Rendezvous with Destiny by Michael Fullilove
How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 4 Critic Reviews

Nicely drawn portraits by an authoritative historian.


The remarkable untold story of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the five extraordinary men he used to pull America into World War II

In the dark days between Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent five remarkable men on dramatic and dangerous missions to Europe. The missions were highly unorthodox and they confounded and infuriated diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic. Their importance is little understood to this day. In fact, they were crucial to the course of the Second World War.

The envoys were magnificent, unforgettable characters. First off the mark was Sumner Welles, the chilly, patrician under secretary of state, later ruined by his sexual misdemeanors, who was dispatched by FDR on a tour of European capitals in the spring of 1940. In summer of that year, after the fall of France, William “Wild Bill” Donovan—war hero and future spymaster—visited a lonely United Kingdom at the president’s behest to determine whether she could hold out against the Nazis. Donovan’s report helped convince FDR that Britain was worth backing.

After he won an unprecedented third term in November 1940, Roosevelt threw a lifeline to the United Kingdom in the form of Lend-Lease and dispatched three men to help secure it. Harry Hopkins, the frail social worker and presidential confidant, was sent to explain Lend-Lease to Winston Churchill. Averell Harriman, a handsome, ambitious railroad heir, served as FDR’s man in London, expediting Lend-Lease aid and romancing Churchill’s daughter-in-law. Roosevelt even put to work his rumpled, charismatic opponent in the 1940 presidential election, Wendell Willkie, whose visit lifted British morale and won wary Americans over to the cause. Finally, in the aftermath of Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union, Hopkins returned to London to confer with Churchill and traveled to Moscow to meet with Joseph Stalin. This final mission gave Roosevelt the confidence to bet on the Soviet Union.

The envoys’ missions took them into the middle of the war and exposed them to the leading figures of the age. Taken together, they plot the arc of America’s trans¬formation from a divided and hesitant middle power into the global leader. At the center of everything, of course, was FDR himself, who moved his envoys around the globe with skill and élan.

We often think of Harry S. Truman, George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and George F. Kennan as the authors of America’s global primacy in the second half of the twentieth century. But all their achievements were enabled by the earlier work of Roosevelt and his representatives, who took the United States into the war and, by defeating domestic isolationists and foreign enemies, into the world. In these two years, America turned. FDR and his envoys were responsible for the turn. Drawing on vast archival research, Rendezvous with Destiny is narrative history at its most delightful, stirring, and important.

About Michael Fullilove

See more books from this Author
MICHAEL FULLILOVE is the executive director of the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. A Rhodes scholar and former prime ministerial adviser, he writes widely on global issues for publications such as The New York Times, Financial Times, The Daily Beast, and Foreign Affairs.
Published April 24, 2013 by e-penguin. 486 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, War. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Rendezvous with Destiny
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Above average
Reviewed by David Nasaw on Jul 26 2013

By organizing his narrative around five men, four of whom were announced interventionists...Fullilove misses much of the drama then playing out...

Read Full Review of Rendezvous with Destiny: How ... | See more reviews from NY Times

WSJ online

Above average
Reviewed by JORDAN CHANDLER HIRSCH on Jul 24 2013

In an age obsessed with "signals intelligence" and Big Data, Mr. Fullilove's account provides a welcome reminder of the value of on-the-ground reporting. Roosevelt's envoys understood the importance of the driest detail, but they gave atmosphere the greatest weight.

Read Full Review of Rendezvous with Destiny: How ... | See more reviews from WSJ online


on Apr 29 2013

Nicely drawn portraits by an authoritative historian.

Read Full Review of Rendezvous with Destiny: How ... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Financial Times

Reviewed by Kurt M Campbell on Jul 26 2013

In Rendezvous with Destiny, Fullilove delivers a rare combination of diplomatic thriller and original history, well-paced and expertly told.

Read Full Review of Rendezvous with Destiny: How ... | See more reviews from Financial Times

Reader Rating for Rendezvous with Destiny

An aggregated and normalized score based on 61 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes

Rate this book!

Add Review