The subtitle of this book is Roosevelt,Lindbergh and America’s Fight over World War Two.
Thus it is an account of the years and events leading up to America’s entrance into World War Two. It’s seen through the prism of two of the most significant personalities of the era, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Charles Lindbergh.
FDR, after the governorship of New York, became President in 1933 and held office for 4 terms.
Lindbergh was the first aviator to cross single-handedly the Atlantic in 1927 in the Spirit of St Louis.
His son was kidnapped and slain in 1931.
He became a one might say the most important figure in the isolationist movement of the late 1930s.
FDR had to tread a tricky path after the conflict began and Britain became effectively the last bastion of resistance to the Nazis.
Because of the Neutrality Act, FDR could not come overtly to Britain’s aid despite his private sympathies for Britain’s plight, choked as she was deprived of vital supplies by convoy attack.
The Irish, German Bund and vocal mother’s groups were all set against any involvement and did not see it as their war.
In this book FDR does not appear as the inspiring leader depicted in the Ken Burns documentary.
Yes, he came up with brilliant strategies like Lend Lease and was a marvellous orator but when it came to implementation there was stasis much to the exasperation of Winston Churchill.
One can only speculate what might have happened but for the dual blunders of Pearl Harbour and Hitler – who hitherto was anxious to avoid any confrontation in the Atlantic – declaring war on the USA.
This was, as they say, a game-changer and America embarked on the Victory Programme, a highly efficient industrial manufacture of weaponry.
The general view is that at some point America would have been dragged into the war through South America where the Nazis has built networks and links.
The figure that the writer most admires is not FDR but Wendell Willkie, the Republican nominee for the 1940 election.
Willkie was, until 1939, a registered Democrat and more of an interventionist but less of a politician than FDR.
His belief in intervention estranged him from his party.
The remarkable feature of Lindberg, a shy reclusive man ,was not discovered until after his death.
Regarded as a family man with 5 children, he fathered another 7 in liaisons with German women after the War.
How he succeeded in keeping this secret one can only imagine though one daughter (Revee) of his marriage has met her half-siblings.
It’s also interesting to see who supported the isolationists. Its most prominent vehicle America First was supported by such Ivy Leaguers as John Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Sergeant Shriver.
Henry Ford was an implacable isolationist who recruited Lindbergh as consultant in aircraft manufacture, a job he did supremely well.
This is a well researched and detailed account of an important era in American history.