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Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941

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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...
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Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941

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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

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.”

 

PoughkeepsieJournal, 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.”

 

RoanokeTimes, 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.”

 

RichmondTimes-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.”

 

NorfolkVirginian-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.”

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
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306821530
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 11/13/2012
  • Edition description: First Trade Paper Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 243,731
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.64 (d)

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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 2, 2012

    Fine read. A different Christmas reading experience.

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 11, 2011

    Great blend of history and holiday

    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.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    An interesting montage of details

    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.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    okayish

    okayish

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    Good read for those interested in WW II history

    Good read for those individuals with an interest in WWII history. Not a great book, easy read. Interestig tidbits of histoy.

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