The New Dealers' War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War within World War II

The New Dealers' War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War within World War II

The New Dealers' War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War within World War II

The New Dealers' War: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the War within World War II


Acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming brings to life the flawed and troubled FDR who struggled to manage WWII. Starting with the leak to the press of Roosevelt's famous Rainbow Plan, then spiraling back to FDR's inept prewar diplomacy with Japan, and his various attempts to lure Japan into an attack on the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific, Fleming takes the reader inside the incredibly fractious struggles and debates that went on in Washington, the nation, and the world as the New Dealers, led by FDR, strove to impose their will on the conduct of the War. Unlike the familiar yet idealized FDR of Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time, the reader encounters a Roosevelt in remorseless decline, battered by ideological forces and primitive hatreds which he could not handle -- and frequently failed to understand -- some of them leading to unimaginable catastrophe. Among FDR's most dismaying policies, Fleming argues, were an insistence on "unconditional surrender" for Germany (a policy that perhaps prolongedthe war by as many as two years, leaving millions more dead) and his often uncritical embrace of and acquiescence to Stalin and the Soviets as an ally.

For many Americans, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a beloved, heroic, almost mythic figure, if not for the "big government" that was spawned under his New Deal, then certainly for his leadership through the War. The New Dealers' War paints a very different portrait of this leadership. It is sure to spark debate.


Every time I walked through the vestibule of my family home in Jersey City in the 1940s, I saw Franklin D. Roosevelt's face on the wall, where many devout Irish-Catholic families hung a portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. FDR was the hero of my youth, the almost mythical figure on whom the political fortunes of my father, leader of the gritty working-class Sixth Ward, a vital cog in the city's powerful political machine, depended. The name Roosevelt had a magical aura, inducing total admiration of him and equally total loyalty to the Democratic Party.

But memories, hero-worship, the loyalties of youth, are the stuff of novels, not history. This book owes its existence to my painfully acquired belief that the historian's chief task is to separate history from memory. In our understanding of the cataclysm that historians call World War II, we are in the final stage of celebrating the riches of memory. We are saluting the generation that won the titanic global conflict. There is nothing wrong with this impulse. These men and women deserve the literary and cinematic cheers we are giving them.

But memory is not history. It is too clotted with sentiment, with the kind of retrospective distortion that we all inflict on the past. History gives us, not the past seen through the eyes of the present, but the past in the eyes, the voices, the hearts and minds of . . .

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