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All American presidents are commanders in chief by law. Few perform as such in practice. While Franklin D. Roosevelt’s political genius is unquestioned, less well known is his deep personal involvement in World War II. In Roosevelt’s Centurions, historian Joseph E. Persico reveals how FDR seized the levers of wartime power like no president since Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Although surrounded by star-studded generals and admirals, he made clear who was running the war and assumed the role of strategist in chief. FDR was a hands-on war leader, involving himself in everything from choosing bomber targets to planning naval convoys to the design of landing craft. Persico explores the influence of his strategic decisions, including his insistence on the Axis powers’ unconditional surrender, on the prosecution of the war.
Roosevelt began taking charge even before the U.S. entered the conflict, unraveling the Neutrality Laws that prevented him from aiding Britain and her allies and enacting the Lend-Lease program. By the time Japan struck Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and Germany declared war on the United States, he was already a commander in chief firmly in control of the nation’s war-making apparatus. Taking us inside the Allied war councils, Persico reveals how the president brokered strategy with contentious allies, particularly the iron-willed Winston Churchill; rallied morale on the home front; and handpicked a team of proud, sometimes prickly, warriors who, he believed, could fight a global war.
Persico’s history offers indelible portraits of these outsize figures: the dutiful yet independent-minded George C. Marshall, charged with rebuilding an army whose troops trained with broomsticks for rifles and eggs for hand grenades; Dwight D. Eisenhower, an unassuming Kansan elevated from obscurity to command of the greatest fighting force ever assembled; the vainglorious Douglas MacArthur; and the bizarre but tenacious battlefield genius George S. Patton. Here too are less widely celebrated military leaders whose contributions were just as critical: the irascible, dictatorial navy chief, Ernest King; the acerbic army advisor in China, “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell; and Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, who zealously preached the gospel of modern air power. The Roosevelt who emerges from these pages is a wartime chess master guiding America’s armed forces to a victory that was anything but foreordained.
In the postwar era, America has borne the burden of confronting difficult questions about the nature and exercise of global power. Roosevelt’s Centurions is a timely and revealing examination of what it takes to be a wartime leader in a freewheeling, complicated, and tumultuous democracy.
Hardcover Book : 672 pages
Publisher: Random House Trade Pub. ( May 29, 2012 )
Item #: 13-609823
Product Dimensions: 6.125 x 9.25 x 1.05inches