Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World

Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World

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by Michael Fullilove
     
 

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The remarkable untold story of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the five extraordinary men he used to pull America into World War II

In the dark days between Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent five remarkable men on dramatic and dangerous missions to

Overview

The remarkable untold story of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the five extraordinary men he used to pull America into World War II

In the dark days between Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent five remarkable men on dramatic and dangerous missions to Europe. The missions were highly unorthodox and they confounded and infuriated diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic. Their importance is little understood to this day. In fact, they were crucial to the course of the Second World War.

The envoys were magnificent, unforgettable characters. First off the mark was Sumner Welles, the chilly, patrician under secretary of state, later ruined by his sexual misdemeanors, who was dispatched by FDR on a tour of European capitals in the spring of 1940. In summer of that year, after the fall of France, William “Wild Bill” Donovan—war hero and future spymaster—visited a lonely United Kingdom at the president’s behest to determine whether she could hold out against the Nazis. Donovan’s report helped convince FDR that Britain was worth backing.

After he won an unprecedented third term in November 1940, Roosevelt threw a lifeline to the United Kingdom in the form of Lend-Lease and dispatched three men to help secure it. Harry Hopkins, the frail social worker and presidential confidant, was sent to explain Lend-Lease to Winston Churchill. Averell Harriman, a handsome, ambitious railroad heir, served as FDR’s man in London, expediting Lend-Lease aid and romancing Churchill’s daughter-in-law. Roosevelt even put to work his rumpled, charismatic opponent in the 1940 presidential election, Wendell Willkie, whose visit lifted British morale and won wary Americans over to the cause. Finally, in the aftermath of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Hopkins returned to London to confer with Churchill and traveled to Moscow to meet with Joseph Stalin. This final mission gave Roosevelt the confidence to bet on the Soviet Union.

The envoys’ missions took them into the middle of the war and exposed them to the leading figures of the age. Taken together, they plot the arc of America’s trans¬formation from a divided and hesitant middle power into the global leader. At the center of everything, of course, was FDR himself, who moved his envoys around the globe with skill and élan.

We often think of Harry S. Truman, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and George F. Kennan as the authors of America’s global primacy in the second half of the twentieth century. But all their achievements were enabled by the earlier work of Roosevelt and his representatives, who took the United States into the war and, by defeating domestic isolationists and foreign enemies, into the world. In these two years, America turned. FDR and his envoys were responsible for the turn. Drawing on vast archival research, Rendezvous with Destiny is narrative history at its most delightful, stirring, and important.
 

Editorial Reviews

For most Americans, World War II really began with the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. For President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his top-level advisors, it began more than a year earlier. As this revelatory new book shows, FDR's efforts focused not on Japan, but on Hitler's Germany. With consummate planning, the commander in chief dispatched five men on missions to embattled Europe. This talented quintet (Harry Hopkins, William "Wild Bill" Donovan, Sumner Welles, Averell Harriman, and Wendell Willkie) shored up support and morale among our future allies. Bolstered by extensive research, this fascinating narrative retrieves the story of the war before the war.

Publishers Weekly
In the lead-up to the U.S. entry into World War II, F.D.R. had to jump some big hurdles: he had to convince his fellow Americans of the necessity of getting involved, and he had to support Britain’s efforts to keep Hitler from overwhelming the U.K.’s skies and shores. In 1940, Roosevelt enlisted five capable men to cross the Atlantic to visit, negotiate, observe the war-weary British, and assess how the U.S. could help. Fullilove, a senior fellow at Washington, D.C.’s Brookings Institution, fills his story with fascinating diplomatic details: Henry Hopkins quotes the Bible to Churchill; “Wild Bill” Donovan maneuvers and flirts his way through British high society; Wendell Wilkie pulls drinks for patrons at an English pub and almost gets betrothed to an African chief’s daughter. These extraordinary anecdotes are plentiful, and they combine to offer readers a fascinating display of different styles of American diplomacy in action. Unfortunately, stiff, dated prose slows the narrative—Harriman’s a “handsome devil,” Wilkie “jawboned with a native chieftain,” and Lord Halifax “was still open to treating with Hitler rather than licking him.” Nevertheless, this is a fascinating account of the men who paved the way for the Lend-Lease Act. (July)
Library Journal
Sumner Welles, William "Wild Bill" Donovan, Harry Hopkins, Averell Harriman, Wendell Willkie. These were the five men Roosevelt sent to Europe in the years after Hitler's invasion of Poland to see what America could do to shore up Europe's beleaguered democracies. They had different tasks—Hopkins explained lend-lease to Churchill, for instance, while Harriman delivered aid to London. Fullilove, executive director of Australia's Lowy Institute, tells history by painting portraits.
Kirkus Reviews
An intriguing new angle to Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy leading up to and during World War II. The decisive period between the German invasion of Poland and the United States' entry into the war upon the bombing of Pearl Harbor provides rich fodder for Australian historian Fullilove (World Wide Webs: Diasporas and the International System, 2008, etc.). The author focuses on five trusted envoys sent by Roosevelt to Britain and elsewhere in Europe during this critical juncture. Their missions would help give the president a true idea of what was going on, whether Britain had the wherewithal to stand firm and what difference the U.S. could make. Trust and personal relations were key to FDR; with the death of his favored roving diplomatic envoy Edward M. House in 1938, and his relationship with ambassador to Britain Joseph Kennedy tense and mutually suspicious, FDR needed information about the darkening war in Europe, and he preferred to sidestep the State Department, which he believed to be full of "dead wood." Under Secretary of State Sumner, Welles, a Groton prep-school crony, was chosen for the first exploration of London and Rome, muddied by Welles' overweening ambitions but offering FDR a "colorful report" of Europe's precarious situation. "Wild Bill" Donovan's trip assured FDR that Britain held defensive capabilities, while Harry Hopkins' stays in London were enormously fruitful in helping solidify relations between Churchill and Roosevelt and render possible the Lend-Lease Act. Hopkins' extraordinary visit to Stalin after Operation Barbarossa reversed a defeatist regard about Russia's ability to withstand the Nazi onslaught. As emissary, FDR's choice of former GOP presidential opponent Wendell Willkie also proved terrifically astute. Fullilove's focus is admirable, and he even wonders about the possible outcome had Roosevelt also thought to send a timely envoy to Japan. Nicely drawn portraits by an authoritative historian.
From the Publisher
Washington Independent Review of Books:

“Fullilove calls the period between September 1, 1939, and December 7, 1941 'the turning point of the twentieth century.' It has been the subject of outstanding analyses of political decision-making, including Jon Meacham’s Franklin and Winston and John Lukacs’ Five Days in London. With this insightful portrait of five men who were neither president nor prime minister, Fullilove joins Meacham and Lukacs in that impressive scholarly club.”

The Wall Street Journal
"Mr Fullilove infuses each chapter with the danger, romance and deadly seriousness of war."

The Financial Times
"Desperately romantic and impossibly consequential... In Rendezvous with Destiny, Fullilove delivers a rare combination of diplomatic thriller and original history, well-paced and expertly told." 

Time
“Real Team of Rivals stuff: smart, engaging, historical storytelling.” 

The Weekend Australian 
"One of the most fascinating works of history I have read in many years. Fullilove… has combined faultless scholarship and a captivating narrative style to produce an unforgettable book."

The Spectator
“An outstanding book, marked by insight and irony… Fullilove writes superbly.” 

Henry A. Kissinger
“From 1939 to 1941, with Europe at war and the United States strongly isolationist, Roosevelt sent five exceptional men to Europe as his personal envoys to assess, among other issues, America’s role. Rendezvous with Destiny is a fascinating and well-written account of a little-known chapter that was crucial to the course of World War II and to America’s global leadership.” —
 Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University and author of The Future of Power
“Michael Fullilove’s fascinating book reads as easily as a good novel, but it is also an important history of one of the most crucial decisions of the twentieth century.” 

Robert Dallek, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
“Michael Fullilove’s compelling account of FDR and the five aides who helped lead the U.S. into the Second World War is an indispensable addition to the literature on the unforgettable events of 1939-1941. Everyone interested in FDR and World War II will want to read this superb book.”

Francis Fukuyama
Rendezvous with Destiny provides a revealing account of the entry of the United States into the Second World War that underlines the importance of leadership and individuals in history.  The story is told with a great eye for detail, as well as a sound grasp of the broad arc of events.” 

Robert Kagan
“A lively and revealing look at five less-known but nevertheless central figures who, acting on behalf of FDR, helped shape the contours of our world.  Written with verve, this is historical biography at its best.”

James Fallows, The Atlantic; author of China Airborne
Rendezvous with Destiny is narrative history in its best and most gripping form. Michael Fullilove wears his scholarship and his years of research very lightly as he brings the extraordinary figures around Franklin Roosevelt to life. I understand FDR’s talents and the drama of America's entry into war in a new way after reading this book.” 

Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution
“Michael Fullilove skillfully recounts an underappreciated strand of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s statecraft—his innovative deployment of five envoys in service of a strategy that would, ultimately, change the course of history. The efforts of Welles, Donovan, Hopkins, Willkie and Harriman, under FDR’s masterful leadership, laid the foundation for Allied victory in World War Two and buttressed Roosevelt’s campaign to awaken America from isolationism.” 

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Princeton University; Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State, 2009-2011
Rendezvous with Destiny is a fascinating tale of diplomacy by envoy, Franklin Roosevelt’s preferred means of guaranteeing that he and he alone could discern the entire tangled web of American foreign policy before Pearl Harbor. Michael Fullilove has an eye for telling details and policy nuances, but above all, he gives us a rollicking good read!” 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594204357
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
07/03/2013
Pages:
480
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.36(h) x 1.49(d)

What People are saying about this

Robert Dallek
Michael Fullilove's compelling account of FDR and the five aides who helped lead the U.S. into the Second World War is an indispensable addition to the literature on the unforgettable events of 1939-1941. Everyone interested in FDR and World War II will want to read this superb book.
—Robert Dallek, author of Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932-1945 and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917-1963
Anne-Marie Slaughter
Rendezvous with Destiny is a fascinating tale of diplomacy by envoy, Franklin Roosevelt's preferred means of guaranteeing that he and he alone could discern the entire tangled web of American foreign policy before Pearl Harbor. Michael Fullilove has an eye for telling details and policy nuances, but above all, he gives us a rollicking good read!
—Anne-Marie Slaughter, Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University; Director of Policy Planning, U.S. Department of State, 2009-2011
James Fallows
Rendezvous with Destiny is narrative history in its best and most gripping form. Michael Fullilove wears his scholarship and his years of research very lightly as he brings the extraordinary figures around Franklin Roosevelt to life. I understand FDR's talents and the drama of America's entry into war in a new way after reading this book.
—James Fallows, The Atlantic; author of China Airborne
Francis Fukuyama
Rendezvous with Destiny provides a revealing account of the entry of the United States into the Second World War that underlines the importance of leadership and individuals in history. The story is told with a great eye for detail, as well as a sound grasp of the broad arc of events.
—Francis Fukuyama
From the Publisher
"From 1939 to 1941, with Europe at war and the United States strongly isolationist, Roosevelt sent five exceptional men to Europe as his personal envoys to assess, among other issues, America's role. Rendezvous with Destiny is a fascinating and well-written account of a little-known chapter that was crucial to the course of World War II and to America’s global leadership."
—Henry A. Kissinger

"Michael Fullilove's fascinating book reads as easily as a good novel, but it is also an important history of one of the most crucial decisions of the twentieth century."
—Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University and author of The Future of Power

Robert Kagan
A lively and revealing look at five less-known but nevertheless central figures who, acting on behalf of FDR, helped shape the contours of our world. Written with verve, this is historical biography at its best.
—Robert Kagan
Strobe Talbott
Michael Fullilove skillfully recounts an underappreciated strand of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's statecraft —his innovative deployment of five envoys in service of a strategy that would, ultimately, change the course of history. The efforts of Welles, Donovan, Hopkins, Willkie and Harriman, under FDR's masterful leadership, laid the foundation for Allied victory in World War Two and buttressed Roosevelt's campaign to awaken America from isolationism.
—Strobe Talbott, President, Brookings Institution

Meet the Author

MICHAEL FULLILOVE is the executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. A Rhodes scholar and former prime ministerial adviser, he writes widely on global issues for publications such as the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Daily Beast, and Foreign Affairs.

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Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America Into the War and Into the World 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
erasmusii More than 1 year ago
Well written and documented and easy to follow. You will see just how worldly astute and politically adroit FDR was in leading the U.S. from a predominantly isolationist, agrarian society into an international, industrial power, while saving our free way of life in the process.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Three things put man into war. Honor. Fear. And self interest. America will never go to war unless its for self interest.