I have read many biographies of both Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston S. Churchill over the years. Nearly all of them include information about how these two extraordinary leaders worked together during World War II, but, until recently, I have found no book that takes on the singular challenge of exploring the Churchill-Roosevelt personal relationship in depth – that is, until I discovered “Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship” by Jon Meacham.
First published in 2003, “Franklin and Winston” is the second book written by former “Newsweek” editor Jon Meacham. In it, Meacham examines closely the relationship that sprang up between U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill. They had first met in 1918, during a visit by Roosevelt to Britain. (At that time, both men held minor posts in their respective governments.) Churchill claims to have vividly remembered the meeting and liking FDR very much; Roosevelt only remembered that his first impression of Churchill was not a very positive one.
Using a wide variety of sources, including letters and telegrams between Churchill and Roosevelt, as well as letters, diaries, and interviews with those closest to the two leaders, Meacham paints a vivid portrait of a friendship that was largely initiated by Churchill. He knew that Britain could only survive the Nazi onslaught if (and when) the United States entered the war. He began “wooing” the American president to his cause through a series of transatlantic letters and telegrams. Roosevelt, impressed with Churchill’s eloquence and dogged determination to defeat Hitler, proved receptive to Churchill’s entreaties.
As a result, Churchill and Roosevelt visited several times during the war years. At first, the friendship was mutually warm. However, as Meacham points out, it cooled off, mainly because Roosevelt distanced himself from Churchill.
“Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship” by Jon Meacham is a superb account of the four years in which FDR and Winston Churchill worked together – as leaders of their respective nations and as friends – to ensure Allied victory over Germany and Japan in World War II. Readers who wish to learn about this extraordinary friendship between a President and a Prime Minister will find this informative and entertaining book very much to their liking. Highly recommended.