Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Mantle of Command (FDR at War, 1941-1942) By; Nigel Hamilton

Over my lifetime I have read countless books on the WWII years, biographies, action on the seas, in the air and on the ground. Many books have been written about FDR and Churchill. This one puts it all in perspective for me. You need to know that I have worshiped FDR as a young boy and still today. No one will ever be able to change my mind that he was one of our greatest Presidents. The author’s purpose was his attempt to retell the story of the military direction of the Second World War from a different perspective: that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in his role as U.S. Commander in Chief. This book starts with the meeting of FDR and Churchill at a place called Placentia Bay which was one of the bases ceded to us by England in exchange for Lend Lease. It was manned by Americans. This was part of his strategy. He didn’t want to meet on British soil. The date was August 8 to 10, 1941. Churchill, of course, hoped that America would declare war with Germany. He was disappointed to learn that FDR’s goal was to make a statement that amounted to freedom for all the peoples on earth. It was called the Atlantic Charter. Its objective was to provide four freedoms (of speech and worship, from want and fear). Churchill was determined to keep his colonies intact after the war and signed on reluctantly so as not to create a problem between our two countries. He knew then that without America, they had little chance to defeat Germany. Before Pearl Harbor the British were defeated overwhelmingly by the Japanese. Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma were all surrendered to much smaller Japanese forces. Two Battleships were sunk and many other cruisers, destroyers, etc. The Japanese fought with high energy. India would have been next if America had not entered the war. Contrast that to MacArthur’s American and Philippine forces on Bataan and Corregidor. They held out until May 6, 1942 Various episodes are covered. It was FDR that pressured his military to find a way to hit back at Japan. Out of that came the Doolittle raid on Tokyo by B-25’s taking off from an aircraft carrier on April 18, 2041. That was followed by the sinking of four Japanese carriers in the battle of Midway on June 4th which stopped the expansion of Japan and put them somewhat on defense. Those of you too young to remember America was overwhelmingly Isolationist. There was no enthusiasm to enter the conflict in Europe. FDR believed that sooner or later it would happen and he took what steps he could to increase military production and training of soldiers, sailors and airmen. Most of the book is about the ideas of how we could best attack Germany. Early on it was agreed that it had to be Germany first and Japan second. The American military including General Marshall and Secretary of War Stimson pushed for a second front into France from England. FDR was convinced that it would be a blood bath which we would lose to the hardened soldiers of Germany. This was proven when the Dieppe raid was conducted by Canadian soldiers on August 19, 2042. It was completely routed with heavy loss of life and prisoners. He had the idea as early as December 1941 that the best way to initiate war in Europe would be through the French colonies in Western Africa and that it would be 100 % American since there was great hatred for the British after their raid on French warships. The ending chapter is the report that the landings in November 1942 were successful and that the French had capitulated and were in agreement to fight with us to defeat Germany. The author’s next book covered 1943. I wrote a book report on that one. After reading these two books I shudder to think what our world might be like if Japan and Germany had won. With our isolationist feelings, we could not have declared war on either country. They had to initiate it. Hitler’s mistake was breaking the pact with Russia. Japans mistake was attacking Pearl Harbor. Looking at a world map, if you start at the Western coast of France go East through Russia to Japan and go South from there through China all the way to Burma. All of that could have been theirs. It is doubtful that we would have interfered with Japan if they by-passed the Philippines and only attacked the British, Dutch and French colonies. Once that was accomplished our Hemisphere would be all alone. Very doubtful we could have prevailed. A scary thought that I added just to give you something to consider. Jack B. Walters July 5, 2016

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