Citizens of London is a nonfiction book that delves into the world of American citizens caught up in London during World War II. Olson primarily focuses on Ambassador John Gilbert Winant, Diplomat Averill Harriman and reporter Edward R. Murrow.
Most Americans who were alive at the time will recall the effect of Murrow's harrowing radio reports from London during the Blitz. Olson makes the case that Murrow's reports were very much responsible for turning the tide of American sentiment to stay out of the war. Murrow and his wife, who also stayed, lost many friends and colleagues in the bombing.
Ambassador Winant, who replaced the British-reviled Joseph Kennedy, became beloved by the British for his untiring work on their behalf. In addition to trying desperately to get Roosevelt into the war, Winant was able to convince Roosevelt to expand aid to the British both in basic goods and war aids. He also lived very quietly and low-key in London. The British admired him so much they gave him one of their highest honors.
On occasion, Olson leaves London for Yalta and other conferences between the big three which tends to drag the book down. She also runs rather quickly through the effect of the American soldiers in London and other parts of Britain. At the highest point in the war, 1 of every 6 citizens was American. And to keep up morale, the Americans had more and better food than the British. But, Olson notes, they also had money to spend in shops and pubs and kept England floating economically during the latter half of the war.
A fascinating look at the early part of the war when most Americans had not yet entered the fray but for whom Eric Sevareid would say, "When this is all over, in years to come, men will speak of this war and say, I was a soldier, I was a sailor, or I was a pilot. Others will say with equal pride, I was a citizen of London."