It was not until the days of my life have begun to dwindle down to a precious few, as the song, September says, that I suddenly needed to know more about the background in which my life has been set. In particular, the people whose names have followed me through my life. When our monuments came under threat, how was I to defend them when I knew so little about the story they represented? What about Jefferson, Grant, Lee? My reading life changed directions as I have pursued what I think of as the backstory of my life. Growing up, Teddy Roosevelt was the ‘good’ Roosevelt, and FDR was a series of iconic photographs incidental to my early years. FDR has never stepped off the pages into my life in any meaningful way until now.
It has taken Joseph E. Persico’s book about Roosevelt and his Commanders that fought and won the second world war to give me a new appreciation for FDR’s presidency and his everlasting impact on the world. My world! After reading Bret Baier’s book on Eisenhower this summer, I am delighted that our respect and admiration for Ike is once again supported in this book. Omar Bradley is a new found hero added to a long list of heroes I have created through the years. Names as diverse in backgrounds and careers as Mike Singletary that played football for the Chicago Bears. If you are only going to read one book of this nature, I highly recommend this one.
In a nutshell, you will have a deeper understanding of FDR, Churchill, Patton, McArthur, Bradley, and others military men written about in the book. The dutiful yet independent-minded George C. Marshall, charged with rebuilding an army whose troops trained with broomsticks for rifles, eggs for hand grenades; Dwight Eisenhower, elevated from obscurity to command of the greatest fighting force ever assembled; the vainglorious Douglas MacArthur; and the bizarre battlefield genius George S. Patton. Also 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. Though I have a new found respect over FDR’s important place in history, it astounds me that we have forgotten the nature of Stalin and Russia in today’s dealings with Russia and its leaders.
Roosevelt was wrongheaded in his belief, almost to the end, that by obliging Stalin he could make the Soviet Union a benevolent member in the family of nations…he failed to grasp that the Joseph Stalin’s of the world do not respond to goodwill, which they interpret as weakness, but to force, even bullying, which they fear and respect. Stalin and the rest of the Soviet leadership possessed not a single democratic impulse.