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Eisenhower's Armies: The American-British Alliance During World War II


Eisenhower's Armies: The American-British Alliance During World War II

EISENHOWER’S ARMIES, by English military historian Niall Barr, is not the first historical analysis of Dwight Eisenhower’s leadership of the greatest military alliance in world history, nor will it be the last. The coalition that triumphed in World War II was successful for countless reasons. Historians have available to them archival records, oral histories and a vast array of materials from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. They can still find previously undiscovered information that leads to new conclusions and theories regarding the Allied operations. Perhaps that is why each year new books discussing the Second World War are published and read.

Ponder for just a moment the incredible cast of world leaders available for study to any historian who writes on the Allies. On the non-military side, Winston Churchill and Franklin Delano Roosevelt are subjects who will be studied for centuries. The military side offers leaders such as George Marshall, Bernard Montgomery, Alan Brooke, George Patton and hundreds more. The man responsible for somehow satisfying all of these personalities and juggling thousands of conflicting views in the air was Dwight David Eisenhower, a Kansan-born graduate of West Point whose pre-World War II military experience was at Camp Colt, a tank training facility near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

"EISENHOWER’S ARMIES is an astute and engrossing history of how two separate nations deployed two immense armies in a war of freedom."

EISENHOWER’S ARMIES views the great alliance through the historical lens of the Anglo-American relationship. Barr begins his study with the Revolutionary War when the British and Americans were enemies. The military tension between the two countries continued into the 20th century, and British and American soldiers brought a history of conflict into the World War II alliance. The conflicting attitudes were pervasive, existing amongst the commanders as well as the fighting men. Eisenhower was tasked with the responsibility of getting two different armies with different tactical and strategic views to fight as a unified war machine. To do so required not only military genius but also political acumen often lacking in military leaders.

While the ultimate goal of the alliance was the defeat of the Axis powers, the strategy employed caused substantial disagreement. The American public demanded retaliation for Pearl Harbor. Therefore, the Americans needed to deploy troops and resources to the Pacific Theater. But in Europe, the defeat of Nazi Germany was the priority. How to accomplish that goal and prepare for the invasion of Germany was often debated by the British and American leadership. Eisenhower stood in the middle between the political leaders and the military generals responsible for implementing the invasion plans employed for Africa, Italy and ultimately Germany.

In discussing the invasion of Sicily, Barr recounts all the difficulties confronting Eisenhower. First, the branches of the armies, including naval, land and air, had to be organized to mount a multi-front invasion. Next, the individual personalities had to be massaged. Montgomery revolted against the invasion plan openly, Patton privately. While Sicily would be conquered, the Nazis were able to evacuate substantial troops and material they would deploy in the next invasion target: Italy. The Sicily invasion taught Eisenhower important lessons. He would no longer allow the British to control strategy. The ability of the American soldier to wage war, initially viewed with skepticism by the British, could no longer be questioned. Eisenhower would make strategic decisions accordingly.

By the time of the Normandy invasion, Eisenhower’s position at the top of the decision-making pyramid had solidified. As Barr notes, it was remarkable that Churchill and Roosevelt had the confidence in their commander to allow him to make the military invasion decision untrammeled by extraneous political considerations. Certainly neither Hitler nor Stalin would have allowed a mere military man to make such momentous decisions.

EISENHOWER’S ARMIES is an astute and engrossing history of how two separate nations deployed two immense armies in a war of freedom. Both civilian and military leaders had to make adjustments and learn to live, plan and fight as one. Making the alliance work was vital for eventual success. To this day, England and America, once enemies on the battlefield, maintain a “special relationship” that remains critical in the free world.

Reviewed by Stuart Shiffman on December 18, 2015

Eisenhower's Armies: The American-British Alliance During World War II
by Niall Barr

  • Publication Date: April 11, 2017
  • Genres: History, Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books
  • ISBN-10: 1681773554
  • ISBN-13: 9781681773551