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Allied Master Strategists: The Combined Chiefs of Staff in World War II.

Allied Master Strategists: The Combined Chiefs of Staff in World War II. By David Rigby. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2012. Maps. Tables. Illustrations. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 270. $29.95 ISBN: 978-1-61251-081-1

This is the first published work by David Rigby, a history instructor at colleges in and around Boston. He examines, on a thematic basis, the personalities and interactions of the military leaders who executed the Western Allies' grand strategy while advising U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill throughout World War II. In the bibliography, Rigby lists four unpublished works on European Theater strategy, Pacific Theater strategy, strategic bombing of Europe, and economic mobilization that he wrote in the early 1990s. Presumably, this earlier research served as the foundation for his current book.

Rigby begins by introducing the key figures. Nearly 20 percent of the text is devoted to these biographical sketches, which read like expanded encyclopedic entries. Besides the leaders of the various military branches, he includes those officers who exerted considerable influence but, in his opinion, were slightly lower in stature.

Next, Rigby offers his perspective on how the two nations' military command structures evolved into their organizational formats during the war. He particularly emphasizes the role of the British Joint Staff Mission in Washington. Perhaps surprisingly, he examines only one of the Roosevelt-Churchill conferences in any detail, using the January 1943 Casablanca Conference as an example of these intense and contentious gatherings.

The remaining chapters discuss Allied strategy in the Pacific, the more favorable Allied position versus the Axis regarding internal cooperation and mobilization of resources, discussions concerning the Allied invasion of France versus a more aggressive Mediterranean strategy, military leaders' relationships with so-called "armchair strategists," examples of the Combined Chiefs' relationships with theater commanders, and the Combined Chiefs' influence on military mobilization and their involvement with diplomatic issues.

Discussions of the Combined Bomber Offensive directed at Germany and the bombing of Japan are covered in less than a dozen pages. Military aviation buffs will find a few nits to pick. For example, the Lockheed P-38 is mentioned as being effective in close air support and interdiction, while the Republic P-47--the backbone of the Ninth Air Force in France in the summer and fall of 1944--is omitted.

Rigby understandably makes frequent references to the various strategic conferences, sometimes by name and sometimes by location. An appendix listing the major conferences including location, date, and perhaps a note or two as to the significance would have been most useful, particularly for readers previously unfamiliar with them.

While I would have preferred a greater emphasis on why decisions and policies developed the way they did, this work provides a starting place for understanding the personalities that affected Anglo-American grand strategy and coalition warfare in World War II.

Lt. Col. Steve Ellis, USAFR (Ret.), docent, Museum of Flight, Seattle

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Author:Ellis, Steve
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Dec 22, 2014
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