Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Review Date: 3 Jul 2013
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." I could not start to imagine the weight that must had been on US President Franklin Roosevelt's mind in the hours leading up to this speech before the US Congress. Author Steven Gillon noted that while there were a great many excellent biographies of Roosevelt and histories on his leadership in war time, the 24 hours that elapsed between the Japanese raid and the "Infamy" speech often occupied but a few pages in those previous works. Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War was his attempt to do just that, dedicating a whole volume to this small period of time.
To be sure, this book contained little new information on the topic of the attack. However, Gillon triumphed in terms of his telling of the story, largely from the perspective of Roosevelt. Events such as Roosevelt refusing to cancel dinner plans with Edward R. Murrow might be trivial, but Gillon successfully used it to analyze the man Roosevelt was and his thought process in handling the aftermath of the raid. A major shortcoming of the book went back to Gillon's mission statement, actually. While he wanted to focus on the 24 hours after the raid, he also ventured far and wide to bring in background stories of a great deal of things, most of which verbose yet cursory, thus in my mind the size of the book was inflated unnecessarily especially considering he went to the lengths of counting the number of pages other authors had devoted to this period of time in relation to the size of their works.
I had reviewd this title in its audio book format. John Pruden did a fine job with reading and pacing, but he probably should have consulted with a Japanese speaker on the pronunciation of some words (his particular pronunciation of Konoe and Nomura came to mind).
As Gillon admitted, many excellent books on Roosevelt and Pearl Harbor had already been published, many of which would get my recommendation over Pearl Harbor: FDR Leads the Nation Into War. His unique approach of focusing on the turn of events on 7 and 8 Dec 1941 was an interesting one, however, and perhaps worth tracking this title down at your local library.
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945