<b>FDR's Christmas visitor</b> Given their educations, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill would doubtless have been intimately familiar with the proverbial loss of a kingdom for want of a horseshoe nail. In other words, small mistakes can determine big outcomes even those as big as World War II. So when Japan forced the United States into the war by bombing Pearl Harbor, small mistakes could have badly damaged the new Anglo-American fighting alliance. Roosevelt and Churchill helped avoid strategic errors right from the start by convening in Washington, D.C., for what we would now call a summit.

Immediately after the Japanese sneak attack on December 7, 1941, Churchill rushed across the Atlantic, accompanied by his senior military advisors. Over the next month, they met with Roosevelt and his top aides to forge a new coalition. <b>One Christmas in Washington: The Secret Meeting Between Roosevelt and Churchill That Changed the World</b>, by historians David Bercuson and Holger Herwig, chronicles the crucial weeks that ultimately led to the defeat of Germany and Japan. Bercuson and Hedwig ably blend the substance of the debates over command structure, production goals and war strategy with biographical background about the main players and colorful descriptions of their social interaction. As we all know, the outcome was successful but the authors show the road got quite rocky. The American generals thought the British were arrogant and greedy for U.S. arms; the British thought the Americans were clueless amateurs. Within each country's negotiating team, the Army, Navy and Air Force representatives fought out their usual rivalries.

Ultimately, responsibility for success or failure lay with the two national leaders. Churchill, always stubborn, was a diehard imperialist; Roosevelt, who called himself a juggler, had an essentially anti-colonial view of the world. But they came to terms, the torch passed from Britain to the U.S., and the American century followed. <i>Anne Bartlett is a journalist in Washington, D.C.</i>

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