We have detected that you are using an older version of Internet Explorer and to have access to all the features on this site, you will need to update your browser to Internet Explorer 8. Alternatively, download Mozilla Firefox or Chrome.

Best leader of WW2

LAURENCE REES: And the single most effective leader of the war?

WILLIAM HITCHCOCK: Well we always like to pick Winston Churchill, don’t we, when we think about an effective and farseeing visionary, but there are a lot of negatives with Churchill’s war leadership that are also well known so I’d like to make a case for Franklin Roosevelt. Roosevelt is often seen as a politically savvy leader, a man who was excellent at manipulating people, getting them to do what he wanted without being honest with them, but I think that’s often a caricature. I think if you look at some of the big strategic decisions that he made. If you look at the men that he surrounded himself with: he chose brilliant lieutenants from George Marshall right down, to Eisenhower and King, these were men that he had confidence in and who had confidence in his political judgment. He also was quite brilliant in the way that he played the dynamic between the three great leaders. I think a lesser man would have been less able to keep the alliance with the Soviet Union alive throughout the duration of the Second World War. He may have paid a price for that at the end of the day. He certainly had to manipulate Winston Churchill quite a bit in order to gain Stalin’s confidence.

But it was crucial to the winning of the Second World War that he had a decent relationship, a working relationship, and even towards the end a little bit of trust from Joseph Stalin. I think that was an astonishing act of leadership and vision.  He had great strategic vision.