Such Splendid Prisons: Diplomatic Detainment in America During World War II

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In the chaotic days after Pearl Harbor, with America still reeling from Japan's surprise attack and Germany's subsequent declaration of war, the Roosevelt administration makes a hasty decision about the hundreds of Axis power diplomats remaining in the nation's capital. To encourage reciprocal treatment of U.S. diplomats held abroad, the President's administration sends them to remote luxury hotels-a decision that enrages Americans stunned by the attack. This cause celebre rocks America and drives a fascinating yet forgotten story: the roundup, detention, and eventual repatriation of more than a thousand German, Japanese, Italian, Bulgarian and Hungarian diplomats, families, staff, servants, journalists, students, businessmen, and spies. Such Splendid Prisons follows five internees whose privileged worlds came crashing down after December 7, 1941: the suave, calculating Nazi ambassador and his charming but conflicted wife; a wily veteran Japanese journalist; the beleaguered American wife of a Japanese spy posing as a diplomat; and the spirited but naive college-aged daughter of the German military attache. The close proximity in which the Axis power emissaries were forced to live with their counterparts stripped away the veneer of false diplomatic bonhomie inspiring antagonism to erupt between delegations. Author Harvey Solomon has unearthed over 1,500 pages of memoranda, letters, cables, interviews, and unpublished memoirs that recreate this period of luxury detention, public outrage, hidden agendas, and political machinations.