The Man of the Century

Of all the Allied leaders, argues FDR s biographer, only Roosevelt saw clearly the shape of the new world they were fighting to create

AFTER HALF A CENTURY IT IS HARD TO APPROACH FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT EXCEPT through a minefield of clichés. Theories of FDR, running the gamut from artlessness to mystification, have long paraded before our eyes. There is his famous response to the newspaperman who asked him for his philosophy: “Philosophy? I am a Christian and a Democrat—that’s all”; there is Robert E. Sherwood’s equally famous warning about “Roosevelt’s heavily forested interior”; and we weakly conclude that both things were probably true. Read more »

Presidents On Presidents

They’ve all had things to say about their fellow Executives. Once in a great while one was even flattering.

John Adams said Thomas Jefferson’s mind was “eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant.” Ulysses S. Grant said James Garfield did not have “the backbone of an angleworm.” Theodore Roosevelt called Woodrow Wilson “a Byzantine logothete.” Wilson called Chester Arthur “a nonentity with sidewhiskers.” Harry Truman summed up Lyndon Johnson with a curt “No guts!” Read more »

The Forty-year Run

In 1935 Fortune magazine published a profile of the Hearst empire, which said that William Randolph Hearst’s assets—twenty-eight newspapers, thirteen magazines, eight radio stations, two movie companies, inestimable art treasures, real estate, fourteen thousand shares of the Homestake Mine, and two million acres of land were worth $220 million. Read more »

The Pentagon’s 50th … And The Future For America’s Defense

It was August 1941, and Congressman Sam Rayburn was worried about the draft. He personally had no fear of being called; rather, as Speaker of the House, he wanted very much to pass a bill that would keep the Selective Service Act in force. That law had whooped through Congress a year earlier, just after the fall of France and with the Battle of Britain on every front page. But the British had held, and the Nazis had directed their armies against the Soviet Union. It was possible to believe that war might spare our country after all.

 
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Secret Treason

He wanted only what every journalist of the time did: an exclusive interview with the Duke of Windsor. What he got was an astonishing proposition that sent him on an urgent top-secret visit to the White House and a once-in-a-lifetime story that was too hot to print—until now.

It was, said one of the few people who knew about it, “the greatest news story on earth.” It belonged exclusively to my father, a prolific writer, but he knew it could not be published. The story presented an appalling picture of the former King of England, the Duke of Windsor. It contained dreadful secrets, including an urgent proposal for President Franklin Roosevelt, a message so damning and dangerous that my father actually feared for his life after he had delivered it.Read more »

The Transatlantic Duel: Hitler Vs. Roosevelt

In 1941 the President understood better than many Americans the man who was running Germany, and Hitler understood Roosevelt and his country better than we knew

In the summer of 1940 the fate of the world depended on the duel between two men: Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill. It was a duel of nerves, and of wills. Churchill carried it off, because Hitler finally chose not to invade Britain. But even before he made that decision, he and Churchill were aware that this was no longer a duel between the two of them. Before the fall of France, Hitler had gained an ally, Mussolini. Before the Battle of Britain Churchill had gained the support of Roosevelt.Read more »

What To Call It?

It took us longer to name the war than to fight it

Something began at 7:50 A.M. (Hawaiian time), Sunday, December 7, 1941. Most Americans seemed convinced it was World War II. But one man wasn’t so sure. And because he happened to be President of the United States, a lot of brainpower was diverted to the practicalities of nomenclature. Read more »

A Place To Be Lousy In

The American army that beat Hitler was thoroughly professional, but it didn’t start out that way. North Africa was where it learned the hard lessons—none harder than the disaster at Kasserine. This was the campaign that taught us how to fight a war.

There was no light. Most of the soldiers in the boats couldn’t see anything, but they knew they must be close because the wind offshore brought the smell of charcoal smoke and dry grass. The first assault troops landed sometime after eight bells. The only sounds they heard were the metallic jingle of their gear and the crunch of their boots on the wet beach. Two shore-based searchlights snapped open to look for aircraft. It took a moment for the enemy to realize that danger was coming at them not from the sky but from the sea.Read more »

The Road To The Future

Fifty years ago the builders of the Pennsylvania Turnpike completed America’s first superhighway—and helped determine the shape of travel to come

Most American motorists take for granted the concrete and asphalt web of interstate highways that has penetrated so deeply into the nation’s economy and thinking. The 43,000-mile system of fouror-more-lane divided, limited-access roads reaches from the canyons of California to the beaches of Florida and the urban bustle of the Northeast Corridor. But of course there was a time when the superhighway idea was brand-new.Read more »

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941…”

The bombs that fell that Sunday didn’t just knock out some battleships; they roused America into a new age. Here is how the long, unforgettable day unfolded.

 

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