cover image Three Days at the Brink: FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win World War II

Three Days at the Brink: FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win World War II

Bret Baier and Catherine Whitney. Morrow, $28.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-290568-0

This highly readable but historically muddled work from conservative journalist Baier combines a serviceable biography of Franklin Delano Roosevelt with a crisply paced but superficial diplomatic history of WWII. The key point, Baier asserts, was in late 1943, when an uneasy coalition of Allied leaders met in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Roosevelt, British prime minister Winston Churchill, and the U.S.S.R.’s Marshal Josef Stalin agreed the Western Allies would launch a direct invasion of Nazi-occupied Europe in late 1944, opening the “second front” that Stalin insisted would ease pressure on the Red Army and defeat Hitler. The author tries to have it both ways: he contends initially that Roosevelt was the principal architect of a united Allied policy who willed the eventual invasion of Nazi-occupied France into action and served as “the lead strategist for the future” because of his strength of personality, but in the conclusion claims that, “faced with his moment of truth, FDR blinked.” The theatrical depiction of Roosevelt’s courtship, flattery, and “apparent seduction” of Stalin during the three-day meeting, coupled with his apparent abrupt coolness toward Churchill, overstates the president’s impact and underestimates the Soviet leader’s resolve to prevent any future invasion of his country. The dramatic tone of this history is compelling, but shaky scholarship won’t impress readers of history. (Oct.)