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The Colonel: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson, 1867-1950 by Godfrey Hodgson (162,000 words, 17 illustrations)

Henry Stimson’s life story parallels America’s rise to international power in the 20th century. Godfrey Hodgson shows how this remarkable statesman helped define and carry out his country’s new responsibilities as America became the most powerful nation on earth. After Yale and Harvard Law School in the 1880s, Stimson helped found a law firm that is still a major force on Wall Street. He served as US Attorney for New York, and ran for governor of the state on the Republican ticket. After World War I and renewed legal work, Stimson rejoined public life as special emissary to Nicaragua for Calvin Coolidge, and then as Governor General of the Philippines. He served as William Howard Taft’s Secretary of War, and as Herbert Hoover’s Secretary of State. At age 72, Stimson accepted to become FDR’s Secretary of War, and he organized American victory in World War II and oversaw the birth of American military and political hegemony in the nuclear age.

Stimson’s career spanned Teddy Roosevelt’s imperialist expansionism to the world of Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. He dealt with the role of corporations and how to control them, civil war in Central America (Stimson negotiated the first truce between Somoza and Sandino in Nicaragua in 1927), the US position in the Philippines, the rise of Japan (which he dealt with before World War I), America’s commitment to helping Europe achieve stability, the terrors of the nuclear age (Stimson chaired the meetings that decided to drop the bomb on Hiroshima, and shortly before his death, wrote the earliest and most profound reassessment and repudiation of nuclear weaponry). In his many positions, Stimson mentored some of the best and brightest in American public service — Acheson, Lovett, Harriman, Bundy, and Marshall.


“Henry L. Stimson was Secretary of War under Taft, Governor-General of the Philippines under Coolidge, Secretary of State under Hoover, and Secretary of War under FDR. The atom bombs were built and dropped under Stimson’s supervision and authority... The public figure as well as the private man are richly delineated in this elegant, learned biography, which offers deep insight into the process by which the U.S. emerged from the periphery of world events to the center of global power.” —
Publishers Weekly

“After Dean Acheson, in many ways [Stimson’s] spiritual heir, Stimson was the most impressive statesman in the American century. To understand [him] is to understand how the United States was able to establish a Pax Americana over much of the globe. This lucid and penetrating biography of ‘Colonel Stimson’... is written with deft clarity... Hodgson... has shown himself to be one of the keenest observers of American politics.” — James Chace,
The New York Times

“Hodgson raises troubling questions about Stimson’s understanding of what we now call the third world, discusses Stimson’s racial and ethnic prejudices... and pays particular attention to [his] central role in the decision to use atomic weapons against Japan. What most clearly distinguishes this book... is Hodgson’s continuing interest in the idea of the American establishment and his effort to define its values.” — Alan Brinkley,
The New York Review of Books

“Hodgson’s first-rate biography of the old statesman and warrior, who died 40 years ago, has a particular relevance to the events gripping the world today. It is as good a guide as any to understanding what George Bush is up to in the Middle East... [Hodgson’s] concluding chapter... is the best essay I have ever read in a genre that could be loosely termed ‘establishment studies.’ [He] writes with a sure hand and lively touch about the private man as well as the public one.” — Evan Thomas,
Washington Post

“Meticulously researched and masterfully written, Godfrey Hodgson’s biography of Henry L. Stimson breathes life into one of America’s most formidable public figures. In the process, Hodgson provides fresh information and insights into the management of the United States during the first half of the twentieth century.” —
Stanley Karnow

“A lucid and meticulous account that measures up to its monumental subject and will hasten Henry Stimson’s passage into legend.” —
John Newhouse