“This is surely the last personal memoir to be written by a public servant who worked closely in the White House with FDR and Truman. An Unplanned Life is a fascinating—and probably final—piece of eyewitness testimony. George Elsey makes vital contributions to the history of World War Two and to the history of the Cold War from Korea to Vietnam, interspersed with lively sketches of his presidents in their relaxed moments. It is an honest book, candid and readable.”—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
“Mr. Elsey is certainly among the last men living who worked in the Roosevelt White House, as a young Naval reservist in the top-secret Map Room, transmitting communications and tracking troop positions in World War II.”—The New York Times
“Elsey is the source most often cited by historians curious about Truman’s state of mind in 1948 when everyone, including the president’s wife, assumed he was going to be trounced by Republican nominee Thomas Dewey. No similar set of broad shoulders comes to mind with Elsey, but that may be because the author presents his White House career as a remarkable byproduct of national emergency. He proved a wise young man whom Truman and Clifford knew immediately they needed to keep.”—Chicago Tribune
“[Elsey] has had an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time. This parade of personages and events that he has witnessed up close and sometimes affected is really mind-boggling. From FDR’s map room to D-Day, to FDR’s funeral, to Truman and containment and his stunning reelection, to Korea, to the waning days of LBJ’s administration and Clark Clifford’s artful efforts for extrication from Vietnam—they are all there and more. It’s a fascinating ride through some of the greatest doings of the mid-twentieth century.”—John Milton Cooper
“George Elsey was an eye and ear witness to some of the greatest deliberations and decisions of the last century. This is not a story shaken out of the archival dustbins. Elsey was there, a young Naval Intelligence officer in the famed White House Map Room, serving up the material for President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill as they went through the season of defeat and despair and designed a strategy of gathering strength and ultimate victory. He guided Roosevelt in his wheelchair in front of the secret maps in the basement of the White House. He heard up close the Churchillian rumbles of defiance and determination. Later, he would ride President Harry Truman¹s 1948 campaign train when Truman confounded the experts and won a second term. George Elsey¹s memoir is one of the rare authentic treasures of American history.”—Hugh Sidey