Eisenhower's Armies

Eisenhower's Armies

The American-British Alliance During World War II

Niall Barr

Pegasus Books, New York, 2015, 544 pages

Book Review published on: January 19, 2017

More than seventy years have passed since the alliance of American and British powers saw the eventual downfall of the Axis powers in World War II. In Eisenhower’s Armies, author Naill Barr traces the Anglo-American relationship that eventually led to the success of the Allied forces in the Second World War. Drawing from a vast array of published and unpublished primary and secondary sources from national archives, museums, letters, lectures, and private collections, Barr is able to provide a unique perspective not only into the plans, operations, and battles but also into the politics and personalities that shaped the British-American military collaboration of the time.

Barr, a widely published author, history professor, and senior lecturer at King’s College London, presents both sides of the alliance in a well-researched, balanced manner. Having written numerous books on the topic of Anglican war, Barr’s latest effort, Eisenhower’s Armies, takes a more detailed look into not only the strategy and tactics of the two nations during World War II, but the political, social, and historical components that led to their eventual success as an alliance.

Eisenhower’s Armies takes the reader chronologically through the American-British military relationship from its inception during the formative years of America as a fledgling nation through one of the most destructive wars in history, full circle back to an uneasy cooperation almost as soon as the battles have past. By highlighting military conflict and cooperation between the two during the early French expansion on the North American continent, the Revolutionary War, and World War I, Barr sets the stage for a greater understanding of the tensions, suspicions, and early difficulties of this on-again, off-again cooperation. Dire circumstances and mutual need between the two countries, however, eventually culminated in the most successful military cooperation of all time.

Barr’s insightful account of how the tensions, tactical collaborations, and even advances in technology affected the war gives the reader a comprehensive view of the British-American alliance in the latter part of World War II. He provides a strategic level understanding of the how the situation evolved to bring about America’s involvement in the war, how planning and operations were organized, and even how those relationships from across the Atlantic manifested between the soldiers on the battlefield. By outlining various battles, decisions, and tactics agreed upon (and sometimes disagreed upon) by both sides, Eisenhower’s Armies presents a detailed view of the war and its key players in the context of international politics and policy.

Barr’s in-depth understanding of the history, cultures, economics, and military conflict of the time, coupled with his descriptive, engaging writing style, makes the book accessible to a wide audience. Though Eisenhower’s Armies seldom mentions other allies involved, and Barr narrowly focuses on ground forces rather than providing a comprehensive look at the entire alliance, the account reads as genuine, and the style is engaging throughout. He successfully demonstrates the sometimes-overlooked truth that decisions made and implications realized as a result of the tentative partnership between England and America were often forged in the sitting room rather than the war room.

Barr derives military perceptions from multiple sources concerning the personalities of the military and political leaders of the time. The result is an engaging narrative that gives readers a unique perspective on the inner workings of war. His strategic expertise shines through, and the book presents a social, operational, and even tactical analysis of a successful, albeit controversial, time of cooperation in British-American history.

Book Review written by: Maj. Carla Gleason, U.S. Air Force, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas