Review by Choice Review
Moskin provides a well-written narrative, based largely on published sources, of the critical five months from President Roosevelt's death to the signing of the Japanese surrender on the Missouri. During this time, President Truman confronted a series of major decisions with little preparation. According to Moskin, Truman was initially determined to remain on good relations with Russia, but gradually became suspicious of Stalin's intentions. Truman's belief that rehabilitating a war-devastated Europe was essential if real peace were to be achieved caused conflict with Charles de Gaulle as well as with the Soviets. Truman also compromised his anticolonial convictions to placate Britain and France, whose support he wanted in Europe, and US military leaders, who urged retention of Pacific Islands. Moskin accepts Truman's explanation that it was necessary to use the atomic bomb to end the war quickly with minimum American casualties. Moskin argues that Truman was "a very extraordinary ordinary man" who from the first "gave proof of his unexpected ability to take charge and settle great questions." Endnotes. General readers, undergraduates. E. P. Muller emeritus, Bates College
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
With the haberdasher turned head of state as his focus, Moskin (The U.S. Marine Corps Story) offers a theme-driven, journalistic account of the period between FDR's death and Japan's unconditional surrenderfive months in 1945 when "the world changed forever." Moskin regards WWII, rather than the Civil War, as the defining event in U.S. history, and perceives the transition from war to peace as the decisive stage in that event. The destruction of the Axis, the beginnings of the Cold War and the nuclear age, the end of colonialismall occurred at that time, with Truman, according to the author, personally responsible for the crucial decisions that shaped final victory and structured the postwar world. Moskin's insistence on the critical nature of these five months, and on the centrality of Truman's role, seems overstated. Many historians contend that the outlines of the postwar system were well established by 1945. Truman himself entertained few illusions of being a world-historical figure and sought consensus whenever possible on major issues, such as the sharing of nuclear information. Moskin's dependence, judging from his notes, on published sources and memoirs apparently often leads him to take ex post facto reconstructions at face value, and to portray such events as the Potsdam Conference and the decision to drop the bomb as simpler than they were. Even so, he provides entertaining history here, as well as an impressive, detailed introduction to a complex period. Photographs. Author tour. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A straightforward, suitably plain-spoken account of the first dramatic months of a presidency that transformed America's world role. Moskin (The U.S. Marine Corps Story, not reviewed), a former foreign editor of Look magazine, focuses on the crisis with which Truman's presidency began--the sudden death of FDR and the accession of the inexperienced, poorly prepared vice president to the Oval Office just as WW II reached its denouement. Moskin points out that Truman made his share of mistakes, such as allowing Stalin to retain control over eastern Europe. However, Truman's decisiveness stopped the Soviets from dominating western Europe and Japan. Moskin shows that Truman's encounters with such strong egos from the Allied side as Churchill, de Gaulle, and Douglas MacArthur presented challenges almost as severe as his meetings with Stalin. About Truman's most controversial decision from this period, the determination to use the atomic bomb, Moskin sides with those who say it was necessary to prevent an even more costly invasion of Japan (although he does not offer a detailed argument). At this time of rapidly increasing tension between the US and the Soviet Union, Truman not only had to bring the world's most destructive war to a successful conclusion, but also had to grapple with such issues as the establishment of the United Nations and the beginning of the end of the British and French empires. Truman emerges as a resolutely honest, decisive, and plain-spoken chief executive who moved rapidly to put his own distinctive stamp on the job, unintimidated by the towering ghost of FDR. Truman was a dynamo of activity, somehow finding time to effect a thorough reorganization of the military and providing such entitlements as the GI Bill. In Moskin's portrait, Truman emerges as a man meeting the test of his life with courage, common sense, and great skill. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)
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