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Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage
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Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage

3.86  ·  Rating Details  ·  307 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
Despite all that has already been written on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Persico has uncovered a hitherto overlooked dimension of FDR's wartime leadership: his involvement in intelligence and espionage operations.

Roosevelt's Secret War is crowded with remarkable revelations:
-FDR wanted to bomb Tokyo before Pearl Harbor
-A defector from Hitler's inner circle reported d
ebook, 0 pages
Published November 6th 2001 by Random House (first published 2001)
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Steve Cooper
Oct 17, 2015 Steve Cooper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whether you find them tedious or fascinating the details of this book (relating to scene setups or filling out tangential characters) provide a fully-realized picture of the subject. Ancient historians would kill for this kind of material, and it makes me appreciate the book all the more.

However there is a strong whiff of the apologist here, especially regarding the decision to drop the atomic bomb. This hint of an agenda made me always wonder whether some inconvenient fact was being displaced b
This book could have been better written. Most annoying were the instances of repetition of material, sometimes word-for-word, which pulled me out of the "moment in time" in which Persico had me immersed, to sit for a minute or two casting my memory back to examine whether I was right that this had already been covered. For it to happen once is forgiveable, to happen 4-5 times is not. Where were the editor and proofreader?

Further, Persico often covered unnecessary and unimportant things in minu
Chris White
Aug 10, 2016 Chris White rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delicious. I still don't like FDR and most of what and how he did things, but this is a book about how the enigma of FDR fit into the full spectrum of all that the 1930's and 40's were. It's better than fiction.
Dec 25, 2015 Billy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will start this rather short review by saying that this is a dad book through-and-through. Ripe with great writing and superb insights through stories developed after research into FDR and WWII archives, yet largely void of citation work, this book can be flown through by the history-lover, the World War II obsessed, fans of cloak and dagger, or the average reader looking to take a break from genre fiction. If you don't buy this for a family member, it's a good read; yet if you are interested ...more
Craig Adamson
Feb 14, 2016 Craig Adamson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure why I bought this book. I suppose because I found it at Goodwill for 88 cents and it appeared to have not been read.

I would not say I'm a Roosevelt fan per se. But the author did a very good job of being fair in his review of Roosevelt and his attempts to use espionage to win WWII. So I have a much more favorable opinion of FDR now than previous (I will elaborate more in a minute). I am not a student of WWII so many of the main characters in this book were either brand new to me or
Keith Parrish
Jul 27, 2016 Keith Parrish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Many things have been written about Franklin Roosevelt and his shepherding of the United States through World War II, but one aspect that has not garnered much attention is how he handled espionage during the war. Roosevelt was a novice spy master (as indeed were most of the world leaders at that point) and in fact in some circles espionage code breaking, and spying were considered to be ungentlemanly. But the climate the climate of the times dictated that the U.S. enter the sphere of the secret ...more
Peter Tutak
Dec 29, 2015 Peter Tutak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Well-researched and heavily annotated overview of FDR's policies, enactment and success/failures with the assessment, establishment and maintenance of an emergent intelligence service prior to, and during WW II. The writing style is relatively straightforward, and makes for a somewhat easy and enjoyable read. There is some repetition of certain events from chapter to chapter, but that is easily tolerable in light of the subject matter and the chapter framework. Some surprising revelations to a p
May 25, 2011 Colette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii
I think I started this book four years ago and despaired of ever finishing it once I had kids. Even considered returning it to the friend who lent it to me, when I ran across it yet again in my nightstand a few months ago. I'm glad I didn't give up. Once I reoriented myself and reread a few chapters, I was once again immersed in this book. With lots of recently unclassified documents, Persico fills in many of the critical questions and controversies that previous historians upon which previous h ...more
The author maintains that "Few leaders were better adapted temperamentally to espionage than Franklin Roosevelt." Indeed, it seems that Roosevelt was incredibly deft at a sort of high-stakes chess game, playing off aides, rivals, other world leaders, and the general public as he worked toward the ultimate goal of bringing the U.S. into the war. He was an adept spymaster -- creating the Office of Strategic Services under "Wild Bill" Donovan, a loosely structured organization which later evolved ( ...more
Mar 13, 2010 Bridget rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010
Even though it took me a whole month to read this book, I really liked it. It was heavy at times but always interesting. Persico is one of my favorite authors - his book about the Nuremberg Trials (Nuremberg : Infamy on Trial) is fantastic.

This book read like a specialized, alternate version of Legacy of Ashes: the History of the CIA, in that it dealt very much with the beginnings of the CIA as seen through FDR's eyes. While reading this book, I learned a lot of interesting things about WWII, co
Chris Morrow
Sep 11, 2012 Chris Morrow rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had, when I started this book, only a vague understanding of who FDR really was, what the gov't of the US was like at the time in question and how what today is the CIA came into being.

This book outlined the players, the field of play and the results of the game in a really interesting and thorough manner. There were some frightening (to me) parallels to modern govt's actions with respect to prisoners of conflicts and dealing with 'laws' which seemed at the time 'inconvenient' to those in powe
This is an engaging book about Roosevelt and the various espionage systems and spy rings he set in motion, with forays into other countries' spy rings as well, during World War II. Very readable and accessible while at the same time knowledgeable. My only complaints were that he kept recycling the same quotations (usually not famous ones), and that he organized his book thematically more than chronologically, so he kept jumping back and forth. Life isn't like that, life is more linear and I pref ...more
Apr 15, 2013 William rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reading
I recently re-read this book during my medical leave from work. FDR, a man of incredible wit & finesse; a champion of public relations while brilliantly orchestrating no less than four independent clandestine operations from the White House prior to Donovan’s OSS of 1943~1945. His passion and talent for intrigue brought him in close relations with Churchill’s M16 during WWII while his repartee public persona (personality) dissimulated his ever working analytical insight and allowed him to ma ...more
Jul 20, 2009 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This book’s thousand and one cuts of minutiae
from a thousand spies and wanna be spies all but destroys some really interesting tales of behind the seen interactions between FDR, Churchill Stalin, Hitler, Japanese leaders, etc. I also enjoyed how the author details the physical toll that the war took of FDR. Too bad he had to impress of with his pomp of scholarship as opposed to letting an amazing story of behind the scene dealing between the Allies and the Axis Powers
Jan 12, 2015 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long. Informative, but certainly no page turner.
Matt Howard
The book's purpose is to explain the development of intelligence services during WWII as a natural outcome of FDR's personality and interests. In the process the author, perhaps inadvertently, emphasizes the similarities between FDR at war and George W Bush at war - men who believe in the imperial presidency and consider technicalities about civil rights to be mere distractions.
Dewey Norton
Jul 22, 2009 Dewey Norton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Story of how Roosevelt worked with Donovan, Stephens and Churchill to build the OSS. Many accounts of how FDR pitted his closest advisers against each other to achieve the best outcome and Donovan's back room politics to get what he needed to overcome J. Edgar Hoover's considerable efforts to undermine the OSS.
Jul 25, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book about FDR, his presidency, the role of espionage, and World War 2. It's amazing what we knew, what we didn't know, what we thought we knew, how we knew it, what others knew, and how everyone manipulated each other. It's a great spy novel, and it's 100% true! (Another book from my dad!)
Rod Zemke
I almost gave it a 4, but did not seem to cover a lot of new territory.
This is really a great book. I was less enthralled with the last part of the war dealing with the atom bomb, but the book overall was terrific. If you want to know more about WWII espionage from the USA standpoint, you will find this very informative.
Aug 14, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
World War II. A story we all know, but this time through the lens of Roosevelt's spies. His method was to set up several groups and see what each came up with. Of course, the came up with rivalries between the groups.
Oct 07, 2011 Suzette rated it it was amazing
I am on page 130 and really enjoying this peek at the 'benind-the-scenes" history of FDR and secrets and spying before and during WWII. My only problem with the book is that it is too big to read in bed!
May 24, 2008 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More spies than you think existed during WWII.

FDR, the New Deal liberal, allowed internment even with intelligence evidence showing American-Japanese posed no security threat.
Dec 21, 2011 Autumn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I need to keep better track of my Goodreads... This was a very informative and interesting read. I recommend.

(I also should work on a better review system, I know :P)
Jul 10, 2008 Mar is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
i know a learned historian who seems to think that roosevelt is over-rated... i disagree...
i love espianage. this is going to be good...
This book offered an amazing and at times unbelievable look at the "behind the scenes" of Roosevelt and espionage during WWII.
Aaron M
Sep 10, 2007 Aaron M rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book, but it was dry and dragged on. Only for those with hardcore interests in the topic.
Shaqer Rasheed
Jan 01, 2013 Shaqer Rasheed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting account of an imperial presidency. The writer's tone is more sympathetic than objective.
Chris Cheatham
This book was long and detailed. I read it while I was young and I am surprised I got through it.
Bill Van Loo
Writing was somewhat disjointed. Lacked a clear narrative flow. Good background & details.
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Joseph E. Persico was the author of Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage; Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918–World War I and Its Violent Climax; Piercing the Reich; and Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial, which was made into a television docudrama. He also collaborated with Colin Powell on his autobiography, My American Journey. He lives in Guilderland, New ...more
More about Joseph E. Persico...

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