Sunday, September 27, 2015

Citizens of London

Citizens of London by Lynne Olson can be described as nothing less than a tour de force about the Americans who stood with the British as Germany attacked in the Second World War. Researched with precision, the book has the suspenseful pacing of a thriller as the horrified reader watches London bombed during the Blitz. While aware of the ultimate conclusions, the unfolding of events still had me reeling at the conjoined despair and unremitting determination of the citizens of London who stood alone against Hitler. The book centers around three brave Americans: the journalist Edward R. Murrow, who brought the reality of the war to the American people through his nightly broadcasts; American ambassador Gilbert Winant, who in his quiet, calm way helped to forge one of the most successful alliances of all time; the millionaire Averell Harriman, who worked behind the scenes to keep England from foundering, and later tried to warn Roosevelt about Stalin. Each man was close to the Churchill family, with Winant having a dalliance with one of Churchill's daughters and both Harriman and Murrow having affairs with Churchill's daughter-in-law, the infamous Pamela. In spite of the violence of the war and the passions it seemed to fuel, Churchill and friends were able to create an indefatigable war effort which Roosevelt and Stalin eventually joined. Until December 1941, however, when the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought the USA into the war, Britain was alone.

It really is a miracle we won World War II when you read about the American unpreparedness upon entering the global conflict. The initial logistics of getting the British and Americans to work together were daunting. In spite of many astounding victories there where several bad decisions which had tragic consequences. Roosevelt allowing Stalin to have Eastern Europe, including Poland, England's ally, to whom Churchill had promised independence, is the most infamous. Yes, Roosevelt was sick and dying, however he would not listen to people like Churchill who saw Stalin for the monster he was. Plus, Roosevelt was determined to bring an end to the British Empire and all European colonialism. However, trading the British Empire for the Soviet Empire can not be considered as positive change. In place of the Nazi tyranny came Communist tyranny, and the continuing rise of socialism, throughout Europe and Asia. England was saved, and France was liberated, only to have the Cold War dawn upon Europe. No wonder Winant shot himself, a tragic finale to what should have been pure triumph.

Citizens of London plows through the dark days and nights of the war in London while mapping out the various campaigns abroad. In the gripping portrayals of the various personalities, in their loves and dashed hopes and victories, the new world order is born. Share

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