From the author of the best-selling One Minute to Midnight, a riveting account of the pivotal six-month period spanning the end of World War II, the dawn of the nuclear age, and the beginning of the Cold War.
When Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill met in Yalta in February 1945, Hitler’s armies were on the run and victory was imminent. The Big Three wanted to draft a blueprint for a lasting peace—but instead set the stage for a forty-four-year division of Europe into Soviet and western spheres of influence. After fighting side by side for nearly four years, their political alliance was rapidly fracturing. By the time the leaders met again in Potsdam in July 1945, Russians and Americans were squabbling over the future of Germany and Churchill was warning about an “iron curtain” being drawn down over the Continent.
These six months witnessed some of the most dramatic moments of the twentieth century: the cataclysmic battle for Berlin, the death of Franklin Roosevelt, the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps, Churchill’s electoral defeat, and the dropping of atomic bombs on Japan. While their armies linked up in the heart of Europe, the political leaders maneuvered for leverage: Stalin using his nation’s wartime sacrifices to claim spoils, Churchill doing his best to halt Britain’s waning influence, FDR trying to charm Stalin, Truman determined to stand up to an increasingly assertive Soviet superpower.
Six Months in 1945 brilliantly captures this momentous historical turning point, chronicling the geopolitical twists behind the descent of the iron curtain, while illuminating the aims and personalities of larger-than-life political giants. It is a vividly rendered story of individual and national interests in fierce competition at a seminal moment in history.
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Guest Review: Author Rick Atkinson on Six Months in 1945
Rick Atkinson, recipient of the 2010 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing, is the bestselling author of The Day of Battle, An Army at Dawn, The Long Gray Line, and In the Company of Soldiers. The final volume of his Liberation Trilogy, covering the last year of the European war, from Normandy to Berlin, will be published in 2013. Atkinson was a staff writer and senior editor at The Washington Post for twenty years, and his many awards include Pulitzer Prizes for journalism and history. He lives in Washington, D.C.
By February 1945, when Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston S. Churchill, and Joseph Stalin met at the Crimean resort of Yalta, the Grand Alliance had become the most successful military coalition in modern history. The Big Three, with help from lesser allies among what Roosevelt called the united nations, had nearly obliterated the fascist Axis. The German Reich had but three months left to live, the Japanese regime barely twice that. In the three years since the Allies had formally made common cause, they had won great victories on three continents and the high seas, liberating the Mediterranean, most of Europe, and much of Asia from Axis oppression, and all but ending, righteously, a catastrophe that would cost sixty million dead worldwide.
Six months after the triumphant gathering at Yalta, the war-winning alliance had largely come unglued. Collaboration against the existential threat of fascist totalitarianism was supplanted by mutual suspicion and recrimination. Blood allies had become geopolitical rivals, if not blood enemies. The long, sanguinary war would become a long, fraught, dangerous peace.
Michael Dobbs tells this story with panache, lucidity, and exceptional scholarship. Six Months in 1945 ably sketches the big arrows on the map, showing how the concluding chapters of World War II became the opening chapters of the Cold War, shaping the world we inhabit today. Characters long dead return to life, not just the obvious architects of Allied victory, but vivid, vital, less well-known figures whom Dobbs deftly rescues from obscurity. From Yalta to Potsdam, the tale is told with authority and clarity, drawing on memoirs, archives, and a wealth of other sources, including many in Russian.
The bevy of books on the end of the war and its immediate aftermath, large and impressive though it may be, is enriched by Six Months in 1945.About the Author:
Michael Dobbs was born and educated in Britain, with fellowships at Princeton and Harvard universities. Now a U.S. citizen, he spent much of his career as a reporter for The Washington Post, for which he covered the collapse of communism. Six Months in 1945 completes a Cold War trilogy that also includes One Minute to Midnight, on the Cuban missile crisis, and Down with Big Brother, on the final collapse of the Soviet Empire. Dobbs lives in Bethesda, Maryland.
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