Pearl Harbor Christmas author coming to Hyde Park

Wreckage-strewn Naval Air Station at Pearl Harbor following the Japanese attack on the morning of December 7, 1941. In the background, an explosion sends a mass of flames and smoke high into the sky. (FDR Presidential Library)

In commemoration of National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum will present a discussion with historian Stanley Weintraub, author of Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, December 1941 at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 7 in the Henry A. Wallace Center at the FDR Presidential Library and Home in Hyde Park. Following the presentation, Professor Weintraub will be available to sign copies of his book, available for purchase at the event. Admission is free and open to the public.

In Pearl Harbor Christmas, Weintraub recounts the events of the holiday season of 1941 in the days immediately following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt wanted a few weeks to get his thoughts in order and prepare the nation for what lay ahead, but British prime minister Winston Churchill – who for months had been pleading with the US to enter the war – insisted on coming to the White House to discuss strategy with his new ally.

On December 13, 1941, Churchill set out to cross a rough Atlantic at great personal risk, with the waters a virtual shooting gallery for German submarines. When he reached dry land on December 22, Roosevelt was there waiting for him, leaning against his black limousine (which the Treasury Department had confiscated from Al Capone). As Weintraub explains, to be met by FDR himself was “an unusual honor for a head of government, especially when proffered by a long-incapacitated president.” It spoke volumes about the severity of the situation.

Pearl Harbor Christmas documents the week of discussions that ensued between President Roosevelt and Churchill, juxtaposing them with accounts of events happening throughout the rest of the world: Japan still rejoicing in its victory, the countries of Europe stifled under Nazi occupation. It also chronicles meetings that the two leaders had with foreign envoys, including one in the Red Room lasting only 38 minutes and attended by the diplomatic heads of nations at war with the Axis powers that led, within the week, to the declaration initiating the United Nations.

Weintraub is an award-winning author of more than 50 books of history and biography, including Eleven Days in December: Disraeli and Final Victory. He retired from Penn State University as an Evan Hugh professor emeritus and director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanistic Studies there as well.

The FDR Presidential Library is one of 13 presidential libraries administered by the National Archives and Records Administration. With a newly renovated building and new permanent museum exhibits slated to open on June 30, 2013, the Library seeks to honor President Roosevelt’s vision.

 

Discussion with historian Stanley Weintraub, author of Pearl Harbor Christmas: A World at War, Friday, December 7, 7 p.m., free, Henry A. Wallace Center, 4079 Albany Post Road, Hyde Park; (845) 486-7770, https://fdrlibrary.marist.edu.

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