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Washington Goes to War

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  452 ratings  ·  52 reviews
This book of the just-retired newsman's reminiscences of Washington at the dawn of America's involvement in World War II is no mere historical curiosity shop. It's very instructive about the way Washington still works. For instance, Brinkley tells us that in September 1941, while FDR was still wavering about where to put the military's new headquarters building, an Army ge ...more
Published April 12th 1988 by Random House Value Publishing (first published 1988)
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Average rating 4.03  · 
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Jill Mackin
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm a former Washingtonian and I found this book to be fantastic!
Paul Haspel
Jun 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: washington-dc
Washington, D.C., grows at a moderate rate in time of peace, but grows very quickly in time of war. It happened during the American Civil War, when the “sleepy Southern town” of antebellum days became a well-fortified, confident, and forward-looking Union capital; and it happened quite recently, after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when an entirely new homeland security apparatus had to be formed, virtually from scratch. Perhaps most famously, it happened during the Second World Wa ...more
Gaabriel  Becket
Feb 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book. David Brinkley wrote about the changes that took place in Washington, DC as a result of WWII, how it went from basically a sleepy little burg where visitors walked into the president's office and bounced on his chair, to the sprawling bureaucratic machine we all know today. He writes about it directly and vividly because he was there and saw it, what the people were like as people (Alice Roosevelt, eeew!), what the town was like, snapshots of things that make it come al ...more
Mar 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Reading goodreads reviewer and close personal friend Nolan Crabb's review of this masterpiece caused me to immediately add it to my "to read" list and I'm very glad I did. Brinkley's chronicle of an incredibly dysfunctional World War II Washington, D.C. is extremely troubling, extremely readable , and, as Nolan points out, in a strange way comforting.

All of the rhetoric about how broken Washington is, how dysfunctional government has become etc. is, and should be, of great concern. This book se
Apr 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
If you love the city of Washington DC, are preparing to visit, or recently visited, this is a fun read. Brinkley writes about the incredible period during Roosevelt's 3rd term when the number of buildings and the city's population exploded. The cast of real-life characters are more exciting than some of the best fiction you'll ever encounter. Brinkley's style is candid and honest. A great read for your flight into our nation's grand Capitol! Then, you'll want to visit Embassy row, the Pentagon, ...more
Mar 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to +Chaz by: I did
Funny at times, Brinkley really tells you the way it was in Washington DC during WWII. Detailed and well written, it’s a must read for anyone that has the slightest interest in history or Politics
Jan 13, 2009 marked it as to-read
"... i am a journalist, not a historian, and while this book is an effort to describe a moment in the past, it is less of history than of personal reminiscence and reflection...."
Aug 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
We knew David Brinkley as an award winning TV journalist/broadcaster but not as a writer, but with this book we learn he was a remarkable writer indeed, an "old school" journalist. Brinkley's account of pre-war, parochial DC is priceless, particularly his accounting of the staid Washington society who saw everything change with the advent of the second World War. Equally interesting is his accounting of a rather chaotic government, in spite of it being led by the incomparable FDR. In the end, Am ...more
Kyle Monsees
As a long-time resident of Washington, D.C. and a student of WWII, I began this story with great excitement. It is a story that depicts a city not by its great critics or proponents but rather as it was. Like most periods of history, the war years in Washington were neither singularly good nor bad but rather a testament to a city that bumbled into a historic position and made it work.

In race relations and the treatment of women, it made some improvements alongside the country at large, growing
Sep 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you want to read a great book about Washington DC written by an incisive, intelligent observer of our nation's capitol, check out David Brinkley's book, "Washington Goes to War." He became persona non grata aka Washingtonian Without Portfolio - after his book was published. Why? Because he told the truth in true journalistic fashion. Nothing could cause more offense in DC today as this book did when published.
May 31, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
More a memoir than a history book, journalist Brinkley conveys a feeling through anecdotes and newspaper clippings just what it was Like as Washington DC grew from a sleepy southern city to a true international capital during WWII. There are definitely some interesting and amusing stories here.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sheds a bright light upon the nefarious, often-corrupt & always ego-ridden actions of our government in Washington-DC! Interesting to see the actual machinations of the processes involved in getting ready & then going to war..! ...more
Mary Bailey
Jul 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful read! Typical sardonic Brinkley style. Informative as well as entertaining. Quick read and a real eye opener. Has some really humorous anecdotes. You will be glad you picked it up and won't want to put it down, even when you finish.
Sep 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
A very entertaining history.
Paul Szydlowski
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
David Brinkley describes how air conditioning, payroll withholding and WWII gave us big government.
Vincent Lombardo
Jun 19, 2019 rated it liked it
I read this book many years ago. It was informative, but not riveting.
Pat DiGeorge
Jan 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Newscaster and journalist David Brinkley tells the story of the transformation of the capital city during World War II.

Mr. Brinkley writes nothing about his personal military involvement in the war. I finally found in a article explaining that in 1940, he volunteered for the Army. A year later he was misdiagnosed with a kidney ailment and honorably discharged. He then worked in Atlanta and Nashville for UPI (United Press International) before moving to Washington, D.C. as a reporter f
Nov 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nls-audio
One of the most frequently repeated themes of the last election cycle has been that Washington is broken, that the Congress is dysfunctional, and on it goes. The purveyors of that message sought to convince us that this is a relatively new development. If you believe them, you want to ring your hands and scream with frustration. But history is always the best teacher, and in this case, it teaches well. The truth is that the Congress has probably always been dysfunctional to one degree or another ...more
David Brown
Nov 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
David Brinkley is my hero. He was a daily voice in our home at the six o'clock news hour, and I remember my brother and I once repeated their closing lines when we went to bed: “Good night, Chet.” “Good night, David.” He was an important figure in America. (The folks in Wayne, West Virginia even named a bridge for him.) Brinkley was the man in the know, and later I thoroughly enjoyed watching him preside over ABC News' This Week with David Brinkley. Who better to relate to us the goings on in ou ...more
Oct 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
At times this book went a little off topic, veering from Washington D.C. into a more general history of World War II. But I enjoyed it, and I was impressed with David Brinkley’s writing style and some of his turns of phrase.

A few that I underscored:

“Some three hundred miles south of Washington, in the small port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, a young part-time reporter [presumably Brinkley himself] for the Morning Star poked idly around the Cape Fear River docks. At the foot of Walnut Stre
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The descriptions by author David Brinkley of how Washington, DC, was before Pearl Harbor and after December 7, 1941, revealed much I didn't know and/or hadn't considered in my various readings about the history of the war. Washington had to change its ways of doing things almost overnight. New, cheap housing had to be built to house the thousands of needed clerical and professional people who arrived within days of the declaration of war. How people lived, how deals were made, how President Roos ...more
May 19, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The hearty
Very disappointing book -- as in I expected lots more than it delivered. Perhaps my expectations were to blame.

I was expecting a memoir, and in the preface Brinkley says the book is ". . . personal reminiscence and reflection. Essentially, it is an account of my own observations and experiences . . . supplemented by material drawn from interviews and other sources." So was I wrong to expect a memoir? Don't think so.

In any event, Brinkley is missing in action here . . . there are a few mentions o
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, recs
I have long looked for a befittingly engrossing account of Washington's unmatched war years, and am pleased to say Brinkley exceeded my hopes for an utterly, as I read it described, "vivid" tale. I never imagined, for example, that the military structures blighting the Mall - those depicted in photographs that had intrigued me for years - were Roosevelt's pet project and owed their blessed temporary nature to his foresight. This Washingtonian extends you her heartfelt gratitude, Mr. President.

Mar 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
In this book, veteran journalist David Brinkley presented a multitude of topics that collectively painted a picture of war-time Washington. His use of descriptive language, coupled by his lively narratives, made him a skilled storyteller and this book a fascinating read. Although Washington Goes to War dealt nearly exclusively with the history of one single American city, this book nevertheless provides insight to WW2 on a whole as it provided insight on the environment in which American policy ...more
Patricia Pugsley
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Incredible! I've lived in the DC area all my life. I'm a (retro) new dealer. This described the atmosphere in Washington, and all the things that happened during that incredible time. Although I read it over ten years ago, it really made an impression on me. Mr. Brinkley wrote a great account of everything going on, the overcrowding, the weather, the scrambling to deal with the war, and just about everything you can possibly think of. It's a local account of all the events that took place. If yo ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who care about DC during WWII and the changes in the bureaucracy
Shelves: 2008, nonfiction
I don't usually read history books, but Matt gave this to me and it captured my interest because it's about the transformation of my new city, Washington, DC, during WWII. There are colorful anecdotes about how the city changed from a sleepy backwater into a bustling city, accompanying the huge expansion of the federal government during WWII. It was interesting to see certain parallels with the current war (unprecedented expansion of Presidential power, factiosn of Congress totally opposed to Am ...more
Frank Stein
Jan 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
A journalistic report of DC during WWII. Again, the historian in me rebels against the lack of citations, but Brinkley gives a the reader a real feel for the chaos of wartime Washington, and at least offers hints at how the city and our society grew out of the war's ramifications. Everything from the Pentagon, to the State Department building, to National Airport to our modern Mall emerged during those four years.

As an old progressive said, "War is the health of the state." This shows that war
Sep 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good, insightful. Brinkley paints a vivid picture of the changes Washington underwent from The Depression to the end of WWII. We don't tend to think of Washington as ever being a "sleepy town" but it once was and within less than a generation changed pretty much into what it is today. The FDR years including that congress and the press editorials of the day? wow, what a tangled web of power, influence and deceit! Fascinating people.
Jan 17, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: bazin
The Washington Metropolitan area’s population increased by over 50% between 1930 and 1941. Another 70,000 arrived in 1942, and 5,000 new federal workers were added every month. The reason was war, and the rumor of war. The book covers the period from 1939 to 1945, with much wandering in between. Part of it is from Brinkley’s personal memories of the period, and much more from interviews. ...more
This book gives a completly different perspective on WWII. The view in and around Washington DC during war time is really interesting. The politics, the disagreements, grudges, employment boom and housing shortages. Plus I never realized how dis organized and somewhat unproductive a lot of the wartime efforts were. This is a really good book with a unique perspective.
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Full name: David McClure Brinkley

*ABC and NBC newscaster
*Co-anchored the Huntley–Brinkley Report
*NBC Nightly News co-anchor and correspondent
*Sunday This Week with David Brinkley

*ten Emmy Awards
*three George Foster Peabody Awards
*Presidential Medal of Freedom

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