When, during the long process of preparing this book, I was asked questions about its nature, I sometimes heard the protest, "But surely you are not going to publish such material while so many of the leading participants in this history are still living?"
This protest indicated a sense of nicety, or squeamishness, which is happily becoming obsolete. In the past, heirs of presidents, generals and other influential figures have suppressed private papers for years or generations, or have even destroyed them forever, and these heirs still have the legal right to do as they please with inherited documents. But the development of custom now frowns upon such suppression. Franklin D. Roosevelt established a healthy precedent by bequeathing his papers, which run into millions of items, to the nation rather than to his family, and the clearance of these papers for public inspection is at the discretion of the Archivist of the United States, who is invested with public responsibility.
It would seem that the time to publish the record to the fullest possible extent is when many of its principal figures are still alive and therefore able to talk back, to correct misstatements of fact or to challenge interpretations.
Such has been the case with this book which was first published in the United States and Great Britain in October, 1948, and subsequently in other countries. I have read many hundreds of letters and reviews and articles, some of them written by persons who have intimate and authoritative knowledge of events herein recorded, others by persons who have had access to official records. I have had innumerable conversations with people qualified to ask me on what authority I had based various statements. Furthermore, a large number of relevant books have been published during the past eighteen months, including the first two volumes of Churchill's memoirs (the third volume is in process of serialization as I now write), Crusade in Europe, by Dwight D. Eisenhower, This I Remember, by Eleanor Roosevelt, F.D.R.—My Boss, by Grace Tully, Roosevelt and the Russians, by Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., and the four final volumes of The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt, compiled by Samuel I. Rosenman.