Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath

George H. Nash, ed.

Hoover Institution Press, 2011     Amazon.com

Book Description:

The culmination of an extraordinary literary project that Herbert Hoover launched during World War II, his “magnum opus” – at last published nearly fifty years after its completion – offers a revisionist reexamination of the war and its cold war aftermath and a sweeping indictment of the “lost statesmanship” of Franklin Roosevelt. Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath originated as a volume of Hoover’s memoirs, a book initially focused on his battle against President Roosevelt’s foreign policies before Pearl Harbor. As time went on, however, Hoover widened his scope to include Roosevelt’s foreign policies during the war, as well as the war’s consequences: the expansion of the Soviet empire at war’s end and the eruption of the cold war against the Communists.

On issue after issue, Hoover raises crucial questions that continue to be debated to this day. Did Franklin Roosevelt deceitfully maneuver the United States into an undeclared and unconstitutional naval war with Germany in 1941? Did he unnecessarily appease Joseph Stalin at the pivotal Tehran conference in 1943? Did communist agents and sympathizers in the White House, Department of State, and Department of the Treasury play a malign role in some of America’s wartime decisions? Hoover raises numerous arguments that challenge us to think again about our past. Whether or not one ultimately accepts his arguments, the exercise of confronting them will be worthwhile to all.

From the Back Cover:
Herbert Hoover’s magnum opus – part memoir, part diplomatic history – raises questions that continue to be debated to this day

A window on the mind and worldview of one of the twentieth century’s preeminent leaders, Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath represents the culmination of an extraordinary literary project that Herbert Hoover launched during World War II. At last published nearly fifty years after its completion – Hoover’s “magnum opus,” as it has been called, offers a revisionist reexamination of the war and its cold war aftermath and a sweeping indictment of the “lost statesmanship” of Franklin Roosevelt.

Freedom Betrayed originated as a volume of Hoover’s memoirs, a book initially focused on his battle against President Roosevelt’s foreign policies before Pearl Harbor. As time went on, however, Hoover widened his scope to include Roosevelt’s foreign policies during the war, as well as the war’s consequences: the expansion of the Soviet empire at war’s end and the eruption of the cold war against the Communists. On issue after issue, Hoover raises crucial questions that continue to be debated to this day – in the process offering many arguments that challenge us to see our past in a different light. Whether or not one ultimately accepts his arguments, the exercise of confronting them will be worthwhile to all.

Herbert Hoover (1874–1964) was president of the United States from 1929 to 1933. An internationally acclaimed humanitarian, he was the author of more than thirty books and founder of the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace.

From the Inside Flap:

Nearly seventy years ago, during World War II, Hoover began to scribble the first words of what was later to be called his “magnum opus.” He did so in the shadow of three great disappointments: his inability to win the Republican nomination in 1940; his failed crusade to keep the United States out of World War II; and his frustrated bid to become the Great Humanitarian in Europe for a second time. But after a career extraordinarily rich in achievement and honors, only one accomplishment eluded him at the end: the publication of this book, Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath. After Hoover’s death, his heirs decided not to publish his magnum opus. Since then, for nearly half a century, it has remained in storage, unavailable for examination – until now.

In this book, perhaps the most ambitious and systematic work of World War II revisionism ever attempted, Hoover offers his frank evaluation of Roosevelt’s foreign policies before Pearl Harbor and policies during the war, as well as an examination of the war’s consequences, including the expansion of the Soviet empire at war’s end and the eruption of the cold war against the Communists. Throughout the work, Hoover raises critical questions, many of which are still under scrutiny today: Did Franklin Roosevelt deceitfully maneuver the United States into an undeclared and unconstitutional naval war with Germany in 1941? Did he unnecessarily appease Joseph Stalin at the pivotal Tehran conference in 1943? Was Roosevelt’s wartime policy of “unconditional surrender” a blunder? Did communist agents and sympathizers in the White House, Department of State, and Department of the Treasury play a malign role in some of America’s wartime decisions?

On these and other controversies Freedom Betrayed: Herbert Hoover’s Secret History of the Second World War and Its Aftermath takes it stand. Hoover’s work reflects the foreign policy thinking not just of himself but of many American opinion makers during his lifetime and beyond. As such, it is a document with which we should be acquainted today. The intrinsic interest of Hoover’s book remains strong, in part because it insistently raises issues – in some cases moral issues – with whose consequences we live even now.

Reviews:

“What an amazing historical find! Historian George H. Nash, the dean of Herbert Hoover studies, has brought forth a very rare manuscript in Freedom Betrayed. Here is Hoover unplugged, delineating on everything from the ‘lost statesmanship’ of FDR to the Korean War. A truly invaluable work of presidential history. Highly recommended.”  Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and editor of The Reagan Diaries

“Finally, after waiting for close to half a century, we now have Hoover’s massive and impassioned account of American foreign policy from 1933 to the early 1950s. Thanks to the efforts of George H. Nash, there exists an unparalleled picture of Hoover’s world view, one long shared by many conservatives. Nash’s thorough and perceptive introduction shows why he remains America’s leading Hoover scholar.” Justus D. Doenecke, author of Storm on the Horizon: The Challenge to American Intervention, 1939–1941

“A forcefully argued and well documented alternative to, and critique of, the conventional liberal historical narrative of America’s road to war and its war aims.  Even readers comfortable with the established account will find themselves thinking that on some points the accepted history should be reconsidered and perhaps revised.”  John Earl Haynes, author of Spies: The Rise and Fall of the KGB in America

Freedom Betrayed offers vivid proof of William Faulkner’s famous dictum that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” For those who might think that history has settled the mantle of consensus around the events of the World War II era, Hoover’s iconoclastic narrative will come as an unsettling reminder that much controversy remains. By turns quirky and astute, in prose that is often acerbic and unfailingly provocative, Hoover opens some old wounds and inflicts a few new ones of his own, while assembling a passionate case for the tragic errors of Franklin Roosevelt’s diplomacy. Not all readers will be convinced, but Freedom Betrayed is must-read for anyone interested in the most consequential upheaval of the twentieth century.”  David M. Kennedy, professor of history emeritus at Stanford University and the author of Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945

“Herbert Hoover’s Freedom Betrayed is a bracing work of historical revisionism that takes aim at U.S. foreign policy under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  Part memoir and part diplomatic history, Hoover’s magnum opus seeks to expose the “lost statesmanship” that, in Hoover’s eyes, needlessly drew the United States into the Second World War and, in the aftermath, facilitated the rise to global power of its ideological rival, the Soviet Union.  Freedom Betrayed, as George Nash asserts in his astute and authoritative introduction, resembles a prosecutor’s brief against Roosevelt – and against Winston Churchill as well – at the bar of history.  Thanks to Nash’s impressive feat of reconstruction, Hoover’s “thunderbolt” now strikes – nearly a half-century after it was readied.  The former president’s interpretation of the conduct and consequences of the Second World War will not entirely persuade most readers.  Yet, as Nash testifies, like the best kind of revisionist history, Freedom Betrayed “challenges us to think afresh about our past.” Bertrand M. Patenaude, author of A Wealth of Ideas: Revelations from the Hoover Institution Archives

“Nearly fifty years after his death, Herbert Hoover returns as the ultimate revisionist historian, prosecuting his heavily documented indictment of US foreign policy before, during, and after the Second World War. Brilliantly edited by George Nash, Freedom Betrayed is as passionate as it is provocative. Many no doubt will dispute Hoover’s strategic vision. But few can dispute the historical significance of this unique volume, published even as Americans of the twenty-first century debate their moral and military obligations.”  Richard Norton Smith, presidential historian and author, former director of several presidential libraries, and current scholar-in-residence at George Mason University

About the Editor:

George H. Nash is a historian, lecturer, and authority on the life of Herbert Hoover. His publications include three volumes of a definitive, scholarly biography of Hoover and the monograph Herbert Hoover and Stanford University, as well as numerous articles in scholarly and popular journals. A specialist in twentieth-century political and intellectual history, Nash is also the author of The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America since 1945 and Reappraising the Right: The Past and Future of American Conservatism. A graduate of Amherst College and holder of a PhD in history from Harvard University, he received the Richard M. Weaver Prize for Scholarly Letters in 2008. He lives in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

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