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Joseph Persico
Joseph Persico
Roosevelt’s Secret War:  FDR and World War II Espionage
ISBN: 0375502467
Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage
Despite all that has already been written on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Joseph Persico has uncovered a hitherto overlooked dimension of FDR's wartime leadership: his involvement in intelligence and espionage operations.

Roosevelt's Secret War is crowded with remarkable revelations:
-FDR wanted to bomb Tokyo before Pearl Harbor
-A defector from Hitler's inner circle reported directly to the Oval Office
-Roosevelt knew before any other world leader of Hitler's plan to invade Russia
-Roosevelt and Churchill concealed a disaster costing hundreds of British soldiers' lives in order to protect Ultra, the British codebreaking secret
-An unwitting Japanese diplomat provided the President with a direct pipeline into Hitler's councils

Roosevelt's Secret War also describes how much FDR had been told—before the Holocaust—about the coming fate of Europe's Jews. And Persico also provides a definitive answer to the perennial question Did FDR know in advance about the attack on Pearl Harbor?

By temperament and character, no American president was better suited for secret warfare than FDR. He manipulated, compartmentalized, dissembled, and misled, demonstrating a spymaster's talent for intrigue. He once remarked, "I never let my right hand know what my left hand does." Not only did Roosevelt create America's first central intelligence agency, the OSS, under "Wild Bill" Donovan, but he ran spy rings directly from the Oval Office, enlisting well-placed socialite friends.

FDR was also spied against. Roosevelt's Secret War presents evidence that the Soviet Union had a source inside the Roosevelt White House; that British agents fed FDR total fabrications to draw the United States into war; and that Roosevelt, by yielding to Churchill's demand that British scientists be allowed to work on the Manhattan Project, enabled the secrets of the bomb to be stolen. And these are only a few of the scores of revelations in this constantly surprising story of Roosevelt's hidden role in World War II.
—from the publisher's website
Roosevelt’s Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage
Program Air Date: November 11, 2001

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Joseph E. Persico, author of "Roosevelt's Secret War: FDR and World War II Espionage," when did you get the idea for this book?
Mr. JOSEPH PERSICO, AUTHOR, "ROOSEVELT'S SECRET WAR: FDR AND WORLD WAR II ESPIONAGE": Brian, I was a kid growing up during the Roosevelt era. He's always been a hero of mine. I wondered how I would be able someday to write a book about Franklin Roosevelt. I couldn't imagine there was anything that hadn't been said. I pulled up on the Internet the catalog of the Library of Congress and I went through it line by line and there were something like 600 books on Franklin D. Roosevelt. And I thought, `It's a--it's all said. But I've written a great deal about intelligence and maybe I could combine the two,' and there was nothing in this list of 600 books in the catalog about FDR and intelligence. My--my reaction was, `Joe, you are either brilliant and you've thought of something that nobody else could think of or you're a fool and you're wasting your time because there's no story.'
LAMB: So in the end, what--when did you start to see a--a story that had never been told?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I started going down, Brian, to Hyde Park, to the Roosevelt Archives. And it--I started virtually from ground zero. But as I started plowing through the papers of George Marshall, the papers of Bill Donovan and FDR's papers, I realized there were a lot of unst--untold stories and I was very encouraged to proceed.
LAMB: Let's pick one of those names, Bill Donovan. Who was he?
Mr. PERSICO: Bill Donovan was an authentic hero of World War I, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner, subsequently a vastly successful Wall Street lawyer. Now he becomes, in effect, the first head of a central intelligence agency in the United States. Franklin Roosevelt appoints him in the summer of 1941 as--what eventually becomes the Office of Strategic Services. Kind of a strange choice because Donovan was a staunch Republican, had run for governor of New York on an anti-Roosevelt, anti-New Deal platform. But he was also a man of irrepressible spirit, boundless optimism, full of ideas and, in a sense, he--he reflected the qualities of Franklin Roosevelt. So he was named the head of our first spy service.
LAMB: As you know, they called him Wild Bill Donovan. Tell us a wild story.
Mr. PERSICO: Well, one--one of the--one of the conclusions I reached about Donovan was that he was a magnificent magnet for attracting talent. His OSS attracted college presidents, semanticists, philosophers, writers, journalists, photographers, actors, cameramen. Arthur Goldberg had been an OSS veteran, subsequently goes on the Supreme Court. Historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. was with the OSS. The French chef Julia Child was with the OSS. But what kind of str--struck me about Donovan is the crack-brained ideas that he could advance, one of which was that his agents would somehow intrude into Hitler's diet substances that would cause the Fuhrer's breasts to swell, his voice to rise and his mustache to fall out. Another idea that he came forward with was to drop leaflets over Japanese troops which show pictures of Japanese women involved in compromising positions with Caucasians, which presumably would--would demoralize them and seeing that their women were not being faithful. The thing that was surprising to me is that these crazy ideas did not turn FDR off at all. He didn't reject them out of hand because he loved the--the surreptitious, the furtive, the clandestine and the covert.
LAMB: You say in your book at, I think, the height of the OSS, he had something like 1,600 people working for him?
Mr. PERSICO: More like 16,000.
LAMB: Sixteen thousand people!
LAMB: Boy, I missed that.
Mr. PERSICO: And that's starting from ground zero. You know, we had no intelligence service to speak of, even the year before Pearl Harbor.
LAMB: So kind of relate that to today. The president of the United States has somebody who's a friend of his who creates what kind of a--and what would--what would happen if this kind of thing was developed today?
Mr. PERSICO: Well...
LAMB: Can you relate it to what's going on in the world right now?
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah. I--I th--I think that the--the real parallel here is the shocking unexpectedness of Pearl Harbor and September 11th. How could this happen? At the--after the fact, the strand of intelligence that leads from A to B to C to Pearl Harbor may stand out glaringly, and after the fact the strand of intelligence that runs from X to Y to Z to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon may seem to stand out glaringly. But before the fact, this intelligence doesn't come in single strands. It comes in great bundles. You know, we were breaking the Japanese code, there were hundreds of messages available to the president. We now have the NSA, which I understand does something like $3 billion of worldwi--wide eavesdropping. So what we have that's comparable is a f--a flood tide of intelligence which seems to overwhelm the circuitry. What we seem to be lacking is--then and now is careful analy--an--analysis to say, `Well, we've got this tide of intelligence. What direction is it falling in? What do these jigsaw pieces tell us if we can put them together?' That was a failing prior to Pearl Harbor and obviously a failing now.
LAMB: Vincent Astor. What did he do for FDR?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I mentioned a moment ago that the United States didn't go into the intelligence business in a serious way until 1941. We were probably the only world power that didn't have a professional intelligence service. Roosevelt relied very heavily prior to, let's say, 1940 on a circle of socialite friends as his sources. There were a group of them who styled themselves The Club, and they had taken a shabby apartment on New York's Upper East Side. They had an unlisted phone number. They had a secret mail drop. It--it--it sounded like the spy games of boys being carried out by grown men. The ch--the chief figure in this outfit called The Club was Vincent Astor, one of the wealthiest men in the country.
LAMB: Which one is he in this photo at top?
Mr. PERSICO: Vincent Astor is the one to the right of the bar on the ship where's is standing.
LAMB: Or to the left of FDR?
Mr. PERSICO: And he's--and he--let's see. It looks to me like he's to--yes. Yes.
LAMB: And--and who was he?
Mr. PERSICO: Vincent Astor was the--the heir of a massive fortune in the United States. He was--he was a socialite, but he was also a man interested in--in causes, owned probably the biggest chunks of real estate in Manhattan. He and his other members of The Club, while they seemed like dilettante amateurs, had this value for FDR: They were very highly placed. For example, Astor was a director of Western Union, and consequently he was privy to the kinds of cables which were going from foreign embassies in the United States back to their homelands, and though it was illegal, he had these cables intercepted and he passed this intelligence along to FDR. Another member of The Club was Winthrop Aldrich, who, at the time, was head of the Chase Manhattan Bank. Aldrich knew about international financial dealings. He could report to FDR all the money that was going into and coming out of the Russian spy front in the United States, the Amtorg Trading company. But this--this was a pretty unsophisticated level of intelligence for a country the size of the United States at that point.
LAMB: Well, in 1939 and '40, what kind of an intelligence-gathering operation did FDR have? Did he have an official one?
Mr. PERSICO: No, he--that doesn't--he doesn't begin a formal, official central intelligence agency until the summer of 1941. What he has before that are the military services, the Office of Naval Intelligence, he has the military intelligence division of the Army, and he has the FBI. And he ha--he tri--he's very unhappy with the lack of coordination--and doesn't that ring a bell today? For example, at one point, to try to get these people moving in the same direction, he--he calls a meeting of--of Hoover as the head of the FBI and the head of military intelligence and naval intelligence. Hoover doesn't dane to come.
LAMB: Just says, `I'm not coming'?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, he had to be ordered by FDR finally to come. We had the Army and Navy with the lunatic handling of--of the messages that we were decoding, particularly Japanese diplomatic traffic. They had this rivalry in which the Army would decode messages on even days, the--and the Navy would do it on odd days. They had a s--a s--a system where they would share who got to deliver the plum traffic to the president. The Army would do it in certain months and subsequent month would be in the Navy. And it was--it was madness. And finally Roosevelt himself just cut out that nonsense.
LAMB: Back to Vincent Astor. Was he the one that went on the trip to try to find some intelligence over in Japan?
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah. Again, this indicates the rather amateurish intelligence that Roosevelt conducted prior to forming a formal agency in--in the OSS. Astor had a magnificent ocean-going yacht called the Nourmahal. It had a crew of over 40 members. FDR asks Vincent Astor to cruise the Pacific, seemingly on a pleasure junket, and hit places in the Marshall Islands, which were then managed by Japan as--as a mandate, and to report on our preparations there. And this was great fun for Vincent Astor and a great adventure. He subsequently thought this would lead to his becoming FDR's chief of intelligence, but he's up against tougher rivals in Donovan and some others.
LAMB: John Franklin Carter. You've got a photo of him in your book. Who does--who is he?
Mr. PERSICO: John Franklin Carter--interesting man--was a columnist in Washington. At one point he wangles an appointment with the president in the Oval Office and he, in effect, says to FDR, `You know, I have extraordinary contacts in journalism, among international government figures, among businessmen worldwide. I could easily set up for you a ring and I would report strictly to you.' Roosevelt lapped that up. It was just the kind of thing that appealed to FDR--off the books, circumventing his own bureaucracy, something private, clandestine. A spy thriller kind of thing appealed to him. So he took money out of his own White House budget to set up the John Franklin Carter ring. Has this money transferred into the State Department, where presumably it's there to buy reports about foreign--foreign governments. And then Carter operates throughout the war, directly reporting to FDR and the Oval Office.
LAMB: How many people did he have working for him?
Mr. PERSICO: Very small group, only about 12. But the interesting thing is that we have an OSS that doesn't necessarily know about the John Franklin Carter ring. We have John Franklin Carter who doesn't necessarily know about the Astor ring.
LAMB: And you say that FDR didn't write very much down.
Mr. PERSICO: FDR, by his character and temperament, was ideally suited for--for secret warfare. He loved to trade in secrets. He was a master manipulator of people. He misled his own associates when it suited him. He seemed to enjoy subterfuge for its own sake. And he said it best himself. He said, `I'm a juggler. I never let my left hand know what my right hand is doing.' And to answer your point, he left virtually no fingerprints. One of the most frustrating things that h--historians on the--on the trail of Franklin Roosevelt complain about is the lack of written commitment to decisions that he made or explanations as to what he did.
LAMB: What did you learn about him ba--as a person?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I always had a--had a sense that--that Roosevelt was a man with a certain amount of guile. My research in writing "Roosevelt's Secret War" convinced me even further of that. As I--as I said a moment ago, he was ideally suited for this kind of thing. He--he was--I think some of the best descriptions of him, which I accept as--as essential to his character, one of which was made by one of his New Deal associates, who said, `The man always conceals the purposes of his mind.' An--another one of his close associates said, `I'--this was Robert Sherwood, who wrote speeches for Roosevelt--he said, `I could never penetrate that heavily forested interior.' Henry Wallace said, `The only certainty in the Roosevelt administration was what was going on inside FDR's head.' M--my initial expectation that he would be a--a man who held the cards close to the vest was confirmed. Somebody said to me, `Well, did this make you think less of him?' It made him more interesting to me, a more textured character.
LAMB: You say in the book that you're--Colin Powell helped you with information on this book. Did I misinterpret that or was that from your old friendship?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, in this sense, as--as you know, I w--I was Colin Powell's collaborator on his autobiography, "My American Journey." Colin Powell, needless to say, had very, very useful connections throughout the federal bureaucracy, and when I would have queries, I could go to some of his staff who--who--who would get answers for me, for which I'm very grateful.
LAMB: How long did you work on his book?
Mr. PERSICO: He and I were together for about 20 months. Most of the time I spent down in a little study in his office examining the soles of his sneakers. He's a, you know, very casual guy. And he put--propped his feet up on the desk and--and we would just start talking with a tape recorder on, and essentially, what we arrived at was an extended oral history. Colin Powell has an extraordinarily retentive mind. He's a great storyteller. Every once in a while when we were sated with working on the book, he would regale me with his renditions of Jamaican songs which had kind of a naughty double entendre lyric. It was a s--stimulating experience.
LAMB: What do you know about him that we don't that gives you a certain view of him during this crisis as secretary of State?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I'm not sure who--who--who would not be aware of this now, but my--my sense is that we're--we're fortunate in that in--in Colin Powell we have an unusual preparation for the work he's carrying on now. This man, from the military standpoint, was the--the nation's chief military figure as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Frequently overlooked is the fact that he had already been a national security adviser. He was Reagan's man at the NSC. And then he has developed a worldwide reputation for integrity, in--intelligence, candor, so that in building coalitions, this is enormously important. So I think we have an extraordinary combination in Colin Powell, and I would say, in short, the man I see is resolute, but at the same time reasonable. That's--that's a comfort.
LAMB: But just on a personal level, if somebody came to you and said that, `Joe, I'm gonna go meet Colin Powell. I've got to do business with him,' what would you tip him off to do?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I--I--I will tell you, Brian, what I--what I told my wife when I first met Colin Powell. I went down to the Pentagon the very day before he retired from 35 years in the military. He's a joint--chairman of the Joint Chiefs. And we were just kind of sizing each other up for the collaboration. And I went home and my wife said, `Well, what is he like?' And I said, `Colin Powell is the most comfortable man in his skin whom I have ever met.' And what I would tell somebody is pretty much expect a direct, casual figure with no guile, no side to him.
LAMB: So how did you get to all this? Where were--where'd you first get interested in being a writer?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I wanted to be a writer ever since I was a kid. Finally, I--I backed into writing, I guess. I was, for many years, chief speechwriter for Governor and later Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. Did that for a long time, as I say, and started out--the first five years I loved it. The next three years I tolerated it. The final three years I hated it. It had nothing do with--with--with my boss. It was that I wanted to write my own books. And finally, rather late in life I would say, in my 40s, I started writing my own histories and biographies.
LAMB: I counted in the front part of the book that this would be your ninth book. Did we miss any?
Mr. PERSICO: Not that I'm going to admit to. Yes, these...
LAMB: You--you wrote in '94 about Nuremberg, in '91 about William Casey...
Mr. PERSICO: Right.
LAMB: '98 about Edward R. Murrow...
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah.
LAMB: '90--in '79, "Piercing the Reich: The Penetration of Nazi Germany by American Secret Agents During World War II." How much of that book led to what you're doing here?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, it--it led to a sense of confidence that I could write reasonably well about intelligence. And I--I did that book. An--another book that dealt with intelligence was Casey, William J. Casey, who subsequently becomes the director of central intelligence and who I first had met in--in talking to him about Bill Donovan's OSS. Casey, you know, as the Brits would say, had a pretty good war. Casey was--was posted in--in England during the latter part of World War II, and he was responsible for one of the great triumphs during that period, which was something the British said couldn't be done, and that is we got a number of teams inside Nazi Germany, into--into something like 60 German cities. So this would have been a coup for the OSS and a coup for the Roosevelt administration of the war.
LAMB: What is MAGIC?

(Graphic on screen)

For More Information Random House 299 Park Avenue New York, NY 10171
Mr. PERSICO: The US code crackers were working very hard prior to 1940 in breaking the Japanese diplomatic code. They called it code Purple. They finally broke that code, and there--there b--it was broken s--by a team led by a man named Frank Rowlett. Rowlett and--and his people were now able, in effect, to place the president of the United States on the distribution list of the Japanese Foreign Office because we're breaking these messages, they're available in a very sh--in a very short time. They may--it may be a message from the foreign offices in Tokyo to the American--or to--excuse me--to the Japanese Ambassadors in Washington. We're breaking that code and these messages go up to Pre--to President Roosevelt very quickly. And that's what the MAGIC operation was. Very important because our breaking of the Japanese codes were responsible for our 1942 victory in the Pacific at Midway, which is a turning point of that war. And...
LAMB: Frank Rowlett is what kind of a guy back then and where did he operate from?
Mr. PERSICO: Frank Rowlett was operating out of a former girls' school in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington called Arlington Hall. He operated with a very small group of people. I can't imagine they made a great deal of money. They worked for the Army as cryptographers, but they were very dedicated. And their--their breakthrough was really a significant advance for us.

One of the things that they--they--they enabled us to do--by breaking the Japanese codes, we also were able to find out German intent. How did that come about? Because the Japanese had an ambassador posted to Berlin. His name was Oshima. Oshima was a rabid pro-Nazi. Consequently, he won the confidence of Adolf Hitler. Hitler would bring in Oshima and say, `Mr. Ambassador, I'm going to send you to inspect the Atlantic Wall. I want you to see what I'm erecting to repel an Allied invasion of the continent,' or he would say to Oshima, `I'm going to tell you how many divisions I have deployed in Norway, Denmark, in Belgium,' most importantly in--in France. And then he would say to Oshima, upon these--these rather critical revelations, `and I don't want you to breathe a word of--of this to anybody.'

Well, Oshima did what a good diplomat does. He would report back to Tokyo, virtually verbatim, his conversations with Hitler through that diplomatic code that we're breaking, and these messages then are available to the president, to his secretary of War, to the military chiefs. One of the most significant revelations was when--when Hitler tells Oshima, `I'll tell you where the Allies are going to strike. They're going to strike at the Pas-de-Calais,' the narrowest part of the British Channel--the English Channel. And he reports this back to Tokyo. We intercept it. We now know that Hitler expects the invasion there. Why is that significant? Because that was our deception plan. That's exactly what we wanted him to think, and we know it's working.
LAMB: You say that--that some 400 messages that FDR could have read from Oshima?
Mr. PERSICO: There--there was something like 400 Oshima intercepts per year. General Marshall...
LAMB: Per year?
Mr. PERSICO: Yes. General Marshall said that he was our best source of information on German intentions. He was our--our--our best agent, an unwitting agent albeit. And for the president, it was not simply peeking at the other fella's hand. It was like holding the other fella's hand.
LAMB: So the president's in the Oval Office, and every day they could bring in these Oshima messages. And did the Japanese ever find out that the president knew all this stuff?
Mr. PERSICO: It's really extraordinary. In 1942, after the Battle of Midway, the Chicago Tribune front-paged a story which practically blew the secret. The--the--the Tribune headline read, in effect, Navy Knew Japanese War Plan. Well, how else would we have known it? The story's virtually saying we're--we're breaking the Japanese code. Astonishingly, while any cabdriver in Chicago could have drawn that conclusion, the Japanese considered their code unbreakable. They used the same compromised code to the end of the war.
LAMB: You mentioned the Chicago Tribune. And again, I want to try to relate to the atmosphere we're living in right now. First of all, when you read this book, the first thing that comes to mind is that FDR knew a lot more than the American people ever knew. And I wonder if you think that our president today knows a lot more than we'll ever know about what's going on in the world.
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I--I would think the president does, I would think the intelligence-gathering agencies do, be--because, you know, it's al--it's almost like a criminal investigation or a manhunt that we're on now. And--and--and by revealing everything you know, you also tip off your adversaries as to what you know. You dry up sources, you compromise people. I think it has to be that way.
LAMB: You point out that 20 cases of espionage happened here in the United States from outside coming in, and that at one point there were 16 of the 20 they had in--in jail somewhere. But the--what I'm getting at is how much--I'm looking at a story of Willie Copaw--Is that the way you pronounce it?
Mr. PERSICO: Yes. Yeah.
LAMB: How much of the--you know, the enemy coming inside this country did we have back in World War II?
Mr. PERSICO: Surprisingly little. The FBI had rounded up almost all agents operating with the United States. However, Hitler was very unhappy with the job being done by his intelligence service, the Abwehr, and pressured Admiral Kanaris, his intelligence chief, do something more dramatic. The result was an operation called Pastorius in which eight Germans who had lived in the United States, two of whom had been US citizens, and--men who had gone back to Germany, were recruited to form this team. They were put ashore in the United States via submarine in the summer of 1942 to carry out espionage. One of them decided to rat on his other comrades, thinking this would make him a hero. This--and--and--and so they were all quickly rounded up. This story is--is fairly well-known.

What is far less known was Roosevelt's attitude towards these saboteurs. He immediately directs his attorney general, Francis Biddle, to organize the trial outside of the civilian courts through a military tribunal. And he said to Biddle, in effect, `These are agents of the enemy. They've come ashore in wartime th--in civilian clothes. I don't think there can be any doubt as to what their fate must be.' So he keeps the--this case out of the civilian courts because the rules of evidence are strict, the opportunities for appeal seem to be endless. A military court which he creates and he names all the members, and then he directs his attorney general, Biddle, to prosecute the case, so that within eight weeks of these saboteurs setting foot in the United States, they have b--all been condemned to death. Two of them subsequently are commuted. But what I found interesting was that this Hudson River patrician, this amiable, genial Franklin Roosevelt, was underneath hard as nails. He expressed his only regret in this case that these men hadn't suffered the more ignominious fate of being hanged rather than being electrocuted.
LAMB: I mention Willy Copaw. You--you write on page 387, `He had never fit in. He was a bony 6' 2" 26-year-old from a good Greenwich, Connecti--a good Connecticut family but a social outcast and a loner.' What happened there with Copaw?
Mr. PERSICO: He got caught.
LAMB: What did he do, though? What was that story?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, C--Copaw, as you've just read, didn't seem to fit anywhere. He had German ancestry, and consequently, he was enamored of--of what was happening in Germany and very much impressed by Hitler's early victories and manages to get himself thrown out of the US Navy for being overtly pro-Nazi; manages, through merchant vessels, to get himself to Europe, and he volunteers with another figure to carry on probably the last attempt the Nazis made to--to land saboteurs ashore on the United States. He meets one of his former schoolmates, who persuades him that this is madness. Copaw turns himself in, serves a--a--a modest sentence after the war. We knew we had victory in hand now, and there wasn't quite this s--spirit of vengeance that FDR had expressed earlier.
LAMB: But you put--I mean, one of the things that's interesting is that he was dropped into Frenchman's Bay up there in--I assume, in Maine.
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah. Yeah.
LAMB: That's the way he got back into the country.
Mr. PERSICO: Right. He--he did--he did make it back to the United States wi--with a bundle of money. He had a good time with the Fuehrer's dollar supply but was useless as an agent. And I think the--the lack of appropriateness of this man and the previous team I talked about is an indication of how weak German intelligence was as targeted against the United States.
LAMB: Who's this fellow right here?
Mr. PERSICO: That man is Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengel. That was his nickname, Putzi. He had been a close personal associate of Hitler's. He handled the foreign press for Hitler. He was a pretty good pianist, and he was dubbed Hitler's piano player. Hanfstaengel was eventually driven out of Hitler's circle by more ruthless Nazi rivals, became fighting for his life, went to England, the war breaks out, and Hanfstaengel is interned in a POW camp. He is subsequently sprung by one of FDR's personal agents, John Franklin Carter, who I mentioned earlier, and they bring him to the United States and they install him in a safe house in Washington suburbs.

Now Roosevelt is very interested in Hanfstaengel because, first of all, he is half-American and he comes from a pedigreed New England family, and like FDR, he went to Harvard. Hanfstaengel's job is to provide the president with inside information on the cast of characters in the Third Reich and anything else he can provide of value. Much of what he provides is--is more titillating than elevating. He sent re--reports to Roosevelt about how Hitler had ex--sent out agents to recover pornographic paintings that the--the Fuehrer had done as a penniless artist in Vienna. He--he was able to report to the president on how the Hitler-Eva Braun romance had begun. He further was able to tell the president about Hitler's sexual ambiguity.

He also was able to deliver some intelligence or estimations that were of s--of substance. For example, he was the first to insist that Hitler, no matter how bad things got, would not surrender, that he would commit suicide first, which is, indeed, what happened. The president looked forward to these reports from Hanfstaengel. He called them `my Hitler bedtime stories.'
LAMB: What en--what hap--ended up happening to Putzi?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, Putzi s--seemed to lose favor when he got done telling his bedtime stories or when he had revealed whatever he knew, which--about the Third Reich and he's now a number of years divorced from that, and because he's kind of a pain in the neck who expects the United States to provide him with a piano, take care of all of his dental work. He's finally shipped back to the POW camp in Britain, and that is the end of his spy career.
LAMB: Also, you have sprinkled in your book some stories that, if it were to happen today, they would keep some cable networks going for about three months. And what I'm getting at is things like the Eleanor Roosevelt-Joseph Lashe story, the personal side of that. Where do those--did--did the--how did the president--did the president know about those kinds of stories?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, there's an--there's an interesting dichotomy in--in Hoover's relationship with FDR and with Eleanor Roosevelt. He got along surprisingly well. You have this genial, patrician, charming figure on one side and the dour Hoover on the other, but they cooperated very closely. However, Eleanor Roosevelt had made the mistake once of referring to J. Edgar Hoover as stupid because he was pressing a background clearance of a White House staffer who had been around for years. Hoover was not the kind of figure who would forget a slight, and consequently, when the Army came up with a preposterous report that Eleanor Roosevelt had been involved in a sexual tryst with her young protege, Joe Lash, Hoover kept this information in his own private files to the day of his death.
LAMB: What was the story, though? Did--was it ever proved that they had a relationship?
Mr. PERSICO: No. The Army intelligence people that provided this information to Hoover had made a--a small error in their eavesdropping. They had found Eleanor Roosevelt in a--in a hotel with Lash visiting. But what they produced as proof of a tryst was young Lash's involvement with hi--with his girlfriend. He was having an affair with a married woman at the time, who he subsequently married himself. But the--the Army mili--military intelligence people are--are taping this, they're peeping through--through holes in the wall, and somehow it gets mixed up that it's not Lash and his girlfriend Trudy, but it's Lash and Eleanor Roosevelt.
LAMB: How public has the Sumner Welles story been, the one in the train?
Mr. PERSICO: It's--it's fairly well-known. And you--what you're referring to is the fact that Sumner Welles, who was the undersecretary of State in the Roosevelt administration and who was an important figure, he was Roosevelt's man. The secretary of state was Cordell Hull, and Roosevelt pretty much circumvented him and--and worked through Sumner Welles, who was an old family friend. Welles had made some sexual advances on trains, part of his--his business trips, to black porters on these trains, who reported him. This was concealed for a long time. It was two or three years before it finally erupted. Roosevelt is under tremendous pressure from people who fear that having a man with homosexual tendencies in such a sensitive position at State--we have to remember we're not talking about the current world; we're talking about the attitudes of the--of the 1940s. He's looked upon as a--as a--a security threat, and Roosevelt very unhappily eventually dismisses Sumner Welles.

What I thought was interesting was after he has to--has to force Welles out of the State Department, he considers sending Welles on a mission to Moscow for him, and he's talked out of that. But one can only imagine, with the capabilities of the NKVD to--to blackmail and to lead people into compromising positions, what might have come of that assignment.
LAMB: And how does William Bullitt fit into all this?
Mr. PERSICO: William Bullitt was a--a rival of--of Sumner Welles. Bullitt had been FDR's ambassador to France. Obviously he has to come back when France falls, and he is one who is pressuring the president to do something about Sumner Welles, to get rid of him. Roosevelt i--is--is loyal to people, and he's very fond of Sumner Welles, and he is very dependent on Sumner Welles. And after he hears of the tarring of Sumner Welles by Bill Bullitt, he, in effect, says to Bill Bullitt, `What Sumner Welles is doing is wrong, but what you are doing to denigrate another man will send you down there,' and he makes this hellward gesture.
LAMB: There are so many stories, as you know, in this book. You be--in the back you have a legend of where you got a lot of it. You mentioned the library. How much time did you spend at the Hyde Park Library?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, I was practically living there for many months. Hyde Park was a--a commute for me almost. It was about an hour and a half from my home in Albany, New York. That was my greatest source. I also had marvelous results in my research at the National Archives, the Library of Congress. The stories I was telling about the messages that were intercepted by Ambassador Oshima I managed to track down at the National Archives. I don't think they'd been looked at very much or at all since that time. That was very rewarding for a researcher.
LAMB: Well, o--one of the things you have listed is PS--and you have the little designation so you can tell where something's coming from--`PSF, president's secretaries file, Roosevelt Library.' Have a lot of people mined that file?
Mr. PERSICO: Certain areas, things have been mined rather heavily. But there--there are always fresh revelations that--that--that astonish me. For example, there was some suspicion that an economist by the name of Lachlan Curry, who was an--a utility infielder for President Roosevelt, took on--undertook many trusted missions--there was some suspicion about his--his loyalty, and I'm plowing through the archives at Hyde Park, and I find that Lachlan Curry was the White House man tracking the development of the secret explosive RDX. Somehow Soviet Union finds out about the development of RDX. On another occa--on another occasion, he is assigned to track the development of a new bomber, the B-29. Somehow the Soviet Union finds out about the B-29. These were things that I discovered that I--I don't imagine anybody paid any attention to before. So there are still, among these millions of pages, some fresh research nuggets.
LAMB: Whatever happened to Lachlan Curry?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, Lachlan Curry denied, after the war, that--that he had ever been a--a spy or that he's ever been a member of the Communist Party. Lachlan Curry was one of a number of--of--of people who were useful to the Soviet Union, who took the position at that period that Russia is our ally, why should we hold anything back from the Soviet Union? So a g--a guy like Curry may not have been a spy in the White House in the most narrow, technical sense, but he certainly was a--a--a--a priceless source of in--of intelligence.
LAMB: It's not often that I would cite a PR insert in a book, but this was the most complete PR advance work I've ever seen. I guess it's from Random House.
Mr. PERSICO: That's right, my publisher.
LAMB: And the reason I cite it is 'cause it--in spite of reading the book, it makes it so easy. I'm gonna go down the list of things that they point out here, because time goes by very quickly, but just give people just a little nugget of what--what you're talking about here. It says here, `Among the revelations discussed in "Roosevelt's Secret War," the failure of US intelligence to anticipate the surprise Pearl Harbor attack.'
Mr. PERSICO: Well...
LAMB: Why--why did they fail?
Mr. PERSICO: Because, a--as I have explained to people at the time or--I sh--excuse me, after the fact, that thread of intelligence running from A to B to C to Pearl Harbor seems glaringly obvious, or from X to Y to Z...
LAMB: But did they have the in--the intelligence information?
Mr. PERSICO: They--they had--they had the intelligence. They had the information, but it came in a flood tide. In--in--in the Roosevelt era, you know, Roosevelt didn't get in--intelligence decrypts that had been examined by analysts and--and placed together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. He got raw intelligence. You know, it's very hard to sense, what's the direction of this? What's it warning us about? What is our antagonist likely to do next? Also we had--we had nobody on the ground. We had no spies inside Ja--Japan, just as apparently we--we haven't done very much to penetrate the inner sanctum of--of our current adversaries.
LAMB: Another item: `FDR wanted to bomb Tokyo before Pearl Harbor.'
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah. That's amazing. Roosevelt was outraged by the behavior of the Japanese in the war against China--machine-gunning civilians in the street, bombing defenseless cities. He considered a plan--This was a y--a year in advance of Pearl Harbor--whereby the United States would give B-17 bombers to the Chinese and train Chinese pilots to fly them against Tokyo. He was told that it would take too long to train these pilots. So the backup position was we would give the bombers to China; we would have American pilots resign from the Air Force and volunteer to fly them. So we would have American pilots flying American planes a year before Pearl Harbor against Tokyo. He was advised by cooler heads that this would be an outright provocation and could only lead to war.
LAMB: `The British fed FDR phony intelligence to draw the United States into the war.'
Mr. PERSICO: Well, Winston Churchill was very eager to have the United States join the war against Hitler, and consequently, British agents were to provide intelligence that would help ro--this happen. They told Roosevelt about the fact that the Germans had taken a map and cut Latin America into six future Nazi vassal states, that--that a Bolivian pro-US government was going to be toppled by the Nazis, that we had 6,000 Brazilian troops--excuse me, 6,000 German troops in Brazil. Roosevelt used some of this information in his speeches and in his Fireside Chats. It was all fabricated by the--by the British to help encourage the United States to enter the war.
LAMB: `FDR's yielding to Churchill led to the theft of the A-bomb.'
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah. A curious tale. In the beginning, the United States and Britain were full partners in developing an atomic weapon, but as time went on and the United States launched the Manhattan Project, was putting millions of dollars into this, creating the facility at Los Alamos, we became the dominant partner and started cutting the British out of what was happening for security reasons. Churchill comes to the United States at one point, sees Roosevelt at Hyde Park. He's furious. He accuses Roosevelt of reneging. So a compromise is reached: The British will not be getting s--information on the A-bomb imported into Britain, but we will allow a small team of British physicists, mathematicians and other scientists to work at Los Alamos. One of them turns out to be Klaus Fuchs. So as we know, Klaus Fuchs steals major secrets of the bomb, gives this information to his Soviet controllers. He is it--at Los Alamos because of a deal cut between Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill.
LAMB: What happens to Klaus Fuchs?
Mr. PERSICO: Fuchs is finally unmasked several years after the war in--in 1950. He was sentenced, I think, a 14-year prison term. Eventually, upon his release, he--he continued his work in East Germany.
LAMB: How did he get into this in the first place?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, he--Klaus Fuchs had been a young, avid Communist in his native Germany. Things got very tough for--for Communists in Germany as the Nazis came to power, so he fled to Great Britain and eventually became a British citizen.
LAMB: Back to the PR sheet here, which--by the way, did you write this?
Mr. PERSICO: I made some suggestions.
LAMB: Because, you know, sometimes authors don't, and then they're always surprised by what's in here. `A leaked FDR plan led Hitler to declare war on the United States.'
Mr. PERSICO: Yeah, this is frequently overlooked, Brian, th--that the United States did not cl--declare war on Germany; we declared war only on Japan on December 8th, 1941. Why did Hitler do something seemingly so rash? There was a leak of an important document called Rainbow Five, a contingency plan that Roosevelt had called for: What would we need, should we go to war against Germany by 1943? How many divisions, how many ships, how many aircraft, how much fuel, etc.? The Chicago Tribune gets a hold of this secret plan and front-pages it, does not play it as a contingency plan. The Tribune plays it as a war plan, and the--the headline says FDR, Five Million Troops Against Germany by '43. And when Hitler declares war on the United States four days after Pearl Harbor, he--he virtually quotes this. He says, `Fra--President Roosevelt intends to make war against us by 1943,' so in declaring war against the United States, he doesn't view it as being rash. He views it as anticipating the inevitable and getting the draw on the US.
LAMB: `The relationship between FDR and Josef Stalin.'
Mr. PERSICO: Well, the--the president recognized that Stalin was taking 80 percent of the casualties during World War II and inflicting 80 percent of the casualties on the Germans. So he was very, very eager to cultivate and placate Joe Stalin, would bend over backwards. I'll g--I'll give one example. There is the long-standing controversy about the Katyn forest. Who murdered 9,000 Poles in the Katyn forest? The Germans claimed the Soviet Union did it. The Soviet Union claimed that it happened when the Germans occupied this territory. This story was rather controversial for a half a century. Interestingly enough, Roosevelt and Churchill knew from day one that these murders of the Poles had been done by Soviet Union on Joe Stalin's orders. They didn't say anything, again, because they did not want to alienate Stalin, who could conceivably make a separate peace with Germany; then we would have been left with the bulk of the fighting and the bulk of the casualties.
LAMB: Page 273. This seemed to be one of those sentences that people who don't like FDR probably use when they're talking about him. "I th"--and this is a quote: "I think if I give Stalin everything I possibly can and ask for nothing from him in return, noblesse oblige, he won't try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace." Where does that come from?
Mr. PERSICO: It comes out of Franklin Roosevelt's character, which is a reliance on a--an almost overwhelming charm. Roosevelt could charm almost anybody, and he thought that he could charm Joe Stalin by being utterly--utterly respectful and admiring and not questioning anything that Stalin did, underrating the hard pragmatism of a Joe Stalin.
LAMB: Did that hurt us in the negotiations?
Mr. PERSICO: Well, it hur--it hurt us to the extent--for example, the story I just told about the Katyn forest, that we--we are not letting the American people know the--that the monstrousness of Stalin is not all that different from that of--of Adolf Hitler. But in--in the end, I--I--I don't accept the charge that--that Roosevelt gave the store away at Yalta, which is a common conclusion of--of many who discuss this era. He was too forgiving and too accommodating to Stalin. I do--but I--I don't think he--he gave anything away that created our--our post-war confrontation with the Soviets.
LAMB: Did you learn anything about his relationship with Winston Churchill that you hadn't known in the past?
Mr. PERSICO: It was a relationship that s--that started poorly. Franklin Roosevelt had a tre--tremendous ego. As a young assistant secretary of the Navy, he had visited Britain, and he'd come away with a very poor opinion of Winston Churchill. He said that Winston Churchill had not shown any--any respect for him. He called Winston Churchill `a stinker.' Subsequently, wh--when Pearl Harbor is attacked, Churchill calls him and says, `We're all in the same boat now.' They pretty much behaved that way, although we have two men, both with--with giant egos, and--and they--and they do collide occasionally because Britain's ob--ob--objectives are not the United States' objectives, and this is clearest in--in--in Churchill's determination to win this war, at least in part, to be able to restore the British Empire, much of which had been taken away by the Japanese. And Chur--and Roosevelt wants to go in the opposite direction. He wants this war to serve the human end of allowing countries to develop their--their--their own independence, their own freedom. So there is a real collision.
LAMB: You--you say that President Kennedy's father, Joseph Kennedy, called him at one point, quote--he was angry, called him a "crippled SOB." Do you remember where that quote came from, and why did he call him that?
Mr. PERSICO: Joe Kennedy had a son, Joe Kennedy Jr., the elder brother of the future president. Roosevelt was very insistent that a certain secret operation take place in which an aircraft would be loaded with high explosives. The pilot and the co-pilot would head it towards the target, V-1s and V-2s, the German secret weapon launching sites. The pilots would bail out and a guide plane would--would--would, in effect, lead this flying bomb towards the target through radio remote control. Churchill opposed this. Churchill was afraid that the Nazis would retaliate against London, and Roosevelt took the position, `We know they're developing these secret weapons. They're gonna strike London anyway.'

So this plan, Aphrodite, went forward, and on the first mission, Joe Kennedy and his pilot take off with this explosives-laden aircraft. It--it explodes mysteriously. Both men are killed. Joe Kennedy, Sr., who at one point had been Roosevelt's ambassador to Great Britain, runs into Harry Truman at an event. Truman is then Roosevelt's vice presidential candidate in the 1944 election. And Joe Kennedy says to Harry Truman, `Harry, what are you doing working for that crippled SOB who killed my son Joe?'
LAMB: There's a woman that is always around FDR in your book, someone named Margaret Suckley, Daisy Suckley. Who was she and where did you get the information about her?
Mr. PERSICO: Daisy Suckley was a distant cousin of Roosevelt.
LAMB: She's in the middle in this picture.
Mr. PERSICO: Let me take a little closer look. Yes. And Daisy Suckley was a person who Roosevelt would confide in, things that he would not tell to anybody else. He felt perfectly comfortable. Because she adored him, he knew he had her absolute trust. So he to--he told her things that, for example, would have very much surprised other members of the--of the Roosevelt team, one of which was the state of FDR's health. From the last year at least of FDR's life, he w--he was a dying man. He had been examined at the Bethesda Naval Center by cardiologists that realized he had astronomic blood pressure, that he was suffering from hardened--hardening of the arteries. Amazingly, Roosevelt never asked a question. He never asked: What was the result of these examinations? What had they found? A cardiologist is assigned to him in the White House who checks him out daily. He joshes with the cardiologist, gossips with him, never asks about his condition.

So one would have the sense that he doesn't know what's happening or doesn't want to know. But he, on one occasion, in one of these private sessions with his confidante and distant cousin, Daisy Suckley, he says, in effect, `I--I am very sick, much sicker than I have been told, and if I am sick enough, I will not run for another term. I must be convinced that I can complete another term.' He's talking about a fourth term. And as we know, he--he--he's right on one count. He runs again. He's wrong on another count, he dies only four months into his fourth term.
LAMB: Unfortunately--no, fortunately, I have about a hundred more questions for you, but unfortunately, it's--time is up. Our guest has been Joseph Persico. His book is called "Roosevelt's Secret War." Thank you very much for joining us.
Mr. PERSICO: Thank you for having me, Brian.

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