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The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm

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Reid does a wonderful job of capturing Churchill in all his complexity. He gives Churchill great praise for his personal courage and inspirational leadership during the dark days when Britain stood alone, but he is equally clear about Churchill’s poor strategic judgments, such as the efforts to defend Greece and Crete, the Allied assault on Anzio, and the decision to send the battleship Prince of Wales and battle cruiser Repulse to the South China Sea without adequate air cover (where they were promptly sunk by the Japanese). He highlights Churchill’s naiveté in dealing with Soviet Premier Stalin in the early years of the war, but praises his prescience in anticipating Stalin’s land grab in Eastern Europe at the end of the conflict. Reid also gives welcome attention to aspects of the war – such as Churchill’s fear that the United States might decide to put its primary emphasis on defeating Japan regardless of the “Germany first” understanding he shared with Roosevelt – that have received little attention in other books.   

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