Book Review: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Vol. II, The War Years, 1939-1945


by Roger Daniels

Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2016. Pp. xiv, 642. Illus., maps, tables, notes, biblio., index. $34.95. ISBN: 0252039521

FDR, the Commander in Chief.

Whereas Daniels’s first volume on the life of FDR, Road to the New Deal, 1882-1939, was largely devoted to domestic affairs, the second naturally is far more focused on international events.  Despite this focus, Daniels manages to the coming of war and its conduct into the fabric of events on the Home Front, showing how FDR worked to preserve as much as possible of the New Deal, while shifting the nation’s focus to mobilization.

Daniels offers some interesting insights into FDR’s often deliberate vagueness on issues, and occasional outright lies, as the nation moved from official neutrality, seasoned with an unofficial sympathy for the Allies, to “non-belligerence”, openly favoring Britain and the Allied while avoiding overt violations of neutrality, to a state “short of war”, taking literally half the book before arriving in December of 1941. The balance of the book covers events from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the declarations of war by German and Italy. Daniels covers FDR’s wartime activities in considerable detail, noting his relative hands-off treatment of military operations, only occasionally intervening at critical juncture. Daniels address some of the partisan critiques of events in the war, including Pearl Harbor, cooperation with the USSR, and the Yalta agreements.

Taken together, Daniels’ two volumes give us some interesting insights into FDR’s political and diplomatic actions, set within the framework of American and global events from the eve of the Great War through the Great Depression and the Second World War.

Note: The War Years is also available as an e-book.


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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