Masters and Commanders describes how four titanic figures shaped the grand strategy of the West during the Second World War. Why, when the most direct route from Britain to Germany was through north-western France, did the western allies first launch assaults on North Africa, Sicily and Rome? Why, if D-Day was intended to be the start of the Allies' great thrust into Germany, did four hundred thousand men land five hundred miles to the south, in southern France, two months later? Why did the Allies not take Berlin, Vienna or Prague, and allow the Iron Curtain to descend where it did?
One of the aims of the book is to show the degree to which the answers to these and many other key riddles of the Second World War turned on the personalities and relationships between two political masters - Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt - and the military commanders of their armed forces - the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, General Sir Alan Brooke, and the US Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall.
In reconstructing the debates between these four principals and many of the other leading senior Allied figures, Roberts draws upon the private papers of nearly seventy contemporaries and on verbatim accounts of Churchill's War Cabinet meetings never before reproduced in book form. The result is a strikingly intimate and enjoyable account, which recreates with dramatic immediacy the atmosphere, debates and manoeuvrings through which Allied grand strategy was forged, and shows clearly the impact of personality upon history.