cover image Pearl Harbor Christmas: 
A World at War, December 1941

Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941

Stanley Weintraub. Da Capo, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-0-306-82061-8

A minor genre, the day-by-day chronicle, receives a fine addition as veteran historian Weintraub (15 Stars: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall, etc.) devotes a chapter each to the last 10 days of 1941 plus New Year’s Day. He describes the Wehrmacht’s epic winter debacle in Russia and Japan’s advances across Asia with dazzling detail. The primary focus, however, remains on events in Washington enlivened by the presence of Churchill, who invited himself shortly after Pearl Harbor. A reluctant Roosevelt would have preferred to use the time to organize the nation for war; nevertheless, he welcomed the prime minister. Roy Jenkins, a later cabinet member, compared Churchill “to a real-life version of The Man Who Came to Dinner.” U.S. brass worried about FDR’s susceptibility to his famous charisma—which was on full display as Churchill extended his stay in the White House, captivated the media, and delivered stirring addresses to Congress and radio audiences. Weintraub does not exaggerate what followed, but readers will enjoy his opinionated portraits of the allied leaders as they hammered out strategy, much of which was rendered irrelevant by subsequent events. Photos. (Dec.)