Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage

Persico, Joseph E.

Published by Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.: Random House Inc, 2001
ISBN 10: 0375502467 / ISBN 13: 9780375502460
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Synopsis: Despite all that has already been written on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Persico has uncovered a hitherto overlooked dimension of FDR's wartime leadership: his involvement in intelligence and espionage operations.

Roosevelt's Secret War is crowded with remarkable revelations:
-FDR wanted to bomb Tokyo before Pearl Harbor
-A defector from Hitler's inner circle reported directly to the Oval Office
-Roosevelt knew before any other world leader of Hitler's plan to invade Russia
-Roosevelt and Churchill concealed a disaster costing hundreds of British soldiers' lives in order to protect Ultra, the British codebreaking secret
-An unwitting Japanese diplomat provided the President with a direct pipeline into Hitler's councils
Roosevelt's Secret War also describes how much FDR had been told--before the Holocaust--about the coming fate of Europe's Jews. And Persico also provides a definitive answer to the perennial question Did FDR know in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor?

By temperament and character, no American president was better suited for secret warfare than FDR. He manipulated, compartmentalized, dissembled, and misled, demonstrating a spymaster's talent for intrigue. He once remarked, "I never let my right hand know what my left hand does." Not only did Roosevelt create America's first central intelligence agency, the OSS, under "Wild Bill" Donovan, but he ran spy rings directly from the Oval Office, enlisting well-placed socialite friends.

FDR was also spied against. Roosevelt's Secret War presents evidence that the Soviet Union had a source inside the Roosevelt White House; that British agents fed FDR total fabrications to draw the United States into war; and that Roosevelt, by yielding to Churchill's demand that British scientists be allowed to work on the Manhattan Project, enabled the secrets of the bomb to be stolen. And these are only a few of the scores of revelations in this constantly surprising story of Roosevelt's hidden role in World War II.

Review: Joseph E. Persico presents FDR as one of America's great spymasters. "Few leaders were better adapted temperamentally to espionage than Franklin Roosevelt," writes Persico, author of Nuremberg and Colin Powell's autobiographical collaborator. "FDR compartmentalized information, misled associates, manipulated people, conducted intrigues, used private lines of communication, scattered responsibility, duplicated assignments, provoked rivalries, held the cards while showing few, and left few fingerprints." He was a kind of principled Machiavellian who hoped to achieve several clear ends, such as getting the United States into the Second World War, even though most of the public wanted nothing to do with it (before Pearl Harbor). FDR then pursued these goals with the fervor of an opportunist: "the devious route to a desirable goal; inconstant behavior directed toward constant ends; the warship hiding behind a smoke screen but steered by a moral compass."

A good example of this is his relationship with the celebrated aviator Charles Lindbergh. Roosevelt asked J. Edgar Hoover to keep tabs on Lindbergh because he was a critic of the administration, and FDR suspected he was a closeted Nazi (not true, but perhaps an understandable opinion). Roosevelt's Secret War reveals how FDR created a huge intelligence operation and then ran it--he "built espionage into the structure of American government," says Persico. There were plenty of successes (Roosevelt knew about Hitler's plans to invade Russia before they did it), but also failings: Soviet agents burrowed into FDR's administration at the highest levels. One of the best sections of the book addresses a perennial question: Did FDR know the Japanese were about to bomb Pearl Harbor and let them do it because he believed the sneak attack would propel the public into supporting war against the Axis powers? Persico argues that FDR didn't know: "The clues seem to lead to that conclusion like lights on a well-marked runway." He makes a convincing case that "Pearl Harbor was a catastrophe, not a conspiracy." Roosevelt's Secret War is a unique contribution to our understanding of FDR--no other book treats America's longest-serving president as a spymaster--and it will appeal to readers interested in the Second World War and the cloak-and-dagger world of espionage. --John Miller

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II...
Publisher: Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.: Random House Inc
Publication Date: 2001
Binding: Hardcover
Book Condition: New
Edition: 1st Edition

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