To many apprehensive Americans in xenophobic 1941, the new British ambassador, Lord Halifax, was unwelcome.

He was too aloof, too much the quiet, impenetrable aristocrat. He was not in any sense a guy Brooklyn would go for. Worse, he was a Chamberlain man—one of the men of Munich. Why had Churchill sent him, anyhow? Forecasting his mission, people called him "Lord Holy Fox" and quoted Anglophobe Quincy Howe: "England expects every American to do his duty."

After five years and four months of Halifax, the U.S. knew him better. He had ridden out boos and picket lines. In Detroit, when...

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