Hitler's American Gamble

Pearl Harbor and Germany's March to Global War


By Brendan Simms

By Charlie Laderman

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An “absorbing” and “visceral” (New York Times) 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.








Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)




Berlin, Vichy, Rome, Libya








Hong Kong




i During World War II, British Double Summer Time—two hours ahead of GMT—was temporarily introduced for the period when ordinary daylight saving would normally be in effect. During the winter months, clocks continued to be one hour ahead of GMT to enhance productivity. See “Why Do the Clocks Change?,” Royal Museums Greenwich, www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/british-summer-time-bst-daylight-saving#:~:text=During%20the%20Second%20World%20War,of%20GMT%20to%20increase%20productivity.


The five days from the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor to Adolf Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States were among the most fraught, but remain some of the least understood, of the twentieth century. The dominant narrative holds that Japan’s surprise attack led inexorably to the outbreak of a truly global conflict. In this view, American opposition to involvement in both the Pacific and European wars simply melted away on December 7, 1941. As the stridently anti-interventionist Senator Arthur Vandenberg subsequently claimed in an oft-quoted remark: “That day ended isolationism for any realist.”1 It is assumed that the United States’ entry into the war against Germany was inevitable from the moment that Japan struck Pearl Harbor. This perspective has been encouraged by no less a witness than Winston Churchill himself, who later spoke of having “slept the sleep of the saved and thankful” after hearing the news of Japan’s attack. In his memoirs, he would declare that “now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all!”2

Yet at the time, Churchill did not regard America’s full-scale entry into the war against Germany as a foregone conclusion. Nor was he alone. Across the world, politicians and military leaders tried to fathom what had happened in Hawaii and where it might lead. In fact, it would take almost one hundred hours from Pearl Harbor for the situation to resolve itself—five agonizing days in which the fate of the world hung in the balance. In the end, it was Hitler who declared war on the United States on December 11, rather than the other way around. Among those who do remember this order of events, the declaration is considered an inexplicable strategic blunder by Hitler, sealing the fate of his regime. But in reality, Hitler’s declaration of war was a deliberate gamble, driven by his geopolitical calculations, his assessment of the balance of manpower and matériel, and, above all, his obsession with the United States and its global influence.

The world that emerged on December 12, 1941, was not inevitable a week earlier, nor even immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack. Before December 1941, Asia and Europe were the scenes of cataclysmic conflicts, but these struggles raged across the Eurasian landmass and on the surrounding oceans, essentially siloed in their separate theaters. Between the Pearl Harbor attack and Hitler’s declaration of war on the United States, five days passed during which the future of those disconnected struggles was decided, and every major power was forced to commit to one of two camps.3 This interval was the crucible for a new global alignment that would dramatically alter the course of the conflict and reverberate far beyond the war, with implications we still feel today.

Churchill’s actions and comments during this pivotal period demonstrate unease and anxiety more than triumphal relief. Immediately upon hearing news of Pearl Harbor, Churchill made urgent plans to travel to Washington. As he informed King George VI, he was desperate to ensure that the influx of aid from the United States, on which Britain’s fighting capacity depended, “does not suffer more than is, I fear, inevitable.”4 His fears were exacerbated when, on the night of December 7, the US Army and Navy stopped all defense aid shipments to foreign governments to ensure that sufficient supplies were available for America’s own war in the Pacific. From Washington, the British ambassador, Lord Halifax, warned Churchill that Roosevelt was reluctant to agree to his visit. The American public, Halifax said, was now focused on Japan. Worse, many Americans remained unconvinced that the United States needed to entangle itself in an additional conflict with the German Reich. Indeed, Senator Vandenberg himself wrote in his diary on December 8 that although he and his fellow “non-interventionists” were now ready to “go along” with war against Japan, they remained wedded to “our beliefs.”5 They showed little sign of embracing a wider war.

President Franklin Roosevelt was well aware of the national mood. Roosevelt had spent more than a year carefully educating his fellow countrymen about the threat posed by Hitler’s Germany. He had established the United States as the “arsenal of democracy,” providing as much aid as was politically feasible to the Allied nations fighting Hitler. While Roosevelt prioritized Europe, he had evinced comparatively less concern about Japanese ambitions in the Pacific. But now, on December 7, 1941, the United States found itself at war not with Nazi Germany, against whom Roosevelt had devoted so many American resources, but with Imperial Japan. An immediate declaration of war on Hitler was a tremendous political risk at a time when the nation’s attention and anger were directed against Japan.

Cables from Berlin to Tokyo, intercepted and decoded by US intelligence, suggested that Germany would join any war that Japan fought against the United States, but Hitler’s behavior was not so easy to predict. As Roosevelt’s speechwriter Robert Sherwood later noted, the Nazis “were in honour bound by their pledges to the Japanese, but they had not previously shown much inclination to let such bourgeois-democratic considerations interfere with their own concepts on self-interest.”6

Japan’s leadership was no more certain that Hitler would keep his word. Emperor Hirohito and other members of the Japanese elite had repeatedly expressed their fear that Hitler, who had previously described the Japanese as a second-class race, would reconcile with the other “white powers”—the “Anglo-Saxon” United States and British Empire—leaving Japan to fight alone.7 There was indeed considerable ambivalence in Berlin about helping to bring down the so-called white British Empire, even though Hitler had increasingly reshaped himself as the defender of those he termed the global “have-nots” against the Anglo-Saxon “haves” as the war progressed.

Moreover, Hitler was being advised that, as Japan had initiated the conflict with the United States, Germany was under no obligation to support its ally by joining in a declaration of war. German diplomats made their leader aware that Roosevelt was determined to avoid simultaneous hostilities in the Pacific and Atlantic and had no intention of issuing a declaration against Germany. If Germany avoided a formal state of war with the United States, then, with America’s attention fixed on Japan, Britain might be deprived of any further meaningful support from Washington and left isolated against the Axis powers in the Atlantic. Keeping the struggles separate might well give Germany the advantage against the British and the Soviets.

In Moscow, Pearl Harbor came at a time when the tide of war with Germany seemed to be turning. Stalin’s master spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, had previously reported that the Japanese intended to strike against the Anglo-Americans and not the Soviet Union, and the attack vindicated Stalin’s decision to move much of the Far Eastern army west to deal with the Germans. Yet Pearl Harbor triggered profound anxiety in the Kremlin. First, because it brought American pressure to declare war on Japan and thus plunge the Soviet Union into a two-front war after all. Second, because the new needs of the US armed forces, and those of the embattled British Empire in Asia, threatened to reduce the flow of vital military aid to the Soviet Union.

The world, then, held its breath. The global sense of confusion and unpredictability after Pearl Harbor was captured by the American diplomat George Kennan, then stationed at the US embassy in Berlin. With all communication lines now cut by the Nazis, Kennan and his colleagues could only speculate whether a US-German war was imminent, debating among themselves whether to burn their diplomatic codes and declassified files lest they fall into enemy hands. As Kennan later recalled, “We lived in excruciating uncertainty.”8

On December 11, 1941, it was Hitler who let Roosevelt, the American interventionists, and the Allies off the hook. His declaration of war on the United States turned two potentially separate conflicts into a truly world war. For almost every other major world leader, the Pearl Harbor attack initially brought confusion. For Hitler, it was a moment of “murderous clarity.”9 The terrible consequences were felt not only by combatants and the civilian population the world over, but also by European Jews. The Nazi dictator was convinced that the US president, international “plutocratic” capitalism, and “world Jewry” were together bent on his destruction. For Hitler, Jews were not only responsible for the actions of Roosevelt, but potentially a weapon that could be used against him. For three years, Hitler had explicitly held European Jewry hostage to secure the good behavior of the Americans. Inspired by his conspiratorial view of worldwide Jewish influence, Hitler believed that the threat of further violence against European—especially central and western European—Jews would deter their supposed agent, President Roosevelt, from intervening directly in the European war.

Of course, Hitler’s genocidal ambitions had already been barbarically and brutally demonstrated well before December 1941. The murders of at least a million mainly Soviet Jews were proof of his long-standing intentions. But as 1941 came to an end, millions of western and central European Jews were still alive, if in great peril. Nazi leaders had discussed their systematic destruction for some time, but the timing and technical details were still not agreed, and, most important, the Führer himself had not yet communicated a final decision to the party leadership. Following his declaration of war on the United States, Hitler would tie the fate of surviving European Jewry inextricably to the collapse of US-German relations. When he declared war on the United States, he also pronounced a sentence of death on the Jews of western and central Europe. In 1939, Hitler had delivered his infamous warning that the consequences of a world at war would be the annihilation of the Jews. In the subsequent two years, he had repeatedly invoked this “prophecy,” which was by its very nature, for someone with his radically anti-Semitic worldview, ultimately a self-fulfilling one. But it was only after his declaration of war on the United States on December 11, 1941, that he would move to fully realize this apocalyptic vision.

If for Hitler the die was cast, things were still very much uncertain in Washington and London. At the start of December history seemed open, and this sense of uncertainty persisted in the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor as well. Yet over time, the participants would remember their experiences in ways shaped by the outcome. Memories and stories came to reflect the ultimate, decisive defeat of the Axis nations by the combined Allied powers. Looking back, the Axis fate appeared inescapable, and so the uncertain events that led to it seemed inevitable.10 This tension between determinacy and contingency is what makes these five days in December so dramatic—and why we must unpick the days, hours, and minutes to turn back the clock and get closer to the truth of these moments as they were lived.

Powerful narratives like Churchill’s “sleep of the saved” have distorted our memory of this period, but history was being rewritten before 1941 was even over. Days mattered. For example, Roosevelt’s trusted pollster Hadley Cantril, on whom the president relied to gauge public opinion before embarking on any major policy decisions, would also contribute to the impression that an American declaration of war against Germany was inevitable as soon as the Pearl Harbor attack occurred. In his survey of American public opinion around World War II, Cantril would reproduce a poll, ostensibly from December 10, 1941, in which an overwhelming 90 percent of respondents were in favor of Roosevelt asking Congress for a declaration of war on Germany as well as Japan.11 Historians have pointed to this poll as evidence that American public opinion was settled on the question of war with Germany in the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor assault and that a declaration of war by Roosevelt was imminent, irrespective of what Hitler did.12 Yet Cantril’s account of the poll’s date was misleading. The poll question was finalized on December 10, but it was not actually put to Americans until two days later. That is, the question was asked on the day after Hitler declared war on the United States. A resounding affirmative response was, therefore, unsurprising. Those Americans polled on this question between December 12 and 17 were, in effect, simply validating what their government had already done in answering Hitler’s declaration of war on December 11 with a reciprocal American declaration that same day.13

For five momentous days, while clocks ticked in chancelleries and war rooms across the world, the minds of the major leaders inevitably went back to the last great conflict, which many had experienced firsthand, either as soldiers or statesmen. To truly comprehend the mentalité of these men at this time, we must first understand how the global strategic picture had evolved in the almost quarter century since the First World War and the ways in which these powerful individuals experienced, and contributed to, that transition. We begin, therefore, by charting the emergence of an Anglo-American world hegemony, which was furiously resisted by the self-described have-nots of the international system: Imperial Japan, Italy—another Fascist regime in Europe that saw territorial expansion as the route to great-power status—and, above all, the Third Reich.

Our story thereafter is largely metropolitan in focus, concentrating not only on the battlefronts but on how the political intrigue and breaking news was reported and received by the leadership, the press, the military, and the wider public in major capitals around the world. We draw on a broad range of often neglected sources, especially German, British, and American, the three powers at the center of our story. Of particular significance is the correspondence of the German Foreign Office; the records of those responsible for the procurement and distribution of American military aid on both sides of the Atlantic, which, while largely overlooked by other analysts of this critical juncture, reveal the potentially fatal threat posed by the new US-Japanese war to vital defense support to Britain and the USSR; the papers of Roosevelt’s domestic political opponents; and the files of leading Americans in Germany and Italy who, more than most, experienced the “excruciating uncertainty” of those momentous days. We also draw on diaries, memoirs, newspaper reports, and other accounts by individuals across all the major combatant nations to show how the events of these five days were perceived and experienced by ordinary people across the globe.

Above all, this book emphasizes and recreates the uncertainty of these five crucial days in global history. It is the first study to investigate this critical period in such extensive detail.14 Rather than adopting a geographical approach, we provide an hour-by-hour and sometimes minute-by-minute account of these days in a truly global and nonstop narrative. The fate of the world hung on decisions made in multiple countries but, between December 7 and 11, Britain was the only power at war in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Consequently, each day begins at midnight in London, by which time it is already 1 a.m. in Berlin and Rome, 2 a.m. in Moscow, and 8 a.m. in Tokyo, but still 6 p.m. the previous day in Washington. This blow-by-blow account enables us to reconstruct the drama and complexity of the events as they unfolded, sequentially and sometimes simultaneously, across four continents and more than half a dozen time zones. What played out over these five days was as consequential as any crisis in twentieth-century diplomatic history, because it transformed that century’s second great conflagration into a war that was even more destructive and world-encompassing than the first. In challenging the prevailing deterministic interpretation of this critical turning point in the Second World War, our book uncovers the rationale behind what proved to be Hitler’s greatest strategic error and offers a new perspective on the background to America’s rise to world power.



Anglo-American Hegemony and Its Enemies

On December 11, 1941, Adolf Hitler stood before the German Reichstag. Four days had passed since Japan had launched a devastating assault on Pearl Harbor and unleashed a series of attacks against American and British possessions across Asia. Japan was now at war with the British Empire and United States. For the other Axis powers, Germany and Italy, much remained unresolved. The Asian and European conflicts were not yet fully conjoined. The United States was a belligerent in the former but not formally in the latter. The Tripartite Pact between Germany, Italy, and Japan committed each to go to the others’ aid if they were attacked, but as other world powers were aware, the pact required nothing if they were the aggressor. Hours turned to days as the world waited to see how Hitler would respond.

When Hitler began to speak, no one outside of his closest confidants could be certain exactly what he would say or what the consequences would be. After a ramble across the different war fronts, the Führer arrived at America. He began by declaring that there was no reason why Germany and the United States, who were racially akin and who had no clashing national interests, should be at odds. Despite this, he claimed, Washington had launched an unprovoked attack on the German Reich in 1917 and was now preparing to do the same again. Hitler argued that the US president during that first conflict, Woodrow Wilson, had been driven by “a group of interested financiers” who hoped for “increased business.” The misery that the German people had suffered after defeat in the First World War was primarily the responsibility of Wilson and this shadowy clique. Although Hitler did not discuss it on this occasion, that cataclysm had been the decisive turning point in his life, and his first encounter with Americans on the battlefield had indelibly shaped his worldview.1

As open hostilities again loomed with the United States, Hitler lamented to the Reichstag: “Why is there now another president of the USA who regards it as his only task to intensify anti-German feeling to the pitch of war?” For Hitler, the answer was simple: it was “a fact that the two conflicts between Germany and the USA were inspired by the same force and caused by two men in the USA—Wilson and Roosevelt.”2 The “force” to which Hitler alluded was Jewish international finance, which he claimed was once more at work, manipulating the incumbent president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, to follow in Wilson’s footsteps. Although the Wilhelmine Reich had awaited the blow passively, Hitler vowed to strike first, announcing the start of open hostilities against the United States. Only now would the war become a world war.

It had been almost twenty-five years since American intervention had turned the tide of a major international conflict. While the Great War engulfed Europe, President Wilson had struggled for almost three years to keep his country out. In 1915, he secured a pledge from the Germans to suspend their aggressive U-boat offensive in the Atlantic. Yet in January 1917—as the Allied blockade threatened to strangle Germany into submission and Allied armies used munitions supplied by American manufacturers against German troops—the military-controlled government in Berlin announced the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare. Even then Wilson did not immediately declare war. Noninterventionist sentiment remained strong, particularly in the American Midwest, and Wilson feared leading a divided nation into war. Yet after the interception of the Zimmerman telegram, in which Germany’s foreign minister proposed an alliance with Mexico in the event of a US-German war, and the subsequent sinking of American vessels by German U-boats, a reluctant Wilson decided that he had no choice. In April 1917, he brought the United States into the war “to make the world safe for democracy” and, in doing so, revolutionized international politics.3

At the beginning of the First World War, the United States was unrivaled as the world’s most powerful industrial nation, producing far more coal and oil than any other country, a third of the world’s manufactured goods, and a fifth of global economic output. Its navy was the third largest in the world, and although its military remained small, even by the standards of a midsize European nation, its potential was vast. At a time when steel production was regarded as a key indicator of prospective military capacity, American output was almost equal to that of the next four countries combined.4 As Winston Churchill recalled, his then cabinet colleague, the foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey, compared the prewar US economy to “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.”5

Upon America’s entrance into the war, industrial and military production surged. Reinforced by the power of their American associate, the Allies finally forced Germany to sue for peace in November 1918. Among the major powers other than Japan, only the United States emerged vastly stronger. The war witnessed the collapse of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires. Even among the victors, Britain and France suffered great losses.6 The United States now possessed economic power on a scale unprecedented in world history and had intervened militarily to help determine events on the European continent for the first time.7 The US president seemed poised to shape a new international order, centered on a League of Nations and underpinned by principles of open diplomacy, national self-determination, arms control, freedom of the seas, and a liberal trading order.8

The war raised the specter of American power, but political fissures promptly demonstrated its limits. After Wilson was forced to make concessions at the Paris Peace Conference to secure Allied agreement to the Versailles Treaty and the Covenant of the League of Nations, he then proved unable to convince the Republican-controlled Congress to ratify the treaty or join the new international organization. The Republican administrations that presided over American diplomacy for the next dozen years adopted a more restrained international role. While helping to limit naval armaments in East Asia at the 1921–1922 Washington Conference and using American economic power to help create the conditions that underpinned relative stability in Europe during the 1920s, these presidents, backed by the overwhelming majority of Americans, were determined to avoid any international political commitments.9 They kept the United States aloof from the League, whose dominant powers, Britain and France, were regarded by many American officials as immoral imperialists who put their own narrow national interests above broader international harmony and were committed to upholding an unjust settlement.10

As the United States effectively withdrew from a leading role in international politics, the burden of maintaining the fragile international political and economic order largely rested on Britain. But the First World War had exacted a heavy toll. The conflict had destroyed London’s dominance of international finance and left Britain deeply indebted to the United States.11 Nevertheless, although it no longer enjoyed the industrial supremacy of its mid-to-late-nineteenth-century heyday, Britain remained relatively more economically powerful than its European rivals. Its political system had weathered the war better than those on the continent, accommodating the arrival of mass democracy in 1918. It presided over an empire that had reached its territorial zenith—albeit one in which anti-colonial nationalism was on the rise, particularly in India and Egypt, and in which the Dominions (Australia, Canada, the Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand, and South Africa) could no longer be automatically relied on to stand with the metropole in case of conflict. Even so, in the decade after the First World War, Britain’s global influence was unparalleled and, with the United States on the sidelines, it was perceived by its strategic competitors as the central power in almost every major diplomatic issue.12


  • “[An] absorbing new book… The greatest strength of Simms and Laderman’s book is its success in accomplishing something supremely difficult: It reminds us how contingent even the most significant historical events can be, how many other possibilities lurked beyond the familiar ones that actually happened – and how even the greatest leaders often have only a shaky grasp of what is happening… Simms and Laderman give us a visceral sense of these events as they unfolded, in real time, with historical actors not always quite sure what was happening – a dimension of history that is both crucial and fiendishly difficult to recover.”
     —New York Times Book Review
  • “An engaging and insightful account of the forces that shaped Hitler’s fateful decision.”—Wall Street Journal
  • “[A] well-written and highly original study[.]”—The Times (UK)
  • "An extraordinary reconstruction of the fateful week following Pearl Harbor."—Adam Tooze, The Guardian
  • “[A] crisp and pacey analysis.” —David Reynolds, The New Statesman
  • “In a detailed reconstruction of the events of those few days, illuminating the importance of confusion, chance, and choice in the stream of history, Simms and Laderman explain that Hitler assumed that war with the United States was inevitable…”—Foreign Affairs
  • “In this fascinating book, which combines detailed analysis with a page turning account of the day by day shifts in Berlin, Washington, London and Tokyo, the story of that extraordinary and, as it turned out, fatal decision by Hitler – the ‘American gamble’ of the title – is laid out in detail. … [a] stimulating book.”—Rana Mitter, Literary Review
  • "A fast‑moving, even gripping story that informs as well as enlightens."—New York Journal of Books
  • "Unquestionably one of the most compelling and eye-opening monographs on World War II in recent memory.”—American History
  • "Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman's collaborative work is as gripping as it is well researched.... Simms and Laderman have created a truly thought provoking book."—Aspects of History
  • “A thoughtful chronology… Hitler’s American Gamble offers fine, well-researched insights into the psyches of leaders who made decisions that changed the course of world history… For readers seeking a deeper understanding of the realpolitik that drove Germany to war against America, Hitler’s American Gamble offers an outstanding narrative.  World War II Magazine
  • "[A]n extraordinary reconstruction of the fateful week following Pearl Harbor."—Adam Tooze, The Guardian
  • “[A] fresh angle on the buildup to WWII.”—Publishers Weekly
  • “The authors effectively prove their thesis in a key volume for World War II history collections.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)
  • “A meticulous historical account of 'five momentous days' at the beginning of World War II…. An excellent argument that America’s WWII began on Dec. 11, 1941.”—Kirkus
  • "The pay off from Simms and Laderman’s meticulous blow by blow account is to sharpen our sense of how vertiginously contingent the escalation to global war seemed in the second week of December 1941, even as it was happening."
     —Adam Tooze, Chartbook
  • "Simms and Laderman...chart these historic developments with an amalgam of skill, knowledge and style."—Sheldon Kirshner, Times of Israel
  • “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

On Sale
Apr 18, 2023
Page Count
528 pages
Basic Books

Brendan Simms

Brendan Simms

About the Author

Brendan Simms is a professor in the history of international relations and fellow at Cambridge. He is the author of many books, including Europe and Hitler. He lives in Cambridge, UK.

Charlie Laderman is a senior lecturer in international history in the war studies department at King’s College, London. He is the author of books on US-UK foreign policy, including Sharing the Burden. He lives in London.

Learn more about this author

Charlie Laderman

About the Author

Charlie Laderman is a lecturer in international history in the war studies department at King’s College, London. He is the author of books on US-UK foreign policy, including Sharing the Burden. He lives in London.

Learn more about this author