Kirkus Star


The American-British Alliance During World War II
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Anglo-American cooperation during World War II worked, more or less.

Barr (Defence Studies/King’s Coll., London; Pendulum of War: Three Battles at El Alamein, 2005, etc.) quotes but does not entirely agree with United States Army Chief of Staff George Marshall that it was “the most complete unification of military effort ever achieved by two Allied nations.” After reviewing the many painful lessons of the war, the author delivers an astute, always engrossing account of how civilian leaders (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt) and their army chiefs (Marshall, Alan Brooke) recruited, trained, and deployed two immense armies. This process, as the author notes, “developed over time from rather inauspicious beginnings.” After Pearl Harbor, a Washington-based Combined Chiefs of Staff—Marshall, Adm. Ernest King, and Britain’s virtually unknown but crucial Field Marshal Sir John Dill—hashed out strategy, and supreme commander Dwight Eisenhower worked to keep his generals’ attention on the enemy when they often preferred to fight each other. Many conflicts had less to do with nationality than personality; Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was probably more unpopular with British than American colleagues. Barr does well on the big picture. The majority proposed a Germany-first strategy, but neither the British king nor the American public went along, so the U.S. gave equal attention to Japan. British leaders disliked America’s intention to attack Germany directly and successfully argued for campaigns in North Africa and Italy, which, in retrospect, put only modest pressure on Hitler. Barr does even better when he narrows his focus. Anecdotes, journals, and letters make it clear that prejudices are stubborn and problems remained (Americans hated the British rationing system), but most officers and men worked harder than their superiors to get the job done.

A detailed, entertaining history of a successful, if bumpy, military alliance.

Pub Date: Dec. 15th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-60598-816-0
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Pegasus
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2015


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