Thomas Fleming
Thomas Fleming
The New Dealers' War
ISBN: 0465024645
The New Dealers' War
Controversial and revisionist to the core, a sweeping re-examination of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's handling-and mishandling-of World War II.

Acclaimed historian Thomas Fleming brings to life the flawed and troubled FDR who struggled to manage WWII. Starting with the leak to the press of Roosevelt's famous Rainbow Plan, then spiraling back to FDR's inept prewar diplomacy with Japan, and his various attempts to lure Japan into an attack on the U.S. Fleet in the Pacific, Fleming takes the reader inside the incredibly fractious struggles and debates that went on in Washington, the nation, and the world as the New Dealers, led by FDR, strove to impose their will on the conduct of the War. Unlike the familiar yet idealized FDR of Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time, the reader encounters a Roosevelt in remorseless decline, battered by ideological forces and primitive hatreds which he could not handle-and frequently failed to understand-some of them leading to unimaginable catastrophe. Among FDR's most dismaying policies, Fleming argues, were an insistence on "unconditional surrender" for Germany (a policy that perhaps prolonged the war by as many as two years, leaving millions more dead) and his often uncritical embrace of and acquiescence to Stalin and the Soviets as an ally.

For many Americans, Franklin Delano Roosevelt is a beloved, heroic, almost mythic figure, if not for the "big government" that was spawned under his New Deal, then certainly for his leadership through the War. The New Dealers' War paints a very different portrait of this leadership. It is sure to spark debate.
—taken from jacket of the book

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TRANSCRIPT
The New Dealers' War
Program Air Date: August 26, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Thomas Fleming, author of "The New Dealers' War," where'd you get that title?
Mr. THOMAS FLEMING, AUTHOR, "THE NEW DEALERS' WAR": I got that title almo--almost 50 years ago when I was reading a letter that my boss of that time, Fulton Oursler, wrote to Upton Sinclair, the novelist. Oursler was a very prominent writer and editor in--in fact, in the era of the New Deal and throughout World War II. And when the war began, he tried to get into the government. He wanted to work in the Office of War Information, or something like that. But he was a Republican, and he got absolutely nowhere. And with great disgust, he wrote to Upton Sinclair--who was trying to get him into the government because they were very close friends--saying, `It's a New Dealers' war. There's no place in it for me.'

And that sort of became a lens in my mind, and I never forget it over--over four decades. And s--it slowly emerged into what I began to see was the focus of this book.
LAMB: Forty books, it says, you've written.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes. Yes. I try to work on numerous projects at the same time. I write novels as well as history books. I--I mo--particularly historical novels. I--I think that makes a historian more sensitive to the impact of history on individual lives, and it also gets you into a--a phrase that has sort of become a buzz--or a word that's be--sort of become a buzz word among the historical profession right now--that's `contingency.' We--we--historians, more and more, are beginning to think that history is not inevitable and not driven by vast forces. An awful lot of it is based on decisions that could go either way.

And th--I think when you write historical novels and you see people being hammered by history, that makes you even more aware of that. And a lot of this contingency feeling, I think, is the in "The New Dealers' War."
LAMB: You kick it off with an introduction where you talk about FDR being important in your New Jersey home years ago.
Mr. FLEMING: How--how he was. My father was a ward leader in Frank Hague's infamous political machine in Jersey City, where if you didn't vote Democratic, you were liable to get knocked on the head. But we head on--in the vestibule of our house, where as I say in the book, a lot of Ca--Catholics from--Irish Catholics had the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we had FDR. And we virtually genuflected to him as we went in and out. He was the god of the Democratic Party and--in New Jersey at that time, and I grew up admiring him, even worshiping him.

But as you get older, you begin to look back on things, not through a haze of memory, if you--esp--if you go into the--the business of being an historian, and you start to think, `Well, what was he really like? What was--what was the whole thing all about?' Now that it's become so far back that we're just ge--right now I think we're just getting to the end of the influence of memory on history, and--and we're getting into the pure history of World War II. I think this--this book is a--is a start in that direction.

Michael Kammen--my--my--good friend of mine from Cornell, wrote a wonderful book called the "Mystic Chords of Memory," in which he speculates on the impact of memory in history, and he--he s--maintains that it takes about 100 years for somebody to get--for a--a generation or a country to get to the pl--point where they can look back on a--a gigantic experience, like World War II or the Civil War, a--objectively.
LAMB: You say that you spent time with Harry Truman once.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes, I did. This was a very seminal experience in my life. I was invited--selected, I might even say--by President Truman a--towards the end of his life to work with his daughter, Margaret, on a biography. And so I went out to Independence with Margaret and spent two weeks out there and had lunch and dinner with the president and his wife every day, and we talked politics, we talked about President Roosevelt, we talked about President Johnson and Henry Wallace and so forth.

Now I'm not saying that everything that he said to me is in this book or that--you know, that it was the decisive influence, but I became aware of the power of that man's personality, a totally different personality from Franklin D. Roosevelt's.
LAMB: What do you think he really thought of Franklin Delano Roosevelt?
Mr. FLEMING: One night, rather late in the evening, I was sitting with the president in his little study, and I said to him, `What did you really think of President Roosevelt?' There was a long pause, and then he said, `Inside, he was the coldest man I ever met. He didn't seem to care about you or me or anyone else in the world, but he was a great president. He brought this country into the 20th century.'

Now when I started working on this book, I realized a very significant thing. Here was a man, Harry Truman, who, as a senator, ex--a--investigated the war effort from top to bottom and who knew more about the inner workings of the US war effort than anyone else in the country, and he had not one word of praise for Franklin D. Roosevelt as a leader in World War II. And I felt, and I--I still feel, that that could be the ultimate comment on the New Dealers' war; that this was not a perfect performance by a long shot.
LAMB: Before we leave Harry Truman for the moment, what else did you observe about him up close for two weeks?
Mr. FLEMING: His...
LAMB: And how old were you?
Mr. FLEMING: I was in my 40s, and this--this was 1970. And so--yes, I--I was 43 at the time. And I--I felt very strongly what you saw was what you got with Harry Truman. He was straight from the shoulder. He told you what he thought. He wasn't a devious man, and that, too, as I began to study Franklin D. Roosevelt, became an enormous contrast. Franklin D. Roosevelt was anything but straight from the shoulder. He was incredibly complex and devious. He boasted about being a trickster, a juggler, who didn't let his left hand know what his right hand was doing. And, although he never quite said this, he had no hesitation whatsoever about lying to people right to their faces.
LAMB: Where did you find this?
Mr. FLEMING: This--this tendency to lie, do you mean?
LAMB: To be deceitful. You say he's deceitful. I mean, you...
Mr. FLEMING: Oh, yeah. The--this--well, there's a--there's a whole book written--titled "The Juggler," in which he's--his--his games he played, particularly during World War II, is described in quite a bit of detail. But it's most visible in the diaries of Henry Wallace, in particular. Wallace was an incredible diarist, and then his "Oral History," which I s--a good deal of which I read--I think, you know, I would have--could have taken the rest of my life to read it--Wallace's "Oral History" is 5,000 pages long. It's in the Columbia University oral history department.

But in those--in these diaries of Morgenthau, Ickes and other diarists of the Roosevelt administration, as I said particularly Wallace, who was really on to Roosevelt--he--he--he seemed to be a follower, but in his diary, he had a very, very tough and almost caustic attitude towards him. He--he--he called him a `born waterman.' He could row in one direction while looking in another.
LAMB: You have a picture in your book of FDR and Henry Wallace. What do you see in that picture?
Mr. FLEMING: I--I see two men who are both trying to express surface admiration for each other, but since I do know what's behind those smiles--We--Roosevelt had a very low opinion of Wallace as a politician. He said, `He doesn't have "it," unquotes, `the je ne sais quoi that makes a good politician.' And Wallace, at times during the course of the war, almost repudiated Roosevelt's leadership.

At one point towards--in--in the middle of the war, in--in late 1943, Roosevelt announced that `Dr. New Deal was dead. He'd been retired.' He was--he--he was OK way back in the early '30s when they were trying to solve the Great Depression, but h--he was--he was an anachronism now, and Dr. Win The War was in charge of things.' This was a very startling statement because the New Deal and the Democratic Party had been very closely identified in the minds of the voters.

Only about a month later, Wallace was the chief speaker at the Jackson-Jefferson Day Dinner, where the Democratic faithful re--expressed their allegiance to the ideals of the party. And Wallace--Roosevelt was not there, I should add. He was ill. And Wallace said, `If the New Deal is dead, the Democratic Party is dead.' That's pretty close to telling Roosevelt he didn't know what he was talking about.
LAMB: I didn't have the op--I haven't figured out the--the timing on this. Did--could you have voted for FDR?
Mr. FLEMING: No, I did not. No, my first vote was for Harry Truman, interestingly. I--I missed voting--I was too young to vote for FDR. But...
LAMB: If he were on the ballot today, would you vote for him?
Mr. FLEMING: It would depend a great deal on the international situation, I think. It--I--I'm not sure I would. I'd vote for Truman again, yes, but Roosevelt I would really want to see, you know, if--if--how things were going in different areas and so forth because I--I--I re--I--I really accumulated a great deal of reservations about Roosevelt as a political leader while I worked on this book.
LAMB: Where do you live today?
Mr. FLEMING: I live in New York.
LAMB: And are you attached to a school? Do you teach?
Mr. FLEMING: No, I don't. No, I'm a full-time writer.
LAMB: And how long have you done that?
Mr. FLEMING: Since 1960. My first book was on the Battle of Bunker Hill, and by an absolutely miraculous series of events, that became very successful, and as I like to say, I started educating myself at the public expense.
LAMB: Have you made a living off of writing books?
Mr. FLEMING: Yes, I have. That and ma--write ma--I write magazine articles. I write for MHQ, the m--The Quarterly Journal of Military History, for American Heritage, and I used to write for many other magazines, such as The New York Times Magazine.
LAMB: What's your best seller of all time?
Mr. FLEMING: My most successful book was "The Officers' Wives," a novel. It was published in 1981. It's about three West Pointers and their wives, who marry in 1950. And we take the reader through the Korean and Vietnam Wars, with no holds barred, I might add. And that book was a very, very big best seller, both here and abroad.
LAMB: How'd you train yourself to write?
Mr. FLEMING: I think I had a gift, but I got a crash course in how to write very--from my--my first boss, Fulton Oursler. He would give me a magazine article that he had just written and--maybe with s--you know, a lot of corrections in it that I had to retype, and he would explain why he made every change. He would say--he would emphasize the importance of a strong opening. He would--he would explain how he would drop a character in here, knowing that later on that character was going to play a very powerful role later in the article. And these--these--these--this kind of advice could be extrapolated to books, to some extent.

But the best advice I think that Fulton gave me was--I--I was really wet behind the ears, to put it mildly. I was only a year out of college, and I had just gone--I had worked for a year on a newspaper.
LAMB: Where'd you go to college, first?
Mr. FLEMING: I went to Fordham College in New York. And I said to Oursler, `How do you write a book?' I mean, the longest I'd ever written was a term paper at this point. And he said, `Tom, if you saw all the food you ate piled up in one place--all the food you ate in one year piled up in one place, you'd get sick. But you don't see it. You just eat it day by day, and that's how you write a book. You write four pages a day, and at the end of a year, you've got a manuscript of 500 or 600 pages.'
LAMB: Now this is a big book. Go back and see that it's almost 700--about...
Mr. FLEMING: Yes, right.
LAMB: ...650 pages long. What's the scope of it?
Mr. FLEMING: The--it's--it's the story of what we have forgotten about World War II and what we never knew. And the key phrase, however, is that--is in the subtitle. The key idea is in the subtitle: "F.D.R. and the War Within World War II." It's a narrative. It's not an attack on Roosevelt or anything like it, although some critics and some reviewers have seemed to have interpreted it along that line. It's a narrative of this war within World War II, which is really the decline and fall of the New Deal. By the end of the war, the New Deal was kaput.
LAMB: You have this photograph of the headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune: F.D.R.'s War Plans! What's the point of this?
Mr. FLEMING: That's--that's the story that got me into this book. I found this headline by sheer accident back in 1986, and I started investigating this, really, rather incredible story. This is a Chicago Tribune that we're looking at here, and they're all--The Washington Times-Herald, a sister paper, they both published this story, which was the complete verbatim report of Rainbow 5, America's secret warplane.

This was three days before Pearl Harbor this was published, and it caused a gigantic sensation. People--the Congress went nuts. The--and the main reason they--they all went nuts was because it contradicted what Franklin D. Roosevelt had publicly promised to the American people: `I will never send your boys to fight in foreign wars.' He said that when he was running for a third term in 1940, and he had to say it, incidentally, because he was in danger of getting beaten at that point. And yet here was, in the Rainbow 5, the plan to send five million Americans into Europe as an expeditionary force in 1943, and it was signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt.

But three days later, there was this tremendous event, which none of us have ever forgotten, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and this big leak, as I call it, was completely forgotten.
LAMB: How far did he go in saying that he'd never send American boys to fight on foreign soil?
Mr. FLEMING: He--he said it again and again. He--he w--said at...
LAMB: At what time?
Mr. FLEMING: He said it in 1940 at least three times in that campaign. And--but after he got elected, he began to edge the country into war with Germany, not with Japan. He wanted the--Germany was the--was the country that he wanted to get us into war with. But he had painted himself into a political corner. This is one of the fascinating things about studying FDR. He was such a completely cl--almost too clever for his own good, you might say. He--he managed to persuade the people to go along with all aid, short of war, to the people whom Adolf Hitler was attacking, England above all. And then when he attacked Russia, we added them to our list of--of--of lend-lease recipients.

But he had painted himself into a political corner by saying, `That's all we're going to do.' He--he--that--that promise of all--that--that we would never send boys to fight in foreign wars was never retracted, and so people began to accept, `Well, this is how we're going to do it. We're going to supply all these guys with all the weapons we can find, and we're going to stay out of it.' And the polls--the really dramatic thing was for all Roosevelt's powers of persuasion, he could not budge these polls. Right up to the day before Pearl Harbor, 75 percent to 80 percent of the American people said they did not want to go to war, unless Japan or Germany attacked us.
LAMB: You write this--you say, `He had seduced America into the war with clever tricks, one step forward, one step back, double talk, and the last resort--provocation of Japan.' And then you--later you say, `Deceit had been at the heart of the process.'
Mr. FLEMING: There's no doubt about it.
LAMB: Now is this, y--you know--there's a lot of talk in the back in your--people endorse your books talk about `revisionism.'
Mr. FLEMING: Yeah.
LAMB: Are you trying to revise the way people think about FDR?
Mr. FLEMING: To some extent, yes, but I don't think that I'm the first person to say this. I think I'm the first person to integrate it into this pattern of the--a president who didn't tell the truth to the American people, who dodged to the left, dodged to the right and conducted the war as commander in chief with very, very little reference to letting the people in on crucial decisions that he made.
LAMB: Wh--where'd you find it? Why is this new? I mean, is it...
Mr. FLEMING: I think that what you--what you do when you write a book of this extent and this scope, y--you look for a pattern. You--you--you try to find the--the organizing idea, and the organizing idea, I think, is in the title, "The New Dealers' War" and "The War Within World War II." A lot of the things that Roosevelt did, he did under a very extreme necessity. He could not think of any way to get us into this war co--with--in a straightforward way. So he embargoed Japan's oil, which led to a crisis in relations between us and Japan. I--it--the...
LAMB: But why would he want us in a war?
Mr. FLEMING: Because he was convinced that the future history of the world was swinging in the balance, and if Germany won, the war be--with Hitler--with--won the war with England and Russia, they would become so powerful that they would really, truly threaten the ability of the United States to defend itself. Now a lot of people--and I quote them in the book--did not agree with this analysis. We felt--a lot of the--the best thinkers on the military side felt that--that we had the strength to defend ourselves whether or not we got involved with Germany and Japan. I think that's a tough thing to say, either way, at this point.

I focus on the simple fact that Roosevelt thought this way and then took steps, which I think were not the kind of steps that we think a president should take, to provoke another power into going to war with us and ne--and not--I--I quote a--a--an editorial--an editorial writer from the--from The Washington Post, who, looking back on it, said, `I wish he'd done it in a straightforward way. I wish he'd come to the American people and said, "I think the future of the world's hanging in the balance, and I think we have to go to war with Germany. Japan we'll just put on the back burner."'

But th--there was no, really, ne--real need for us to go to war with Japan. After all, the--the Ja--the Japanese never went to war with Russia. And for a long--for--for several days, Hitler seriously considered not going to war with Ja--against us. But Roosevelt had this streak of deviousness. He couldn't--in a way, he couldn't help himself, but he also had--he--I--in--in the book, I p--I point this out.

It's very important, I think, to understanding why Roosevelt did this. He was a wounded president. He was politically wounded. He'd had a trauma in 1937. After he was elected by the--one of the biggest landslides in American history for a second term, he a--the first thing he did was send up to the Capitol Hill a bill to pack the Supreme Court with seven new justices, which would have enabled him to get anything he sent up to Congress approved by the Supreme Court. This was one of the biggest mistakes that any president has ever made. It wrecked Roosevelt's cr--credibility with the American people. He--the--the Democratic Party tore itself to shreds. The Republicans didn't have to do anything. They just sat on the sidelines, and they watched the Democrats tear each other to shreds over this bill. And, in the end, Roosevelt lost. He was humiliated. And as a result of that, he lost confidence in himself as a political leader.
LAMB: But he won it in '32, '36, '40 and '44.
Mr. FLEMING: He could win elections, but as we--as I show in this book, his power to influence the American people on iss--on--on particular issues or even to control Congress dwindles steadily, and it n--it never really came back to the level of the first four years because of this trauma of the--the defeat over the Supreme Court.
LAMB: Why is it then in every poll, he's at least one, two or three of all presidents in all the historians' polls?
Mr. FLEMING: He--he--his greatness is based, I think, almost entirely on the--the masterful way he dealt with the Great Depression. The inspirational power of his oratory, particularly--he was the first president to have the advantage of radio, and he did have a wonderful ability to give a great speech. And he brought th--those speeches right into the home o--of Americans for the first time. This--this gave him a power of persuasion which was truly remarkable. But he lost confidence in that power of persuasion after the Supreme Court debacle, and he never really got that back.

And then in the course of World War II, he made another political blunder which really was serious. In 1942, after Pearl Harbor, we had midterm elections. Roosevelt covertly announced--he--on one--with his right hand, he said, `Politics are suspended for the rest of the war.' With his left hand, he was telling everybody he could find, `Anybody that was against the war before Pearl Harbor should be run out of Congress. They're the first cousin to a fascist or second cousin to a traitor.'

And, meanwhile, his vice president, Henry Wallace, was going around the country saying that the goal of the war was a New Deal for the world. Now this was a very, very dramatic statement that shocked the living daylights out of a lot of people, and Roosevelt did not repudiate it.

Those two things produced a political crisis inside the Democratic Party, and after the 1942 elections, there was scarcely a Democrat left standing in the Midwest. The Republicans made a gigantic comeback. They came within nine votes of seizing control of the House of Representatives. And there were all kinds of Democrats who had no longer--who no longer loved Franklin D. Roosevelt because of the brawl over the Supreme Court. And so between the moderate and conservative Democrats and the Republicans, Roosevelt lost control of Congress, and that's when the war within World War II began.

I like to say that--I don't like to say it, but I--it is--I--I guess you can say it, that from that time on, Franklin D. Roosevelt's political life can be summed up in one word: hell. He was on the defensive perpetually. I have one chapter in the book which is called Goddamning Roosevelt and Other Pastimes. He--the Congress just rampaged a--at him. They overrode his vetoes. They ran the New Dealers out of all the agencies that they thought they were going to run, particularly the OWI, the Office of War Information, the one that my old boss, Fulton Oursler, couldn't get in because he was a Republican. By that--by the--mid-1943, you couldn't find a New Dealer left in the OWI.
LAMB: What kind of reviews have you had? You mentioned earlier about criticism.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: Can you criticize FDR today a--without being criticized yourself?
Mr. FLEMING: Some people, some reviewers, have found great fault with me. They are Roosevelt true believers. Still, there's still a lot of them out there. And they also argue that to criticize anything that Roosevelt did in order to get us into the war against Hitler is some kind of--it--moral blindness on my part. In other words, he could do anything because Hitler was such an evil man. I--I don't buy that kind of reasoning, put it mildly.

And so I--I--I just--I think that we--we can't say--there's a wonderful line in the book, which I quote Harry Truman, towards the end of the book, when we're discussing the atomic bomb. He said--he said, `The Japanese are--are--fight a war in the cruelest, most imaginable way, but because they are beasts, should we be beasts, too?' I don't think we can play off the morality of the enemy a--and say that the--that we, therefore, are freed from all moral restraints and all decency in terms of conducting the political affairs of the nation.
LAMB: When you spent those two weeks with Harry Truman, did you write it all down?
Mr. FLEMING: I wrote some things down. No, I did not write it all down, but I did--I did take pretty voluminous notes, yes.
LAMB: Why didn't you write it all down?
Mr. FLEMING: Well, some of it, I thought, was privileged material; that it was pr--Mr. Truman and I were talking just man to man, and so I--I didn't go p--put some of that. And Mrs. Truman also had some very strong political opinions that I didn't write down because I didn't feel that she, in particular, would want me ever to publish them or anything like that.
LAMB: Have you ever repeated them?
Mr. FLEMING: I did tell some of the things that--that Mr. Truman said in an article in American Heritage; yes, I did.
LAMB: What were some of the things?
Mr. FLEMING: Let's see. Well, I--I've already told about the statement about Roosevelt. We discussed the Vietnam War. And he was very, very upset with Lyndon Johnson. He felt that Lyndon Johnson should have taken his cue from Lincoln, who was Mr. Truman's--one of Mr. Truman's heroes, of course. And also, Mr. Truman was so historically minded. And he felt that Johnson should have run for president in 1968 and decided--as Lincoln did in 19--in 1864, decided once and for all whether the public was behind the war or they weren't. And he felt that Johnson, by chickening out and not running, had done more harm to the presidency, he thought, than any man since James Buchanan.
LAMB: What about Mrs. Truman? Did--what--what was her--what was her strongest views about?
Mr. FLEMING: She--she took some very strong--said some very strong things about Franklin Roosevelt. She--she did not admire him. That--that--that I am perfectly--I am willing to say. I wouldn't want to quote her. But--but she was a very, very astute politician. She was intimately connected with so many of Mr. Truman's decisions. And I think that she--she was on the inside of the that way that Mr. Tru--Mr. Roosevelt dealt with Mr. Truman.

There's a--there's a famous quote, which is a public quote, in which she said--when--when Franklin D. Roosevelt died, she--she said, `This is a terrible--this will be a terrible load on Harry. Roosevelt has told him nothing.' Now a lot of people back then and even since have interpreted this as a fear--her fear that Mr. Truman would not be adequate for the job that he was about to take. Having gotten to know Mrs. Truman rather well, I think, if anything, that was anything but the case. That was her expression of her real anger at Franklin D. Roosevelt for the way he kept Truman at arm's length. He did not want Harry Truman as his vice president, and he made that very clear by giving him no responsibilities; only talking to him twice after they got elected and for--just two little, brief conversations in which he told him absolutely nothing. I mean, Truman didn't even know that we had an atomic bomb, for instance, which was one of the best-kept secrets.
LAMB: But you suggest that Stalin did.
Mr. FLEMING: Oh, Stalin did know; yes. Because--that--that's another chapter in the book. I call it Red Star Rising. We now know--thanks to the release of the Venona transcripts, which are decrypts of--of--of cables that the KGB exchanged with their agents in America, we now know that Stalin had 329 agents inside Roosevelt's administration; a pretty startling nu--number. And we also know that Roosevelt had been warned about this at least twice, and he dismissed it completely. He just didn't want to hear about it.
LAMB: Three hundred and twenty-nine?
Mr. FLEMING: Yes. And...
LAMB: What did people that defended--or were critical back in those days of Whittaker Chambers or McCarthy or all the--what do they say today about this?
Mr. FLEMING: I think that the only defense that they have left now is that while we don't really s--they don't really seem to have any heavy evidence that they gave away, any crucial secret, which is rather laughable, since they did steal the atomic bomb, but I--I really haven't--I've avoided arguments with that side of the--of the literary and political community, I might say.

But I--I think that what I--I'm more interested in this book is how Roosevelt's politics at home led to international decisions that had really big impact on the--the conduct of the law. I--I--I--in this respect, I think that his recognition of Soviet Russia back in 1933, led him to feel he was locked in. He--he--Roosevelt was a man who never wanted to admit he'd made a mistake. That's in Henry Wallace's diary and other diaries. And he felt locked into this connection with the Soviet Union, and he absolutely just didn't want to admit that there was anything wrong with anything they did. One of the most glaring examples of this is the Kaytn massacre. This was a story that exploded in 1943.

The Germans found in the Kaytn Forest in eastern Poland the bodies of 9,000 Polish officers that had been murdered, they said, by the Russians. The British cre--created a commission to study this, because they had the Polish government in exile in London and they had to do something. And they concluded that the Russians did it, that they--these men had been murdered by Stalin's order. But they could not get Roosevelt to read this report. He just simply ignored it. He just didn't want to hear about it.

And when one of his top intelligence people, a man named George Earl, who was a Navy--he was a Navy officer. He was stationed in Ankara, Turkery--Turkey. And he--he was really get all kinds of intelligence out of the Balkans and Central Europe. He became convinced that the k--that the Kaytn was a--was a s--was a Stalinist crime. And he came home and told Roosevelt this toward the end of the war, and Roosevelt said, `It's German propaganda. I don't want to hear anything about it.' And when Earl said, `I want to publish an article to alert the American people to the kind of ally we have,' Roosevelt issued a written order saying that you are s--in effect saying, `You are still a member of the US Navy and I forbid you to say one word about this.' And the next day, Earl was transferred to Samoa for the rest of the war.

We never did hear anything about the Kaytn massacre, anything worth mentioning. And--and we--th--every s--there were a few--there were a few Polish-American radio stations who tried to broadcast information about it. They were visited by the FBI and told, `If you don't want to lose your license, you're going to stop saying this.'
LAMB: As you know, you use a lot of the diary of Henry Wallace.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes, I do.
LAMB: Where do you find them?
Mr. FLEMING: Th--Henry Wallace's diaries are--they're--a lot of them have been published, edited by John Blum and very, very superb book. And--"The Price of Vision" it's called. And I found that book absolutely invaluable for writing this book. And so they're--I--I--I've also, as I say, spent a good deal of time looking at Wallace's oral history of Columbia.
LAMB: Let me jump into the middle of the book, chapter nine...
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: ...Follow The Prophet...
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: ...only because it just shows--and I'm--I kept--as I was reading, I kept thinking, `Could this happen today in this--in this atmosphere?'
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: People--the names--I mean, Henry Wallace is in there. Jesse Jones.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes. He was head of the--secretary of Commerce and head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, a very powerful and conservative Democrat who was also an extremely close friend of Franklin Roosevelt's.
LAMB: Milo Perkins.
Mr. FLEMING: Milo Perkins was the man who really ran the--the agency that Wallace theoretically hea --headed, the BEW.
LAMB: You have a whole scenario here on Milo Perkins. And I just wonder what would happen if this happened today? And how public was that, that whole...
Mr. FLEMING: Yeah. Well, it became public because The Washington Times-Herald, who had--who had supported Roosevelt for instan--incidentally for a third term--Roosevelt aga--if we could--can we make a parenthesis here? A very good example of Roosevelt's, I think, bad political judgment during World War II was the sister of the woman--excuse me--the--the brother of the woman who ran The Times-Herald--Cissy Patterson, her name was--was Joe Patterson, who ran The Daily News, the biggest newspaper in America at the time--The New York Daily News; two million in circulation. He had opposed Roosevelt--and he supported Roosevelt for a third term, too, but opposed his attempt to get us into the war.

When Pearl Hearl--Harbor exploded, Patterson came, rushed to Washington. He'd been in World War I. And he came into the Oval Office and he said he wa--he wanted to volunteer for the war effort, to do something. And Roosevelt wouldn't even speak to him. He kept signing things for a while, and then finally said, `What can I do for you, Joe?' They--they knew each other extremely well. And Joe said, `Mr. President, I want to get into the war.' And Roosevelt said, `You know what you can do? You can go back and read those editorials that you wrote for the last six months ca--condemning me as a warmonger,' and he ranted on for 15 minutes and literally reduced this strong man to tears.

Patterson rushed from the Oval Office to the office of The Washington Times-Herald and he and his sister, Cissy, jointly vowed, as I say in the book, to make Franklin D. Roosevelt's life miserable for the rest of his days on Earth, and they did, as much as they could.
LAMB: Now what was their connection to the Chicago Tribune?
Mr. FLEMING: They were cousins of Mr. McCormick, Bernie McCormick, who ran ran the Chicago Tribune. They were all part of this sort of l--sort of extended family.
LAMB: And the Tribune had published that original Rainbow 5?
Mr. FLEMING: The pu--the Tribune published the Rainbow 5, yes. Yes.
LAMB: Back to Milo Perkins. He...
Mr. FLEMING: But Milo Perkins is a good example. Go ahead, yeah.
LAMB: I just want to read a headline from The Washington Times-Herald.
Mr. FLEMING: Yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: And what time of the--of the Roosevelt administrations would this have been?
Mr. FLEMING: This is mid-1943.
LAMB: `Milo, the messiah of mystic Washington.'
Mr. FLEMING: Yeah.
LAMB: `Milo Perkins, high priest of his own mystic cult.'
Mr. FLEMING: Yeah. Milo Perkins was a--a--a--they called them liberal Catholics in those days. He--he was a New Age type, I guess you'd say. And he--as I say, he was Wallace's right-hand man, but he really had this cosmic desire to s--there's even a letter that I quote in the book that he wrote when he first came into government that his chief desire was to, quotes, "save the world." And he--it--by--almost by definition he was an extremist. And he was the man who really triggered this argument or public quarrel between Henry Wallace and Jesse Jones about who was going to control the economics of this Board of Economic Warfare that was buying all kinds of raw materials in South America and in Africa. And Jones wanted to kee--it was a Washington turf war basically, you know, familiar to anybody in the Capitol. But it just got completely out of hand. The two men started calling each other horrible names in public. And Jones was egging Wallace on and very often writing a lot of the things that he was saying. And...
LAMB: And Wallace was vice president.
Mr. FLEMING: And Wallace was vice president, but he also had this, as I say, very important job, which enabled him to go to South America, for instance, and make a triumphant tour from one end of this--of the continent to the other, because he had just spent $600 million buying raw materials down there. And in--in--in part of his program to push the `new deal' for the world, he insisted on paying the highest imaginable prices. And it--he--he--and he wanted to put into the contracts the fact that more money would go to the workers than ordinarily what the employers paid them. He was really doing a lot of things that upset the State Department extremely.

So anyway, this--this--this tremendous clash that kept coming and coming and coming and--and finally Roosevelt issued a order, `No more arguments. I won't st--I can't stand it.' But Milo Perkins could not control himself. And he gave a speech at--at the Board of Economic Warfare, which had 3,000 employees, and he just lost it completely.
LAMB: And he ran that.
Mr. FLEMING: Yeah. He basically ran it for Wallace, who was spending--you know, Wallace had to preside over the Senate and he was doing a lot of other things. And so Milo--it was really Milo's agency.

And as I say, he just lost it, and he proceeded to start it all over again, attacking Jesse Jones as a slimeball and this and that and so forth. And there was a reporter in the crowd or maybe some member of the Board of Economic Warfare who didn't like Milo too much--immediately got to a phone and called The Washington Times-Herald. And they had, meanwhile, been accumulating all this dope about Milo being a liberal Catholic who had his own little private church down in Houston. They used to meet in his attic. And so they pu--they pu--they put out this cartoon in the--in the--in The Washington Times-Herald of Milo up in the attic stirring this pot of mystic brew. And Wallace is standing there looking like a--sort of a dazed nincompoop staring at this.

But the story was all about how Milo had started the argument all over again and all the names he called Jesse Jones and so forth, and that was it. Roosevelt fired Wallace, dissolved the Board of Economic Warfare and, of course, fired Milo Perkins, too. It was, as I call it, a public defanistration of the vice president of the United States.
LAMB: What happened to Jesse Jones?
Mr. FLEMING: Jesse Jones remained in power at the--he lost a little bit of the control of the money side of his--the Board of Economic Warfare operations. They merged that into another entity.

But that--that--th--this feud continued. And after Roosevelt was elected for a fourth term, he tried to pay Wallace off, or re--reward Wallace for supporting the ticket in 1944. He fired Jones and tried to give Wallace the job of secretary of Commerce and head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, which controlled billions and billions of dollars. And this is--this is a president who just won a fourth term. This I--attempt to do this was rejected by the House of Representatives by a vote of 400 to one.

Give you an idea of how little power Franklin D. Roosevelt had, re--real power. He could get elected, but his--his--the--the--the movement that brought him to power--and I quote a very, very potent New Dealer in this book, a guy named Ben Cohn. The--the--the movement, the New Deal, had fallen apart. There's no two ways about it.
LAMB: There's another couple of people in the administration who worked side by side, and here's a photograph of the two of them. And the reason I bring it up is because there's some present-day connections here. Here is Cordell Hall on the left and Sumner Welles on the right.
Mr. FLEMING: Right.
LAMB: Cordell Hall's job in the FDR administration?
Mr. FLEMING: He was secretary of State.
LAMB: And...
Mr. FLEMING: And Sumner Welles was undersecretary of State.
LAMB: Number two then.
Mr. FLEMING: Number two man in the department. They cordially hated each other. In fact, they hated each other so intensely that the door between their two offices--they were side by side in the State Department--was locked. They never spoke. Welles was--was the man that Roosevelt preferred to do business with.
LAMB: He was number two.
Mr. FLEMING: He was the number two guy, but he--he had been a--an attendant at Roosevelt's wedding as a very young man, and Roosevelt had sponsored his career in the foreign service. He was a Groton man, just like Roosevelt and so forth. And so a--whereas Hall had been brought into mollify the Southerner--the Southern wing of the Democratic Party--he was a former senator from Tennessee. So they--they really intensely disliked each other.
LAMB: What about--the reason I bring it up today is that Cordell Hall, being from Tennessee, was a friend of Al Gore Sr.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: And I think he's--is he not respected very much by Al Gore Jr.?
Mr. FLEMING: I think he is. Everybody from Tennessee had immense respect for Cordell Hall. He was an icon, well, among all the Southern senators--Southern and border state senators, and you--you--you could not touch him. And Roosevelt actually made fun of him behind his back. He--this is the typical Roosevelt touch. Roosevelt--Hall had a slight lisp, and he was always talking about free trade. That was his one issue. And Roosevelt used to make fun of him saying, `Yes, we must have more "fwee twade."'
LAMB: And--and Sumner Welles' son, Ben Welles, wrote for The New York Times...
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: ...he wrote a book about it.
Mr. FLEMING: He wrote a very good book about his father, yes.
LAMB: So what were their politics, though, the two of them? One conservative, one liberal?
Mr. FLEMING: One was certainly more liberal than the other. There's no doubt about it. But in--in the chapter that I bring the two of them together in this book, there was a crisis inside the State Department. When the Russian ambassador went to Joseph Davies, who had been a former ambassador to Russia, and told him that the government of the Soviet Union was losing confidence in the American government, and there had to be--something had to be done about it--and he--he blamed it on the State Department officials who are hostile to the Soviet Union. Now he was talking about the Russian experts in the State Department--George Kennan, Charles Bolin, Loy Henderson and several other people--who had been specially trained and were a cadre of people who really knew what was going on inside the Soviet Union.

This Russian ambassador said to Davies, who then immediately rushed to Harry Hopkins to--to tell him this--Harry Hopkins being Roosevelt's right-hand man and the ultimate New Dealer, as I call him in the book--and told him, `We've got to do something.' So, Welles was called in and told, `You've got to get rid of these guys.' This was an incredible crisis because Welles really ran the State Department, and he knew that if he allowed the Soviet ambassador to force him to fire these men, that his name would be mud with Cordell Hall, much more than it already was, and it--it--it would expose him to the most awful counterattack. And he was vulnerable on a very, very sad, but serious point. He was a bisexual, and he had had several homosexual episodes, which were semi-public knowledge. But Welles...
LAMB: Back in those times?
Mr. FLEMING: Yes. They were semi-public. They--they were circulating around Washington.
LAMB: But nobody published them in the newspapers.
Mr. FLEMING: Nobody had a--as yet published them in the newspaper, but there were numerous people who were threatening to publish them at this point.
LAMB: This is Welles.
Mr. FLEMING: Ab--about Welles, yes. And Hall knew about them. And when--so Welles made to make, really, the most agonizing decision of his life. So he--he--he tried to compromise, to some extent, but he did fire two of these guys and reorgani--Hender--Loy Henderson was probably the toughest of the--the Russian experts. He was sent to Iraq. How's that for shipping? He knew absolutely nothing about Iraq. He was sent to this utter backwater on the say-so of the Russian ambassador.

This--this tore it as far as Hall was concerned. He felt that Welles had betrayed the foreign service, and so Welles had to go. And he--so he went to Roosevelt, and he said, `It's either me or Welles. And if--if you insist on Welles, I just might leak this to the newspaper about his homosexuality.' So Roosevelt, with great, great reluctance, had to allow Welles to resign. And this was the moment...
LAMB: What year?
Mr. FLEMING: This was n--late 1943. And this was the moment when Roosevelt lost all control of the State Department. Welles was his guy in there. And this--this--the whole issue of who controlled the State Department is very, very important in this book.
LAMB: This photograph...
Mr. FLEMING: Yes.
LAMB: ...was taken when?
Mr. FLEMING: That photograph was taken in ni--in--in the fall of 1944. It's a rain-spattered face that you're looking at there. Franklin D. Roosevelt is riding through New York in a freezing-cold downpour, a Northeast storm. He's running for a fourth term, and he's trying to prove to the people that he's not a fatally ill man. He managed to do this, although it--it's a miracle that he did it.
LAMB: How sick was he?
Mr. FLEMING: His doctors thought he would die. We--we know now--excuse me? What...
LAMB: How sick was he?
Mr. FLEMING: He was extremely sick. In early 1944, he was examined by a heart specialist, and they found that he could die--the doctor, Dr. Harvey Bruenn, found that he could die at any time. And they restricted him--to keep him alive, Dr. Bruenn restricted him to a 20-hour week. Now the president of the United States, the leader of a global war, was told he could only work 20 hours a week.
LAMB: How would he do that?
Mr. FLEMING: He s--slept very late and got to the Oval Office only about 11:00 in the morning, would see a few visitors, then would have lunch, take a long nap, come back to the Oval Office for another two hours; in other words, work about four hours a day, five days a week, and that was supposed to be it.
LAMB: What kind of shape was he in in Tehran, and what was the--the meeting all about? And then, also, Yalta.
Mr. FLEMING: At Tehran, he was, as far as we know, in still fairly good shape, although he had a--an episode in Tehran at which, in the midst of a dinner, he fl--turned green and faltered and--and lost consciousness in his--in his chair and had to be rushed back to his room. And his--his...
LAMB: Who was there at the dinner?
Mr. FLEMING: Stalin, Churchill and a whole slew of aides. It was a very, very uc--upsetting episode. And after that--when he came back from Tehran, he--he was definitely a very sick man. And tha--that was when they had this physical examination, which led them to put him on a 20-hour workweek.
LAMB: That was when? What year?
Mr. FLEMING: This was 1944--early 1944, and that was when Ben Cohn, the most brilliant of the New Dealers, I think--he was a really brilliant lawyer, who wrote the Securities and Exchange Act. He was working in the East Wing of the White House during the war. And he wrote an eight-page memorandum, which I found in the files of the Roosevelt Library, in which he begged Roosevelt not to run again. H--i--he--he told him, as I've already said, the coalition had collapsed, but he was really saying, too, that he wasn't up to the job.
LAMB: Did you find that on your own, or had you read about it in another book?
Mr. FLEMING: I--I had heard about it, and I had a very good researcher who was assisting me at the Roosevelt Library. He found it for me, yes.
LAMB: What about Yalta? What kind of shape was that--and I think I've got a--let me make sure I've got the right--yeah, this is a Yalta photograph.
Mr. FLEMING: Roosevelt was--he--he mustered all his dwindling energy for Yalta, and there's no really hard evidence that he was non compos mentis or anything like that. But you--you can see the impact of--of this--this tremendous effort that he made there when--on the--on the ship home, Sam Rosenman, who was his top speechwriter and in--inside Oval Office aide, he--he spent the entire voyage home trying to get Roosevelt to talk about the speech that he was going to give to Congress about Yalta. And Roosevelt just sat there like a zombie staring into space for the entire voyage.
LAMB: You have a photograph, the last one that was taken of him?
Mr. FLEMING: That's the last picture that was taken of Roosevelt, yes, down in Warm Springs. It was taken the day he died. And that is a--a--a very heart-breaking picture to look at.
LAMB: How old is he here?
Mr. FLEMING: He was 63, I believe. I'm not too good on the...
LAMB: You--but you paint a picture in your book that he didn't like, get along with Winston Churchill.
Mr. FLEMING: He--he--he--he did not get along with him as the--as the war progressed. They started out as best of friends. But, really, Roosevelt was very hostile to the idea of continuing the British empire. And when he got to the--the summit conferences with Churchill and Stalin, he shifted the balance of his attention completely to Stalin and left Churchill as definitely a--a weak third party in the whole discussion. And Churchill, really, never forgave him for that.
LAMB: Where do you find this kind of information?
Mr. FLEMING: This is--is in many, many records of these--particularly, one of the best sources I had was Charles Bolin's memoirs. The--he was one of the enter--one of the Russian experts at the State Department and was the--wh--what was Roosevelt's interpreter at Tehran and at Yalta. And he--his memoirs are extremely penetrating and very critical of Roosevelt.
LAMB: How long did you work on this book?
Mr. FLEMING: I've worked on it off and on since 1986, when I started working on that article, The Big Leak, which I wrote for American Heritage as a--was published in American Heritage, and off and on over the next 15 years I would go back to it, as I found more information or more insights into it, and then for about two years before the--the--it went to press, I worked on it full time.
LAMB: When you write, where do you write?
Mr. FLEMING: I write in my own apartment in New York or up in a little attic room in my Connecticut house, with an air conditioner buzzing away. And I usually work about four to six hours a day.
LAMB: What time do you start?
Mr. FLEMING: Early. I regard it as a job. You get up at 8:00, and you should be at work by quarter to nine. There's no doubt about it.
LAMB: And writing, for you, is--on a scale of one to 10, is it 10, being easy; one, being very hard?
Mr. FLEMING: It varies from book to book a great deal. Some books I have--I wrote "1776: Year of Illusions," a--also, a sort of an expose of what was going on in that crucial year. That took me seven years to write, and that was agony. I had so many--so much heavy research and so much revisions. This book was not in the final push because I had accumulated so much material. This book was not such a hard book to write. I--I felt this was a book--another thing that is always important to me' cause I'm, I guess a--something of a mystic, like all writers--I--I felt this was a book I was born to write. This was--the--the scene in that epi--that--that phrase, "The New Dealers' War," so early in my writing career and spoken by the man who was my--might say was my literary mentor, it just gave me a feeling of momentum that--that drove me through this book and--and made it, I think, a--a--a--a very strong narrative.
LAMB: So what do you think so far, from what you've seen--the reaction to the book?
Mr. FLEMING: I--I think that people are, on the whole, startled by it. I don't think that the complete reaction i--is sinking in as yet. I--I--I think that this is a book that's going to have to be absorbed by people who will then talk about it to each other, and--but I think in the long run, it's--it's going to accepted as a--as I say, a first step towards looking beyond the memories of World War into the history of this conflict.
LAMB: Who's been your biggest critic so far?
Mr. FLEMING: Hmm, a reviewer in The Wall Street Journal didn't like the book at all. He--he s--he--he thought that I was simply anti-Roosevelt. And he really--I was rather upset by that review. He distorted what I said.
LAMB: Got this from The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. FLEMING: Yes. Yes, I know. It's rather shocking. If you--if you can get knocked there, you can get knocked anywhere, I sup--I guess you'd say, when you're writing a book that's critical of Franklin D. Roosevelt.
LAMB: What are your politics today?
Mr. FLEMING: My politics? I'm a registered Democrat, a Truman Democrat I guess you'd say.
LAMB: And what does that mean?
Mr. FLEMING: That means that I--I think I'm a moderate when it comes to political--to--to voting and--and--and political thinking. But I--I really don't think that my politics has anything to do with my writing. I try to keep that completely out of my writing. I feel that the historian should have no political opinions whatsoever.
LAMB: Do you have another book you're working on already?
Mr. FLEMING: Yes. I'm working on a memoir of my father, the ward boss from Jersey City, and it's going to be quite--quite a different look at how American politics takes place, I guess you'd say.
LAMB: What year is that coming out?
Mr. FLEMING: Well, I hope it'll come out in a year or so. It may be--may be a little bit more.
LAMB: And your son, Richard, had something to do with your book?
Mr. FLEMING: Yes, yes. Oh, he's my favorite researcher. He's a--he's a Russian specialist. He has an MS in--in Russian history from the--the--the Russian Department at Columbia and, you know, a real computer whiz, too. He's been a great help to me.
LAMB: This is the cover of the book. It's called "The New Dealers' War." And our guest has been Thomas Fleming. Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. FLEMING: Thank you.
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