Christmas 1941 came little more than two weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The shock—in some cases overseas, elation—was worldwide. While Americans attempted to go about celebrating as usual, the reality of the just-declared war was on everybody’s mind. United States troops on Wake Island were battling a Japanese landing force and, in the Philippines, losing the fight to save Luzon. In Japan, the Pearl Harbor strike force returned to Hiroshima Bay and toasted its sweeping success. Across the Atlantic, much of Europe was frozen in grim Nazi occupation.
Just three days before Christmas, Churchill surprised Roosevelt with an unprecedented trip to Washington, where they jointly lit the White House Christmas tree. As the two Allied leaders met to map out a winning wartime strategy, the most remarkable Christmas of the century played out across the globe.
Pearl Harbor Christmas is a deeply moving and inspiring story about what it was like to live through a holiday season few would ever forget.
A minor genre, the day-by-day chronicle, receives a fine addition as veteran historian Weintraub (15 Stars: Eisenhower, MacArthur, Marshall, etc.) devotes a chapter each to the last 10 days of 1941 plus New Year s Day. He describes the Wehrmacht s epic winter debacle in Russia and Japan s advances across Asia with dazzling detail. The primary focus, however, remains on events in Washington enlivened by the presence of Churchill, who invited himself shortly after Pearl Harbor. A reluctant Roosevelt would have preferred to use the time to organize the nation for war; nevertheless, he welcomed the prime minister. Roy Jenkins, a later cabinet member, compared Churchill to a real-life version of The Man Who Came to Dinner. U.S. brass worried about FDR s susceptibility to his famous charisma which was on full display as Churchill extended his stay in the White House, captivated the media, and delivered stirring addresses to Congress and radio audiences. Weintraub does not exaggerate what followed, but readers will enjoy his opinionated portraits of the allied leaders as they hammered out strategy, much of which was rendered irrelevant by subsequent events. Photos.