Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Interview With Author And Historian Ed Gordon

Divided on D-Day:
How Conflicts and Rivalries Jeopardized the Allied Victory at Normandy?

1. We are closing in on the 75th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion, known as D-Day. Ed, what is so lacking in the D-Day literature out there that you felt obligated to write Divided on D-Day: How Conflicts and Rivalries Jeopardized the Allied Victory at Normandy (Prometheus Books)?
Divided on D-Day is an analysis of the quality of leadership and the relationships among its principal commanders. It also offers a comprehensive narrative of the planning for the operation, the D-Day landings, and the following three-month Normandy campaign. It focuses on the story-behind-the-story of how the command decisions were made that proved crucial at key points during Operation OVERLORD.

Divided on D-Day provides the behind-the-scenes stories of crucial command decisions, or a lack of them, that led the invasion to: first come close to failure, then experience a long period of stalemate on the ground, and eventually win the long, bloody struggle for victory. By raising questions about the Allied commanders’ key strategic and tactical decisions, the authors seek to provide new insights into some of the most vexing controversies that have long surrounded the Normandy invasion.

The roster of political leaders and principal commanders include: Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery, General George C. Marshall, Field Marshal Sir Alan Brooke, General George Patton, General Omar Bradley, General Charles De Gaulle, Air Chief Marshal Sir Tafford Leigh-Mallory, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder, Air Chief Marshall Sir Arthur Harris, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, Admiral Ernest King, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, and many other Allied and German commanders.

2. Why do you believe a lack of cooperation and bad decisions lengthened the war, increased casualties, and allowed the later Soviet domination of Eastern Europe?
The Normandy campaign has been largely represented as a triumphant Allied success story. Though it was victorious, the Normandy campaign was far from perfect. The working relationships among the Allied OVERLORD commanders were often marred by disagreements over tactics, strategy, and national agendas exacerbated by rivalries and personality conflicts. The book chronicles a number of key points at which poor decisions or failure to enforce commands needlessly lengthened the Allied campaign.

3. What did you uncover while researching your book?
Our research enabled us to reach some important conclusions about a number of significant issues and controversies that have continued to surround the Normandy campaign, including:
  • Why did it take so long for the Allies to launch an invasion in northwestern Europe?
  • What caused the Allied failure to implement their beachhead breakout strategy?
  • Why was Caen, a top D-Day objective, not captured by the British?
  • How could Rommel’s OMAHA Beach orders have defeated the allied D-Day invasion?
  • Why did Eisenhower refrain from issuing direct orders to his commanders?
  • What decisions forced the Americans to fight in the bocage/hedgerow hell?
  • Who issued the “phantom order” stopping Patton from closing the Falaise pocket?
  • Why did Eisenhower stop Patton’s drive to outflank Germany’s West Wall?
  • Why did Montgomery delay opening the vital supply port of Antwerp for nearly two months?
  • How could the MARKET GARDEN/Arnhem disaster and the Battle of the Bulge been avoided?
  • What decisions could the Allies have made to end the war in 1944 or early 1945?

4. What lessons should the reader take away from your book?
Although the Allied campaign was ultimately successful in defeating Nazi Germany, the cost of the victory was extremely high as poor leadership and decision-making extended the war from six to nine months with 500,000 additional casualties. Tales of failure are often better teaching tools than success stories.

From these leaders’ mistakes lessons can be drawn that everyone can use. If we examine the root causes of their mistakes, what leadership practices can we integrate into our future actions? Here are a number of practices that strong leaders avoid:
1.      Don’t give away your power.
2.      Don’t focus on things you can’t control.
3.      Don’t worry about pleasing everyone.
4.      Don’t allow a sudden impulse to overrule your common sense.
5.      Don’t fear taking calculated risks.
6.      Don’t dwell on the past.
7.      Don’t repeatedly make the same mistakes.
8.      Don’t resent the success of other people.
9.      Don’t give up if you fail at first, keep adapting and try, try again.
10.  Don’t expect immediate success.

5. How does your book supply a fresh examination of the war in Europe?
Over 250 sources were consulted for Divided on D-Day. Over the past decades a vast quantity of literature has chronicled the events and the controversies of D-Day. This barrage of sources includes:
  • Memoirs, auto-biographies, biographies of the British, American, Canadian, French and German commanders.
  • National official histories.
  • D-Day histories issued from the 10th to the 70th anniversaries
  • First person accounts by soldiers and officers.
  • The published papers of the principal commanders.
  • Unpublished archival documents, letters, and reports.
  • Numerous articles, reports, and scholarly papers

These materials have helped to define the identities of the participant commanders and the aspirations of the Allied nations. However great the triumph, it in itself does not provide conclusive evidence on the quality of the command decisions. This literature also includes myths that have little or no basis in the historic record. Fortunately, the perspective of time helped the authors sharpen their historical assessments.

6. As a historian and author of 21 books, does it always surprise you how little Americans seem to know about history?
The teaching of history in elementary and highs schools has largely been an afterthought. History lessons were often reduced to the rote memorization of names and dates. However until recently most college students were required to take U.S. or Western civilization survey courses as part of a core curriculum.

Today in K-12 education, history has been reduced to a social science thematic format of such topics as cities, war, economies, great leaders, technology, etc. This topical approach fails to give students a chronological perspective on how civilization has developed over the past 7,000 years. This is even worse than the rote memorization of the past. In higher education, history requirements for undergraduates have frequently been eliminated. The study of history offers important lessons from the past. There is an old adage, “He or she who does not know history is doomed to relive it.” Be forewarned!

7. How did you come to have David Ramsay as your co-author?
Nearly 15 years ago, I gave a presentation, “The Secrets of D-Day,” at the Palm Springs Air Museum in California. David Ramsay was in the audience, and afterwards he introduced himself and commented on his own professional interest in the controversies surrounding Operation OVERLORD. He also disclosed his unique perspectives on his campaign as his father, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, was in charge of the D-Day fleet. Thus began a discussion on the potential for co-authoring a new book offering a combined Anglo-American analysis of the Normandy invasion and the subsequent campaign.

Edward E. Gordon, Ph.D., is a professional historian, researcher, writer, and speaker.  For a twenty-year period he taught history courses at DePaul University Chicago and also business subjects at Loyola University Chicago and Northwestern.  Dr. Gordon is a member of the American Historical Association and was a participant in the Distinguished Lecturer Program of the Organization of American Historians.  He is the author or co-author of 21 books and has written over 300 articles in journals and trade publications. For more info, see www.imperialcorp.com

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs

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