Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rating Generals Marshall and Dill

(This one is going to raise screams of outrage from many people, but, realistically, it is hardly an exaggerated perspective on either of these men. Again, I just want to challenge people's unthinking acceptance of generally accepted shibboleths. Enjoy.)

Field Marshal Sir John Greer Dill, and General of the Army George Catlett Marshall (for whom that somewhat convoluted title was apparently invented, on the basis that Field Marshal Marshall sounded pretty silly), were two of the four great Allied generals who ran the British and American – and the Combined – Chiefs of Staff in World War Two.

(The other two being Field Marshall Alan Brooke who ran the Imperial General Staff from 1941-45 as 'CIGS' - Chief of Imperial general Staff, and General Henry Maitland Wilson, who replaced Dill on the Combined Chiefs of Staff after his death in 1944.)

Whereas both Brooke and Wilson had extensive front line experience during the war to back up their desk roles later on, Marshall and Dill could collectively be called ‘the 5 star bureaucrats’, because they spent most of the war behind desks, without ever commanding in combat in the field. (Dill held a Corps command in France during the Phoney War, but was recalled to be assistant CIGS before the German attack on France began).

Both of these lifelong professional soldiers were undoubtedly great men. Both inspired loyalty and affection from the vast majority of people who knew them. Both were respected as great thinkers by many of their contemporaries in their respective armies. Both were superior organisers, and both played an immense – possibly even an irreplaceable part – in steering the Allies to victory. 

Both also played crucial roles in international affairs during their lives. With Dill's decisions about Greece and Malaya in 1941 both altering the course of the war and world history; and Marshall’s roles in wartime, post war government, post war China, the Cold War, and in the Marshall plan for aid to Europe, ranking as outstanding achievements for any soldier.

But neither had any experience as a successful battlefield general, and it would be fair to suggest that neither of them demonstrated skills that would have been particularly good on the battlefield as 3 or 4 star generals.

 In fact, given that both demonstrated significant flaws in geo-political thinking and strategic planning as 4 and 5 star generals, it is possibly a long bow to suggest that neither was a very good general.

Despite all their undoubted achievements, were they in fact failures as generals?

George Catlett Marshall was distantly descended from the old aristocracy that Americans like to pretend they don’t have, though his family was relatively minor Virginia aristocracy (and of course slaveholders), and he came through an impecunious junior line. Many of his early ancestors were soldiers – like Martin Marshall, the first to enter the Virginia Military Academy, only to be invalided out after damaging a knee at the battle against General Segel at Shenendoah river; and Thomas Marshall, who fought at Valley Forge.

[One of his biographers – Robert Payne – commented that the families who fought in the US Civil War were often fighting a ‘continuation’ of the English Civil War, because they were largely those same families of Roundheads and Cavaliers who had fled England in the 1600’s. It is an amusing conceit, to which it is fun to add the great comment from the classic book 1066 and All That, roundheads versus cavaliers = 'right but repulsive versus wrong but romantic'… an excellent descriptor for both civil wars…]

George Marshall’s immediate ancestors were lawyers and businessmen – not very successful ones in some cases – though there were many more significant figures like judges and academic leaders in the family tree. General Basil Duke apparently summed up most of the Marshall’s as a group, when he commented of Loius Marshall – the first president of Washington University – “His opinions were frequently inaccurate, for they were much controlled by his prejudices, but were often profound, always striking and original”. 

Many might later have made this same point about George.

Like many young officers of the time, Marshall served as a platoon commander in the newly conquered Philippines, and saw some service in guerilla warfare against the resistance movements. But his first significant posts were in the area that was to become his life work – as an aide de camp to a chief of staff.

During the Great War he specialized in training and planning, particularly helping to plan the first attacks by US Army troops in France, and then, under Pershing, helping plan the main US parts of the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In the few months he operated in France, he probably had a more significant planning role in operations than any US contemporary who was still active in the Second World War.

His interwar roles were mostly training and staff duties, except for the 3 years he commanded the 15th Infantry regiment in China. (On what every other major nation on earth, except the US and the Soviet Union, of course, referred to as ‘imperial and colonial policing duties’). Still, between the Philippines and France and China, he certainly had a wider exposure to the real world of international affairs than many of his contemporaries.

By 1938 Marshall was assigned to the War Plans Division in Washington, and that ended his association with anything other than desk roles. Still a mere Brigadier, he soon became Deputy Chief of Staff, where he distinguished himself as one of the few people who would not just tell Roosevelt whatever he wanted to hear. Although it was assumed by many that this might end his career, instead it attracted Roosevelt to nominate this incredibly junior officer to replace General Malin Craig as Army Chief of Staff – a position he held throughout the war – on the day Germany invaded Poland.

To put that in perspective Malin Craig was a Brigadier General in 1921, a Major General in 1935, and an honorary 4 star General from 1936-9, whereas Marshall was appointed Brigadier in 1936, and was jumped to an honorary 4 star General in 1939! (By contrast Dill was a Brigadier in WWI, a Major General in 1930, Lieutenant General 1936, full General 1939 – with seniority backdated until 1937. Alan Brooke was a Major General in 1936, a Lieutenant General in 1938, and a full General in 1940. Wilson was a Brigadier in 1934, a Major General in 1935, a Lieutenant General in 1939, and a full general in 1941. All these 3 were only raised to 4 star rank after leading a Corps or army in wartime – though Dill’s front was inactive during his time there.)

It is no exaggeration to suggest that Marshall was stunningly junior for this promotion, particularly given the quality of many of the officers he was jumped over. 

It was even more surprising than the almost contemporary decision of the British government to promote Lord Gort from Major General to 3 star and then – a few months later – a similar 4 star position, over the heads of many many far more qualified senior officers. (And we all know how poor Gort turned out! His almost complete failure as CIC of the BEF being a prime example of the flaws of over-promoting a man described by his contemporaries as ‘the ideal man to command a division’.)

Dill, although from a not-disimilar family background to Marshall, had quite a different military background. He was already a Captain studying at Staff College when the Great War began, and served as Brigade Major and in many other roles through four hard years of war. He was Mentioned in Dispatches no less than 8 times during the war, finishing as a Brigadier and Head if Intelligence at GHQ.

Also considered a gifted trainer, he interspersed field, training, and staff positions through the interwar period, serving in 'hotpsots' including India and Palestine (the latter as CIC). He (and Wavell) were overlooked as potential CIGS when the politicians made that astonishing decision to appoint Lord Gort as a PR profile exercise (while Adam would be the 'brains'  to keep things working behind the scene). So Dill belatedly received the command of I Corps in the BEF during the Phoney War, only to be recalled to become CIGS when Churchill took over the government – just in time for the German attack on France, and the disasters that led to Dunkirk.

In contrast to Marshall, Dill was the man most of his contemporaries had expected to be appointed CIGS in 1937. His appointment in 1940 was considered to be the righting of a wrong, and there was considerable relief that one of the most admired and trusted thinkers in the army had taken over after the twin disasters of the too junior Gort and the almost fossilized Ironside.

It is perhaps not surprising therefore to note that between the time of Marshall and Dill’s respective appointments to the top jobs and Pearl Harbor, Marshall was almost universally admired for his impressive administrative achievements against all odds; while Dill was generally considered to be not very successful. 

Marshall was overcoming skeptics who had underestimated his ability, whereas Dill was failing to satisfy people who had put too much faith in his ability to be the great white hope to save them from the disasters of his predecessors. (To be fair, Gort and Ironside may not have been the sharpest stylises in the box, but they had been given impossible hands to play by the stingy politics that had gutted their commands and their allies morale for the last 20 years… Marlborough, Napoleon and Alexander combined would have struggled to overcome such odds.)

So Dill spent 1940 and 1941 presiding over one disaster after another, while Marshall spent it calmly rebuilding his forces in peacetime.

Having said that, Dill cannot be held blameless for the disasters. The great example being his contribution to the extension of the war when he colluded with Foreign Minister Anthony Eden to undermine the early British victories in North Africa, and commit to the chaos and renewed series of defeats that would result from an intervention in Greece.

In 1940-41, the great British success had been the Royal Navy domination of the Mediterranean Ocean against the odds, and the successful offensive by O’Connors Desert Force (under Wilson’s control) in destroying most of the large Italian forces in North Africa. (In 'Operation Compass' O’Connors 35,000 men defeated more than 250,000, smashed 10 divisions and took over 130,000 prisoners, 420 tanks and 845 guns… similar numbers of troops – if much better equipped – to the British and American surrenders to the initial Japanese attacks the following year in what were generally called ‘the greatest military disasters’ of their respective armies.)

O’Connor was poised on the Libyan border, ready to make his final assault to clear the North African shore (and incidentally capture a young German General called Rommel who had only a few German Reconaisance troops with him as yet), when Dill suddenly agreed to shut down his campaign, and divert the majority of the available skilled troops to a ‘forlorn hope’ campaign in Greece. A campaign that was to end in unmitigated and completely foreseeable disaster, and lead to another two long years of bloody and unproductive see-saw battle across the North African shore.

Admittedly the decision to back Greece was more of a political one than a military one. Britain had entered the war to meet its guarantees to neutrals like Poland and Greece. So doing so was probably a moral issue, even if militarily foolish. But in practice the great Greek leader General Metaxas had rightly felt that bringing in British troops to his local fight with the Italians would only inflame the situation, and lead to Germany having to intervene. He preferred British support in the form of military equipment and supplies, but definitely no troops! So it was only his unexpected death that had opened the opportunity for British intervention.

Typically Churchill was torn between enthusiasm for such a venture, both for its moral attractiveness, and for its propaganda effects. But he was cautious enough to issue a last minute warning that the risk should not be taken if it was too dangerous.

Unfortunately, with the eternally simplistic Anthony Eden completely caught by the positives, the dispatch of Dill to supervise the discussions with Greece effectively left the balancing vote to him alone. He voted 'yes', and effectively threw away the very good chance to finish things in North Africa, for the very doubtful chance to have any effect on mainland Europe.

Alan Brooke records in his dairy his appalled reaction to such foolishness. “Why will politicians never learn the simple principle of concentration of force at the vital point, and the avoidance of dispersal of effort?” (It is notable though, that he placed the blame a the feet of the politicians, rather than Dill. Later, when himself in the position of CIGS, he would have – and did – fight tooth and nail against similar proposals!)

Perhaps worse was Dill's practice of appointing fellow administrative staff types to executive combat roles… the outstanding failure being the appointment of the very good administrator and planner Percival, to the totally unsuitable role of combat commander to deal with the inadequate strength and poor moral of the Malayan defenders. He also acquiesced in Auchinlek's appalling decision to let the far too junior Neil Ritchie assume command of 8th Army in North Africa. (Brooke’s comments on the ‘ruining’ of good officers by appointing them to totally unsuitable roles are particularly scathing regarding these two, and he was delighted to 'rebuild'  and redeem Ritchie later in the war as a very good Corps commander.)

So by the end of 1941, we have the situation where Dill had repeatedly failed to meet impossible expectations, to the point where a frustrated Churchill referred to him as Dilly-Dally, and was replacing him with Brooke. Whereas in Washington Marshall had exceeded all expectations, to the point that when war came Roosevelt would quite happily ignore the convention that control of the army was divided between the back room chief of staff – Marshall – and the actual field commanders, and just let George take control of the whole shebang.

At this point in the war, it would seem that Marshall has everything going for him, and Dill is going to be left as another failed footnote like Gort and Ironside.
But this is where it gets interesting.

When Japan kicked the United States into the war, and Hitler obligingly declared war to complete the package, Churchill immediately headed to Washington for a conference with his new allies… taking the long established Chiefs of Staff for the Admiralty and Royal Air Force with him, and leaving the newly appointed CIGS – Brooke – at home to mind the store. Brooke, rightly concerned about what impossible promises Churchill might make, convinced him to take Dill along as the army representative. Thus was one of the most interesting, and perhaps fortuitous accidents of the war.

Dill and Marshall clicked. Both old fashioned gentlemen of significant intellectual achievement and high moral codes (and both somewhat fussy bureaucrats at heart): they just fitted together seamlessly. So much so that the next thing the alarmed Brooke knew was that Churchill had not only signed up for a ‘Combined Allied Chiefs of Staff Committee’, he had agreed to it being based in Washington, and to Dill being the British head!

On the positive side, Dill undoubtedly did more to manage good communications between fractious allies over the next few years than just about anyone else could possibly have achieved. He became a close friend of all the other Chiefs of Staff, including Marshall, and even King. (The US Chiefs of Staff were his coffin bearers, possibly the only time in the war they all walked in step without argument!) 

Dill's personal intervention repeatedly headed off or defused many tricky debates. In fact it is the years 1942-1944 that have set the seal on Dill’s reputation as a great man, and someone to whom the Allies owe a great debt. This period is when Dill’s status as a failed leader was completely revised, and his immense qualities finally accepted by all concerned.

(On the negative side, Churchill’s delegation of split control of operations between different competing sets of Chiefs of Staff institutions caused most of the fractions that Dill had to paper over, and was a constant source of frustration to Brooke. He would clearly have preferred the co-operative staff approaches of the previous wars, with a good communication team run by Dill, to a conflicting set of Chiefs causing constant irritation and endless conferences that never quite agreed…)

Still it is not Dill’s fault that Churchill and Roosevelt’s ‘Combined Chiefs’ became such a convoluted mess. Rather it is largely to his credit that he almost single handedly made the hodgepodge of conflicting prima-donnas function as well as they did. (His eventual replacement, Wilson, later commented that just getting Marshall and King to work together, let alone get a united team result from the whole group, was a truly amazing achievement…)

Dill did superb service in those years, and is now almost universally considered one of the great Allied leaders of the war.

By contrast, Marshall was clearly considered a super performer at the time of Pearl Harbor, and was now in the invidious position that Dill had held earlier... the great hope, expected to achieve impossible results. But, despite the peons of praise thrown at all the leaders who were involved in winning the war, he never again showed such outstanding results compared to expectations. (Until, post war… when his most spectacular achievement was the truly inspirational Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe. Undoubtedly the most impressive achievement of his very impressive life).

Part of the problem was that Marshall’s Roosevelt approved takeover of complete control of the US Army – relegating his supposed equal/combat superior/whatever in charge of actual combat units to second place – suddenly meant his bailiwick expanded from mere staff duties to executive control of the armies military operations. Worse, to the position of making all strategic decisions for the US Army… a role he was arguably not particularly well trained or suited for.

Given that Roosevelt effectively delegated his ‘commander in chief duties’ to his chiefs of staff too, that meant that there was little check on Marshall’s preferred directions. Indeed the Combined Chiefs of Staff for the next 4 years became a battle ground between Marshall’s strategic fantasies, King’s arrogance, Brooke’s caution,  the other members frustrations, and Dill’s flexible – but possible not too well directed – attempts to get everyone to compromise in the same direction... sometimes. Into this mix both Roosevelt and Churchill would periodically drop unexpected, unwelcome, or plain foolish, directions.

Marshall’s first failed test was his fantasy that an invasion of Europe could happen in 1942. Considering that he was the one who knew how slowly a US buildup of trained units was proceeding. This was ridiculous. His follow up insistence on 1943 was no better.

Marshall was then forced into North Africa by a deal between his President and the sneaky Churchill. (Intent on derailing both Marshall’s fantasies and King’s threatened divergences to the Pacific,  and determined to find an alternative to the ridiculous promise of a second front in 1942, Churchill convinced Roosevelt that the only way to get US troops into action in 1942 was in North Africa). Marshall was appalled by this, and effectively entered a sulk about getting his way that he held for the rest of the war… regardless of the consequences. 

From that point on Marshall appears to have automatically assumed that Churchill (and the British Chiefs of Staff – he seemed unable to distinguish that the two often differed in thinking), were always trying to manipulate Roosevelt, and leave him hostage to King. Thereafter he simply refused to consider any strategic concept, or reaction to changing circumstances, that did not fit his pre-conceived ideas. General Basil Duke’s description of what was the common attitude of all ‘Marshalls’, was pretty evident.

As a result his total contribution to strategic policy for the rest of the war was to pressure for the approach that a junior Colonel in planning (Eisenhower) had recommended to him just after Pearl Harbor. Nothing else seemed to enter his thinking, and any alternative that was suggested almost automatically triggered his opposition. He also showed very little sign of strategic ability beyond the most simplistic… what has been described as ‘frontal attack by the most direct route with the most units spread on the widest front possible’. What probably needs to be added to that is ‘regardless of unnecessary casualties’.

The strategic low point came when he used Rooosevelt’s illness towards the end of the war in Europe as an excuse to ignore the concerns of his supposed Allies – Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff, the French, and the many other allied governments who we're providing troops at the front: while letting Eisenhower play around in a role he was unsuited for – ground forces commander – and largely ignoring his main political duties, and even abandoning most of central Europe to Soviet occupation. The British campaign to keep Greece out of the Soviet clutches was despite Marshall's opposition, and he did everything in his power to make sure that no similar efforts were made in Yugoslavia or Czechoslovakia. The physical position of the ‘Iron Curtain’ that Churchill later described, was decided with Marshall’s very active connivance.

Or should we say, his wartime strategic low point was letting the Soviets run riot in Eastern Europe. His post war intervention in China has been widely accepted from Chiang Kai-shek's perspective – his ‘cease-fire’ and then gutting of Nationalist China’s capabilities – being a large part of the direct cause of China, and then much of the rest of East Asia, falling to Communism over the next bloody 30 years…

In fact a very good argument can be made (and has been made by many Chinese and others) that Marshall can be held largely responsible for the decades of Communist oppression that followed in Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia...  should we go on?

Marshall’s selection of leaders wasn’t much to shout about either. Much is made of his selecting Eisenhower. (I have my reservations about whether Ike was experienced enough to be a good SAC or ground forces commander, but am still willing to suggest he was a much better choice to run SHAEF than many of Marshall’s other efforts.) But the list of failures is far longer than the list of successes.

Fredendall ("I like that man, he's a fighter" was Marshall's comment), Dawley, and Lucas are the Marshall beloved failures that everyone recognizes. Much worse failures include J.C.H. Lee (Jesus Christ Himself as his appalled subordinates referred to him) whose incompetence, and frankly corruption, at logistics greatly contributed to Germany holding on into 1945. Also Clarke, who should have got an Iron Cross from a grateful Nazi party for disobeying his orders at Rome; and such barely competent lightweights as Hodges, whose poor performance contributed so much to the Germans initial success at the Bulge. I would add Stilwell and MacArthur to his list of 'should have been fired', if he had the guts to take the political flack. It is unclear whether his appointment of Patton, sacking of Patton, then re-appointment of him at a lower level than his previous subordinates, can be considered in any way sensible or coherent either! I am sure you can think of many other examples.

His tactical thinking wasn’t much better. The entertaining book ‘Dear General’ is the correspondences between Marshall and Eisenhower over the 3 years Ike was running campaigns for him. It is notable that Ike’s very humble initial letters became more strongly worded as he matured in experience, and completely dismissive (in the politest possible terms) of Marshall’s tactical suggestions later on. Particularly when Marshall suggested paratroop operations that would have made the suggested one at Rome or the actual one at Arnhem look like safe and sensible alternatives! Marshall showed growing signs of not having graduated his tactical thinking much beyond his interwar training exercises.

But the real nadir of his contribution was in his supposed field of excellence – training. Marshall and McNair between them concocted the appalling and deadly ‘replacement’ system, which ensured that inadequately trained generalists were dumped into specialist units after months in generic pools with no ongoing training.  Many had no clue how to use their own weapons. Casualty rates amongst these replacements were so shocking, that experienced troops usually didn’t bother learning their names until they had survived a week or two. Resulting in units of overtired and dispirited veterans being exhausted and bitter (and quite often deserting to Paris) as their fresh replacements were slaughtered through inexperience.

One commentator noted that the German army itself could not have devised a better system for degrading US forces.

Possibly 20-30% of all US Army deaths during World War Two can be directly attributed to Marshall’s failed ‘replacement system’. (And that is before considering the additional deaths that resulted from the probably lengthening of the war by his overly simplistic strategy, and his constant refusal to take alternative opportunities as they arose.)

So it is with some confidence that we can suggest that Dill’s star rose from failure after Pearl Harbor, but Marshall’s descended slowly into revealing his weaknesses. Fortunately for him, a descent that only avoided becoming public humiliation due the Germans collapsing. The war ended before the American public came to realize how closely Marshall’s policies resembled the unnecessary ‘Lions led by Donkeys’ sacrifices of troops during the Great War.

So how do we rate Marshal and Dill as generals?

Did they make the grade at any level of what I long ago posted as 'the essentials of generalship'.

Both had a well demonstrated leadership capacity at basic levels. Both would have/did make good regimental officers interwar. Both would have probably made good Brigadiers, and possibly Major Generals – with strong enough superiors guiding them – had a war turned up early enough. (And had they had the chance to learn new tactical doctrine to replace the outdated thinking that was too evident in both of their tactical assessments throughout the war.)

But both seemed to lack the attributes necessary for Corps or Army command. 

Despite Dill actually commanding a Corps during the Phoney War, his service as CIGS seems to indicate that he was probably not the right person to maintain ‘grip’ when all around him was coming apart. Particularly in the heat of the sort of battle that Brooke excelled in during the French campaign. Frankly, for all his faults, Gort was probably a more decisive man to make the decision to cut his losses than Dill would have been. (Though Gort too would have probably gone along with the Greek adventure, on the belief that the politicians are the boss. It took someone like Brook to point out that suicide missions are not helpful!)

Marshall had the strength to say no to things like Greece in 1941, but apparently not the strategic wisdom to understand that Greece in 1945 was different to Greece in 1941. In fact one looks in vain for any suggestion that he ever let any new information affect his pre-determined viewpoints. Stubborn to a level that makes Churchill look flexible, he actually resembled Ironside far more than any of his fawning biographers should be comfortable with! He never really looked like the right person to command a Corps or Army.

Neither had the experience or skill to command an Army Group, but would either have made a good Supreme Allied Commander? Here we are on more interesting ground. 

Marshall would probably have been theoretically better than Eisenhower at SHAEF, because he would have had no problem delegating a Ground Forces Commander., and sticking to the real job. Having said that, he also had no recognizable tactical or strategic knowledge of modern combat conditions, and appalling judgement about subordinates, so parachuting him into a field command in 1944 might have been disastrous.

Perhaps Dill would have been better there, but again, the 1941 Greek mistake, let alone his selection of men like Percival for leadership roles, is not encouraging.

Was either suitable to be Chief of Staff of their respective armies? Well, no.

Dill understood the problems, but consistently failed to control things when he was the executive. Whereas Marshall was all too good at controlling things, he just failed to understand what he was controlling (and whether he should be controlling it). 

Both must be considered failures when they served as their armies senior strategic and planning thinkers.

Mind you, both were supreme administrative bureaucrats. If Marshal had been doing Lee’s job in the invasion of France (and Patton or Truscott or Eichelberger or any other real combat general doing Marshall’s), the war would probably have been over by Christmas 1944!

Frankly Dill and Marshall were unsurpassed administrative officers. But neither were good executives.

Their real roles were administrative support, where they excelled.

Both would almost certainly have been failures as senior combat generals.

As executive generals directing strategy, training, and appointing combat leaders, both were decidedly uninspiring.


  1. Happy to see a post from you. Love reading your stuff.

  2. Eisenhower was indeed a 5 star bureaucrat. Can't say there was much talent, but mainly grade C competence in all the Allied commanders.

    1. Dear Beobachter,
      actually there was quite a bit of talent available, but far too often it was overlooked - Hobart - left in inactive roles - Paget - sacked for stupid reasons - Patton - or promoted too fast to cope - Eisenhower or Ritchie.

      In fact the problem was often bad picks by the higher ups... and this is my main complaint about Dill and Marshall, who far too often backed the wrong horse.

  3. Dear Nigel Davies
    It's been a delight to have found your comments. Good show. I wonder if I could presume to suggest you one or two topics. The first is, who was running Allied strategy in World War II? As far as I can tell, leaving aside the War in the East (Russia) your perspective is that the core steering of Churchill/Brooke was being deflected by Roosevelt/Marshall until those in actual charge started to muddle thru, often despite their shortcomings or misplacement. Second, I yearn for the follow throughs of some of your what ifs, particularly of a 1944 Western Europe campaign or, implicit, I will admit, what would have been a more effective command structure in the Pacific.
    Keep up the good work and all that kind of thing.

    PS. I am not much into subscribing and such, but will come back.

    1. Dear Domico,

      in the West, Brooke held back Allied excesses of enthusiasm until his well thought out strategy had set up a situation where victory was possible. He did this against the best efforts of Churchill, Roosevelt and Marshall. To mid 1943, his strategy was followed, and it won the war.

      By 1944 I can't say anyone's strategy was being followed. The pre-agreed invasion of France happened, but with no clear plan about how operations would be managed, what the military goals would be, or what political outcome was desired.

      It is notable for instance that Italy ended the war as part of the West after surrendering in 1943, and Greece only because the British went in despite Marshall's opposition. The mess that became a the Iron Curtain, was because no one's well thought out strategy was being followed post 1943.

      The East is worse. If ABDA had a strategy it is hard to see. After that the war against Japan is just divided fiefdoms that rarely co-operate, and certainly don't co-ordinate very well. What MacArthur was doing in the Philippines, or Stillwell in Burma and China; had to do with Nimitz's or Mountbatten's campaigns, is hard to fathom. More energy and resources were wasted here to even less effect, and the post war Communist Domino movement is even more unforgivable than the Iron Curtain.

      If MacArthurs desire to liberate Philippines was a thought out part of Allied strategy, then the British should have been liberating Malaya and the East Indies, not send a fleet to help bomb Japan.

      If the goal was to defeat Japan as fast as possible, then clean up later: then Malaya and MacArthur's Philippines operation should presumably both have been left to latter.

      What the goal was with China, and where anyone expected China to finish up, I have never really been able to work out at all.

    2. The thing of it is that battles are generally won by who "Git[s] thar fustest with the most mostest" (Bedford Forrest)and that's a function of logistics (and good generalship, of course). Eisenhower's strengths were his good common sense and his experience writing orders for the movement of supplies and personnel (that's why Marshall elevated him above a lot of senior men). Hooray for good staff!

      Ulysses S. Grant began his military career as a quartermaster (war with Mexico) -- I invite you to weigh in his abilities.

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