentous decision the country was about to make, shortly before this country stepped onto the international stage. In less skillful hands, this sort of storytelling could and would have become very boring or become overwhelming.
A worthwhile read both as a refresher for buffs of this period, and for the current generation. O
Olson focuses on the personae of Charles A. Lindbergh and President Roosevelt as protagonists for this ideological civil war; but does not neglect the broader causes and concerns of which these men were reflections. In doing so she reveals the unconscious Eurocentrism - a politer term than racism - that undergird the prowar as well as the "appeaser" schools. When Britain was finally attacked bloody outrage was the order of the day in official US circles. With unceasing assistance from British propaganda efforts the drumbeat for intervention became deafening, finally dragging an initially reluctant public into supporting the Ivy League demand to "do something." If the US man in the street could shrug off Hitler's Jim Crowing of Jews and crushing Reds, attacking "our friend and ally" - people "just like us" - could not be allowed. Yet parallel and preceding the German war on Britain was Japan's war in East Asia: Japanese atrocities in China were what one expected of "Asiatic barbarians" and were low on the radar. Let such things happen to Europeans, however, and the line has been crossed. Ironically, it was Japan that proved the immediate threat to US interests. Berlin could only be reached from Pearl Harbor.
Ironic, too, is that in finally creating a pro-war consensus the liberal internationalism of FDR was immediately lost. The political opportunism of much of the pro and ant-war rhetoric is revealed as "fascists" were now converted into democratic interventionists eager to continue fighting new enemies at large. Thus did "the good war" blend immediately into cold war, and now into ceaseless wars on "terror." This is the lasting legacy of the "Angry Days." The world is undoubtedly a better place with Hitler's Reich reduced to memory. But victors have a way of indirectly losing their wars beside the defeated, and such was the case after 1945.
But if postwar post mortems leave the triumphalism of 1945 clouded in holocaust, radioactivity, and nuclear proliferation, it is Charles Lindbergh who ironically comes out the better for it. For all of his semi-Nazi ravings of the 1930s, in late life he could write "I have seen the science I worshiped and the aircraft I loved destroying the civilization I expected them to save"; counteracting the accomplishment of world unity by "the ruthless bombardments of war" (p. 454). With such insight Lindbergh redeemed his checkered life's journey, and in his late wisdom soared above the hawks and owls who so scorned him.
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I'll be reading more of her books!!!