Today, we think of World War II as the “good war” — a necessary conflict to save Western civilization from the evil of Nazi Germany. But in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor, author Lynne Olson argued in this presentation to the Washington History Seminar, the extent of that evil was not as obvious as it is now. From 1939 to 1941, millions of Americans were swept up in a passionate, bitterly fought debate over what America’s role should be in the war. Should the country forsake its traditional isolationism and come to the aid of Britain, then on the brink of defeat by Hitler? Or should it go further and enter the war? At stake was not only Britain’s survival but the very shape and future of America.
Before Lynne Olson began writing books full time, she worked more than ten years as a journalist, including stints as Moscow correspondent for the Associated Press and White House correspondent for the Baltimore Sun. Author of six works of history, she has been described by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as “our era’s foremost chronicler of World War II politics and diplomacy.” Her books include the national bestseller Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood With Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour. Her latest, Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America’s Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941, was a New York Times bestseller and was named by the Times as one of its 100 Notable Books of 2013.