FIRST OF ITS KIND: This is the first book to grapple with Admiral Leahy’s unprecedented power in wartime Washington and his enormous impact on Roosevelt’s presidency and the war.
UNDISPUTED RANK: Of the officers elevated to five stars during the war, Admiral Leahy was deliberately promoted first, over all others—making him the highest-ranking American military officer ever until George Washington’s posthumous sixth star in 1976.
NEW PRIMARY SOURCES: O’Brien has combined Leahy’s personal diaries, two large collections of official documents from Leahy’s offices, and rarely cited papers from his time as Roosevelt’s chief of staff to write this one-of-a-kind study of wartime political power.
“Whether it’s the conferences at Tehran, Yalta, or Potsdam, Admiral Leahy stands out in the iconic photographs, in full uniform, just behind the Big Three. Why, though, was he there, and in so many other places that shaped the conduct of World War II and the early Cold War? As if more impressed by the uniform than by the man, historians until now have struggled to say. Phillips Payson O’Brien’s biography at last gives Leahy his due, and in doing so shifts our understanding of the other great figures of that era. We’re all going to have some serious rethinking to do.”—John Lewis Gaddis, professor of military and naval history at Yale University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of George F. Kennan: An American Life
“With his fascinating new biography of Admiral William D. Leahy, Phillips Payson O’Brien takes readers behind the closed doors of Franklin Roosevelt’s White House to reveal how the biggest strategic decisions of World War II were actually made. The Second Most Powerful Man in the World greatly enriches our understanding of Washington wartime power.”—Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
“Phillips Payson O’Brien’s The Second Most Powerful Man in the World is a beautifully written and thoroughly researched biography of Admiral William D. Leahy. In so many ways, Leahy was FDR’s indispensable strategist. In these pages are magnificent stories about Pearl Harbor, Vichy France, and Winston Churchill. Highly recommended!”—Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and New York Times bestselling author of Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America
“In the story of how Allied strategy was determined in World War II, there has long been a major gap. What made the relationship between Roosevelt and his Joint Chiefs actually tick? In this readable and revisionist biography of William D. Leahy, Phillips Payson O’Brien provides an answer that transforms our understanding of America’s wartime decision-making. Leahy has been hiding in plain sight. Now that he has found his spotlight, we shall need to rethink some of our most cherished assumptions.”—Hew Strachan, Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and author of The Direction of War
“A welcome biography of Franklin Roosevelt’s closest advisor…A lucid, opinionated life of a man who exerted far greater influence than historians give him credit for—and a book sure to invite spirited argument from historians who disagree.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Engaging…Excels at relating the political maneuvering that allowed [Leahy] to repeatedly upstage better-known historical figures including George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur…This is a solid and informative account of a relatively underdiscussed influence on Cold War policies, worldviews, and relationships that still matter today.”—Publishers Weekly
“An excellent biography of perhaps the most notable navy officer in American history, and one of the most important, if neglected, figures in World War II history.”—Library Journal
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