One of WW2 Reads "Top 20 Must-Read WWII Books of 2018" • A Christian Science Monitor Best Book of September • One of The Progressive's "Favorite Books of 2018"
The gripping and little known story of the fight for the allegiance of Latin America during World War II
The Tango War by Mary Jo McConahay fills an important gap in WWII history. Beginning in the thirties, both sides were well aware of the need to control not just the hearts and minds but also the resources of Latin America. The fight was often dirty: residents were captured to exchange for U.S. prisoners of war and rival spy networks shadowed each other across the continent. At all times it was a Tango War, in which each side closely shadowed the other’s steps.
Though the Allies triumphed, at the war’s inception it looked like the Axis would win. A flow of raw materials in the Southern Hemisphere, at a high cost in lives, was key to ensuring Allied victory, as were military bases supporting the North African campaign, the Battle of the Atlantic and the invasion of Sicily, and fending off attacks on the Panama Canal. Allies secured loyalty through espionage and diplomacy—including help from Hollywood and Mickey Mouse—while Jews and innocents among ethnic groups —Japanese, Germans—paid an unconscionable price. Mexican pilots flew in the Philippines and twenty-five thousand Brazilians breached the Gothic Line in Italy. The Tango War also describes the machinations behind the greatest mass flight of criminals of the century, fascists with blood on their hands who escaped to the Americas.
A true, shocking account that reads like a thriller, The Tango War shows in a new way how WWII was truly a global war.
Journalist McConahay (Ricochet: Two War Reporters and a Friendship Under Fire) tells the gripping and often overlooked history of Latin America during World War II. Despite its proximity to the United States, it was by no means a given that the region would side with the Allies many ethnic Germans, Italians, and Japanese lived in the region, Axis airlines ruled Latin skies until 1941, and Latin oil flowed to Fascist forces. With great verve and detail, McConahay recounts the reverberating "shadow war for the Western hemisphere": the competition for control of the region's airways early in the war; the dramatic rivalry over its strategic resources; the vast surveillance networks constructed by both sides throughout the continent; thrillingly told espionage and propaganda operations; Atlantic sea battles; the U.S. program of political kidnappings of civilians whose ancestors came from Axis countries; and the flight of both Jewish refugees and fascist criminals to the region. McConahay brings in a wide cast, among them Japanese-Peruvian detainees, Brazilian soldiers, Nelson Rockefeller, and spies such as the Canadian-born British intelligence agent William Stephenson. Throughout, McConahay reminds readers of the damage the U.S. has wrought in the region over two centuries. This lively book, driven by colorful personalities, strikes the ideal balance between informative and entertaining.