Hitler’s American Gamble: Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War
By Brendan Sims and Charlie Laderman
Basic Books, 2021, 528 pp.
Adolf Hitler’s decision to declare war on the United States, four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, in 1941, has long vexed historians. U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt may have been ready to prioritize the fight against Germany, but Japan had attacked the United States, and so there was an argument for concentrating on the Pacific. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who later claimed that after the attack on Pearl Harbor he knew at once the war would be won, was actually anxious that the United States would be so distracted by Japan that it would leave the United Kingdom alone, with dwindling material support, to deal with the Nazis. In a detailed reconstruction of the events of those few days, illuminating the importance of confusion, chance, and choice in the stream of history, Simms and Laderman explain that Hitler assumed that war with the United States was inevitable—because the country was supposedly controlled by Jews—and preferred to wage it earlier rather than later, buttressed by supplies of food and oil he hoped to gain by defeating the Soviet Union.