The President's Man: Leo Crowley and Franklin Roosevelt in Peace and War

By Stuart L. Weiss | Go to book overview

Preface

Most books are planned. This book was not. It was at root accidental. I was not looking for a topic to exploit in an article, much less a book, and I did not search for a subject among the many well-known, obviously influential figures who served in the administrations of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Otherwise, I should have chosen someone other than Leo T. Crowley, whose name always prompted friends and acquaintances to exclaim, " Leo, who!"

The exclamations were understandable. Only historians fascinated with the origins of the Cold War knew Crowley, and then only as the lend-lease administrator charged in Truman Memoirs with abruptly and improperly cutting off aid to the Soviet Union just as the Second World War ended in Europe, embittering Joseph Stalin, impairing Soviet- American relations, perhaps fueling the Cold War. It was a sharp, major indictment, but far from clear-cut. Truman admitted signing the cut-off order without reading it; he also condemned Crowley for "policy-making," though at the same time admitting that Crowley executed the order "literally." Crowley responded with a lengthy (partially published) letter to the New York Times reciting the factors that prompted him to act in May 1945, but his public battle with Truman ended with that exchange in the fifties. There remained only his bitterness at the wrong he felt had been done to him.

Over the next ten years few historians mentioned the issue. By the mid-sixties, though, a symbiotic impulse generated by intervention in Vietnam and by the training of so-called radical historians awakened new interest in the origins of the Cold War and the responsibility -- often the culpability -- of American leaders. That meant a new focus on the first six months of Truman's presidency, the period when Crowley, as foreign economic administrator, twice cut off lend-lease. What had begun

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