Michael R. Beschloss

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Michael Beschloss is the author of nine books on presidential history, including, most recently, the New York Times bestsellers Presidential Courage and The Conquerors, as well as two volumes on Lyndon Johnson’s White House tapes. He was also editor of the number-one global bestseller Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy. He is the NBC News Presidential Historian and a PBS NewsHour contributor and has received an Emmy and six honorary degrees.

Average rating: 3.94 · 8,029 ratings · 935 reviews · 30 distinct worksSimilar authors
Presidents of War: The Epic...

4.23 avg rating — 1,238 ratings — published 2018 — 8 editions
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Presidential Courage: Brave...

3.76 avg rating — 896 ratings — published 2007 — 12 editions
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The Conquerors: Roosevelt, ...

3.77 avg rating — 775 ratings — published 2002 — 16 editions
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Reaching for Glory: Lyndon ...

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3.88 avg rating — 181 ratings — published 2001 — 5 editions
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American Heritage History o...

3.82 avg rating — 122 ratings — published 2015
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Mayday: Eisenhower, Khrushc...

4.03 avg rating — 133 ratings — published 1986 — 6 editions
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The Crisis Years: Kennedy &...

4.05 avg rating — 107 ratings — published 1991 — 11 editions
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At the Highest Levels: The ...

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4.05 avg rating — 122 ratings — published 1993 — 8 editions
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Kennedy and Roosevelt: The ...

3.91 avg rating — 53 ratings — published 1980 — 6 editions
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The American Heritage Illus...

3.95 avg rating — 22 ratings — published 2000
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Michael R. Beschloss, Presidents of War

“As Allied forces moved into Hitler’s Fortress Europe, Roosevelt and his circle were confronted with new evidence of the Holocaust. In early 1942, he had been given information that Adolf Hitler was quietly fulfilling his threat to “annihilate the Jewish race.” Rabbi Stephen Wise asked the President that December 1942 to inform the world about “the most overwhelming disaster of Jewish history” and “try to stop it.” Although he was willing to warn the world about the impending catastrophe and insisted that there be war crimes commissions when the conflict was over, Roosevelt told Wise that punishment for such crimes would probably have to await the end of the fighting, so his own solution was to “win the war.” The problem with this approach was that by the time of an Allied victory, much of world Jewry might have been annihilated. By June 1944, the Germans had removed more than half of Hungary’s 750,000 Jews, and some Jewish leaders were asking the Allies to bomb railways from Hungary to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. In response, Churchill told his Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, that the murder of the Jews was “probably the greatest and most horrible crime ever committed in the whole history of the world,” and ordered him to get “everything” he could out of the British Air Force. But the Prime Minister was told that American bombers were better positioned to do the job. At the Pentagon, Stimson consulted John McCloy, who later insisted, for decades, that he had “never talked” with Roosevelt about the option of bombing the railroad lines or death camps. But in 1986, McCloy changed his story during a taped conversation with Henry Morgenthau’s son, Henry III, who was researching a family history. The ninety-one-year-old McCloy insisted that he had indeed raised the idea with the President, and that Roosevelt became “irate” and “made it very clear” that bombing Auschwitz “wouldn’t have done any good.” By McCloy’s new account, Roosevelt “took it out of my hands” and warned that “if it’s successful, it’ll be more provocative” and “we’ll be accused of participating in this horrible business,” as well as “bombing innocent people.” McCloy went on, “I didn’t want to bomb Auschwitz,” adding that “it seemed to be a bunch of fanatic Jews who seemed to think that if you didn’t bomb, it was an indication of lack of venom against Hitler.” If McCloy’s memory was reliable, then, just as with the Japanese internment, Roosevelt had used the discreet younger man to discuss a decision for which he knew he might be criticized by history, and which might conceivably have become an issue in the 1944 campaign. This approach to the possible bombing of the camps would allow the President to explain, if it became necessary, that the issue had been resolved at a lower level by the military. In retrospect, the President should have considered the bombing proposal more seriously. Approving it might have required him to slightly revise his insistence that the Allies’ sole aim should be winning the war, as he did on at least a few other occasions. But such a decision might have saved lives and shown future generations that, like Churchill, he understood the importance of the Holocaust as a crime unparalleled in world history.*”
Michael R. Beschloss, Presidents of War

“On Sunday, November 10, Kaiser Wilhelm II was dethroned, and he fled to Holland for his life. Britain’s King George V, who was his cousin, told his diary that Wilhelm was “the greatest criminal known for having plunged the world into this ghastly war,” having “utterly ruined his country and himself.” Keeping vigil at the White House, the President and First Lady learned by telephone, at three o’clock that morning, that the Germans had signed an armistice. As Edith later recalled, “We stood mute—unable to grasp the significance of the words.” From Paris, Colonel House, who had bargained for the armistice as Wilson’s envoy, wired the President, “Autocracy is dead. Long live democracy and its immortal leader. In this great hour my heart goes out to you in pride, admiration and love.” At 1:00 p.m., wearing a cutaway and gray trousers, Wilson faced a Joint Session of Congress, where he read out Germany’s surrender terms. He told the members that “this tragical war, whose consuming flames swept from one nation to another until all the world was on fire, is at an end,” and “it was the privilege of our own people to enter it at its most critical juncture.” He added that the war’s object, “upon which all free men had set their hearts,” had been achieved “with a sweeping completeness which even now we do not realize,” and Germany’s “illicit ambitions engulfed in black disaster.” This time, Senator La Follette clapped. Theodore Roosevelt and Senator Lodge complained that Wilson should have held out for unconditional German surrender. Driven down Capitol Hill, Wilson was cheered by joyous crowds on the streets. Eleanor Roosevelt recorded that Washington “went completely mad” as “bells rang, whistles blew, and people went up and down the streets throwing confetti.” Including those who had perished in theaters of conflict from influenza and other diseases, the nation’s nineteen-month intervention in the world war had levied a military death toll of more than 116,000 Americans, out of a total perhaps exceeding 8 million. There were rumors that Wilson planned to sail for France and horse-trade at the peace conference himself. No previous President had left the Americas during his term of office. The Boston Herald called this tradition “unwritten law.” Senator Key Pittman, Democrat from Nevada, told reporters that Wilson should go to Paris “because there is no man who is qualified to represent him.” The Knickerbocker Press of Albany, New York, was disturbed by the “evident desire of the President’s adulators to make this war his personal property.” The Free Press of Burlington, Vermont, said that Wilson’s presence in Paris would “not be seemly,” especially if the talks degenerated into “bitter controversies.” The Chattanooga Times called on Wilson to stay home, “where he could keep his own hand on the pulse of his own people” and “translate their wishes” into action by wireless and cable to his bargainers in Paris.”
Michael R. Beschloss, Presidents of War




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