1940 FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election amid the Storm Susan Dunn

Publication date:
04 Jun 2013
Yale University Press
432 pages: 235 x 156 x 29mm
16 b/w illus.

In 1940, against the explosive backdrop of the Nazi onslaught in Europe, two farsighted candidates for the U.S. presidency—Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, running for an unprecedented third term, and talented Republican businessman Wendell Willkie—found themselves on the defensive against American isolationists and their charismatic spokesman Charles Lindbergh, who called for surrender to Hitler's demands. In this dramatic account of that turbulent and consequential election, historian Susan Dunn brings to life the debates, the high-powered players, and the dawning awareness of the Nazi threat as the presidential candidates engaged in their own battle for supremacy.
1940 not only explores the contest between FDR and Willkie but also examines the key preparations for war that went forward, even in the midst of that divisive election season. The book tells an inspiring story of the triumph of American democracy in a world reeling from fascist barbarism, and it offers a compelling alternative scenario to today’s hyperpartisan political arena, where common ground seems unattainable.

Susan Dunn is the Third Century Professor of Humanities at Williams College. She is the author of a dozen books, including The Three Roosevelts, cowritten with James MacGregor Burns, and Roosevelt’s Purge, winner of the Henry Adams Prize and a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in history. She lives in Williamstown, MA.

"A brilliant portrait of an America in transition. . . . Captivating. . . . Few years turn out to be as perilous as 1940, or as portentous."—David M. Shribman, Wall Street Journal

"Susan Dunn's gripping book shows us that the further we get from 1940, the more obvious it is that this moment was a turning point for Western civilization.  With fresh research and original insights, Dunn allows us to watch and assess such figures as FDR, Hitler and Churchill, Charles Lindbergh, Wendell Willkie, Henry Wallace, Joseph Kennedy and others as they play out their roles, large and small, in the horrifying, onrushing drama.  Anyone today who believes that U.S. involvement and the ultimate Allied triumph in World War II was inevitable must read this important history."—Michael Beschloss, New York Times bestselling author of Presidential Courage

Susan Dunn, a prolific and outstanding historian, has crafted a fast-paced, serious, and extraordinarily well-researched book about the events surrounding the pivotal 1940 election. Her main characters—FDR, Wendell Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—come brilliantly to life. I could hardly put the book down." —James T. Patterson, author of Bancroft Prize-winning Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 

“1940 is a useful account of an important time in American history.”—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post

“Susan Dunn’s 1940: FDR, Willkie, Lindbergh, Hitler—the Election Amid the Storm delivers a richly detailed Making of the President–style look back at the 1940 race.”—Marc Wortman, The Daily Beast

“A warmly characterized study of Franklin Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie as they battled for the presidency of 1940 within a yawning national chasm over the war. . . Dunn paints a lively portrait of the many currents during the year. . . A sympathetic, entertaining portrayal of two presidential opponents and ultimate colleagues.”—Kirkus Reviews

“[A] gripping narrative that both scholars and presidential history buffs will enjoy.”—Library Journal

“Some elections really are watersheds. A gripping narrative of the dramatic 1940 contest for the White House.”—Harvard magazine

“Dunn superbly depicts the 1940 election between Roosevelt, who was seeking an unprecedented third term, and his internationalist Republican opponent, Wendell Willkie.”—Jacob Heilbrunn, New York Times Book Review (cover review, Editor's Choice selection)

“Indeed, in subtle but sophisticated fashion, Dunn offers a celebratory account of the triumph of American democracy, showing the importance of moderation and compromise to the successful functioning of politics in the country. Her book is required reading for political historians of modern America.”—Nancy Beck Younger, University of Houston