COMMAND DECISIONS; edited by Kent Roberts Greenfield; U.S. Government Printing Office (1960); ASIN: B000OM041Y
"Command Decisions" was published with the editorial guidance of the Office of the Chief of Military History (Department of the Army) in 1960 as an instructional reference for the training of American military officers. The book contains a collection of twenty-three essays each of which examines, in painstaking detail, a different critically important command decision made during World War II. All but one of the decisions analyzed in this work, as Greenfield points out in the introduction, concern the application of military means, but not every decision was made by a military commander. Nor are all of the decisions studied those of Allied commanders. The German decision to invade Norway and Denmark; the Japanese decision to go to war in 1941; and Hitler’s decisions regarding the defense of Italy and the Ardennes Offensive, are all scrutinized along with a wide-ranging collection of critical Allied wartime decisions.
The final selection of the essays included in “Command Decisions” was made by a panel of six members composed of both American Army officers and civilian historians, under the guidance of Dr. Kent Roberts Greenfield. The contributors were, at the time of this volume’s publication, all acknowledged experts on the subjects about which they write. Thus, each piece is both a serious study of the information, risks and goals that were weighed in the formulation of the command decision under consideration, and also an analysis of the subsequent results of the decision once implemented. The essays are arranged in chronological order. They begin with the Allied choice to concentrate on a “Germany First” grand strategy at the outset of World War II, authored by Louis Morton; they conclude with an examination by the same writer of President Harry Truman’s carefully-weighed decision in 1945, to use the atomic bomb against Japan.
Each of the studies is a serious work of scholarship and can stand independent of the others in the book. When I bought my volume of “Command Decisions” at a second-hand bookstore in 1974, I was only interested in a couple of the essays included in the table of contents. As the years have passed, I have returned to my copy to read the other studies one or two at a time, until finally, I have read them all. Several, I have returned to reread all or in part, and in the case of “Bradley’s Decision at Argentan,” by Martin Blumenson, I have probably reread this excellent piece at least three times.
The writing, despite this book’s Government Printing Office provenance, is almost uniformly clear and graceful. Each essay is carefully sourced with footnotes, but the obvious scholarship does not weigh down the subject matter or fog the reader’s interest. There are ten maps included in the text, and another ten larger, fold-out maps included in a special space inside the back cover. While “Command Decisions” is probably not a good choice for the casual history reader, it is an excellent book for anyone interested in a detailed examination of the anatomy of decision-making at the grand-strategic, strategic, and operational level. For that reason, I recommend it highly.