A riveting account of the five most crucial days in twentieth-century diplomatic history: from Pearl Harbor to Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States

By early December 1941, war had changed much of the world beyond recognition. Nazi Germany occupied most of the European continent, while in Asia, the Second Sino-Japanese War had turned China into a battleground. But these conflicts were not yet inextricably linked—and the United States remained at peace.

Hitler’s American Gamble recounts the five days that upended everything: December 7 to 11. Tracing developments in real time and backed by deep archival research, historians Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman show how Hitler’s intervention was not the inexplicable decision of a man so bloodthirsty that he forgot all strategy, but a calculated risk that can only be understood in a truly global context. This book reveals how December 11, not Pearl Harbor, was the real watershed that created a world war and transformed international history.

What's Inside

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Reader Reviews

Praise

“This is history at its scintillating best. The fate of the world tilted on the decisions made in those few days—hours even—in December 1941, and Simms and Laderman brilliantly strip away the many myths surrounding them in this hard-hitting, revelatory, and superbly researched work.”
 —Andrew Roberts, author of Churchill: Walking with Destiny
“Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman show how Hitler’s mad decision to declare war on the United States on December 11, 1941 proved suicidal for the Axis, ensured a global catastrophe, and would radically redefine how World War II would end. And yet was Hitler really as unhinged and reckless as it has seemed? Warring with America was predictably consistent with the Nazi’s Final Solution ideology. It was consistent with Germany’s allegiance with Japan and the idea of Americans and British suddenly bogged down in a  new two-front war—and at the time seen as far more strategically advantageous than allowing a neutral America to continue to supply Germany’s enemies, the British Empire and Soviet Union. Hitler’s American Gamble is revisionist, but in the best sense of sound research, rare originality, singular analysis, and riveting prose.”
 —Victor Davis Hanson, the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, author of The Second World Wars
“All too often, historians narrate the past as if the end were preordained at the beginning. But history is not a novel or a play; it is more like a big game, in which the difference between victory and defeat depends on split-second decisions and hair’s breadths. In Hitler’s American Gamble, Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman grippingly retell the story of five days that not only shook but also shaped the world—the days between the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) and Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States (December 11). All students of both World War II and the Holocaust will learn, as I did, from their careful use of neglected documents and their attention to ‘counterfactuals’ that, for contemporaries, were at least as likely as what actually happened.”
 —Niall Ferguson, Milbank Family Senior Fellow, the Hoover Institution, and author of The War of the World
“The greatest grand strategic blunder of all time may well have been Nazi Germany’s declarations of war, within six months in 1941, on both the Soviet Union and the United States. ‘Don’t try this at home,’ I’ve always told my students, but I’ve never been able to explain to them why Hitler chose to. Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman have now come to the rescue with a rare achievement: a microhistory that’s global in scope. Filled with fresh insights, excitingly written, and meticulously documented, Hitler’s American Gamble is sure to become an instant classic.”
 —John Lewis Gaddis, Yale University
“Hitler’s American Gamble is a thrilling and authoritative study of five crucial days in the Second World War: December 7–11, 1941. Using a wide array of hitherto-neglected sources and their own deep understanding of the period, Laderman and Simms provide an altogether outstanding account of what transpired between the Pearl Harbor attack and Hitler’s declaration of war against the United States. A gripping tale, expertly told.”
 —Fredrik Logevall, author of Embers of War
“This outstanding book by two of the best historians around revolutionized what I thought I knew about strategy by the Axis powers and how it shaped post-war order. Written like a thriller, it pulls you along breathlessly as Hitler makes his fateful decision.”
 —Dr. Kori Schake, senior fellow and director of foreign and defense policy studies, American Enterprise Institute
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