Books | 22 May 2013

Rendezvous with Destiny: How Franklin D. Roosevelt and Five Extraordinary Men Took America into the War and into the World

In the dark days between Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent five remarkable men on dramatic and dangerous missions to Europe. The missions were highly unorthodox and they confounded and infuriated diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic. Their importance is little understood to this day. In fact, they were crucial to the course of the Second World War.

Sumner Welles, the buttoned-down diplomat eventually ruined by his sexual misdemeanours, met with Mussolini, Hitler and Chamberlain. William 'Wild Bill' Donovan, war hero and future spymaster, visited an isolated United Kingdom  to determine whether it could hold out against the Nazis. Harry Hopkins, frail social worker and New Dealer, became an unlikely confidant of Churchill and Stalin. Averell Harriman, banker and railroad heir, ran the massive aid program out of London, where he romanced Churchill's daughter-in-law. Wendell Willkie, the charismatic former Republican presidential candidate, raised British morale and helped FDR to win over wary Americans to the cause. 

Together, they shaped the future of America, the Second World War, and the modern world.

Rendezvous with Destiny is narrative history at its most delightful, stirring, and important.

  • Michael Fullilove

In the dark days between Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 and Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt sent five remarkable men on dramatic and dangerous missions to Europe. The missions were highly unorthodox and they confounded and infuriated diplomats on both sides of the Atlantic. Their importance is little understood to this day. In fact, they were crucial to the course of the Second World War.

Sumner Welles, the buttoned-down diplomat eventually ruined by his sexual misdemeanours, met with Mussolini, Hitler and Chamberlain. William 'Wild Bill' Donovan, war hero and future spymaster, visited an isolated United Kingdom  to determine whether it could hold out against the Nazis. Harry Hopkins, frail social worker and New Dealer, became an unlikely confidant of Churchill and Stalin. Averell Harriman, banker and railroad heir, ran the massive aid program out of London, where he romanced Churchill's daughter-in-law. Wendell Willkie, the charismatic former Republican presidential candidate, raised British morale and helped FDR to win over wary Americans to the cause. 

Together, they shaped the future of America, the Second World War, and the modern world.

Rendezvous with Destiny is narrative history at its most delightful, stirring, and important.

  • Michael Fullilove
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Key Findings

  • 'A rare combination of diplomatic thriller and original history, well-paced and expertly told.' - Financial Times
  • 'Fullilove infuses each chapter with the danger, romance and deadly seriousness of war.'- Wall Street Journal
  • 'Superb... One of the most fascinating works of history I have read in many years.' - The Weekend Australian
  • 'Revelatory . . . A massive book that will change the way we view America's role in the war.' - The Daily Telegraph

Executive Summary

Rendezvous with Destiny (Penguin Australia) is available from all good bookstores and online.