Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West

Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West

Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West

Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West

Excerpt

Certain considerations which attracted the author to the subject of this volume also governed its original plan. Campaigning in Northwest Africa was, for the U.S. Army, a school of coalition warfare and a graduate school of Axis tactics. Operation Torch, with its political overtones, was the first great expeditionary assault in the West and by far the largest in history at that time. The historical evidence, even if oppressively bulky, was rich in variety. Captured documents and German officers provided the means of recovering "the enemy side," at least sufficiently to clarify most tactical situations of any consequence. Other materials made it possible to construct a history of the operations by the U.S. Army in context, that is, with due regard for the activities of the other Military Services and of the British and French allies.

During the five years from 1947 to 1952, significant changes in concept caused the original plan to be modified. It became apparent that, if full use were made of Axis materials coming to the Office of the Chief of Military History, the functioning of the Axis at all levels of command as a military coalition could be portrayed more effectively in this setting than in any likely alternative. The plan was therefore adjusted to make this narrative a history of two opposing coalitions by tracing the parallel strategic and tactical decisions from the heads of governments along the chains of command to execution in combat zones. During this process it was kept in mind that interest in the record of the U.S. Army must not be submerged by all that is implied in the phrase, in World War II.

That Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West is a product of co-operation, collaboration, and co-ordination is apparent from the notes. Co-operation took the form chiefly of making records available and of providing authentic recollections which illuminated the documents. Critics of a first draft in 1951 gave the author invaluable guide lines for a second stage of preparation. It then received the principal attention of collaborators—editing, cartography, pictorial illustration, and further application of evidence on the enemy side. These processes terminated in the latter part of 1956.

The author would enjoy acknowledging by name his sense of debt to the many persons who co-operated, collaborated, and even co-ordinated in such a way as to make this book better than he alone could have made it. Among the co-operators, Forrest Pogue, Marcel Vigneras, Alice Miller, and Clyde Hillyer . . .

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