With only a casual interest in history, I found this book fascinating; not quite a “can’t put it down” page-turner, but compelling enough to pick up and keep reading every day.
Most sections touch on the end of World War Two and the beginning of the cold war, at least mentioning and often quoting such characters as FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Stalin, Molotov, Chiang Kai-shek, Churchill, Tito, John Foster Dulles, Gen. Marshall, Gen. MacArthur, Gen. Bradley, Vandenburg, Admirals Nimitz, King, Leahy, Yamamoto, Averell Harriman, Bedell Smith, Vannevar Bush, Charles E. Wilson, Republicans Dewey, Taft, Stassen, Democrats Henry Wallace, Vinson, Pepper, Byrd and many more, in personal meetings, cabinet meetings, and elsewhere. If you recognize many of these names but don’t know too much about them, reading the Forrestal Diaries is an entertaining way to learn more (as I did).
Much of Forrestal’s worries centered around developing a unified service and an adequate military budget while watching hot spots around the world like China, Israel, Greece, Turkey, Korea, etc., as well as the Berlin blockade, European aide (Marshall plan), dealing with the Atomic bomb and whether/how to plan for it’s use in war, and politics.
(Not quite a spoiler, but: It comes to a moving conclusion.) The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars: Heavy editing with many long editorial notes, which on the one hand makes it more readable than a bunch of diary entries often jumping between topics of different context, but on the other, leaves me wondering if the editors put their own spin on things or left out something interesting. Still very glad I read it.