Roosevelt's secret war : FDR and World War II espionage /

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Main Author: Persico, Joseph E.
Format: Book
Published: New York : Random House, 2001.
Edition:1st ed.
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Review by Booklist Review

Forced to fight the war as a military operation, a public relations exercise, a diplomatic mission, and an industrial enterprise, FDR relished the many hats he wore during the crisis years of World War II. Suited by nature, intelligence, and temperament to intrigue and subterfuge, he immensely enjoyed his role as the definitive American spymaster. Credited with institutionalizing espionage in the U.S. government, FDR was responsible for the creation of the OSS and zealously guarded the data gathered by his handpicked ring of agents. Accepting ultimate responsibility for espionage missions, he was privy to an astounding array of intelligence information pertaining to Japanese, German, and Russian motivations, operations, and strategies. Perhaps most fascinating of all was what information an extremely pragmatic FDR decided to utilize for the war effort and what information he tacitly chose to ignore. The first comprehensive account of the definitive role that espionage played in FDR's wartime agenda. --Margaret Flanagan

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Blending anecdotes, speculations and documented facts into an exciting story of collecting and transmitting information in wartime, Persico (Nuremburg: Infamy on Trial) offers a clear-eyed take on FDR's approach to intelligence. For Persico, Roosevelt was someone to whom dissimulation was second nature, and who enjoyed for their own sake the trappings of secret agentry: clandestine meetings, reports done in invisible ink, codes and ciphers. Roosevelt built espionage into the very structure of American government well before Pearl Harbor, Persico shows. The president preferred human sources over electronic ones and the intuition of field agents to the conclusions of technocrats, but he incorporated electronic intelligence comprehensively into strategic and operational planning. Roosevelt's was the decisive influence in creating the Office of Strategic Services. Under "Wild Bill" Donovan, this initially unstable amalgam of dilettantes, poseurs and experts achieved an enviable record of successes during the war. Roosevelt, however, was by no means dominated by his intelligence services. As we see him here, the president listened, processed and drew his own conclusions. He rejected, for example, repeated OSS recommendations to modify the principle of unconditional surrender rather than risk exacerbating Stalin's distrust of the Western alliance, and he respected the Faustian bargain that kept Russia in the war, even in the face of growing evidence that the U.S. was the target of a major Soviet espionage offensive. Such examples are rife throughout the book, showing how Roosevelt's use of intelligence decisively shaped the war and helped define the peace that followed. (On-sale Oct. 9) Forecast: This book should sell solidly to intelligence enthusiasts, but it doesn't connect clearly to any current issues or make major revelations, and is not quite strong enough to create its own buzz. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Philatelist turned President Franklin D. Roosevelt was intrigued by the world and eager to know what other nations were doing. This book keys in on the Machiavellian side of his personality, meshing it with his interest in secrecy. The author of four previous books on espionage and World War II, the biographer of Nelson A. Rockefeller (The Imperial Rockefeller), and the collaborator on Colin Powell's autobiography (My American Journey), Persico is well prepared to tackle the topic of FDR and espionage. While there are no startling revelations, the text covers a fascinating dimension of the American presidency. Persico contrasts FDR's dissembling with Truman's dislike of double-dealing; the latter terminated the OSS only to create the CIA within two years after the start of the Cold War. The author concludes that espionage is, ironically, most successfully used by leaders of free societies. World War II historians and military buffs will welcome this extremely well-written book. Recommended for all libraries. William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

A historian argues that FDR's fascination and talent with intelligence helped make him an effective commander-in-chief during WWII. Persico (Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, 1994, etc.) is a Roosevelt partisan, so his text can be tendentious (FDR's decisions are invariably correct, his rare personal failures eminently understandable-and, more forgivable, his talents unsurpassed). But Persico fills a void in WWII histories by focusing on the intelligence aspects of most of the war's major events. He begins, of course, with Pearl Harbor, which he calls "the most stunning failure of intelligence in the country's history, likely in the history of warfare" (the Trojan Horse excepted?). Persico argues forcefully that neither FDR nor Winston Churchill knew of the raid in advance, despite the chain of evidence that suggests they could have. Persico charts the various rises and falls of J. Edgar Hoover and the OSS's William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan (whose successes in espionage were scattered among some daffy proposals-e.g., dropping myriad bats over Japan in the hopes that the winged creatures would terrify the populace). Persico reveals that FDR was convinced that Charles Lindbergh was a Nazi and that Churchill did not conceal any knowledge of an imminent Luftwaffe raid on Coventry to prevent the Nazis from concluding that the British had cracked the German Enigma code. He reminds us that the US rounded up and detained about 20,000 German- and Italian-Americans in addition to the 114,000 Japanese-Americans. He tells the stories of the abortive attempts by the Nazis to land spies in the US-and of the more successful USSR penetration of the Manhattan Project, from which the Soviets stole 10,000 pages of information, enough to enable them to construct their own atomic bomb. Persico twice supports FDR's decision to do nothing dramatic to rescue Jews from the Holocaust: winning the war was the best strategy, he says. Persico shines some light on the shadowy activities that helped the Allies achieve some of their most significant victories. (16 pages b&w illustrations, not seen)

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