It is late 1939 and war has broken out in Europe. Roosevelt doesn't trust Joe Kennedy, his ambassador to the Court of Saint James. He desperately needs information on the willingness of Britain to fight and later on the status of Stalin's Russia under the onslaught of the Nazi blitzkrieg. Instead of relying on the usual State Department sources in an era before the OSS/CIA, Roosevelt sends five special emissaries to Europe to find out what is going on and what role, short of war, the United States could play.
He dispatches five extraordinary
people to Europe. Sumner Wells of the State Department, Bill Donovan, a
Republican lawyer from New York who would soon found the OSS, Wendell Willkie
his recently defeated opponent, Averill Harriman a Democrat who happens to be a
banker and railroad tycoon who ends up sleeping with Churchill's niece (Pamela,
a doyen of Washington society much later), and the indomitable and in the
process of dying Mr. Fixit of the New Deal, Harry Hopkins. It is their stories
that Fullilove tells and what stories they are. There are meetings in London,
Rome, Berlin and Moscow and the reports his emissaries send him, girds
Roosevelt's loins for the titanic struggle ahead.
The book captures the
foreign policy scene of 1939-41 and if the reader doesn't have time to read the
formal biographies of the Five, you certainly will gain quite a bit of insight