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Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage    by Joseph E. Persico order for
Roosevelt's Secret War
by Joseph E. Persico
Order:  USA  Can
Random House, 2001 (2001)

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* * *   Reviewed by David Pitt

Persico, the author of such immensely detailed books as Nuremberg: Infamy on Trial (he was also the co-writer of Colin Powell's autobiography, though that book sounds more like Powell than Persico), scores big again with this thick, massively footnoted, comprehensively indexed look at Franklin Delano Roosevelt's fascination with the spy game during World War Two. We discover, for instance, that FDR was considering bombing Tokyo before Pearl Harbour, and that he conspired (if we can use that word) with Winston Churchill to protect the British codebreaking effort by covering up the deaths of hundreds of British soldiers.

Persico's writing style is at times clunky - 'Not only did these interventions have no effect on FDR's fortunes, but the outcome of the Republication convention was hardly good news in Berlin' - but his research is (or appears to be) impeccable. Readers with an interest in this subject already know that FDR created the United States's first intelligence agency, the OSS, but it may come as something of a surprise to learn that the president used his own high-society acquaintances as spies, running them himself, the controller of an Oval Office spy ring. This really is a fascinating book, packed with eye-opening revelations (did FDR know in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbour?) that show us an FDR we've never seen before.

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