A fascinating, first-person account.
This is a very valuable firsthand account from a person in high circles during WWII. He was FDR’s “right hand man” and obviously chosen as a fellow “navy man” for a position of ongoing close, personal trust, by a president who, prior to his polio, had been a civilian leader in the Department of the Navy (Undersecretary, during WWI, as memory serves?).
Admiral of the Fleet (promoted during the war) Leahy began the war as U.S. ambassador to Vichy! He recounts many personal encounters with Marshal Petain of Vichy France and describes the other prominent personalities and conflicts there.
Recalled in 1942, he then became FDR’s personal ‘Chief of Staff’ to the Joint Chiefs for the rest of WWII! As such, Admiral Leahy was personally present for events and decisions at the White House during WWII that few others witnessed. He gives detailed information (even ship speeds) on all of FDR’s overseas trips during the war. He comments on which rooms he and FDR were in, which buildings, the security arrangements, weather, and departure times.
Leahy was present for all (or all but one?) of the Allied war conferences — Quebec, Casablanca, Teheran — and also Potsdam, with Truman. (President Truman kept Adm. Leahy on in the same job, till 1949!)
His comments on Churchill and Stalin are very valuable. He includes one verbatim Pentagon phone call received from Churchill on “the secret” [line], as Churchill called it.
Subtle and not-so-subtle navy and anti-Brit bias seep from these pages. Then the reader must remind himself: Adm. Leahy went in to see FDR every day (or nearly every day) from mid-1942 onwards.
Leahy was present at the famous ‘showdown’ in Hawaii, with FDR, of MacArthur and Nimitz on the future proposed strategy of the Pacific campaign! It’s pure real-life drama, recorded.
Interestingly, Leahy opposed a land invasion of the Japanese mainland in 1945, and gives his opinion, but says “the Army” wanted it. Similarly, he opposed having the Soviets come into the war against Japan — just as MacArthur did!
Highly recommended, as a first-person account by a participant at the highest level during WWII.