cover image Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943

Commander in Chief: FDR’s Battle with Churchill, 1943

Nigel Hamilton. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 (480p) ISBN 978-0-544-27911-7

Biographer Hamilton (The Mantle of Command) combines polished writing, a command of various sources, and broad insight in this account of Franklin Roosevelt’s pivotal WWII year. It was in 1943 that Roosevelt definitively established himself as leader of the Anglo-American alliance. The struggle for dominance between Roosevelt and Winston Churchill is usually presented from the latter’s perspective. In contrast, Hamilton focuses on Roosevelt, presenting him as a war leader “with not only a vision of the future, but how to achieve that future.” The key to his plan was the United Nations. It would be established as a consequence of the destruction of Nazi Germany, which meant a full-scale, cross-channel invasion of Europe. Churchill accepted the concept but made every effort to undermine it. The result was a test of wills. Churchill, seeking to husband British resources and fearing that a Continental invasion would end in disaster, “presented an obsessive argument for the invasion of Italy and the Balkans.” By mid-1943 his recalcitrance placed the coalition “in grave peril.” At Quebec in August the negotiations were “near homicidal,” but the endgame saw Churchill accepting the inevitable. Hamilton shows why Roosevelt “had every reason to feel supreme” with the U.S. becoming “the leading power of the free world.” Agent: Ike Williams, Kneerim & Williams Literary. (June)