Franklin Roosevelt's Foreign Policy and the Welles Mission

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FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT'S FOREIGN POLICY AND THE WELLES MISSION J. Simon Rofe New York: Palgrave, 2007. x, 270pp, $69.95 cloth (ISBN 1-4039-8073-1)

In February and March 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent his closest foreign policy adviser, Under secretary of State Sumner Welles, on a tour of four European capitals. Nazi Germany had conquered Poland the previous September and, having secured its eastern flank through a nonaggression pact with the Soviet Union, prepared to move west. In this tense period of "phony war," Europe, and with it the United States, held its breath in dreaded expectation. Should the Nazis succeed in conquering western Europe, the fate of the rest of the world-and certainly the United Stateswould hang in the balance. Scarred from their experience in World War I two decades earlier, Americans were not keen to join the fighting in Europe this time. But with the Nazis' surge to power in Germany and then increasingly in Europe, the stakes had grown to a degree of importance that Americans might not be able to ignore forever. Given these unprecedented circumstances, it is understandable that FDR would seek to take advantage of the phony war's lull to send an emissary to Europe. What is surprising is the lack of attention the Welles mission has received thus far from historians of World War II, American foreign relations, and the Anglo-American "special relationship."

J. Simon Rofe, a specialist in military and diplomatic history at the University of Leicester, admirably fills this gap with this authoritative, and undoubtedly definitive, account. …