The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review of: Roberts, Andrew. Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

Review of: Roberts, Andrew. Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.

By Tim Krenz

The Second World War has provided scholars and writers, readers and students, with the largest selection of written and photographic histories of any conflict in all recorded time. New revisions of old historical facts notwithstanding, the war, also known as World War Two (or “World War II”) provides more than enough memoirs, state and personal documentation, and public records and photographs, and enormous tabs of statistics to make critical and even exciting new studies filled with more concise interpretations and creditable encyclopedias of stories, data, and images.

Not to discount personable or fictional stories, the factual histories of the Second World War may never run out of new and better ideas of how things happened, or better stories of how humans acted, or better narratives of “history as it really happened” in the biggest and most difficult struggle in the human era of earth’s existence.

Perhaps this 2009 American republication (of a 2008 British release) of Andrew Roberts’ narrative of the four great architects of Allied victory is more of the same--a new twist of old history--but it is certainly one of the better available histories of how the Western Allies, the United States of America and the United Kingdom of Great Britain, et al., overcame great obstacles to prevail over Nazi-led Germany

Masters and Commanders holds together the threads of actions of two politicians still remembered today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States and British Prime Minister Winston Spencer Churchill, those men who masterfully manipulated others in politics, yet trusted two soldiers to lead their Allied democracies to complete military and moral victory over Germany between 1941 and 1945.

The first of the “commanders” in the book, General George C. Marshall, was promoted by President Roosevelt to the post of United States Army Chief of Staff when the European war erupted in September 1939. This promotion occurred more than two years prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s subsequent entry into the war as an active belligerent. A move recommended to the President by former superior officers of then Brigadier General Marshall, the promotion over more than a score of senior Army officers put the premium on Marshall’s gifts of leadership, vision, hard work, and operational skill.

More than the popular General Eisenhower, Marshall is rightly credited by historians as the real inexhaustible genius behind America’s unparalleled victory in Europe. In Washington and at Allied conferences meeting as the Allied Combined Chiefs of Staff Committee, Marshall was the military organizer and director of the untapped arsenals of American manpower and industry. It was Marshall, under the political tentacles of President Roosevelt, who created and equipped, out of the 144,000-man pre-war US Army, the massive 9 million-man US Army Ground Forces. Marshall ordered the Army deployed around the world, and the US Army won the ground war in Europe to American’s bittersweet burden of victory.

The other “commander” is even more obscure to the average reader than General Marshall himself. Appointed Chief of Imperial General Staff in late 1941, General (later Field Marshal) Alan Brooke spent most of his war work talking Churchill out of rash strategic decisions and meddling in military details for which the prime minister was uninformed or unskilled. The other part of Alan Brooke’s tenure as CIGS and as chair of British Chiefs of Staff Committee was preventing a rash Allied, nay mainly British, assault on the coast of France in Autumn 1942 or in 1943, whichformed main strategy of Marshall. Whereas Marshall saw a direct assault on Northwest Europe as the direct and easier road to victory, and as a relief to besieged Russia, Brooke urged, and obtained with the decision of Roosevelt who backec Churchill and Brooke, an indirect Mediterranean approach to weakening Germany in 1942 and 1943.

And in this context, the great personality and psychological sketches of the purely political-military grand strategy unfolds over the course of the Second World War. In the end, the British Empire weakened itself, and dissolved most of its possessions, in order to defeat Nazism. And in due course, as more and more American personnel, equipment, money and resources came to dominate the Western Allied Strategy, America became the dominant partner in the war, and in the post-war. Within the military policy struggles of Marshall and Brooke, i.e. the commanders, the context of how the world balance of power formed can be seen. Furthermore, without the political-economic commitments of Roosevelt or the awnry defiance of Churchill in the dark days early in the war when Britain stood alone against Nazism, this war of “warring allies” could not have been won. But what did victory mean? And was the peace in the post-war either won or maintained to the benefit of the common people, or of those allegedly “victorious” democracies?