Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941

Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941

3.7 6
by Stanley Weintraub
     
 

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Christmas 1941 came little more than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The shock—in some cases overseas, elation—was worldwide. While Americans attempted to go about celebrating as usual, the reality of the just-declared war was on everybody’s mind. United States troops on Wake Island were battling a Japanese landing force and, in the

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Overview

Christmas 1941 came little more than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The shock—in some cases overseas, elation—was worldwide. While Americans attempted to go about celebrating as usual, the reality of the just-declared war was on everybody’s mind. United States troops on Wake Island were battling a Japanese landing force and, in the Philippines, losing the fight to save Luzon. In Japan, the Pearl Harbor strike force returned to Hiroshima Bay and toasted its sweeping success. Across the Atlantic, much of Europe was frozen in grim Nazi occupation.

Just three days before Christmas, Churchill surprised Roosevelt with an unprecedented trip to Washington, where they jointly lit the White House Christmas tree. As the two Allied leaders met to map out a winning wartime strategy, the most remarkable Christmas of the century played out across the globe.

Pearl Harbor Christmas is a deeply moving and inspiring story about what it was like to live through a holiday season few would ever forget.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Prolific historian Weintraub (Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce) again ties an epic piece of history to its holiday season. The period immediately after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when the country was still in shock, has not been well covered. The primary story here is of Prime Minister Churchill sailing across the U-boat-infested North Atlantic to confer with President Roosevelt to map out the general strategy that would win the war. Americans were finding it hard to transition to a wartime status: there were still traditional celebrations, such as the lighting of the national Christmas tree, despite new blackout regulations. This is a more human World War II book, not of policy details, but of people trying to figure out how to proceed, with the focus on two titans of the Western Alliance (who both enjoyed a good smoke and a drink). VERDICT A chronology and maps would be helpful, but this stirring book is recommended for all history buffs and general readers interested in this human—and holiday—take on the war.
Kirkus Reviews

A vivid 11-day account of a World War II holiday.

As in previous volumes on Christmastime during critical moments in history (General Sherman's Christmas: Savannah, 1864, 2009, etc.), prolific biographer and military historian Weintraub dramatically recaps the last week and a half of late December 1941. The author's treatment of the devastating attack on Pearl Harbor centers on two "open wartime allies," Prime Minister Winston Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, both united under pessimistic speculation to review global strategies. Churchill's much-ballyhooed attendance at the White House summit was beneficial yet was somewhat marred during a train trip, where he solemnly viewed Virginia's placid, colorfully lit holiday scenery, a stark contrast to his decrepit wartime British homeland. A master chronicler, Weintraub's moody, intensively researched play-by-play narrative traces the final days of 1941. Ruminations, anecdotes and creatively reimagined scenarios crisply capture all of the minute details of the time and sequences of events. Adolph Hitler's sarcasm bleeds through in dispatches of his Nazi reign of terror as Christmas Eve at the White House became a tangle of lights and red ribbon, strained public speeches by the president and prime minister and strategic second-guessing. The author brilliantly juxtaposes the horror and violence of war with the tender nostalgia of Christmas, including gift ideas where "a new Ford or Chevrolet, both soon to be unobtainable, cost $900." Weintraub cites war memoirs, military dispatches, speeches and diary entries, all to great effect, and he deftly captures the period-authentic food and dress of his subjects (including cameos by the sage, cautionary Eleanor Roosevelt) and the chaotic, edgy essence of battle.

Erudite, sweeping and contemplative—classic Weintraub.

Alexander Heffner
In this compelling book, historian Stanley Weintraub provides a compact and vivid day-by-day account of the days following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor…For political junkies, this title is chock-full of amusing observations…
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews, 4/15/11

“A vivid 11-day account of a World War II holiday…A master chronicler, Weintraub’s moody, intensively researched play- by-play narrative traces the final days of 1941. Ruminations, anecdotes and creatively reimagined scenarios crisply capture all of the minute details of the time and sequences of events…Erudite, sweeping and contemplative—classic Weintraub.”

Publishers Weekly, 8/15/11

“A minor genre, the day-by-day chronicle, receives a fine addition as veteran historian Weintraub devotes a chapter each to the last 10 days of 1941 plus New Year’s Day…Dazzling detail…Readers will enjoy [Weintraub’s] opinionated portraits of the allied leaders as they hammered out strategy.”

 

Poughkeepsie Journal, 9/4/11

“[A] compelling history of the most remarkable holiday season in the 20th century.”

 

Library Journal, 10/1/11
“This is a more human World War II book, not of policy details, but of people trying to figure out how to proceed, with the focus on two titans of the Western Alliance (who both enjoyed a good smoke and a drink)…This stirring book is recommended for all history buffs and general readers interested in this human—and holiday—take on the war.”

Booklist, 11/15/11

“[An] absorbing story.” 

WomanAroundTown.com, 11/12/11

“This book is chocked full of detail, yet reads like a novel.”

 

Milwaukee Shepherd-Express, 11/22/11

Pearl Harbor Christmas contains interesting vignettes from various theaters of war during December 1941…[Takes] on a fascinating month in history…A quick and smooth read.”

 

Bookviews blog, December 2011

“The book captures the unique feeling of a nation on the brink of war and provides the an insight to the strategic planning of the two most respected politicians of the 20th century.”

 

Roanoke Times, 11/27/11

“In readable anecdotal style, Stanley Weintraub gives us glimpses into the White House…In time of war, a nation needs heroes. And as someone said long ago, when war begins, truth is the first casualty. We also need people like Weintraub who make sure that truth survives.”

 

King Features Syndicate, 11/16/11

“[An] exceptional piece of historical reporting about one of the defining events of the 20th century.”

 

InfoDad.com, 12/1/11

“A story of two men of very different personalities and proclivities, Pearl Harbor Christmas is also a recounting of the early days of United States entry into a war that had been going very much as the Axis powers wished. Weintraub neatly juxtaposes the smaller story of the two world leaders’ ideas and personalities with the larger one of events in the war itself.”

 

Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/4/11

“For the World War II buff, this book may have some interest.”

 

Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/4/11

“A brief but authoritative account of 11 days—Dec. 22, 1941 through Jan. 1, 1942—during which the course of the global war began to shift profoundly. [Weintraub’s] ability to meld together so many disparate elements…in such a short, swift-moving book is exemplary.”

 

Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 12/4/11

“A fascinating account of Churchill’s history-making visit…Carefully chronicled…Contains rich anecdotal material involving the colorful prime minister…Worth reading as an account of what went on behind the scenes in the decision making that forged the strategies that led the Allies to victory.”

St. George Independent, 12/15/2013

“A behind-the-scenes look at the plotting and planning and events happening in Southeast Asia at the beginning of the U.S. involvement in the war. For history buffs, this a well-written, precisely researched and often witty account of those first dark days of World War II.”

Lake Charles American Press, 12/22/2013
“Paints a human picture of World War II.”

Military, December 2013
“Provides an excellent, detailed day-by-day summary…It’s a well-researched and –written book about a critical turning point in World War II.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780306820618
Publisher:
Da Capo Press
Publication date:
11/01/2011
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher

Kirkus Reviews, 4/15/11
“A vivid 11-day account of a World War II holiday…A master chronicler, Weintraub’s moody, intensively researched play- by-play narrative traces the final days of 1941. Ruminations, anecdotes and creatively reimagined scenarios crisply capture all of the minute details of the time and sequences of events…Erudite, sweeping and contemplative—classic Weintraub.”

Publishers Weekly, 8/15/11
“A minor genre, the day-by-day chronicle, receives a fine addition as veteran historian Weintraub devotes a chapter each to the last 10 days of 1941 plus New Year’s Day…Dazzling detail…Readers will enjoy [Weintraub’s] opinionated portraits of the allied leaders as they hammered out strategy.” Poughkeepsie Journal, 9/4/11
“[A] compelling history of the most remarkable holiday season in the 20th century.” Library Journal, 10/1/11“This is a more human World War II book, not of policy details, but of people trying to figure out how to proceed, with the focus on two titans of the Western Alliance (who both enjoyed a good smoke and a drink)…This stirring book is recommended for all history buffs and general readers interested in this human—and holiday—take on the war.”

Booklist, 11/15/11
“[An] absorbing story.” 

WomanAroundTown.com, 11/12/11“This book is chocked full of detail, yet reads like a novel.”
Milwaukee Shepherd-Express, 11/22/11
Pearl Harbor Christmas contains interesting vignettes from various theaters of war during December 1941…[Takes] on a fascinating month in history…A quick and smooth read.” Bookviews blog, December 2011
“The book captures the unique feeling of a nation on the brink of war and provides the an insight to the strategic planning of the two most respected politicians of the 20th century.” Roanoke Times, 11/27/11“In readable anecdotal style, Stanley Weintraub gives us glimpses into the White House…In time of war, a nation needs heroes. And as someone said long ago, when war begins, truth is the first casualty. We also need people like Weintraub who make sure that truth survives.” King Features Syndicate, 11/16/11
“[An] exceptional piece of historical reporting about one of the defining events of the 20th century.” InfoDad.com, 12/1/11“A story of two men of very different personalities and proclivities, Pearl Harbor Christmas is also a recounting of the early days of United States entry into a war that had been going very much as the Axis powers wished. Weintraub neatly juxtaposes the smaller story of the two world leaders’ ideas and personalities with the larger one of events in the war itself.” Cleveland Plain Dealer, 12/4/11“For the World War II buff, this book may have some interest.” Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/4/11“A brief but authoritative account of 11 days—Dec. 22, 1941 through Jan. 1, 1942—during which the course of the global war began to shift profoundly. [Weintraub’s] ability to meld together so many disparate elements…in such a short, swift-moving book is exemplary.” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, 12/4/11“A fascinating account of Churchill’s history-making visit…Carefully chronicled…Contains rich anecdotal material involving the colorful prime minister…Worth reading as an account of what went on behind the scenes in the decision making that forged the strategies that led the Allies to victory.” Deseret News, 12/4/11“Weintraub gives the reader an interesting peek at different aspects of the war that would soon involve the majority of the world’s nations…Gives a unique perspective on political, military and civilian aspects of the war…Filled with candor, wit and wry sense of humor, Pearl Harbor Christmas will offer the reader a fascinating and compelling look at the events immediately following the ‘Day of Infamy.’” Portland Book Review, December-February 2011
“[Weintraub] captures what it was like to live through one of the most infamous holiday seasons in American history…History buffs will see this as a treasured addition to their library.”
 Toronto Globe & Mail, 12/3/11
“In this lively account…Weintraub gives us an America newly traumatized by its forcible engagement in a war it had resisted for two years.” Midwest Book Review, November 2011
“Succinctly captures not only the historical events, but the emotions of people at the crossroads of turbulent times. Highly recommended especially as a serious-minded addition to public library holiday shelves.”
 San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/18/11
“A must-read for history buffs…Entertaining.”
 Washington Post, 12/25/11“[A] compelling book…Provides a compact and vivid day-by-day account of the days following the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor…For political junkies, this title is chock-full of amusing observations…Weintraub’s work is an illuminating and heartwarming celebration of the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor.” Boston Globe, 12/25/11“A detailed yet intimate portrait of the weeks following Pearl Harbor.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 12/25/11“Weintraub excels at illuminating larger-than-life characters…Christmas 1941 may have been the most difficult in American history, but Weintraub describes it masterfully.” Louisville Courier-Journal, 12/23/11“A deeply moving and inspiring story about what it was like to live through a holiday season few would ever forget.” Philadelphia Tribune, 12/18/11“The little known events of the era comes to light in historian Stanley Weintraub's Pearl Harbor Christmas.” Asbury Park Press, 12/25/11“A succinct but fact-filled survey of daily events from Dec. 24 to New Year Day 1942.” Sunday Missoulian, 12/25/11“The author’s ‘fly-on-the-wall’ eye for fascinating detail easily holds the reader’s interest.” Acadiana LifeStyle, December 2011“Until now, little has been known about the remarkable meeting of President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, together lighting the White House tree while carols were being sung.” Examiner.com, 12/7/11
“The first to portray the attack's aftermath in America, the shock, fury, uncertainty, and unity. The book also sheds new insight on FDR's and Churchill's meetings in Washington to plan strategy.”
 America in WWII, December 2011
“Weintraub deftly weaves the pivotal, the noteworthy, and the curious wartime happenings that occurred in Washington when Churchill arrived…With every well-researched entry that Weintraub describes, he provides a big-picture overview of the days just before the United States entered the fray. This slim volume is well suited to fans of Churchill or Roosevelt—or to anyone who seeks a better understanding of how Pearl Harbor affected a world already at war.”
 Asbury Park Sunday Press, 1/15/12“[An] interesting book…Good focus on Winston Churchill and Gen. Douglas Macarthur.”
 Sacramento Book Review, February 2012
“Solid in research. Weintraub is an expert at citing and finding great sources for his historical books.”
 Politics & Patriotism (blog), 2/9/12“A sober and sometimes wry look at the three weeks that immediately followed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor…Pearl Harbor Christmas isn’t confined to Washington D.C. The author takes us around the world, quite suddenly at times, to give the reader some sense of what went on behind enemy lies while America was staggering to recover from the Japanese blow.”

War, Literature and the Arts
“[A] richly detailed examination of an eleven-day period surrounding a wartime holiday season…The work serves as an excellent introduction to the high-level friendship that marked the Anglo-American team throughout the war and will be of great interest to both scholars and casual students of the period.”

Waterline, 4/5/12
“An interesting and timely book.”

Military Review, May/June 2012“This enlightening book reads like a close-up study of world leaders at the end of 1941: Roosevelt, Churchill, MacArthur, Hitler, and Stalin.”

The Historian, October 2012“Weintraub has a flair for lively, anecdotal microhistory, and this is a worthy example of his style…An absorbing and modestly useful look into the minds of politicians and soldiers engaged in a global war…Eminently readable.”

Hudson Valley News, 12/5/12
“A nice paperback stocking-stuffer.”

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Meet the Author

Stanley Weintraub is an award-winning author and co-author of more than fifty highly acclaimed books, including Silent Night and 11 Days in December. He lives in Delaware.

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Pearl Harbor Christmas 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
AlanSimonBooks More than 1 year ago
I had been awaiting the publication of Dr. Weintraub's book ever since I saw it announced earlier in the year and I wasn't disappointed when I read it. I'm particularly fascinated by mid-20th century American history, particularly Home Front-related books, having covered this particular period in my own writing. Dr. Weintraub does a very good job of blending mega-events such as Churchill's surprise visit and the terrible war news from the Pacific almost daily - with individualized anecdotes and the aura of the day. Readers who know of, or perhaps had lived, through that era will slip back in time as they read about anti-aircraft guns on top of hotels, blackouts, etc. He also takes the reader to enemy and occupied settings: a bookstore in Paris where a German officer wants the last available copy of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and is turned away by a determined (presumed) American shopkeeper; and on board a Japanese destroyer that had taken part in the Pearl Harbor attack. My only disappointment - minor, though, not enough to affect my 5-star rating - is that Dr. Weintraub's book is "top-heavy," i.e., the majority of the content relates to global politics, the mega-personalities such as Churchill and Roosevelt, General officers, etc. My own personal interest is the minutia of everyday, average Americans and American life: what shopping was like in urban downtown Christmases that year; how parents struggled to have a merry Christmas holiday even while facing the prospect of their sons heading off to war. Some of that is in the book but not enough to satisfy what really grabs me personally as a reader for this type of book. But again that's a personal interest and Dr. Weintraub is a historian, and the book he wrote does reflect his specialty and he does so very well in my opinion.
Jim1954 More than 1 year ago
The geo politics of the 30's & 40"s continues to make interesting reading. Add to that another glimpse into the interaction between Misters Roosevelt and Churchill; we get another lesson in the value of relationships. A prolonged depresssion and a world war; the spirit of Christmas still gives hope.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good read for those individuals with an interest in WWII history. Not a great book, easy read. Interestig tidbits of histoy.
InTheBookcase 19 days ago
"This is a strange Christmas Eve," Churchill began. "Almost the whole world is locked in deadly struggle." ...And so describes this non-fiction work, Pearl Harbor Christmas. Although I expected to learn more specifically about the horrible event at Pearl Harbor (Dec. 7, 1941), the author doesn't spend much time telling of it. Instead, Weintraub tells about the holidays of 1941 and the stress that our U.S. Commander in Chief, FDR, was under at the time, and the exchanges he had during Christmas week. The book vividly details the happenings at the White House from the dates of Dec. 22, 1941, to New Year's Day, 1942. During the holidays, U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was staying at the White House during the Christmas festivities. I learned much about the interaction between the two leaders of nations. I even had a good laugh with the book on a couple of occasions, because of a discussion or experience concerning either Roosevelt or Churchill. You will learn much of these two great men. This is a sincere history book, with no frills. Recommended for history enthusiasts.
AnnieBM More than 1 year ago
This book brings an interesting perspective to the events just after Pearl Harbor in which FDR and the US begin to plan the US participation in WWII. I found the detailed accounts and weaving together of different events which were occurring in different parts of the world quite enlightening. The contrast of the US before Pearl Harbor and after in the context of Christmas and New Year's was also insightful. The book suffers from not having a clear goal nor a clear conclusion, so it reads like a montage of events without purpose. However, I still recommend this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
okayish