American Warlords

Jonathan W. Jordan

Jonathan W. Jordan delves into the inner workings of the Washington DC establishment during World War II. The book highlights the key figures, or “warlords,” who surrounded President Franklin D. Roosevelt and played pivotal roles in shaping America’s path to victory. Jordan sheds light on the complexities of the era, making the events engaging and accessible to readers. For me, as a non-American reader the explanations of the inner workings of Washington DC were helpfull in gaining a deeper understanding of the dynamics and decision-making processes during that time. Jordan quotes from letters, journals, and diaries, adding a layer of insight into the personalities, motivations, and political maneuverings of the influential figures discussed in the book.

Throughout the narrative, Jordan also examines the differences in policy between FDR and Winston Churchill. For me it was revealing to read how Churchill, unlike Roosevelt, was actively involved in strategic matters, which sometimes caused frustration among both American and British officials. He demonstrates how the “warlords” emerged as capable leaders, able to effectively work with FDR and influence the war’s direction. This evolution allowed them to successfully navigate the differences in policy between the American and British leadership which led to a more balanced and collaborative approach between the two allies, with the Americans gaining a stronger voice in decision-making.

This is a story about the “warlords,” the small group of men surrounding FDR but for me, the main character was Roosevelt himself. From his oval office desk FDR could pull many levers of power but most of those levers wouldn’t change events for months sometimes years. He could replace the men in charge, shift production or approve a new bomber program but those ships and bombers would not appear for many months and it would be even more months before they could be taken into battle by experienced men. As a president, FDR had to fix his sights to frontlines that were 1-3 years distant while the wars effect on the nation would last much longer. The genious in Roosevelt’s approach was finding a group of fighters, meddling when he needed to meddle and letting them do their jobs when he didn’t. All of them were stubborn and headstrong, and the ability of Roosevelt to navigate through these dangerous waters by persuasing and compromise, building personal relationships and behind-the-scenes negotiations made Roosevelt the righ man for the job. Losses in lives were mounting every day and those who survived would one day return to their daily life expect to be able to live a productive life. This was perhaps the greatest accomplishment of FDR: a new and vibrant America was awakening: fifteen millions Americans had left their homes to work in the war industry, 12 million more had served in the Army, Navy and Air Force, America’s GNP had more than doubled and the GI bill had thrown open the doors to the middle class that served America. A world of opportunities and dangers that awaited her.

These men weathered storms of defeat, recremenation, professional bias, personality differences and political division. They came together to defeat two of history’s murderous empiresand changed the face of their world. And they did it without suspending the system that has characterized American democracy since the founding of the republic.

“American Warlords” provides a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the strategic leadership during World War II. It highlights how the combined efforts of the “warlords” and their increasing experience contributed to the ultimate Allied victory and the successful direction of the war effort.

  • Jonathan W. Jordan

    American Warlords: How Roosevelt’s High Command Led America to Victory in World War II

    ISBN: ‎ 9780451414571 | Pages: 624 pages | Publication date: May 5, 2015

    Buy on Amazon

Photo credit: National Museum of the U.S. Navy (link)


President Franklin Roosevelt’s inner circle of military leadership, the team of rivals who shaped World War II and America.

— Bill
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