Published in 1948 this book is so close to the events in time, and also in the person of the actual author, that one could be forgiven for suspecting that perhaps the passage of time and the treatment of the subject by others further removed, might produce a better, or more accurate, history. Well, perhaps that is a fair observation, but I have read many books on WW2 and this one stands as my joint favourite, along with Churchill's magnificent "The Second World War", again a history bound to be somewhat slanted by the author's personal involvement with the momentous events described. The two books taken together very much show, in certain instances, how each man viewed the same events and decisions from quite different perspectives.
This book, "Crusade in Europe", deals almost exclusively with the European campaign and Eisenhower's own involvement in it. I found it to very lucidly present the progression of the war from the North African campaign (Operation Torch) through Sicily, Italy and finally the incredible undertaking of the Normandy landings (Overlord), through to Germany's unconditional surrender on 07/05/1945 - effective from midnight on the 8th. A myriad of background military and political facts are included along with ongoing observations and recollections of personalities involved and of how decisions regarding strategy and tactics were reached. It is undoubtedly an extraordinary achievement that such a virtually flawless level of cooperation and cohesion was arrived at between the British Empire and her US allies under the overall leadership in the European theatre of one man - Eisenhower. That this unity was achieved is clearly a reflection on his exceptional abilities to deal with a multitude of competing high-ego personalities in a way which allowed all involved to ultimately defer to his authority with respect and confidence. Success in building this relationship must also be credited to the political leaders involved, Churchill and Roosevelt, particularly Churchill who had to eat some pie (not too humbly!) on a number of occasions when his own strong feelings regarding strategy were overruled by the Commander in Chief. And Eisenhower had the ability to personally and solely take some decisions, in the face of opposing advice, in relation to mind numbingly frightening options, not the least of which was his final "go" for Overlord to begin. Had he been wrong the consequences would have been too horrific for most men to even contemplate. He was the right man for the time and his account is mandatory reading for all who are interested in the history of those extraordinary times.
Incidentally, I read the Kindle edition, which I found excellent, but I used Google maps in conjunction with it to keep track of where everything was happening. I feel sure I would do the same even with the print edition as a side by side map with the book really brings the entire story alive.
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