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tv   Craig Shirley April 1945  CSPAN  April 14, 2022 2:36pm-3:33pm EDT

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talk. >> jim. >> yes, sir. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy on me the day he died, the number assigned to me now, and if mine are not less i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't ever go to the bathroom i won't go, i'll just stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings, find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. >> we're so thrilled to be back open and be able to have world class authors and all around great human beings like craig back on campus and i think most of us know craig is one of the definitive biographers on ronald reagan in fact the london telegraph hailed him as the best of the reagan biographers. he has proven books like citizen newton, that he is one of the best historian authors out there, speaking of which as i'm
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sure you all know he's here tonight to talk about april 1945. for me, the book couldn't come at a better time, see the break-in library's next special exhibition is called secrets of world war ii, dozens of artifacts from museums and private collections never seen together before in order to tell stories of tucktechnilogical advancement, and quickly going into craig's book, to refresh my memory on the end of the war and gain insight on what was going on in the world in those final few months. what i quickly found was a history book that read like a novel. a book that covered the war in what soldiers were covering just like a book that happened what was covering on the homefront and abroad, what average citizens were doing, wearing, it is a fascinating look into the
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era of our history. while preparing for the world war ii exhibition i had the distinct honor and privilege to interview a handful of world war ii veterans, heros all, but also need to speak with some historians to provide context for the gallery videos which will be played, thankfully we set up an interview with craig which we conducted right before this event tonight so if you come back to see the world war ii exhibition, not only will you see the interviews with our veterans playing in the galleries you will see our interview with craig. craig is an informative and entertaining walking encyclopedia on world war ii, let's welcome him, craig sherley. >> thank you. >> of course. so i mentioned to craig before this started that reading this
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book led to like 93,000 questions which i know we won't have time for because i want to make sure we have time for your questions as well so we'll try to get through some of these and if we don't get to one you want to hear we'll take questions at the end. so as i mentioned you have a book on newt gingrich, ronald reagan, maribel washington, you have a book on 1941 and now 1945, why didn't you just write a book on world war ii as a whole? >> good question, i don't think i know the answer. i just had this inspiration one day, there have been many books written about world war ii and many books written about december 7th, 1941, gordon frank's "at dawn we slept" is the standard which every book is measured, it's an absolutely marvelous book, but nobody had ever written to the best of my knowledge a book about the
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domestic side of what was going on in united states during the month of december and how it radically changed, because we changed completely. we changed governmentally, we changed economically, changed politically, changed culturally, changed every which way because of that month so i pitched the idea to my publisher. they liked the idea very much and i wrote it and took two or four years to write it and then came out to good reviews and was a new york times bestseller so i didn't have a plan to write april 1945, after, it was not part of my plan to write a companion book because in the interviewing time next ten years wrote several reagan books and new citizen newt and maribel washington, many op-eds and things but it was just an inspiration that came to me that april, 1945 is just packed with history, just everyday is a red
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letter day so that was what, after thinking about it, realized no one again had written a book about that monumental month. >> well, that actually leads perfectly into my next question and i mentioned this to you up stairs before we came down here. there's a chapter on january, february, march, april and beyond, more so in january than the other months but you are literally saying on january 1, 1945, these are all the things think in united states and the world, here's what's happening on january 2nd and january third, how do you determine what you're going to cover? >> i don't know, when i get up in the morning, wife drives me crazy, why aren't you writing, why aren't you writing, i tell her i am writing, i'm writing in my head, i'm thinking about it then when i sit down at my computer then it all like raymond chandler said, throw up into your typewriter and that's what i do, i let it all out into
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my laptop and write it that way. but what was your question, i'm sorry -- >> how do you choose which events to talk about? >> i have a list, melissa, a have a list of about 25 books i want to write and it grows ever-longer and the list, i'm going to expire long before the list does is that, but writing the book for instance about maribel washington really got me interested in 18th century so now i want to write something about morris town which was actually, it was a winter encampment by the reb, revolutionary army and this hasn't been explored enough, also thought of writing a book about bojangles, i got that idea, my father when i was a little boy went to new york city for the st. patricks day parade
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and bill thompson would go down the avenue for the parade and he was in the sherley temple video and see all that and the song, got me, by the nitty gritty dirt band really got me, i've had in the back of my mind, because no one has done a book about bill robinson so that's in the back of my mind. i'm going to write more reagan books, working on two now, one i'm editing and one i'm actually writing and then i'll write a book about donald trump, so my dance card is pretty full. >> i'm lucky if i remember to brush my teeth, i don't know how you do all that. back again to the january chapter just because it struck me interestingly. you're going through each day talking about things like christmas of '44, leading into january '45, christmas '44, christmas sales spiking like 15%
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and talking about what make-up women are wearing and what hats they're wearing, so were americans not as concerned about what was going on in the war or -- >> no, no, they were very concerned. americans, it's that this nation has always been divided. we -- historians will tell you during the american revolution, as many as 30%, estimate as many as 30% of the american people were actually opposed to the revolution. we were not unified at all and as a matter of fact, after the revolution, something 100,000 people left because they did not want to live under, well the articles of confederation. they went to british, back to great britain and that right there is a book right there, about 100,000 people leaving. the civil war certainly was an enunciation of our divisions. the only time in the united states history where we've been totally united is the afternoon
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december 7th, 1941 and the several months after september 11th but even then, that didn't last. we're defined by our divisions. we've always been divided, divided by vietnam war, women's rights, civil rights, about the environment, we're divided about everything and then we could remember consensus. that's the brilliance of the american system of government. >> so this is a two-part question, you know, reading this book, of course we are all aware of what was going on in germany and the holocaust and hitler and the nazis. i think, and maybe i'm just naive but i forgot about the brutality of japan. they were -- i mean in your book talking about how they would throw up babies and bayonet them for fun, so two-part questions but what made it about that era and these leaders that made that acceptable behavior the countries could get behind and
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then, i don't know, what was it about the japanese cruelty? i was shocked by it. >> yeah, i don't know how you explain evilness, i don't think rational people can explain evilness but evil did exist and evil exists in the world and japanese, first of all, there was a very chauvenate, masculine culture in japan in the 20s and 30s which led them to want to create a militaristic government, you know, hirohito, you know, taking over parts of inner china and what led to december 7th, they wanted to have complete control of the central and western pacific without any interference from the united states is that but for but they were absolutely horrible. there's a story in the book here about a pacific islander, polynesians and they were thought to be, they were peaceful, loving, native, you
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know, and they were thought to be sympathetic to america so the japanese knew this and went in one day and just machine gunned everybody on the island. just blue them away. they had a group of american navy pows. in the culture you have to understand is the worst form of humiliation is one man can imprison another man. if one man can imprison another man then he is not worthy, he is worthless and they had this attitude, you know, with the american pows. like for instance, they had a group of american navy pows so they marched out, made them dig a trench in the sand, marched down inside, then poured gasoline on them and burned them to death and the reason it was verified was some escaped and got back to macarthur's forces and told the tale of them being
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burned to death but that was not unusual for that japanese culture that japanese government at the time. they didn't have the regard for life that americans did. for instance, i say for instance a lot, i'm sorry, is that if a japanese pilot was down in the pacific, the japanese navy wouldn't pick him up, they'd let them go, let them drown. if an american pilot was downed in the pacific he was picked up as soon as humanly possible. they had much different regard for human life than we did in 1945. >> speaking about cruelty and nazis, i was glad your book didn't just talk about the cruelty of the nazis but also really talked about the insanity of hitler if i can use the word insanity. when it was march, april, 1945, and clear the allies were going to win the war, did hitler really think he was still going to win? was that propaganda? >> yes, he did.
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he was crazy, let's face it, he was crazy. and we've actually done -- the predecessor to the cia, the oss had done a -- they hired a harvard psychologist to do a psychological profile of adolf hitler and talk about in the book here, all the screwed up problems of this man would led him to be the monster that he was. is that, right to the bitter end, he believed his own propaganda. all the other nazi bosses, leaders, all believed their own propaganda, even patton's army advancing, the third army, soviet army advancing to the east, they, you know, they were doing things, they were cutting off food supplies for civilians. they were cutting off communications for civilians. they were doing -- taking it out
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on civilians. they were taking from the civilians and giving to the military to stave off the inevitable, but hitler to the end believed his own lies. >> and one of the things i read in your book that i did not know, and fdr whether or not we would accept surrender from nazi germany, or whether we wanted unconditional surrender. we wanted them to -- we wanted war trials. we wanted, you know, pubbishment meeted out to these thugs who created this war in the first place. so churchill for for unconditional surrender, whereas
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stalin was for unconditional surrender, but there were people around franklin roosevelt who argued just for surrender. not unconditional, just let's get it over with. the war is won. let them stay in power. but there were others like francis eisenhower, eisenhower wanted hitler deposed and put on trial along with all the other nazi thugs. >> which leads perfectly into my next question. you know, fdr was our first and only four-time president. >> right. >> i am going to read this. he's a president that ronald reagan once called an american giant a leader who shaped, inspired, and led our people through perilous times. how critical was fdr's four term american stance involvement with the war? >> all encompassing. john patrick wiggins, a friend
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of mine was part of the free speech movement at berkeley and did battle with then governor reagan over campus protests. then he admired romd reagan. he wrote a book called faith, freedom, and making of history. in this book, this liberal professor says that our four greatest presidents are george washington, abraham lincoln, franklin roosevelt and ronald reagan because they freed or saved many, many people. that was a criteria for greatness, does a president affect the outcome of many, many people. his criteria is pretty good. fdr, although he failed with the great depression, unemployment in 1939 was the same as it was in 1933. but at least he gave the american people hope. he gave the american people hope. and that was very, very important. you know, he was -- he was capitalist, but he wasn't a
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committed socialist or something like that. but he was willing to try whatever worked. you know, the wpa, or the conservation corps or other new deal programs. but where he was really, really masterful was as a war leader. because he didn't interfere. he did what reagan -- i think reagan -- i haven't researched enough but reagan believed, you know, the way to assemble a government, you surround yourself with good people and then you let them do their jobs. fdr had that same approach toward the war. if you think about it, all the brilliant men who he had serving, in wartime, eisenhower, nimitz, he had king. he had patton, and he had marshall, and macarthur, bradley, so many other superb military lead evers. he didn't interfere.
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he would meet with them and ask questions of them. he didn't interfere. he let them conduct the war as they saw fit. that was the brilliance of him conducting the war in world war ii. for all intents and purposes he was not just president of the united states during world war ii. he was president of the worlds. we were not only supplying the u.s. servicemen, but we were supplying the british servicemen, and the soviet servicemen. we were sending them foodstuffs and material, and uniforms and things. whatever they needed, we were supplying them. so he was running a global war. he was kind the varsity operator and churchill and, the sao were what junior varsity. i know that tsao conducted a massive campaign from the east and many, many russians died results. but he was still -- in terms of
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supply and demand he was still a junior varsity operator compared to churchill -- compared to roosevelt, excuse me. >> you just said that roosevelt was president of the world. i said in my question, you called him the president of the worlds. when he passed away, when he died --? >> earth-shattering. my mother, god bless her, she's still alive. he's 88? 89. she grew up in the '30s. she, like many other american children thought we only had three presidents. washington, lincoln, and franklin roosevelt. that's what she thought. there was no explanation for succession had he he died. there was no explanation for it. well, the vice president, truman becomes president now. there was no explanation to her -- she was a young teenager.
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but is that fdr -- when fdr died, flags in moscow were hung at half staff. it was a world-shaking event. people just couldn't believe it. and of course, you know, it was tragic, too. i mean, obviously death is always tragic. but he was only 63 years old. but he was carrying the burdens of the world. he was obviously strict within polio. that had to affect him healthwise including his circulation. he was a good eater, but he didn't eat healthy foods. he, you know, ate a lot of butter and bread and fatty foods and things like that. he had his fives -- what eleanor called his five cs. every afternoon at 5:00 he would make himself an old-fashioned or a manhattan, those were his two favorite drinks. he was not drinking heavily, but enough to cause damage. then he smoked two to three
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packs a day of filterless luckies. i know, filterless luckies are death on wheels. all the burden of running the united states government, and running the war, and he's got four sons in the military, all in combat, all in danger zones and. he's got a wife who is not hen pecking him, but she is -- i have great admiration for eleanor roosevelt. i think she obviously modernized the office of the first lady. but she was also a very good person, i think. but she had her agenda. so he had to deal with that. so he's dealing with his family. he's dealing with his white house staff. he's dealing with congress, a recalcitrant congress. they didn't go in lock step about whatever roosevelt wanted. they often opposed him. it is understandable in a way
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why he passed away at age 63. but it was unbelievable. it was one of those things, then i will shut up. it was one of those things where people know where they were when they heard it, right? i know where i was on november 22nd, 1963. i know where i was on september 11th. i know -- i wasn't alive on december 7th. but my parents were, and they knew where they were when they heard about december 7th. it was the same thing with fdr's passing. everybody knew where and what they were doing when fdr died. >> you just mentioned your respect for eleanor roosevelt. what was her impact on the war and the american home front as a whole? >> well, she was the head of several different government agencies. but it was more than that. she was a one-woman industrial complex. i mean, she was writing her daily column called "my day". she was doing radio broadcasts
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every week. she was doing morale and promotional tours to u.s. camps overseas and in the united states. she was also tending to her family affairs. she was -- i mean, there wasn't anything she wasn't doing. she truly, truly modernized the office of first lady. and -- but she did so i thought with a lot of grace and charm. let's face it, she had a rough marriage. he always trusted her. he always said she was his best political advisor. but his affair early on with lucy mercy -- lucy rutherford mercer obviously caused great damage to the marriage. and i can't -- there is no written history on her finding out about franklin's -- fdr's passing away. he almost literally passed away this the arms of his lover.
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nobody knew if he consummated it in any way, shape, or form. but he was down at the little white house in georgia. and his daughter -- i can't -- it will come to me. i am having a senior moment. but his daughter, anna surreptitiously arranged for lucy rutherford mercer to go visit franklin roosevelt in the little white house behind her own mother's back. you know, she -- but there is no written -- you know, when fdr died everybody knew he was with his lover including, obviously, eleanor. but there is no history on eleanor's reaction to that. she obviously had to have been very, very distraught. but like the classy woman she was, she flew down to the little
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white house. she rode the train back, the ferdinand joan which president reagan used to make a tour. >> that's right. >> she went to the funeral at hyde park. and she never, ever betrayed her loyalty to her husband. that's just one reason why i do admire her. >> you touched on this a couple of answers ago. but can you talk about the big three, so roosevelt, churchill, and stalin and how critical they were to ending word war two? >> sure. sure. churchill was one of the greatest inspirational speakers of the 20th century. and the british people needed his inspirational leadership. maybe -- there is a time and place for men. and maybe he wasn't right for the position in an earlier era. but he was perfect for the position in 1941.
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1939, actually, when germany attacked poland. no man -- i am trying to think about the phrases of the history about the right man at the right time doing the right job. but he was the quintessential right man for the right job. he and roosevelt were very good friends. he said that meeting fdr was like opening a bottle of champagne. he said that fdr was great britain's best friend. they were very, very -- they got along. he came to visit fdr several times during the war in the white house they got along very well. stalin was an outlier because of politics and because of his personal behavior, the way he behaved atialitia and at pots dam was obviously offputting to
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both fdr and truman. but fdr did allow stalin to gobble up parts of eastern europe in the warsaw packed countries atialitia. ialitia was interesting -- i always wondered why they went along. ialitia was a falling down vacation home for russian czars. and when the communists came to power, they let it fall under ruin. but they chose it as the site of this important meeting when to decide what to do with the world after world war ii. how do we divide the world? how do we handle the world? how do we manage the world? they had this arrogance they could run this country, that country, whatever. butialitia had bad food. it was cold. it was bad -- it was falling down. the bedding was bad. all this. and fdr has to travel 12,000 miles there and churchill has to
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travel thousands of miles there. and it is just a hike down treat for stalin. and he was the most junior member of the big three. when you said let's -- let's have it in miami beach instead. why they had it there, nobody has ever explained it adequately to me. and it took a toll -- that traveling took a toll on fdr also, as well. >> how do you think president truman handled the ends of the war? >> he always said in his diaries he had no regrets. he never looked back on dropping the bomb at hiroshima and nagasaki. he believed fervently in order to save millions, thousands had to die. i wish -- my personal perspective is i wish he had demonstrated the power of the a bomb first to heroito.
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like in an open -- an open water test in tokyo bay or something so he could witness it himself and see the -- what damage it would cause. i wish truman had done that first. but he never looked back. and obviously, the most -- his appointment of eisenhower's freedom commander, and eisenhower developed these spheres of influence over germany, soviets have this sphere, americans have this sphere, it made a mess. matter of fact it may have led to the problems of today. i haven't analyzed it completely. on the other hand douglas mac arthur's spurdship of japan was brilliant. he should have won the nobel peas prize. he took over the society, the government without any violent
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overthrow or backlash. he took over a country that was bombed out. bomb oud -- the country was destroyed. and he took it over and rebuilt the whole thing and made it into a peaceful democratic country in a politically -- you know, constitutional democracy. and that appointment by churchill -- by truman was a very good one for what mac arthur did. >> in 1945, as concentration camps are being liberated, what was the overall feeling for america and other ally countries when they saw the horror and devastation of what was in these camps? >> it is interesting that some of the major newspapers started in april' 45 started reporting on these discovered death camps. by the way when you think of europe, world war ii, you think about auschwitz, something. there were dozens of nazi death camps all over europe, poland,
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hungary, germany, there were dozens of them. it wasn't just the big ones, the ones that get the notoriety. there were little ones, too. americans were so war weary after it, and it was a crime so big and so monstrous a lot of people couldn't -- didn't believe it. just didn't have enough information. they just couldn't come -- comprehend it. the "new york times" reported the discovery of auschwitz but never reported that it was jews being killed at auschwitz. that didn't come until much later. why "new york times" did that. also, it was reported too -- the camps were discovered -- they reported that people were being murdered, carnage was happening but never reported it was jews
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or homosexuals or gypsies or poles or russians that were being monstrously murdered in these camps. >> so when news breaks that pretty close to one another that mussolini is executed and hitler has committed suicide, do people believe this? >> oh, yeah, yeah -- well, in the united states for a period we wleefed that hitler had a -- all during the '30s and during the war, hitler had a double. that looked just like him. >> like elvis presley. >> yes. exactly. exactly. so we bought that. but when it was confirmed that it was he -- when we knew we were invaitd vading berlin, we were wiping out berlin. we knew he was in a bunker. we knew his days were numbered. so we just took it as -- obviously, it was a great wonderful thing that he committed suicide but we took it kind in stride.
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we took a lot of things in stride i think because the war had worn down in a way, the american people. although, we did create the united nations, and we became forever internationalist country after world war ii. you think about it today. if russia was invading ukraine in the 1930s, we wouldn't have given it a second thought. so what. you know? it is only the legacy of world war ii that we care about, even though we don't have -- there is not a demonstrable american stake in ukraine. but we are moving toward possible conflict there. and that's the legacy of world war ii. >> so i think my final question will be one that i actually asked you when we were doing the preinterview upstairs. >> sure. >> i really liked your answer.
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why is -- why should we care about world war ii? why should we still study world war ii? >> i am having senior moments because there are lots of great quotes about the reason to study history. there is the -- you study history, or we fail to repeat it. i can't think of his name. he was a harvard professor. anyway, we should study history for many, many reasons. first of all, it's fun. second of all, is that we learn not to make the same mistakes over. for instance i will give you an example of the first mistake we have made over again, and why biden didn't study -- unfortunately, didn't study the history. but in 1979, jimmy carter was doing an interview. and he was asked if afghanistan was part of our defensive perimeter. and he said no. within months, the soviets invaded afghanistan. joe biden a couple of months ago
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was asked about our interest -- no. he was asked about ukraine. and he said a little invasion is okay. i'm paraphrasing here. something like that. but anyway, he telegraphed to putin he could make the move without -- without cause for concern. and so now he has had to obviously backtrack on that previous thing. but imagine if you had been more careful with his words how this might not happen. that's as good an example as anything i can think about, we study history to learn from it. but you know, it gives us a sense of dignity. it gives us a sense of purpose. it gives us a sense of where we belong. it gives -- you know, we need to know why the -- like for instance in the second continental congress when they were working on the institution
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is that the first amendment -- everybody knows about freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. but jammed in there is freedom of the press. doesn't really fit, but it's in there because -- not because the founders liked the pamphleteers and the tabloids of the time. they hated them they despised them. but they saw the newspapers as a valuable ally of the american people against their government. so it is important that we know why we have freedom of the press in this country today. >> that's great. so i have a thousand few thousand more questions f. there aren't questions from the audience, i will continue to ask. but if you have any questions we ask that you raise your hand. we are recording this, so it is important that we bring a microphone to you before you ask your question. if you have a question, feel free to raise your hand. otherwise, i will just keep asking. hold on one second, sir. there you go.
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go ahead. >> what would the -- what if the world would have invited russia into nato in the last 25 years? would it be a different world? >> it might be. it might be. i am not an expert on world affairs. i can't do a deep answer for you. it might have been. if i had been in a position to invite them in, i would have invited them in. it is always better to have -- you know, to deal with the adversary that you know rather than the adversary you don't know. i wish i could answer that question for fully for you, but i'm not an expert on that type of -- i think you agree with me. you are nodding your head. so maybe things would be better. certainly after the fall of the berlin wall and the advent -- with the breakaway republics and the warsaw pact, i can't imagine -- obviously, it was politics. obviously, there were people
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against it. but bringing people in to talk is always -- i think is always better to negotiate peacefully rather than, you know, being sent into wartime. i'm sorry i can't answer that better for you, but it's a good question. >> any other questions from anywhere in the room? >> so, i heard the good news there that you are going to write two more books about ronald reagan? >> yes, yes. >> all right. that's pretty exciting. so, can you give us a sneak peek? >> sure. yeah, sure. first, obviously, is that history knows that doing all of this keeps me off the streets and out of the pool halls. i am editing a book about reagan in grenada. grenada is significant because it is the end of the detente and the beginning of the soviet
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union. it is a straight line projection of history from grenada to the fall of the berlin wall, leb rags of the soviet union and the warsaw pact countries. i am editing a book with reagan, the negotiator, dealing with people on the other side. for instance picking ush george bush. he didn't want to pick george bush but he made the most sense at the time at the detroit convention to produce a unified ticket. you know the republican party has more or less been divided since the 1940s with moderates and conservatives. eisenhower, the moderate and nixon the conservative. or lodge, the moderate and nixon the conservative. so that continued that program where he had to reach across to pick bush to unify the convention. unified conventions tend to win in the fall.
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and divided conventions tend to lose in the fall. but, also, he tried to pick purchased sha weicker who was then a senator from pennsylvania as his running mate in 1976 to try to win the nomination over gerald ford. also, there is a chapter on the bricksment. this tells you the suppleness and sophistication of reagan's thinking. that in 179, as he's getting ready to run for president one more time there is an amendment in california called proposition 6 which was the bricks amendment. the proposition prohibited gays from teaching in the public schools or advocating a gay lifestyle. now, reagan needs the support of family groups, you know, there were pro-family groups and things like that -- running for president. but this also offends his deeply
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felt principle about privacy and dignity and all these other things. so reagan was the only major conservative in california to come out against proposition 6. and in the summer of '79, it was winning 2-1. it lost in november by 2-1. and john briggs, who was state senator at the time, he was going to use this as a vehicle for national office and it backfired. he saw with a anita bryant was doing in dade county and was going to fight this issue. briggs was asked why the proposition failed. he said ron reagan. that was it. reagan never suffered any political consequences fortunately for him. family groups still supported him running for president. so. but every chapter is on briggs, on bush, on sha weicker, on the screen actor's guild, you know, things like that. so -- yes, sir?
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ma'am? sir. >> getting back to the book in 1945. >> yes. >> back in september of '39, stall skin the russians invaded polanded from the eastern portion as hitler came in from the west? >> right. >> yet by the time '45 rolled around it seemed like stallin was much more powerful in the big three than he had any right to be. at the beginning of the war he was part of the axis powers. >> what. >> what do you think that by the time 1945 came around gave him that gravitas with roosevelt and with churchill. >> the soviets got a very, very favorable press in the united states. look magazine and life magazine, which went out to millions every week. you can't underestimate their
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influence, but they depicted the soviet union as worker's paradise. the moniker uncle joe was used often boy the intelligencia. even though he was killing millions with his resettlement programs and things like that. he got very favorable press in the united states. he had a lot of sympathetic supporters. there were a lot of -- you know, it was not -- it was not -- if you called somebody a communist in the 1930s, it didn't carry the same heavy burden as if you called somebody a communist today. it was -- it was -- we were -- i won't say we were more open, but we were more uneducated about the collectivism or the socialist philosophy. and also is that -- you have the contrast, is that it's stalin versus hitler.
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stalin versus mussolini, roosevelt versus hitler, roosevelt versus mussolini. so he wins -- or versus toe cho. he wins by detaultd, by comparison because you know what? this guy is even worse than this guy. so i hope that explains it. >> i know there are more questions we are going to go to. i had a question that popped into my head. i spoke with a different historian last week. he said something i found interesting. >> there are no other historians. >> this author, cobble stoned things together. said something i thought was interesting. he said, yes, we won the war because of normandy because of iwo jima. >> yes. >> because of the atomic bomb. >> right. >> but we really won the war because of detroit and the american factories. can you talk about that? >> sure. whoever you talked to is absolutely right.
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maybe he just stumbled into the truth. i don't know. but is that three weeks -- immediately after december 7th roosevelt tells detroit you are not going the make any more cars. we didn't make new cars for the duration of the war. people had to drive -- i remember my grandfather saying i bought that la salle before the war but i sold it after the war. is that the roosevelt administration nationalized a lot of industry, including detroit. he told detroit, he says u -- you are not going to make cars anymore. you are going to become the arsenal of democracy. interestingly enough -- miraculouscally, within three weeks of december 7th, 1941 we were taking fabricated parts from ford auto parts, ford auto body from fisher auto body and
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good year and were manufacturing b 24s and b-25 airplanes three weeks after. and that happened all over the country. all over the country. calvinator was a company in detroit that made women's appliances -- they made refrigerators and mixing bowls. cake mixers and things like that. >> sure. >> and, again, in a short period of time, now they are making helmets and they are making propellers for fighter planes. but it's like that all over the country. this country -- this company, that company, whatever. you stop making, you know, this thing, and start making that thing. >> and then the women in the work force as well? >> oh, yes, yes, yes, yes. i think i told -- yeah, i told you before, melissa, both my
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grandmothers were rosie the riveters. one was a machine gun inspector. she would stand there and machine guns would come down the conveyor belt. and she would pick it up and fire it like this. then she would put it down. the next one would come and she would pick it up and fire it. that was her war work. then my other grandmother was a bomb inspector. i have no idea what a bomb inspector daus, but she was a bomb inspector. i never got a chance to ask her about that. but i certainly wouldn't want that job anyway. >> that's crazy. >> but there were women -- it was not unusual at all. in fact, it was very usual for women during world war ii to leave the kitchen and go to the factory floor. they were doing it. they were -- and they were also participating, too. is that there is run down air field back in massachusetts --
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back in virginia which is no longer in use, but it used to be a refuelling stop for women flying b-24 planes to europe. they would stop there, they would fuel up, and then fly 3,000 miles across the atlantic to deliver b-17 bombers to the american troop -- american servicemen. incredible. >> it really was. it is a time i doubt we will ever see again in history of this country or the world. >> we will go back to the audience. i know there were a handful of hands. are there any other questions? hangs on. let's bring a microphone to you. one second. >> thank you. just to touch on your point about women. >> goodness. >> women participating during the war. i heard a lot about women that played boefl baseball during the world war ii era. >> that's right.
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i deal with that in this book, too. >> for four months -- they all came out here, especially at santa monica airport, they were riveting, building planes, doing this. they all did that, they all came from the midwest, to the west coast during vacation time. but they did that. 90% of those women did that. and the military female soldiers when they were discharged they became escorts to these teams, they taught the women order, discipline playing ball, i am glad you responded to that because women did play a big part domestically. >> again, back to my mother. she grew up this the midwest. and she has a child went to see women's baseball in illinois. so, yeah. >> writing this book and researching this book, is there something that surprised even you as you were finding out the
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different researches? >> a lot, a lot. i can think of two -- three things right now. first of all, bill buckley, who is the founder of national review, was a young -- was in the army at the end of world war ii. he was part of the honor guard for franklin roosevelt's funeral. then he used his magazine to bash the new deal and fdr the rest of his life, and he was part of the honor guard. the second one, by the way, this should be a movie, is that serena and i we had a neighbor of ours down in virginia by the name of dick schneider. he had a great story in and of itself. he was part of the only three-year class at west point that was rushed out to get into the war. he flew p-47s, close air support for the da invasion.
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he was shot down. he survived, fortunately. but he was hidden in a belgian farmer's barn. and he was there for about three weeks before german patrols picked him up. and he went into a p.o.w. camp and spent the duration of the war in that camp. before he left, in gratitude he gave the belgian farmer's wife his silk parachute. there is a forward. dick's wife, mary was a surfer of the internet. she's elderly but proficient with a computer. she comes across a story about a woman in belgium who is getting married. and she's getting married in a silk dress made by her great great grandmother of the parachute of an american pilot.
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and this -- every woman in that family going down from the '40s right up to the present had worn that parachute, worn that parachute that was made into a wedding dress. >> incredible. >> the third one, too, is how deeply fdr's death affected everybody. bob dole was in the -- was in italy. he wrote in his book about american g.i.s in their fox holes, hearing them weeping over fdr's passing. his death affected americans very greivously. >> we are almost out of time. i am going to ask one last question, then we will go to the book signing. as i menked at the instroh i have had the fortunate of interviewing a handful of veterans, 99 years young, spectacular. a lot of them shared the story that they were 15, 16, 17, joining the war. in fact, one said he joined the navy at the age of 17 to learn
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how to fly. and at the age of 17 he proved to be so proficient he became a trainer and he was training other pilots how to fly. and he was 17. can you talk about the heroism of these kids? >> one that comes to mind is my uncle. my family is not unusual. it just gave me a lot of ideas and inspiration. that my uncle ellsworth abbott shirley, nickname as barney, was shot down and killed on his 20th birthday in january of 1945. he had enlisted when he was 17. he got his parents' permission. you could -- they had -- it was a -- it was really messed up, the enlistments, the enlistments, and draft, the ages kept changing, did you need a parent's permission. but at the time, if you were 17, you could enlist if you had your
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parents' permission. there were obviously a lot younger boys just telling -- with a wink to the draft board were going into active duty as young as 15 years of age. so it was not unusual for literally boys to be fighting this war. >> when we were upstairs, you shared -- i thought that was really great, why they were joining. do you remember what you said? >> oh, sure. well, there -- i tell you why they weren't joining. they weren't joining for the food. because it was uniformly mode yoker. they weren't joining for the pay, because it was lousy. they weren't joining for the benefits, because they were non-existent. they were joining, certainly for the camaraderie, because everybody came back and talked about their friends and their buddies and things like that that they made in the war. but they were definitely enlisting for the patriotism. they wanted to fight and win for their country. >> and on that note, we are
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going toi thank craig for coming out tonight. [ applause ] if you have not -- this is not the back -- i am holding a presale. this is book. if you have not purchased a book yet, please go and buy one in the museum store behind us. craig and i will walk out, get situated in the bookstore and then he will be happy to sign one for each of you. thank you all for coming. at least six presidents recorded conversations while in office. hear many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on the presidency of lyndon johnson. you will hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the 1964 presidential campaign. the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma, and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly, johnson's secretaries knew because they were tasked with transcribing
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many of those conversations. if fact, they were the ones who made sure that the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and theirs. >> you will also hear some blunt talk. >> jim? >> yes, sir? >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy when he -- the day he died, and the number assigned to me now. if mine are not less, i want them less right quick. >> yes, sir. >> if i can't ever go to the bathroom, i won't go. i promise you i won't go anywhere. i will just stay right behind these black gates. >> presidential recordings find it on the c-span now mobile app or wherever you get your podcasts. all this month, watch the top 21 winning videos from our c-span student cam video documentary competition. every morning before c-span's washington journal we will air one of our student cam


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