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Agents of Influence: A British Plot, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Effort to Bring America into World War II

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"A revelatory and wholly fascinating work of history. Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler." - WILLIAM BOYD 'Gripping and intoxicating, it unfolds like the best screenplay.' - NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE The astonishing story of the British spies who set out to draw America into World War "A revelatory and wholly fascinating work of history. Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler." - WILLIAM BOYD 'Gripping and intoxicating, it unfolds like the best screenplay.' - NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE The astonishing story of the British spies who set out to draw America into World War II. As World War II raged into its second year, Britain sought a powerful ally to join its cause--but the American public was sharply divided on the subject. The Canadian-born MI6 officer William Stephenson, with his knowledge and influence in North America, was chosen to change their minds by any means necessary. In this extraordinary tale of foreign influence on American shores, Henry Hemming shows how Stephenson came to New York--hiring Canadian staffers to keep his operations secret--and flooded the American market with propaganda supporting Franklin Roosevelt and decrying Nazism. His chief opponent was Charles Lindbergh, an insurgent populist who campaigned under the slogan "America First," and had no interest in the war. This set up a shadow duel between Lindbergh and Stephenson, each trying to turn public opinion his way, with the lives of millions potentially on the line.


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"A revelatory and wholly fascinating work of history. Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler." - WILLIAM BOYD 'Gripping and intoxicating, it unfolds like the best screenplay.' - NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE The astonishing story of the British spies who set out to draw America into World War "A revelatory and wholly fascinating work of history. Superbly researched and written with gripping fluency, this lost secret of World War II espionage finally has its expert chronicler." - WILLIAM BOYD 'Gripping and intoxicating, it unfolds like the best screenplay.' - NICHOLAS SHAKESPEARE The astonishing story of the British spies who set out to draw America into World War II. As World War II raged into its second year, Britain sought a powerful ally to join its cause--but the American public was sharply divided on the subject. The Canadian-born MI6 officer William Stephenson, with his knowledge and influence in North America, was chosen to change their minds by any means necessary. In this extraordinary tale of foreign influence on American shores, Henry Hemming shows how Stephenson came to New York--hiring Canadian staffers to keep his operations secret--and flooded the American market with propaganda supporting Franklin Roosevelt and decrying Nazism. His chief opponent was Charles Lindbergh, an insurgent populist who campaigned under the slogan "America First," and had no interest in the war. This set up a shadow duel between Lindbergh and Stephenson, each trying to turn public opinion his way, with the lives of millions potentially on the line.

30 review for Agents of Influence: A British Plot, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Effort to Bring America into World War II

  1. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    This book describes the propaganda campaign by the British (sometimes with the cooperation of Americans) to influence American public opinion about pursuing a war with Germany. Bill Stephenson was a Canadian who went to work for MI6 and was sent to New York to become part of an influence and misinformation campaign. At times he worked with both J. Edgar Hoover and Bill Donovan, with the knowledge of President Roosevelt. Roosevelt knew that America had to get into the war, he just needed more This book describes the propaganda campaign by the British (sometimes with the cooperation of Americans) to influence American public opinion about pursuing a war with Germany. Bill Stephenson was a Canadian who went to work for MI6 and was sent to New York to become part of an influence and misinformation campaign. At times he worked with both J. Edgar Hoover and Bill Donovan, with the knowledge of President Roosevelt. Roosevelt knew that America had to get into the war, he just needed more public support for the inevitable. Part of Stephenson’s work involved countering the influence of Charles Lindbergh and other isolationists. The Nazis had their own influence campaign. Germans passed misinformation to Lindbergh. Also, German propaganda was inserted into the Congressional record with the cooperation of a congressman and then sent out to US citizens chosen by the German embassy as an official government record. However, the British influence was much more involved. There were fake horoscopes predicting Hitler’s death. Counterfeit letters and maps were created “proving” that Germany was threatening Latin America. Fake news was disseminated. The epilogue draws parallels between the Russian influence during the 2016 election and the British influence campaign during WWII. The author somewhat disingenuously differentiates the two operations, but it all depends upon whose side you are on. In each case, US public opinion was manipulated. The book was interesting and well written. The author’s narration of the audio book was very good. I found the whole “end justifies the means” thing very disturbing though. “Heroism” is truly in the eye of the beholder. You really can’t believe anything. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    Having enjoyed Henry Hemmin’s previous book, “Agent M: The Lives and Spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight,” I was keen to read his latest, about British attempts to bring America into WWII. ‘Our Man in New York,’ was William (Bill) Stephenson, who was sent to the US in June 1940, with instructions from MI6 to ‘organise’ American public opinion. Hemming has personal history with Stephenson, who saved his father, when he was three years old, from drowning and, subsequently, became his Godfather. However, Having enjoyed Henry Hemmin’s previous book, “Agent M: The Lives and Spies of MI5’s Maxwell Knight,” I was keen to read his latest, about British attempts to bring America into WWII. ‘Our Man in New York,’ was William (Bill) Stephenson, who was sent to the US in June 1940, with instructions from MI6 to ‘organise’ American public opinion. Hemming has personal history with Stephenson, who saved his father, when he was three years old, from drowning and, subsequently, became his Godfather. However, it is Stephenson’s time in New York that interests the reader. In 1940, when Stephenson headed for the States, Britain stood alone. Public opinion was very much against entering the war, with American hero, Charles Lindbergh, heading the America First, isolationist, camp. However, Stephenson was a man with money and, having put a rather difficult childhood behind him – after being adopted, when his mother could no longer afford to care for him – he took MI6 as his new family. An elite, powerful family, where he felt that he belonged. With the Blitz, many people in America, respected Britain and felt they could ‘take it,’ but, presumably without American help. Churchill, though, was desperate for America to enter the war and, although Roosevelt was unwilling to declare war without provocation, he was desperate for an excuse to do so. This, then, is the story of Britain’s attempts to gain the support, and financial help, of America. It involves spying, dirty tricks and fraud. It also involves familiar names, such as Ian Fleming, David Mackenzie Ogilvy (the father of advertising, who sneakily inserted the odd extra question into Gallup polls), and Roald Dahl. With Churchill like a ‘naughty schoolboy,’ who had seen the exam papers before a test, and willing to approve almost any scheme, the spymasters did all they could to sway public opinion and encourage a country to fight for freedom. At times, this book is very funny. There are moments when the British fake documents which have the Germany High Command almost incandescent with rage, as they are unveiled as factual. Other times, this is poignant and moving. Lindbergh, once an American hero, misjudges his audience completely and the ugly spectre of Anti-Semitism rears its ugly, and all too familiar, head. However, having read this, it is certainly obvious that Stephenson not only saved the life of one small boy, but helped save freedom in Europe. He, and his team, were tireless in their efforts to bring America on side and to make them appreciate that, not only Britain, but Russia, was worth fighting for. A fascinating, well written and inspiring book.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gram

    In 1940 and 1941, British spies resorted to forgery, fake news and outright lies to sway US opinion in favour of supporting the British against Nazi Germany and bringing the US into the war. At the beginning of hostilities, opinion polls showed that only 14% of Americans were in favour of war against Germany, but in June 1940 William "Bill" Stephenson arrived in the USA with instructions from the head of MI6 to "organise" American public opinion. Americans were divided into two camps - the In 1940 and 1941, British spies resorted to forgery, fake news and outright lies to sway US opinion in favour of supporting the British against Nazi Germany and bringing the US into the war. At the beginning of hostilities, opinion polls showed that only 14% of Americans were in favour of war against Germany, but in June 1940 William "Bill" Stephenson arrived in the USA with instructions from the head of MI6 to "organise" American public opinion. Americans were divided into two camps - the isolationists and the interventionists. The former were opposed to American involvement in a war in Europe. The legendary aviator, Charles Lindbergh and several US Senators, supported America First, a small group which grew to have 800,000 members dedicated to preventing America going to war. Using recently declassified files and private papers, including those of his own grandparents, author Henry Hemming details how Bill Stephenson - "Our Man In New York" - helped change American attitudes. Stephenson, a man with a chequered past, started out with only a handful of staff in an organisation called the British Security Coordination (BSC). He began by establishing contact with J Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI and went on to influence William "Wild Bill" Donovan - who would become Coordinator of Information (COI), in charge of an intelligence and propaganda agency of the United States Government. Before too long, Britain was directing the work of Donovan and his organisation which, to all intents and purposes, was "an Anglo-American enterprise". The extent of this influence was probably illegal. One person who realised what was happening was a US State Department official, Adolf Berle. He compiled a dossier on Stephenson and the BSC, using it at a meeting with President Roosevelt in September 1941. Roosevelt's reaction to Berle's complaints was "curiously flat" and it was only towards the end of their meeting that he told Berle "to make the British Intelligence calm down here". However, Roosevelt's next move was to prioritise aid to Russia and in this he was guided by Bill Donovan with Bill Stephenson pulling the strings. For example, Stephenson had the Polish Government In Exile, then based in London, to lie about Russia's religious persecution in their country and soon afterwards, planes, tanks and war materials were being sent to the Soviet Union on a monthly basis. The British had already planted scores of fake news stories in the US media and throughout the world, using bribery as well as employing sympathetic journalists. They encouraged American interventionist groups to disrupt America First rallies and provoke confrontation with the isolationists. Stephenson also enabled the rigging of public opinion polls, including those of the much respected Gallup organisation. The BSC had a forgery section which faked documents “revealing” plans for a Nazi coup in Bolivia and Germany's plans for the whole of Latin America in the event of war. One of those who worked on forged documents was the world famous entertainer, Eric Maschwitz, who wrote "A Nightingale Sang In Berkely Square". Before he became a famous author, Roald Dahl also worked for the BSC. However, the author makes clear that, although this was a British spying operation, it was one in which large parts of the US administration participated, including the President of the United States. Indeed, it could be argued that Roosevelt's knowledge of Stephenson and Donovan's efforts could have led to his impeachment. The world famous author Ian Fleming, who was also involved in intelligence work during World War II, once wrote: “James Bond is a highly romanticised version of a true story. The real thing is . . . William Stephenson.” Meanwhile, Charles Lindbergh had some sort of paranoid breakdown and in a speech at an America First rally, he identified the forces pulling America into the war as the British, the Roosevelt administration, and American Jews. Lindbergh went on to suggest that American Jews should be opposed to intervention as they would be "among the first to feel its consequences". He added: "Their greatest danger to this country lies in their large ownership and influence in our motion pictures, our press, our radio, and our government." As a result of his speech, Lindbergh and America First were heavily criticised in the American media and their numbers began to decline. In the final months of 1941, US public opinion was firmly on the side of a war against Nazi Germany and 4 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Hitler declared war on the United States. Hemming ends the book with a warning from history, pointing to the current US president's use of the "America First" slogan and his isolationist policies along with the involvement of Putin's Russia in trying to influence the outcome of the US presidential election. William Donovan, who became the chief of the Office of Strategic Service (OSS) has called the British Security Coordination (BSC) "the greatest integrated secret intelligence and operations organization that has ever existed anywhere" - a fitting tribute to Bill Stephenson and his staff. My thanks to the publisher Quercus and NetGalley for a copy of this book in return for an unbiased review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Henri

    This is a brilliant book that i couldn't put down for the short duration that i was reading it. It's a superb story of a British attempt to drag the USA into the WW2 by influencing its government and changing the popular belief of the time from strongly isolationist to a heavily interventionist one in the space of 12 months. The book mainly revolves around the key Briton and his far-reaching network although quite brilliantly Hemming manages to steer away from this becoming a biography. It is This is a brilliant book that i couldn't put down for the short duration that i was reading it. It's a superb story of a British attempt to drag the USA into the WW2 by influencing its government and changing the popular belief of the time from strongly isolationist to a heavily interventionist one in the space of 12 months. The book mainly revolves around the key Briton and his far-reaching network although quite brilliantly Hemming manages to steer away from this becoming a biography. It is also very timely as parallels can be made (and indeed are made by the author in the conclusion) to the Russian infuence campaign on the US elections in 2016. We are living in the time when information can be and is faked and manipulated by foreign powers for their own advantage. It also finally provides a concrete argument against those claiming that Russia post 2011 is the first time we really moved into the age of post-truth. This is written in the style of Ben Macintyre and maybe has something Max Hastingy about it too. An unputdownable non-fiction story of this nature always pleases me. Only read M from this author and expected a lot from this book, was glad to see that the expectations were justified and the wait for the book was worth it. I spent a few nights without sleeping going through this and it is definitely going in my top 5 history books of 2019 list unless i read 5 groundbreaking history books in the next few months or so. 5 fat stars.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

    Riveting book! Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, A Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II had me at page one! Author Henry Hemming begins this tale with memories of hearing about the Canadian born man that saved his father’s life in a pond in Britain. Depending on who recounted the story, the small details would change but the big details, the meat and bones of the story, never wavered. The fate of his father’s life was determined in one moment by one single Riveting book! Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, A Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II had me at page one! Author Henry Hemming begins this tale with memories of hearing about the Canadian born man that saved his father’s life in a pond in Britain. Depending on who recounted the story, the small details would change but the big details, the meat and bones of the story, never wavered. The fate of his father’s life was determined in one moment by one single man who chose to save him. Years later, during WW II, this very man would be working for Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, crossing a much bigger pond to North America in a covert effort to save more lives in the war effort. Once again, depending on who told the story, the details would change, but never the meat and bones of what took place. Newly declassified British records tell the true story of his undercover operation. If you are interested in WW II history or learning more about the man Ian Fleming credited as an inspiration for his James Bond character, this book is for you!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lilisa

    A fascinating and intriguing account of Britain’s successful efforts to infiltrate and influence the U.S. in the years leading up to the U.S. entering World War II. The majority of the American public was not in favor of getting involved and President Roosevelt, despite his conviction that it was the right course of action, was loathe to go against the popular tide, knowing he couldn’t make the case. But the war was not going the way of the Allies and Britain was getting desperate but to no A fascinating and intriguing account of Britain’s successful efforts to infiltrate and influence the U.S. in the years leading up to the U.S. entering World War II. The majority of the American public was not in favor of getting involved and President Roosevelt, despite his conviction that it was the right course of action, was loathe to go against the popular tide, knowing he couldn’t make the case. But the war was not going the way of the Allies and Britain was getting desperate but to no avail. Then came Bill Stephenson to the rescue. Canadian by birth, Stephenson emerges in the U.K. at MI6, and is tasked with heading to the U.S. to change the hearts and minds of the American population. So begins the web of conspiracy, secrecy, planted information, and daring - all the trappings of a spy novel - but in this case nonfiction. And, the rest is history. This is an amazing, well researched, and sobering book - it’s a world that is very real and we would be kidding ourselves if we think that this type of espionage, intrigue, and deliberate strategies has not existed from time immemorial, is happening today, and will continue well into the future. Superbly written, Henry Hemming does a brilliant job keeping the reader engaged with historical details, twists and turns, and a cast of characters that could fill the world’s stage. Yet, I didn’t get lost or mired but was engaged throughout the book due to the author’s flow of language, clarity of style, and the impressive ability to tell a great true story. I highly recommend this amazing read. I hope many will enjoy and learn much from it. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mr Stan Berger

    I initially said I thought the book was well researched . It raised interesting parallels between a foreign power attempting to influence American foreign policy towards intervening on the side of the British in the Second World War and the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 American election to relieve economic sanctions for their invasion of Crimea . The main difference between the two was that the British influence campaign was laudable while the Russian one was not. At the end of the book I initially said I thought the book was well researched . It raised interesting parallels between a foreign power attempting to influence American foreign policy towards intervening on the side of the British in the Second World War and the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 American election to relieve economic sanctions for their invasion of Crimea . The main difference between the two was that the British influence campaign was laudable while the Russian one was not. At the end of the book the question of the ends justifying the means still looms large but the author’s response is not to distinguish between the two but to advocate that consumers of news be more informed , critical of sources and polls . He rejects regulation on the basis that information exchange is a hallmark of democracy though admittedly a vulnerability. I give it a 3 though because to me the influence campaign may have changed America’s appetite for fighting Germany but ultimately what changed American minds much more were external factors I. E. Pearl Harbour and Hitler’s declaration of war on the U.S. soon afterwards. The influence campaign had only a modest impact though it did lay the groundwork for emergence of the C.I.A.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Meyers

    Hemming has written a highly readable account of the efforts of the U.K. to get the U.S. to enter WWII as its ally, and of Germany to keep the U.S. out of the war. The book focusses on Bill Stephenson, the Canadian businessman who became MI6's Head of Station in the U.S., his relationships with top U.S. business and political leaders, and his somewhat unorthodox but highly important efforts to secure U.S. assistance for the UK during the early day of WWII up to and including the U.S.'s entry Hemming has written a highly readable account of the efforts of the U.K. to get the U.S. to enter WWII as its ally, and of Germany to keep the U.S. out of the war. The book focusses on Bill Stephenson, the Canadian businessman who became MI6's Head of Station in the U.S., his relationships with top U.S. business and political leaders, and his somewhat unorthodox but highly important efforts to secure U.S. assistance for the UK during the early day of WWII up to and including the U.S.'s entry into the war. The Stephenson angle is tied to a relationship between the author's ancestors and Stephenson. Hemming also describes the corresponding efforts of Germany to work with isolationists within the U.S., including Charles Lindbergh, to keep us out of the war. The focus on personal relationships between Stephenson and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the British Ambassadors to the U.S., "Wild" Bill Donovan, the American businessman and first head of the OSS (precursor to the CIA), Stephenson's superiors in London, and many notable American business and media leaders who supported U.S. action against Hitler, make the book particularly compelling. And his chronological approach to the information presented makes it easier to follow. The book is well footnoted and the footnotes indicate the wide range of sources used by the author. The heart of the story is really how what the British and Germans did to influence U.S. public opinion during WWII was not very different, other than technologically, from what the Russians did to meddle in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. Hemming makes this point. Having read other accounts of the founding of the OSS, and the key players, I found Agents of Influence very objective, displaying foreign activity in the U.S. during the period 1940-1941 with the clear indication that President Roosevelt was acting beyond the scope of Presidential authority, potentially in a manner that could expose him to impeachment, yet with what the President and his closest advisors viewed as the best of intentions. We are left with the need to reach our own conclusions as to whether some of the things done by the Roosevelt Administration during this period were inappropriate. And as is perhaps usual we are also left with the impression that politics is a dirty business. I highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the early days of WWII from an American or British perspective, the role of foreign spies in efforts to affect American public opinion about WWII, the founding of the U.S. intelligence agency, FDR and the other key players during this period. Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, Perseus Books and Public Affairs, for providing a review copy.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rama

    Fake news, disinformation and World War II Disinformation is as old as humanity. Although the rise of social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious, but news-outlets and diplomatic channels have always used the system to manipulate the political outcome. In this decade terrorist organization like ISIS and Russian government used the same playbook: ISIS sought to globalize Islam and Putin wanted to influence the outcome of 2016 presidential elections in the United Fake news, disinformation and World War II Disinformation is as old as humanity. Although the rise of social media has made disinformation even more pervasive and pernicious, but news-outlets and diplomatic channels have always used the system to manipulate the political outcome. In this decade terrorist organization like ISIS and Russian government used the same playbook: ISIS sought to globalize Islam and Putin wanted to influence the outcome of 2016 presidential elections in the United States. During WW II it was imperative for German and British to serenade the support of United States. With Britain enduring intense German bombing, its only hope for survival was getting the United States to enter the war with only 7% in favor in 1940. For British spy agency MI6 operative William Stephenson, it was crucial to get U.S involved. President Franklin Roosevelt’s sent Ambassador Bill Donovan to communicate with British government. The American political atmosphere was not conducive for British. American leaders like Charles Lindbergh was one of the main obstacles. Lindbergh, who addressed huge crowds at anti-war rallies and justified Nazi aggression due to economic imbalance. He was fed wrong information by German spy machinery. But William Stephenson managed to get full confidence of Bill Donovan who together built an extensive propaganda drive ever directed by one sovereign state at another. They also used forgeries, organized protests, and wiretaps and hacked into private communications. Similar strategies were used by CRP, the Committee to Reelect the President during Nixon administration. On Oct. 27, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took the stage at The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, to speak in honor of Navy Day. With Britain under Nazi siege, Roosevelt wanted the United States to join the fight. The American public was not convinced. “I have in my possession a secret map made by Hitler’s government. It is a map of South America and part of Central America, as Hitler proposes to reorganize it,” Roosevelt told the shocked assemblage. The president then revealed another German document that pledged to eliminate the world’s religions. The reaction was explosive, but the facts were not. Hans Thomsen, the senior diplomat at the German Embassy in the U.S. was also active in keeping Americans out of WWII. He fed pro-German material to sitting members of Congress, and bribed newspapers to publish false material. The book is well researched and referenced; it is engaging for readers interested in the history of WWII. The story flows well but the role played by German spy agency in creating their own misinformation has not been well documented.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Sure, most Americans are aware that prior to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into WWII, the nation was divided by isolationists and interventionists. And while it is also well known that Charles Lindbergh was at the helm of the isolationist ship, few were aware that a man named Bill Stephenson, an agent of MI6, was manipulating the country towards more interventionist attitudes. Through what we would now call “fake news,” whispering campaigns, polls, and even forgeries and briberies, Stephenson Sure, most Americans are aware that prior to Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into WWII, the nation was divided by isolationists and interventionists. And while it is also well known that Charles Lindbergh was at the helm of the isolationist ship, few were aware that a man named Bill Stephenson, an agent of MI6, was manipulating the country towards more interventionist attitudes. Through what we would now call “fake news,” whispering campaigns, polls, and even forgeries and briberies, Stephenson and his department’s goal was to get Americans to support England against the Nazi threat. It is the author’s personal connection to Stephenson that drives the book, but despite that, it’s not a particularly exciting narrative. Yes, I learned quite a bit about how Roosevelt cut congressional corners and really ticked a lot of people off. Of course, Lindy wasn’t painted in a flattering light, and for a good portion of the book, it’s basically Lindbergh versus Stephenson. The following quotes clearly define the defining characteristics of the two men. “Like most anti-Semites, Lindbergh had convinced himself, first, that a hidden network of wealthy and powerful Jews existed, and that its members were advancing a secret agenda. Once the idea had taken root, he was able to see ‘Jewish influence’ in almost anything that went wrong.” “Much like the people he was fighting against, Bill Stephenson’s political ethics were by then grounded in the singular belief that the end justified the means. He had decided long ago that the threat of Hitler warranted mass deception on a national scale…” While America’s entry into the war was inevitable, there is no denying that Stephenson greatly influenced American attitudes. He even helped form the agency that would eventually become the CIA, based on the how MI6 operated. But for all his achievements, it wasn’t through cut-throat espionage that he achieved his goals, but the connections he made to politicians and wealthy interventionists. Like I said previously, it wasn’t the most thrilling book, but it was a decent depiction of a tumultuous time in American history. I received a complimentary copy of this book via the Amazon Vine program.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Nancy Kennedy

    Recently, I read "The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942," which is about the year 1941 and how Americans for the most part were either apathetic or actively opposed to entering the war then raging in Europe. They came up with ingenious ways to circumvent rationing and other ways they considered the government as interfering in their lives. That was an eye-opening thought to me. We always got "The Greatest Generation" speech when talking about World War II in school. Everyone was Recently, I read "The Darkest Year: The American Home Front 1941-1942," which is about the year 1941 and how Americans for the most part were either apathetic or actively opposed to entering the war then raging in Europe. They came up with ingenious ways to circumvent rationing and other ways they considered the government as interfering in their lives. That was an eye-opening thought to me. We always got "The Greatest Generation" speech when talking about World War II in school. Everyone was onboard and gung-ho in that version of the war. Turns out, there's a lot more to the American entrance into World War II than Pearl Harbor. Henry Hemming's book explores how governments and individuals worked behind the scenes to bring the U.S. into the war. Mr. Hemming's book tells the story primarily through a Canadian-born British MI6 agent, William Stephenson, whose networks enabled him to apply influence to the task. Secondarily, the author follows William Donovan, an unofficial White House representative working in Britain whom Stephenson drew into his underground scheme. As the need for information about enemy positions and planned grew, Donovan subsequently became the head of the newly created OSS -- the Office of Strategic Services, the first unified American intelligence gathering agency. The problem for me was that these two "Bills" come across as fairly colorless. The author spends an equal amount of time with outsized personalities like Charles Lindbergh, a front man for the isolationists who wanted to stay out of the war. Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, also arrives on the scene. The author quotes him praising Stephenson's martini recipe -- shaken not stirred! After that, I resisted returning to the drab scenes of meetings, speeches and conferences. So many names got threaded through my eyes that I couldn't keep everyone straight. A student of World War II might have an easier time than I did getting through the labyrinth.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dan Trefethen

    A foreign power's intelligence service works to influence American public opinion through media shenanigans. Sound familiar? It happened 80 years ago, when the British desperately wanted America to enter WWII in 1940, and sent William Stephenson to America to form a unit of British intelligence (MI6) to convince America (ultimately, Pres. Roosevelt) to enter the war. While Pearl Harbor proved the trigger that did it, the activity by Stephenson's unit worked to sway American opinion towards a A foreign power's intelligence service works to influence American public opinion through media shenanigans. Sound familiar? It happened 80 years ago, when the British desperately wanted America to enter WWII in 1940, and sent William Stephenson to America to form a unit of British intelligence (MI6) to convince America (ultimately, Pres. Roosevelt) to enter the war. While Pearl Harbor proved the trigger that did it, the activity by Stephenson's unit worked to sway American opinion towards a favorable view to enter the war against Nazi Germany even before Pearl Harbor. His actions probably also contributed to Hitler's declaring war on the USA shortly after Pearl Harbor, taking the pressure off Roosevelt to declare war on Germany. While some similar activity by German agents in America is profiled, the main story is about Stephenson and his activities. Also, Charles Lindbergh is prominently featured as the point man for the isolationists. Much of Stephenson's work was to counteract and sabotage the work of the isolationists. If you're familiar with Stephenson as “A Man Called Intrepid”, you are way out of date. That book was apparently full of hyberbole and error, as historians have ascertained. Recently declassifed documents in Britain led to the development of this book that straightens out the story somewhat. While it reduces Stephenson's role as a master global spy, it burnishes his reputation as the man who convinced America to fight the Nazis and save Britain. Media manipulation is nothing new, says the author in an afterword, and will continue. The only thing the average person can do is remain alert and skeptical of provocative information that serves a political purpose.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Burton

    Our Man in New York is a fascinating insight in to how Great Britain worked to manipulate the American general public in to agreeing that joining Britain in WWII was the right thing to do. The cast involved in generating, implementing and distributing the "Fake News" includes Spies, a President, Hollywood, Business Magnates as well as ordinary people who believed in what they were doing. What was actually done is quite amazing / shocking. I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley and the Our Man in New York is a fascinating insight in to how Great Britain worked to manipulate the American general public in to agreeing that joining Britain in WWII was the right thing to do. The cast involved in generating, implementing and distributing the "Fake News" includes Spies, a President, Hollywood, Business Magnates as well as ordinary people who believed in what they were doing. What was actually done is quite amazing / shocking. I was given a copy of this book by NetGalley and the Publishers in return for my unbiased review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Greville Waterman

    I really enjoyed Agent M and this is just as good. The story has been revealed by many other reviewers so I won't repeat what they have said. I loved the amount of reach that the author had obviously conducted and how he draw all the strands together to make a highly readable and historically accurate account of a key moment in the history of WW2. Exceptionally good and highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Annarella

    A fascinating, well researched and well written book that made me learn about a background of the WWII unknown to me. It can be read like a novel as it's engrossing and entertaining, fun to read at parts and surely interesting. It's the first book I read bu this author and won't surely the last. It was a great read, it's highly recommended! Many thanks to Quercus Books and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Debi Robertson

    It wasn't until I was looking at Hemming's list of other books written that I realized that I had read Agent M not that long ago. This one was just as amazing. It is extremely well researched and written and full of details I had no idea was going on behind the scenes of WWII. Although, in hindsight, I'm not sure why I was so surprised. I have a nephew who is very into war history and is currently reading my copy of Agent M. This one I just might get him for Christmas.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kyra

    Book received for free through NetGalley I fully enjoyed this book. In the wake of the 2016 Russian influence and all the fake news out there it’s both comforting and scary to see that this isn’t the first time it’s happened. This books is great whether you want to know about the United States side up to the Second World War starting along with learning about fake news and influence campaigns before the internet.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Lambe

    I was given an ARC from NetGalley. I really really enjoyed this well-written account of the manipulation of public opinion by the British relative to American involvement in WWII. Obviously well researched. This was the first work I have read by this author and it won't be the last! Definitely recommended for any WWII history buffs.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Trevithick

    A great read about a massive foreign influence campaign to change American public opinion - by the Brits. To get Americans into World War 2. Excellent use of new archival research, great writing, and a complex story told very clearly.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amber

    This is the history no one is taught in school. How manipulated are we by other governments ? We hear all about Fake News-and it’s certainly prevalent- but how do we know who is *really* behind it-and why?

  21. 5 out of 5

    David

    Great true life espionage story written in a very approachable style. Great example of fake news exploitation that makes you question what is really the truth today

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Fascinating non-fiction account w/lots of detail about a British effort in 1939-41 to try to change US public's attitudes re joining the war.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Steve Mitchener

    It is the summer of 1940. Britain is on its knees. Two airmen stand as combatants. One, the most famous man in the world in 1927, is on a public stage; the other, an unknown, but decorated fighter pilot from the First World War, hides in the shadows. The world teeters on a knife edge. The merest breath of American public opinion will tip the balance. Will it be Hitler or Churchill? Democracy or fascism? Our history … or another future? Henry Hemming leads us through a ‘never-world’ of lies, It is the summer of 1940. Britain is on its knees. Two airmen stand as combatants. One, the most famous man in the world in 1927, is on a public stage; the other, an unknown, but decorated fighter pilot from the First World War, hides in the shadows. The world teeters on a knife edge. The merest breath of American public opinion will tip the balance. Will it be Hitler or Churchill? Democracy or fascism? Our history … or another future? Henry Hemming leads us through a ‘never-world’ of lies, rumour, flattery and deception, where it is unclear whether leading figures are themselves grandmasters or mere chess pieces in the game; a game not just of life and death, but of the world’s destiny. Written in a style that combines hard fact with suspense, truth with intrigue, and hope over experience, we are treated to a story that is sometimes hard to believe. The daring of (our hero spymaster) Bill Stephenson and his accomplices at times had me laughing out loud. Combining the playful, cheeky antics of public schoolboys, with the wile and ruthlessness of street urchins, a group of MI6 agents take on the mission to lead the US into war with Hitler. Another triumph by Mr. Hemming. What next, I wonder?

  24. 5 out of 5

    Phillydeb

  25. 5 out of 5

    John Nolting

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  27. 4 out of 5

    veronica ashbrooke

  28. 5 out of 5

    Darrel Evans

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Young

  30. 5 out of 5

    Johannes Kramer

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