From the acclaimed author of Citizens of London comes the definitive account of the debate over American intervention in World War II—a bitter, sometimes violent clash of personalities and ideas that divided the nation and ultimately determined the fate of the free world.
At the center of this controversy stood the two most famous men in America: President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who championed the interventionist cause, and aviator Charles Lindbergh, who as unofficial leader and spokesman for America’s isolationists emerged as the president’s most formidable adversary. Their contest of wills personified the divisions within the country at large, and Lynne Olson makes masterly use of their dramatic personal stories to create a poignant and riveting narrative. While FDR, buffeted by political pressures on all sides, struggled to marshal public support for aid to Winston Churchill’s Britain, Lindbergh saw his heroic reputation besmirched—and his marriage thrown into turmoil—by allegations that he was a Nazi sympathizer.
Spanning the years 1939 to 1941, Those Angry Days vividly re-creates the rancorous internal squabbles that gripped the United States in the period leading up to Pearl Harbor. After Germany vanquished most of Europe, America found itself torn between its traditional isolationism and the urgent need to come to the aid of Britain, the only country still battling Hitler. The conflict over intervention was, as FDR noted, “a dirty fight,” rife with chicanery and intrigue, and Those Angry Days recounts every bruising detail. In Washington, a group of high-ranking military officers, including the Air Force chief of staff, worked to sabotage FDR’s pro-British policies. Roosevelt, meanwhile, authorized FBI wiretaps of Lindbergh and other opponents of intervention. At the same time, a covert British operation, approved by the president, spied on antiwar groups, dug up dirt on congressional isolationists, and planted propaganda in U.S. newspapers.
The stakes could not have been higher. The combatants were larger than life. With the immediacy of a great novel, Those Angry Days brilliantly recalls a time fraught with danger when the future of democracy and America’s role in the world hung in the balance.
Praise for Those Angry Days
“Powerfully [re-creates] this tenebrous era . . . Olson captures in spellbinding detail the key figures in the battle between the Roosevelt administration and the isolationist movement.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Popular history at its most riveting . . . In Those Angry Days, journalist-turned-historian Lynne Olson captures [the] period in a fast-moving, highly readable narrative punctuated by high drama.”—Associated Press
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About the Author
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Excerpted from "Those Angry Days"
Copyright © 2014 Lynne Olson.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 "A Modern Galahad" 3
2 "We were Fools" 24
3 "Where is My World?" 35
4 "You Haven't Got the Votes" 53
5 "This War Has Come Home to Me" 69
6 "I am Almost Literally Walking on Eggs" 87
7 "Paranoia can be Catching" 94
8 "The Art of Manipulation" 115
9 "Is This War Our Concern?" 126
10 "Why do we Not Defend Her?" 139
11 "The Greatest of All our Ambassadors" 151
12 "The People Saved the Day" 170
13 "Congress is Going to Raise Hell" 184
14 "An American First, and a Republican Afterward" 196
15 "The Yanks are Not Coming" 220
16 "The Bubonic Plague Among Writers" 242
17 "A National Disgrace" 252
18 "Well, Boys, Britain's Broke" 264
19 'A Race Against Time" 288
20 'A Traitorous Point of View" 309
21 "Der Führer Thanks You for Your Loyalty" 330
22 "Where is this Crisis?" 341
23 "Propaganda … with a Very Thick Coating of Sugar" 359
24 "Setting the Ground for Anti-Semitism" 375
25 "He Was Not Going to Lead the Country into War" 393
26 "The Greatest Scoop in History" 408
27 "Let's Lick Hell Out of Them" 424
28 Aftermath 438
What People are Saying About This
Advance praise for Those Angry Days
“With this stirring book, Lynne Olson confirms her status as our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy. Those Angry Days tells the extraordinary tale of America’s internal debate about whether and how to stop Hitler. Filled with fascinating anecdotes and surprising twists, the text raises moral and practical questions that we still struggle with today. Compelling for students of history and casual readers alike.”—Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
“Lynne Olson has done it again. Those Angry Days is a riveting account of the political tensions and cast of historic figures engaged in an epic battle over the role of the United States in the early years of World War II. It’s all here: FDR, Lindbergh, Churchill, Hitler, war in Europe and the Pacific. The stakes could not have been higher and the outcome was never certain. Modern leaders and citizens alike can learn so much from Those Angry Days.”—Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation
“Deeply researched and scrupulously evenhanded, Lynne Olson’s groundbreaking history vividly captures a previously unexplored period of twentieth-century America. At its heart, Those Angry Days is a gripping tale of the brutal battle between two larger-than-life antagonists, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh, but Olson’s compelling cast of characters includes numerous unsung heroes such as Britain’s Lord Lothian and defeated Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie. With fresh insights and riveting new details, Olson examines the shifting alliances and intrigues, the passions that divided families, and the compromises and campaigns that galvanized America to give vital assistance to Britain when it was threatened with massive defeat by Nazi Germany.”—Sally Bedell Smith, author of Elizabeth the Queen
“An exhilarating portrait of America’s growing pains in the years leading to World War II, Lynne Olson’s Those Angry Days makes a fine bookend to her Citizens of London. It shows a great democracy rallying to a great debate, one truly worthy of the stakes.”—Chris Matthews, anchor, MSNBC’s Hardball, and author of Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero
“I have been hugely impressed by Lynne Olson’s last two books, both of which were concerned more with Britain than America. With Those Angry Days she is back on home ground, and has once again held me spellbound with her account of the terrifying days when the future of the free world depended on the U.S.A. She is incapable of writing a boring sentence; I would follow her anywhere.”—John Julius Norwich, author of Absolute Monarchs
Q. Most of your books have focused on World War II. In Those Angry Days, you look at the two years before America got into the war. Why was this period so important for the country? Why should we care about what happened then?
A. During those years, there was a hard-fought debate in America about what its role should be in World War II. Should the country forsake its traditional isolationism and come to the aid of Britain, which by 1940 was on the brink of defeat by Hitler? Or should it go further and enter the war? That debate, as it turned out, was crucial in deciding the future of America and the role it would play in the world from then on. Millions of people, from college students to housewives to Wall Street lawyers, were swept up in what turned out to be an extraordinarily tumultuous struggle involving the whole country.
Q. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Charles Lindbergh are the main characters in Those Angry Days. Why did you put them at the center of the story?
A. They were the two most important figures in the debate. FDR wanted America to aid Britain, while Lindbergh, who became the unofficial leader and spokesman for the country's isolationists, was vehemently against the idea and accused the president of trying to lead America into war. As the two most famous men in the U.S., they both had a huge impact on public opinion. Their rivalry was personal as well as political, and it turned very bitter. Roosevelt did everything he could to destroy Lindbergh's reputation, while Lindbergh accused Roosevelt of working to undermine democracy and representative government.
Q. Are there any parallels between the United States now and during the time you write about?
A. Absolutely. The period I describe in Those Angry Days is eerily similar to these angry days we're experiencing today. Just like now, the country was in the midst of facing critical challenges and was deeply divided politically. The polarization inWashington was extraordinary. The same bitter split that currently separates certain sections of America the "red-state, blue-state" divide was very much a factor at that time, too: the East Coast was the main bastion of interventionist sentiment, while the center of isolationism was America's conservative rural heartland.
At the same time, it's important to point out a key difference between then and now. First of all, even with all the polarization, there were politicians who were willing to do what they thought was right, who defied their party and put the interests of their nation and its survivalahead of personal ambition and partisan advantage. Interestingly, almost all these rebels were Republicans. They included Wendell Willkie, the 1940 GOP candidate for president, who supported much of FDR's foreign policy, and Henry Stimson and Frank Knox, arguably the Republican Party's most respected senior statesmen, who joined Roosevelt's cabinet and were read out of their party for doing so. Theirs was an example of cooperation and compromise that cries out for emulation now.