The Mantle of Command: Book summary and reviews of The Mantle of Command by Nigel Hamilton

The Mantle of Command

FDR at War, 1941-1942

by Nigel Hamilton

The Mantle of Command by Nigel Hamilton X
The Mantle of Command by Nigel Hamilton
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Book Summary

Based on years of archival research and interviews with the last surviving aides and Roosevelt family members, Nigel Hamilton offers a definitive account of FDR's masterful - and under appreciated - command of the Allied war effort. Hamilton takes readers inside FDR's White House Oval Study - his personal command center - and into the meetings where he battled with Churchill about strategy and tactics and overrode the near mutinies of his own generals and secretary of war. 

Time and again, FDR was proven right and his allies and generals were wrong. When the generals wanted to attack the Nazi-fortified coast of France, FDR knew the Allied forces weren't ready. When Churchill insisted his Far East colonies were loyal and would resist the Japanese, Roosevelt knew it was a fantasy. As Hamilton's account reaches its climax with the Torch landings in North Africa in late 1942, the tide of war turns in the Allies' favor and FDR's genius for psychology and military affairs is clear. This intimate, sweeping look at a great president in history's greatest conflict is must reading.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. This convincingly written and gripping volume is essential for historians, political scientists, and history buffs, for a deeper understanding of the principle of civilian supremacy of the military in the U.S. political system." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. Lively, elucidating, elegant and highly knowledgeable." - Kirkus

"Though it's a weighty tome, and is based extensively on Roosevelt's own notes, Hamilton keeps a brisk pace throughout to produce what will likely be seen as a definitive volume." - Publishers Weekly

"Well researched and confident in its conclusions, Hamilton's study ably augments the gallery of WWII leaders." - Booklist

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Reader Reviews

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L. E. Johnson

"Revisionist History of FDR and Churchill"
This is revisionist history with the usual goals of inverting the historical perspective. As Nigel Hamilton admits in his "Acknowledgements," his goal was to revise the reputations of Churchill, Marshall, MacArthur, and Stimson and that his "main perspective ...is unabashedly that of Franklin D. Roosevelt." Indeed, the book is the apotheosis of FDR. This is accomplished by denigrating the other leaders, especially Churchill. It is apparent from Hamilton's book that neither FDR nor Churchill was well served by the generals and admirals then serving when war broke out. Britain had been in the war two years and had suffered the bombing of London before the first chapter of Hamilton's book begins, thus it should be no surprise that Churchill (and Stalin) was eager for USA to enter the war. One of the promises FDR made in the 1940 presidential campaign was that he would keep USA out of the European war; hence, he could hardly agree with Churchill's hopes before Pearl Harbor. Hamilton does properly give FDR credit for his excellent leadership and insistence on the north African second front and his decision to emphasize Europe first. There is a tendency for military leaders to prepare for the last war; FDR did properly refocused the military thinking. Hamilton second guesses all of FDR's military leaders' suggestions and proposals. General Marshall has "silly" ideas, but there is nary a one from FDR. Churchill is blamed for not producing any military victories by 1942; I would say keeping Great Britain free of invasion and defeat from 1940 to 1942 is a major victory. Roosevelt did rightly assume allied leadership, but what is accomplished by dismissing Churchill with descriptions as "Poor Churchill," "bullheaded, chubby-faced," "pudgy," "menacing," "short, squat, bald, chubby-cheeked." Roosevelt in his wheel chair he claims towers over short Churchill. Hamilton gives an abundance of detailed historical references to support his thesis of FDR's leadership, but bends over backwards to denigrate all other leaders, even blaming MacArthur for FDR's decision to intern Japanese-Americans. Hamilton's book is an interesting read to be put on the pile of books on WWII; he clearly offers a different perspective and that is good in itself; we will see what he has to offer in his second volume.

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Author Information

Nigel Hamilton

Nigel Hamilton is a bestselling and award-winning biographer of President John F. Kennedy, General Bernard "Monty" Montgomery, and President Bill Clinton, among other subjects. He is a Senior Fellow in the McCormack Graduate School, University of Massachusetts-Boston, and first president of the Biographers International Organization (BIO).

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