(See all my Book Reviews and Author Interviews) – Author Henry Hemming (http://henryhemming.com) published the book “Agents of Influence: A British Campaign, a Canadian Spy, and the Secret Plot to Bring America into World War II” in 2019. Mr. Hemming has published seven books.
In the late 30s, there were strong antiwar and isolationist sentiments in the US. This persisted well after the Nazis invaded Poland. One of the most vocal in these feelings was the air hero and personality, Charles Lindberg. Both Germany and the UK began propaganda efforts to sway the US.
This book is the story of Canadian William ‘Bill’ Stephenson. Germany was pressing its attack on the UK. Churchill and the government came to believe that their only hope was to bring the US into the war as an ally. MI6 recruited Stephenson and sent him to New York. He became head of the station there. His mission was to sway US public opinion in favor of joining the British.
Stephenson built up a large organization in New York. He brought in workers from both Canada and the UK. An early mission was to sway the 1940 election. They took extreme measures to see President Roosevelt reelected for a third term. There was also a lot of behind-the-scenes work to expedite the Lend-Lease Act. The MI6 office worked to see William J. ‘Bill’ Donovan named as the US Coordinator of Information (COI) in 1941. This agency evolved during the war into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and after the war into the CIA.
The US had no centralized intelligence organization. The British believed that one was needed and helped to organize the young agency. The Stephenson organization spent most of its efforts towards changing American opinions. This involved overcoming the isolationist attitude. Promoting an interventionist policy was critical to the survival of the UK.
I enjoyed the 8.5+ hours I spent reading this 401-page WWII era history. Until I read this book I had no idea the extent that the British and Germans had gone to in WWII to sway US public opinion. Recent allegations of foreign government involvement in elections are nothing new. The author also brings up a few very interesting but unsubstantiated conspiracy theories. While the book is full of detail, it remains very readable. I like the selected cover art. I give this book a 4.4 (rounded down to a 4) out of 5.
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If you have an interest in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest.
- The “World War II Resources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 550 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and other sources with information on the World War II era in history.
- The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
- The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.