Book Review: A Blueprint for War: FDR and the Hundred Days That Mobilized America


by Susan Dunn

New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018. Pp. viii, 254. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $27.50. ISBN: 0300203535

Preparing America for War

Prof. Dunn (Williams) has written extensively on the thought and actions of the Founders and on domestic politics during the 1930s and the period of “non-belligerence”. A Blueprint for War follows logically after her 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler -- the Election Amid the Storm (Yale: 2013).

In A Blueprint for War, Dunn draws a parallel with the famous “Hundred Days” that followed FDR’s inauguration as President in 1933. She looks at the hundred days that followed the President’s re-election for a third term in November of 1940, and finds it an equally productive period, not, as earlier, in developing ideas to held cure, but rather to a reluctant nation for possible war.

She looks at the complex interactions of domestic politics and foreign relations, covering the many personalities, war planning, industrial mobilization, international finance, and other factors that brought United States not only to more openly aid beleaguered Britain, but also prepare itself for war.

In the roughly hundred days from the election of November of 1940 through March of 1941, events unfolded with remarkable speed. Defense spending was increased, manpower levels began to rise, talks were held with British and Canadian military staffs, FDR enunciated the “Four Freedoms” at his inauguration, the Armed Forces adopted the Navy’s “Germany First” strategy, Lend-Lease became law, and so on. Although beyond the “Hundred Days”, Dunn carries the story on through the Roosevelt-Churchill Argentia Bay in August that produced the "Atlantic Charter".

Dunn’s treatment is particularly good in dealing with interplay of personalities, both those who supported a greater American role in the war and those who opposed it, among the latter a curious mix of isolationists, liberals, fascists, pacifists, conservatives, communists, and nativists, ranging from Charles Lindbergh, the KKK, and the German-American Bund to Norman Thomas, Woody Guthrie, and the Communist Party, and fellow-travelers of all extremes.

Although some maps might have helped (where is Argentia Bay?), A Blueprint for War, a volume in Yale’s “Henry L. Stimson Lectures” series, is an excellent book on the critical period when the United States was just beginning to prepare for participation in World War II.


Note: A Blueprint for War is also available in several e-editions


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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