Book Reviews


Warlords: An Extraordinary Re-Creation of World War II Through the Eyes and Minds of Hitler, Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin

by Simon Berthon and Joanna Potts 

 

Review by Richard Sheppard

 

A worthy effort to examine the relationships among the four principle actors during WW2. Told in chronological order from Hitler's invasion of France through his self-inflicted gunshot end in his bunker. The book focuses on the European Theater, and using known communiqués, offers detailed descriptions of how the thought-processes among these warlords shaped first the European battles, and second the post-War world. Especially informative is the Churchill/Stalin relationship as Churchill - leading Britain alone against the Nazis - first embraces the Soviet leader as Hitler attacks Russia. But Churchill is increasingly marginalized as Soviet battlefield successes and America's emergence into the war proceeds. The authors recall Churchill's desperate bid to convince Franklin Delano Roosevelt to join the fight, and his relief when Pearl Harbor draws America into the fight. Churchill's relations with Stalin are superficially businesslike but ultimately frustrating and secondary. He can never do enough to convince Stalin of England's desire to help. Roosevelt's agenda is to win the war and reshape a post-War world which will bring an end to Britain's imperialistic dominance. Churchill attempts to bend military strategy to a continuation of the British Empire, and as the war ends, tries to warn Roosevelt of Stalin's duplicity in Eastern Europe and especially Poland. Stalin wants to - and does - gobble up as much territory as he can as Roosevelt and Churchill argue. 

The book fairly relates how the conflicting interests of the Big Three allies, The U.S., Great Britain, and the Soviet Union nearly scuttled the war effort and cost countless lives as competing strategies evolved. Ultimately, it was Hitler's maniacal power lust and corresponding lack of a coherent strategy that allowed the bickering Allies to triumph. Among the sorriest affairs from this story was the betrayal of the Polish people by Roosevelt and Churchill; moreso Roosevelt. It would not be remiss for the Poles to never forget nor possibly forgive the untold suffering they endured as the Big Three played a diplomatically-couched but murderous chess game as the European war concluded. Stalin stood by as the retreating Germans ruthlessly murdered the Polish Resistance, and waltzed into the aftermath and set up his own pro-Soviet puppet regime. Roosevelt's wide-eyed belief that he could "deal" with Stalin proved shameful and he could not reverse this impression before he dies just as the European war was ending. It was ultimately left to FDR's successor, Harry S Truman, (coming late into the game of Big Power diplomacy), to save what he could of non-Soviet-dominated Europe; but the consequences down to present could hardly have been foreseen as the four warlords jockeyed for power, prestige, and not nearly enough, principle.