We recently received an incredible review of our new book The Eleventh Hour, by L. Douglas Keeney, from Booklist. This review will be featured in there March 1 issue & although you usually have to be a subscriber to read exclusive reviews, they have agreed to make their review available for everyone to read for the next few weeks!
Below is their featured review of the book, followed by an excerpt from the book's first chapter!
"In this brief volume, popular military-historian Keeney describes the discussions and negotiations leading up to the D-Day invasion. He focuses on internal disagreements within the American leadership, for example, on whether George Marshall or Dwight Eisenhower would command the invasion forces, and, even more compellingly, on differences between the Big Three—the U.S., England, and the Soviet Union—on how to conduct the war’s endgame. Describing the secret meetings aboard the U.S. battleship Iowa and the elaborate and perilous arrangements resulting in the summit at Tehran, Keeney provides both military and personal insight into FDR, Churchill, and Stalin. He offers abundant evidence of Churchill’s stubbornness in fighting for a second Mediterranean front, even if it were to delay the cross-channel invasion, and presents a convincing and revisionist view of Stalin as a reasonable and even jovial force in the discussions, though in no way minimizing the leadership of FDR and his military leaders. This is solid, revealing, well-researched history of a fascinating and pivotal period in WWII."
— Mark Levine
Click HERE to see the review online!
Excerpt from Chapter 1
CHAPTER 1: WINTER 1943
The night was cold and wet with low hanging clouds that blanketed
Washington, D.C. in a drab grayness that was a sure sign that winter
had arrived. It was nine o’clock at night, a dark evening by any measure.
The city was all but shut down, the deserted sidewalks and streets long
ago emptied, the war subduing any fleeting moments of optimism.
The White House residence was quiet. President Franklin Delano
Roosevelt was making his final preparations before being driven
down to the Marine Corps base at Quantico, Virginia, where he
would board the presidential yacht Potomac for a six-hour trip to the
Chesapeake Bay. There he would transfer to the battleship USS Iowa
for the Atlantic Ocean crossing to attend a war conference with Winston
Churchill and Joseph Stalin.
It was Thursday, November 10, 1943. A pair of hanging lights
faintly illuminated a line of cars waiting under the North Portico and
upstairs the windows glowed around the edges of the blackout curtains.
“Arthur,” said Roosevelt, pointing at the staircase. “See who’s coming
up the stairs.” Arthur was FDR’s valet, Arthur S. Prettyman, who, at that
moment, was holding the president’s wheelchair while they waited for the
elevator doors to open. The residence was mostly empty, the air somewhat
stuffy and stale. It had been six or seven years since a fresh coat
of paint had been applied to the walls or new carpets had been laid,
and the warren of rooms on the second floor was cluttered with years
of neglect. Not that Roosevelt paid much attention to such things.
The creaky floors and sagging beams could wait; the war needed people
for other things, and Washington was no exception. In less than
two years the city had grown from a small, Southern town to a packed
metropolis swollen by 250,000 new arrivals, many of them “government
girls”, the typists and secretaries who had qualified under exams
administered nationwide and were now the arms and legs of the war
machinery that kept the troops supplied.
Roosevelt waited as the rain tapped a soft beat against the windows.
He had his hat in his lap, a cigarette in his hand, and his trademark cape
over his shoulders. It had been a long day, the weather bad, but, really
no more than an inconvenience. He started the morning with the annual
wreath laying ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and
then had a joint meeting with his vice president and some congressional
leaders before leaving for a lunch with Secretary of State Cordell Hull,
just returned from Moscow. He went back to his office for a four-hour
war conference, then was wheeled back to the residence to eat a bland
dinner served from a steamer cabinet with his wife Eleanor Roosevelt
and his assistant Grace Tully. After dinner, he excused himself to pack
his suitcases, black tie for state dinners, business suits for the plenary
sessions, and his favorite wardrobe, a pair of old khaki trousers, a wellworn
work shirt, and a floppy fishing hat that only a president could be
forgiven for wearing.
One floor below, his travel companions were arriving and bundling
into the cars—Admiral Ross T. McIntire, his personal physician;
Harry Hopkins, his friend and former Secretary of Commerce and
now a close political confidant; two military aides; and the thoughtful
and much respected chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral
William D. Leahy. Waiting for them to arrive on the USS Iowa were
the three other members of the Joint Chiefs, Army General George C.
Marshall, Navy Admiral Ernest J. King and Army Air Forces General
Henry A. “Hap” Arnold.
Roosevelt beckoned to Prettyman to see what was causing the rustle
of papers and thumping of feet. It was the watch officer from the White
House Map Room now running up the stairs with an urgent cable in
his hand. The cable was from Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and
it required an immediate response. Roosevelt read it and nodded. Both
Roosevelt and Churchill were prolific writers of cables—some would say
they wrote too many, and, considering the press of a global war, perhaps
even they would agree with that. In the last several months, more than
thirty of them had gone back and forth, almost all of them regarding
their attempts to schedule a face-to-face meeting with Stalin, almost
all of them about problems that were preventing that from happening.
As Roosevelt took the cable he assumed a new problem had arisen and
indeed one had, but it had to do with protocol, not war strategy. The
crux of the message was this: Stalin had confirmed that he could go to
Tehran just the day before, on the 10th, but Roosevelt had failed to tell
Churchill.1 Churchill had learned about it anyway, which had hurt his
feelings. “I rather wish you had been able to let me know direct,” he said
in the cable just delivered to the president, and Roosevelt knew he could
not leave it at that. He called downstairs to hold the motorcade while he
dictated a response. He briefly explained his slip-up by saying that he
had just confirmed his availability to meet with Stalin in Tehran, and had
not cabled Churchill because he was unsure if the timing would work
out, but, now that it was on, he was delighted. Of course there was more
to it than that—Roosevelt was not above tweaking Churchill’s nose, and
the presidential slight well may have been intentional—but Roosevelt
closed the cable with a personal note and that was that. “I am just off,”
he said in his typically frothy fashion. “Happy landings to us both.”2
At 9:30 p.m. the motorcade pulled out from under the porte-cochère
and into the chilly rain. Behind it, a gust of wind snapped open
the flag that flew over the White House to indicate the president was
still in residence. No one—not his staff, not his Cabinet and no one in
Congress—was to know of his trip lest something leak and the Germans
be alerted. To explain Roosevelt’s absence, the press was to be given
the cover story that he was indeed in the Washington area, but merely
taking a short vacation cruising the Virginia Tidewaters on the Potomac.
That would hold long enough to shield the most dangerous part of the
trip—the Atlantic crossing.
The motorcade sped down to Quantico, passing through the gates
and out to the docks with only the base commandant knowing what
was going on. The president was lifted onto the ship and into a small
elevator that inched between the decks. Roosevelt was tired anyway so he
thanked his crew, then promptly went to his stateroom and in a moment
was fast asleep. Just six minutes had elapsed in the boarding; it was precisely
Prettyman left Roosevelt and went to his own quarters as the Potomac
gunned her engines and swung out into the stream. To her starboard, the
Navy submarine chaser USS SC-664 cast off her lines and pulled abeam,
and together they churned the brownish river into a soft boil and headed
downstream as armed lookouts and Secret Service agents scanned the
dark banks for anything suspicious.4 “During the night we passed and
exchanged calls with the USS Dauntless and the USS Stewart, bound
up-river for Washington,” wrote FDR’s naval aide Lt. William D. Rigdon.
“They were returning there after having transported members of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff party and their baggage to the Iowa on Thursday.”
Some five hours later, at 3:30 a.m., they pulled over to the side of the river
and came to a halt. “The Potomac anchored off Cherry Point, Va., near
the mouth of the Potomac River, to await the transfer of the President
and his party,” wrote Rigdon in his trip log. “Some five miles distant, farther out in the Bay, the massive Iowa could be seen riding at anchor.” And there they waited for dawn.