Cover Image: Uniting America

Uniting America

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This book was a great read….. Until the last few chapters. The author was focused for most of the book on the uniting of the country on a very molecular level and then turns around and tries to make these wide sweeping similarity between the events happening now and those of the past. This is where the author lost me. For that and that alone it is a 3 for me. Up until the last several chapters I was all for this book. But the ending could have been left out.
Was this review helpful?
Rating 3.5/5

[I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book]

“Uniting America: How FDR and Henry Stimson Brought Democrats and Republicans Together to Win World War II” by Peter Shinkle is a North American history book.

I don’t usually read history books/books about politics, but this was interesting. Definitely a good read for those who enjoy North American history and politics.
Was this review helpful?
Title: Uniting America

Author: Peter Shinkle

Release Date: October 11th, 2022

Page Count: 464

Start Date: September 24th, 2022

Finish Date: October 9th, 2022



Review:

This book was filled with information about several important topics. I really feel like I learned very much from this book. I also love the raw honesty of all of the real situations during the time period. It also addresses the problems we still face today. I actually wound up buying my uncle a copy. He loves books like this. So far, he seems to be enjoying it as much as I did. It's well-written and very well-resourced.
Was this review helpful?
Mr. Shinkle makes a strong case for bipartisan warfighting and the Roosevelt Administrations' handling of the War.   President Roosevelt was wise enough to offer the job of Secretary of War to Mr. Henry Stimson for the second time in 1940 to do the same job he had done in 1911-1913 paving the way for the rapid expansion of the U.S. Army in 1940/1941.  Stimson was quite clearly the most experienced and qualified man for the job, but he was also a Republican, and Roosevelt was wise enough to not allow partisanship to cloud his judgment in this case.
Was this review helpful?
FDR and Harry Stimson During WWII

If nothing else, FDR was a very clever politician who knew how to manipulate circumstances to get what he wanted. In the lead up to the US entering WWII many in the country were isolationists. Roosevelt believed that it was necessary to enter the war in Europe, but he knew the fight would be much more difficult if the country remained divided.

Cleverly, Roosevelt used his cabinet appointments to signal bipartisanship. One of the most successful appointments was Harry Stimson as Secretary of War. Stimson worked tirelessly to further the unity of America to prepare for and conduct the war. I found the use of Stimson’s diary in this book very interesting. It gave an intimate perspective of someone close to Roosevelt and at the center of power. 

On the positive side, this book is well written and very well researched. I’ve read a lot of WWII history, but this book added additional nuances. I highly recommend the book up until the end of the Epilogue. Here the author airs his own opinions about the current state of the country. I believe that he would like to see more bipartisanship in the government, but I think his point would have been made better without trying to tie the current political situation to FDRs handling of bipartisanship prior to and during WWII.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.
Was this review helpful?
As Europe faced the rise of Hitler and Mussolini and Japan began it’s invasion of Manchuria, America was experiencing a growing rise of isolationism.  FDR’s support of the Neutrality Act was seen by Henry Stimson, a former Secretary of State under Hoover, as an effort to appease the isolationists.  Stimson was alarmed by the rise of fascism and felt we should be working more closely with the League of Nations.  FDR later worked to repeal the embargo portion of the act as hostilities grew in an effort to provide assistance to our allies.  While Stimson had some issues with FDR’s domestic issues, he urged Republicans to support FDR’s foreign policies.  In an effort to bring the parties together, FDR proposed a unity conference with representatives of both parties.  He also supported a plan to place several prominent Republicans in his cabinet.

Peter Shinkle explores the relationship between FDR and Stimson that was built on mutual trust and respect.  It is a beautifully written lesson in history as he explains the events in Europe and Asia and how they effected the policies and decisions at home.  He opens with a look at the early careers of these two men.  He takes you through the elections at home, the rise of fascism, events leading up to our entry into the war and the decisions that we faced after the end of hostilities.  In his epilogue, Shinkle explores the divisions facing us today, including the accusations of stolen elections and the January 6th assault.  After exploring the efforts to unite America, it is somewhat dispiriting to end on today’s political divisions.  As a lesson in history this was a fascinating read.  I thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for making this book available for my review.
Was this review helpful?
Strong Historical Exposition Marred By Back Half Of Epilogue. This is a book that was an absolute 5* read... until potentially the last few pages. It is well documented at 31% of the text, and even claims to have a handful of previously unreported facts - which given just how *libraries* have been filled with even solely nonfiction tomes on everything to do with WWII, would be quite a feat indeed if accurate. As with most histories of its type, it spends a few chapters both before and after the period directly in question, setting it in its context and showing its aftermath, respectively, with the bulk of the narrative focused on the core thesis. Through all of this, and even through the first half of the epilogue, this book truly is remarkable.

But then... Shinkle just *had* to put his thoughts on more recent events, particularly political events of the last few years, in the same tome, and in its last pages to boot. This is *worse* than being a "Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" scenario where the tale should have ended *shortly* after the coronation of Aragorn, as in this instance it is more akin to ending Return of the King with a few pages discussing the events of Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi and trying to tie the two together. Yes, there are some *very high level* similarities. But if you've just spent 300 ish pages discussing the very *minutia* of the one thing, and then you try to zoom out to an International Space Station level to get a view that *might* *maybe* support linking this other thing to that first thing... it ultimately sours the taste of the overall meal.

Still, ultimately this narrative *is* a strong and interesting one that anyone seeking to more fully understand WWII should read. Just ignore the final few pages. You'll know them when you encounter them. Recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Shinkle makes a good argument about how Franklin Roosevelt crossed party lines to create a more bipartisan cabinet that would help him during the war years. It was an interesting read and added to my already wealth of knowledge of FDR. However, the epilogue, while I agree with it, was wholly unnecessary and detracted from the historical perspective given. If the author wanted to write a book about what's wrong with politics today, fine, but it has no place in a history book. The reader can draw their own conclusions.
Was this review helpful?
I was given an advance reading copy (arc) of this book by NetGalley.com and the publisher in return for a fair review. U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) led this country during a worldwide conflict. HIs role in leadership surpassed the party system and he assigned key roles in his cabinet to both Democrats and Republicans. He was not concerned about party loyalties--he put this country first. Author Peter Shinkle did an outstanding job researching and writing about how our government officials handled such turbulent times. They not only dealt with the World War II on both the Pacific and European fronts, but also our inner turmoil starting with isolationists who did not want any part of this war (even after the bombing of Pearl Harbor), racism within the armed services and without, as well as the controversial Japanese internments. So many things were wrong, but Republicans like Henry Stimson and Democrats like the president put their differences aside, listened to each other, and worked together. Roosevelt even called upon Wendell Willkie, his Republican challenger for the presidency. Did they do everything right? Unfortunately, no, but they respected each other and knew that with that mutual respect and open communication, they could do great things and they did. I sincerely believe that this book should be required reading for all of our so-called leaders who do nothing but name-call and lay blame. Today, party loyalties seem to come before the needs of America. As the old saying goes: "United we stand; divided we fall." And we are falling. I was planning on giving this book five stars until I got to the Epilogue and the author went on a political rant. Sometimes being subtle is simply more effective. We could all learn a lesson from FDR's playbook.
Was this review helpful?
Peter Shinkle’s “Uniting America” sounded interesting, with hopefully enough substance to increase the basics I possess concerning this era in history. There are over one thousand footnotes, usually a good sign as research should serve to bolster the author’s claims.

Choosing a Republican for a Cabinet post, while not something that happens with every administration, is an excellent idea if you hope to unite the two major political parties during a dangerous time in history. Bringing three on board could be reasoned as genius. Republican Henry Stimson, tapped to work as the Secretary of War, is not a radical pick for President Roosevelt. “Stimson represented a brand of progressive Republican whose internationalist views often agreed with [New York] Times editorials.” At the same time, Stimson did criticize the domestic path FDR had taken, stating “national strength is not prompted by an extravagance which comes dangerously near the impairment of our national credit. National unity is not promoted by appeals to class spirit. Nor is it promoted by methods which tend to disrupt the patriotism of either party or the effective cooperation of the two, upon which the coordinate working of the American Government depends.” If the author intended for his book to unite the parties while in the midst of the current fractious nature of our government’s leadership, one may wish for 21st Century leaders to bravely step forward and echo Stimson’s words.

Mr. Shinkle says he hopes for an America that will unite to defend this country. I, too, have said the same. In his epilogue, he unleashed a blistering attack with statements guaranteed to inflame the hearts and minds of millions who do not agree with his printed words. I will stand up and fight for his right to speak his mind. At the same time, there is not one grain of compromise in what he says and thus he courts failure. All the pages I read previous to his last words are now visible under a new light. Is FDR the man the author described as having a “…practiced hand at building alliances across dividing lines,” or could a different writer interpret those actions as ones coming from a cunning politician, someone who above everyone else had his own goals always in mind? Consider that FDR worked toward moving all liberal politicians (both Democratic and Republican) to FDR’s party while combining conservative Republicans with the Southern Democrats “…who supported segregation and white supremacy.” Stimson is one of those Progressive Republicans FDR would have liked in the new Democrat Party.

Mr. Shinkle does caution the readers that “…any errors in this book, as well as any opinions, are mine alone.” I wish Mr. Shinkle would have chosen to not compose an epilogue or, if he felt he had to, would have tempered his actions to match those of his hero, FDR. For the history alone I would recommend folks to read this book and then – if you wish – examine it and determine its value using your own criteria. Three stars.

My thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a complimentary electronic copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
In 1940, Americans embraced isolationism. The horrible losses of WWI were still fresh. What business did we have ‘saving’ Europe in the first place? America First advocates included prominent men like Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford. Fascism was taking over Europe with Mussolini in Italy and Hitler in Germany. Some thought fascism was the inevitable next step, like Joseph P. Kennedy believed while serving as ambassador to Britain, or that there was no stopping Hitler anyway so why try. And besides, for capitalists, it was better than communism.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was up for reelection in1940 and feared the Republicans would choose an isolationist challenger. If America did not aid the allies, Nazis would take over all of Europe. And they might not stop there.

FDR came up with a bold plan. It was an idea that seems incomprehensible in today’s political climate. He would unite America by his example. His cabinet would be bipartisan. He appointed Republicans to his cabinet; Henry Stimson who was secretary of state under President Hoover, and Frank Knox, the 1936 vice presidential nominee would be secretary of the navy–the post FDR himself once held.

In an unexpected move, the Republicans nominated Wendell Willkie as their nominee. As Republicans in FDR’s government reached out to their party’s liberals, Willkie became an ally as well, even agreeing to not attack specific FDR policies while on the campaign trail.

Shinkle shares Stimson’s diary and documents to support the history he writes about, and yet it almost defies belief. At the end of the book, he shares that subsequent presidents used bipartisanship—or not, in the case of Donald Trump.

Stimson played a pivotal role in FDR’s government. He had been a critic of the New Deal, and would challenge FDR when needed. He had supported President Wilson’s declaration of war in 1917. And he supported ending the Neutrality Act which curtailed American aid or financial transactions with any foreign country at war. Under this law, America could not aid a country that was attacked by an aggressor. He supported American intervention in Europe and promoted FDR’s policies of lend-lease, and later the draft.

The battles they fought were rife with conflict. FDR was under pressure to Integrate the army, with a planned march on Washington forcing his hand. The integration of war industries led to white violence against blacks. These policies led to Southern Democrats to leave the party.

With FDR’s death in office, Stimson was sidelined by President Truman. The history suggests the use of the atom bomb was unnecessary. Stimson urged Truman to share the weapon with the allies to prevent a “secret armament race;” as we well know, Truman ignored that advice and we have lived with an arms race ever since.

FDR and Willkie had discussed reshaping the political parties after the war, moving the liberals of each party to the Democratic side and the conservatives to the Republican side. Their early deaths prevented them from following their plan, but their vision proved to be inevitable.

Shinkle reminds that there are some embers burning of bipartisanship today, but to save American democracy, President Biden and Republicans must be willing to “look beyond the narrow interests of political parties” to do “what is right for the country and democracy.”

It’s an amazing story about amazing men, the like of which we have not seen in a long time.

I received a free egalley from the publisher through NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased.
Was this review helpful?
This is an excellent history of the relationship between FDR and Henry Stimson his Republican Secretary of War. They worked well together as a team, not always agreeing, prior to and during World War II. Stimson used his long relationships with Republicans in Congress to slowly get the majority of them on board with the need to begin a buildup in defense spending prior to the war and then helping to deter efforts to second guess the strategies used during World War II without always agreeing with them himself. This is well written and researched book making it an enjoyable read.

I received a free ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Facebook and my nonfiction book review blog.
Was this review helpful?
This book proved to be much more compelling than I thought it might be. I really appreciated the citation of so much primary source material and the direct quotes from the individuals involved. The author did a great job of showing the political balancing act that FDR and Stimson spearheaded throughout FDR's presidency. I think this book can offer its readers a timely reminder of the importance of compromise and working across party lines for the betterment of the nation.
Was this review helpful?
“Uniting America: How FDR and Henry Stimson Brought Democrats and Republicans Together to Win World War II” by Peter Shinkle is a great book. Having read many books on both FDR and World War II I did not think there would be anything new I could learn, well I was wrong. There are a number of insights that are presented for the first time about the War and how FDR handled a number of issues. 
Anyone that wants to see how people can work together regardless of their party affiliation needs to read this book. Clearly collaboration is not only possible but imperative to deal with the issues that we’re facing in our country both then and now. Neither man got what he wanted at times and they both understood the political climate and how it limited the options that were available for them. 
There were times where they disagreed and it could have impacted the way they worked together but they had respect and trust for each other after having work together. 
Some of the hurdles that they faced was dealing with Churchill and making attack plans for the war, how to address the holocaust and dealing with the isolationist. But they remained partners and together saved Democracy and fought back fascism.  
This was a great read and I highly recommend it. The book is very well written and it is clear that a lot of research has been done.
Was this review helpful?
Uniting America by Peter Shinkle On many levels this was an interesting, informative book to read. The main story concerns the political partnership between Henry Stimson a Republican and Franklin Roosevelt a Democrat during the late 1930’s through WW II. Mr. Shinkle does an excellent job in describing the advantage to both for the cooperation on difficult political subjects. FDR in spite of his significant wins and super majorities in both Houses of Congress often did not lead but waited for the country to catch up to what he would then proposes. This was especially the case for moving the country away from being Isolationists and not preparing for WW II. Stimson helped provide him cover with the Republicans by being for the Draft and a major expansion of funds to build up the military. This was also true for helping to get the votes to repeal the laws that prevented the US from a government as well as from private industry selling weapons, food, oil and other supplies to the victim in the wars breaking out between Japan and China or Germany and the UK.  One point new to me was that it was Stimson who went the England, met with Churchill prior to D-Day and came back and convinced FDR that the leader for the invasion could not be a British General as they were still in shock and denial from Dunkirk. FDR was able to convince Churchill that it should be an American and this is how it came to be that Eisenhower was in charge. If I find one fault with the book it is Mr. Shinkle is by profession a journalist and the writing is very fact based with punchy short sentences and paragraphs. I would have like the book more if there was a bit more story telling or speculation. There is a degree in writing now called creative non-fiction. I think this is a book that could use a sprinkle of creative flow to this interesting time.
Was this review helpful?