An American memoir or history on the Second World War?
February 19, 2005 11:41 AM   Subscribe

The British have the histories and diaries of Churchill and Lord Alanbrooke. Whose are the most important American memoirs for the Second World War, shedding light on the American view of events and their opinions of their Allies?

I'm just finishing the second volume of Arthur Bryant's "The Alanbrook War Diaries". Alan Brook was the top British (Empire) soldier, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff. The books are fascinating, but they naturally have a a British point-of-view on such issues as the importance of the Italian campaign, the ability of Eisenhower and how good a general Monty was.

From reading between the lines of this memoir and from other conversations I have become aware of some very different American opinions (the Brits were windy cowards, Eisenhower was a great general, Monty was a vain and ambitious fool.) Can anyone recommend a memoir or volume that might provide me with the American view ? Marshall? Eisenhower? Roosevelt?
posted by alasdair to Society & Culture (6 answers total)
 
George C. Marshall: Soldier-Statesman of the American Century by Mark A. Stoler. I read it a long time ago so I will rely on this summary from the US Army Chief of Staff Professional Reading List: ". . .Stoler integrates an extensive variety of primary and secondary sources, including Marshall’s private papers, in the story of the frustrations and successes of Marshall’s attempts to forge a workable military policy in World War II. . ."
posted by mlis at 12:19 PM on February 19, 2005


I don't think that this is a completely focused answer to your question, but, nevertheless, chances are good you might be interested in Modern Times by Paul Johnson, if you haven't already read it. (amazon.co.uk here.)
posted by taz at 2:14 PM on February 19, 2005


Thanks to both: I think the work on Marsall is closest to what I'm seeking. Marshall comes across in the Alanbrooke works as a sceptical and essentially anti-British personality, so his perspective might well be best. I'm trying to obtain a opinion reflective of the American viewpoint in that particular period of time and at that particular level.
posted by alasdair at 4:42 PM on February 19, 2005


I imagine Eisenhower's 1948 Crusade in Europe might be up your alley. This page says it "became a best seller and made him a wealthy man," so it obviously struck a chord with readers of the time.
posted by mediareport at 5:36 PM on February 19, 2005


Short answer:

Larrabee, E., Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his lieutenants, and their war, (New York: Harper and Row, 1987)
Burns, J. M., Roosevelt: the soldier of freedom, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970)
Kimball, W., Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill and the Second World War, (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997)
Steele, R., The First Offensive 1942: Roosevelt, Marshall and the making of American strategy, (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1973)
Stoler, M., The Politics of the Second Front: American military planning and diplomacy in coalition warfare, 1941-43, (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977)


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Long answer:

Alasdair, to MLIS's suggestion of the Stoler's book on Marshall, and mediareport's of Eisenhower's memoir, I'd add edited collections of their papers as well.

Bland, L. (Ed.), The papers of George Catlett Marshall, (4 vols.; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991)
Chandler, A. (Ed.), The Papers of Dwight David Eisenhower: the War Years, (5 vols; Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1970)

Other good books on Marshall and Eisenhower include:

Perret, G., Eisenhower, (New York: Random House, 1999)
Pogue, F., George C. Marshall, (4 vols.; New York: The Viking Press, 1963-87)

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I think the important thing to note is that there's no *unified* American viewpoint of the war. You're right in saying that Marshall was often skeptical of British aims and intentions, but it could hardly be said that his opinions were shared by all within the administration at the time.

Larrabee's book has chapters on all the major American actors, and would probably be the best single-volume survey of each individual's perspective on the war.

Larrabee, E., Commander in Chief: Franklin Delano Roosevelt, his lieutenants, and their war, (New York: Harper and Row, 1987)

Steele summarises the early American debates over the where, when and how of actually fighting this war they'd gotten into.

Steele, R., The First Offensive 1942: Roosevelt, Marshall and the making of American strategy, (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1973)

Similarly:

Stoler, M., The Politics of the Second Front: American military planning and diplomacy in coalition warfare, 1941-43, (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1977)

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It's a pity that Roosevelt never published a memoir, because his was the only opinion that mattered in the end. Luckily there are several excellent biographies.

I'd recommend:

Burns, J. M., Roosevelt: the soldier of freedom, (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970)

... and there's a truckload of others, which all pretty much cover the same territory. The pick of the bunch ...

Kearns Goodwin, D., No Ordinary Time. Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994)
Freidel, F., Franklin D. Roosevelt: a rendezvous with destiny, (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1990)
Marks, F., Wind over sand: the diplomacy of Franklin Roosevelt, (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988)

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Dallek's book on foreign policy would have a lot of material and perspectives on US-UK relations.

Dallek, R., Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy 1932-45, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979)

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Books that might directly shed light on your question include those that focus on the "special relationship" that existed between Churchill and Roosevelt:

Kimball, W., Forged in War: Roosevelt, Churchill and the Second World War, (New York: William Morrow & Co., 1997)
Lowenheim, F. et al (Eds.), Roosevelt and Churchill: their secret wartime correspondence, (New York: Saturday Review Press, 1975)

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Other assorted studies of particular aspects of the U.S. perspective on the war include:

Harper, J., American Visions of Europe: Franklin D. Roosevelt, George F. Kennan, and Dean G. Acheson, (Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994)
Levering, R., American Opinion and the Russian Alliance, 1939-1945, (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1976)
Simpson, B., Admiral Harold R. Stark: architect of victory, 1939-45, (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1989) - Interesting as a biography of a naval commander (we usually hear so much about Patton; Eisenhower; Macarthur; et al.)

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Sorry if this is a bit of a bibliography dump (from an old uni thesis) -- my suggestion is print, take to nearest uni library and have a browse. Hope it helps. Otherwise, just get Larrabee. :)
posted by bright cold day at 3:19 AM on February 20, 2005


Thank you all very much!
posted by alasdair at 9:54 AM on February 21, 2005


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