Four people, Andrew Roberts reminds us in this survey of allied grand strategy in the Second World War, directed and won "the war in the West": President Franklin D. Roosevelt , Winston Churchill, the American Chief of Staff General George Marshall and his British opposite number, General Sir Alan Brooke.
The naval chiefs in both countries conducted their own wars, while the airmen loyally supported their military colleagues. Allied strategy was hammered out by continuous interaction between these four men, from their first cautious encounters in December 1941 until their acrimonious farewells in May 1945.
In 1941 the British and American leaders met virtually as strangers, and first impressions were not favourable. In the eyes of the Americans the British were snooty, cowardly and devious, concerned only with using American strength to pull their own imperial chestnuts out of the fire. The British saw their new allies as naive, ignorant and overbearing.
These stereotypes translated into strategic concepts. The British believed Marshall's desire to mobilise American strength to destroy the Wehrmacht in a decisive encounter in northern France to be foolishly naive. The Americans considered the British desire to delay this encounter until the Allies had gained control of the sea and air and diverted enough German strength to other fronts to make the odds sufficiently favourable to be timorous and "politically motivated". Round this simple theme the four leaders were to weave their variations for three and a half years while the Red Army was absorbing, and defeating, the German onslaught in the east.