At Least I Know I’m Free – How Americans Could Have Lost Their Freedoms – An Alternative History Of World War II, by William C. Grayson

(Infinity Publishing, 2007; 253 pp., $15.95 – ISBN 9780741440365)

Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA” provides both the title of this interesting book and the lyrics that generate a thought-provoking look at how our world might have changed if WWII had gone differently. With his usual attention to detail and very intense grasp of serious aspects of war fighting and political processes, the author has put together a rather compelling scenario for a far different result from America’s war with Japan and Germany.

The first great challenge the reader must face is that of suspending knowledge of the actual outcome of WWII. Once past that, the author has created a sequence of momentous events that weave both known important persons and invented players and their decisions and actions into a certainly plausible novel.

The alternative history plays upon the actual or suspected ideology of such luminaries as the Socialist Norman Thomas as President, “American Firster” Charles Lindberg as Vice President, and pacifist Jeanette Rankin as Secretary of War.

The author then composes his novel by giving life and direction to the major antagonists and protagonists of the day, with Hitler, Von Ribbentrop, Stalin, Hirohito, Churchill, Roosevelt, and their minions, all involved in both actual and alternative scenarios. Strategic and tactical aspects of this history are described, with nuclear weapons serving as an important catalyst for much of the alternative outcome.

What makes this book capture the reader’s interest is the constant leavening of real events and detailed explanations of processes which give a sense of reality to events which are demonstrably different from what we know to be true. This effort is an easy read and provides some serious points to ponder, while at the same time a historian might find some of the concoctions a bit too simplistic or beyond reasonable likelihood. The author does a particularly important service for the less initiated by providing an Annex which compares the actual events with the alternative events, with discussion of why the alternative has been posed.

Altogether, this is a good piece of literary work and recommended reading.