ON TO BERLIN: Battles of An Airborne Commander 1947-1946 by James M. Gavin
Kirkus Star

ON TO BERLIN: Battles of An Airborne Commander 1947-1946

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A reappraisal of the military triumphs and policy mistakes of the closing phase of World War II in Europe, as seen from both the parachute exit and the Allied command councils. Gavin organized the aggressive, individualistic paratroop units and learned on the job how to deploy them, starting with the 1943 jump into Sicily and the Italian campaigns--good practice for the D-day airborne landing ia Normandy, he writes, but a bruising introduction to British condescension on the one hand, and Eisenhower's failure to make key decisions on the other. Gavin's bluff (""only goof-offs got Purple Hearts"") but intricate accounts of small-detachment battles build to the familiar judgments that if the Americans had sidestepped the slow, ""conservative"" Montgomery, and let Patton sweep all the way to the northern French coast--or if the British had moved as hard as the Americans in Holland--the war could have ended in 1944. And ia 1945, after victory was finally in sight, Gavin thinks Eisenhower should have convinced Washington and the Combined Chiefs of Staff to drive for Berlin and head off Soviet occupation--a thumping complaint ramified here, however, with exceptional conscientiousness in reviewing options and counterarguments. The author of several earlier historical and topical books, Gavin writes with practiced simplicity and bounce; beyond this, there is an organic connection between the tactical narratives and the overall evaluations, as the US forces' courage mountingly contrasts with the downright lassitude of the British command and the hesitancy of American decisionmakers. The Remagen tragedy of A Bridge Too Far is thus plausibly relocated in the whole course of the American move into occupied Europe.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1978
Publisher: Viking